Right to protest

We've become almost numb to the international news, perhaps even fooled into thinking that most of the fighting is over and the damages are largely behind us. Well, we've now "avenged" the deaths of those innocents killed on Sept. 11 by the deaths of a larger number of civilians in Afghanistan due to our bombing missions there. What have we to show for this besides our national "pride"? An Afghanistan possibly more devastated than ever. Unreliable warlords and tribal chiefs, some of them demonstrably guilty of corruption and human rights abuses, some leading an interim government we installed and support. Greater instability than ever in central and south Asia and in the Middle East. Allies who conjure up the cliche "with friends like that, who needs enemies?" A rapidly expanding military budget and a thirst for more weaponry. Bellicose rhetoric from our own statesmen and those of other nations. U.S. troops flying to the Phillipines. The principal leaders of Al-Qaeda still missing. And -- looming -- a frightening new loss of civil liberties at home for U.S. citizens --- a loss already felt by many of "suspect" ancestry, color, creed or surname.

It is more important than ever for each of us to stay informed, not just by the mainstream TV news but by more sophisticated and diverse sources, about the policies of our government, the real impact of those policies throughout the world, and the associated risks to ourselves and our loved ones. Activism must follow. It is my civic right, indeed duty, to seek to see such policies replaced by more enlightened and effective ones.

I urge all my neighbors in the Gorge community, of all views, to participate in the community dialogue "Civil Liberties in a Time of War," on Feb. 16 at 12:30 p.m. at Riverside Church in Hood River.

Tina Castanares

White Salmon

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Lawnmower torches Arbor Vitae on Portland Drive

The riding lawn mower driven by Norma Cannon overheated and made contact with dry arbor vitae owned by Lee and Norma Curtis, sending more than a dozen of the tightly-packed trees up in flames. The mower, visible at far right, was totaled. No one was injured; neighbors first kept the fire at bay with garden hoses and Westside and Hood River Fire Departments responded and doused the fire before it reached any structures. Westside Fire chief Jim Trammell, in blue shirt, directs firefighters. The video was taken by Capt. Dave Smith of Hood River Fire Department. Enlarge

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