Friday 12 Feb, 2016

Getting a handle on beluga behavior

School superintendent wins leadership award

at 3:59pm by Joe Copeland

Tacoma Public Schools Superintendent Carla Santorno has received a national award for leadership from the American Association of School Administrators. The group gave her its Women in Leadership award, citing her successes in creating connections to community resources for students and schools.

Santorno served as Seattle Public Schools’ chief academic officer for three years before taking a position as a deputy superintendent for Tacoma in 2009. She has been superintendent since 2012.

 

Earthquake warnings? There’s an app for that

at 2:19pm by Chetanya Robinson

Scientists at UC Berkeley today unveiled an app that would harness user’s smartphones to pick up the vibrations of an earthquake and quickly transmit a warning to people farther away. The app is called MyShake, and you can download it for free from the Android app store here.

The app uses a sensor in smartphones — the same one that tells the phone which way it’s oriented — to pick up shaking unique to earthquakes. Only a magnitude 5 or greater earthquake will trigger the app; it’s designed to ignore the shaking of everyday life. If enough phones within a 60-mile area are triggered, it’s probably a reliable indication of a real earthquake. A computer system can take this data and send warnings to cell phones further afield about the epicenter of the incoming quake.

How much warning time would the app give? Early warning for an earthquakes can be as a short as a few seconds and as long as a 20 or so seconds — but even this could be enough to avoid significant harm. It could give trains crucial time to slow down, tell doctors in the middle of delicate surgery to stop, and quickly open elevator doors so people don’t get trapped.

Early warning systems for earthquakes are nothing new. The US Geological Survey (USGS) developed an early warning system called ShakeAlert in collaboration with West Coast universities (including the UW). The MyShake app isn’t meant to replace the sophisticated seismic stations buried in the ground that already do similar work to detect and warn about earthquakes. But scientists hope the cell phone data could be used to supplement data from the seismic stations, which can be more accurate, but slower than a network of smartphones. An app could also be very useful in a place like Nepal, which has millions of cellphone users but no seismic stations.

If the Android version of the app is successful, an iPhone version might follow. See more information about the app from UC Berkeley’s website here.

Elusive beluga whales: baseline data is a start

at 1:02pm by Chetanya Robinson

Beluga whales mostly live in remote areas of the Arctic, making it difficult to collect data on their behavior. In a recent paper published in Marine Ecology Progress Series, UW researchers attempted to do exactly this. The study used a dataset spanning 15 years that followed two different populations of belugas to learn more about the baseline behavior of the whales.

Between 1997 and 2012, the scientists tagged whales with the help of Native communities in Alaska and Canada. Whenever a whale surfaced to breathe, the tags transmitted data about the whales’ locations and the depths they dove. Researchers found that belugas will dive as deep as 1,000 feet below the surface to find Arctic cod, an important food source.

Belugas themselves are a food source for human communities in the north, and according to one UW researcher, this research can help with management of belugas as a food resource.

Next, researchers plan to study how climate change may be affecting belugas’ migration behavior. If sea ice in the Arctic freezes later than usual, researchers want to know how this affect belugas’ migration to and from the Bering Sea.

Thursday 11 Feb, 2016

A Republican stumble on transgender access bill?

Oregon occupation ends

at 3:17pm by Mohammed Kloub

The occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is over, ending with the surrender of the final four occupiers this morning on its 41st day, OregonLive reports.

The FBI surrounded the refuge Wednesday night to convince the last four occupiers — Jeff Banta, Sean Anderson, Sandy Anderson and David Fry — to surrender peacefully. The four surrendered only this morning after phone calls with police and supporters. Also Wednesday night, Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher heavily connected to the occupation group, was arrested at Portland International Airport.

The FBI held a news conference at 2 p.m. today, in part saying that the refuge will remain closed for a number of weeks so they can begin collecting evidence, searching for bombs and evaluating the damages.

Male biology students underestimate female classmates

at 2:10pm by Joe Copeland

A new University of Washington-led study finds that male students in biology so consistently overrate the performance of fellow male students compared to equally performing female students that it amounts to what researchers believe is clear, consistent gender bias. Asked about the performance of other students, the male students taking part in a survey overestimated other males’ grade point averages by nearly a full point; female students in the 1,700 person survey showed no real gender bias in their assessments.

