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Ed Glazar, The World 

Coquille pitcher Ellie Ecklund looks to the dugout in disbelief after catching a line drive hit right back to the mound Wednesday during a game against Reedsport at Coquille.

Healthy Bytes promotes nutritional health

COOS BAY — The Coos County Community Health Improvement Plan’s Healthy Eating Active Living subcommittee started the Healthy Bytes program last year.

Healthy Bytes was created to promote healthy foods and re-engage the community to think about community health.

“It uses nutrition messaging to get our community to think about health,” Healthy Eating Active Living Subcommittee Chairperson Stephanie Polizzi said.

Healthy Bytes holds classes and sends out information each month to help the community learn how to integrate healthier foods into their diet.

“We provide monthly posters, table tents, handouts and an article on one particular plant based food,” Polizzi said.

This month, Healthy Bytes is promoting cabbage. Its website outlines the nutritional benefits of adding cabbage to your diet.

Monthly information is free on the Healthy Bytes website, Those who sign up as community partners are sent the information via email, and are asked to print copies and spread the flier out in hopes that the community will learn about nutrition.

Community partners include the all of Coos County’s school districts, the City of Coquille, Coos Bay and local businesses.

At one time, the Healthy Eating Active Living subcommittee had around 75 community partners. The subcommittee lost a number of its community partners when Coos County was not selected to be a Blue Zone. A Blue Zone is a national and state recognized community that actively works to promote healthy living. Since the Healthy Bytes program began, the subcommittee has been able to re-engage around half of the community partners it once had.

“Our goal is to really get the word out, and let people know they can participate as an individual because all of our materials are online for free. We do really want our partners to post and share on their pages and use it as a worksite wellness opportunity,” Polizzi said.

Occasionally Polizzi holds nutrition classes at the Advanced Health building where she shares nutrition information and healthy recipes with those who attend.

Classes are not as frequent as Polizzi would like, because to her knowledge she is the only registered dietitian in both Coos and Curry counties that teach community health nutrition. She is aware of dietitians that work for Bay Area Hospital, but none who teach community health nutrition.

“We’re just trying to change the culture of health by upping the ability to find these materials. So people see them when they’re out and about,” Polizzi said.

According to Polizzi, Coos County is seeing a nutritional culture change. More people are becoming interested in eating healthy.

Ed Glazar, The World 

Dick Jamsgard, president the the Oregon Coast Historical Railway Museum, is looking to retire after more than 18 years working on its growing collection of historical railway and logging equipment.

Trump fires Veterans Affairs Secretary Shulkin

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin on Wednesday in the wake of a bruising ethics scandal and a mounting rebellion within the agency, and nominated White House doctor Ronny Jackson to lead it.

A Navy rear admiral, Jackson is a surprise choice to succeed Shulkin, a former Obama administration official and the first non-veteran ever to head the VA. Trump had been considering replacements for Shulkin for weeks, but had not been known to be considering Jackson for the role.

In a statement, Trump praised Jackson as "highly trained and qualified."

Jackson has served since 2013 as the Physician to the President, and gained a national profile earlier this year for holding a sweeping press conference on the president's health.

Brigadier General Dr. Richard Tubb, who trained Jackson, said in a letter read at Jackson's briefing that the members of the White House medical team have been "figuratively Velcro-ed" to Trump since the day after his election.

"On any given day," he wrote,"the 'physician's office,' as it is known, is generally the first and last to see the President."

A White House official said Shulkin was informed of his dismissal by Chief of Staff John Kelly before the president announced the move on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon.

Shulkin is the second Cabinet secretary to depart over controversies involving expensive travel, following former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's resignation last September. Trump said in a statement he is "grateful" for Shulkin's service.

A major veterans' organization expressed concern over the Shulkin dismissal and Trump's intention to nominate Jackson, whom they worried lacked experience to run the huge department.

"We are disappointed and already quite concerned about this nominee," said Joe Chenelly, the national executive director of AMVETS. "The administration needs to be ready to prove that he's qualified to run such a massive agency, a $200 billion bureaucracy."

Shulkin had continued to insist he had the full confidence of the White House amid continuing investigations over his travel and leadership of the department. He had agreed to reimburse the government more than $4,000 after the VA's internal watchdog concluded last month that he had improperly accepted Wimbledon tennis tickets and that his then-chief of staff had doctored emails to justify his wife traveling to Europe with him at taxpayer expense. Shulkin also blamed internal drama at the agency on a half-dozen or so political appointees who were rebelling against him and Bowman, insisting he had White House backing to fire them.

But the continuing VA infighting and a fresh raft of VA watchdog reports documenting leadership failures and spending waste — as well as fresh allegations being reviewed by the IG that Shulkin used a member of his security detail to run personal errands — proved too much of a distraction.

It was the latest in a series of departures for top administration officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was fired by Trump earlier this month.

The sudden departure comes as Trump is currently seeking to expand the Veterans Choice program, a campaign promise that major veterans' groups worry could be an unwanted step toward privatizing VA health care. His plan remains in limbo in Congress after lawmakers declined last week to include it in a spending bill.

