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Monday 12 Aug, 2013

Downtown bus driver shooting. Biking bookmobiles. Stopping 'Stop-and-Frisk'.

Metro bus driver shooting

at 3:17pm by Berit Anderson

The week got off to a traumatizing start in Seattle this morning. Just after 9 a.m., police shot and detained a gunman accused of shooting a metro bus driver downtown at 3rd and Union. The 67-year-old driver was hit multiple times, but the King County Executive’s office reported that he was conscious and talking. The suspect, on the other hand, was taken to Harborview with life-threatening injuries. Crosscut's John Stang has the full story.

The incident occurred just two blocks from the intersection of 3rd and Pine, which has faced scrutiny as a long-standing locale for drug-associated crime. Police have increased their presence in the area, but tensions around their use of force policies are rumored to have made officers hesitant about reacting to certain disturbances. It's also unlikely that the uncertainty around the city's next chief executive has helped the department's leadership. Regardless of weird leadership dynamics, responding officers today are to be commended for taking quick and decisive action that may have saved the lives of many innocent bus passengers.

Stopping Stop-and-Frisk

at 3:17pm by Berit Anderson

Seattle isn’t the only city with police issues. According to the New York Times, a federal judge ruled today that the New York Police Department’s ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ policy violated the constitutional rights of minorities. The policy allows officers to stop and search suspicious looking individuals. U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin wrote, "The city's highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner." Scheindlin has called for a federal monitor to oversee sweeping reforms and a pilot program that would require some officers to wear body cameras.

Some WA schools will miss out on McCleary funding

at 3:17pm by Berit Anderson

Most Washington school districts will see a bump in funding this school year. That’s due to an added $955 million in state money — the result of a state supreme court ruling that Washington wasn’t fully funding education. Some school districts though won’t be able to cash in on their full share, according to an article from King5 News today. That’s because, in districts like Kent, the money is earmarked for decreasing class size, but there’s no place for additional classes to go. Schools are already too full and the district lacks the classrooms to add any teachers.  

"Even though the money is there, we may not be able to use it all or use any of it this year," Kent’s Chief Business Officer Dr. Richard Stedry told King5 today.

Socially responsible banks?

at 3:17pm by Berit Anderson

The Seattle City Council issued a self-congratulatory statement today to inform the public they will vote in favor of a socially responsible banking initiative during their regular 2 p.m. Monday meeting. The new legislation, a remnant of the Occupy movement and big bank bailout backlash, will require the city to consider socially responsible practices when weighing bids for banking contracts. Good on ya, CC.

Books by bike? No, it's not Portlandia.

at 3:17pm by Berit Anderson

The Seattle Public Library is giving new meaning to the term bookmobile, with its new Books on Bikes program. According to KUOW, dedicated library employees have been biking up to 500 lbs of books to farmers markets and festivals throughout Seattle this summer. Strapped to their bike racks? iPads to help register more Seattleites for library cards.

You’ve got to hand it to the library for their creativity. They've managed to stay well ahead of the other madding media crowds drowning in the “staying relevant in the digital age” frenzy. Earlier this summer, SPL began a Netflix-like streaming program for videos and music, they managed to pass a library levy last year proving the huge amount of public support they have and they have maintained a strong and free calendar of impressive public speakers. The thought of poor library employees hauling hundreds of pounds of books up Seattle’s infamous hills is just the icing on the cake.

Friday 9 Aug, 2013

The Philanthropy leader dies in plane crash. Apple crop: It's a biggie. Wooden boat opportunities grow.

Crash kills ex-Microsoft VP

at 3:33pm by Joe Copeland

A plane crash in New Haven, Conn., today reportedly claimed the life of former Microsoft vice president Bill Henningsgaard and a son. His death will create a huge hole in the social service and education communities of Bellevue and the Eastside.According to a seattlepi.com report and others, he was flying a small plane that was attempting to land at Tweed New Haven Airport and went down nearby. Two homes were engulfed in flames, and two children in one of the houses were missing.  Henningsgaard had been involved with Social Venture Partners, a key supporter of philanthropy and volunteerism, since 1998. And he launched Eastside Pathways, a group that aims to make sure every child in Bellevue gets a healthy start in life and is supported "from cradle to career." Janet Levinger, also part of Social Venture Partners, told Crosscut he was a very action-oriented person who dove into tackling problems and was passionate about improving education. He co-founded and chaired the advisory board of the Institute of Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington. The Daily Astorian in Oregon reported Henningsgaard is the son of former Astoria Mayor Edith Henningsgaard-Miller, and a brother, Blair Henningsgaard, is the city attorney. Bill Henningsgaard made the key donation for the restoration of the city's historic Liberty Theater.

Apples, apples, apples: Here’s to you, central Washington!

at 3:33pm by Joe Copeland

For the second year in a row, Washington’s apple industry, the state’s largest agricultural product, will have a bumper harvest. The Tri-City Herald reports that the mid-August through early-November apple harvest will likely yield 121 million, 40-pound boxes of apples (that's 4.8 billion pounds if you're doing the math). The numbers fall only slightly short of last year’s record of 129 million boxes. Washington is the leading grower of apples in the United States with nine main apple varieties growing in the 175,000 acres of orchards spanning all over the state. The mild weather and Washington’s increasing stands of dwarf trees, which allow more trees per acre, certainly help.Dan Kelley, assistant manager at Washington Growers Clearing House, tells Crosscut that record-breaking numbers are here to stay, “It takes a few years for crops to stabilize, but Washington’s apple industry is pretty progressive,” Kelley says. “New York has traditionally been the number two [apple grower] in the country, but they still only do about 32 million boxes a year.” Well, how about them apples.

Center for Wooden Boats

at 3:33pm by Joe Copeland

The Center for Wooden Boats today unveiled plans for an expansion to help fill interest in sailing locally. The center said it will begin building a new, $6.6 million education center over the winter in Lake Union Park. In a statement, Executive Director Betsy Davis said, "Due to our current lack of space we’re forced to turn away kids who want to learn to sail, adults who want to take maritime workshops and schools that want to take our field trips."The center has raised most of the money for an overall capital campaign, of which the new Wagner Education Center is the focus. There are several drawings and maps on the center's blob. This appealing one looks like it might depict an autumn day — we aren't headed toward fall, are we?An artist's sketch of the new Wagner Education Center, designed by architect Tom Olson of Olson Kundig Architects.

Starbucks "appreciation"

at 3:33pm by Joe Copeland

What does your afternoon double-shot latte have in common with a .45? The Second Amendment, gun advocates would say. Today was unofficially “Starbucks Appreciation Day,” where legal firearms carriers were encouraged to give an extra thanks to their barista for the right to bear arms in Starbucks, reported seattlepi.com. This national nod from gun advocates apparently is meant to counter the pressure Starbucks is facing from advocacy groups to make the stores gun-free.Back in 2010, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a nationwide advocacy group, petitioned the coffee purveyor to ban guns from its shops reported. Starbucks’s response: Its policies on guns in stores would adhere to those of the local, state and federal laws. Twelve states, including Washington, have "open-carry” laws allowing display of guns in public places. When Crosscut asked a Pioneer Square Starbucks customer if Starbucks should become a “gun-free zone” (much like Washington’s school grounds), the customer replied: “I feel like all places should go gun-free.” No firearms were spotted in that Pioneer Square Starbucks.

Thursday 8 Aug, 2013

Jet packs. Mayor games: Publicola v. Stranger. Rodney Tom's transportation tour.

Summer vacation campaigning?

at 2:18pm by Berit Anderson

After nixing a last-minute transportation bill in the last legislative session, the Senate Republican coalition is already making moves to make sure they get their way in transportation debates next session. Washington State Wire's Erik Smith reports that majority leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and Curtis King, R-Yakima, are taking to the road with a seven-city  fix-it-before-we-fund-it tour that aims to drum up support for cutting road maintenance costs. "Big thing is," Smith writes, "lawmakers and the general public won’t sit still for a gas-tax increase unless the system is fixed first, they say." Meanwhile, Metro is still bracing for budget cuts.

Mayor games: Publicola v. Stranger

at 2:18pm by Berit Anderson

Primary results are still technically coming in (Check out the latest batch from yesterday here), but already things are getting nasty in the Murray-McGinn media storm. The Stranger's Paul Constant wasted no time in leaping on Ed Murray's primary night comment that he isn't "running to be a progressive mayor." Constant, of course, says a progressive mayor is exactly what Seattleites want: "We're sick of kowtowing to moderates, the craven imbeciles who tell us to wait on gay marriage until the national mood deigns to approve of it. We want to lead the way, and force the national mood to change."
Meanwhile, Publicola's Erica C. Barnett is challenging McGinn's "P-card", doing her darndest to stir up a he-said, she-said gender war. Her latest post from last night reiterates a point she initially published last Friday: That McGinn has fewer female cabinet members than Nickels did (7 or 8 as opposed to 13.) Apparently, McGinn had the audacity to dispute her initial claim on KUOW yesterday, which led to last night's point-by-point rebuttal. It's a bit like splitting hairs: We're most interested in what his cabinet members have accomplished. Still, it's an apt snapshot of what to expect in the next few months: Seattle's two progressive media outlets are on opposite sides of the fence, each fiercely guarding their camps. We can't wait to see what the candidates themselves have in store. May the fiercest tribute win!

UW brings the hospital home

at 2:18pm by Berit Anderson

With a $9.6 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in hand, the UW is helping to build a device to test for infectious diseases in low-resource areas. The UW and its partners, General Electric Co. Global Research, Epoch Biosciences Inc., PATH and Seattle Children’s Hospital, are building a device that will test patients for specific infectious diseases.
The tests will use a swab to test for specific pathogens, the presence of which will be indicated by a pattern of dots that will appear on the test paper. It's similar to an over-the-counter pregnancy test. Because it will be small, portable, inexpensive and easy to use, developers hope it will be an ideal tool for low-resource areas like military posts, communities in rural areas and even home use. Eventually, the research team hopes to develop a single test to target several different infectious diseases at the same time, but for now, research is focused on tests for a potentially fatal type of staph infection. Tests for influenza and sexually transmitted infections are in the pipeline as well.

Seattle has 14th priciest babies

at 2:18pm by Berit Anderson

Cha-ching! As Q13 Fox reports, raising a baby in Seattle is pricier than the national average, costing about $27,400 for baby’s first year. (The national average is $26,000.) Seattle is 14th out of 40 cities ranked by Seattle-based online real-estate company, Redfin — a number includes the cost of housing, healthcare and childcare, utilities and baby-specific items/needs. The cost doesn't seem to be stopping prospective parents though. As Sightline Daily has reported, Seattle’s kid population is on the rise. From 2000 – 2009, Washington's under-10 population dropped 0.7 percent, yet Seattle’s rose 1 percent.  And between 2000 and 2008, the number of households with children dropped 2.1 percent in Washington, but still rose 0.7 percent in Seattle. Guess we want our kids to love Seattle as much as we do, wallet-strain aside.  

Jet Packs: Seattle's Seafair solution

at 2:18pm by Berit Anderson

The next new recreational watersport is here (Well, in Hawaii, anyway). And it's already causing controversy. A device called the Jetlev and a similar product called the Flyboard let riders fly "Iron Man"-style over the water, propelling them 30-45 feet in the air. (A hose pumps water through a backpack through a hose connected to a small, unmanned boat.) The devices don't come cheap: An Oahu-based company charges $179 for 15 minutes of riding time. Some are less enthusiastic about the new "toys," though. KOMO News reports that Hawaiian fisherman, biologists and others are worried about the impact that the machines will have on native wildlife and fish. "University of Hawaii coral scientist Bob Richmond told officials he was concerned about the noise the devices make, as fish avoid areas that are too loud. He's also worried fish and coral larvae could get pumped through some of the equipment the watercraft use and die." But hey, in coral-free Lake Washington, a choreographed assembly of these water-based jet packers could be a nice substitute for the loss of the Seafair Blue Angels … 

Wednesday 7 Aug, 2013

The Election concessions. Fuming about coal and Inslee. Obama hearts Zillow.

Election updates coming

at 3:49pm by Joe Copeland

Today's late afternoon election results should seal the deal on some races, particularly Seattle mayor. Peter Steinbrueck all but conceded in talking to The Seattle Times this morning, and he's expected to make a statement after the 4:30 p.m. release of the latest tally. One cool concession line came from fifth place mayoral finisher Charlie Staadecker, who said, "My biggest regret would have been not to have run at all." Staadecker ran a classy race in a large field, and all the candidates should feel proud about offering the city some good ideas.Over in Bellevue, it will likely take a few days — or longer — before we know whether longtime council member Don Davidson even makes it to the November runoff. If not, Bellevue politics may take a markedly liberal turn.

Coal and the big, bad Inslee

at 3:49pm by Joe Copeland

The editorial board of Longview's excellent Daily News today declared that it has had it with Gov. Jay Inslee. The provocative editorial ("Where's the 'Working Washington' Inslee promised?"), starts off by ripping the guv on general performance — or lack thereof — with the Legislature: 

This year’s Legislative session exposed Inslee’s inexperience and inadequacies. In the few instances when he attempted to provide leadership — the transportation bill, for example — he often over-reached and came away empty-handed. When the Legislature finally adjourned after two extra sessions, both Democrats and Republicans took pains to point out that Inslee had very little to do with the final compromises.But then the editorial gets down to an issue close to home: developing coal exports to China. The paper says the governor's office was surely behind the state Department of Ecology's decision to require a wide-ranging environmental review of a coal port proposal for Bellingham.  A proposed export facility at Longview could face the same sort of review, and the editorial warns that the environmentalist governor is likely to want that. Inslee, it says, "seems determined to deny this economic development to two counties — Whatcom and Cowlitz — that badly need it." Others would argue that the wide scope of review might save the environment from greenhouse gases. But the editorial provides a strong, quick summary of an important side in the discussions.

