VW recalls 679K cars in U.S. to fix rollaway problem
DETROIT — Volkswagen is recalling about 679,000 cars in the U.S. to fix a problem that could let the cars roll away unexpectedly.
The recall covers certain 2011 through 2018 Jettas; 2015 through 2019 GTIs; 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019 Golfs; 2012 through 2019 Beetles and Beetle Convertibles; and 2017 through 2019 Golf SportWagens. All have automatic transmissions, manual hand brakes and keyless entry.
VW says silicate can build up on a shift lever switch, allowing the key to be removed if the lever isn’t in park. That could let the cars roll off unexpectedly.
Dealers will add a switch and circuit board to fix the problem. The recall starts on Oct. 11.
A VW spokesman says he’s not aware of any crashes or injuries due to the problem.
Changes to Endangered Species Act could affect county wildlife
The federal government announced it would change the way the Endangered Species Act is applied, making it easier to delist threatened or endangered species and allowing regulators to conduct economic assessments on potential lost revenue when deciding whether to protect a habitat.
In a media release, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said earlier this month that the revised rule would ease “the regulatory burden on the American public, without sacrificing our species’ protection and recovery goals.”
The decision drew condemnation from environmental groups, Democrats in Congress and several state attorneys generals. A coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the administration Wednesday, saying rolling back protections “undermines the fundamental purpose” of the Endangered Species Act. Critics of the change also say new wording in the law, which says regulators should make decisions based on the “foreseeable future,” ignores long-term threats such as climate change.
Eight species living in Clark County are classified as threatened or endangered under the act, including the northern spotted owl, water howellia, and coho and chinook salmon. Two mammals — the North American wolverine and brush prairie pocket gopher — are candidates for the list.
Regionally, lawmakers are split on the changes to the Endangered Species Act.‘Original intent’
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, said she agrees with limitations on the Endangered Species Act that keep it from “being abused and distorted by radical urban environmentalists or government bureaucrats to end forest management and put farmers out of business.”
“Our job as lawmakers is to ensure laws are being used for their original intent,” Herrera Beutler wrote in an email to The Columbian.
In the past, Herrera Beutler has supported imposing restrictions on laws she says overregulate the environment. Earlier this year, she pushed forward a bill that would repeal the 2015 Waters of the United States Rule, which she called an overreach of the Environmental Protection Agency. (In response, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson signed onto a letter with 14 of his colleagues saying that repealing the rule “would create a gaping hole in water pollution control.”)
Herrera Beutler said she similarly supports a more limited, “commonsense” version of the Endangered Species Act.
Projects within Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, which Herrera Beutler represents, have been hindered by an overly broad application of the law, she added. She pointed to forests in Pacific and Wahkiakum counties, where she said overzealous restrictions to protect the marbled murrelet are causing economic harm.
“Through the years, the law as written has produced some devastating unintended consequences including killing rural communities and helping turn our federal forests into disease-prone tinderboxes,” Herrera Beutler wrote. “I’m hopeful that reasonable updates to the (Endangered Species Act) will allow us to accomplish all our goals: Protect our vulnerable species and habitat, cease the unnecessary damage to our rural communities, and restore the ability to responsibly manage our federal forests to keep them healthy.”
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., however, said the rollback of the Endangered Species Act could cause irreparable harm to Washington’s endangered wildlife, especially its salmon populations.
“This is just another unsurprising and irresponsible action by President Trump and his administration to undermine the Endangered Species Act and threaten our planet’s future,” Murray said. “I will continue fighting to protect our state’s precious natural resources and hold this administration accountable.”Ridgefield refuge
Earlier this year, both Murray and Herrera Beutler partnered to secure funding for the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, the largest nature reserve in Clark County.
With a $5.25 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, refuge staff will be able to consolidate their work into a single community building. They’re currently sprawled across the site in a trailer, modular building and three maintenance sheds, Deputy Project Leader Eric Anderson told The Columbian in May. The refuge is also working to build new walking paths and bathrooms.
The upgrades will help the nine-member staff do their jobs — land stewardship, research and community outreach — better, he added.
The wildlife refuge encompasses 5,300 acres along the lower Columbia River, protecting grasslands, wetlands and forests that serve as valuable habitat for endangered and threatened species.
