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Make-A-Wish, community members build barn for girl with cystic fibrosis

Alene Campbell, a 9-year-old with cystic fibrosis, cut a bright blue ribbon to officially open her new barn Saturday, made possible through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Lowe’s Heroes and community volunteers.

The steel barn, also known as a mare motel, was decorated with purple streamers and balloons for the event. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the structure was completed after Erica Abel presented a wood-burned sign that read “Alene’s Corral” to hang from the entrance.

Alene said she was so excited, she wanted to sleep in the barn that night. She said she’s going to use the barn for raising livestock when she starts 4-H Club next year.

“I could put my 4-H stuff in it and put in all my animals in it so I won’t have to chase them across the field,” Alene said. “I have rabbits, dogs, cats, horses, cows, goats and I think that might be it.”

Sam Campbell, Alene’s mother, said Alene was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was two weeks old. They got in contact with Make-A-Wish last year through Emily Somerville, a social worker at Oregon Health and Science University Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.

Lindsey Prange from Make-A-Wish contacted Lowe’s Heroes to construct the barn and was at the event to facilitate the ribbon cutting.

Rick Steed, a family friend and Make-A-Wish volunteer, said he was not surprised that Alene’s wish was to have a new barn for her livestock.

“This is her. She’ll be spending a lot of time out here. The older she gets, she’ll be spending more time out here,” Steed said.

He said he’s known Alene for most of her life and said her diagnosis has not held her back.

“She is just a go-getter. It’s just part of life for her,” Steed said. “She’s not letting it get her down at all. I’ve never seen her have a bad day and I’ve known her since, like, forever. Her whole life.”

Sam Campbell said Alene’s been raising livestock for years.

“When she was diagnosed I had to stay home with her. The doctors requested that we do that and not expose her to daycare. So I started raising goats,” Campbell said. “She helped me build up that herd and we’ve gotten up to 200 and something goats and saved up and bought cattle.”

Dan Campbell, Alene’s dad, said the decision between taking a trip and making the barn was an easy one.

“A vacation, we can give her. Something like this, she gets every day and she can play with every day,” he said. “It’s halfway mobile, so when she’s older if she chooses she can take it with her and it’s hers when she’s an adult.”

Michelle Yow, a family friend of the Campbells, said she was excited for Alene because now she will have a place to raise her animals.

“It’s seriously so fun and she’s so excited about it. It’s something that probably wouldn’t have been able to happen, and so for her to have all this — it’s the biggest thing in the world,” she said.

The Lowe’s Heroes program grants every Lowe’s store funding to facilitate a community service project in the community. Volunteers from the Lowe’s Heroes built the barn for Alene in just two days, completing the project last week.

“We got a call from Lindsey at Make-A-Wish and it just spoke to us and of course we jumped right on it. This is what Lowe’s does in our community,” said Allison Bailey, the assistant store manager of Lowe’s in Roseburg. “We have a book that we made, a photo album from day one all the way through so she can keep it.”

John Vian, a pro supervisor at Lowe’s, said this experience was very rewarding.

“It was something we really wanted to do. Like Alison said, when we read the communication from Lindsey about this, were all in. This is exactly what we want to do. This type of stuff we love to do,” Vain said.

Yow said the event was planned to be an ice cream social, but that Sam Campbell wanted to say thank you to the volunteers and Prange from the Make-A-Wish foundation and pulled together a barbecue.

“Sam said, how about we treat you and do all this for you since she’s done all of this,” Yow said. “Sam wanted to make sure she got to relax and enjoy this part.”


Mueller Hearings on Wednesday Present Make-or-Break Moment for Democrats

WASHINGTON — For more than two years, Democrats have hoped that Robert Mueller would show the nation that President Donald Trump is unfit for office — or at the very least, severely damage his reelection prospects. On Wednesday, in back-to-back hearings with the former special counsel, that wish could face its final make-or-break moment.

Lawmakers choreographing the hearings before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees warn that bombshell disclosures are unlikely. But over about five hours of nationally televised testimony, they hope to use Mueller, the enigmatic and widely respected former FBI director, to refashion his legalistic 448-page report into a vivid, compelling narrative of Russia’s attempts to undermine U.S. democracy, the Trump campaign’s willingness to accept Kremlin assistance and the president’s repeated and legally dubious efforts to thwart investigators.

For a party divided over how to confront Trump — liberals versus moderates, supporters of impeachment versus staunch opponents — the stakes could scarcely be higher.

