Van fire and multi-vehicle crash close Highway 97

First a van fire, then a multi-car crash snarled traffic for a few hours Tuesday morning on Highway 97 just south of Bend.

The van fire happened just after 10 a.m. and closed both lanes of the highway about 9 miles south of Bend for about a half hour. The fire started under the hood and was contained to the van in the shoulder of the southbound lanes, but officials were concerned that some of the cargo – nitrogen and two oxyacetylene torches – forcing the closure of northbound lanes as well. The southbound lanes reopened about 10:30.

Courtesy Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office

At 11:45, ODOT reported a 5-car crash had closed the southbound lanes, this time about 7 miles south of Bend.

According to Oregon State Police, a driver wasn’t aware of the stopped traffic due to the van fire and was blinded by the sun when he hit the back of a car in front of him, causing the chain-reaction crash.

A 78-year-old man was injured in the crash and taken to the hospital.

OSP did not say if any citations were handed out.

The road reopened about an hour later.

Courtesy Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office


New testimony against Trump as impeachment goes public


WASHINGTON (AP) — A top American diplomat revealed new evidence Wednesday of President Donald Trump’s efforts to press Ukraine to investigate political rivals as House investigators launched public impeachment hearings for just the fourth time in the nation’s history.

William Taylor, the highest-ranking U.S. official in Ukraine, said for the first time that Trump was overheard asking another ambassador about “the investigations” he’d urged Ukraine’s leader to conduct one day earlier. Taylor said he learned of Trump’s phone call with the ambassador only in recent days.

It was all part of what Taylor called the “irregular channel,” a shadow foreign policy orchestrated by the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, outside traditional oversight that raised alarms in diplomatic and national security circles.

Republicans retorted that the Democrats still have no more than second- and third-hand knowledge of allegations that Trump held up millions of dollars in military aid for the Eastern European nation facing Russian aggression in return for Ukrainian investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.

The hearing, the first on television for the nation to see, provided hours of partisan back-and-forth but so far no singular moment etched in the public consciousness as grounds for removing the 45th president from office. Trump, who was meeting at the White House with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, declared he was “too busy” to watch.

The long day of testimony unfolded partly the way Democrats leading the inquiry wanted: in the somber tones of two career foreign service officers who described confusion both within the U.S. government and in Ukraine about what Trump wanted from Kyiv. Taylor testified alongside George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department.

Taylor said his staff recently told him they overheard Trump’s phone call with another diplomat, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, at a restaurant the day after Trump’s July 25 phone call with the new leader of Ukraine that sparked the impeachment investigation. The staffer explained that Sondland had called the president and Trump could be heard asking about “the investigations.” Sondland told the president the Ukrainians were ready to move forward, Taylor testified

Wednesday’s session unspooled in a formal, columned room on Capitol Hill, detailing the striking yet complicated allegation of a president using foreign policy for personal political gain.

Both sides tried to distill it into soundbites.

Democrats said Trump was engaged in “bribery” and “extortion.” Republicans said nothing really happened — the military aid Trump was withholding from Ukraine while he pushed for the investigations was ultimately released.

The GOP lawmakers demanded anew that they hear in closed session from the whistleblower whose complaint about Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s leader led to the inquiry.

Democrats said the person’s identity must be protected but also agreed to consider the request again later.

Across the country, millions of Americans were tuning in — or, in some cases, deliberately tuning out. The country has been here only three times before, but the proceedings were landing on a jaded and weary public, with little certainty they would change minds.

A vote to impeach could come before yearend in the Democratic House. Even if approved, however, conviction in the Republican Senate is considered highly unlikely.

At the start of Wednesday’s session, Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee, outlined the question at the core of the impeachment inquiry — whether the president abused his office for political gain.

“The matter is as simple and as terrible as that,” said Schiff of California. “Our answer to these questions will affect not only the future of this presidency but the future of the presidency itself.”

