▶️ Central Oregon cycling legend Gary Bonacker passes away

One of Central Oregon’s cycling legends has passed away.

Gary Bonacker was the founder of the “Tour des Chutes,” one of the areas biggest fundraisers for cancer care.

bonacker was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2003. He went on to launch the “Tour” — a supported bike ride that raised more than $1.25 million in it’s 17-year run.

A pioneer of the local mountain biking scene, Bonacker was also a co-founder of Sunnyside Sports in Bend.

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▶️ On last day of Netflix DVDs, Bend Blockbuster reminds you it’s still here

The Bend Blockbuster Video store — the last one on Earth — could not help but weigh in Friday to the end of a Netflix era — the last mailed DVDs.

The service that has been steadily shrinking in the shadow of Netflix’s video streaming service shut down after its five remaining distribution centers in California, Texas, Georgia and New Jersey mail out their final discs Friday.

Blockbuster posted on its Facebook page “Netflix used to mail DVDs. Until today. Luckily, you’ll still be able to find your favorite movies & shows on DVD at Blockbuster. ’Til the bitter end.'”

That last sentence is a reference to the online ad Blockbuster released during halftime of the Super Bowl in February. 

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So if you’re still a die-hard DVD fan, don’t worry. There’s a local option in Bend.

The fewer than 1 million Netflix recipients who still subscribe to the DVD service will be able to keep the final discs that land in their mailboxes.

“It’s sad,” longtime Netflix DVD subscriber Amanda Konkle said Thursday as she waited the arrival for her final disc, “The Nightcomers,” a 1971 British horror film featuring Marlon Brando. “It’s makes me feel nostalgic. Getting these DVDs has been part of my routine for decades.”

Some of the remaining DVD diehards will get up to 10 discs as a going away present to loyal customers such as Konkle, 41, who has watched more than 900 titles since signing up for the service in 2006. In hopes of being picked for the 10 DVD giveaway, Konkle set up her queue to highlight for more movies starring Brando and older films that are difficult to find on streaming.

At its peak, the DVD boasted more than 20 million subscribers who could choose from more than 100,000 titles stocked in the Netflix library. But in 2011, Netflix made the pivotal decision to separate the DVD side business from a streaming business that now boasts 238 million worldwide subscribers and generated $31.5 billion in revenue year.

The DVD service, in contrast, brought in just $146 million in revenue last year, making its eventual closure inevitable against a backdrop of stiffening competition in video streaming that has forced Netflix to whittle expenses to boost its profits.

“It is very bittersweet,” said Marc Randolph, Netflix’s CEO when the company shipped its first DVD, “Beetlejuice,” in April 1998. “We knew this day was coming, but the miraculous thing is that it didn’t come 15 years ago.”

Although he hasn’t been involved in Netflix’s day-to-day operations for 20 years, Randolph came up with the idea for a DVD-by-service in 1997 with his friend and fellow entrepreneur, Reed Hastings, who eventually succeeded him as CEO — a job Hastings held until stepping aside earlier this year.

Back when Randolph and Hastings were mulling the concept, the DVD format was such a nascent technology that there were only about 300 titles available at the time.

In 1997, DVDs were so hard to find that when they decided to test whether a disc could make it thorough the U.S. Postal Service that Randolph wound up slipping a CD containing Patsy Cline’s greatest hits into a pink envelope and dropping it in the mail to Hastings from the Santa Cruz, California, post office.

Randolph paid just 32 cents for the stamp to mail that CD, less than half the current cost of 66 cents for a first-class stamp.

Netflix quickly built a base of loyal movie fans while relying on a then-novel monthly subscription model that allowed customers to keep discs for as long as they wanted without facing the late fees that Blockbuster imposed for tardy returns. Renting DVDs through the mail became so popular that Netflix once ranked as the U.S. Postal Service’s fifth largest customer while mailing millions of discs each week from nearly 60 U.S. distribution centers at its peak.

Along the way, the red-and-white envelopes that delivered the DVDs to subscribers’ homes became an eagerly anticipated piece of mail that turned enjoying a “Netflix night” into a cultural phenomenon. The DVD service also spelled the end of Blockbuster, which went bankrupt in 2010 after its management turned down an opportunity to buy Netflix instead of trying to compete against it.

Even as video streaming boomed, movie lovers like Michael Fusco stuck with the DVD service because it still offered films that were no longer shown in theaters and couldn’t easily be found in stores. When Netflix announced its intention to close the DVD service five months ago, Fusco expanded his subscription plan so he could rent as many as eight discs at a time at a cost of $56 a month.

Fusco, 36, got his money’s worth, especially in August when he watched 32 DVDs sent to him by Netflix.

