Thursday 21 Apr, 2016

Light-rail ridership jumps

Light-rail ridership exceeds expectations

at 2:13pm by Chetan Sharma

After adding just two stations a month ago in Capitol Hill and the University of Washington, Sound Transit says that it saw 61 percent more riders each weekday, and twice the riders on Saturdays. Seattle’s small 17-mile line now carries more people per day than Sacramento or San Jose’s entire light rail systems, both of which have over 40 miles of track.

The agency had expected 51,800 daily riders to use the system each weekday. Instead, it saw 58,000. It had to add longer trains to avoid crush loads after its first week of operations, when riders were left behind by overcrowded trains in Capitol Hill.

The agency seemed to allude to the early interest in trying out the system, saying, “It will take several months before we know what the ‘new normal’ is, but so far the system is exceeding expectations and has set new single-day ridership records. ”

Later this year, the agency will open a new station at Angle Lake, extending service south of Sea-Tac airport. It expects another 5,000 riders will use the station by 2018.

Tuesday 19 Apr, 2016

More ballot locations on the way

King County getting ready for new ballot boxes

at 12:45pm by Chetan Sharma

King County is planning the locations of 33 new permanent ballot drop boxes where voters can send ballots without paying postage. Twelve will replace existing temporary drop boxes, which are only open during limited hours near Election Day.

Most of the new ones, 24, will be at public libraries. Vashon Island and the King County portion of the Muckleshoot Reservation will each also get one of their own.

Currently, King County has just 10 permanent drop boxes. The state’s largest county has fewer permanent drop boxes that Thurston, Whatcom, Pierce, Spokane or Snohomish counties.

Newly elected County Elections Director Julie Wise secured funding for the drop boxes in February. The previous Elections Director Sheryl Huff was criticized for failing to serve Southeast Seattle or the University of Washington.

The county wants 29 of the drop boxes in place for the August 2 primary. The rest should there by November.

UW partners with Chinese university to create new masters degree

at 12:36pm by Chetan Sharma

UW and Tsinghua University in Beijing will offer a new “Master of Science in Technology Innovation” program. The MSTI degree will be the first U.S.-based program as part of the so called “Global Innovation Exchange,” which connects nonprofits and social service agencies around the world.

Students in the program will be prepared for jobs involving mobile and wearable computer, smart objects, and the “Internet of Things.” According to Wanted Analytics, hiring demand in the Internet of Things field has increased by 322 percent in the past two years.

Students in the program will have the option to earn an “Engineering in Information Technology” degree from Tsinghua University during their time at UW. The university will admit its first cohort of students into the program in 2017.

Monday 18 Apr, 2016

Fresh trouble at Hanford

Fresh nuclear waste trouble at Hanford

at 1:27pm by Joe Copeland

Hanford officials are checking on whether nearby soil has been contaminated by a leak that triggered an alarm over the weekend at one of the double-shell nuclear waste storage tank. The Tri-City Herald reports that officials with a contractor say that no soil contamination had been found as of Monday morning. But the tank apparently leaked 70 gallons of radioactive sludge. State Department of Ecology officials tell the Herald that there’s no danger to workers or the public.

GeekWire reports that the tank is one of seven that has had ongoing problems. The worker who in 2011 discovered the leak in the tank that triggered an internal alarm on Sunday tells KING 5 that the leak is likely the worst in tank farm history and could significantly increase risks to employees’ health.

As Crosscut’s Peter Jackson wrote today (before word of the lead), the state recently won a court decision that increases its leverage in forcing the U.S. Department of Energy to meet its own promises to clean up radioactive contamination.

Thursday 14 Apr, 2016

UW figures out Monarchs' navigation secrets.

This is how monarch butterflies find their way

at 3:11pm by Chetan Sharma

A team of University of Washington researchers has figured out how monarch butterflies’ brains use the location of the sun and time of day to know where to go.

The butterflies can migrate up to 3,000 miles to avoid the winter cold. That’s much farther than any other butterflies travel, and almost as far as birds or whales. But unlike birds or whales, they only make this trip once in their lives. In the fall, the butterflies’ compass points them southwest. In the spring, it switches direction.

The study was published in the journal ‘cell reports.’ For more information check out the project’s blog.

Wednesday 13 Apr, 2016

Washington state jobless rate stuck

SDOT boss apparently lost track of ethics reporting requirement

at 4:04pm by Joe Copeland

The Seattle Times reports that the head the city transportation department, Scott Kubly, never obtained a waiver to allow him to deal with decisions that involved his former employer, Alta Bicycle Share. A legal adviser to the mayor had attempted to start the work on the waiver with an email to Kubly soon after he was appointed to lead the Seattle Department of Transportation’s top spot, but Kubly apparently misdirected his reply. It was known that Kubly was facing an ethics investigation but details were lacking.