Trump engaged in counter-programming from the White House, with rapid-fire tweets, a video from the Rose Garden and a dismissive retort from the Oval Office as he met with another foreign leader.

“It’s a witch hunt, it’s a hoax,” he said again as he appeared with visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by his side.

The witnesses defied White House instructions not to appear. Both Taylor and Kent received subpoenas.

Both also had told their stories before. They are among a dozen current and former officials who testified behind closed doors. Wednesday signaled the start of at least two weeks of public hearings as the proceedings spill into the open.

A key Trump ally on the panel, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, mockingly called Taylor the Democrats’ “star witness” and said he’d “seen church prayer chains that are easier to understand than this.”

Taylor, a West Point graduate and former Army infantry officer in Vietnam, responded: “I don’t consider myself a star witness for anything.”

The top Republican on the panel, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, said Trump had a “perfectly good reason” for wanting to investigate the role of Democrats in 2016 election interference, giving airtime to a theory that runs counter to mainstream U.S. intelligence which found that Russia intervened and favored Trump.

Nunes accused the Democratic majority of conducting a “scorched earth” effort to take down the president after the special counsel’s Russia investigation into the 2016 election failed to spark impeachment proceedings.

“We’re supposed to take these people at face value when they trot out new allegations?” said Nunes, a top Trump ally.

Both Taylor and Kent delivered heartfelt history lessons about Ukraine, a young and hopeful democracy, situated next to Russia but reaching out to the West.

Asked about a text message released earlier in the probe in which Taylor called it “crazy” to withhold the security aid to a foreign ally, he said, “It was illogical. It could not be explained. It was crazy.”

Kent, in his opening remarks, directly contradicted a core complaint against Joe Biden being raised by allies of the White House, saying he never heard any U.S. official try to shield a Ukraine company from investigations.

Kent acknowledged that he himself raised concerns in 2015 about the vice president’s son, Hunter Biden, being on the board of Burisma, a Ukraine gas company. He warned that it could give the “perception of a conflict of interest.” But Kent indicated no one from the U.S. was protecting the company from investigations in Ukraine as Republicans have implied.

He did not go into detail about the Trump quid pro quo issues central to the impeachment inquiry, but he voiced his concerns with them.

“I do not believe the United States should ask other countries to engage in selective, politically associated investigations or prosecutions against opponents of those in power, because such selective actions undermine the rule of law regardless of the country,” he said.

The Constitution sets a dramatic but vague bar for impeachment, and there’s no consensus yet that Trump’s actions at the heart of the inquiry meet the threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

At its core, the inquiry stems from Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy when he asked the Zelenskiy for “a favor.”

Trump wanted the Ukraine government to investigate Democrats in the 2016 election and the Bidens, all while withholding the military aid.

The White House released a rough transcript of the conversation, with portions deleted.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was initially reluctant to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. But she pressed ahead in September after the whistleblower’s complaint.


Associated Press writers Colleen Long, Mike Balsamo, Eric Tucker, Laurie Kellman, Alan Fram, Zeke J. Miller and Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.

▶️ Wildfire response council releases report; extended fire seasons to cost tens of billions


The fire season in Oregon has jumped from just 23 days back in the 1970s – to nearly 4 months in the 2000s, according to the Oregon Climate Research Institute.

And governor Kate Brown says if we don’t do something to address the climate crisis in the country, Oregon will the pay a hefty price with a fire season that never ends.

“How we attack and tackle fire needs to be different,” Brown said in January when convening the Council on Wildfire Response. 

The council’s main purpose was to evaluate national and global fire prevention practices, management and suppression and make recommendations to Oregon’s wildfire management.

Tuesday, the council released its final report.

“We knew we needed to work on mitigation, reducing wildfires,” said Bend Mayor Sally Russell, one of the 37 members appointed to the council earlier this year. “This report looks at our state as a whole and from a very balanced, centrist approach it lays out solution sets to make our state and our communities more resilient and adaptive. It puts dollar amounts.”