Obama does Zillow

at 3:49pm by Joe Copeland

As Geekwire reports, President Barack Obama sat down for a webcast with Spencer Rascoff, CEO of the popular, Seattle-based real-estate search engine Zillow.com. “Home ownership is a quintessential element of the American dream,” said the president, who went on to mention progress made in recent years towards a better housing market, and even share personal stories about his family’s path to home ownership.To what must have been the unadulterated glee of Zillow execs, Obama praised the company for shedding light on what can sometimes be a cloudy industry. “I think you guys have done a great job in helping to make consumers more empowered when they are buying home, selling a home, and it’s a wonderful service.” A great day for Zillow indeed. Though we kind of miss those newspaper real-estate ads that companies like Zillow helped to end. The webcast was broadcast on Zillow and on the White House site, where a replay is available.

"Jellyfish" clouds

at 3:49pm by Joe Copeland

Once again, Seattle weather is making the news — this time with those strange "jellyfish" clouds over the city. KOMO meteorologist Scott Sistek said last night that the white streaks in the sky were "ice crystals precipitating from the cloud, evaporating when they [reached] the dry air below. The fact that they are light ice crystals instead of raindrops gives them more of a floating wispy look that gives the 'tentacle' look to the bottom of the clouds." (He has a good gallery of photos.)And then there’s all that welcome, if unusual heat. KING5 meteorologist Jeff Renner noted that it's not just us imagining that the weather has been strange lately. "Over much of the western United States, temperatures have been record breaking," said Renner. With more than 1,100 new record high temperatures set, and more than 2,100 new record-breaking rainfalls.

Tuesday 6 Aug, 2013

The Mayor Games primary action. Hot housing market. Bank robber: The getaway that got away.

Final voting. First results.

at 3:46pm by Joe Copeland

King County voters have until 8 p.m. to deposit their ballots at one of the dozens of drop boxes or van pickup spots in Seattle and around the county tonight. The county has an interactive map of the locations here. There are also three handicapped-accessible voting centers (open to all voters but primarily created to serve those with disabilities) at Seattle's Union Station, Bellevue City Hall and the county Elections Headquarters in Renton. Details are here. Note that to cast your vote in one of the centers, you must provide valid ID or sign an affidavit. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked today.Fifteen minutes after the 8 p.m. deadline, the county will release what is scheduled to be the evening's only elections results. How's that possible? Because the elections office has been busy verifying signatures on mailed in ballots and are prepared to tally them as soon as the polls close. As of last night, 199,877 ballots had been returned countywide, with just under 74,000 of them from Seattle. The next release of ballots doesn't come until late Wednesday afternoon. There's lots of room for protracted — and nervous — waiting on outcomes in the meantime. A team of Crosscut writers will keep you posted throughout the evening.

Home sales up

at 3:46pm by Joe Copeland

The housing market continues to improve around the state, according to new data from the Multiple Listing Survey. The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that data from the 21 counties in the survey indicate a sellers market, particularly in job centers like central Puget Sound. Homes in King and Snohomish counties are selling faster than in Pierce. But

at 3:46pm by Joe Copeland

even in Pierce the past 12 months have seen more sales at considerably higher prices — the median price home was 16 percent higher in July compared to a year earlier, according to The News Tribune

Bank robber tackled

at 3:46pm by Joe Copeland

Bystanders chased down a suspected bank robber in Everett and tackled him as he reached a car this afternoon, The Herald reports. Details are sketchy but witnesses apparently noticed him running from the bank and gave chase. They managed to hold him until police arrived. The robbery occurred at a Wells Fargo branch on Broadway. Will the police call him the one that didn't get away?

Bezos hates Bob Woodward?

at 3:46pm by Joe Copeland

Jeff Bezos's purchase of the Washington Post newspaper is everywhere in the media — even The Onion. The satiric site confirmed today "that Post associate editor and legendary investigative journalist Bob Woodward had already been repositioned at a new staff position in one of Amazon’s main warehouses just outside of Seattle." The Onion story includes a photoshopped image of Woodward driving a forklift at a Bellevue distribution center. Worth a look.

Soccer promo

at 3:46pm by Joe Copeland

NBC Sports is touting its upcoming offering of England's Premier League soccer. A promo video that's taken off imagines a U.S. football coach being exported to England to run a top team. Actually, the trans-Atlantic exchange tends to be the other way around  — and we thank heavens every day  for German-born Sigi Schmid

Monday 5 Aug, 2013

Bezos buys Wash Post, GOP/networks in Hillary snit, in-vitro burgers

Bezos buys Post

at 2:00pm by Mary Bruno

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos just bought the Washington Post Company, and its subsidiaries, for $250 million. So said the Post today, in an announcement that has stunned the media world. The Graham family has owned the Post, one of the country's most-respected news organizations, for four generations. The Post says that Amazon is not involved in the sale, that Bezos is personally buying the Post, alone. The sale should be final in 60 days. And an as yet undecided name change is in the offing. 

