NORTH BEND — Army veteran Ken Booth and his wife, Ruth, had their world turned upside down as the two received some unexpected news late last year.
“I had just turned 85 and I was feeling great,” said Ken. “All of a sudden, I’m in the hospital and they’re telling me that my lung collapsed and I have cancer.”
After taking a fall in their home in November, Ken was transported to the North Bend VA Clinic and later the Portland VA Medical Center where physicians diagnosed the Coos Bay resident with stage four mesothelioma cancer.
“Initially, the VA told me I had to get a biopsy done, which was in Portland, but the problem is I don’t drive,” said Ken. “They told me, ‘Oh, well you can take Angel Wings.’”
It was then that Ken embarked on his first trip with Angel Flight West. The nonprofit organization coordinates free air travel for people with serious medical conditions through its network of volunteer pilots. Using their own personal aircraft, the pilots donate their time and fuel to help make these trips possible.
“It was a godsend,” said Ruth. “We really could not afford a trip to Portland and Ken can’t drive because he’s too weak.”
On Sunday, Ruth joined her husband for his second trip to Portland with AFW. The two departed from the Southwestern Oregon Regional Airport for a follow up visit to determine their next course of action in Ken’s treatment.
In between trips, Ken consulted with his physician remotely through once-a-week Telehealth visits at the North Bend VA Clinic. The live interactive video conferencing program allows physicians to treat patients through its on-site nurses following step-by-step instructions.
While hospital visits have been frequent, Ken is no stranger to overcoming challenges and fighting when needed. At 19-years-old, he was drafted into the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry Division where he spent his time based out of Fort Lewis in Tacoma, Washington.
“I knew we had angels walking next to us all the time,” Ken said. “We really appreciate the work they do and both the VA and (AFW) have been wonderful.”
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Sunday that the odds congressional negotiators will craft a deal to end his border wall standoff with Congress are "less than 50-50."
As hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal workers prepared to return to work, Trump told The Wall Street Journal that he doesn't think the negotiators will strike a deal that he'd accept. He pledged to build a wall anyway using his executive powers to declare a national emergency if necessary.
"I personally think it's less than 50-50, but you have a lot of very good people on that board," Trump said in an interview with the newspaper.
The president was referring to a bipartisan committee of House and Senate lawmakers that will consider border spending as part of the legislative process.
The president's standoff with Democrats on Capitol Hill is far from over and the clock is ticking. The spending bill Trump signed on Friday to temporarily end the partial government shutdown funds the shuttered agencies only until Feb. 15.
It's unclear if the Democrats will budge. Trump seemed girded for battle over the weekend, sending out a series of online messages that foreshadowed the upcoming fight with lawmakers. "BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL!" he tweeted.
Is Trump prepared to shut down the government again in three weeks?
"Yeah, I think he actually is," acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said. "He doesn't want to shut the government down, let's make that very clear. He doesn't want to declare a national emergency."
But Mulvaney said that at "the end of the day, the president's commitment is to defend the nation and he will do it with or without Congress."
The linchpin in the standoff is Trump's demand for $5.7 billion for his prized wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, a project Democrats consider an ineffective, wasteful monument to a ridiculous Trump campaign promise.
Asked if he'd willing to accept less than $5.7 billion to build a barrier on the southern border, Trump replied: "I doubt it." He added: "I have to do it right."
He also said he'd be wary of any proposed deal that exchanged funds for a wall for broad immigration reform. And when asked if he would agree to citizenship for immigrants who were illegally brought into the U.S. as children, he again replied, "I doubt it."
California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the leading Republican in the House, said Democrats have funded border barriers in the past and are refusing this time simply because Trump is asking for it.
"The president is the only one who has been reasonable in these negotiations," he said.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a member of the Democratic leadership in the House, said his colleagues are looking for "evidence-based" legislation.
"Shutdowns are not legitimate negotiating tactics when there's a public policy disagreement between two branches of government," he said.
Jeffries said Democrats are willing to invest in additional infrastructure, especially at legal ports of entry where the majority of drugs come into the country.
"We're willing to invest in personnel. We're willing to invest in additional technology. ... In the past, we have supported enhanced fencing and I think that's something that's reasonable that should be on the table," he said.
Trump has asserted there is a "crisis" at the southern border requiring a wall, blaming previous presidents and Congress for failing to overhaul an immigration system that has allowed millions of people to live in the U.S. illegally.
Last month, he put that number at 35 million, while on Sunday he pegged it at 25.7 million-plus — figures offered without evidence. "I'm not exactly sure where the president got that number this morning," Mulvaney said.
Both are higher than government and private estimates.
His homeland security chief cited "somewhere" between 11 million and 22 million last month. In November, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center reported 10.7 million in 2016 — the lowest in a decade.
The president also tweeted Sunday that the cost of illegal immigration so far this year was nearly $19 billion; he didn't cite a source.
Compare that with research in 2017 from a conservative group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for less immigration: $135 billion a year or about $11.25 billion a month — a figure that included health care and education, plus money spent on immigration enforcement.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. said that he thinks a compromise is possible.
"The president went from talking about a wall along the entire southern border at one point during the campaign ... to let's have barriers where they work and let's have something else where barriers wouldn't work as well," Blunt said.