The dollar amounts are staggering.

In 2018, combined state and federal costs for direct wildfire suppression alone totaled about 533 million dollars in Oregon.

The council’s report predicts that the cost of extended wildfire seasons will exceed tens of billions of dollars over the next 20 years.

Russell says, those billions of dollars will be preventative.

“It’s really billions of dollars to invest in protecting our communities,” Russell said. “A lot of it is upfront work, some of it is stopping wildfires before they get going and having the resources and the plan to do that and do that well.”

The council is calling on federal, state and local governments and the private sector to invest in strategies to reduce wildfire risk and protect communities from the impacts of wildfire.

“People recognizing the breadth, the depth and the value of implementing all the carefully researched suggestions and recommendations that are in this report are really important not to just to Central Oregon, but the whole state,” Russell said. “We gotta do this work, and we gotta start now.”

The Council’s report recommends spending 145 million dollars over the next two years for wildfire response efforts – including modernizing the state’s firefighting services.

Many of those services were cut during the global financial crisis 11 years ago and never restored.

You can read the full report here.

Bend bank employees mistake wallet for a weapon, call 911

Downtown Bend US Bank employees hid under their desks and called 911 on Friday worried a man had come inside with a gun.

Turned out it was just his wallet. He left and went outside to the ATM.

According to police, an employee of the bank called 911 reporting a black man wearing a bandana on his head and a hoodie came into the bank with what they thought was a gun.

“Based on the information given to 911 Dispatch, several Bend Police officers and detectives responded and started an investigation into the incident,” said Lt. Clint Burleigh. “Detectives and officers learned through the investigation that the customer did not possess a firearm. His wallet was mistaken for the reported firearm.”

▶️ Future students brainstorming new high school mascot, colors

Bend’s newest high school isn’t set to open until fall 2021, but staff is already making big decisions like what the school’s mascot and colors should be.

And who better to help make those decisions than the school’s future students.

Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan sat in with students at High Desert Middle School as they started brainstorming ideas.


10 Barrel Brewing’s HQ on the market; won’t impact pubs or brewery

10 Barrel Brewing Co.’s landlord has put its headquarters on the market for $19 million.

Graham Dent, a partner with Compass Commercial, said the “sale of the real estate will have no effect on the 10 Barrel business going forward.”

“Compass Commercial is pleased to announce the rare opportunity to acquire 10 Barrel Brewing’s headquarters facility in Bend, Oregon,” according to the sales portfolio from Compass Commercial. “The NNN lease with 10 Barrel is guaranteed by Anheuser-Busch with 7 ½ years remaining on the lease with annual increases. Bend is ranked one of the top beer markets in the country with 10 Barrel Brewing as one of Bend’s most popular brewpubs.”

The 67,000-square-foot facility opened in 2016 just off Empire on 18th Street. The sales portfolio indicates the sale does not include the actual brewing facility adjacent to the building.

“The owner/developer of the property is selling this as an investment with the plans of re-deploying the proceeds into other development projects here in town,” Dent said in an email to Central Oregon Daily. “10 Barrel just invested several hundred thousand dollars to install solar panels on the roof if that gives you any idea of their long term commitment to the property.”

10 Barrel was founded in 2006 and was acquired by beer behemoth Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2014. There are two pubs in Bend, as well as pubs in Portland, Boise, San Diego and Denver. The beer is distributed nationwide.


Image courtesy Compass Commercial



Trump to pursue higher sales age for e-cigarettes

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Friday his administration will pursue raising the age to purchase electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21 in its upcoming plans to combat youth vaping.

Trump told reporters his administration will release its final plans for restricting e-cigarettes next week but provided few other details.

“We have to take care of our kids, most importantly, so we’re going to have an age limit of 21 or so,” said Trump, speaking outside the White House.

Currently the minimum age to purchase any tobacco or vaping product is 18, under federal law. But more than one third of U.S. states have already raised their sales age to 21.

