What Is Our Land For?


By Jill Richardson - Guest Columnist

The Trump administration accidentally released documents showing that they intentionally underestimated the value of national monuments while emphasizing the land’s value for logging, ranching, and energy development. Oops.

National monuments are federally protected lands that differ from national parks in a few important ways. Whereas only Congress can create a national park, the president can create a national monument with the stroke of a pen. Many national parks were national monuments first.

The Grand Canyon is an example. You might think the Grand Canyon would be among the most obvious slam dunk places to make a national park in the United States. Alas, it wasn’t.

Private interests initially prevented Congress from creating Grand Canyon National Park. President Teddy Roosevelt protected the Grand Canyon as a national monument in 1908, and it took Congress 11 more years to make it a park.

The Antiquities Act gives the president unilateral power to create national monuments, and Trump generally loves executive power of all kinds. However, in this case, he likes using his power to shrink existing national monuments.

The Trump administration recently reduced the size of two national monuments in Utah — Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Bears Ears in particular contains land sacred to Native Americans. The coal and oil industries were behind the decision to shrink the two monuments.

The newly — accidentally — released documents show that the Trump administration intentionally hid evidence that would bolster the case for leaving the monuments at their present size, such as tourism revenue and archaeological value.

At the heart of the matter, in addition to a story about a corrupt and inept government, is a conflict between Americans about the proper relationship between people and the land.

What is our land for? Should we graze it, log it, drill it, and mine it? Or should we preserve it, study it, recreate in it, and revere it?

Presumably, we need a happy medium of both.

Unless we find a way to run our economy without fossil fuels, or the entire nation goes vegan, or we stop using wood and paper, we can’t curtail all drilling, grazing, and logging. And obviously America isn’t going vegan, no matter how much certain animal rights groups think we should.

Whatever one’s opinion of extractive industries, they’re the basis for the economy and the way of life in much of the Old West. It’s a way of life that’s rugged and difficult and, increasingly, threatened by a trend of rural gentrification.

On the other hand, nature has intrinsic value. The beauty of our wild lands forms part of our identity as Americans and enhances quality of life. Intact ecosystems contribute to clean air and water, which we all need. And desecrating the sacred land of Native Americans is morally repugnant.

Additionally, tourism to national monuments pumps dollars into the economy and creates jobs.

Both land uses provide jobs and other benefits. Each is valued by a different group of people.

The Trump administration doesn’t appear interested in any sort of reasoned discussion that recognizes the merit of each side. This only serves to anger and entrench each side in the conflict instead of working toward compromise.

Perhaps someday we can find a solution that provides economic prosperity in America’s rural areas but doesn’t destroy the land in the process. Unfortunately, it won’t be while Trump’s in office.

Food Stamps and Farmers Markets

This week, I thought I would write about food stamps and farmers markets.

People on food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), receive their benefits on a card that can be read like a credit card. Crucial to allowing recipients to use food stamps at farmers markets are card readers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture just canceled its contract with the company that makes the card readers. As a result, food stamp recipients will likely lose the ability to use food stamps at farmers markets.

I was all set to write about this terrible mix-up. But then I realized it’s not the part I really care about.

Of course, food stamp recipients should be able to shop at farmers markets. But it’s a tiny part of a much bigger issue.

The diets of food stamp recipients lie at the intersection of two issues: our food system and economic inequality.

On one hand, you have a system of food that uses industrial methods to produce a cheap and abundant but often unhealthy food supply. Healthier foods tend to cost more, whereas junk food is cheap. And low-income neighborhoods often lack outlets that sell healthy food in the first place.

The answer to this isn’t to pay farmers less. Farmers are struggling — and if anything, higher prices paid to farmers for food and fiber would benefit rural communities in much needed ways.

The other way to help the diets of low-income people is to reduce poverty and inequality. Ideally, this will require large scale social change.

For example, schools in Detroit are so bad that students are suing the state because they weren’t taught to read. How is a kid who graduates from a school like that, even the smartest and most motivated kid, able to keep up with one who graduated from school that actually teaches its students?

