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Government shutdown furloughs 111 local Bureau of Land Management employees

COOS COUNTY — The government shutdown on Saturday sent a shock wave through the nation days before Christmas and is rippling into Coos County as well.

The doors to the Bureau of Land Management’s Coos Bay District Office remained closed on Wednesday as other offices reopened following the holiday. Its public affairs specialist, Megan Harper, said it will not open again until the shutdown comes to an end.

The shutdown is affecting 111 full-time local BLM employees, Harper included.

“A few are ‘excepted’ employees who will continue to work in non-pay status, and they are law enforcement mostly,” she said. “The rest are on furlough.”

Because the BLM office is closed until the shutdown is over, the public will not be able to purchase firewood or mushroom permits.

“The facilities will be open as best they can, but there will not be regular services provided in most cases,” Harper said.

Other services affected by the shutdown include cleaning and garbage removal, depending on the site. It is also impacting outside contracts with the BLM by local services.

“Roughly 400,000 federal employees will be furloughed during the shutdown, with another 400,000 deemed ‘essential personnel’ and required to stay on the job without pay,” reported Politico on Wednesday morning.

The Politico article pointed out that federal employees are scheduled to receive their next paycheck on Jan. 11, “the first covering the shutdown period for employees in the affected agencies. Until then, federal employees receive pay as normal, according to an Office of Management and Budget statement, abating some of the urgency for striking a deal now, congressional sources said.”

The government shutdown came about after funding didn’t come through for President Donald Trump’s border wall.

As Politico reported, “Trump defiantly proclaimed on Christmas Day that the government will remain closed until he gets his border wall money.”

"I can't tell you when the government is going to be open,” Trump told reporters in an Oval Office appearance, as cited by Politico. “I can tell you it's not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it.”

Also impacted by the shutdown is the Siuslaw National Forest Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. A banner now sits across the top of its website informing the public that it is not being updated at this time.

"Due to a lapse in federal funding, this USDA website will not be actively updated," the banner reads. "Once funding has been reestablished, online operations will continue."

Likewise, the Bureau of Land Management's website, which includes the North Spit recreational area, has a banner on its site as well.

"In the event of a lapse in appropriations, the Bureau of Land Management will be closed," the banner on its website read. "During this shutdown, this website is not being updated and may not reflect current conditions. For your planning purposes, the majority of BLM-managed lands remain accessible to visitors; however access may change without notice. Please be aware that there may be no BLM-provided visitor services, including restrooms, trash collection, facilities or road maintenance. For more information, see"

Harper told The World if the shutdown stretches on, the BLM office will have more updates for the public.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Dungeness crab season might undergo another delay

COOS COUNTY — Unsuccessful re-testing of meat quality will likely cause another delay for Oregon’s Dungeness crab season and push its opening to Jan. 15.

According to an industry notice by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, recent extreme weather conditions have prevented officials in Washington from conducting another test to see if crab have filled up with more meat.

Ed Glazar, The World 

Boats are docked and loaded with pots Wednesday at the Charleston Marina as commercial fisherman wait for word on the opening of Dungeness crab season on the Oregon Coast.

If the season is to open by the end of the year as previously stated, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials will have to test and gather results by Dec. 28.

Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission’s executive director Hugh Link said the meat recovery rate needed to open the season must be at minimum 23 percent. The rate measures how much meat is inside the crab to ensure the highest quality of product and amount is available.

“The last test was just a little short,” Link said. “We were about 2/10 of a percent too low so we held them in for a little while longer.”

The Long Beach area off the Washington coast is the location where officials are scheduled to re-test crab Thursday. Previous results showed low meat yields for multiple areas off the Oregon, Washington and California coast prompting the initial season delay.

“Our fishermen have gone all December without a paycheck so it’d be nice for them to begin working as soon as possible,” Link said.

Ed Glazar, The World 

Tyler Bird talks to a passer by as he readies gear Wednesday for his family owned boat Kay Anne at Charleston Marina as commercial fisherman wait Wednesday for word on the opening of Dungeness crab season on the Oregon Coast.

According to a press release by ODFW, last year’s season, which was also delayed, brought in about $74 million to fisherman across the state. Oregon, Washington and California must each meet its meat recovery rate requirement in order to officially open up the crabbing season, following guidelines set by an interstate agreement.  

If testing is further delayed, representative from the Tri-State committee will once more to discuss its final decision regarding the season’s opening date.

American man first to solo across Antarctica unaided

An Oregon man became the first person to traverse Antarctica alone without any assistance on Wednesday, trekking across the polar continent in an epic 54-day journey that was previously deemed impossible.

Colin O'Brady, of Portland, finished the bone-chilling, 930-mile journey as friends, family and fans tracked the endurance athlete's progress in real time online.

"I did it!" a tearful O'Brady said on a call to his family gathered in Portland for the holidays, according to his wife, Jenna Besaw.

"It was an emotional call," she said. "He seemed overwhelmed by love and gratitude, and he really wanted to say 'Thank you' to all of us."

O'Brady was sleeping near the finish line in Antarctica late Wednesday and could not immediately be reached for comment.

The 33-year-old O'Brady documented his nearly entirely uphill journey — which he called The Impossible First — on his Instagram page . He wrote Wednesday that he covered the last roughly 80 miles in one big, impromptu final push to the finish line that took well over an entire day.

"While the last 32 hours were some of the most challenging hours of my life, they have quite honestly been some of the best moments I have ever experienced," O'Brady posted.

The day before, he posted that he was "in the zone" and thought he could make it to the end in one go.

"I'm listening to my body and taking care of the details to keep myself safe," he wrote. "I called home and talked to my mom, sister and wife — I promised them I will stop when I need to."

