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Church Notebook: Rally next Saturday at Church of Christ

We can’t expect everything to work perfectly all the time — and it would appear that my computer has been as ineffective as my body lately.

Today I received an email telling me that one of our churches got their information returned. There were a few days I could not get my email — my computer kept telling me I wasn’t connected to the internet.

It’s back on track now, and I apologize if I lost anything that can’t be retrieved. If you sent something and there is still time to tell folks about an event, please try again. This time of year, I need all I can get because things are much slower.

Without a lot going on, perhaps you’d like another hymn story. When it comes to music, I could go on and on.

African-American churches have been the source of a lot of terrific melodies and inspirational verses. I remember singing some of them in music class when I was in elementary school.

That’s something I think kids are missing out on today. We were taught to read music to sing way back then — music was an integral part of what was considered a “well-rounded” education — but sadly, these days, I understand that budget constraints have relegated it to the bottom of the priority list.

“Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Go Tell it on the Mountain” are three such songs. Back in the late 1800s, John Work, a black man at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., began collecting and preserving these songs, and his two sons followed suit.

California Focus: State money switches arouse suspicion

One reason Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 tax increases passed so handily last fall was that many voters became convinced that if they didn’t say yes to the new levies, the sky would fall.

Schools would suffer, services for the elderly — already devastated by previous budget cuts — might disappear. Police and fire personnel levels could be decimated. And much more.

 Those fears were enough to overcome the revelation of only a few months earlier that the state Parks and Recreation Department secretly squirreled away more than $53 million over 12 years by underreporting the amounts it held in special funds.

Private donors who put up millions of dollars to stave off budget-crunch closings of many park units were infuriated; some demanded their money back but didn’t get it.

 Brown’s office investigated and heads rolled. The state parks director was forced out, along with her second-in-command. But one finding of the investigation was that the Parks and Recreation malfeasance was an isolated case, even though department managers often hustle to spend every available dollar before the end of a budget cycle so those funds don’t automatically revert to the state’s general fund, the fate of unspent dollars not sitting in special funds like the parks department’s Off Highway Vehicle Trust Fund, where $33.5 million was stashed.

Coastal Voices: Government just keeps making matters worse

Why is it that no one is asking the question, “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”

It could be that no one is asking because we all know the answer. The answer is no one is better off. Not the rich.Not the poor, and certainly not the middle class. In the last four years, the rich have been forced to pay more than its fair share. According to the US News and World Report, the rich, who make up 1 percent of all taxpayers, paid 37 percent of all federal taxes. 

As hard as the rich have had it, the middle class, the class that the president claims to protect, has been hit harder. Workers have seen it in their paychecks where 2 percent is being deducted. This means that a person earning $35,000 a year has a monthly paycheck that is reduced by $54.

Now the president is proposing a new formula to figure annual increases in Social Security, which will hit the middle classes the hardest.  We need the government to realize that this is not some give-away program from the federal government, it’s money that is forcibly taken from the worker’s paycheck every month as part of a forced savings program to be paid back to those very seniors when they retire.

Seniors who have been conned into investing in “safe” investments such as CDs have seen interest that they receive fall to less than one percent. This means they are losing more than 2 perent of their investment every year because it’s been eaten away by inflation. 

Next year Obamacare will hit with a vengeance. With 30 million more Americans to be covered, Del Norte families who are lucky enough to find a doctor will find that they will be forced to buy very expensive health insurance. How expensive? The IRS estimates that it will cost $20,000 for a family of four by the year 2016. Those who fail to sign up will be subject to paying a penalty of 2.5 percent of their taxable income.

Coastal Voices: Lots to consider before deciding to close school

I am writing as a parent and a teacher to express my concerns about the school closure being considered.

I believe that it is a bad idea for many reasons. First, I’d like you to ask how the district came to be in the position of deficit spending. Rodney Jahn has kept our district in excellent fiscal shape for many years, despite a struggling economy and many cuts to school funding.

Prior to his accident he was warning the board and administration that they needed to stop spending. They did not heed his warnings and now they must find a way to balance their budget.

Well, I say, balance it at the top where the dilemma was created. What other options besides closing a school are being considered? Could District office personnel days or hours be reduced to part-time or cut during summer months? Could secretaries be shared? Could positions be cut?

