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Thanksgiving-Black Friday sales rose 11.9 percent

NEW YORK — Despite holiday deals all month, shoppers still picked up their spending on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, one technology company says.

Spending for Thursday and Friday together increased 11.9 percent compared with the same two-day period last year, says First Data, which analyzed online and in-store payments across different forms of cards from 1.3 million merchants. Retail spending, which excludes grocery stores, restaurants, auto parts merchants and gas stations, rose 9.3 percent.

The buying was helped by higher consumer confidence, low unemployment and cooler weather, the firm said. It said hurricane cleanup-related spending may also have had an effect. Texas, pummeled by Hurricane Harvey in August, had the second-highest percentage increase in sales, a rise of 13.4 percent that was fueled by electronics and furniture.

Nationwide, both retail spending and overall spending rose nearly 6 percent from Nov. 1 through Nov. 22. The firm's data captures about 40 percent of all card transactions in the U.S. but excludes cash.

"There was no making up for a weak pre-season. And there was no stealing from the holiday season with a strong pre-season," said Glenn Fodor, head of information and analytics at First Data. "It's the perfect storm of the economic backdrop and weather."

E-commerce sales rose 13 percent for the Thanksgiving and Black Friday period, the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season. Physical stores saw an increase of 8.5 percent, First Data said.

According to First Data, 29 percent of the total dollars spent over the two-day period came from e-commerce, up from 25 percent last year and about double from the 14 percent of 2014. Electronics and appliances were by far the big attractions, with a 19 percent sales increase. The clothing and accessories category was the only one among the seven that First Data tracks to show higher sales growth in stores for Thanksgiving and Black Friday compared with online.

Homeless student numbers at all-time high across the state
Coos Bay School District reports 290 homeless students

COOS COUNTY — The number of homeless students across the state is up for the fourth year in a row.

In a press release from the Oregon Department of Education, there were 22,541 students of the 2016-17 school year who “lacked a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence” which is how the federal government classifies homelessness.

“That represents 3.9 percent of the entire public K-12 population,” the release stated.

For the Coos Bay School District, Homeless Liaison Melinda Torres said there were 300 homeless students in the district identified during enrollment. Since the start of the school year, a handful dropped out.

As of now, there are 70 homeless students at the elementary level, 100 in middle school, and 120 in high school, totaling 290. These numbers include unaccompanied youth who are tenting, doubling up, couch surfing, living in a hotel, or anything else that qualifies as homeless.

“They are just kids without their parents because those parents left or these kids were abandoned and had to fend for themselves,” Torres said.

For the North Bend School District, Homeless Liaison Ginny Prickett reported 30 homeless students.

“But I believe there are more that have simply not been identified yet,” she said. “The numbers are evenly spread across the district.”

It's important to note that three years ago the North Bend School District over counted its Free and Reduced Lunch students. To qualify for that program, students often must come from needy families.

“The staff had been instructed to have students stand in the breakfast line and take a meal,” the district's business manager Sheri O'Connor said in a public meeting last year, but did not say who gave that instruction or why. “This resulted in the district claiming too many meals and receiving too much revenue. The district was required to pay the state approximately $64,000 because of over claimed meals.”

Last April, the state finished its investigation and told the district it had misappropriated federal food service funds and needed to make more than $60,000 in corrective payments.

Torres also works as the At Risk Kids (ARK) Program manager and has seen the increase both in surrounding school districts and her caseload.

“The most common story I hear is one that could happen to any of us, and it’s that they were one pay check away from being homeless and just fell on bad luck,” she said. “These families try to get on their feet but then something else happens and there always seemed to be a barrier. Then you mix it in with lack of housing, which is a big thing here, and you have a serious problem.”

To help find her ARK clients the housing they need, she sends them to Oregon Coast Community Action (ORCCA). Most of the time it is the only housing option available.

“It’s a two-year waiting list for the Housing Authority,” Torres said. “Some families I’ve been working with have been on the list for over year, almost two years, and are finally at the top of the list. Thing is, they’ve had to struggle and move from place to place until they are next in line.”

For Torres, she is just excited when things finally start to go right for her clients and students. For example, she recently had two families get into housing after living in tents with their children.

“It was heartbreaking for me to see that happen to them,” Torres said. “It’s hard when I don’t have an answer and I’ve done all I can do. That’s the hardest part for me sometimes because they’re all great people who are down on their luck and need a boost.”

According to the ODE press release, “the data available on the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) website shows the problem is not confined to Oregon’s urban areas.”

“In fact, nine of the 10 districts with the highest rates of homeless students have enrollments of less than 250 students,” the release pointed out. “Oregon’s growing homeless population reflects a trend among West Coast states. California’s homeless student population is up 20 percent since 2014 to more than 200,000 students and Washington saw a double digit percentage increase last year to nearly 40,000 students. Oregon’s increase is 5.6 percent over last year and 19.2 percent since 2014.”

“While the numbers are heartbreaking, our resolve to make sure these students receive the best education possible is unfailing,” Acting Deputy Superintendent Colt Gill said. “Thanks to the hard work of liaisons at school districts and their partners in the communities, we can make the school environment as stable as possible for students who are dealing with difficult challenges outside the classroom.”

At the North Bend School District, the North Bend Community Foundation helps provide funding that allows the district to purchase clothing and school supplies for its homeless youth. It also works under the McKinny-Vento grant to identify more students so they can get the services they need.

The district also has the Clothes Closet and Food Pantry.

“It seems like there’s a lot of struggling families and students with needs,” said Youth Transition Specialist and Clothes Closet manager Julie Henderson. “I have a lot of families leaving an area due to domestic violence or other issues. It’s all very serious and very heartbreaking.”