Sarah Eddy, a University of Texas researcher who helped lead the study while a UW postdoctoral biology researcher, said in a UW press release that the results are troubling in light of the considerably higher rate at which women students drop out of science, technology, engineering and math degree programs. She said, “To stay in STEM you have to believe you can do it, and one of the things that can convince you of that is your peers saying you can do it. Helping students find peers who believe in them is really important, especially for women, because they’re not likely to get that from males in their class.”

The lead author was Dan Grunspan, a doctoral candidate in the UW Department of Anthropology. The study’s authors are doing research that they hope will help instructors create more inclusive practices. More details are here.

Feds to charge operator of 'clean and sober' facilities

at 1:30pm by Joe Copeland

Federal prosecutors are filing formal charges this afternoon against the operator of several “clean and sober” facilities who allegedly was selling drugs. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Western Washington said 50-year-old Everett resident Timothy Rehberg was arrested on Wednesday by agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Seattle Police Department investigators. Authorities said they found heroin, meth, oxycodone, methadone and a handgun when they searched the primary IC Clean People Recovery Housing, Incorporated facility in Everett.

Rehberg is “prohibited from possessing firearms due to prior felony convictions as well as an active protection order from a domestic partner,” according to the prosecutors’ statement. Unverified information from IC Clean People Recovery Housing on a charitable giving site indicates that the organization may have been working with the City of Everett and the state Department of Social and Human Services on some of its services and was at least providing information to the state Department of Corrections on a program to help early release information.

The charitable giving site’s material from IC Clean People, which appears to have updated last year with 2014 tax information, included a brief statement under the section for the profile of the chief executive: “Mr. Rehberg founded our nonprofit. He has extensive contacts with many public and private agencies. He has personally  run all our homes for the last 6.5 years so he knows the clean and sober business. He is a hands on manager who is a great man to work for.”

Republicans fail on transgender access bill

at 7:30am by tom james

In a tense Wednesday afternoon vote, Republican senators brought one of their own bills on transgender bathroom access to the floor Wednesday, only to see it voted it down.

The bill was a proposal from Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, to roll back protections on transgender bathroom access rights. But Democrats had promised to kill any such proposal that made its way to the state House – making it a surprise that Republicans bothered to bring the bill to the floor, and causing some to speculate the move amounted to political theater.

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynwood, came over to talk to reporters after the vote. “They usually don’t bring bills to the floor that don’t have the votes to pass,” Liias said.

“I think it’s really unfair to use a community that’s been a victim of violence as a political football.”

Liias said he thought the move seemed likely to have been designed to give some Republican members a chance to look moderate by voting against the bill.

At least two members of the Republican-led Majority Coalition Caucus sent out press releases lamenting the bill’s failure; Republican Sen. Steve Litzow sent one proclaiming his vote against the bill. Republicans Joe Fain and Andy Hill also were also among those voting against it.

Republican Sen. Mike Hewitt said in a statement, “We could have come up with a better solution than the [Human Rights Commission’s access] rule and still protected the rights of transgender people. The details of that rule make it illegal even to ask if someone is transgender. How are we supposed to prevent abuse of that?” He went on to say that the Senate’s 25-24 rejection of the bill “stomped on your right to privacy.”

With the fall of the Senate axe, Ericksen’s bill was removed from consideration this session, leaving only one other so-called similar bill in play.

Wednesday 10 Feb, 2016

Boeing looks to cut costs (and jobs sure to follow)

Kenmore residents: Seminary, not spa

at 4:43pm by Mohammed Kloub

A Kenmore developer wants to turn the one-time seminary building at St. Edward State Park into a hotel and spa, but residents aren’t having it.

Washington state’s Parks Department has been trying to rehabilitate the building because it is falling apart. KIRO7 reports that the former seminary building was built by the Archdiocese of Seattle and opened in 1931. The dorms housed thousands until the seminary closed in 1977 due to declining enrollment, and the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. Efforts to repurpose the building for a restaurant, museum, and library all fell through in the past, and little restoration has been done since. Concerned Kenmore residents met at city hall last night, where they appealed to the state parks commission about the planned development. Neighbors hope to stop the hotel and spa effort, but talks are ongoing.