'Twas the night before primary

at 2:00pm by Mary Bruno

Tomorrow’s primary election will, we hope, decide who among the nine wannabe Seattle mayors will actually be on the November ballot. Pundits peg Mike McGinn, Ed Murray, Peter Steinbrueck and Bruce Harrell as legitimate contenders. But as Seattle Times’ Jim Brunner points out incumbents have not faired well in primaries of late. Neither former mayors Paul Schell (1998-2002) nor Greg Nickels (2002-2010) made it to November – though, in fairness, Nickels was trying for a third term. Whatever happens tomorrow, Crosscut will be there to cover all the action. Join us. And don’t forget to vote!


at 2:00pm by Mary Bruno

Salon reports that the Republican National Committee is mad as hell at CNN and NBC, which plan to air a documentary and mini-series, respectively, about potential (wink-wink) 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. (The documentary, from Oscar-winning filmmaker Charles Ferguson, is scheduled for release next year; Diane Lane plays Hillary in NBC’s four-parter.) In a letter to CNN president Jeff Zucker, RNC chair Reince Priebus expressed his “deep disappointment” about the network’s decision, describing the Hillary doc as an “in-kind donation” and calling on CNN to “cancel this political ad masquerading as an unbiased production.” If not, Priebus continued, he would “seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor.” Whether your sympathies lie with the networks or the RNC on this one, you gotta admit: The life of Hillary Clinton is totally made for TV.

Here's listening to you, kid

at 2:00pm by Mary Bruno

The embassy closings and travel warnings issued by the U.S. State Department last week reignited debate over the covert surveillance programs brought to light by NSA whistleblower — or traitor, depending on your point of view — Edward Snowden. Not surprisingly, the closing of U.S. embassies and consulates in 16 countries sent supporters and opponents of blanket surveillance onto the Sunday talk show circuit. One question caught our eye. On NBC’s Meet the Press, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin asked: “Do we need to collect all the phone records of all the people living in America?” The only way to answer Durbin's question is to look at the data. To that end, says The Hill, the Illinois senator slipped a provision into a defense-spending bill that would, if it passes, provide a data-based look at the surveillance program’s effectiveness. Durbin wants to force the NSA to reveal how many American phone calls it intercepts, how much it costs to collect and store them and which terrorist plots, if any, all the record collection and storage have managed to prevent. The Senate considers Durbin’s data provision in September.

In-vitro burgers

at 2:00pm by Mary Bruno

Volunteers in London conducted the first ever laboratory-grown hamburger tasting today. The artificial patty was created in a lab using stem cells from two organic cows, and came seasoned with salt, egg powder, breadcrumbs, red beet juice and a pinch of saffron. Scientists in the Netherlands spent five years and more than $300,000 developing their new burger in hopes that lab-made meat will help ease global food shortages and combat climate change. Tasters found the burger short on flavor, but meat-like in texture. Google's Sergey Brin is an investor.

Friday 2 Aug, 2013

Obamacare's big WA reveal. Hempfest: Up in smoke? Cynical Simpson visits Seattle

Washington's big Obamacare reveal

at 12:37pm by Greg Shaw

Washington state has revealed its long-awaited online health insurance exchange and the prices at least are rather underwhelming. The online marketplace will include 31 health plans from four companies at a variety of price points (That's the good part), but most monthly premiums in the marketplace will actually be higher than existing plans. State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler told the Seattle Times' Carol Ostrom that that's because they will cover much more — including prescription drugs, maternity and newborn care.And, to buffer the blow of a mid-level $235/month plan for a healthy 21-year-old, the plans will be federally subsidized. At least for those individuals who make up to $45,960 annually or families of four making up to $94,200. The plans will go into effect in 2014.

Hempfest donations: Up in smoke

at 12:37pm by Greg Shaw

Hempfest Executive Director Vivian McPeak told KIRO 7 yesterday that the popular annual marijuana festival (Aug 16-18) is experiencing financial problems. "The question is whether or not Hempfest is going to be back next year, with the expense skyrocketing," McPeak said. Donations to the all-volunteer event are now failing to cover the festival's more than $800,000 in costs, including permitting, security and event production. Revenue from sponsorship, vendor space and merchandise will soon not be enough to make up for the lack of donations. 
Meanwhile, SeattlePI.com reports that Prohibition Brands plans to build a record-setting two-pound joint at this year's festival. Attendees who bring more than an ounce of pot to the festival will be turned away, according to McPeak, but organizers seem to be missing a serious economic opportunity here. Why not auction off the massive joint to one of the nearly 250,000 attendees and use the proceeds to keep the event going.

