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April 28, 2015 05:39 PM

As concerned Eugeneans are rushing to try to help the people of Nepal, it's hard to know what to do. Donating money is usually a sure bet, but how do you know what's a scam? The Better Business Bureau has sent out a list of what to look for (see below) and Charity Navigator does a nice job helping people to evaluate charities. 

Here in Eugene, one of our sister cities is Kathmandu and the the city of Eugene website was directing people to local organization Kathmandue Relief. However, there has been some confusion about the organization and the state of Oregon has asked the city take down the link because the organization's 501c3 status that makes donations tax deductible was not current. 

Dennis Ramsey of Kathmandu Relief has responded to this and says the confusion is the result of an error he is in the process of rectifying.

Here is the email from the Oregon DOJ to the complaintant:

Just wanted to let you know that we have been in touch with the City of Eugene; they have officially disassociated with Mr. Ramsey’s fundraising efforts and removed the link to his website. We informed the city that Mr. Ramsey was using the EIN associated with an inactive nonprofit organization which currently does not hold 501(c)(3) status, under the name of an organization that closed in 1995.

We have contacted Mr. Ramsey and asked him to inform any donors to date that their donations are not tax-deductible. He hasn’t responded to us yet but I anticipate that will happen in short order. I also expect changes to the website are forthcoming, but that remains to be seen.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Do you have any questions for me?

Kate Medema

Public Affairs Coordinator Charitable Activities Section

Oregon Department of Justice


A lack of 501c3 status means that donations are not tax-deductible; it does not mean an organization cannot fundraise.

EW contacted Kathmandu Relief for clarification of its status and the status of donations and Ramsey responded:

Yes there was some confusion in our haste to get the site up and running so that we could provide immediate relief to Kathmandu. I was contacted, finally, by the Oregon DoJ today by email. It seems they have been talking to others but not me, and this could have been resolved in short order if they had simply done so. I've pasted below the email reply I sent to the DoJ just a few minutes ago.

We are trying to do good for the people of Kathmandu. This isn't any sort of scam or dishonest effort. I made the mistake of assuming that the Eugene Sister City Foundation (ESCF) had received their IRS determination letter for reinstatement of their 501c3 status, which had lapsed. All four of Eugene's Sister City orgs have been assisting Ki-Won Rhew, former President of the Chinju Committee, to deal with the mountain of paperwork. Since it has been about two years since we filed this process, I had wrongly assumed he had received the determination letter that would allow us to again use the ESCF EIN# in our fundraising efforts. It was a simple mistake, but has potentially serious consequences if not corrected. As you will see, I've corrected the mistake. We have a scheduled quarterly meeting of the Chairs of all four of Eugene's Sister Cities this Thursday. We meet regularly to try to build the umbrella org, ESCF, into a functional organization that can advance the causes of all of our sister city relationships.

Tips from the Better Busines Bureau:


WA Officials Team Up to Warn Consumers on Donating Wisely

Lake Oswego, Ore. — April 27, 2015 — As the death toll climbs in Nepal following the massive earthquake over the weekend, Better Business Bureau along with Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are urging Washingtonians to be on guard for charity scams targeting donors.

“Anytime there’s a natural disaster, scammers will try to take advantage of people’s generosity,” said Tyler Andrew, CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. “When donating to charities, go with ones that are experienced at working with disaster victims.”

“Whenever tragedy occurs, whether it’s the earthquake in Nepal or last year’s landslide in Oso, many people instinctively want to help the victims,” Wyman said. “In times like these, there always seems to be rip-off artists who try to take advantage of others’ generosity. If people want to help the victims in Nepal, they should donate to charities they know and trust. Nobody wants to see this tragedy resulting in donations winding up in a scam artist’s pocket.”

“All of us in Washington and around the country have deep sympathy for the victims and their loved ones at this tragic time,” Ferguson said. “As you look to provide assistance to help those in need, be sure to exercise caution so your hard-earned dollars go to trusted charities, not to scam-artists.”