The partial federal shutdown ended Friday when Trump gave in to mounting pressure, retreating from his demand that Congress commit to the border wall funding before federal agencies could resume work. The bill he signed did not provide the money Trump wanted for a barrier, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called "immoral" and has insisted Congress will not finance.
Mulvaney said Trump agreed to temporarily end the shutdown because some Democrats have stepped forward, publicly and privately, to say they agree with Trump's plan to better secure the border.
Mulvaney said they told Trump they couldn't split with Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer or work with the White House if the government remained closed.
"Everybody wants to look at this and say the president lost," Mulvaney said. "We're still in the middle of negotiations."
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Federal employees are turning on office lights and computers and reopening national parks and museums for the first time in weeks, but others employed by government contractors face still more uncertainty over when they'll resume work or whether they'll ever be paid for time lost to the stalemate over President Donald Trump's border wall.
For the hundreds of thousands of people who work for private companies that support government, the future will be decided in part by how quickly federal agencies get running after the record 35-day shutdown, the fine print of contracts and the kindness of strangers.
Michelle Oler of St. Louis resorted to online fundraising to pay bills while sidelined from her contracting job processing rural development claims for the Agriculture Department, and she's still unsure when she'll resume work or receive money to compensate for missed paychecks.
"The estimate of what I've lost financially due to the shutdown is upwards of $3,500. The anxiety, sleeplessness and depression make it feel like much more," Oler said Sunday in an interview by email. Her GoFundMe page has brought in only $50 so far.
Kevin Doyle, a father of three, estimated he's out around $5,000 from his contracting job as an encryption specialist at Laughlin Air Force Base on the Texas-Mexico border. He said he didn't sleep and lost weight during the shutdown as both the stress and the bills piled up.
Doyle said he will return to work today, but he starts a new job Friday with another company that he hopes will be more stable if talks fail over Trump's demand for money for a wall and another shutdown begins next month.
"We were scraping pennies and nickels together one day to get the baby a Happy Meal," said Doyle, 40. "It's just that bad."
The partial government shutdown ended when Trump backed off his demand that Congress commit $5.7 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall before federal agencies could resume work. All or parts of multiple federal agencies were affected, with some employees furloughed and others forced to work without pay.
The 800,000 federal workers who were affected will receive back pay, but contractors don't have the same guarantee.
Jack Lyons, who was furloughed from his contract job providing technical support at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in north Alabama, didn't miss a paycheck during the shutdown. "I was one of the lucky ones," he said.
But Lyons still wonders what will happen when he returns to work today in a building near towering stands built to test rockets at the NASA center.
"I'll walk in, wipe the dust off the desk and see how management decides to catch up on what we missed," he said Sunday. "Passwords expire and that sort of stuff, so it will just be a matter of making sure you can get in at first."
NASA told workers in a message on its website to be patient with laptops, desktop computers and smartphones that haven't been maintained or updated since last month when the shutdown began.
Doyle said it could take his family a long time to dig out from under the shutdown's effect. The mortgage and power bills are both two months behind, Doyle said, and he doesn't expect another paycheck before Feb. 28.
Doyle's wife can't work because of a back injury, he said, and the family wasn't eligible for food assistance because of past wages. A food bank was out of items by the time they got there, he said.
"A worker there gave us a $50 Walmart gift card out of the kindness of her heart," he said.
In Missouri, Oler is thankful she moved in with two roommates in early December before the shutdown began. The change dropped her expenses drastically from the $800 a month she was paying for rent, utilities, internet, phone, car insurance and food for her and her cat.
Even with smaller bills, though, Oler said she is still looking for a new job because she can't take the stress of working with the government anymore.
"While I love being a contractor, I hate the uncertainty that's come with it. This happened to us last year on a smaller scale, but this year's shutdown has me concerned for my future and welfare," she said.
COOS BAY — On Tuesday, Jan. 29, the Coos Bay City Council is releasing its fiscal year-end report for Urban Renewal agency.
“Our annual report for the URA is required under Oregon Revised Statute,” said Rodger Craddock, Coos Bay City Manager. “We’re required to do a certain amount of things. Talk about the revenue that came in, talk about the revenue that went out, and how those funds are used and their impact on was on the overlapping taxing districts.”
Coos Bay has two Urban Renewal Districts, one in Empire and one in downtown Coos Bay.
In downtown Coos Bay, the most noticeable URA improvement project the agency completed last year are the new entrance signs that welcome guests in and out of the city along Highway 101, as well as the façade grants that improved he building that houses the new business Front Street Provisioners.
About five blocks of city sidewalk was replaced by the URA in the heart of downtown, with more planned for the future.
“We’ve also done a lot of work on Coos Bay Village in prep," Craddock said. "A lot of work on that one was the city engaging the services of a traffic engineer to do a traffic impact analysis, so we could find out what would actually be required."
In the Empire District, the URA began working with the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians to develop the Hollering Place, a cultural and visitor event center.
“We’ve already undertook some of our projects for the Hollering Place. We put in a storm drain and put it in the ground,” Craddock.
Some of the UR plans in the future include creating a parking area down on Front Street, with a kayak launch nearby.