A more cynical Simpson visits Seattle

at 12:37pm by Greg Shaw

Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming), with his trademark humor and pointed directness, took biting aim today at the many ills he perceives as standing in the way of a fiscally responsible federal budget. This is only a partial list: the rising cost of health care caused by trial lawyers; doctors and hospitals; defense spending; the 10,000 people turning 65 each day in the U.S. and its impact on social security; the AARP (nothing but a marketing agency); and combative rather than collaborative politics. These issues are coming to roost, he argued, because social security checks will be 25 percent less by 2033 if changes aren’t made.Simpson was in town to speak at the William D. Ruckelshaus Center's annual chairman's circle luncheon at the Washington Athletic Center. (Editor's note: Mr. Ruckelshaus is an emeritus member of Crosscut's board of directors.) His talk focused on the "myths and misunderstandings of America's fiscal situation." Simpson, retired from the Senate in 1997 but reappeared on the national stage when President Obama appointed him to co-chair a presidential commission on fiscal responsibility and reform with Erskine Bowles, President Clinton's chief of staff.Simpson told the audience, which included former Congressional colleagues from Washington state and other friendly local leaders, that his political disposition has moved from skeptic to cynic. Simpson said he continues to travel the country talking straight to Americans about the nation's $17 trillion debt, which he advocates solving with a balanced approach that includes cuts in government spending, economic growth and smarter taxation.His cynicism comes, in large part, from his observation that Americans' today focus very personal ire on individual politicians rather than being open to solutions and ideas. Simpson is from a not so distant era, as David Brooks writes today for The New York Times, “when conservatism was at its most politically and intellectually vibrant,” a time when dominant voices in the movement celebrated Lincoln, the Progressive Era and even the New Deal.       (reported by Greg Shaw)

Orcas? Still protected.

at 12:37pm by Greg Shaw

The National Oceanic and Atmpospheric Association announced this morning that the Northern Resident Orca population, which summers in the Puget Sound, will remain protected under the Endangered Species Act. The decision comes in response to a petition filed by Pacific Legal Foundation in August 2012, which argued that Pacific Northwest orcas were wrongly mandated as a subspecies, a designation that qualified them for special protection. The foundation was arguing on behalf of farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The farmers are restricted from using water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta because it provides habitat for one of the orcas' primary food sources — Chinook salmon.Puget Sound's orcas are distinct in that “they have their own language, own food source…they don't interbreed with other groups of killer whales,” says a spokesperson for NOAA. Phew. Now, if we can only get going on that 2008 killer whale recovery plan, the 82 orcas who call Puget Sound home may have a chance. Our first step? As of this morning, the Kitsap Sun reported the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department will hire an officer on a 3-year contract to enforce laws for protecting the whales.

Portlandia's great Northern roadtrip

at 12:37pm by Greg Shaw

Portland photographer Eugenie is taking a roadtrip through B.C., the Yukon and Alaska, photographing what she calls the "Pacific Northwest farm scene." Obviously, Eugenie is a little confused about what constitutes the Northwest (Hint: Not Canada. Alaska, despite being technically the furthest northwest of any of us, is really its own cultural and ecological beast.), but she takes some pretty striking photos of an incredible floating farming community in Tofino, B.C. 

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at 12:37pm by Greg Shaw

Thursday 1 Aug, 2013

The A Steinbrueck surprise. Big name GOP chair possibilities. UW schizophrenia discoveries.

Mayoral vote sampling 

at 3:53pm by Joe Copeland

The Seattle Weekly is challenging expectations about the outcome of the mayoral primary: Mike McGinn and Ed Murray are 


at 3:53pm by Joe Copeland

 the inevitable survivors. In fact, the November election could pit ex-Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck and McGinn against one another. That, anyway, is the result of an interesting sampling of voters in a precinct in northeast Seattle's Maple Leaf neighborhood that the Weekly's Ellis Conklin says (based on number crunching and help from the county elections office and a political guru) is a good barometer of local elections. Conklin's sampling was — he tells us wryly — "totally and absolutely non-scientific," but he hit an impressive 61 folks in a precinct with some 500 registered voters just by walking door-to-door. Steinbrueck and McGinn tied with 16 apiece with Murray a distant 7 votes and the rest split between other candidates. In fact, Undecided got 17 votes with the election deadline coming up Tuesday. Still too close to call? If you think you know the outcome, though, Publicola points you to a poll where you can pit your political prognostications against theirs and other local political types. 

GOP chair: Speculation runs high

at 3:53pm by Joe Copeland

Could the state Republican Party be headed toward having a very high profile leader take over the chair's position? The Herald in Everett has raised the names of two prominent former elected officials (and gubernatorial candidates), onetime state Sen. Dino Rossi and former Attorney General Rob McKenna. An editorial on Wednesday made a strong case for McKenna, suggesting that the 2012 candidate might do as well in the post as the late Jennifer Dunn. She both strengthened the party as state chair and then went on to serve with true distinction in the U.S. House of Representatives. Political writer Jerry Cornfield then reported that the paper's editorial page editor, Peter Jackson, had heard that Rossi is "getting pressure" to lead the party. Whether either one would want the job, vacated by Kirby Wilbur's move to a D.C. job, remains a wide open question. One comment on the story may be indicative of the red-meat opposition that could face those two or declared candidate Susan Hutchison, also generally considered a GOP moderate: The online poster faulted Rossi for having backed the not-conservative-enough presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney. And a Republican political consultant notes that party activists often resist having elected officials take the post. But having former King County Councilman Dwight Pelz as chair seems to be working well for Democrats.

