07 30 2016
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The Wake of Vanport
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  • Russian hackers likely responsible for hacking attack on Clinton HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Giddy if exhausted, Hillary Clinton embarked on a post-convention Rust Belt bus tour just hours after becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. The celebratory mood quickly evaporated amid fresh revelations that hackers had breached a program used by her campaign and Republican nominee Donald Trump promised to sharpen his barbs. "Remember this," Trump said during a rally Friday in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "Trump is going to be no more Mr. Nice Guy." And for the first time he encouraged his supporters' anti-Clinton chants of "lock her up." "I've been saying let's just beat her on Nov. 8," Trump said, "but you know what? I'm starting to agree with you." About an hour later, Clinton aides acknowledged that a hacking attack that exposed Democratic Party emails also reached into a computer system used by her own campaign. The FBI said it was working to determine the "accuracy, nature and scope" of the cyberattacks. Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said the newly disclosed breach affected a Democratic National Committee data analytics program used by the campaign and other organizations. Outside experts found no evidence that the campaign's "internal systems have been compromised," Merrill said, but he gave no details on the program or nature of the attacks. Partnerships with modern e-commerce companies can allow sophisticated tracking, categorization and identification of website visitors and voters. President Barack Obama and cybersecurity experts have said Russia was almost certainly responsible for the DNC hack. The House Democratic campaign committee reported Friday that its information had been accessed. The developments followed the leaking of DNC emails earlier in the week that pointed to a pro-Clinton bias by party officials during her primary contest against Bernie Sanders. In the furor that followed, party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz resigned just as Democrats launched their convention. Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, will attempt to return attention to their positive economic message on Saturday, with campaign stops through economically struggling areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio. "When we take that oath of office next January, we know we can make life better. We know we can create more good jobs," she told voters gathered at an outside market in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Clinton cited an economic analysis by economist Mark Zandi, a former economic adviser to 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, that found more than 10 million jobs could be created in her first term if her economic proposals were put in place. Zandi's analysis of Trump's plans found they would cost the country 3.5 million jobs and lead to a "lengthy recession." Joined on the bus tour by her husband, Bill Clinton, Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, Clinton stopped at a toy and plastics manufacturer in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where she and Kaine cast Trump as a con artist out for his own gain. "We don't resent success in America but we do resent people who take advantage of others in order to line their own pockets," Clinton said. Trump is also focusing on Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states where he might make headway with blue-collar white men. That group of voters has eluded Clinton and may be a hard sell after a Democratic convention that heavily celebrated racial and gender diversity. Clinton is playing up economic opportunity, diversity and national security. Democrats hammered home those themes this week with an array of politicians, celebrities, gun-violence victims, law enforcement officers and activists of all races and sexual orientation. Their goal is to turn out the coalition of minority, female and young voters that twice elected Obama while offsetting expected losses among the white men drawn to Trump's message. Democrats continued contrasting their optimistic message with the more troubled vision of the state of the nation presented by Trump and others at the GOP convention a week earlier. Kaine called the "very dark and negative" event a "journey through Donald Trump's mind." "That's a very frightening place," he told thousands of supporters in Philadelphia. Clinton told voters that they faced a "stark choice," calling the coming election the most important one in her lifetime. "This is a moment of reckoning for our country. I don't recognize the country that Donald Trump describes," she said.___Lemire reported from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
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  • SEATTLE (AP) — Genetically modified wheat not approved for sale or commercial production in the United States has been found growing in a field in Washington state, agriculture officials said Friday, posing a possible risk to trade with countries concerned about engineered food. The Food and Drug Administration says genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are safe and little scientific concern exists about the safety of those on the market. But critics say not enough is known about their risks, and they want GMOs labeled so people know what's in their food. Several Asian countries temporarily banned U.S. wheat imports after genetically modified wheat was found unexpectedly in a field on an Oregon farm in 2013. It also popped up in a field at a university research center in Montana in 2014. It wasn't immediately clear how altered wheat cropped up in Washington. But the U.S. Agriculture Department said there is no evidence it has entered the market. If it did, the FDA concluded that "it is unlikely that the wheat would present any safety concerns if present in the food supply," the department said. A farmer discovered 22 plants in an unplanted field, and the wheat was developed to be resistant to the herbicide known as Roundup, created by seed giant Monsanto, the USDA said. An agency spokeswoman did not know where in the state it was found. Federal officials said they were working with the farmer to ensure that none of the modified wheat is sold. Out of caution, the agency said it is holding and testing the farmer's full wheat harvest, but so far it has not found GMOs. The plants are a type of wheat that had been evaluated in limited field trials in the Pacific Northwest from 1998 to 2001 but never commercialized, Monsanto said in a statement. It said the type found in Washington state is similar to the one discovered in Oregon three years ago; it has the same inserted DNA but in a different location. No variety of genetically engineered wheat has been approved for commercial use or production in the U.S. GMOs are plants or animals that have had genes copied from other plants or animals inserted into their DNA. Most genetically engineered crops are corn and soybeans eaten by livestock or made into popular processed food ingredients like cornstarch, soybean oil or high fructose corn syrup. Only a handful of modified fruits and vegetables are available, including Hawaiian papaya, some zucchini and squash and a small percentage of sweet corn. The FDA also has approved for consumption a genetically engineered salmon that would grow faster than traditional salmon, but it's not yet available in grocery stores. South Korea said Friday that it will inspect U.S. wheat imports for genetically modified wheat, the Yonhap News Agency reported. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it has asked the USDA for information on the unapproved wheat and inspection methods. The USDA said it has validated a test that Monsanto developed for the herbicide-resistant wheat, which would be available to trading partners. "Trading partners will get the tests. I believe that once they have those in place, they'll continue buying," said Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission, a state agency that represents wheat farmers. "We don't anticipate any major disruptions." The USDA also said it has beefed up oversight of genetically engineered field trials and now requires developers to apply for a permit for those involving GMO wheat starting this year. In 2014, genetically modified wheat plants were found at a university research center in Huntley, Montana, where it was legally tested by Monsanto in the early 2000s. The plants in eastern Oregon were found in a field that had never conducted such tests, and the USDA closed its investigation two years ago unable to determine how the wheat got there. Different strains were found in each state. The Washington Association of Wheat Growers and the Washington State Agriculture Department referred questions to federal authorities.
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  • Six current or former state employees were charged Friday with misconduct and other crimes in the Flint water crisis 
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  • Hillary Clinton cast herself as a unifier for divided times, an experienced leader steeled for a volatile world 
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Amari Prewitt, right, smiles as her mom Elena Williams, left, sister Aniya Lopez, brother Julian Prewitt, and aunt Erica Williams show her the new bedroom she will be getting at their Habitat For Humanity House in Medford, Ore. (Denise Baratta /The Medford Mail Tribune via AP)

