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North Bend Fire Department collects hundreds of thrown out Christmas trees

NORTH BEND — As part of its annual Christmas tree pickup, North Bend firefighters traveled around town Saturday picking up discarded trees to both safely dispose of them and raise funds for its “Kids for Christmas” program.

The event, which has been going on for over 20 years, offered residents the opportunity to have their trees picked up free of charge. Community members were directed to leave their trees curbside for pickup and encouraged to donate toward next year’s holiday season.

North Bend assistant fire chief Jim Brown said this year the department was able to fund Christmas gifts and food for 17 families. Some of the funds raised from the previous tree pickup totaled close to $1,000.

“We partner up with a lot of community members as well as McKay’s Market who donates food for our Christmas program,” Brown said. “It’s just been really good to be able to help.”

Last year, the department collected about 400 trees, which were turned over to North Bend Sanitation for recycle and the Gardiner, Reedsport and Winchester Bay Salmon, Trout Enhancement Program (STEP).

According to Brown, the same will happen this year. It will also leave a self-addressed envelope on the doors of homes where trees have been picked up if residents would like to mail in their donation.

The North Bend Fire Department will be conducting another tree pickup Jan. 5 around its city limits. It’s important for Christmas trees to be properly disposed because they do pose a serious fire hazard being that they can get dry very quickly, said Brown.

For anyone needing more information on the pickup service or would like to schedule a pickup after Jan. 5, contact the North Bend Fire Department at 541-756-8581.

Oregon commercial crab season to begin Jan. 4

COOS COUNTY — The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Saturday Dungeness crab season will begin Jan. 4 after new test results showed an increased meat yield.  

According to an industry notice by ODFW, results from meat quality testing in Washington revealed crab to be at a 27.9 percent meat recovery rate well above the industry’s minimum of 23 percent.

Oregon fisherman will now be able to set gear Jan. 1 at 8:00 a.m. followed by hold inspections Jan. 3.

“All areas in the Tri-State regions north of Cape Arago, Oregon, have met the respective minimum meat recovery criteria,” the notice said. “We are opening the ocean commercial Dungeness crab season north of Cape Arago to the OR/WA border.”

However, areas south from Cape Arago to Gold Beach remain under its meat recovery rates and will stay closed. In addition, persistent domoic acid found within the area has also contributed to its closure.

Further testing for domoic acid will take place and an opening date will determined at a later time.

Ed Glazar, The World 

A commercial fishing vessel sits at a dock loaded with crab gear Friday in Winchester Bay.

Trump's promise of a wall may not be fulfilled as advertised

WASHINGTON — Three confidantes of President Donald Trump, including his departing chief of staff, indicated that the president's signature campaign pledge to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would not be fulfilled as advertised.

Trump sparked fervent chants of "Build that wall!" at rallies before and after his election and more recently cited a lack of funding for a border wall as the reason for partially shutting down the government. At times the president waved off the idea that the wall be anything but a wall.

However, White House chief of staff John Kelly told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Sunday that Trump abandoned the notion of "a solid concrete wall early on in the administration."

"To be honest, it's not a wall," Kelly said, adding that the mix of technological enhancements and "steel slat" barriers the president now wants along the border resulted from conversations with law enforcement professionals.

Along the same lines, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway called discussion of the apparent contradiction "a silly semantic argument."

"There may be a wall in some places, there may be steel slats, there may be technological enhancements," Conway told "Fox News Sunday." "But only saying 'wall or no wall' is being very disingenuous and turning a complete blind eye to what is a crisis at the border."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is close to the president, emerged from a Sunday lunch at the White House to tell reporters that "the wall has become a metaphor for border security" and referred to "a physical barrier along the border."

Graham said Trump was "open-minded" about a broader immigration agreement, saying the budget impasse presented an opportunity to address issues beyond the border wall. But a previous attempt to reach a compromise that addressed the status of "Dreamers" — young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children— broke down last year as a result of escalating White House demands.

Graham said he hoped to end the shutdown by offering Democrats incentives to get them to vote for wall funding and told CNN before his lunch with Trump that "there will never be a deal without wall funding."

Graham proposed to help two groups of immigrants get approval to continue living in the U.S: about 700,000 young "Dreamers" brought into the U.S. illegally as children and about 400,000 people receiving temporary protected status because they are from countries struggling with natural disasters or armed conflicts. He also said the compromise should include changes in federal law to discourage people from trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

"Democrats have a chance here to work with me and others, including the president, to bring legal status to people who have very uncertain lives," Graham said.

The partial government shutdown began Dec. 22 after Trump bowed to conservative demands that he fight to make good on his vow and secure funding for the wall before Republicans lose control of the House on Wednesday. Democrats remained committed to blocking the president's priority, and with neither side engaging in substantive negotiation, the effect of the partial shutdown was set to spread and to extend into the new year.

In August 2015 during his presidential campaign, Trump made his expectations for the border explicitly clear, as he parried criticism from rival Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor.

"Jeb Bush just talked about my border proposal to build a 'fence,'" he tweeted. "It's not a fence, Jeb, it's a WALL, and there's a BIG difference!"

Trump suggested as much again in a tweet on Sunday: "President and Mrs. Obama built/has a ten foot Wall around their D.C. mansion/compound. I agree, totally necessary for their safety and security. The U.S. needs the same thing, slightly larger version!"