Most notably, the group’s efforts have been instrumental in helping to recover the local population of Columbian white-tailed deer. In 2013, around 35 of the endangered local deer were moved to the refuge. Two years later, the group had swelled to 125, and the deer were downgraded from “endangered” to “threatened” — a testament to the role of protected habitat in saving wildlife from extinction, Refuge Manager Christopher Lapp said at the time.
Currently, the deer aren’t listed at all on Clark County’s online database of endangered or threatened species.
But recovery hasn’t been free. In the city of Ridgefield, local leaders have been waiting for more than two years to start an overpass project that would connect the waterfront area to downtown. The project has been fully funded since February 2016, but the proximity of a Columbian white-tailed deer herd rendered the Port of Ridgefield’s 2008 environmental impact study moot.
The project was finally expected to go to bid this summer, but the port hasn’t announced any updates. Port of Ridgefield CEO Brent Grening did not return The Columbian’s request for comment.
Under the current application of the Endangered Species Act, Herrera Beutler said, unnecessary red tape can tangle progress when conservation and development oppose. A deal to manage Oregon spotted frog habitat in Klickitat County, for example, “was a long, drawn out and difficult process,” she wrote.
“It’s my hope these updates to the (Endangered Species Act) will help make agreements like this easier to reach in the future.”
Apple, Samantha Ellen, 32, Vancouver, and Kitterman, Ryan Elvis, 37, Vancouver.
Barbosa Riera, Jose Alfredo, 33, Vancouver, and Serrano Ayala, Geramille Ivette, 37, Vancouver.
Carr, Michelle Lee, 49, Amboy, and Winderman, Michael Joel, 58, Amboy.
Eldridge, Samantha Rose, 21, Kelso, and Jones, Nathan Samuel, 22, Camas.
Gaultier, Megan Christie, 29, Vancouver, and Anderson, Jordan Kristofer, 38, Vancouver.
Greenlee, Sally Kaye, 70, Camas, and Herndon, R.W., 77, Camas.
Kallmann, Troy Robert Allen, 25, Vancouver, and Soratos, Casandra Sharon, 29, Vancouver.
Lagler, Dennis Ray, 73, Brush Prairie, and Pellico, Emma Munn, 55, Brush Prairie.
Marckx, Ryan Joseph, 21, Vancouver, and Craig, Jessica Ann, 21, Vancouver.
McCullough, Joshua Michael, 39, Vancouver, and Madden, Robin Michelle, 36, Vancouver.
Monek, Christopher Joseph, 30, Vancouver, and Phommasen, Alexis, 26, Vancouver.
Murphy, Kayla Renee, 27, Vancouver, and Anderson, Brandon Lee, 28, Vancouver.
Schrater, Grace Kristine, 27, Alameda, Calif., and Verbon, Bradley Michael Thomas, 26, Alameda.
Stratton, William Glen, 57, Vancouver, and Crawford, Cassie Nanette, 56, Vancouver.Marriage dissolutions
Kingston, Davin Martin and Kasaundra Gene.
Lavin, Devin T. and Kelsey E.
Rodriguez, Audra Leanne and Andrew Paul.
PETITIONS FOR LEGAL SEPARATION
Duckett, Shay and Moon, Lilah.
Beckman, Pamela Jean and James Dwight.Court sentencings
The Columbian’s policy is to publish all Clark County Superior Court felony sentencings, as provided by the Clark County Clerk’s Office. DC signifies that the defendant has entered drug court. Addresses are provided by the courts and may have changed by the time of sentencing.
Erving, Bobby Lee Jr., 48, 1205 Ogden Ave., Vancouver, 90 days that can be served on work release, malicious harassment.
Port of Kalama 3rd on West Coast in bulk exports
LONGVIEW — The Port of Kalama exported more than 13 million tons of bulk cargo in 2018, earning the port a spot in the top three largest bulk exporters on the West Coast.
Port officials announced the title this month, citing the U.S. Census Bureau and USA Trade Online.
“Handling well over 13 million tons of bulk commodities, the Port of Kalama weighs in as one of the nation’s largest tonnage export facilities, shipping more bulk cargo than even its neighbors Portland, Longview and Seattle,” port officials wrote in an Aug. 16 news release.