 

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — Amari Prewitt-Williams was born a healthy baby, but at 3 weeks old, she developed a fever and meningitis — inflammation of her brain and spinal cord membranes.

She has coped with multiple brain surgeries, cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. Now 3 years old, the wheelchair-bound girl has trouble getting around her small two-bedroom home that is infested with mice and spiders. The home rents for $995 per month, said her mother,

Elena Williams, a certified nursing assistant at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center.

Fortunately, the family of two working adults and three children was chosen to receive a Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity home. Williams is putting in 200 hours of construction work for the house, and friends and family members are contributing 300 hours.

The monthly mortgage for the four-bedroom, wheelchair-accessible house will cost between $600 and $700, Williams said.
"We were blessed to have this opportunity," she said.

Habitat for Humanity is on the front lines of a local affordable housing crisis.

The rental vacancy rate has dipped to about 2 percent, rent costs are rising and the median existing home sale price in Jackson County has risen from $145,000 in 2011 to $221,500 this year.

The 2007 recession triggered a wave of foreclosures, and many developers, builders and subcontractors went belly up.
Although times were tough, Habitat for Humanity did what it could to make the best of the situation.

"One of the largest hurdles for us is buying land. The recession helped us because land became available and we could purchase foreclosed homes," said Denise James, executive director of the local organization.

Isabel Cortez, a divorced mother of three now living in a bedroom of her parents' house, is receiving another Habitat for Humanity house. Although construction hasn't yet started on the house she will live in with her children, Cortez already has logged half of her required construction hours by helping build homes for others.

"It was really nice building homes for other people and seeing the houses and their faces. I love working on houses," said Cortez, who works at Amy's Kitchen. "I'm so happy and so thankful for Habitat for Humanity. I'm very grateful. I was shocked when they told me I'd been chosen."

The Housing Authority of Jackson County is among the government agencies straining to meet the need for affordable housing. It has 5,416 people on a three-year waiting list for rental vouchers that can be used on the open market to supplement the amount people can pay for rent.

The Housing Authority also builds and manages its own housing. With new projects in the pipeline, the agency will manage nearly 1,500 units, said Jason Elzy, director of development.