Downsizing administration makes sense in a struggling economy and shrinking school population. Could district-owned vehicles be sold?

I believe we need to look at every possibility before taking such a drastic measure as closing a school. If my family were experiencing a shortage of income, we wouldn’t first consider selling the house that we own free and clear (drastic), we would look to eliminate unnecessary expenses and reduce necessary expenses. The School Board should take the same logical approach to this situation.

Redwoods Family Worship plans barbecue on Sunday

As usual, things slow down after Easter, the height of the year for church activities.

Special activities and programs aside, simply going to church on Sunday or Bible study midweek can be just as special. I know, I’m really missing it right now, having been hit by a bout of arthritis that makes it very difficult to even walk — not fun.

Many of you have been telling me that you particularly enjoy the stories behind our hymns, and I find it fascinating to go through my book, learning about them. Today’s is another of my personal favorites.

“Oh, Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder ...” The words and melody of “How Great Thou Art” always inspire me. I want to sing it out as loud as I can when I hear it. (Interesting for me was to note its Swedish origins — my maternal grandfather came from Sweden.)

The writer, Carl Boberg, was a young Swedish minister. The song, just a poem when first published  around 1885, seemed forgotten for a time.

But a few years later, he was surprised to hear it being sung to the tune of an old Swedish melody.

As more time passed, Dr. J. Edwin Orr heard it being sung in Assam, in India — and brought it to America. It was introduced here by George Beverly Shea, who was part of Billy Graham’s evangelistic team. Perhaps you remember the man with the beautiful deep, deep voice who sang at those events. It was at one of those ’50s crusades many years ago in Syracuse, N.Y., that I became a Christian.

Just a few things this week.

House Calls: What's causing that belly pain?

House Calls runs every other Saturday. Today’s column is written by Doris Fitch, a registered nurse at Sutter Coast Hospital and trainer at College of the Redwoods.

Have you ever had belly pain? Did you wonder why?

There are multiple conditions that can cause belly pain. It occurs between the chest and lower belly or abdomen. It can be cramp-like, achy or sharp. It can be constant or intermittent.

The organs in the abdomen are intestines, kidneys, appendix, spleen, stomach, gallbladder, liver and pancreas. Inflammation or diseases can cause pain in the abdomen.  Viral or bacterial infections that affect the stomach and intestines can cause significant pain in the belly. This abdominal pain is sometimes referred to as a stomachache. 

The intestines have multiple bulges that balloon out of their walls. These bulges, called diverticula, absorb water and nutrients for our body to use as energy.

Diverticulosis is a condition where the diverticula become swollen and tender, making them easily inflamed by seeds. The complications of diverticulosis include infection (diverticulitis) and bleeding.

When the diverticula are infected they become sore and thin and can slit open and bleed into the bowel. The inflammation is what causes the pain and loose, foul stools.

Coastal Voices: Regionalizing Sutter Coast hazardous for rural area

Sutter Coast Hospital provides health care services to Del Norte and Curry counties, both of which are designated by the federal government as Medically Underserved Areas by Population (MUAP) as well as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA).

“So what?” one might ask. Well, those designations mean that our area residents and visitors have fewer choices in medical providers and more limited access to health facilities compared to adequately served areas. However, those same area providers and facilities benefit from financial reimbursement incentives intended to expand and enhance direct service provision. 

The MUAP designation is based on the percentage of the population below poverty levels; percentage of the population 65 and over; infant mortality rates; and the ratio of primary care physicians to the population. (That, by the way, does not reflect seasonal tourism influxes and their health care needs.)

Del Norte County was designated in 1991, and Curry County was designated in 2001.

While the data used for establishing the designations are of interest and intended to be assistive, they are truly inadequate in assessing or measuring comprehensive, qualitative, holistic health care needs.

So, we are rural, remote, poor, designated as medically underserved, and many of us are old.

We also have virtually no public transportation; excessive costs for private transportation; one (and only one) north/south highway — which has failures and closures on an annual basis; one small, expensive and limited airport; dependence on life flights for emergencies (costing thousands of dollars); and, we are in a tsunami area that could be devastated/destroyed by any number of potential earthquakes.