The Times notes that the city has yet to respond to a Feb. 1 request for any of Kubly’s official communications related to the troubled Pronto bikeshare system, which has a contract with Pronto. Seattle is taking over Pronto.


Peabody coal company files for bankruptcy

at 3:40pm by Joe Copeland

In a decision likely to raise more questions about a coal export facility planned near Bellingham, Peabody Energy Corp. has filed for federal bankruptcy protection. Reuters reports Peabody’s debt problems began with a poorly timed 2011 buyout of a coal company in Australia, just before a drop in demand in China for the type of coal used in iron and steel production. Peabody has an agreement with the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal outside Bellingham to ship 24 million tons of coal to Asia. Joel Connelly of notes that Peabody is insisting on coal’s importance as a long-term source of energy. But he quotes Ross Macfarlane of Climate Solutions as saying, “Today, a coal terminal has as much relevance to Washington’s economic future as a new typewriter factory or a Kodak film-processing facility.” (Connelly’s piece also suggests that universities which resisted calls to divest from coal stocks would have been smart to listen to their student activists.)

Lummi Nation fishing rights could also stop plans for the Gateway Pacific Terminal proposal: For Floyd McKay’s Crosscut report from Tuesday on the issue, click here.

Washington jobless rate stuck

at 10:52am by Joe Copeland

State figures show that the jobless rate in Washington remains at 5.8 percent, despite an estimated gain of 6,000 jobs. The March figures reflect a year long trend of more people entering the work force in search of jobs, a state economist said in a press release.

The figures show a slight dip in the jobless rate for the Puget Sound region, with 4.9 percent unemployed in March compared to 5 percent in February.

Tuesday 12 Apr, 2016

Oregon, where the jobs are.

Otter spotter? That could be you.

at 3:37pm by Joe Copeland

Saying that little is known about river otters in Washington state, the Woodland Park Zoo is asking community members to consider serving as spotters to report on their presence locally. Field scientist Michelle Wainstein, PhD,  says, “The more reports of sightings we can collect, the more data we’ll have on the range and behavior of river otters.” More information about studies of otters and a link to a sign-up form to become an “otter spotter” are here.

NW charity donates to Arizona anti-transgender organization

at 2:04pm by Chetanya Robinson

Over the past year, one of the largest charities in the Northwest has donated $375,000 to a nonprofit in Arizona that supports laws that have been criticized as anti-transgender, including a law in North Carolina preventing transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity, Willamette Week reports.

The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, based in Vancouver, Washington, was founded by a powerful figure in Oregon’s technology industry. It has assets of more than $1 billion, and gives away $50 million annually. The $375,000 it gave to a conservative Christian group in Arizona called the Alliance Defending Freedom was earmarked for “teaching schools how to follow the law when creating nondiscrimination and free speech policies,” Steve Moore, the trust’s executive director, told Willamette Week. In the last nine years, the trust has given almost $1 million to the ADF, Willamette Week reports.

The ADF created model legislation in February 2015 that served as a basis for a law in North Carolina requiring transgender people to use bathrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates, rather than their current gender identity.

Noting that according to its website, the Trust’s mission is to “enrich the quality of life in the Pacific Northwest,” The Stranger’s Dan Savage wrote today: “It’s hard to see how financing rightwing hate groups in Arizona and their attacks on trans people in North Carolina (and other states) enriches the quality of life around here.”

Your gift to Crosscut — instantly doubled!

at 1:56pm by Cambria Roth

Crosscut’s investigative journalism is critical to sparking dialogue in the Northwest. That’s why Cascade Public Media board member Mike Humphries is offering a challenge to you.

He will instantly match the first 50 new sustaining gifts of $10/month or more. 

With your help, we can continue to build and grow this insightful, quality, in-depth and substantive journalism organization in the Pacific Northwest, so important in this world of commercially and politically biased soundbites. Will you make a gift to Crosscut today?


Oregon has jobs!

at 1:41pm by Joe Copeland

Oregon’s unemployment rate is at an all-time low, 4.5 percent in March, according to Associated Press. That’s a full half-percentage point below the national unemployment rate of 5 percent.

A state economist tells AP, “Businesses are raising wages to attract the help they need, and it’s working because people are flocking to Oregon’s labor force.”

Washington is scheduled to release its March unemployment figures on Wednesday. February jobs figures show a 5.8 percent unemployment rate statewide, with the supposedly hot Seattle-Bellevue-Everett market at 5 percent.

The date for Washington’s release has been corrected.