Consumer protection officials warn of fake charities that may look and sound legitimate online or even hijack the names of well-known organizations. Scammers will often pose as official charity agents and call potential donors, pressuring them to make a donation over the phone.

BBB, the Secretary of State and the Attorney General’s Office sympathize with the victims and their loved ones of the Nepal earthquake. All three organizations urge donors to give wisely.

  1. Steer clear of high-pressure demands. Take time to research charities and avoid emotional appeals that don’t explain how the charity will help victims. Contact potential charities directly.
  2. Use trustworthy charities. Be sure the charity is equipped and has the resources necessary to help with disaster relief. Review whether a charity meets all 20 standards of accountability at Give.org, a website run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Also visit the Secretary State’s Information for Donors page.
  3. Avoid cash donations. Write checks or pay by credit card to charities directly. Scammers will try to convince their victims to wire money or use prepaid debit cards to make a donations. Never give personal information or money to a telephone or email solicitor.
  4. Double-check. Watch for “pop-up” charities with unverifiable background and contact information. Unscrupulous organizations may try to trip up donors by using names that sound similar to reputable charities.
  5. Block social media pleas. Be wary of requests from fake victims or memorial social media accounts. Remember to verify the organization first before giving a penny.

For more tips on giving wisely, check the Secretary of State’s website or call 1-800-332-4483. Victims of a charity scam can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office and report it to BBB.

April 24, 2015 05:17 PM

We're in the midst of a giant opt-out movement across Eugene School District 4J's four high schools. It's a time when publicity for 4J is centered on the fact that students are purposefully chosing not to take the state-mandated, Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced test.

In light of all this attention given to not taking the tests, 4J announced this week that "Smarter Balanced tests waive Oregon college placement exams."

From the website announcement, displayed on 4J's home webpage:

The Oregon Department of Education and the Higher Education Coordinating Commission have announced that Oregon’s 7 universities and 17 community colleges, along with other institutes of higher education in California, Washington and three other states, will use Smarter Balanced scores in college course placement.

In adopting these agreements, Oregon’s higher education system leaders are signaling that the Smarter Balanced assessments can play an important role in indicating whether high school students have the mathematics, reading and writing skills needed for college success.

In total, nearly 200 colleges and universities so far have determined that students may waive placement testing if they score a 3 or higher on Smarter Balanced state tests and meet requirements for continued academic rigor during 12th grade. The agreements do not affect college admission, only first term placement in college level coursework, since eligible students will be exempt from taking the placement tests.

This is a significant development for Eugene students who plan to attend college on the West Coast, as many colleges in Oregon as well as Washington and California now will accept Smarter Balanced test scores in lieu of additional placement tests.  It means that students who complete the Smarter Balanced assessments and score a 3 or higher can save themselves both money and time in their college careers. Students who don’t meet standards on placement tests must take remedial courses at their own expense and without credit toward their college degrees.


 But will Oregon's colleges and universities actually accept Smarter Balanced scores as equal to college placement exams? Looking at the Oregon Department of Education's website, things are a little less certain: 

In support of our state’s implementation of high academic standards and corresponding assessments, Oregon community colleges and universities recently adopted preliminary statewide policies uniting Smarter Balanced test scores with placement in higher education. Now, the grade 11 Smarter Balanced assessment is a means for students to demonstrate their content readiness for entry-level college courses in mathematics and writing. 

For at least the next two years, Oregon’s 17 community colleges and 7 universities may choose to waive additional placement testing for entering students if they score a 3 or higher on Smarter Balanced tests and meet requirements for continued academic rigor during grade 12. Access The Higher Education Coordinating Commission’s (HECC) news announcement for more detailed information specific to Smarter Balanced placement policies in Oregon community colleges and universities.

ODE's website says that "Oregon's 17 community colleges and 7 universities may choose to waive additional placement testing for entering students" whereas 4J's announcement says the colleges and universities "will use Smarter Balanced scores in college course placement."