Having pushed through legislation in Trump's first year making it easier to fire bad VA employees and speed disability appeals, Shulkin leaves behind a department in disarray. Several projects remain unfinished, including a multibillion-dollar overhaul of electronic medical records aimed at speeding up wait times for veterans seeking medical care as well as expanded mental health treatment for veterans at higher risk of suicide.

Trump has selected Robert Wilkie, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to serve as the acting head of the VA. It is government's second largest department, responsible for 9 million military veterans in more than 1,700 government-run health facilities. The selection of Wilkie bypasses VA Deputy Secretary Tom Bowman, who has come under criticism for being too moderate to push Trump's agenda of fixing veterans' care.

During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to fix the VA, which was still reeling after a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, in which veterans waited months for care even as VA employees created secret waiting lists to cover up delays. Criticizing the department as "the most corrupt," Trump said he would bring accountability and expand access to private doctors, promising to triple the number of veterans "seeing the doctor of their choice."

Currently, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are made in the private sector.

The son of an Army psychiatrist and grandson of a VA pharmacist, Shulkin is a former president of the Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey. He was president and CEO of the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and chief medical officer at the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Trump is hopeful, but some skeptical ahead of US-NK talks

WASHINGTON — An enigmatic North Korean leader takes a secretive train trip to China to affirm fraternal ties and declare a commitment to denuclearization.

It sounds like Kim Jong Un's visit this week, but his father and predecessor Kim Jong Il made similar declarations on a trip to Beijing, months before he died in 2011. Yet North Korea's nuclear weapons development only speeded up.

President Donald Trump expressed optimism Wednesday after the younger Kim's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, saying there's "a good chance" that Kim will "do what is right for his people and for humanity." But there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical that the U.S.-North Korean summit slated for May will produce the breakthrough that Washington wants.

Meanwhile, increased activity at a North Korean nuclear site has once again caught the attention of analysts and renewed concerns about the complexities of denuclearization talks as Trump prepares for a summit with Kim.

Satellite imagery taken last month suggests the North has begun preliminary testing of an experimental light water reactor and possibly brought another reactor online at its Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center.

Both could be used to produce the fissile materials needed for nuclear bombs.

Also, Officials from North Korea and South Korea arrived today for talks in Paju, South Korea, to prepare for an April summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

After a year of escalating tensions, Trump agreed to talks after South Korean officials relayed that Kim was committed to ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons and was willing to halt nuclear and missile tests. 

That has tamped down fears of war that elevated as Trump and Kim traded threats and insults and North Korea demonstrated it was close to being able to strike the U.S. with a nuclear-tipped missile.

Kim's meeting with Xi offered some reassurance to Washington that "denuclearization" will be up for negotiation if the first summit between American and North Korean leaders in seven decades of animosity takes place.

But while Trump has elevated expectations of what that sit-down would achieve, North Korea has yet to spell out what it wants in return for abandoning a weapons program that Kim likely views as a guarantee for the survival of his totalitarian regime.

The readout of Kim's remarks to Xi as reported by China's state news agency Xinhua strongly indicates Pyongyang is looking for significant American concessions.

"The issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved," Kim was quoted as saying, "if South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace."

To many North Korea watchers, that sounds like old wine in a new bottle.

In May 2011, the elder Kim, who was making what would be his final trip to China, told then-president Hu Jintao that the North was "adhering to the goal of denuclearization."

That came months after North Korea had revealed a uranium enrichment plant that gave it a second path for making fuel for atomic bombs.

Abraham Denmark, a former senior U.S. defense official, said the North's latest offer to "denuclearize" still appears contingent on U.S. creating the right conditions. In the past, Pyongyang demanded that U.S. withdraw troops from the peninsula, end its security alliance with South Korea and the nuclear protection it offers its ally.

"It's possible that Kim Jong Un has a different meaning in mind," said Denmark, now director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center think tank. "So far it sounds like the same old tune."

Ending six years of international seclusion, Kim was spirited into Beijing by special train under tight security like his father before him. He met with Xi, seeking to repair relations that have been frayed as China has supported tough U.N. sanctions and slashed trade with its wayward ally.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Kim's first foreign trip was a "historic step in the right direction" and proof that U.S.-led campaign of "maximum pressure" of economic sanctions was working. Trump said that the pressure would be maintained for now, but offered an optimistic view of how he could achieve peace and denuclearization that eluded past administrations.

"Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong Un will do what is right for his people and for humanity. Look forward to our meeting!"

There's another way of looking at it.

It could be North Korea not the U.S. that is calling the shots. When Kim offered an olive branch to South Korea in the new year, he also warned that the entire U.S. was within range of the North's atomic weapons. With that capability in hand, he may now going on a diplomatic offensive, using it as leverage to win aid and security guarantees rather than with an intent of giving it up.

Trump's own choice as national security adviser John Bolton is famously skeptical of diplomacy with North Korea. Just a month ago, he made the case for a pre-emptive military strike on the North. That raises questions about whether he might advocate for the same should Trump's summit with Kim fail.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday he's worried that in his talks with Kim, Trump will focus on the intercontinental missiles that can reach the U.S. mainland and not the shorter-range missiles that threaten Japan and may "end up accepting North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons."