Lightning strikes Jesus statue and cows ....

Mother Nature has made her presence known with this spring?s storms. A story by The Associated Press in Tuesday?s East Oregonian told about a bolt of lightning destroying a six-story tall statue of Jesus along Interstate 75 near Monroe, Ohio. The $250,000 plastic and fiberglass symbol of Christianity, appearing to rise out of the ground with his arms upraised, burned after the strike and all that remained was a steel framework.

In a related incident, last week my friend Sheila Hagar of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin wrote in a front-page story that a lightning strike June 9 killed four cross-bred Angus cows on Edwards Road in the Umapine area. The cows belonged to The Hendricks Ranch of Milton-Freewater, which is owned by Scott Hendricks and his son, Gage. The cows were standing under a tree. Two of the cows fell on their calves, Hagar wrote, but a neighbor was watching and managed to pull the dead animals off the calves and save them.

The worst part for the Hendricks ? the dead animals could not be turned into steaks, roasts and burgers. A butcher must be responsible for killing cattle meant for use by consumers, Hagar said in her fascinating story.

Cows have always had to worry about becoming a happy meal for a fast-food restaurant. They have recently been favored and savored by wolves in Wallowa County. Now this, while it?s not a new occurrence, may mean cattlemen need to train their bovines to keep an eye to the skies.

? Skip Nichols

The sad tale about aging drug abuse

The proportion of people admitted to treatment for drug abuse who are age 50 or over nearly doubled between 1992 and 2008, reported The Associated Press. Alcohol is still the leading cause of admissions in this age group, revealed a report issued today from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration .

According to the report, the share of people treated for substance abuse who were 50 and over:

n More than doubled, from 7.2 percent to 16.0 percent, for heroin.

n For cocaine abuse, nearly quadrupled from 2.9 percent to 11.4 percent. More than a quarter of these had begun use of the drug within the last five years.

n Rose from 0.7 percent to 3.5 percent for prescription drug abuse.

n For marijuana abuse increased from 0.6 percent to 2.9 percent

The agency said that during the same period admissions primarily related to alcohol abuse decreased from 84.6 percent in 1992 to 59.9 percent in 2008.

? Skip Nichols

Book sale to support Newspapers in Education

Our newspaper offices in Pendleton and Hermiston are collecting used books, which will be on sale at two flea markets this summer. The first will be this Saturday at PGG in Hermiston; the next will be held sometime in July at the Pendleton PGG parking lot.

The proceeds will go to our Newspapers in Education program. Newspapers across the nation participate in this program, designed to get children familiar with newspapers by supplying newspapers to classrooms. Newspapers are a great tool for teachers, and a way for children to learn how to find information about their community, their state, the nation and the world ? both in the printed newspaper and in our online edition.

Our Newspapers in Education program depends on fundraising to keep going ? and book sales at these flea markets is just one way we do this.

So, gather up those used books and bring them in to us. We?ll turn them into money for the NIE program.

Or, if you need some summer reading material, come to a PGG flea market and find some bargain books, and support NIE that way.

? Kathryn Brown

Texas steers clear of Pacific Northwest

There will be no Hook ?em Horns in Pullman. No prairie schooners in Autzen. The Pac-10 conference has been spurned by the big schools of Texas and Oklahoma. Still, two Rocky Mountain colleges are joining. The Buffaloes of Colorado are coming and the expectation is that Utah will also be joining to force a name change to the Pac-12.

The real story in all of this, beyond the fun of college football, is the increasing importance of money to college sports programs. The Oregonian recently reported that Pac-10 member schools receive an average of $10 million annually from televised football and men's basketball games. This compares to the $22 million received by Big Ten teams and $17 million in the Southeast Conference. Notably, the agreement that kept Texas in the Big Twelve (now Ten) includes its right to start a University of Texas television network.

It is no surprise the Pac-10 is scrambling to increase its television dollars. Adding Denver and Salt Lake will help as these are sizable TV markets. Oregon and Oregon State, like all state agencies, are under enormous pressure to cuts costs and raise money. University presidents are being forced to seek new dollars wherever they can be found. OSU is even considering asking farmers to help pay the cost of agricultural experiment stations.

The danger is that the search for dollars, whether in sports or academics, will eventually come at too high of a price. Colorado and Utah are logical additions to the Pac-10. It was fun to think about major football powers like Texas and Oklahoma playing in the Northwest. But it is also important that we keep sports in some kind of proper perspective. There is a danger in letting television dollars drive our universities.

? Tom Brown

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