In my perfect world, we’d find a way to ensure all Americans have an excellent education, affordable health care (including mental health care), affordable housing, and safe cities in which they don’t have to fear that calling the police will result in their own victimization. Workers will be able to organize to defend their rights as well.

In that world, fewer people would live in poverty, and more could afford good food.

One quick and efficient way to help reduce poverty is to raise the minimum wage. The 1968 minimum wage would be equivalent to $10.90 in 2015 dollars. The national minimum wage is only $7.25. Workers have lost ground over the last 50 years.

Meanwhile, since the early 1970s, as workers’ wages stagnated or grew slowly, productivity more than doubled.

Workers today do more than they did five decades ago but they make less money. The profits for the increased productivity go to the top 1 percent.

Accepting food stamps at a farmers market is nice. No doubt it’s more than nice for those on food stamps who shop at farmers markets. That contracting snafu should be fixed.

But to really help all Americans access fresh, healthy food, we need to either fix the food system or address economic inequality. Or, better yet, both.

The Russians Are Still Here

Akron Beacon Journal

In July, Dan Coats made a point of telling the country: “The warning lights are blinking red again.” The director of national intelligence had in mind that Russian interference remains an active threat to the November elections. His imagery was notable, alluding to concerns before the Sept. 11 attacks, intelligence officials and others failing to connect the dots.

Is the country today in position to respond effectively, especially in the wake of the extensive Russian intervention in 2016, outlined recently in two indictments issued by Robert Mueller, the special counsel looking into the Russian activity and possible connections to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump?

On Thursday, at the White House, Coats and other top national security officials both sounded an alarm and tried to reassure that the country is in a stronger position. Christopher Wray, the FBI director, talked about a “24-7, 365-days-a-year” effort, adding: “This is a threat we need to take extremely seriously and to tackle and respond to with fierce determination and focus.”

Russian operatives continue to manipulate news stories, spread disinformation and amplify divisive issues. Officials are looking out for voter suppression activity, illegal campaign funding and computer hacks aimed at campaigns and voting infrastructure. Facebook last week shut down 32 pages and accounts with suspected ties to Russia. Microsoft discovered an attack on two election candidates. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, reported she was targeted.

Security experts see political campaigns as perhaps the most vulnerable. As it is, steps have been taken to improve things. Ohio and other states have moved to update their voting machines. Voter registration databases have been made more secure. Federal and state officials have begun to coordinate better.

What belong as priorities moving ahead?

Resources matter, and this is far from a break-the-bank situation. Republicans in the Senate defeated last week a proposed $250 million to help states enhance election security. They cited the $380 million already approved this year. What bears attention is the expert counsel about establishing a steady stream of funding. In that way, states and localities have the tools to keep pace with adversaries and the technology.

Dan Coats identified another priority. “It is essential,” he said, “that we apply critical thinking to all sorts of information.” In that way, know the adversary and the technology. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, wants to aggravate divisions among Americans and thus weaken the country. More, Twitter and other social media are programmed to confirm our biases. As a result, misinformation spreads more rapidly. Social media have an obligation to play more the editor.

Which gets to the role of the president, and his disposition to divide and to declare as “fake news” accurate reporting.

The briefing by national security officials came as the president struggles with his own thinking, returning again to labeling the Russian intervention “a big hoax.” He says this when a key priority in building a real deterrent goes to letting the Russians know there will be a heavy cost if they persist. So far, the president hasn’t sent such a clear and consistent message. He might have started by attending the briefing.

Biblical Truth About Dinosaurs

Pastor Stephen Howard

Dinosaur fossils are fascinating. They have been discovered on every continent of the Earth, and hundreds of different species of dinosaurs have been classified. Sadly, many today accept a lie about the origin of these incredible animals. God’s Word, the Bible, tells us the truth about dinosaurs.

