Bigger Bertha repair
The repairs to Bertha, the Highway 99 Tunnel boring machine, will likely be more extensive than originally planned, Washington State Department of Transportation said today. Seattle Tunnel Partners, the contractor digging the underground roadway has told WSDOT "verbally" that they are going to replace the machine's main bearing, according to Todd Trepanier, a program administrator for the department. Until now, the contractor has only confirmed that it would replace a set of damaged seals that protect the bearing. We'll have more details in a story shortly. — B.L.
Paying attention to Darrington
U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell celebrated Thursday over the unanimous passage by their Senate colleagues of a long-sought measure to preserve a "cherished," historic Forest Service fire lookout tower near Darrington. The House is likely to pass the long-stalled measure on Monday, according to seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly, at least in part because of help from soon-to-retire U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings. That's certainly a timely assist for the mudslide-slammed Darrington area. It's been a long fight: This February 2012 Crosscut article, distributed by High Country News, outlined the issues raised by a lone environmental group to force removal of the tower as a violation of Wilderness Area principles. — J.C.
Measles in the air
This should have a lot of people checking their medical histories. In late March, a Whatcom County woman contracted measles (her case is linked to an outbreak in the B.C. area). The state Health Department says the virus remained dormant as she unknowingly tripped around popular tourist destinations in King and Pierce counties, including Key Arena, the Best Western Loyal Inn, Starbucks in Pike Place Market, the market itself and Beth’s Café. In Pierce County, she dropped by the LeMay Car Museum and Harmon Brewing Company. Measles is highly contagious. Anyone wandering through an area where a carrier has been — even hours after they've left — may contract the virus, said public health officials. The Health advisory has information on who should seek medical advice about possible exposure (and when people should be vaccinated). Go here for a full list of locations where risk of exposure was high. — H.W.
Free corporate speech
City Councilmember Mike O'Brien and several community groups on Thursday blasted the U.S. Supreme Court's latest ruling overturning limits on campaign donations. The McCutcheon decision, issued Wednesday, will remove the overall cap on campaign donations. Meaning that any person in any two-year election cycle can give any amount of money to any and all campaigns, parties and political action committees. In a press release, O’Brien called the decision another "disastrous step” towards the purchase of elections and warned against a “pay-to-play system” of democracy. — K.H.
Hunger strike isolation challenged
Local legal groups have gone to court to try to protect detainees engaged in a hunger strike from being kept in isolation at a Tacoma detention center. The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and Seattle-based Columbia Legal Services expect a court hearing on their request for a temporary restraining order against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The legal groups say the detention is clearly being used as punishment for an exercise of First Amendment rights. — J.C.
Coffee in your muffin?
Another green creation derived from waste will soon arrive in our muffins. Bellevue’s Intellectual Ventures patent firm backed the startup Coffee Flour, the brainchild of Starbucks veteran Dan Belliveau, according to GeekWire. Another Starbucks veteran, Ken Poppe, led Intellectual Ventures work on the idea. Normally, the material separated from the coffee cherry and the bean is discarded; but by milling the pulp down to granules, a protein-rich, gluten-free flour is created. Coffee Flour is a good substitute for wheat and other flours in a variety of baked goods and other recipes. The invention could generate revenue for small coffee farmers. — H.W.
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