Friday 8 Apr, 2016

Inslee 'increasingly frustrated' about Boeing job losses

Kids for the climate heading back to court

at 4:09pm by Joe Copeland

The “Climate 8” case involving a group of children demanding state action against global warming is headed back to court. Late last year, the plaintiffs won a King County judge’s ruling that they have standing to demand action and that the state has a duty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. But Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill didn’t order any action — the state was on track to issue new rules capping carbon emissions.

But, as The Stranger reports today, Andrea Rodgers, the lead attorney for the kids, says she is going to file a new motion in the case because, since the ruling, the Department of Ecology has paused its efforts to write emissions-cap regulations. Her aim is to force the state Department of Ecology to come up with a schedule for developing its rules. Message to Olympia: The kids are watching?

A report from last year by Crosscut’s Martha Baskin on the overall legal strategy of the plaintiffs is here.

Puyallup: We got homeless woes

at 4:04pm by Joe Copeland

Puyallup residents turned out to talk about the homeless — or, perhaps, about how hard it is to have the homeless around town. The residents complain about trash along the riverfront, drug needles and what they see as thefts related to the presence of the homeless. KING 5 quotes one woman at a town hall-style discussion, sponsored by the state representatives for the area, as complaining, “What about our rights to be able to feel safe, to take our grandkids to the park, the library, to walk around downtown?”

One of the organizers of Thursday evening’s event, Rep. Melanie Stambaugh, said she would like to see leaders at the state level develop collaboration on the issue, “because the problems we are talking about tonight are epidemic across the state.”

The hundreds who turned out reportedly hope the discussion will lead to changes. Just a guess, but the homeless are probably as eager as anybody for action.

Inslee: Feel my frustration?

at 10:52am by Joe Copeland

Gov. Jay Inslee spent Thursday evening working hard to ingratiate himself with the labor movement, reports Joel Connelly of The Democratic governor played good buddies with the party’s friends in the M.L. King County Labor Council, cracking that he would build a fence around the state to keep out Donald Trump and anti-union Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. But when pressed about Boeing job cuts that are occurring despite huge tax breaks from the governor and Legislature, Inslee emoted a bit about being “frustrated,” “increasingly frustrated,” “more frustrated than I was five months ago.”

Then there’s this from Connelly: “As for what is to be done, said Inslee, ‘I’m going to be looking to you for what the possibilities are.’ ” Maybe the governor was trying to give the union folks some impetus to work for a Legislature that would be so Democratic that there’d be a chance of putting some job-retention or job-creation conditions on the tax breaks. But, before Inslee gets too wrapped up in the idea that he should be asking for activists for ideas on how to solve big controversies, the governor’s re-election campaign team may want to remind him that he is facing a Republican challenge this fall built around the premise that he isn’t very effective or involved.

Thursday 7 Apr, 2016

Power independent journalism

Ballard whale sighting: Probably not such great news

at 4:17pm by Joe Copeland

Neighbors and officials at the Ballard Locks are on the watch for the return of a gray whale seen swimming in the channel there several times recently. But, as KING 5 reports, the visits may be tied to poor health. NOAA Fisheries says the whale appears to be emaciated. A biologist with Cascadia Research Collective agrees, saying that whales which show up in unusual areas usually are sick. There’s a brief video here.

Women in business awards to Moss Adams, Weyerhaeuser CFO and a Crosscut writer

at 2:59pm by Cambria Roth

Not surprisingly, it was a room chock-full of women at the Women in Business & Leadership Initiative (WIBLI) Awards, and you couldn’t miss inspiring messages like “If you need something done great, give it to a woman” — that one coming from keynote speaker and Urban League CEO Pamela Banks. We’ve still got a long ways to go, but the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber has been making strides to close the gender wage gap in Puget Sound region with programs like WIBLI and the 100% Talent gender equity initiative.

Today, the first-ever WIBLI awards for advancing gender equity honored one business and two individuals. Moss Adams, an accounting firm, won WIBLI Business of the Year for their work on Forum W, focusing on four key priorities for women — dialogue, networking, mentoring and advancement.

Patricia M. Bedient, Executive Vice President and CFO of Weyerhauser, won WIBLI Female Leader of the Year. She announced that she would be retiring, but added an upbeat note: “This will allow me to dedicate more time to women who hope to serve on corporate boards.”

Author of The Diversity Advantage and freelance writer Ruchika Tulshyan was given the WIBLI Rising Star Award. Tulshyan has also written about gender equity for Crosscut and you can find her recent article here.

Ruchika Tulshyan


UW study uses DNA to store digital data

at 11:57am by Chetan Sharma

Today, digital data is stored in hard drives, flash drive and, increasingly, large data centers. In the future, it could be stored the same way humans store our biological data: in DNA.

