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Midday Scan: Friday's top stories around the region

Firing for prayer 'abuse'; ambitious politician takes a pass; excitement in Edmonds over a certain drive-in named Dick's; and salmon farming proposal.

The original Dick's Drive-In is going strong in Wallingford.

The original Dick's Drive-In is going strong in Wallingford. Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons

Detail of Lake City mural painted by Seattle Community Court defendants

Detail of Lake City mural painted by Seattle Community Court defendants Judy Lightfoot

In an iconic TV commercial a generation old, O.J. Simpson hurdles rows of airport seats as onlookers shout, "Go, O.J., go!" It was the new age of celebrity branding. Simpson declared, "Hertz, the superstar in rent-a-car." A generation later, Hertz risks adopting a new brand: "Hertz, the superstar most prayer-free by far." As the Seattlepi.com and KOMO report, Hertz has moved ahead and fired 26 employees at Sea-Tac Airport for not clocking out during prayer breaks. "The employees say Hertz is trampling on their right to religious freedom, but the company says it's merely trying to promote fairness in the workplace," Denise Whitaker writes.  

It's a complicated personnel issue that throws light on questions of religious tolerance and, by extension, immigration (most of the fired employees are Somali Muslims). Whitaker notes that, "Hertz says some employees were abusing their privilege to pray. In an e-mail, spokesman Richard Broome said the abuse 'had become a significant problem creating issues of fairness among employees.' " On the surface at least, the problem appears tractable: Just work it out. The mass firing will likely generate inter-religious solidarity and besmirch Hertz's reputation. Maybe the company that once hired O.J. doesn't always exhibit, well, farsighted judgment?  

One of the most intriquing political stories of the season revolves around Oregon Attorney General John Kroger's abrupt decision not to seek re-election. As the Willamette Week reports, "It’s been a long time since Oregon has seen a politician as ambitious as John Kroger." Kroger, 45, is a former federal prosecutor who had served as a political aide to Bill Clinton and New York Sen. Charles Schumer. He only moved to the Northwest in 2002 but shattered the usual parochial conventions by getting elected Oregon's Attorney General in 2008. The Willamette Week prints part of Kroger's statement: "I was recently diagnosed and am under the care of a physician at OHSU for a significant but not life-threatening medical condition. It will not interfere with my legal work or prevent me from completing my term, but I will need to reduce my hours, travel less, and be careful about my health."   

That, of course, should be the end of it. Nevertheless, Kroger is a public official and the obliqueness of a "significant medical condition" only provokes more questions. Did political factors also inform his decision? "On Monday, Kroger acknowledged a major screw-up. In 2009, the [Oregon state] justice department and local prosecutors agreed to dismiss the case against Philip Scott Cannon, who had earlier been convicted of three 1998 murders in Polk County," the Willamette Week notes. "Cannon won a new trial, but prosecutors claimed they couldn’t find key evidence, which led to the dismissal. Recently, four boxes of records prosecutors had thought were destroyed turned up in storage at the justice department."  

A great company, as all good children and UW students pulling all-nighters know, is Dick's Drive-In. Kurt Batdorf writes in The Herald of Everett that the grand opening of Snohomish County's first Dick's Drive-In drew 1,000 chanting carnivores. Batdorf provides some history, "The first Dick's opened in Seattle's Wallingford District on NE 45th Street in 1954. Other outlets followed in 1955, 1960 and 1963 in north Seattle neighborhoods. It opened its fifth restaurant near the Seattle Center in 1974. The three partner families decided then that they wouldn't open another restaurant until they paid off their debt." When the remaining ownership finally decided to move ahead, they held an online poll last year to select Edmonds as the newest location, bigfooting alternative sites in east and south Seattle. Could there be a possibility here for Occupy Seattle? Might Dick's Drive-In + Westlake Mall = one gargantuan uprising?

There must be a fish version of Mark Twain's quip that, "Whiskey is made for drinking and water is made for fighting." As the Seattle Times' Craig Welch writes, the latest manifestation of a fish fight involves an Oregon company's proposal to grow 10 million pounds a year of steelhead and Atlantic salmon in cages in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. "The proposal comes as long-simmering battles over the future of marine aquaculture heat up across the continent — and as the discovery of a potentially lethal fish virus rattles salmon farmers and wild-fish advocates alike," Welch reports.


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