Kalama ranked behind No. 1 Port of Long Beach, Calif., and No. 2 Port of Los Angeles. It also finished as the 16th largest bulk exporter in the nation, according to the release.
Bulk cargo includes any unpackaged or loosely shipped items, such as grain, oats, salt and soda ash. Ports can also export “break bulk” cargoes, like steel, logs and other construction materials.
The Port of Kalama has almost 30 businesses and industries supporting more than 1,000 employees, according to the news release. Grain exports account for a large portion of the port’s overall operations.
According to a news release, the port exported 13.4 million tons of bulk cargoes, and at least 13 million tons of that was grain.
“As an internationally renowned marine terminal on the Columbia River and home to some of the most efficient grain export facilities on the West Coast, the Port of Kalama plays a key role in the nation’s robust export trade industry,” the release says.
The Port of Kalama leases land to two international grain terminals, TEMCO and Kalama Export Co. The port’s location along the Columbia River makes it part of the world’s third largest grain export gateway. (Almost half of the world’s grain is exported from ports along the Columbia River.)
Kalama and other Columbia River ports may see a downturn in grain exports amid the ongoing U.S.-China trade war.
Milbank: U.S. must take Greenland by force
In the Trump era, no moment of tranquility can be taken for granted.
I went to the beach for what I thought would be a quiet August break. I returned to find President Trump plotting to annex Greenland.
On Sunday, Trump confirmed that he would be interested in buying the territory from Denmark and that “we’ll talk to them” about it. “Essentially, it’s a large real estate deal,” Trump explained, reasoning that Denmark might be willing to part with the huge land mass because “they carry it at a great loss.”
The great Danes reacted indignantly. “Greenland is not for sale,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen proclaimed on a defensive visit to the island Sunday, calling the idea “an absurd discussion” and saying “I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously.”
Fighting words! There is only one proper response to such intransigence: The United States must take Greenland by force.
Greenland has no regular military, so we should be able to occupy every Nuuk and cranny of the place without much struggle. It’s possible, of course, that this attack on Danish territory would prompt a response by NATO under the alliance’s mutual-defense pact, but Trump has already defanged that alliance.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, foresaw such a moment, saying in 2016 during the GOP presidential nominating battle that “we’re liable to wake up one morning and Donald, if he were president, would have nuked Denmark.”
Trump has demonstrated little familiarity with the kingdom — his White House once spelled it “Denmakr” — which is why I speculated that he might bumble into a misplaced (and misspelled) assault on that country (“You may be shoked by my military attak on the Kingdom of Denmakr …”).
But a U.S. attack on Greenland would meet the definition of a just war. It would be an act of self-defense against a violent people: Erik the Red, who founded the first European settlement in Greenland, was exiled from Iceland for his murderous ways.
Besides, Greenland attacked us first. It was 1,019 years ago, give or take — and they still celebrate it: In the town of Qassiarsuk, according to the website VisitGreenland.com, stands a bronze statue of Leif Eriksson — one of Erik the Red’s sons — on the site from which the Viking departed to invade North American shores.
Greenland hit us again, in 1912: It is well established that the iceberg that sank the Titanic originated in Greenland. Furthermore, the island resumed its incursions in recent years, flooding our shores with rising water from its melting ice sheet.
Some might wonder what Trump sees in an ice-covered island that has 0 percent arable land, lacks major roads and has more vowels than people. Its national anthem is “Nunarput utoqqarsuanngoravit,” translated as, “Our Country, Who’s Become So Old.”
The answer, as usual, is to be found in Trump’s TV-viewing habit. I suspect that, during his recent Executive Time, he watched the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace,” in which the villains conquer a country by monopolizing the fresh-water supply. Greenland’s ice, with enough water to fill the Great Lakes 115 times, is the world’s second-largest supply of fresh water.
If Trump’s move was indeed inspired by his screen time, it would be consistent with his pattern. Many of Trump’s policy pronouncements originate in Fox News segments.
But this latest example of life imitating Trump’s TV screen isn’t necessarily to be discouraged. The world’s largest island, Greenland is three times the size of Texas and almost 50 percent larger than Alaska. Such a vast territory would surely gain statehood before long, and representation in the House and Senate. And there’s little mystery about which way Greenland’s representatives in Congress would tilt: Its two biggest political parties are both varieties of socialists.