“I was very strategic,” said Fusco, who also thought carefully about what films to pick as his final selections after watching more than 2,400 titles during his 18 years as subscriber. The Southern California resident is now awaiting a Spanish comedy, “Solo Con Tu Pareja,” as his final disc and also set up his queue to highlight films by Harrison Ford (“Mosquito Coast”), Tom Hanks (“Joe Versus The Volcano”) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (“Twins”) should he be among those picked for the final 10-disc giveaway.

Randolph and Hastings always planned on video streaming rendering the DVD-by-mail service obsolescent once technology advanced to the point that watching movies and TV shows through internet connections became viable. That expectation is one of the reasons they settled on Netflix as the service’s name instead of other monikers that were considered, such as CinemaCenter, Fastforward, NowShowing and DirectPix (the DVD service was dubbed “Kibble,” during a six-month testing period)

“From Day One, we knew that DVDs would go away, that this was transitory step,” Randolph said. “And the DVD service did that job miraculously well. It was like an unsung booster rocket that got Netflix into orbit and then dropped back to earth after 25 years. That’s pretty impressive.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


▶️ BTI offers heavy equipment training in Prineville to address worker shortage

Prineville is partnering with the Baker Technical Institute (BTI) out of Baker City to address the nationwide shortage of heavy equipment operators.

BTI offers a hands-on, five week training course for aspiring heavy equipment operators. The course has expanded to Prineville, offering the training to Central Oregonians.

“They’re learning the operation skills of the machine. They’re learning its quirks, its screws, what the toughest parts of it are. You know, ‘how much dirt can you pick up or dig?’ and the movements and the placements of buckets and the implements that are on the machines,” BTI student Rocky Wilson said.

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BTI says nearly 42,300 heavy equipment operator positions are left open each year.

Students are given the opportunity to operate a range of different tractors — from excavators to front loaders — at a gravel pit in Prineville.

Friday was graduation day for the most recent five-week training session. Twenty-five students completed the Heavy Equipment Operator class.

“For someone who has no experience, if you come into this program you now have a chance to get in with the big guys. You can get all sorts of jobs with the certifications this program offers,” class instructor Harrison Holt said.

Holt says the program is extremely popular.

“Most people who work in this industry will spend about 2 years or so working before they have an opportunity to be in a machine. With this program, they can potentially be stuck straight in the machine, and be making twice more. Sometimes three times more,” Holt said.

BTI says the City of Prineville reached out with interest in their training program. The two have been partners for nearly four years.

The course is completely funded through the Bureau of Labor and Industry Grant, making the class itself free to take. However, students must pay for their own living accommodations and food.


▶️ DA explains why sex abuse charge against Bend masseuse is a misdemeanor

(Editor’s note: The alleged victim describes what happened to her. The details may be disturbing to some.)

The Deschutes County District Attorney explained Friday why a man arrested for alleged sex abuse at a Bend spa isn’t facing more than a misdemeanor.

Court records say Jianming Tang is charged with one count of sexual abuse in the third degree and one count of massage without a license. 

The alleged incident happened at May Spa in east Bend, according to Oregon State Police. The alleged victim, who spoke to Central Oregon Daily News on Monday, said it happened during a massage appointment.

“That night he sexually assaulted me during the massage. He touched my breasts and my vagina,” the woman said. She wishes to remain anonymous.

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On Friday, District Attorney Steve Gunnels explained why the charges are misdemeanors based on the woman’s claims.

“We have statutes that are titled sexual abuse in three different degrees, first degree, second degree, and third degree. What the evidence supports in this case is a charge of sexual abuse in the third degree,” Gunnels said.

He said that further charges could be added if more information is presented, for example, if there were other victims who come forward. Both the alleged victim and Oregon State Police are encouraging other potential victims to come forward.

The maximum punishment for the current charges Tang faces are:

  • One year in prison
  • Registration as a sex offender
  • Therapy to prevent a second offense, “sexual offender treatment”

▶️ Bend author’s ‘Good for a Girl’ up for Sports Book of the Year award

A book written by an elite distance runner from Bend about the dangers female athletes face in a sports system that’s made for males is now up for a Sports Book of the Year award.

Central Oregon Daily News’ Genevieve Reaume profiled Lauren Fleshman and her book, “Good for a Girl: A Woman Running in a Man’s World,” in April. Genevieve’s story focused on local coaches of young girls who see the same kinds of injuries in female athletes because their training was designed for men.

The book is now on the long list for the 2023 William Hill Sports Book of the Year — dubbed “The world’s most valuable sports writing prize.” The winner will be announced in November.

You can watch Genevieve’s story in the player above.

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▶️ Bend thrift store hosting ‘Mutant Doll Art Show’

Chucky, Annabelle, Billy and Slappy are just a few nightmare-inducing names. These of course all names of creepy dolls in horror movies.

But how does a mutant doll art show make you feel?  Would it be better if we told you it’s for a good cause?