Church Notebook: Musical events at local churches

Have you ever seen a particular piece of property, and been struck with the thought that it would be an ideal spot for something?  Or better yet, returned to that place a few years later to find that what you had envisioned had taken place?

That happened to a young man back in the 1800s, in Iowa. The 20-something was on his way to visit his girlfriend, and when the stagecoach made a stop, he walked around the area as he waited for his journey to resume. As he admired his surroundings, he thought, “This would make a perfect spot for a church.”

Continuing on his travels, he was unable to forget it, and the result of his mental ramblings evolved into the words and music of a song, “The Little Brown Church in the Vale.”

A few years later, he and his girlfriend (now his wife) moved to that area, where, to his surprise, the site was now home to a lovely little church — a brown one to boot.

People travel there purposely for weddings and other events. It’s still there, with a congregation of about 100. And the song? It’s one of those that stays in your mind, echoing over and over each time you hear it.

• There will be special programs with music at two of our churches in a couple weeks. Both the Church of Christ and New Life Community Church will present programs revolving around music.

Coastal Voices: We need to be ready for next protest vote

Our sewer rates just increased by $5.38 a month. This is the last increase allowed under the last Prop 218 vote in 2007. Since the sewer project was mismanaged so badly and the costs are still mounting, the latest increase will not be sufficient to keep the sewer fund flush.

They’re running a deficit and the only way they can see to fill the void is yet another rate increase. The council has approved the expenditure to order a new updated water/sewer rate study. However, if the city wants to raise our sewer rates again, it must hold another Prop 218 protest vote.

Under Prop 218, when the city wants to raise our sewer or water rates it must hold a vote and if the majority of the ratepayers/property owners do not want the increase, they cannot raise the rates. For years, the city had been raising rates illegally. The only reason it held the prop 218 protest in 2007 was because it was a condition of the loan agreement.

Unfortunately, construction had already begun on the sewer project before the protest vote was ordered. The whole thing was managed badly. First they sent out “ballots” to only property owners. Then they had to resend the ballots to include all renting ratepayers. The ballot looked like junk mail so it was thrown out by many, including me. I had to dig mine out of the trash after I was told about it.

Next the city told us that people in apartments would be counted, so we collected signatures from apartment dwellers. Then we find out that only one vote per property number would be counted, be it the owner or the tenant, but not both.

The number of protests votes needed was 1,710: we turned in 2,800 signatures, but they only counted 1,310. On the last day of collecting signatures I was shocked to find so many people did not even know the protest was taking place.

Vista Point: Sneaker waves no reason to fear beach

It takes two things to make a sneaker wave deadly if not dangerous, the deceptive and the deceived — the beguiling water and the human who is too near it.

I can easily imagine walking along the waterline of a beach on a day when the waves slowly lap ashore, soft as ducks. The quiet rhythm lulls me into a sense of security and I allow my attention to drift from the water to a friend walking with me or maybe my children goofing off or maybe just the music player on my phone.

I’ve taken my eyes off the water, and suddenly, improbably, a seething wall of water blasts me from the side, surges up my torso, knocks the air out of my chest with its shocking chill, soaks my clothes with gallons of water and fills every opening in them with wet sand, pinning me down so that I cannot escape.

The weight of the sand and water has crippled me. I cannot fight the still-surging wave; I cannot gain my footing and walk up the beach; I am anchored down at best, even worse is if I’ve been swept off my feet and tossed in the surf; worst of all is if I’ve been plunged underwater, the current jetting saltwater up my nose and down my throat, my life now at risk. Especially unlucky for me is if I’ve chosen a steeply sloped beach and/or the wave is dashing me against logs sent afloat or boulders on the beach. 

If I’m working especially hard to win a Darwin Award, this has all happened atop a jetty, and the wave sends me over the wall: my head could be bashed against a rock, my limbs could get tangled in the riprap, the weight of the wave could thrust me down to the seafloor in seconds.

As noted in the first installment of Vista Point’s series on sneakers (“Science of sneaker waves: Seeing isn’t always believing,” March 5, 2013), fatalities on North Coast beaches and jetties are more common when seas generally appear calm, not when the surf is high, presumably because it’s not immediately obvious the beach or jetty is unsafe.

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