UW scientists zero in on schizophrenia's origins

at 3:53pm by Joe Copeland

Researchers from the University of Washington are part of a team that has discovered a possible cause for schizophrenia. The team, which included representatives from eight different universities, discovered that rather than individual gene mutations leading to schizophrenia, it's in fact more likely that a network of interconnected gene mutations is responsible. The mutations start as early as prenatal development and spread throughout the prefrontal cortex as the brain grows. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for executive functions including planning, complex cognitive behavior and decision making. The research, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, was published in Thursday in Cell, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and can help researchers understand the cause of non-familial schizophrenia as it relates to spontaneous mutations.According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 2.4 million American adults have schizophrenia. Researchers hope their findings will help eventually be used to treat those with the disorder or even prevent psychosis. The UW team includes Mary-Claire King, Suleyman Gulsuner, Tom Walsh, Amanda C. Watts, Ming K. Lee, Anne M. Thornton, Silvia Casadei, Caitlin Rippey and Hashem Shahin. 

Northwest wildfires

at 3:53pm by Joe Copeland

A firefighter died this morning and another was injured battling a wildfire near Sisters, The Oregonian reports. That  was one of numerous fires sparked by more than 1,000 overnight lightning strikes in the Oregon Cascades. The fires have forced the evacuation of more than 100 homes Douglas County. Gov. John Kitzhaber had declared a state of emergency Tuesday for Josephine and Douglas counties in southwest Oregon, while central, north-central and far eastern regions of the state brace for more lightning in the rest of the week. In central Washington, the Colockum fire southeast of Washington has destroyed four homes, forced new evacuations and reached the edge of a wind farm, the Wenatchee World reported. None of the power-generating facility's equipment had been damaged when a reporter talked to a Puget Sound Energy spokesperson during the morning.

Bellevue council record

at 3:53pm by Joe Copeland

A newcomer in one of Bellevue City Council's primary contests has already set a record for fund-raising, The Seattle Times reports. Vandana Slatter's $94,000 in contributions outstrips anything the city has seen in past races, including general elections. She and Lynne Robertson are challenging incumbent Don Davidson. All told, the three have raised nearly $165,000. With two of them certain to emerge from the primary, expect new city records to keep being set. Slatter has contributed nearly half of the money to her own campaign, including a $5,000 loan, but PDC records also show she has received well over 200 individual contributions. 

Reducing kids' suicide risk

at 3:53pm by Joe Copeland

A King County committee of experts has called for new efforts to reduce youth suicides, including increased public education and laws to require safe storage of firearms. The committee also expressed hope for a new state law, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and just went into effect last week. The measure requires training of teachers and school counselors in spotting suicidal tendencies among young people, and it mandates development of a statewide plan for spotting and helping troubled youth. The committee urged strong implementation of the state law.   

Wednesday 31 Jul, 2013

The Big defeat for big coal. Fast-food unrest spreads. McGinn's new TV spot.

Bad day for coal trains

at 4:11pm by Joe Copeland

The state Department of Ecology says it will conduct a wide-ranging environmental study of the proposed coal export facility north of Bellingham. Environmentalists hailed the decision, saying the study would show huge climate impacts. The Sightline Institute said the greenhouse gases that would be created just by burning the coal in China's electrical generating plants would be equal to the entire annual carbon output of "every activity in the state of Washington combined." So, for a state with a policy of reducing its carbon footprint, this could be the ultimate no-go. Supporters called the decision unprecedented and warned that it had the potential to lead the state into altering its "long and historic support for trade, which today supports 4 in every 10 jobs in Washington." Crosscut's Floyd McKay will have a full report.

Fast-food agitation 

at 4:11pm by Joe Copeland

The Good Jobs Seattle movement is gaining momentum, demonstrating at two fast-food outlets today and scheduling a late afternoon demonstration Thursday at Westlake Park. (Events are being scheduled using the Twitter tag #MakeThemPay.) Today's demonstrations called attention to complaints about alleged criminal wage theft that several fast food workers filed last week with the Seattle Police Department. In 2011, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that expanded wage theft penalties to include the revocation of business licenses. Seattle has yet to prosecute anyone for wage theft. The Good Jobs group says wage theft includes having workers start before clocking in or after signing out, and shorting them on time for lunch and rest breaks. Seattle isn't an isolated case of fast-food workers unrest, however. Forbes reports that food workers in seven cities are on a week-long strike over low wages. On Monday, protestors in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Flint, Mich., walked off the job. All are reportedly making around the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Washington state's minimum wage is currently $9.19 per hour.