Trump likes to warn that Democrats want a “socialist takeover.” But by annexing Greenland, he’d be the one bringing genuine socialists to these shores.
Even Erik the Red couldn’t achieve that.
Kraft Heinz put on notice by S&P: cut debt or be junked
Kraft Heinz could be hit with a junk credit rating by mid-2021 if it fails to turn itself around, S&P Global Ratings said Friday.
S&P said results for the maker of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Heinz ketchup have been weaker than it expected, and the company needs to cut debt relative to a measure of earnings. The credit grader said it is worried about the risks Kraft Heinz could face in the second half of 2019, including higher commodity costs and lower stocking at retailers.
Kraft Heinz carries the lowest investment-grade rating from all three major graders. With about $30.3 billion of long-term debt outstanding, the company is among the 20 largest issuers of debt in the lowest tier of investment-grade, excluding financial companies.
Vancouver Clinic to offer prediabetes class
Vancouver Clinic will offer a class for anyone diagnosed with prediabetes, impaired fasting glucose, impaired glucose tolerance or metabolic syndrome in late September.
Class participants will lean about the diagnosis of prediabetes, create a meal plan, make a personal fitness plan, learn how to reduce fat but keep food flavorful, learn how to read nutrition labels and develop a plan for reasonable weight loss if necessary.
The class will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 21 in Conference Rooms 1 and 2 at Vancouver Clinic, 700 N.E. 87th Ave., Vancouver. The class fee is $25.
Pre-registration is required. Contact 360-882-2778 for more information.
Weston: What Millennials get wrong about Social Security
Few issues unite millennials like the future of Social Security. Overwhelmingly, they’re convinced it doesn’t have one.
A recent Transamerica survey found that 80 percent of millennials, defined in the survey as people born between 1979 and 2000, worry that Social Security won’t be around when they need it. That’s not surprising — for years, they’ve heard that Social Security is about to “run out of money.”
The language doesn’t match the reality. Social Security benefits come from two sources: taxes collected from current workers’ paychecks and a trust fund of specially issued U.S. Treasury securities. This trust fund is scheduled to be depleted in 2034, but the system will still collect hundreds of billions in payroll taxes and send out hundreds of billions in benefit checks. If Congress doesn’t intervene, the system can still pay 77 percent of projected benefits.
In any case, chances are good Congress will intervene, as it did in 1977 and 1983, to strengthen Social Security’s finances. Social Security is an enormously popular program with bipartisan support and influential lobbies, including the immensely powerful AARP, looking out for it.
Still, millennials who believe Social Security won’t be there for them could make bad choices about their retirement savings. The worst outcome would be if they didn’t save at all, convinced retirement was hopeless. But any of the following myths could cause problems.
‘I CAN SAVE ENOUGH TO RETIRE EVEN WITHOUT SOCIAL SECURITY’
Good luck with that.
Currently, the average Social Security benefit is just under $1,500 a month. You would need to save $400,000 to generate a similar amount. (That’s assuming you use the financial planners’ “4 percent rule,” which recommends taking no more than 4 percent of the portfolio in the first year of retirement and adjusting it for inflation after that.)
And that may be underestimating the value of Social Security. The Urban Institute estimates that many average-income single adults retiring between 2015 and 2020 will receive about $500,000 in benefits from the system while couples will receive roughly $1 million. Millennials, meanwhile, are projected to receive twice as much: about $1 million for an average-income single adult and $2 million for a couple.
Trying to save enough to replace 100 percent of your expected Social Security benefit might well be impossible, and could cause you to stint on other important goals such as saving for a child’s education or even having a little fun once in a while.
‘I CAN IGNORE MY SOCIAL SECURITY ACCOUNT’
Your future Social Security check will be based on your 35 highest-earning years. To get what you’re owed, however, your earnings need to be reported accurately and that doesn’t always happen. Employers may not report the correct information to Social Security, or may not report your earnings at all. You can correct those errors if you catch them in time. Fixes could be difficult decades from now, when the employer may have gone out of business and needed documents may be unavailable.
