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Nov-23-2007 13:36printcomments

PETA's Claims about OHSU: Consider the Source and the Documented History

In listening to PETA's latest claims, I urge the public to consider the documented history and the source.

The OHSU Primate Research Center
The OHSU Primate Research Center

(PORTLAND, Ore.) - PETA has once again set its sights on OHSU. Over the past couple of weeks we have seen their press releases and opinion pieces frequently posted on Salem-News. It's no secret that their strategy is to state old and new allegations repeatedly in the hopes that Oregon residents will be swayed.

However what's noteworthy about PETA's latest allegations is that they stand in sharp contrast to established facts provided by independent, unbiased organizations - organizations charged with ensuring that health research using animals is conducted humanely. This documentation can be viewed by visiting: ohsu.edu/primatecenterfacts

At the web site you can see this year's two spotless USDA inspections and glowing accreditation review that took place before and after PETA placed their infiltrator among OHSU health researchers, veterinarians and dedicated animal care staff.

We also ask that the public consider a few of the following facts before making up their minds:

PETA is an organization with a $29 million annual budget and a mission to end all health research with animals. PETA's claims should come as a surprise to no one. In fact, PETA's extreme bias against research raises significant questions about its credibility and motives; especially when weighed against this year's outstanding reviews by neutral organizations and international animal care experts.

There have been several previous attempts by PETA and others to discredit the university and health research as a whole. In 2004, PETA's Web site claimed an epidemic at our primate center caused nearly 400 hundred infant deaths. The story was later shown to be untrue. PETA and other animal activists either misread or misused an annual census report which documented that nearly 400 monkeys at the primate center had turned one year old and were now no longer considered infants. In other words, the animals didn't die, they just celebrated a birthday.

More recently, PETA made claims of homophobia about OHSU's sheep research which was aimed at understanding partner preference. Upon reviewing news coverage and the details of our research, The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. proclaimed reports of PETA's claims to be "little more than dystopian (horrific) fantasy, conjured up by a pressure group to drive an agenda."

Story continues below

Back in 2000, another planted employee with ties to PETA made claims of mistreatment. In that case, federal animal care experts spent two months investigating our facility and pouring over documents. Again, we were cleared. The investigation found that OHSU broke no laws and no fines or penalties were issued. Of course investigations take time so the public tends to remember the allegations, not the outcome. This may be why PETA's Justin Goodman repeated some of the events of 2000 in his recent Salem-News Op-Ed without disclosing the fact that OHSU was cleared.

In listening to PETA's latest claims, I urge the public to consider the documented history and the source.




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Rick Bogle December 7, 2007 5:34 am (Pacific time)

Jim, I'm impressed that you have taken the time to answer some of the questions posed here. We need more dialogue like this. It's unfortunate that the labs, almost universally, refuse to discuss these issues in a public venue. In reading over the conversation, there are a couple things that Justin Goodman asked that might have gotten lost. Maybe you would address these? Is there a reason that OHSU seems to not publish papers about the abnormal behaviors of their NHP population? Why not run a live video feed from rooms of singly-housed animals? If their stereotypies are exhibited only in the presence of undercover investigators, it would be pretty obvious that they were behaving normally at other times. Why can't OHSU provide stats about the incidence of stereotypic behavior? Thanks in advance.


Rick Bogle December 6, 2007 8:08 am (Pacific time)

Jim, Now I remember... Shively's report was pretty critical and gave some additional weight to Rosell's claims. OHSU -- three months later -- found a new expert to evaluate their practices and procedures. If I remember correctly, OHSU claimed that Shively's report was flawed because her 50 plus published papers were based primarily on research with cynomolgous macaques, and OHSU argued that her criticisms didn't pertain to the husbandry of rhesus macaques. (I'd really like to see a copy of the Novak report -- 'Novak' is the correct spelling, BTW.) Just to clarify Jim, you accuse me of being against the "thought of studying animals for health research." That's not accurate. I'm opposed to hurting others for personal gain.