Jerry Rosiek, a UO professor of education, pointed this out in an email to EW adding that Smarter Balanced doesn't count for advanced placement in college courses, like AP and IB courses, where high school students earn credits toward college. Many universities, including the UO, Rosiek points out, offer free placement exams, and universities also use the SAT or ACT to determine whether students need remedial coursework. Most colleges and universities require applicants to take the SAT or ACT.

"Since 70 percent of students are expected to fail the SBAC, it is unlikely to be that helpful to those wishing to test out of remedial courses in college," Rosiek writes.

"In fact, if low scores are reported to a college, a student might be more likely to be placed in remedial course. Given all this, it is misleading to advertise that this policy means the SBAC provides added value to a college-bound student. Any student going to college will have multiple other means to place out of remedial courses, none of which will have 70 percent fail rates."

April 24, 2015 11:20 AM

Below is the written testimony on SB 941 submitted to the Oregon House Committee on Rules April 22 by Dan Gross,
 president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C.

Chair Hoyle and fellow House Rules committee members, I thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony in support of this legislation to expand Brady background checks to cover all gun sales. On behalf of our Oregon chapters and members, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence fully supports Senate Bill 941 to expand Brady background checks to prevent guns from getting into the hands of dangerous people, like felons, fugitives, and domestic abusers.


Along with this testimony, I am submitting a copy of the Brady Campaign’s latest report, which shows how effective Brady background checks have been in Oregon. Between checks conducted at federally licensed dealers, as mandated by the Brady Law passed by Congress in 1993, and with the added benefit in Oregon of background checks at gun shows, as mandated by the Citizen initiative that passed overwhelmingly in November 2000, tens of thousands of sales have been blocked to dangerous, prohibited purchasers. Undoubtedly, lives have been saved as a result. In 2013 alone, Brady background checks blocked 2,215 prohibited sales in Oregon; that’s an average of six every day.


But what our report also shows is that a new, significant issue has developed since the implementation of the Brady Law in 1994 and since Oregon closed the gun show loophole in 2000, and that is the emergence of the Internet and the ease with which criminals can now use it to buy guns. Today, online purchases represent a shockingly easy way for criminals to evade federal and state laws and buy guns without being stopped because of a Brady background check.


The Internet hosts the largest gun show on the planet – and it never closes. Armslist.com, one of the more popular sites, posts upwards of 70,000 gun advertisements at any given time, many of which can be purchased without a background check. It’s like Craigslist for guns. All a criminal needs is an email address and cash. A search of gun sales on Armslist.com in Oregon on April 13, 2015 resulted in 1,756 unlicensed seller-to-buyers advertisements that are not subject to Brady background checks.


A sale like this is documented on page eight of our report. It’s an actual advertisement on Armslist.com, posted on March 22, 2015 by an individual Oregon gun seller who advertises that his firearm is available with “no background check. Cash only.”


The corporate gun lobby will claim that criminals will always find a way to get guns, and if you pass a law requiring background checks you will only make it harder for law abiding citizens to buy guns. To be clear, that is complete and utter hogwash. First of all, background checks only prevent prohibited purchasers from buying guns – people who are already not allowed to own them. In essence, background checks are the greatest tool for enforcing the laws that already exist. And, according to the FBI, they take, on average, a mere 72 seconds to complete.


And just as importantly, background checks work. In the 21 years since the Brady Law has been implemented, 2.4 million sales have been blocked to felons, fugitives, domestic abusers and other prohibited, dangerous people. States that have expanded background checks to all gun sales, as Senate Bill 941 will do for Oregon, have seen an even greater benefit in the form of increased public safety and lives saved.


In fact, according to a recent study by Everytown for Gun Safety, states that have expanded background checks experience on average 46 percent fewer women killed by intimate partners, 48 percent fewer law enforcement officers killed with guns, even 48 percent fewer gun-related suicides. Clearly, background checks are effective in keeping guns out of dangerous hands.