Talks have been at a stalemate for more than a week, after Democrats said the White House offered to accept $2.5 billion for border security. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told Vice President Mike Pence that it wasn't acceptable, nor was it guaranteed that Trump, under intense pressure from his conservative base to fulfill his signature campaign promise, would settle for that amount.

Conway claimed Sunday that "the president has already compromised" by dropping his request for the wall from $25 billion, and she called on Democrats to return to the negotiating table.

"It is with them," she said, explaining why Trump was not reaching out to Democrats.

Democrats maintain that they already presented the White House with three options to end the shutdown, none of which fund the wall, and insist that it's Trump's move.

"At this point, it's clear the White House doesn't know what they want when it comes to border security," said Justin Goodman, Schumer's spokesman. "While one White House official says they're willing to compromise, another says the president is holding firm at no less than $5 billion for the wall. Meanwhile, the president tweets blaming everyone but himself for a shutdown he called for more than 25 times."

Stocks will be stressful in 2019, too

NEW YORK — No matter which way the stock market goes in 2019 — and Wall Street has ample arguments for either direction — expect it to be another gut-wrenching ride.

The market is facing a long list of challenges this upcoming year, from expectations for slower economic growth around the world to the restraining effect of rising interest rates. And the global trade war is still creating uncertainty as investors guess how much pain it will ultimately inflict.

All those risks have market strategists along Wall Street forecasting another turbulent year for stocks, and potentially one of the most difficult years for investors since the bull market began its record-setting run in 2009. That follows up on a 2018 where swings of hundreds of points within a single afternoon became fairly common for the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

As 2018 showed, higher risk doesn't always mean higher rewards. As of the last full week of the year, all major U.S. stock indexes are down more than 8 percent for the year. And many strategists are forecasting a subdued performance for stocks in 2019.

"Ironically ... one would expect higher returns with higher risk, but for the past two years we've underscored a slightly more treacherous environment for investors: higher risk and lower returns," Vanguard's global chief economist Joe Davis said as he unveiled his forecasts.

He expects global stock markets to return 4.5 percent to 6.5 percent annually over the next 10 years, in dollar terms, versus the 12.6 percent they had provided annually since the market's bottom following the 2008 financial crisis.

A quick glance at the titles of the 2019 outlook reports for various investment houses shows the increased caution. "The end of easy" was Wells Fargo Investment Institute's title. "Navigating volatile markets" was UBS Asset Management's, and "Lower expectations" was what Barclays offered. 

All the cross-currents pushing and pulling markets have analysts along Wall Street recommending a contrasting array of strategies. Some suggest focusing on stocks from emerging markets, where proponents say particularly sharp drops in price have left them looking cheap. Others say high-quality bonds look like the safest bet given all the expected turbulence. And some optimists are forecasting a big bounce-back year for U.S. stocks, which they say no longer look expensive relative to corporate earnings.

As investments of all types dropped this year, investor psychology underwent a reset. For most of the last decade, markets powered higher in a largely smooth and gradual way. That meant big rewards for investors who saw any dip as an opportunity to buy at lower prices. The market recovered from every wobble to set records again and again, often quite quickly.

But this year has been different. The S&P 500 is down 9.6 percent and is on pace for its first down year in a decade after including dividends. It also created a lot of heartburn getting there, with two separate drops of 10 percent over the course of the year.

"This is the brave new world for investors," said Rich Weiss, chief investment officer of multi-asset strategies at American Century Investments. "It's been nine years, 10 years, so it's going to be a shock to some of the newer investors who were not around in 2008 or in prior market turns."

Of course, no forecast is perfect. A year ago, Wall Street was broadly optimistic about stocks and was forecasting moderate gains, largely because economies around the world were growing in sync. But the optimism fell apart as the year progressed and growth rates diverged, in part because of rising trade tensions.

Much will hinge on how resilient the U.S. economy remains in 2019. It has been accelerating since emerging from the Great Recession in 2009, and it got a big boost this past year from tax cuts, which helped corporate profits surge at their fastest rates in eight years. The current economic expansion will surpass the 1991-2001 stretch as the longest on record if the economy avoids a recession through July. In the economy's favor are the still-strong job market and consumer confidence.

But concerns are rising that a recession may be possible in 2020 or even the latter parts of 2019. The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates — it indicated two more increases may arrive in 2019 following four this year— and other central banks are stepping off the accelerator on stimulus for their economies, which remove big supports. And if inflation spikes unexpectedly higher, it could push the Fed to get more aggressive about raising rates, which would further hinder growth.

The International Monetary Fund expects U.S. economic growth to slow to 2.5 percent next year from 2.9 percent in 2018. It's also forecasting slower growth in the euro area, Japan and China.

Analysts are likewise forecasting a slowdown in U.S. corporate profit growth, though still positive. That's key because stock prices tend to track with corporate earnings over the long term.

Wall Street expects S&P 500 earnings growth to drop by more than half from this year's 20.3 percent rate, in part because companies will no longer be getting the boost of the first year of new tax rates, according to FactSet. But the expected 7.9 percent growth rate is still a good one this far into an economic expansion.

It's this gain that has many strategists forecasting at least modest gains for stocks. Some strategists are forecasting the S&P 500 could end 2019 as high as 3,000, which would be a 24 percent leap from Friday's close.

At UBS Asset Management, the expectation is that U.S. market could return about 4 percent as global economic growth continues. European stocks could also return about 6 percent, said Ryan Primmer, head of investment solutions. But such gains would come with that one big catch.

"With higher volatility," he said, "it's going to feel a lot worse."