At the Clothes Closet, they are constantly looking for teenage clothes. The closet is actually a classroom open certain hours in the day at the North Bend High School, available only for students. Kids can walk in, browse, and pick up any items for free to take with them.

The closet is also always taking donations.

“Every teen is interested in being in style, but they always go for flannel shirts to keep warm,” Henderson said. “They also love superhero stuff and the girls love tights. Personal products are huge, and we need men’s underwear in smaller sizes and sweaters for the colder weather.”

Any donations can be dropped off at the high school located at 2323 Pacific Street in North Bend.

“There is no doubt that some of the increase comes from raising awareness of the importance of reporting homeless student data and federal programs available under the Every Student Succeeds Act,” State McKinney-Vento Coordinator Dona Bolt said. “But other factors such as a lack of affordable housing and not enough family-wage jobs are contributing to the problem.”

(This story was updated to reflect that the North Bend School District's misappropriated funds occurred three years ago and the state investigation ended last year.)

Kathy Willens 

Portland Trail Blazers guard Evan Turner (1) defends New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York, Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Senators consider automatic tax hikes if revenue falls short (copy)

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans are considering a trigger that would automatically increase taxes if their sweeping legislation fails to generate as much revenue as they expect. It's an effort to mollify deficit hawks who worry that tax cuts for businesses and individuals will add to the nation's already mounting debt.

The effort comes as a second Republican senator, Steve Daines of Montana, announced Monday that he opposes the tax bill in its current form. Previously, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said he opposed the bill, leaving Senate Republicans no room for error as they hope to vote on the bill this week.

Both senators complained that the tax bill favors large corporations over small businesses. Republicans have only two votes to spare in the Senate, where they hold a 52-48 edge and anticipate Vice President Mike Pence breaking a tie.

At the White House, President Donald Trump maintained that the bill would help all Americans.

"I think it's going to benefit everybody," the president said. "It's going to mostly benefit people looking for jobs more than anything else, because we're giving great incentives."

Senate Republicans indicated that they still had a way to go to secure the votes.

"We're making progress, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. But we're not there yet," said Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate. Pressed on timing, he said the expectation is a vote this week.

A new congressional estimate says the Senate tax bill would add $1.4 trillion to the budget deficit over the next decade. But GOP leaders dispute the estimate, saying tax cuts will spur economic growth, reducing the hit on the deficit.

Many economists disagree with such optimistic projections. The trigger would be a way for senators to test their economic assumptions, with real consequences if they are wrong.

"Do we have realistic numbers and is there a backstop in the process just in case we don't?" asked Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.

"We should build in the 'What if?' What if this doesn't work?" Lankford said. "What changes might be needed in the tax code in the days ahead to be able to adjust in what scenario?"

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said the Trump administration and Senate Republican leaders are open to some kind of a trigger to increase revenues if the tax plan falls short.

Neither Corker nor Lankford spelled out exactly how the trigger would work, noting that senators still are working on the proposal. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said the trigger is possible. But, he added, the proposal could run afoul of the Senate's byzantine budget rules.

Trump and Senate Republicans scrambled Monday to make changes to the bill in an effort to win over holdout GOP senators and pass a tax package by the end of the year. Corker said he spoke to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and economic adviser Gary Cohn throughout the weekend, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was at his Senate office Monday.

"Very possible," Corker said when asked if he might vote "no" in the Senate Budget Committee today if the revenue issue isn't settled. "It's important for me to know we've got this resolved," he said.

Johnson told Wisconsin reporters Monday, "If we develop a fix prior to committee, I'll probably support it, but if we don't I'll vote against it."

Trump and Senate leaders are trying to balance competing demands. While some senators fear the package's debt consequences, others want more generous tax breaks for businesses. In a boost for the legislation, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said he would back the measure.

Trump hosted Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee Monday at the White House. GOP leaders still were trying to round up the votes in the Senate to pass the bill.

Whatever the Senate passes must be reconciled with the House version of the tax bill.

Trump suggested he is open to making unspecified changes to the way millions of "pass-through" businesses are taxed, a sticking point for some lawmakers. These are businesses in which profits are passed onto the owners, who report the income on their individual tax returns. The vast majority of U.S. businesses, big and small, are taxed this way.

Both Daines and Johnson said the current bill doesn't cut business taxes enough for these types of partnerships and corporations. Johnson gets substantial income from such companies, including a manufacturer he helped found in Wisconsin and a commercial real estate company, according to his financial disclosure statements.

Johnson said Trump has assured lawmakers there will be changes. Trump is to travel today to Capitol Hill to lobby Republican senators personally.

The overall tax package blends a sharp reduction in top corporate and business tax rates with more modest relief for individuals.

In signaling his support, Paul wrote in an op-ed on Fox News: "I'm not getting everything I want — far from it. But I've been immersed in this process. I've fought for and received major changes for the better — and I plan to vote for this bill as it stands right now."

Violent man Tased, arrested on burglary, assault charges

COOS COUNTY — A a man was arrested Saturday on multiple charges including burglary, assault and animal abuse after several residents called 911 complaining that the man was creating a disturbance.

According to a Sheriff's press release, Sean A. Tabernig, 23, was arrested after being tased by deputies attempting to place him into custody.

The release said deputies responded to several calls by residents living in the Hollywood lane area. Callers reported Tabernig was being violent and broke into at least one residence in the area. Other reports reported that Tabernig had earlier strangled a dog at a residence on Grand Road. Deputies confronted the suspect and he became combative and tried to fight the officers. The deputies Tased Tabernig to get him under control. 

Tabernig was charged with burglary I, assault IV, criminal trespass 1 and animal abuse II. Tabernig appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance at the time of his arrest.

Tabernig was transported to the Coos County Jail where he is being held on bail pending a court appearance.