John Baxter

Jefferson Exchange Producer

John Baxter's history at JPR reaches back three decades.  John was the JPR program director who was the architect of the split from a single station into three separate program services.  We're thrilled that John has taken a hiatus from his retirement to join JPR as co-producer of the Jefferson Exchange.

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There's a constant debate about proper levels of spending at all levels of government. 

But how much do you actually know about government spending, and how easily can you lay your hands on information?  The public watchdog group OSPIRG gave Oregon a grade of B- in the transparency of its data on spending. 

Could be worse, the scale runs from A to F.  But what does Oregon need to do to improve its grade? 

Ratha Grimes/Wikimedia

Coral is more than a pretty color, it is an ecosystem that represents a tiny fraction of the planet, but a huge proportion of its marine life. 

Oregon State University's marine science efforts include studies of coral, even though the closest reef is thousands of miles from Oregon. 

OSU is a partner in the creation of the documentary film "Saving Atlantis," which puts the steep decline of coral in our warming oceans into perspective.  Justin Smith is producer and co-director of the movie; Rebecca Vega-Thurber is the primary investigator. 

ep_jhu / Flickr

Opioid painkillers work like magic, their users say: the pain they suffered just disappears.  Then comes the drawback: the drugs are addictive, and higher doses are needed over time to get the same effect. 

A researcher at OHSU, Oregon Health & Science University, studied pain levels in patients both before they began using opioids, and after they successfully kicked the addiction. 

His main finding: the pain is no worse, and can be even less. 

John Sepulvado/OPB

At times it seems like the different levels of government are at war with each other: states sue the federal government to enforce certain laws (or not to); the federal government sues states (like California) over its approach to immigration "sanctuaries." 

And several Oregon counties have now joined efforts to block the state from enforcing gun control laws. 

The Committee to Preserve the Second Amendment is concerned that state laws are overstepping the bounds of the second amendment.  Coos and Klamath County groups are active. 

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Grabbing a gun and shooting something to eat used to be a much more common thing in the United States.  More than that, the image of the hunter was once part of the national self-image. 

But only about six percent of the population hunts anymore, down from ten percent in the mid-1950s.  How did we get here from there? 

Historian Philip Dray provides answers in his book The Fair Chase: The Epic Story of Hunting in America

Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46942434

It stands to reason that an ecosystem that has been altered by non-native and invasive species should be restored to its original condition.  Not so fast, some scientists suggest. 

The "novel ecosystems" created by alien plants still provide habitat for some key species.  Like the birds that find nesting places on the Zumwalt Prairie in northeastern Oregon. 

Early white settlers planted non-native grasses and grazed livestock, then abandoned some of the sites.  And some birds are just fine with the landscape that resulted. 

Patricia Kennedy is the director of the Eastern Oregon Agriculture & Natural Resource Program and a researcher of local conditions. 

ODF

The focus in wildfires tends to fall upon the damage: the trees lost, the homes destroyed. 

But ecologists often remind us that fire is part of the forest ecosystem, ultimately necessary for a forest to remain healthy. 

And fires also save water, if that makes any sense.  Think about it: dead trees do not pull water out of the ground and lose it through evaporation.  Which adds up to a lot of water saved in the last three decades. 

National Park Service hydrologist Jim Roche studies the phenomenon. 

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The old jokes about spending our latter days in a rocking chair on a porch somewhere really don't apply anymore. 

Because the idea of retirement is so different; older Americans expect to be active in retirement, IF they even retire. 

Robin Ryan, career counselor and frequent media guest, assumes some kind of life after work in her book Retirement Reinvention

She packed the book with ideas for staying happy and healthy after the full-time working days are over. 

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The fire sweeps through and blackens everything in its path.  Then, a few weeks or months later, green shoots. 

And morel mushrooms, lots and LOTS of morels in some places. 

Recent fire seasons have laid waste to large patches of forest, but also encouraged the growth of the tasty mushrooms. 

Johnny Anderson, one of the owners of Foods In Season, is a big fan of morels. 

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It's not that hotter and drier summers kill trees by themselves.  But when winters are mild, creatures that kill the trees don't die, and continue to feast upon them. 