Researchers at the University of Washington successfully stored and retrieved pictures and video from DNA strands. If this system of data storage can work on a larger scale, data which currently fills a Walmart store could fit inside a sugar cube, the University says  in a statement. Microsoft believes this system could make it easier to store data in the future, if costs come down.

Power independent journalism

at 10:48am by Cambria Roth

We’re $45,000 away from reaching our Spring Member Drive goal! A huge thank you to the readers and supporters who have already pledged their support to grow Crosscut’s independent, rational coverage of Northwest politics, tech, and culture.
Do you rely on Crosscut for in-depth coverage of the issues you care about? We rely on you too. Crosscut is only possible with the generous support of our readers. Make a gift today. Power independent journalism.


Wednesday 6 Apr, 2016

UW study: Twitter users smarter than you may think

Mariners coming home with a hot Cano

at 4:08pm by Joe Copeland

Mariner second baseman Robinson Cano’s smacking of two more home runs today put him in a special category of red hot: SportspressNW reports it’s the hottest start of his career, the first time any Mariner has hit at least one homer in each of the first three games of the season, and the first time in 75 years that a second baseman has hit a homer in each of the first three games. Cano had a homer apiece in the first two games.

Cano, a six-time All Star pick, had an especially slow start last year while he dealt with the impact of his grandfather’s death and health issues. The Mariners general manager and manager both lost their jobs last year, with their fates largely settled before a late upturn in the club’s performance.

The Mariners are 2-1 for the season with their next game Friday’s home opener at Safeco Field.

Patty Murray targets medical testing so white, male

at 3:47pm by Joe Copeland

U.S. Sen Patty Murray is co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill to assure that more women and members of diverse ethnic groups are included as subjects in clinical trials of new drugs. In a Senate committee meeting where the measure won approval today, the Washington Democrat said, “If we want all patients to be able to benefit from medical advances — we need to make sure clinical trials look as diverse as our country. But according to a recent study, over the past 23 years only two percent of the 10,000 cancer clinical trials funded by the National Cancer Institute included enough minority participants to meet the NIH’s own targets.”

The prime sponsor of the bill is Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. It’s part of bipartisan efforts to develop legislation to remove obstacles to health care innovation and improve funding for research, an effort led in the Senate by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The website Fusion noted that the Collins-Murray measure will also give special attention to understanding what drug therapies are safe and effective for pregnant and nursing women.

The health innovation bills approved by the committee today still must win approval by the full Senate and be reconciled with similar House legislation.

Spokane cleaning up its waters

at 3:18pm by Joe Copeland

Spokane is about to launch a huge, advanced-technology effort to deal with the low oxygen levels that strike the Spokane River and Lake Spokane, the Spokesman-Review reports. The project will install membrane technology at the city’s Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility to remove tiny particles from the city’s wastewater and stormwater in order to remove almost all — 99 percent — of the phosphorous, which causes the low oxygen levels and algae blooms. The $126 million project along the riverfront will start later this year.

The Spokane River Credit: Robert Ashworth/Flickr
The Spokane River Credit: Robert Ashworth/Flickr


Quicker help at Sea-Tac security lines?

at 11:39am by Joe Copeland

TSA will allow local training of new airport security officers for Sea-Tac Airport, a move that should help reduce the growing backups here, says U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell. She and fellow Sen. Patty Murray, both Democrats, had earlier written a letter to the head of the Transportation Security Administration, Peter Neffenger, asking that training take place here, as a way to avoid delays caused by limited capacity at a training facility in Georgia.

In a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, Neffenger promised to allow the training temporarily here. He called Sea-Tac one of the airports with the greatest needs for increased staffing to deal with “what is going to be a very challenging summer season by pushing as many new hires as we can into the system.” Officials are already advising passengers to arrive “a minimum of two hours before” scheduled domestic flights.

In a statement, Port of Seattle Commissioner Fred Felleman said, “TSA staffing at Sea-Tac is inadequate, and we haven’t even reached our busiest time of the year. We’re working hard for a less turbulent summer season. Sen. Cantwell’s efforts will significantly benefit our travelers.”

Twittersphere respects authority, says UW

at 10:41am by Chetan Sharma

Want to stop a rumor on Twitter? Make sure your account sounds official, says a study from the UW. A report published Monday suggests that a few “official” sources can drown out the voices of many individual accounts claiming the opposite.

UW researchers looked at two false online rumors: one about police raids in Muslim neighborhoods in Sydney, and another about a hijacked WestJet flight to Mexico. In both cases, the rumors died down after WestJet and Australian federal police jumped on their Twitter accounts to correct the rumors. Researchers suggested that it’s good policy for organizations to allow their social media workers to respond quickly and flexibly to situations where false information is spreading quickly.

The study did not consider what would happen if an official Twitter account started the rumor.

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