‘IF IT’S STILL AROUND, I SHOULD GRAB IT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE’
Millions of Americans make this mistake every year, locking in permanently reduced payments and potentially costing themselves up to $250,000 in lost benefits by claiming too early. But Congress is highly unlikely to cut benefits for those in retirement or close to retirement age, Meyer notes.
Instead, there likely will continue to be incentives for delaying your Social Security claim. Currently, benefits increase by about 7 percent to 8 percent for each year you wait to apply after age 62 until benefits max out at 70.
Working an additional few years also can compensate for low- or no-earning years earlier in millennials’ careers, when incomes may have been depressed by recession or gig-to-gig work.
Safe at home: Educating Vancouver residents about fire prevention
Paula Person, a Vancouver Fire Corps volunteer, was going door to door distributing fire prevention education materials when she came upon a troubling sight. The exterior of a home she was visiting was littered with cigarette butts.
She knocked on the door and spoke with the residents.
“They were pretty quiet. I think they were a little embarrassed,” Person said. “You just know this is an accident waiting to happen. We don’t always know what we prevent.”
This summer, the corps is carrying out the Vancouver Fire Department’s Project Home Safe, an education-based initiative that is part of the department’s larger campaign to eliminate fire deaths and injuries. The group meets each Saturday morning before splitting up to canvass around 200 addresses each week.
The project started June 29. As of Aug. 17, the group has contacted 1,105 residences. The goal is to canvass 1,608 homes in an area bounded by East Fourth Plain and Mill Plain boulevards and Grand Boulevard and Stapleton Road.
“It is a major commitment to do this, but it’s so important,” volunteer Barney Levie said. “At the end of a day of Project Home Safe, you know you’ve helped somebody.”
The corps first rolled out the initiative in the same area in 2017. The region was picked based on data revealing parts of the city that have been most prone to blazes.
Eventually, the goal is to canvass the entire city, Deputy Fire Marshal LeMont Lucas said.
Educational literature is presented in four languages: English, Spanish, Russian and Vietnamese. The volunteers also present a one-minute video on a tablet. Those who answer the door are also given an ash bucket filled with oven mitts and other kitchen accessories adorned with fire-safe messages.
When someone answers the door, volunteers tend to quickly relay one message: We’re not selling anything.
“We’re interrupting their lives. You’ve got to establish your credibility,” Levie said. “Most people are happy to see us. Some not as much when you wake them up; but for the most part, they’re fine.”
Once a rapport is established, volunteers attempt to convey their messages in a manner that best suits the audience. Levie once spoke to a man in his 90s, for instance, who was blind and couldn’t see the leaflets or watch the video. Instead, Levie talked to him about the information and answered the his questions.
“Sometimes, you just have to step back and listen,” Levie said.
Other times, the interactions compel people to ask questions they previously hadn’t considered. Do you have smoke detectors? How many? Where will you go if there’s a fire? Assuming it’s outside, where is the safest place to go?
“It just triggers a lot of thoughts with people,” Person said.
On Aug. 10, seven volunteers toured the target area along with three deputy fire marshals.
The deputies’ presence can help establish credibility. For instance, Marney Mathison was initially reluctant to watch the educational video when Deputy Fire Marshal Skip Navarrette approached her house.
Mathison did, however, have some questions about her smoke detector. Navarrette went inside to check it out before returning to the front porch.
“Sure you don’t have a minute?” he asked her.
While different strategies are necessary depending on the situation, volunteers recognize the value they bring to the initiative.
“It takes that volunteer to come up and say, ‘Hey, you shouldn’t do that,’ ” Person said.
FAA puts out a call for pilots to test changes in Boeing jet
DALLAS — Federal safety officials are recruiting pilots from airlines around the world to test changes that Boeing is making to the flight-control software on the grounded 737 Max jet, according to two people briefed on the situation.
The Federal Aviation Administration is asking that some of the pilots have relatively little experience on the Boeing 737, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the testing plan hasn’t been announced.
Testing will happen in flight simulators — not on actual Max jets, which remain grounded — and is designed to determine how pilots handle the software. Exact timing and details about the testing are unclear, but it will be done before the FAA recertifies the plane, according to one of the people.
Boeing declined to comment.