Jim Newman December 5, 2007 6:23 pm (Pacific time)

Rick - I think the Novack report is already out there somewhere on the web - but since it is about 8 years old - it may have been taken down or may be hard to find. I'll look for it. Again - I am definitely not criticizing Dr. Shively. All I was saying was that the findings of another expert with even more expertise were essentially ignored because her study was not found to be as exciting by the press. I think that is a real shame. I can't speak for whether our university should have done more to get the report out as I was not directly involved at the time. I think you misunderstood what I am saying. The reailty is that we are always looking for better ways to do things. This is why we had Dr. Shively and Novack come in. But there are countless other practices we have also improved or changed as new information comes to light. I disagree with you that we were wrong in the past. The reality is that as more research is done about good animal care - we update things. We actually do a lot of that research ourselves and share it with others. I know you disagree with the thought of studying animals for health research, but I hope you can appreciate our attempts to always review what we do and constantly try to improve it. As for Dr. Shively


Sylvia Raye December 5, 2007 2:52 pm (Pacific time)

I cannot believe I am even reading this story. This is the year 2007. I thought slavery ended 200 years ago. It is hard to understand the mind set of those keeping any animal against it's will. The word cage is enough for me.


Rick Bogle December 5, 2007 7:50 am (Pacific time)

Jim, Rather than bemoan the fact that the Shively report got more coverage than the Novack report, why not put both of them on your website? I haven't seen a copy of the Novack report and would certainly like to. I guess I'm confused as to why OHSU would seek the advice of someone they felt wasn't really an expert... I can only imagine that had Shively's report been supportive that you wouldn't be now claiming that Shively wasn't really the real deal. You must admit that choosing an expert, not liking their report, and then claiming that you chose the wrong person says something about OHSU's judgement overall. It is at least good to hear that OHSU has recognized that some of its past practices weren't as humane as they could have been and have made some improvements. It is worth keeping in mind that prior to the changes, that OHSU was claiming to be using only the most humane of methods. Repeated instances of admitting that one has been wrong in the past (especially when the wrongness was so vigorously defended in public at the time) undermine credibility, and should encourage the public to be wary of additional and current similar claims.


Jim Newman December 4, 2007 10:31 pm (Pacific time)

A significant update for anyone following this thread. OHSU has been cleared of PETA's charges following a Federal inspection. More info here: www.ohsu.edu/primatecenterfacts


Jim Newman December 4, 2007 7:07 am (Pacific time)

Slight clarification - we only wean animals when necesary - the way I wrote that initially could cause confusion or misunderstanding


Jim Newman December 3, 2007 10:27 pm (Pacific time)

Rick, Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. As I said - some illness really slowed me down for a few days. I reread the Shively report so that I could respond. First of all a bit of history: Following the 2000 infiltration of the primate center OHSU decided to ask two people to review the primate center: researcher Carol Shively and animal care expert Melinda Novack. The goal was to learn of there were things that we could do better. This is why it always strikes me as odd when we get criticized for the report as it’s goal was a very positive one. Melinda Novack’s report was a much more positive report. However, the reporter who wrote about the topic in a local paper called Willamette Week only made slight mention of Novack’s report and never posted the report online as they did with the Shively report. This is too bad as the reality is that Dr. Novack is a nationally regarded expert on animal care. I certainly don’t mean to slight Dr. Shively, but she does not carry the same kind of international acceptance as an animal care expert as Dr. Novack. I think if Willamatte Week would have given at least equal time to both reports – and placed them both online - the public would have been given a much more realistic picture. In regards to your question about the Shively report: I’d have to say we did quite a bit of what she suggested. For instance: A primate well-being expert sits on our IACUC. We have greatly increased pair and social housing. We have gone to great lengths to ensure abnormally behaving animals are not bred at the center – for instance by extending weaning age (only when necessary) to a year as proposed by animal care experts. We have found ways to expand our social housing for research animals. We have a training program so that animals can learn to voluntarily take part in research protocols. Our behavioral sciences unit conducts research on animal care best practices and publishes these findings. We expanded our well-being (behavioral sciences unit) staff. We changed the electroejaculation procedure and bought new equipment. These are just a few of the things that have taken place and I am sure there are many more. Hope that helps.