Since the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, Congress has failed the American people by failing to “Finish the Job” started  with the Brady bill and expand background checks to gun shows and online sales nationally. Yet fortunately for the American people, states have started to take matters into their own hands, with five states passing new laws expanding background checks in just the last two years.


Now, thanks to Senate Bill 941, the Oregon legislature has a critical opportunity to continue this wave of momentum sweeping across the nation, to reflect the will of the overwhelming majority of Oregon voters who support expanded background checks (87 percent according to the latest polling) and, most importantly, to make Oregon a much safer state for everyone who lives, visits, or does business here.

On behalf of Sarah Brady and our Oregon members and chapters, the Brady Campaign fully supports Senate Bill 941 and I ask for your AYE vote. I thank all the committee members for the opportunity to submit written testimony. 


The Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence 

Office: 202-370-8131

Cell: 619-850-5229

Twitter: @mnaple

April 23, 2015 03:43 PM

Not everyone's happy about the rules set out for the April 30 4J Board Candidate Debate planned by South Eugene neighborhood associations and moderated by EW. Debate organizers say they're simply following debate guidelines as per the League of Women Voters debate format.

Colin Farnsworth, local substitute teacher running against incumbent Mary Walston for Board Position 7, says it is unfair that his debate was canceled. In an April 23 email sent to EW, entitled, "Censorship of Candidates on April 30th," Farnsworth says: 

All the candidates were invited by the south Eugene Neighborhood Associations and the Chairs of the Neighborhood Leaders Counsel to participate in the 4J School Board Debate that is coming up next Thursday. Mary Walston, my opponent in the race said she couldn't attend the event due to a family conflict and asked that my participation in her absence be prohibited. The coordinators immediately agreed to her request. This has deeply frustrated me because one of the main reasons I decided to run in this race was to add the important perspective that is missing from all the other Board members and candidates: An in-class and teachers perspective to the issues surrounding education in our local public schools. This event will be one of the largest public forums available for candidates to express their platforms and their perspectives on the current problems facing our public schools. As a candidate that doesn't have a lot of money to spend, nor a campaign committee, little name recognition in the community, and no big endorsements, it seems extremely unfair that my perspective will be censored during this event and will deeply impact my chances for election.

He continues:

I want people to know that I have been excluded from this event but I will be allowed to participate in the City Club of Eugene on May 8th. 

A story in the R-G details how in an April 6 email to event organizers, Mary Walston expressed dismay that organizers had pre-scheduled the event for April 30 without checking candidate availability first. She requested that her opponent not be given time to speak, or that the event be rescheduled. 

Juan Carlos Valle and Heather Sielicki, the event's organizers, did not reschedule the event, but said in an email back:

We are sorry you are not available for this debate during the election cycle, but we understand previous commitments. As volunteers for our neighborhood associations, our intent is to help our neighbors and all the candidates make a connection with as many neighbors as possible, to learn about the candidates and about an important topic to Eugene: Education. This and any forums we coordinate is intended to be fair and uniform. As such, we will not give preference to one candidate over another. If not all Director Position candidates are available for the debate, we will not allow any other candidate to have the floor. Position 7 will need to have all candidates participating. Same as the rest.

Sielicki tells EW that the debate is following the rules and format of debates administered by the League of Women Voters. According to the League of Women Voters' guidelines for debate, there are certain legal risks associated with allowing one candidate to debate when the other candidate is not available:

It sometimes happens that only one candidate in a contested election accepts a debate invitation or that a candidate cancels a debate appearance after agreeing to participate, leaving the debate with only one participant — often called an "empty chair" debate.  If only one candidate accepts the invitation, the debate should be canceled.  While cancellation is also the most prudent course of action when a candidate fails to appear at the event or backs out shortly before the debate, Leagues may need to consider whether and how to proceed should they find themselves in an empty chair debate situation.

