Inslee: Careful with the budget ax at JBLM
Gov. Jay Inslee has sent a letter to the U.S. Army to oppose the size of potential cuts in soldiers and civilians at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The U.S. Army Environmental Command is conducting an environmental assessment to determine the impacts of possible reductions at Army installations around the country, including JBLM. Inslee questioned the Army's economic analysis, which predicts a loss of $17.4 million in tax revenue through 2020. Inslee’s budget office prepared a detailed analysis that showed impacts could be four times as great.
The Army's evaluation assumes JBLM will see a reduction of 14,459 permanent soldiers and 1,541 Army civilian employees. At least 36,000 people are stationed at the base. “This isn’t a question about whether the Department of the Army and Department of Defense will make reductions, but about where and how much,” Inslee said Monday in a press release. “JBLM is one of the largest military installations in the nation, so it’s likely we will see some reductions. But I want to make sure the (Army) has the right information and a full understanding of the mutual benefits of maintaining a strong JBLM presence and the significant impacts of removing 16,000 personnel off the base.” — J.S.
Health enrollment: Special time period opening up
State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler today said his office will open a special health-exchange enrollment period for people having difficulties with their enrollments through Washington's Health Plan Finder. The enrollment period, which will run from Wednesday to Nov. 14, will allow people to switch to different insurance plans either within or outside the exchange, which is part of the national Affordable Care Act expansion of health coverage.
In a press release, Kreidler said the exchange has worked for more than 90 percent of the people who have enrolled, but the special period could help the thousands who have had difficulties with billings, payments or enrollments in some insurance plans. Kreidler said he still supports the state Health Exchange and praised its progress on technical issues. The announcement comes just three days after Oregon officials filed a huge lawsuit against Oracle for the failure of their state's online health exchange website to ever open. — J.C.
Amazon acquires big game streaming firm
Amazon has acquired the major game-streaming company Twitch, which Google had earlier tried to take over, the Puget Sound Business Journal reports. GeekWire says the $970 million price tag makes this the largest acquisition in Amazon's history (although its 2009 purchase of online shoe-retailer Zappos wasn't far behind at $928 million). How to think about Twitch? GeekWire calls the company the "ESPN of the video game industry, where viewers go to watch live footage of video games being played." Before you scoff: Twitch has 55 million users a month. — J.C.
Kennewick Man: Book tour time?
A book on the Burke Museum's most famous resident — the 9,000-year-old Kennewick Man — will be out in September, the Smithsonian Institute announced today. In 1996, Kennewick Man's skull was discoverd by two college students along the Columbia River shoreline. Within a month, the skeleton's age was determined, prompting a court fight between scientists and area tribes over whether the skeleton should be studied or buried. In 2005 and 2006, scientists studied Kennewick Man at the Burke Museum, where his remains are stored in the basement.
Now, eight years later, those studies and their findings will be officially published in "Kennewick Man: The Scientific Investigation of an Ancient American Skeleton." Co-editor and Smithsonian Institute forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley gave a verbal sneak preview to the book in 2012, including the finding that Eastern Washington oldest resident was likely a resident of the coast rather than the inland area. Kennewick Man was also a tough, middle-aged dude with a major league-caliber throwing arm, banged-up ribs and a stone projectile point in his hip. — J.S.
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