Jim Newman December 3, 2007 9:27 pm (Pacific time)

Justin - I think your note demonstrates a real frustration for those of us in science. You accuse of cruelty. You say we are violent. You say we should be locked up. At every turn you demonize us. At it's web site PETA recently named two of our scientists "vivisectors of the week." I assume PETA knows that one of those scientists was recently attacked by the ALF. The ALF also threatened to burn down his home possibly causing injury or death. I have answered a lot of questions here so let me pose two to you. Do you ever consider whether all of this demonizing and emotionally-charged campaigning against scientists will result in a real tragedy and how will you feel if that happens?


Justin Goodman December 3, 2007 11:45 am (Pacific time)

The sentence in the below entry should read, "...PETA’s investigator (who did NOT perform experiments on animals and rarely handled them)..." PETA's investigator was a husbandry technician and NEVER performed any experiments. I apologize for the typo.


Justin Goodman December 3, 2007 10:38 am (Pacific time)

Jim, I would strongly protest your statement that ONPRC’s ”monkeys are never housed in isolation.” Living alone in a cage is decidedly a form of social isolation since it prohibits the close physical relationships that are so significant for monkeys. From the numbers you have offered, it looks like over 10% of the NHPs are, using your definition of the term, “housed individually.” However, I'd suggest that the other 538 animals that you describe as “in cages with mesh contact with the neighboring monkey” as also being caged “individually” since seeing and hearing conspecifics of other individuals is not the totality of primate sociality and they are still deprived of meaningful social contact and interaction. Are we to accept that the possibility of touching fingertips or leaning against a cold cage wall just knowing that another individual is on the otherside constitutes a normal, healthy relationship? That’s a questionable assumption at best, and one I reject. Thus, these individuals are also deprived, bringing the total number of animals caged and socially isolated at ONPRC to nearly 1,000 monkeys, or 25% of the entire population, exposing them to an important risk factor for the development of a variety of behavioral pathologies. Rick is right in characterizing this as “severe neglect.” Additionally, its wirth noting that animals in pairs, groups and even outdoor corrals also engage in behavioral pathologies. It is not limited to singly housed animals. While you are unable to provide a statistic as to the number of NHPs at ONPRC who exhibit stereotypic behaviors, published research shows that approximately 90% of all monkeys kept in labs suffer from pathologies that result in abnormal behaviors, such as pacing, rocking, digit sucking, eye covering, self-grasping, backflipping. (I'd also point out that other institutions actually publish their data in peer reviewed journals, studying risk factors, incidence, etiology and so on. To think that the public does not deserve that info after they have funded ONPRC via taxes is arrogant.) It appears you have reported self-mutilation in terms of average daily open treatment cases. This is selective and necessarily minimizes the number. Again, published reports suggest that a larger percentage of caged monkeys, around 10% in one study, receive veterinary intervention for self-inflicted injuries per year. Even this estimate is conservative, because it excludes animals who self-bite but to not require veterinary treatment for the resulting wounds. Whether or not the injuries require veterinary intervention may signal severity, but the fact is that self biting without veterinary intervention is still very serious, and judging from published reports far more common. Further, self-biting isn't the only form of self injurious behavior (head-banging, for example). If we broaden the defnition beyond self-biting, we’d have an even more complete picture of self-harm. The possibility that the monkeys in PETA’s video reacted the way they did because there was a human in the room is not any reason for the depictions on the footage to be trivialized. I agree with Rick’s comments below that these responses are quite telling about the monkeys’ sentiments towards all humans. Animals learn to be afraid of people because they live in environments where they lack agency, control and people do things to them against their will, or where people become associated with pain and suffering because of experiments. This gives the public great insight into the lives these animals lead day in and day out. I would be interested to view a live feed from all rooms full of singly housed animals 24/7 to see if PETA’s investigator (who did perform experiments on animals and rarely handled them) is the only human who triggered neurotic behaviors in the NHPs and to see if ONPRCs animals do not exhibit pathological behaviors in the presence of any other staff or the absence of humans. I think that tape would tell a different story. Further, would you agree that, given ONPRC’s commitment to the animals’ psychological well-being, all stimuli that cue a pathological response, like someone entering the room, should be banned from rooms where animals exhibit pathologies - even stereotypies? Risk factors for all of these abnormal behaviors include traumas that are commonly associated with the captivity of nonhuman primates in laboratories: repeated experimentation, maternal separation and social isolation. That said, if you want the solution to the problem of rampant behavioral pathologies in nonhuman primates at ONPRC, close-up shop and send the animals to sanctuary. Jim, you’ve been very agreeable on the website, but ultimately you’re a mouthpiece defending horrible cruelty that would cause the police to shut this place down and lock up everyone involved if they weren’t in lab coats. The actions you’re trying to defend are still violent and cruel, and ethically indefensible. You should find honest work, Jim, and stop spinning in defense of such horrors.