More places to vote

at 3:47pm by Joe Copeland

A King County Council committee supports a sharp increase in the number of places voters can drop off their ballots. The plan, suggested by Elections Director Julie Wise, would quadruple the number of permanent drop boxes to 40, from the current 10. The committee’s vote today also favors her plan to increase outreach to voters who have primary languages other than English.

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman praises the plan, saying, drop boxes are secure and convenient — and popular with voters.

For the first time, elections materials in the county are being translated to Spanish and Korean, in addition to Chinese and Vietnamese, Wise says.

Jobs going at Boeing

at 3:31pm by Mohammed Kloub

Boeing Commercial Airplanes is set to cut costs — and jobs as a result, the Seattle Times reports.

Boeing’s chief executive Ray Conner announced the cost-cutting efforts at a senior leadership meeting Wednesday morning, which was also webcast to all employees. European rival Airbus’ competitive prices have put pressure on Boeing to both sell more and cut costs simultaneously. Airbus’ A320 won a 60 percent share in the market for narrow-body planes last year, beating out Boeing’s seemingly untouchable 737. The impact on employment apparently will depend on how well the company does at reducing costs, but Boeing has already approached the International Association of Machinists about a discussion of voluntary layoffs.

 

Tuesday 9 Feb, 2016

Final hours for voting on school measures

Seattle drug company had a good business year

at 4:04pm by Chetanya Robinson

Seattle Genetics, a cancer drug company, had a successful fourth quarter and business year, primarily due to its growing sales of its drug Adcetris, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. This drug — developed by Seattle Genetics in 2011 — earned the company $226 million in 2015, a 27 percent increase from the $178 million earned the previous year.

However, the company also saw a loss of $120 million for the year.

Seattle Genetics develops antibody-based cancer drugs. These drugs have a wide reach: Adcetris, which is used to treat two types of lymphoma, is approved in 55 countries around the world. Seattle Genetics announced last week that Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. will pay Seattle Genetics $20 million in royalty fees for the sale of Adcetris after reaching a sales milestone. Takeda handles Adcetris sales outside the U.S. and Canada.

Vulcan appoints chief philanthropy officer

at 3:28pm by Mohammed Kloub

Vulcan Inc., Paul Allen’s Seattle-based investment company, is appointing Anthony Banbury, a high-ranking U.N. official, to the newly created role of chief philanthropy officer. The new position was created to increase and expand Allen’s already wide-ranging philanthropic endeavors, including those focused on wildlife conservation, climate change and education.

Banbury, who is expected to start in his new position at the end of March, will leave his current post as U.N. assistant secretary-general for field support. He has held numerous positions in the United Nations as well as the U.S. government, including in the White House and Pentagon.

In a statement, Banbury expressed excitement regarding his new position working with Paul Allen, saying of the Microsoft co-founder, “His approach to philanthropy is defined by a limitless vision of what is possible when we view the future with optimism, determination and a collaborative spirit.”

Crosscut receives support for its arts coverage from The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

Oregon's economic growth superior

at 2:28pm by Joe Copeland

Oregon’s economy is rocking, beating out every other state in terms of overall economic growth during the past year, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The analysis, Bloomberg says, looked at employment, home prices, personal income, tax revenues, mortgage delinquency and the publicly traded equity of its companies (Nike led the Dow in performance last year).  An Oregonian writer had a wry take, suggesting that people were already finding plenty of reasons to move there without the state being called out as No. 1 economically. Two moving companies recently rated Oregon as the top destination for in-migration (measured against existing population).

Before too much jealousy emanates southward from the Puget Sound region: Washington came out fourth in the economic growth analysis.

Vote on schools: Now!

at 12:56pm by Joe Copeland

Today is the final chance to vote on the Seattle Public Schools two levy measures and levies or bond issues in seven other school districts in King County. Ballots must be postmarked today or dropped off by 8 p.m. Tuesday at ballot drop-off boxes or pickup vans; the county’s three accessible voting centers are also open until 8 a.m.

The Seattle measures are an operating levy and a levy for building, technology and academics-related capital projects. The other votes are in the Auburn, Federal Way, Fife, Mercer Island, Renton, Tukwila and Vashon school districts. Details about each measure can be found through a King County Elections website page.