Good Morning Central Oregon met the creator behind Regroup thrift store’s “Mutant Doll Art Show” in Bend.

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“At the store when a new hire comes in, they’re asked to create a doll with some of the materials around the store and so it got really fun,” Creator of the show Bella Power-Mallory said. “We have a lot of regulars at the store and they enjoyed seeing those up on the wall. so we kind of just thought we’d expand and open it up to the community.”

The community can participate, too. Join Bella and others in making your own mutant doll for just $5 at Regroup’s warehouse at 955 SE Wilson Avenue, Saturday from 1-4 p.m.

The dolls will showcase at the art show Sunday from 6-8 p.m., also at the warehouse.

Regroup thrift store supports local non-profits “Partners in Care,” “Bend Spay and Neuter Project,” and “Together for Children” year-round.

Praxis Health opening new Redmond urgent care facility

Medical care is expanding in Redmond. Praxis Health is opening a new High Lakes Urgent Care on Wednesday, Oct. 4. It will share the same building as High Lakes Health Care at 645 NW 4th Street.

Here is the announcement from High Lakes Urgent Care:

High Lakes Urgent Care – Praxis Health is pleased to announce the grand opening of a new Urgent Care location that will expand our team and provide more high-quality healthcare services for our community.

Beginning October 4th, 2023, the High Lakes Redmond Urgent Care location will share the same facilities as High Lakes Redmond located at 645 NW 4th St Redmond, OR 97756 This expansion marks the continued growth of Praxis Health (gopraxishealth.com), Oregon’s largest, independent medical group, recently voted Best Medical Group 2023 in Central Oregon for the sixth year in a row (The Source Weekly) and winner of The Community Choice Award of The Best Medical Group 2023 in Bend (The Bend Bulletin).

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High Lakes is focused on providing the highest possible level of compassionate, individualized care. As an organization that is family-owned and operated, we believe in the importance of delivering community-oriented care through accessible services that optimize the health and quality of life for all persons. We recognize that patients’ trust in their healthcare professionals is extremely valuable to clinical practice, ensuring that their personal needs are placed at the forefront. We are excited that this expansion will help provide on-site, team-based urgent care for all our patients. Praxis Health is rooted in our local communities and our goal is to remain connected to the people and places as we continue to grow. We promise to continue to deliver outstanding, personalized care to all of our patients while honoring the needs of each community that we serve. For more information about us, please visit our website at HighLakesHealthCare.com.

▶️ Little Did I Know: Benefits and dangers of artificial intelligence in art

Artificial Intelligence is a powerful tool with some amazing benefits. But just like any other tool, it does have its dangers, too. Let’s break it down using actual AI artwork that I created myself.

First up, the benefits. 

Creativity amplified

Artificial intelligence can help us tap into new levels of creativity. It can generate endless artistic ideas, styles and combinations that humans might never have thought of. This can lead to stunning, unique and even groundbreaking works. 

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Accessibility and inclusivity

Hey, I can make art more accessible. It can help people with disabilities express themselves through art, breaking down barriers and making the art world more inclusive. 

Art preservation

AI can restore and preserve art like a champ. It can analyze and restore damaged artworks, helping us conserve our cultural heritage. 

Efficiency and time saving 

AI can help artists save time and effort. It can automate repetitive tasks, leaving more room for the creative process itself. 

But like I said, there are dangers, too.

Loss of human touch

While AI can assist, it can’t replace the human touch in art. The soul, the emotions and the personal experiences of the artists are what make art so special.

Ethical concerns

There are ethical issues to consider, like who owns the art created by AI. Can it be used to manipulate or deceive through art?

Dependance on technology

Relying too much on AI can make us dependent. We shouldn’t forget our own creative abilities and become too reliant on machines. 

Bias and discrimination

AI can inherit biases from their creators and data sources. This can lead to art that perpetuates stereotypes and discrimination, reinforcing social inequalities. 

So there you have it. AI is a fantastic tool for creating artwork, but it does have its fair share of challenges. 

It’s up to us, the artists, scientists and society as a whole to use AI responsibly and harness its potential while being mindful of its limitations and pitfalls. 

Remember, it’s all about finding the right balance and letting our creativity shine through — just like the scientists and artists have been doing for centuries.

Thanks for joining me on this artistic adventure. Stay curious and keep exploring the world of AI and art. 

By the way — if you watch the video above, almost every word you hear me say was written by ChatGPT.

▶️ PacificSource, St. Charles announce agreement on Medicare Advantage plans

St. Charles Health System and non-profit PacificSource announced Friday they have reached an agreement to make sure PacificSource Medicare Advantage plans will continue in Central Oregon through next year.

Last Month, St. Charles said it was re-evaluating it participation with Medicare Advantage plans. It cited concerns with patient care, access and affordability for all such plans, including those from Humana, PacificSource, HealthNet and WellCare. 