Jim Newman November 28, 2007 10:11 pm (Pacific time)

Rick, I'm battling a bit of illness but wanted to respond. I can't speak for other facilities but animals here tend to remain with their mothers unless rejected. In cases where they need to be weened - it would be at 1 year which is the age recomended by the international primatalogical society, I am not familliar with the paper you mention but will look it up. I also am not very aquainted with the story behind the other tapes you mention as that predates me. Again - there were some other things i need to look into - sorry some illness slowed me down. I'll respond again soon. Jim


Rick Bogle November 28, 2007 11:18 am (Pacific time)

Jim, I don't know where the 1552 number came from either. I just redid the subtraction and see that the number of individually housed monkeys is approx. 462 (assuming I subtracted right this time.)My mistake. Thanks for pointing it out. Relative the the animals' stereotypic behaviors, I suspect that you might be correct regarding early abandonment. I'm unfamiliar with OHSU's policies, but some of its sister facilities have policies regarding when monkeys being bred for lab use (as opposed to being kept as breeders) are taken from their mothers. Washington's Infant Primate Lab routinely husbands infants pulled from their mothers within days of birth (as opposed to being rejected) and Tulane has (or had) a policy in place stipulating that infants would be pulled within 3 days of delivery. But labs differ. Chris Coe, director of the Harlow Primate Psychology lab claims that monkeys born there remain with their mothers for four months. But even in this situation, individual housing is a known cause of severe stress -- especially in young male rhesus. Regarding the reaction of the animals to a human or a camera and what that might signal, you might be interested in the 2007 paper, “Role of the primate orbitofrontal cortex in mediating anxious temperament.” (Kalin N. H., Shelton S. E., and Davidson R. J. Biological Psychiatry)in which the authors describe rhesus monkeys' (both intact and experimentally brain damaged) various responses to humans staring at them and not staring at them, and to a roll of tape, a rubber snake, and a real snake. What seems clear is that fear and anxiety manifest differently under varying conditions. I remember seeing the videos of the "normally behaving" rhesus monkeys from one of Martha Neuringer's studies. She had characterized the monkeys as "normally behaving" during her fight to keep the tapes from being seen in public. In these videos (acquired only after a law suit) we saw monkeys spinning and looping endlessly for hours. The video camera was remotely controlled and no human was present during the filming. In the paper I mention above, one possible fearful response to a perceived threat is freezing, while, in the situations shown on the Rosell tapes, the response was often retreat, as you mentioned. Again, thank you Jim for your comments. Can you tell us what the SOP is for monkeys born at OHSU and the amount of time they stay with their mothers prior to being sold or taken into the labs?


Jim Newman November 27, 2007 4:37 pm (Pacific time)

Rick, Got your questions. I am confused with how you came up with 1552 as even under the strictest definition of group vs. individual housing that number is higher than what I can come up with in crunching the numbers. I also think there is room for debate about the definition of individually caged animals. For instance if they can groom one another, I wouldn't consider that individual caging. Of course I can see how others may define it other ways for themselves. I really did see instances in the video where you could see the camera travel from outside of the cage to inside and the animal squeezed into a corner on a perch above to get away. As for human presence, the animals get used to it to a point, but very close human contact is not something very different and something they are not used to. This is what we saw on the video. This week, I'll post some video at our web site to demonstrate how animals normally act vs. how they act when they feel threatened by close human presence. The difference is very notable. I talked to our animal behaviorists about some of the abnormal behaviors you have raised. They've told me that the research has shown that this is likely caused when an animal suffers an early life stress - like being abandoned by a parent - something that happens quite often in the wild and in captivity. Yes, the video did show other things - but I think that because people did not hear the full story, they did not get a full understanding of what they were seeing. For instance, showing a rare case where the animal has behavioral problems does not speak for all animals. The reality is that in all animal populations, (human and animal) there is mental illness or abnormal behavior. The 2000 video was used to suggest that behaviors such as self-biting are common when in fact it is very rare and not fully understood. As for the Shively report, I want to take a look at it because I haven't read it for many years. I'll read it again and get back to you tonight or tomorrow with another post. Jim