“One way or the other, the Mueller hearing will be a turning point with respect to the effort to hold Donald Trump accountable for his reckless, degenerate, aberrant and possibly criminal behavior,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the House Democratic Caucus chairman and a member of the Judiciary Committee. “After the hearing, we will be able to have a better understanding of the pathway forward concerning our oversight responsibilities and the constitutional tools that are available to us.”

Partisans in both parties may already have made up their minds, but Democrats are counting on Mueller’s testimony to focus the broader public’s attention on the findings of his 22-month investigation — either to jump-start a stalled impeachment push or electrify the campaign to make Trump a one-term president.

Even Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been a voice of caution on impeachment for much of the year, has tied the testimony to Democrats’ broader political prospects.

“This coming election, it is really an election that the fate of this country is riding on,” she told House Democrats at a private meeting recently, according to an aide who was there. “This presidency is an existential threat to our democracy and our country as we know it.”

Democratic hopes are rising on an unlikely horse. Mueller has made his reluctance to testify widely known, and his appearance could easily backfire. If the hearings fail to sizzle, the viewing public could be left agreeing with the president that it is time to move on.

“A lot of public attitudes have hardened on the subject of Trump and Russia,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, chairman of the Intelligence Committee. “So I’m realistic about the impact of any one hearing on public attitudes.”

No matter what happens, House investigators say their inquiries into possible obstruction of justice by Trump and other accusations of administration malfeasance will go on, and those inquiries could yet inflict political damage on the president’s reelection prospects or even re-energize impeachment talk.

But perhaps no other witness can command the authority of Mueller, who conducted his work in silence, above the political maw of Washington, and delivered it this spring with a modicum of words and drama.

Mueller is unlikely to level new charges Wednesday against the president. Unlike Leon Jaworski, the Watergate prosecutor who persuaded a grand jury to name President Richard M. Nixon as an unindicted co-conspirator, or Ken Starr, the independent counsel who made a convincing case for President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, Mueller has left a more ambiguous trail.

His report detailed dozens of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, painting a portrait of a campaign willing to accept foreign assistance. But it did not find enough evidence to charge anyone with conspiring with the Russians. And though Mueller pointedly declined to exonerate Trump from obstructing his investigation, he took the view that Justice Department policies prevented him from even considering whether to charge.

Mueller, 74, is unlikely to change course now — particularly after he used his lone public appearance in May to clarify that any testimony he delivered would not stray from his report.

“We go in eyes wide open,” said Rep. Peter Welch, a Vermont Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. “His style under the most effusive of circumstances is almost monosyllabic.”

Knowing that Mueller is unlikely to take the bait on more explosive questions, Democrats see their role as coaxing him through some of the most damaging passages of his report.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee will have the first opportunity, and they intend to dwell heavily on five of the most glaring episodes of possible obstruction of justice that Mueller documented in the second volume of his report. They include Trump’s direction to White House counsel Donald McGahn to fire Mueller and then publicly lie about it; his request that Corey Lewandowski, a former campaign chief, ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reassert control of the investigation and limit its scope; and possible witness tampering to discourage two aides, Paul Manafort and Michael D. Cohen, from cooperating with investigators.

Many lawmakers, including Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, view the behavior in at least some of those episodes as reaching the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors, established in the Constitution as grounds for impeachment. They will try to solicit Mueller’s views — tacitly or explicitly.

“The overwhelming majority of the American people are unfamiliar with the principal conclusions of the Mueller report, so that will be a starting point,” Jeffries said. “To the extent that Bob Mueller can explain his conclusions, particularly as it relates to possible criminal culpability of the president, that will be compelling information.”

Democrats on the Intelligence Committee will use the second hearing to highlight evidence from the report’s first volume about Russia’s social media disinformation and hacking operations during the 2016 campaign and high-profile contacts between Trump associates and Russians offering assistance to Trump’s presidential campaign.

Republicans are expressing little concern about the Democrats’ strategy. Mueller’s style and his prosecutorial conclusions will “blow up in their face,” said Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, who helped prosecute the impeachment case against Clinton.

“Back then, Starr came out pretty clearly and said that he felt there were impeachable offenses that had been committed,” Chabot said. “Now we have a special counsel who, at this point, is saying no. We invested so much time and money and taxpayer dollars in this that we should give considerable weight in that.”

(STORY CAN END HERE. OPTIONAL MATERIAL FOLLOWS.)

Time is not on the side of impeachment advocates. Congress’s six-week August recess is at hand. A fiscal deadline is likely to dominate Congress when it returns, and with the Iowa caucuses Feb. 3, the nation’s attention is likely to shift toward the 2020 presidential campaign. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that support for opening impeachment hearings based on current evidence had dropped among registered voters from June to July, to just 21%. Fifty percent said it was time for the country to move on.