Monday 8 Feb, 2016

Possible terror tie in case involving Montesano man

Beast Mode to Rest Mode

at 3:29pm by Mohammed Kloub

Marshawn Lynch is retiring, but you won’t hear it from him in as many words. During the fourth quarter of Superbowl 50 on Sunday, the man known as Beast Mode announced his retirement from the Seattle Seahawks, and professional football altogether, with a simple tweet of a peace out emoji and a picture of his cleats hung up. 

The now-former Seahawks running back, who will turn 30 this year, played here for the past six years of his nine-year NFL career. Crosscut’s Knute Berger has penned an ode to Beast Mode to help us all process the end of an era. Long live 24.

New initiative aims to make signature-gathering companies more accountable

at 2:43pm by Chetanya Robinson

Andrew Villeneuve, founder and executive director of the Redmond-based Northwest Progressive Institute, filed paperwork today for an initiative that would change how other initiatives in Washington work. He says his measure would force companies that gather signatures for initiatives to be more accountable.

Villeneuve says his initiative — the Petitioning Industry Accountability Act — is still in its early stages and might be revised, but its goal is to require initiative-gathering companies to pay their share of taxes and comply with worker protection laws. The initiative-gathering industry, Villeneuve believes, needs to be more accountability, especially because it’s often funded by the wealthy.

Villeneuve is one of for-profit initiative entrepreneur Tim Eyman’s most consistent critics.

Montesano man charged in case with possible terror tie

at 2:42pm by Joe Copeland

A 33-year-old former Army service member, Daniel Seth Franey, is appearing today in U.S. District Court on weapons charges following an investigation by an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force based in Seattle. In a press statement, the U.S. Attorney for Western Washington’s office said multiple Washington state residents reported hearing Franey, who also goes by the name, Abu Dawuud, espouse violence against non-Muslims, “particularly members of the U.S. military and law enforcement.” In the statement, Frank Montoya, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Seattle Division, said,  “From our conversations with Muslim community leaders, we know they reject this type of violent ideology and actively contribute to the security of our community, Washington State, and our country.” Associated Press reports that Franey deserted the Army and made conflicting statements about possibly attacking Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers and not wanting to kill anyone.

Friday 5 Feb, 2016

A plan for homeless funding.

State Senate fires Transportation Secretary

at 3:41pm by Mohammed Kloub

In a 25-21 vote divided along partisan lines, the state Senate fired Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson on Friday by refusing to confirm her, three years after her initial appointment.

An appointee can serve indefinitely without formal confirmation, but can no longer serve if rejected.

Peterson’s mostly Republican opposition — nominal Democrat Tim Sheldon joined them — cited ongoing problems with I-405 toll lanes and the Highway 99 tunnel project in their refusal to confirm the secretary. In the wake of the vote, accusations have surfaced claiming majority Republicans in the Senate are attempting to weaken Gov. Inslee, who appointed Peterson, during an election year.

Inslee’s office released a statement on the Senate vote, saying “Today’s vote by Senate Republicans is a blatant misuse of the confirmation process for political purposes. Republican’s actions today do nothing to engender confidence about their ability to focus on the important priorities facing legislators this session. … This about face by Republicans is shameful.”

In a statement, Sheldon said, “Every session has a nameplate issue, and this year it is leadership and accountability.”

Crosscut’s full story is here.

Democrats formalize homelessness funding proposal, Republican support absent

at 3:36pm by tom james

Flanked by advocates and fellow Democratic senators, Sharon Nelson, leader of the senate Democrats in Olympia formally announced Thursday a proposal to channel $286 million – more than a third of the state’s rainy day fund – into programs fighting homelessness. Nelson had told Crosscut about the upcoming proposal last week, although some of the details were still being finalized.

Included in the bill would be just under $18.5 million for programs for homeless people dealing with mental illness and substance abuse, $60 million for upgrading emergency shelter and support services, $4.6 million for homeless youth services, and $3 million for housing grants. Nelson proposed tapping the state’s so-called “rainy day fund” — currently the fund holds a little under $700 million — and requires a supermajority vote to access.