Gerardo November 27, 2007 10:43 am (Pacific time)

Jim, I appreciate your candor in responding to the questions posed. You provide forthright answers based on fact; answers that promote open dialouge. If those against animal research did the same then maybe we could finally have a rational discussion concerning issues. Until that occurs I fear the public will have to continue enduring vitriolic rhetoric. Thank you.


Rick Bogle November 27, 2007 8:40 am (Pacific time)

Jim, thanks for taking the time to write. From your numbers, it seems that OHSU has about 1,552 idividually caged monkeys. Given that this is a known cause of severe emotional distress for most monkeys, particularly macaques, this statistic is alarming and should be recognized as a form of severe neglect. I am skeptical about the camera being the source of the animals' agitation in the Rosell videos. In the case of the monkey with the large telemetric device recently surgicaly implanted under the skin of his or her back, I think it is a rather easy observation that the presence of any human might cause some alarm. And, speaking of alarm and fear, the presence of a human is a well-known cause of anxiety in most animals in lab settings. I'd be happy to provide scientific references for this point if it is something you are unaware of. It may be impossible to approach any cage in a lab and not cause the animals distress. If that is the case, then Rosell's video was an accurate depiction of the animals' reaction to the humans confronting them. And, of course, the videos showed much more than just terrified animals. You should remember that the video of the capuchins in Casey's study alarmed even other researchers at OHSU and led to the internal pressure to retire them. This was footage seen by USDA as well and found to be of no concern. And finally, which of Shively's recommendations did OHSU follow? Thanks again for the info.


BadKarma November 27, 2007 8:10 am (Pacific time)

The Veganist Jihad's agenda is the subjugation (and eventual extinction) of the entire human race. Except themselves, of course. Like any other megalomaniac fanatics, they consider themselves exempt from the draconian rules they want to impose on everyone else. Don't just consider the source. Take it with a grain of salt the size of the Rock of Gibraltar.


Jim Newman November 26, 2007 7:04 pm (Pacific time)

Rick, Of course you are reacting to the footage which was shot at the center by an animal activist several years ago. If you have watched all that video, as I have, then you have clearly seen the many instances where the photographer's presence influenced the behavior of the animals. For instance, in one shot you can see how a food cart was placed near the cages which resulted in "wild" behavior. In another case, the camera was literally placed inside the animal cage. In response the animal tries to hide in fear but cannot get away. What made me saddest about watching the video were cases where specific animals who were terrified by the camera were visited time and time again so their fear could be caught on tape and used to suggest that this was their normal behavior - check the animal numbers on the tape - you will see what I saw. As for your questions. You asked how many animals live in solitary confinement. The answer is none. Monkeys are never housed in isolation. They can always see, hear, and interact with others. As for how our animals are housed, I will break it down for you. We have approx 4,234 monkeys: 2550 live in group outdoor housing, 562 live in pairs, 132 live in grooming pears (cages that allow grooming or partners 538 are housed in cages with mesh contact with the neighboring monkey. The rest would be housed individually (but again in groups). In many cases animals are housed individually for veterinary treatment, quarantine (to ensure that illness does not spread) or because the monkeys are shown not to live well with other monkeys (they fight). You ask about self injurious behavior: about 1 percent of our monkeys have an open case for this (meaning at some time they were believed to have self injured themselves - cases remain open for a while until we are sure the problem is dealt with.) If you compare this to self injurious behavior in humans - you will see it is comparable or even more rare at our primate center. Stereotypic behavior: I do not have a stat for, but this is actually an area we conduct research on to see if it can be reduced. This data will then be shared with other institutions such as zoos, who have captive monkeys. The electroejacuation procedure was modified based on USDA veterinarians advice and yes, some of Carol Shively's recommendations were followed. She was hired by the center to conduct that review and we took her advice seriously. Some of the advice applied to us, some of it did not. Hope that helps - Jim


Rick Bogle November 26, 2007 9:29 am (Pacific time)