The Concord, a $12.5 million apartment complex with 50 units being built in downtown Medford, is its largest current project in Jackson County. Rent will range from $456 to $584 for one- and two-bedroom apartments.

The Housing Authority will open a waiting list for spots in the building in the early fall, a few months before the building is finished, Elzy said.

He expects the apartments to be snapped up in a matter of hours.

"The last time we had a project, we had families sleeping in front of our building to be the first in line. By the time we opened at 8 a.m., the line was wrapped around the building," Elzy said. "We expect the same response for The Concord."

Elsy said government housing programs cannot keep up with the need for affordable housing.

"The problem is not going away anytime soon. We're barely making a dent," he said.

Easing the strain
After the 2007 recession, many homeowners who lost their jobs and houses turned to the rental market, which pushed up prices and strained the supply. Many former homeowners were hesitant to buy again in a shaky economy.

With the economy improving and rents increasing, more people appear ready to dive into home ownership, said Colin Mullane, spokesperson for the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors and a principal broker with Full Circle Real Estate in Ashland.

Homes spent an average of 73 days on the market in 2015, but are now bought in 48 days on average, according to the association.
Mullane said he helped an Ashland worker paying $1,650 in rent find a house in Medford for a $1,200 monthly mortgage payment.

"At the end of 30 years, the house is yours — and the rent doesn't go up," Mullane said.

The Rogue Valley Association of Realtors created a first-time home buyer assistance program in 2012 that allows buyers to receive grants of up to $1,000. Funded with proceeds from the Rogue Valley Food and Wine Classic, which takes place on March 31 this year, the program has $25,000 in grants to distribute in 2016, said Tina Grimes, executive officer for the association.

The program is administered by the social services group ACCESS Inc., which offers a host of programs to help home buyers. They include the "Realizing the American Dream" pre-purchase education class, the Dream$avers down payment savings program and online home buyer education classes.

For people having trouble finding a place to rent, the Ready to Rent class teaches people skills that include checking their credit report, interviewing successfully with a landlord, filling out rental applications, gathering their pay stubs and financial information and explaining rental history or credit problems, such as an unpaid medical bill.

"It can help a client address barriers before being continually told 'no' by a landlord," said ACCESS Grants Analyst Donna Lea Brooks.
With extremely low rental vacancy rates, competition is fierce and people with a negative rental history or credit problems often lose out, she noted.

"They are competing against folks without screening barriers. Who is the landlord going to pick? The one without issues," Brooks said. "This gives them the tools they need to be less of a risk to landlords and bolsters their self-esteem. Then we continue working with them so they remain successfully housed."

A statewide problem
During a short session that ended earlier in March, the Oregon Legislature passed bills in response to a statewide affordable housing problem.

One bill bans rent increases in the first year of tenancy and requires 90 days' notice for rent increases in subsequent years.
While good for renters, the bill isn't necessarily a bad thing for property owners, said Dave Wright, president and owner of CPM Real Estate Services, Inc., which manages 2,100 units for property owners.

"No rent increases for the first year are helpful for the market we're in right now," he said. "I've talked to a few of our clients and they think giving more notice about rent increases gives tenants more of a chance to relocate if they can't afford it."

Local governments will be allowed to mandate that builders set aside a portion of large developments for affordable housing in exchange for incentives such as tax waivers and the ability to construct taller buildings. They can also adopt construction taxes to fund affordable housing projects.

Wright cautioned that efforts to address affordable housing issues could create unintended consequences and higher prices.

"Ultimately, if the legislation goes too far, it gets passed on to the consumer in one way or another," he said.

The affordable housing bills that passed this year represented a compromise between the desires of builders and housing activists, said Oregon Home Builders Association Chief Executive Officer Jon Chandler.

"They were drafted to minimize unintended consequences. The housing activists don't feel they went far enough. I think they struck a balance," he said. "You can't make someone build a project that they'll lose money on."

He said the construction tax will give cities resources to fund affordable housing projects.

Chandler said 25,000 housing units need to be built each year to keep pace with Oregon's population, but only 15,000 are being built.

A lack of lending to builders and would-be home buyers, high land prices and infrastructure costs, and a shortage of skilled construction workers are all issues that need to be addressed for housing to become more available and affordable, state and local experts said.

Boosting vocational training in schools and at the community college level would not only increase the number of skilled construction workers, it would allow workers to earn living wages and pay for their own housing, Chandler said.

"Construction jobs cannot be outsourced because they are building houses in local communities," he said. "Those are family-wage jobs. They make good money. In our societal shift toward college prep, we forgot you could make $60,000 a year."

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