PacificSource said Friday it worked with St. Charles to ensure coverage will continue for PacificSource Medicare Advantage members through 2024.

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“This agreement is a positive result for our region’s Medicare-eligible seniors, and also some of its most vulnerable community members,” Dr. John Espinola, PacificSource’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “PacificSource will continue to advocate for our members to make certain that they can continue to access affordable, high-quality healthcare in Central Oregon. We are pleased to have secured this successful outcome with St. Charles and will continue to work with them to improve the Medicare Advantage experience for their patients.”

St. Charles said both teams “agreed to focus on reducing administrative burdens for patients and health care workers” by prioritizing the following:

  • Beginning in 2024, St. Charles Cancer Center patients will be able to receive care prescribed by their physicians without prior authorization from PacificSource. 
  • PacificSource and St. Charles will work together to ensure patients are able to be discharged from the hospital when they no longer need hospital-level care.

“We are excited to bring this agreement to our community and believe it addresses many of our concerns,” Dr. Mark Hallett, chief clinical officer for St. Charles, said in a statement. “We are grateful to PacificSource for working with us to identify creative solutions that we believe will benefit patients and health care providers throughout the region.”

National parks will be closed, gates locked if government shuts down

PHOENIX (AP) — Entrances to national parks will be blocked and thousands of park rangers will be furloughed if Congress doesn’t reach a budget agreement this weekend, the Department of Interior said Friday.

The stance is a reversal from five years ago, when the Trump administration kept some parks open in a move that has been lambasted as illegal by the Government Accountability Office, the congressional watchdog.

This time around, the majority of more than 420 national park units will be off limits to the public starting Monday, Interior officials said. The governors of Arizona and Utah vowed to keep some of the most iconic parks, including Grand Canyon and Zion, open with state funding.

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Whether tourists can access other national parks will depend on size, location and other factors. Generally, if a site is closed or locked during non-business hours, it will remain that way, Interior officials said. Places like the National Mall will stay open, but there are no guarantees that restrooms or trash will be maintained.

About 13,000 of the 19,000 National Park Service workers are expected to be furloughed, the agency said in a contingency plan posted online Friday.

“The public will be encouraged not to visit sites during the period of lapse in appropriations out of consideration for protection of natural and cultural resources, as well as visitor safety,” the Interior Department said in a statement.

The director of the National Park Service can enter into non-reimbursable arrangements with state, tribal or local governments, or third parties for donations to fund park operations, the department said.

The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association doesn’t oppose such agreements but noted that keeping sites open during a shutdown without sufficient staff and other resources can be be disastrous.

For example, trash cans and portable toilets overflowed at Joshua Tree National Park during a shutdown in late 2018 and early 2019 that lasted 35 days. Some tourists driving off road damaged the fragile ecosystem.

Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, urged Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Thursday to keep the parks open with previously collected fees. The Trump administration did so in 2018 and 2019 in violation of appropriations laws, the congressional watchdog said.

Democratic Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs and Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said they will tap state funds to ensure visitors can still enjoy the dramatic depths of the Grand Canyon and the soaring red cliffs of Zion Valley, among other parks.

They cited the economic benefits to their states and small communities that depend on tourism.

National parks collectively could lose nearly a million visitors daily during a shutdown, and gateway communities could lose as much as $70 million, the conservation association said.

Arizona Lottery funds would help keep the Grand Canyon park open at a basic level, Hobbs has said.

Arizona paid about $64,000 a week during the 35-day shutdown to cover restroom cleaning, trash removal and snow plowing at Grand Canyon. People with permits to hike in the backcountry or raft on the Colorado River could still go, but no new permits were issued.

Hotels and restaurants remained open.

Those who will work in another potential shutdown include emergency services workers at Grand Canyon who protect visitors and the roughly 2,500 people who live within the national park, Grand Canyon spokesperson Joëlle Baird said.

Utah paid some $7,500 daily during the last part of December 2018 to keep Zion, Bryce Canyon and Arches running during a shutdown. The nonprofit Zion Forever Project put up $16,000 to pay a skeleton crew and keep bathrooms and the visitor center open at Zion, which continued drawing several thousand visitors daily.

This year, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis directed the state’s Department of Natural Resources to develop a plan to operate and protect resources at Rocky Mountain National Park and three others.

In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem was reviewing a shutdown’s possible impact on national parks, including Mount Rushmore.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte’s office didn’t say whether the state would spend money to keep Glacier or Yellowstone parks open. Most of Yellowstone is in Wyoming, but three of the five entrances are in Montana.

Republican Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon is awaiting more information from Interior and the White House to better understand the state’s options, spokesperson Michael Pearlman said.

In Washington, home to Mount Rainier and Olympic parks, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has no plans to provide more funding or staff to parks if there’s a shutdown. Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration said it won’t pay to keep parks open.