I've watched hours of undercover video from inside the Oregon primate center that shows distressed monkeys in various circumstances. The fact that USDA looked at the same videos and could see no violation of the Animal Welfare Act demonstrates that USDA standards are so low as to be nearly non-existant. Individually housing monkeys -- like solitary confinement in human prisons -- is a known cause of severe mental stress sometimes leading to self-wounding. So, Jim Newman, in the spirit of openness, how many monkeys at OHSU are housed individually right now? How many monkeys at OHSU have a history of self-injurious behavior, and how many have a history of stereotypic behavior? Is electro-ejaculation still being used at OHSU? Which of Carol Shively's recommendations did OHSU follow?


Maureen Roth November 25, 2007 6:28 am (Pacific time)

Anybody who sees the video can come to their own conclusions as I have come to mine. I have interacted with animals all my life and one doesn´t have to be an expert to see the pitiful sad life these animals are leading. These experiments have been done over and over again for years all over the world. So today it´s like beating a dead dog, enough is enough. This money would be better spent educating mothers on the dangers of smoking. You cannot put a spin on that.


Jim Newman November 24, 2007 3:46 pm (Pacific time)

Maureen, please tell me specifically what cruelty the video shows and I am happy to respond. The video shows cage cleaning, a routine, daily occurance for the monkeys that they are very accustomed to. The video also shows an animal being captured. Think about it - have you ever had to capture a pet dog and force it into the veterinarians office because it does not want to go? How is this any different? The video also shows a prolapse, a common occurance in zoos and other capitivity which tends to correct itself within hours. MS. Sweetland is a former longtime PETA manager who now works for In Defense of Animals. I only mention this because she (I think unfairly) accuses me of PR spin while she is way more entrenched in this issue than I will ever be. She does her best to make research sound as gruesome as possible. Let's talk about the reality: Thousands of American women smoke despite decades of education and millions spent on getting the message out. Ms Sweetland suggests we keep spending more money at education when the reality is, this does not work in many cases. The therapies Dr. Spindel is trying to develop will help save children when their own mothers' actions place them at risk. If a small number of animals are humanely euthanized to develop this treatment - isn't it worth it? What is more ethical, letting these children suffer for their entire lives or using a few animals ethically to develop a treatment to prevent this suffering?


Mary Beth Sweetland November 24, 2007 9:37 am (Pacific time)

OHSU owes the public a lot more than PR spin when it comes to its use of primates in experimentation. On Nov. 5, our organization, In Defense of Animals, sent a letter to OHSU's president making a rational and compelling argument against Eliot Spindel's useless and cruel nicotine experiments on pregnant monkeys. Mother monkeys are infused with nicotine and their babies are cut out of their wombs before gestation is complete. The terrified premature infant monkeys are then subjected to lung function tests and killed for dissection. We've not received a reply to our letter. If OHSU wants people to believe that it is ethical, it will stop taking scarce federal tax dollars to conduct such indefensible experiments. Non-profit, anti-smoking groups need those same monies for cessation and prevention programs and we already know that when pregnant women smoke, it is bad for their fetuses. Is Eliot Spindel trying to develop a "treatment" so that pregnant women can continue to smoke? Is OHSU taking any tobacco company money? Come clean with the public, OHSU, and while you're at it, do some house-cleaning to rid yourselves of dirty money and cruel experiments. Those who review OHSU's activities with animals are, themselves, supporters of animal experimentation. It is just one more good old boy network that has yet to be properly exposed.


Maureen Roth November 24, 2007 5:24 am (Pacific time)

The PETA video clearly shows serious abuse of these monkeys, OSHU has a moral obligation to accept this and ensure these things never happen again.


Jim Newman November 23, 2007 6:54 pm (Pacific time)

While we are completely open to an investigation by the USDA, we believe the video shows no evidence of violations. Feel free to ask for information about anything on the tape via this forum or email me directly at newmanj@ohsu.edu and we are happy to respond. Everything you see on the PETA tape has a completely logical explanation.


Anne November 23, 2007 3:33 pm (Pacific time)

Certainly won't argue with a call to "consider the source", but I'm curious... what of the video on PETA'S site that was supposedly taken at the OHSU facility, that clearly shows violations?

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