The guidelines continue:

There are no specific guidelines from the FEC or the IRS pertaining to the ability of nonprofit organizations to sponsor an empty chair debate.  (FCC regulations would preclude any broadcast coverage of such an event.)  Inasmuch as an empty chair debate, by giving one candidate a forum to talk to voters all by him/herself, bestows a real benefit on that candidate, there is a risk to any League that hosting such a debate would run afoul of FEC and/or IRS rules as well as the League’s nonpartisan policy.

Elsewhere, the guidelines say:

An empty chair debate should not be conducted if all but one candidate decline the League's offer to participate in a debate.  It would be very risky for the League to sponsor the debate, knowing from the start that there will be only one participant.


As such, event organizers canceled the debates in which not all candidates were available. In this case, that included a debate between Colin Farnsworth and Mary Walston for Board Position 7. This also included cancelling a debate between Eileen Nittler, Scott Landgreen and John A. Baumann for Board Position 4. Landgreen was not available April 30 to debate.

As the "Colin of my group," Nittler says, she is in a similar position and had her debate canceled because not all candidates could attend the debate. She tells EW that she's been in the loop regarding the debate from the beginning. "The way I see it," she says, "It's set up as a debate format, and you really can't have a debate with one person there. There's logic in saying we'll have candidates available, but I don't see it as censorship.

"There are other opportunities to debate, like the City Club debate," she continues. "But how would you really do that? How would you have a debate with only one person? It's really a big deal about nothing. I'm not invited to everybody's birthday. It's just a matter of practicality." 

She says that a while back, she sent a letter to the editor to the Register-Guard, and the newspaper informed her that its policy is not to print letters from candidates, because then they would be required to print letters from all the other candidates. She says the situation is similar to the debate rules. 

Nittler says she'll be present at the debate to table and speak with voters 6:30 pm April 30 at the Hilyard Community Center, 2580 Hilyard St.

April 20, 2015 09:58 AM

Micologist Paul Stamets in a TED Talk about the power of fungi.

April 18, 2015 01:24 PM

D2 the dog was killed by a beaver trap on Friday, April 17 while on a walk at Hileman Landing County Park off River Road. The women who have owned and loved D2 for the past year want people to know that there could still be traps out there.

Mo Strader and Vonnie Willard also want the owner of the trap — which they believe was placed illegally on public land — to know what he has done, remove any other traps and let the public know when the area is safe.

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, beaver may be trapped on private land without a permit because they are considered “predatory animals,” however on public lands, trapping and killing beaver is only allowed in certain areas in some counties in order to protect Coho salmon. Trapping season ended March 15, according to ODFW documents.

Strader says the trap that killed D2 was on the public side of a fence that separates the Hileman and what appears to be the land of a local farmer. 

Strader volunteers with Northwest Dog Project and has several other dogs, three of them former foster dogs, like D2. D2 — named for the Star Wars robot R2D2  — was turned over to a rescue by her former family and soon became part of Strader and Willard’s pack.

Strader was house painting and having the floors redone because after fostering several litters of puppies, “It was time.” So Willard took the pack of six to Hileman to wear them out for an hour or so. Strader says they walk the dogs there at least five days a week and have been going to the park, which is popular with dog walkers, for at least three years.

Not far from the trail, Strader says, is a creek and a pond where they have seen beaver activity this year and last year. Returning from a three-mile walk, D2 ran up a little hill and across the pond.

Willard writes in a Facebook post that “as I was coming down the trail about a 1/2 mile from the parking lot I noticed she bounded across a pond that she has done probably a hundred times. All I heard was a yelp.”

Strader says the trap, which appears to be a conibear trap, killed D2 almost instantaneously. Unable to release the dog from the trap, Strader says several men helped Willard carry the dog and the trap back to the car where they were able to get it off D2’s neck.

Conibear traps at 9 inches or less are legal in Oregon in dry land. According to Trap Free Oregon they are banned on land in other states in order to prevent animals such as dogs from being caught in them. Trap Free Oregon offers instructions on how to release a dog from such a trap. Groups such as Predator Defense and Trap Free Oregon have long tried to call attention to the dangers of trapping and change Oregon's laws.