The presentation of the bill marked the latest development in a back-and-forth between the parties in Olympia over the issue. Nelson had flagged homelessness as a priority issue, potentially deserving emergency funds, before the session even started — and Senate Republican leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, responded at the same event that he was skeptical of the idea in general.  Despite carrying the signature of 22 of the 24 Democrats in the Senate, not a single Republican has signed onto it, and Republicans including Schoesler have continued to say the measure won’t get past their caucus in the Senate.

With other fights building over education in Olympia and Republicans maintaining a dominant negotiating position along with their control of the Senate, chances of the bill making it much beyond committee (the earliest stage of a bill’s consideration in Olympia) seem slim.

Tableau sees drop in shares

at 3:10pm by Chetanya Robinson

Shares of Tableau Software, Inc., a Seattle data visualization company, fell almost 50 percent after the company reported the financial results of its 2015 fourth quarter. While the company reported $203 million in revenue for the quarter — up 42 percent from last quarter — it also experienced a $41 million loss. Tableau CEO Christian Chabot suggested in a statement that a slight decrease in spending from customers, possibly due to cheaper alternatives from competitors, may have contributed to the loss. 

Tableau provides data visualization and business analytics software across multiple platforms. According to their website, a majority of Fortune 500 companies including Cisco, Wells Fargo and Capital One use Tableau. The company also has free data visualization software anyone can use to create interactive charts, maps and graphs. In December last year, Chabot told Geekwire the company plans to hire 1,000 more employees in 2016, 600 of them in Seattle. The company also plans to open a new headquarters next to Gas Works Park, overlooking Lake Union.

Thursday 4 Feb, 2016

Downtown: Future is even brighter?

2 teens in Jungle case to be tried as adults

at 3:47pm by Mohammed Kloub

Two of the three teenage brothers accused in the deadly shooting in The Jungle homeless encampment last week now face charges as adults, including two counts of first-degree felony murder, the Seattle Times reports.

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg announced at a news conference today that the two boys, 17-year-old James Taafulisia and 16-year-old Jerome Taafulisia, will be prosecuted in Superior Court “due to the seriousness of the crimes,” which also include three counts of first-degree assault and additional firearms charges. The third brother, only 13, will be prosecuted for the same charges but in juvenile court.

The brothers are accused of opening fire at the SoDo encampment on Jan. 26 where they had gone, according to a police affidavit of probable cause, to settle a $500 drug debt owed to their mother. The ongoing investigation, according to Satterberg, will seek to determine whether the boys’ mother could be criminally liable in the shootings.

The three brothers all have criminal records as juveniles, and all three have been wards of the state who have repeatedly run away from state Department of Social and Health Services custody.

A Seattle book with a message

at 3:41pm by Joe Copeland

Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com, who has a well-deserved reputation for being a bit hard to please, has nothing but praise for While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man’s Descent into Madness, a new book that grew out of a horrendous Seattle crime committed in 2009. Author and Stranger writer Eli Sanders won a Pulitzer Prize for his article in the paper about the case, in which a young man broke into a South Seattle home, killing Teresa Butz and assaulting her fiancee, Jennifer Hopper.

Connelly writes: “Books are customarily a form of relaxation and enjoyment, hence the compliment ‘good read.’  But the exception and exceptional book sets out to rouse the reader from complacency.” The young man, who was sentenced to life in prison, had been on a long descent into crime and the depths of mental illness. Connelly’s takeaway from the book: “Catch those in need, not knowing which of them, without help, will become much more destructive in the future and much more expensive to the rest of society.” It’s a timely topic. Plus, if Connelly likes it that much, the book must be excellent.

Downtown Seattle Association presents an optimistic view of the future

at 11:18am by David Kroman

The Downtown Seattle Association hosted its annual State of Downtown breakfast Thursday morning. The political stars were out in droves: Mayor Ed Murray; Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez, Tim Burgess and Sally Bagshaw; and candidate for U.S. Congress Brady Walkinshaw.

The breakfast was a lot of self-congratulation for what has certainly been a healthy period of growth in downtown, buoyed by an exploding Amazon, construction of residential high-rises and the expansion of Pike Place Market. The black cloud over the event — packed to the gills with hundreds of well-dressed attendees — was traffic. It’s no secret getting in, around or out of downtown is a pain. And as the district densifies, it’s only going to get worse.