Support in the House is somewhat higher and continues to grow with every fresh outrage Trump provides the Democrats, including an across-the-board refusal to comply with the House’s investigations and comments that four liberal congresswomen of color should “go back” to their own countries. A handful of House Democrats this week announced their support for impeachment, pushing the total toward 90, according to a New York Times tally.

And Nadler formally acknowledged for the first time this month that impeachment articles were “under consideration as part of the committee’s investigation, although no final determination has been made.”

But the announced support is still far short of the 218 needed to impeach the president and send charges to the Senate for a trial, and moderate Democrats from Republican-leaning districts have quietly fumed at the position they are being put in.

As the most powerful Democrat against impeachment, Pelosi fears an attempt to oust Trump would backfire on Democrats and further divide the country unless her party can build broader support. She has counseled lawmakers “to have a level of calmness, no drama” about the questioning at the Mueller hearing, according to a senior aide, and she and her deputies will be watching how or if public sentiment shifts after Wednesday.

No need to “hype it,” she has advised — Mueller’s words will carry power.


Amazon begins hiring to fill 800 positions in Salem

Amazon on Friday kicked off a hiring spree for more than 800 positions at its Salem packing and shipping warehouse.

The Seattle e-commerce giant is taking a staggered approach to fill its earlier promised target of about 1,000 jobs at the approximately 1-million-square-foot Salem outpost.

The warehouse, 4775 Depot Court SE, opens in August. Workers can expect to pack and ship larger products including sports equipment, gardening tools and patio furniture.

Amazon has adopted a $15 hourly minimum wage. Oregon’s minimum wage in the Salem area rose to $11.25 on July 1 and will increase to $13.50 in 2022 under state legislation enacted in 2016.

The company offers employee benefits such as up to 20 weeks of paid parental leave. Candidates for the Salem jobs have to be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent.

During a recent tour of the warehouse, rows of massive shelves can be seen towering toward the ceiling.

Once the warehouse hums to life, forklift-like machines operated by workers will zip around the facility, placing and plucking large products from the shelves. The packing department will ready products to ship out. And during downtime, employees will share break room computers.

Although the company touts its pay and benefits as competitive, the company has come under fire recently for working conditions.

In Portland, workers complained about excessive heat and an overly loud warning siren at the warehouse there, according to OPB.

At a warehouse in Shakopee, Minnesota, Amazon workers staged a protest Monday to raise awareness of what they say are unfair working conditions. A group of tech workers in Seattle, called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, is supporting the strike. Amazon said roughly 15 workers participated in the event outside of the Shakopee fulfillment center.

A company spokesperson issued the following response:

“The fact is Amazon offers already what this outside organization is asking for. We provide great employment opportunities with excellent pay – ranging from $15-$18.50 an hour in the Portland region – and full-time employees receive industry-leading benefits including comprehensive healthcare, up to 20 weeks parental leave, paid education, promotional opportunities, and more. We encourage anyone to compare our pay, benefits, and workplace to other retailers and major employers in the Portland metro and across the country.

“Regarding the small protest that occurred on Wednesday at the Amazon delivery station, roughly 10 associates participated in the event outside of the facility. It was obvious to the more than 600 employees that work at this facility (as part of the 2,000+ workforce in the greater Portland region) that an outside organization used Prime Day to raise its own visibility, conjured misinformation and a few associate voices to work in their favor, and relied on political rhetoric to fuel media attention. The fact is that Amazon provides a safe, quality work environment in which associates are the heart and soul of the customer experience, and Wednesday’s event shows that our associates know that to be true.”

In Salem, opening the new warehouse further broadens Amazon’s reach inside Oregon. Three Amazon fulfillment centers, including Salem, will eventually employ about 3,500 throughout the state.

Customer demand in the area is driving the growth, said company spokeswoman Eileen Hards. The warehouse will serve much of the Portland metro area and other parts of Oregon, she said.

“Amazon’s growing logistics network in Oregon is providing accessible job opportunities,” said Nathan Buehler, spokesperson for Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency. “The fast-growing back-office and logistics sector is a great compliment to our diverse industry mix in Oregon.

“In addition to providing jobs that don’t require 4-year degrees, it’s driving indirect economic impacts for regional businesses in these communities.”

Taxpayers are helping foot the bill for Amazon’s Salem location. When plans for the Salem warehouse were unveiled in 2017, economic development officials noted the site would be eligible for upwards of $3.7 million in tax incentives over three years.