A federal law raising the purchase age would require congressional action.

Administration officials were widely expected to release plans this week for removing virtually all flavored e-cigarettes from the market. Those products are blamed for soaring rates of underage use by U.S. teenagers.

However, no details have yet appeared, leading vaping critics to worry that the administration is backing away from its original plan.

Trump resisted any specifics on the scope of the restrictions.

“We’re talking about the age, we’re talking about flavors, we’re also talking about keeping people working — there are some pretty good aspects,” Trump said.

Underage vaping has reached what health officials call epidemic levels. In the latest government survey, 1 in 4 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month.

Fruit, candy, dessert and other sweet vaping flavors have been targeted because of their appeal to underage users.

On Thursday, Juul Labs, the nation’s largest e-cigarette maker, announced it would voluntarily pull its mint-flavored e-cigarettes from the market. That decision followed new research that Juul’s mint is the top choice for many high school students who vape.

With the removal of mint, Juul only sells two flavors: tobacco and menthol.

Vaping critics say menthol must be a part of the flavor ban to prevent teens who currently use mint from switching over.

Juul and other tobacco companies have lobbied in support a federal “Tobacco 21” law to reverse teen use of both e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco products. The effort also has broad bipartisan support in Congress, including a bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The logic for hiking the purchase age for cigarettes and other products is clear: most underage teens who use e-cigarettes or tobacco get it from older friends. Raising the minimum age to 21 is expected to limit the supply of those products in U.S. schools.

Delaying access to cigarettes is also expected to produce major downstream health benefits, with one government-funded report estimating nearly 250,000 fewer deaths due to tobacco over several decades.

Still, anti-tobacco groups have insisted that any “Tobacco 21” law must be accompanied by a ban on flavors, which they say are the primary reason young people use e-cigarettes.

▶️ OSU-Cascades’ enrollment jumps; minorities make up 27% of freshman class

Enrollment at Oregon State University-Cascades is up more than 4 percent to 1,300 total students at the 4-year campus here in Bend.

Eighty-two percent of the first-year students are Oregonians, and 27% of them are students of color.

Central Oregon Daily’s Brooke Snavely reports on efforts to make minority students feel welcome on campus.


▶️ City of Bend says ad campaign was insensitive, removes billboard


The billboard went up Monday at 9th and Wilson.

On Wednesday, frustrations boiled over at a Bend City Council meeting.

“History matters,” Bend resident Joanne Mina told councilors. “When we tell a history that is incomplete, we are lying to ourselves and we are asking others to believe our lies. And it’s not City Council, it’s not our City Manager, it’s not one individual, it’s all of us.”

Several people spoke out against the billboard that portrays a covered wagon in the High Desert.

“Campaigns that produce offense, like the one at Ninth and Wilson, remind communities like mine of how naive, ignorant and oblivious the dominant culture of this city remains,” said Sareli Beltran of Bend.

The ad campaign is supposed to get people thinking about east-west connectivity in Bend and encourage participation in a one-minute transportation survey.

It didn’t take long for negative feedback over the image to come in.

“It started as a Facebook post, from somebody who felt that this was insensitive,” said Anne Aurand, Communications Director. “And, one of our Councilors was aware of that Facebook post and had engaged with it, and she brought it to our attention.”

City Manager Eric King acknowledged Tuesday night eluding to the western expansion and colonization was a misstep.

“There were displacement of native peoples and that is real; and that is a mistake on our part to sort of acknowledge that,” King said. “So, we are taking that image down.”

Aurand says the covered wagon image was removed from the website as soon as the city was first made aware of the complaint, but it takes longer to replace a billboard, a process that will cost the city $500.

“Our options are to create a new image or put the safe crossing image there. So, we’re working through that process,” she said.

The campaign was created with the help of a consultant and Aurand calls it a regrettable, insensitive oversight, “This isn’t going to happen again. I’m never going to not remember this moment in a future campaign.”