Enter Tony Seba, author of From Parking to Parks: Cities and Self-Driving Car Disruption. His vision of an efficient and autonomous grid devoid of individual car-ownership, presented in a TED Talk style address, was the Great Hope for eliminating the need for parking and easing the pressure on busy commerce corridors. His pitch was convincing, although the utopian image felt perhaps a bit optimistic.

A gaggle of Google self-driving cars in an Austin parking lot. Alan/Flickr
A gaggle of Google self-driving cars in an Austin parking lot. Alan/Flickr

Wednesday 3 Feb, 2016

Shooting on Metro bus in SoDo area

Washington state, where the yearn for Bernie is widespread

at 3:37pm by Mohammed Kloub

The presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders has received more donations from Washington state residents than every other candidate combined, Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times notes.

Through the end of December, the self-proclaimed democratic socialist had about 57,000 individual donations from the Evergreen state. (The figure does not refer to the number of individual donors as some people have given multiple times). Sanders has passed the now-former record holder for local campaign donations, the Referendum 74 gay-marriage measure, which garnered 27,000 donations in 2012, and Westneat says it’s possible he will outdo Barack Obama’s record of 147,000 during the two-year period leading up to the 2012 campaign. While Westneat notes that some say the top predictor of success in presidential primaries is elite endorsements, not individual fundraising enthusiasm, Sanders is at least beginning an impressive movement in the state.

Lawmaker would like to let you finish those final classes, for free

at 3:10pm by Mohammed Kloub

State Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, is proposing the Free to Finish College plan, which would allow some former students who interrupted their educations to enroll in college once more and finish their degrees tuition free.

According to the press release from Washington House Democrats, the plan “would cover students who are not currently enrolled and haven’t been enrolled for the last three years, don’t already have a college degree or certificate, and are 15 credits or less – about one quarter’s worth of credits – from their degree or certificate.” The bill is scheduled for consideration by the House Committee on Higher Education on Friday.

 

Challenger for representative who called Islam 'barbarian'

at 3:03pm by Joe Copeland

Jason Ritchie, the owner of a nationwide construction firm specializing in accessibility projects, will run for a state representative’s position in East King County against a Republican whose vitriolic online remarks about Islam and Muslims drew nationwide attention. In announcing his candidacy, Ritchie, an Issaquah resident, stressed the need for finding a solution to how to provide better funding for education in the state. “I believe our community wants someone who will fight for our shared interests and values, not drive us apart with incendiary remarks and extremist views,” said Ritchie, a Democrat.

After the Nov. 13 terrorist massacres in Paris, incumbent Rep. Jay Rodne, R-Snoqualmie, wrote on Facebook, calling Islam “barbarian medievalism” and saying, “Islam is incompatible with western civilization!” He later deleted his postings, which he said were taken out of context. He told the Snoqualmie Valley Record in an email that he understands that most Muslims are peaceful and that he made his remarks in relation to terror groups, such as ISIS. 

Shooting on Metro bus

at 11:06am by Joe Copeland

A shooting on a Metro bus at 10 a.m. in the SoDo area seriously injured a 22-year-old man, who was taken to Harborview Medical Center in serious condition. Officers from the Seattle Police Department and King County Sheriff’s Office captured one suspect fleeing the scene and were seeking a second man, according to SPD.

The shooting occurred at Fourth Avenue S. and S. Holgate Street.

Seattle Fire Department shot this photo from the scene of the shooting.
Seattle Fire Department took this photo from the scene of the shooting.

Tuesday 2 Feb, 2016

Rental sticker shock to widen?

Sagebrush rebellion: in-depth

at 3:30pm by Joe Copeland

Before the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation, High Country News had been investigating the forces shaping a loosely defined extremist movement in Western states. Now, High Country News, whose stories Crosscut occasionally publishes, has put out an e-book, Sagebrush Rebellion: Evolution of a Movement, as well as a new app that allows free access to the report. Daryl Johnson, a domestic terrorism expert and former Department of Homeland Security employee, told an HCN writer, “Whether it’s the Bundy Ranch stand-off, Operation Gold Rush, or the Malheur occupations, today’s Sagebrush Insurgencies are ‘radicalization nodes.’ ” Washington state Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, went to Cliven Bundy’s 2014 standoff with authorities and in January went to the Malheur refuge as part of what a spokesperson told the Spokesman-Review was a fact-finding visit. Washington state Rep. Graham Hunt, R-Orting, also reportedly visited the refuge.