Evolutionists teach that dinosaurs lived more than 200 million years ago. Their theory is that dinosaurs died off long before humans came on the scene. Some sudden catastrophe brought about their demise. Other evolutionists believe the dinosaurs eventually evolved into birds. But the Bible presents a far different perspective about dinosaurs.

According to the Bible, dinosaurs must have been created by God on the sixth day of creation. Genesis 1:24 says, “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.” The sixth day of creation was also the day when God created people (Genesis 1:26-27). Therefore, dinosaurs and people must have lived together on the earth at one time.

Dinosaurs were also originally vegetarians. All animals were. Genesis 1:30 says, “And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.” That’s a big difference from most modern portrayals of dinosaurs!

When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden by disobeying God’s command, death entered into the world. Romans 5:12 says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”

Death affected everything including the plants and animals. The Bible says, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22). Therefore, dinosaurs could not have died off before humans came on the scene. Dinosaurs began to die after man sinned. There was no death before humans.

If we accept evolution’s explanation of dinosaurs, we are forced to believe that death is not the result of sin. The work of Jesus Christ on the cross to deal with sin and death becomes unnecessary.

As history went on, the Bible tells us that God judged the world with a world-wide flood. He instructed Noah to build and ark to save his family and some animals. God told Noah, “And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female” (Genesis 6:19).

A few small dinosaurs would have been on the ark. The larger species of dinosaurs were probably young and smaller on the ark. The rest of dinosaurs on earth were destroyed in the flood. Many of the dinosaur fossils were likely formed during and just after the flood.

After the flood, dinosaurs on the ark likely reproduced in the earth, but life was not the same. Climate changed on the earth (Genesis 8:22). Animals also became fair game for man. “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things” (Genesis 9:3). These factors along with disease and lack of food probably led to the extinction of dinosaurs.

Yet extinction may not have happened as long ago as many think. There are later descriptions of creatures in the Bible that could be referring to dinosaurs. One example is the behemoth of Job 40:15-19. Even in fairly modern history there are reports of creatures which seem to fit the description of dinosaurs.

When it comes to dinosaurs, there are two sides in conflict: evolution and the Bible. If we accept what evolution says about dinosaurs, then the Bible cannot be our authority. It cannot be trusted. It can be ignored as a moral standard as it is all across America today. We can’t blame dinosaurs for that. The blame rests on people that reject the truth of God’s Word.

The truth is the truth and the media is not the enemy

By Olivia Wile, ONMA intern

Guest Columnist

In midst of a political culture that frames the news media as the enemy, five staff members at the Capital Gazette paid the ultimate sacrifice for the industry with their lives last week.

For local newspapers around the country, the event serves as a reality check on the present. As a 20-year-old working towards a career in journalism, the event serves as a reality check on my future.

Though the tragedy in Annapolis is an issue of safety, the media’s relationship with the people has never been one of total harmony. The term “fake news” is thrown around now more than ever, and sometimes justifiably. Kurt Franck, editor of the Toledo Blade, believes that opinionated news stories are becoming all-too common. As a result, it has become difficult for audiences to distinguish between fact and fiction.

However, when the news media does meet its standard of being unbiased and fact- driven, people only tend to listen to what they want to hear.

The accused gunman of the incident is no exception. Looking to slap a defamation charge on the Gazette for damaging his reputation, Ramos believed the journalists did him an injustice. Seven years later, he used violence in retaliation. However, there was no injustice. There were just facts.

It also does not help that the President of the United States portrays the media poorly. President Trump is very outspoken about many things, but especially his discontent with the media. However, the goal of the news is not to make friends with politics, or to appease anyone. Its objective is to remain objective.

Yet, when the leader of the country paints journalists as the enemies, it’s difficult to blame his supporters for feeling the same animosity towards our field.

My parents, one in the business field and the other in the medical, have always been apprehensive about my steadfast passion for journalism. After the attack at the Capital Gazette, their concerns about my future job security and income have become deeper.