Though others have traversed Antarctica, they either had assistance with reinforced supplies or kites that helped propel them forward.

In 2016, British explorer Henry Worsley died attempting an unassisted solo trip across Antarctica, collapsing from exhaustion toward the end of the trek. Worsley's friend and fellow English adventurer Louis Rudd is currently attempting an unaided solo in Worsley's honor and was competing against O'Brady to be the first to do it.

Besaw said O'Brady plans to stay on Antarctica until Rudd finishes his trek, hopefully in the next few days.

"It's a small club," she joked. "His intention is to wait for Louis and have kind of a celebratory moment with the only other person on the planet to have accomplished this same thing."

O'Brady described in detail the ups and downs along the way since he began the trek on Nov. 3. He had to haul 375 pounds of gear largely uphill and over sastrugi, wave-like ridges created by wind.

"Not only am I pulling my ... sled all day, but I'm pulling it up and over thousands of these sastrugi speed bumps created by the violent wind," he wrote in an Instagram post on Nov. 12. "It's a frustrating process at times to say the least."

On Nov. 18, he wrote that he awoke to find his sled completely buried from an all-night blasting of wind and snow. That day he battled a 30 mph headwind for eight hours as he trudged along.

"There were several times I considered stopping, putting my tent back up and calling it a day," he wrote. "I wanted so badly to quit today as I was feeling exhausted and alone, but remembering all of the positivity that so many people have been sending, I took a deep breath and focused on maintaining forward progress one step at a time and managed to finish a full day."

On Day 37, or Dec. 9, O'Brady wrote about how much he's changed, along with a selfie in which he looks almost in pain, snow gathered around his furry hat.

"I'm no longer the same person I was when I left on the journey, can you see it in my face?" he wrote. "I've suffered, been deathly afraid, cold and alone. I've laughed and danced, cried tears of joy and been awestruck with love and inspiration."

Though O'Brady had initially thought he'd want a cheeseburger at the end of his nearly impossible journey, Besaw said her husband has been fantasizing about fresh fish and salad because he has mostly been eating freeze-dried foods.

As for what's next for O'Brady, who also has summited Mount Everest, Besaw said she's not entirely sure.

"We are just so in the moment celebrating this right now," she said. "Then we'll see what's next on the horizon."

Wall Street notches best day in 10 years in holiday rebound

Stocks rocketed on Wednesday in Wall Street's best day in 10 years, snapping a stomach-churning, four-day losing streak and giving some post-Christmas cheer to a market that has been battered this December.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up more than 1,000 points — its biggest single-day point gain ever — rising nearly 5 percent as investors returned from a one-day Christmas break. The broader S&P 500 index also gained 5 percent, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq rose 5.8 percent.

But even with the rally, the market remains on track for its worst December since 1931, during the depths of the Depression, and could finish 2018 with its steepest losses in a decade.

"The real question is: Do we have follow-through for the rest of this week?" said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist for CFRA.

Technology companies, health care stocks and banks drove much of the broad rally. Retailers also were big gainers, after a holiday shopping season marked by robust spending. Amazon had its biggest gain in more than a year.

Retail sales rose 5.1 percent between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 from a year ago, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracked spending online and in stores across all payment types, including those who paid by cash or check. Total sales topped $850 billion this year, Mastercard said.

"From shopping aisles to online carts, consumer confidence translated into holiday cheer for retail," said Steve Sadove, a senior adviser at Mastercard and the former CEO of the department store chain Saks.

Energy stocks also rebounded as the price of U.S. crude oil posted its biggest one-day increase in more than two years.

But what really might have pushed stocks over the top was a signal from Washington that President Donald Trump would not try to oust the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

In recent days, Trump's tweet attacks on the Fed and chairman Jerome Powell for raising interest rates stoked fears about the central bank's independence, unnerving the market.

The partial government shutdown that began over the weekend also weighed on the market, as did personnel turmoil inside the Trump administration, trade tensions with China, the slowing global economy and worries that corporate profits are going to slip sooner or later.

The Dow lost 1,883 points over the prior four trading sessions and is still down 2,660 for December.

Wednesday's gains pulled the S&P 500 back from the brink of what Wall Street calls a bear market — a 20 percent tumble from an index's peak. Another day of heavy losses would have marked the end of the longest bull market for stocks in modern history — a run of nearly 10 years.

The S&P is now down 15.8 percent since its all-time high on Sept. 20.

All told, the S&P 500 rose 116.60 points Wednesday, or 5 percent, to 2,467.70. The Dow soared 1,086.25 points, or 5 percent, to 22,878.45. The Nasdaq gained 361.44 points, or 5.8 percent, to 6,554.36. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 62.89 points, or 5 percent, at 1,329.81.

Trading volume was lighter than usual following the holiday. Markets in Europe, Australia and Hong Kong were closed.

Among tech stocks, Adobe rose 8.7 percent. Credit card company Visa climbed 7 percent, and Mastercard was up 6.7 percent. Among big retailers, Amazon rose 9.4 percent, Kohl's 10.3 percent and Nordstrom 5.8 percent.

Most economists expect growth to slow in 2019, though not by enough to cause a full-blown recession. Unemployment is at 3.7 percent, the lowest since 1969. Inflation is tame. Pay has picked up. Consumers boosted their spending this holiday season.

The market apparently got a lift Wednesday when Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that the Fed chairman is in no danger of being fired.

The president could help restore some stability to the market if he "gives his thumbs a vacation," Stovall said. "Tweet things that are more constructive in terms of working out an agreement with Democrats and with China. And then just remain silent as it relates to the Fed."