That appears to be at least part of what is happening to Douglas firs, particularly in Oregon.  Flatheaded fir borers have killed trees by the tens or thousands, by BLM counts. 

Bill Schaupp is an entomologist at the Forest Health Protection office of the U.S. Forest Service, and well-versed in tree-killing bugs. 

tommileew/Pixabay

When you think of a robbery at a museum, you probably picture a valuable painting, or some artifact from antiquity.  But dead birds? 

It happened, at the Tring Museum in Greater London.  A man obsessed with exotic bird feathers stole hundreds of old bird skins from the museum and disappeared. 

Enter the man obsessed with flyfishing, and we get a book: The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century

Author Kirk Wallace Johnson, the flyfisher, tracked the story and the players for several years for his book. 

Ansgar Walk, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=757797

It makes sense in principle: icebergs and ice sheets in the polar regions melt, and add water to the oceans. 

So the oceans rise.  But HOW?  That's the question researched in great detail by Dave Sutherland in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Oregon. 

His research focuses not just on the melting, but where the water goes, horizontally and vertically.  Sutherland's work takes him to Greenland and Alaska, among other places. 

Giaccai, Italian Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34448012

John Kalb is a chiropractor in Ashland, but his health interests go well beyond bones and joints. 

He focuses on the brain in his second book, Keep Your Marbles

It's addressed to fellow baby boomers who notice changes in how their brains work (and occasionally do not seem to work).  Think of it as a tuneup and maintenance guide for the aging brain. 

The booming cannabis business may be good for many people, but there are other impacts to consider.  Like what happens to the people who want to keep growing food when the farms around them begin growing cannabis? 

The Rogue Valley Food System Network wanted an answer to that question, so it teamed up with Southern Oregon University to explore the issues. 

Environmental scientist Vincent Smith led the work; he presented it in a recent public lecture

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If you break a leg or come down with a disease that confines you to bed, people generally know what to do.  But that's physical illness. 

Mental illness presents a different set of challenges in diagnosis and treatment. 

All of the members of Southern Oregon Compass House in Medford learned this firsthand. 

Once a month, we visit with clubhouse members and staffers to explore issues in mental illness, issues we're often hearing about for the first time. 

The lands around us are crisscrossed with trails used by the serious long-distance hikers and the just-an-hour plodders as well. 

Legislation passed in 2016 requires the U.S. Forest Service to move toward a sustainable trail system... sustainable environmentally and economically. 

And the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest is getting started on its compliance, holding public meetings and making other moves to assess public needs and interest. 

Comedy fans may have known who Michelle Wolf is, but the rest of the country learned her name after the recent White House Correspondents Dinner. 

Wolf's razzing of reporters and administration mouthpieces is just one of many developments in the media in the last month. 

And it will come up for discussion when we reconvene with Precious Yamaguchi and Andrew Gay of the Southern Oregon University Communication faculty.  They visit once a month for an omnivorous media segment we call Signals & Noise. 

carolynabooth/Pixabay

We invited the Grim Reaper as a guest, but she's booked pretty solid, so we welcome The Green Reaper (yes, that's her nickname).

Funeral customs in the U.S. are generally not very kind to the planet. Conventional funerals use tons of wood, concrete, and metals for caskets and tombs, as well as millions of gallons of embalming fluid, which can be carcinogenic.

Elizabeth Fournier, the owner of Cornerstone Funeral Services in Boring, Oregon, thinks there's a better way. In her new book The Green Burial Guidebook, she gives a comprehensive look at alternatives.

Brian Turner via Flickr

Charles Longjaw had already admitted to a killing in Oregon and a rape in Washington.  Yet he was released from custody in 2015, and charged with committing another murder the next year. 

The situation comes back to the law under which he was found "guilty except for insanity."  GEI verdicts, as they are known, can lead to offenders being released despite predictions of danger. 

The non-profit news organization ProPublica uncovered issues with the law in a joint project with the Malheur Enterprise. 

Robert Lawton, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1243835

Drought and wet years tend to alternate in our part of the world.  We get used to a winter with little snow followed by one with above-average snowpack. 

But computer climate models show the situation getting worse as the planet warms, with something like a "precipitation whiplash" effect: deep and prolonged droughts followed by deluges. 

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