Bill would help protect buyers of manufactured homes

at 2:54pm by Chetanya Robinson

At the request of the Washington State Department of Commerce, state Rep. Cindy Ryu, D-Shoreline, is sponsoring a bill aimed at improving consumer protections for buyers of manufactured homes. A Seattle Times investigation into manufactured housing company Clayton Homes, owned by investor Warren Buffett, suggested that the firm’s predatory sales practices left many low-income people trapped in loans they can’t pay back. Manufactured homes are usually sold under different contracts than regular homes, and buyers aren’t protected by the deeds of trust act. Without this state protection, buyers may be vulnerable to exploitative business practices.

The new bill would let the Department of Commerce come up with recommendations for improving protections for buyers of manufactured homes, including longer times to deal with defaults and mediation before foreclosures.

 

More Obamacare takers here

at 2:34pm by Mohammed Kloub

As of the close of open enrollment on Jan. 31, more than 200,000 Washington state residents enrolled in health plans for 2016 using Washington Healthplanfinder, nearly 25 percent more than last year. That’s approximately 39,000 more customers signed up for coverage this year than in 2015.

Those who believe they were blocked by state computer problems last weekend must contact the Washington Healthplanfinder by 8 p.m. Sunday to check into a possible enrollment extension (details here). There will be additional opportunities to register for a 2016 health plan for those who meet specific requirements, including experiencing a qualifying life event like having a baby or losing current health coverage.  The next general enrollment period, however, is currently set for Nov. 1 to Jan. 31, 2017.

Rental hikes ahead in South King County?

at 2:21pm by Joe Copeland

One San Francisco-based investment firm, Fowler Property Acquisitions, is paying $97 million to buy two apartment complexes in south King County, which has so far remained relatively affordable for renters. The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that the properties are The Heights in Burien and, 15 miles to the south in Federal Way, The Landing at Dash Point. The Journal’s Marc Stiles notes that investors are turning to suburban markets where people are looking to move as rental costs soar in Seattle. So rental sticker shock may follow people out of the city. Or from the investors’ perspective, as Stiles puts it, “These kinds of assets can be gussied up, leading to higher rents, which in turn increases the value of the property for the new owner.”

Monday 1 Feb, 2016

WSU creates tie with big Chinese firm

UW and King County propose agreement to expand Harborview

at 2:52pm by Mohammed Kloub

UW President Ana Mari Cauce, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and members of the Metropolitan King County Council say they have a 10-year agreement that will ensure Harborview Medical Center expands its system of care to make it more accessible in community-based clinics across King County.

The long-term agreement is set to increase both Harborview’s focus on prevention and its reach to more clinics. The agreement also lays out directions concerning how Harborview will achieve its mission as a public hospital by serving those with the most need, including those without health insurance or the ability to pay for health care. The proposed agreement has the potential for an additional 20-year extension beyond the initial 10 years.

After Harborview’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the agreement last week, it is now set to go before the County Council and the UW’s Board of Regents for final approval.

WSU and a Chinese corporation team up to support chemicals research

at 2:25pm by Chetanya Robinson

Washington State University says it has created a new fellowship, funded by a Chinese corporation, to support graduate students.

The Shandong Chambroad Holding Company Ltd. will provide up to $5 million in funding for as many as 20 students in fields like chemical engineering, chemistry and materials science. The fellowship will focus specifically on the chemical process called catalysis. Catalysis is used in producing almost all commercial products, including pesticides, fertilizers and all manner of chemicals.

Why does this area of study need millions in grant money? Innovations in catalysis could make the process more efficient, reduce costs and and help mitigate the environmental impact of chemical and fuels, according to Jim Petersen, director of the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering at WSU. According to Chis Keane, vice president for research, the fellowship will produce research with implications in food, energy and the environment.

The partnership came about after Keane and Vice President for International Programs Asif Chaudhry traveled to China in January. Because it can help advance society, Chaudhry sees the partnership as an example of the positive impacts of international collaboration. The Shandong Chambroad Holding Company Ltd. is a private company based in Boxing County, part of China’s heavily industrialized northeast region. It’s involved in a variety of enterprises, including petrochemicals, property management and agriculture.

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