At first, I worried Ramos would be a catalyst for all those angry with the news media. I worried feeling unsafe in the newsroom could take the place of feeling unsafe in the classroom. I worried that after laughing off comments relating to low salary, unemployment and a life of scrutiny, it may be time to consider them.

Although I knew I was signing up to protect the Fourth Estate to the best of my ability, I did not think I would have to go to war for it.

Though I was a bit shaken by the violence in Annapolis, as we all were, I am now more certain than ever the field of journalism is one I am ready to join.

These are difficult times in America, indeed, and although addressing the root cause of so much violence in our culture is a bit out of reach, re-energizing the reputation of journalism is not. The time is now to stand up to ridicule, leave the bias out of news and get the facts straight. A society without the news is a society without democracy. We are not the enemy.

Olivia Wile of Hilliard, Ohio, is a journalism student at the University of Findlay and the Ohio News Media Foundation summer intern. Courtesy Ohio News Media Association.

An Open Letter to the RNC

By Jennifer Horn, InsideSources.com

Guest Columnist

The Republican Party has always promoted the principles of law and order, a strong national defense and the advancement of freedom. President Trump repeatedly denigrated each one of these Republican values, and in spectacular fashion, at his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

Putin is one of democracy’s greatest adversaries. He murders his political opponents, invades his neighbors, imprisons dissenters and journalists, supports the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad, and is widely blamed for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 four years ago. And, as everyone (with the possible exception of our president) knows, he interfered in our democratic process and attacked its institutions during the 2016 election.

And yet, when provided with the opportunity to stand strong against Putin and in defense our American democracy, President Trump folded. Instead of confronting the bad actions of Russia, he blamed America for the “bad relationship” between the two nations, and called a legitimate probe into Russian election interference a “wedge” between Americans.

The president was weak, he was wrong, and he directly undermined the advancement of freedom and liberty in the world.

His alleged retraction the next day, with its hostage-tape feel and convoluted, tortuous explanation, has made things only worse. Which is why it’s time for the Republican Party to act.

As a former state party chairman who served on the Republican National Committee for four years, and on the RNC Executive Committee for two years, including during the 2016 cycle, I am familiar with both the influence and the limitations of the organization that provides national leadership for our party.

This week, the RNC gathers in Austin, Texas, for its summer meeting. Among other things, it will be choosing a city for our party’s 2020 convention. When the Republicans meet, the national committeemen and women and state party chairs from GOP organizations across the nation should pass a resolution that forcefully and unequivocally denounces Russian interference in the American electoral process, and rejects the president’s claims of moral equivalency between America’s democracy and Putin’s thuggish regime.

The Republican National Committee does not set policy. It certainly does not have the authority to tell a president what to do. Traditionally, it is the organization that supports and defends our party’s principles and the candidates who advance them, including — until now — the president.

Unfortunately, it has become impossible to defend both the president and Republicanism at the same time. Which is why the RNC, as an institution, must speak up on behalf of our party and its values.

The RNC must remember that the GOP is not a party of one. There are many Republican leaders, elected by Republican voters, who stand in defense of Republican values with great courage and determination. They, and their Republican supporters, are not enemies of the party. Rather, they account for millions of votes without which Republicans cannot win.

As a former party chairman, I have a great deal of respect for the activists who volunteer their time to the party through their service in the RNC. I realize that this president has presented them a challenge unlike any other they’ve ever faced.

I also know that, when Donald Trump was declared the “presumptive nominee” by Reince Priebus in April 2016, there were many among my colleagues at the RNC who responded with private despair.

It is time for that private despair to become a public denunciation. Every member of the RNC has an obligation to not just defend the president but also to preserve and advance the core principles of the party we love. It’s not easy, and it will take courage. But I’m afraid that if our leaders can’t find that courage today, we will lose our party forever.

Jennifer Horn is former state chair of the New Hampshire GOP and current co-chair of the NH Log Cabin Republicans. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.


By Jill Richardson

Guest Columnist

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. Distributed by OtherWords.org.