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Here we go: the actual voting for presidential candidates begins Monday (Feb. 1) with the Iowa Caucuses.  If you could vote today (sorry, our primaries are May in Oregon, June in California), what would motivate you?

NPR stations across the country are taking part in a Coordinated Political Conversation. 

So in this week's VENTSday, we want to know what your concerns are, the ones you want candidates to address. 

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Is it safe to say we all believe in biodiversity on the Earth?  How about inside our homes? 

Entomologists from North Carolina and the California Academy of Sciences recently studied the numbers of arthropods in our homes--think ants and spiders and such--and found a surprising number: about 100 different species in the average home. 

Species, not individual critters.  Before you reach for the fly swatter or the bug spray, hear the entomologists out. 

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Crater Lake is basking in its winter magnificence.  There's been so much snow this winter, the rim of the lake has been unreachable by car for extended periods. 

And below the surface of the lake, an unwelcome creature lurks: the crayfish. 

Crayfish were introduced to Crater Lake a century ago as part of a fish-stocking program. 

They've come to rule the roost, at the expense of native inhabitants like the Mazama newt. 

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We've made inroads in limiting child abuse and neglect, but there's more road to travel. 

A number of organizations gathered in Oregon over the last year to map out the road ahead. 

The Elevating Prevention Initiative started with the Children's Trust Fund of Oregon, which recently issued a final report on the initiative and its goals. 

Now comes the hard work: to put the goals into actions to help children. 

Chronicle Books

You've heard the old song... "toe bone connected to the foot bone," and so on. 

For a trio of Southern Oregon entrepreneurs, being connected to bones has become a business. 

Bare Bones, A Broth Company, makes broths made from animal bones--for cooking, for drinking, for whatever. 

Bare Bones is dedicated to healthy broth free of questionable ingredients. 

And the company's approach made it into a cookbook, too. 

Co-founders Ryan and Katherine Harvey (Mark Patterson is the other founder) packed 125 recipes into the book. 

Update | Saturday, 1/23/16 4:15pm -- After a long day on two mountain tops, two snowmobile rides and a mile hike in the snow our intrepid engineer replaced a failed microwave power supply on Antelope Mountain and service was restored.

Paul Kitagaki Jr. / The Sacramento Bee‬ / Pool Photo

Other than a few unscripted jokes, California Gov. Jerry Brown’s record 14th State of the State address was a no-frills speech from a no-frills governor.

Unlike other governors – and even himself in years past – Brown did not propose anything new Thursday. Instead, he focused on what he believes are California’s existing – and unmet – challenges.

Mere moments after Lieutenant Governor – and 2018 gubernatorial candidate – Gavin Newsom introduced Jerry Brown, the current governor noted he still has three years left to serve:

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Audiences thrill to the animated characters in a pile of recent movies... often without any idea of what the people who provide the voices for the characters look like. 

Sure, plenty of big-time movie stars provide the voices, but there are plenty of people whose bread-and-butter involves acting without a camera. 

Serena Travis is one of these--she lives in Northern California's Scott Valley; fellow voice actor Melissa Disney (distant relation to Walt) is also in the biz. 

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If success in business rubs off on people, Jim Sorensen is a carrier. 

His work as a public speaker and session facilitator takes him around the country and into the domains of some highly successful enterprises. 

Sorensen is the keynote speaker for the annual Southern Oregon Business Conference, next week in Medford. 

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At a time when Native Americans no longer rule the landscape, Agnes Baker Pilgrim is a towering presence.

Agnes, who also goes by Taowhywee, is the oldest surviving Takelma, at age 91. 

She was already highly in demand before an Ashland publisher put out Grandma Says: "Wake Up, World!" The Wisdom, Wit, Advice and Stories of Grandma Aggie, in both printed and audio forms. 

Refuge Employees Break Silence On Armed Occupation

Jan 21, 2016
Rick Bowmer/AP

Abandoned homes. Compromised bank accounts. Threatened family members. Constant fear. 
 
Employees of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge said they’re going through all of that and more, as an armed occupation at the facility reaches its 20th day.
 
“I’m afraid to go back at this point,” said a refuge employee in an exclusive interview Wednesday. “I would say that this is the most disrupted my life has ever been.”
 

Finicum: Militants Have No Plans To Leave Refuge

Jan 20, 2016
Amelia Templeton/OPB

LaVoy Finicum, who has emerged as a spokesman for militants occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, says the group has “no plans to leave.” 

Amanda Peacher/OPB

The armed occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge continue to use government equipment inside the complex.

One militant, who refused to give his name, again plowed dirt with a refuge bulldozer Wednesday. He wouldn’t say why he was operating the machinery, but in several places, sagebrush and vegetation had been newly removed, leaving wide patches of bare mud within the complex.

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Oregon's last coal-burning power plant is due to shut down in four years, but the state still gets power from out-of-state plants that burn coal. 

The Oregon Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Plan aims to flip that switch to OFF as well. 

The Citizens' Utility Board of Oregon negotiated the plan with Oregon's two largest power companies

The idea is to boost the use of renewable power by both companies through legislation. 

Craig Miller/KQED

We have neither flying cars nor all of our energy needs provided by the sun. 

The future is taking a while to arrive.  But efforts are underway to make more use of the sun's power. 

Ashland and Eugene are among five Oregon cities joining Environment Oregon in the "Solar City Project," setting aggressive targets for the installation of solar facilities over the next several years. 

cellomansings.com

Open wide and get ready to take a bite of a "poetry sandwich." 

Rogue Valley resident Daniel Sperry is both poet and cellist, and he combines his skills by alternating spoken word with music.  Voila: Poetry Sandwich. 

The 102nd birthday of the late Oregon poet William Stafford will be observed tonight (Jan. 21) at Southern Oregon University's Hannon Library, and guess what's on the menu? 

Brendan Cohen/KQED

Ever read a legal document and have to read it again … and again … to figure out what it actually means? Now, imagine trying to read that document in a language you barely know. 

Nearly  half of all California families speak a language other than English, and many have to navigate the state’s civil court system without the help of a translator.

But that’s changing, now that the California Supreme Court has launched a program to make interpreters available in all court cases. 

You've heard of lots of different approaches to forest management, but "social forestry?" 

There is such a thing; and it's about restoring connections between local communities and nearby forests that have been altered by the industrial approach to forestry. 

Tom Ward, a permaculture expert, is working on a book on social forestry, and will teach a workshop on it in Southern Oregon later this month. 

Somebody cut you off in traffic, or not stop for a crosswalk because they were on the phone? 

Here's your chance to vent about it, as we ask for your top road-rage provokers in VENTSday. 

Our other topic: what's the number one "hippie city" in our region? 

You've got opinions on events in the news, and our VENTSday segment is designed to let the world hear them.

We plop a pair of topics on the table--frequently unrelated--and let YOU deliver your passionate (and polite) views on them.

California Voters Could Have Say On Death Penalty

Jan 18, 2016
Scott Shafer/KQED

California last executed a death row inmate exactly 10 years ago this Sunday. Californians are split right down the middle over whether to speed up these executions or stop them completely, according to a new survey from the Field Poll.

But if there’s one thing supporters and opponents of the death penalty can agree on, it’s this: The system is broken.

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