Strader says they have talked to Todd Bowen at Lane County Parks and Officer Bernard Perkins from Lane County Animal Services and the county is in contact with ODFW about the trap and D2's death.

“We do know the trap was placed illegally,” Strader says. She says there were no signs warning of trapping, though she and Willard have now placed their own signs for other dog walkers or those with children near the park gate and near the pond.

Since posting the story of D2’s death on Facebook, Strader says she is “beyond amazed” at the support. “It’s awful to have to see your dog like that and have to find a way to get a trap off her head,” she says.

“I’d like him see a picture,” she says of the person who set the trap that killed D2.

“We want the person to come forward and clarify these traps are gone,” she says, “That’s the most important thing — to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

A picture of D2 and the trap that killed her is below. 


The trap that killed D2 was placed near this tree, which had signs of beaver activity, Strader says.

D2 the dog and the trap that killed her.

April 15, 2015 12:05 PM

Meryl Streep pays tribute to Hillary Clinton at a Women in the World Conferecne in 2012.

April 15, 2015 05:39 PM

A new pub and nightclub is set to open downtown this summer in the former space of the Lord Leebrick Theatre Company's administrative office on Broadway. 

The space will have two separate entrances and feature a pub and a nightclub, each with its own bar. The owner and operators say they want it to be a community-oriented space with a cozy feel and that it had to be downtown.

"My mind kept going to a pub in southwest London," the owner says of the new venue's inspiration.

The owner has signed a five-year lease for the space, with the option to renew for another five. 

To find out more, pick up a copy of the April 16 issue of Eugene Weekly.

April 14, 2015 12:16 PM

Update, April 15: Tuesday evening Veselina Karakoleva, who does booking for The Granary, contacted EW to discuss the promotional material and the new event.

"I am so grateful that people called. It was such a shock," Karakoleva says about people contacting The Granary after seeing the controversial party flier. Karakoleva says neither she nor The Granary saw the flier before it was distributed. The Granary and Pretty in China canceled the event and in its place will be hosting a benefit for local nonprofit SASS, or Sexual Assault Support Services. All door proceeds and a percentage of dinner special sales will go to SASS. 

"I decided it was the best way," Karakoleva says."We wanted to show the community what we stand for."

She adds in an email that HUB on Campus Eugene, who's logo was featured on the flier, will be handing out ribbons at the event and "joining our efforts in making this evening a successful benefit for victims of sexual assault."

This morning, EW spoke with Samantha Nash, a public relations associate for Pretty in China, the local event company whose party promotional material caused a stir around Eugene and the UO campus yesterday.

Yesterday, EW blogged about the the flier in question, promoting a party at The Granary April 16, featured a woman laying face down, seemingly passed out, surrounded by a couple beer cups.

“It was just a mistake,” Nash says. “We really did not intend for it to be tied to any sort of sexual assault.” She continues, “We are definitely going to be more sensitive about it in the future,” adding that the company took the backlash “very seriously.”

“Immediately, we were like, it has to be canceled.”

In the event’s place, Pretty in China will host a benefit to raise awareness for sexual assault and domestic abuse 9 pm Thursday, April 16, at The Granary. Nash says all event profits will be donated.

“Any money we make will be donated to survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse,” she says.

For more information about the event visit its Facebook page.

April 14, 2015 11:30 AM

UO Matters has posted a "notice of emergency meeting" at 12.30 pm today, April 14, sent out to the University of Oregon's Board of Trustees today that will be followed by a press conference.

Meanwhile, Nigel Jaquiss of Willamette Week has posted that:

The University of Oregon will name Michael H. Schill, currently the dean of the University of Chicago Law School, as the university's new president today, WW has learned.

Let the games begin …

April 13, 2015 10:24 AM

Remarkable time-lapse photography of the Matterhorn in Switzerland by Christian Mulhsuser.