McGinn commercials

at 4:11pm by Joe Copeland

Mayor Mike McGinn released what may be the last commercial to come out before the primary. It got panned on Publicola for a lack of substance, but praised for style, including its perfectly described "twinkling background music." One plus: McGinn's humble introduction to the video is easy to like, fitting his theme of having learned lessons in office. But, really, twinkling music for the pugnacious attorney and street basketball player-turned Whole Foods basher? Where's the Macklemore, Your Honor?If that's a little über-sweet, here's a recent ad from longshot challenger Charlie Staadecker. 

Seattle's rain (or lack thereof) makes the news

at 4:11pm by Joe Copeland

Usually, when Seattle and weather are placed in the same sentence, there's a pattern — rain. This time, however, Seattle makes the news for a record-setting lack of rain. According to the National Weather Service, and as reported by seattlepi.com, the month of July was one of the driest on record. Sea-Tac only recorded trace amounts of rain (less than 0.01 inches) for the entire month. The last time this happened? 1960. As the end of the month arrives, the record should be sealed. Not a day too soon, though, as forecasts predict higher chances of rain for Thursday (a welcome sight to those battling fires in Eastern Washington). The Seattle Times reports that a statewide burn ban has been declared by the Department of Natural Resources. The ban is in effect through Sept. 30, and bans campfires and other open flames on DNR-protected land.

Tuesday 30 Jul, 2013

The Candidates consider GOP post. Tunnel digging underway. Fire season about to heat up.

GOP head could be a woman

at 3:15pm by Joe Copeland

Former news anchor Susan Hutchison is considering a run for Washington State Republican Party chair. She told The Seattle Times' Jim Brunner that departing chair Kirby Wilbur is "well loved," but that the GOP must be revived to make it competitive again. Hutchison said Seattle, King County and Washington state are all "one-party dominated." She meant Democrat. That might come as news to members of the Washington State Senate, where the GOP pretty much had its way this year. Of course, the control was made possible by the defection of two Democratic senators. The party's vice chair, Luanne Van Werven, is taking the reins for now but said she hasn't decided whether she will seek the permanent position.

Bertha ready to bore

at 3:15pm by Joe Copeland

Updated: 4:40 p.m.Crews this afternoon started digging Seattle's waterfront tunnel sometime today. The state Department of Transportation's Twitter account for Bertha — the tunneling machine's nickname — tweeted a Monday evening message, "Forecast for tomorrow: digging." Around 4 p.m., the Twitter feed said tunneling was about to start and just before 4:30 p.m. the state added a photo showing dust coming up from the boring machine's head with a note, "This is what delicious looks like." A Washington State Department of Transportation spokesperson gave Associated Press a longer-term forecast: No buildings will have serious troubles because the construction team is ready to step in to help with any problems caused by vibrations from the work.But is there such a thing as a problem-free transportation project? The Transportation Department also announced some $70 million in new costs for repairs and construction changes for the pontoons on the new Highway 520 floating bridge. The state earlier paid nearly $10 million, and expects to announce more costs later in the year. A risk reserve account still has about $100 million to cover unexpected costs, a department press release said. At the same time, the state Transportation Commission approved naming its rebuilt I-5 bridge over the Skagit River the Trooper Sean M. O'Connell Memorial Bridge. O'Connell, of the Washington State Patrol, died in a traffic accident while helping direct traffic around the collapsed Skagit bridge in May.

Northwest fire season

at 3:15pm by Joe Copeland

Even as crews begin to control another fire near Satus Pass south of Yakima, a blaze southeast of Wenatchee is rapidly growing. KING 5 reported the Colockum Tarps fire was moving toward a large wind farm at Vantage. Oregon and Washington have become the national priority for fighting wildfires at the moment, getting first call on any available crews or equipment assigned by the National Interagency Fire Center, according to The Oregonian. The National Weather Service has put out a major fire alert related to reports of potential thunderstorms and lightning in northeast Oregon and in the southeast and south central parts of Washington through 11 p.m. Thursday (map here). 

Seattle’s traffic: eighth-worst in the nation

at 3:15pm by Joe Copeland

We might be here for a while. According to Inrix, a Kirkland-based traffic data company, Seattle’s traffic is the eighth-worst in the country. Congestion made commutes 17.9 percent longer on average from June 2012 to June 2013. Based on the study, Inrix estimated that drivers wasted 35.3 hours in the past 12 months sitting in traffic. But, hey, it’s not as bad as Los Angeles, which tops the list with a 30.1 percent increase in commute times and 62 hours wasted.

'Hawks-49ers rivalry gets pricey

at 3:15pm by Joe Copeland

Want to watch the Seahawks joust for position in the NFC West with the division rival 49ers? Then break open that piggy bank, fans. The Week 2 showdown between the Seahawks and the 49ers at CenturyLink Field is one of the hottest — and most expensive — tickets in the entire NFL regular season. Actually, it is


at 3:15pm by Joe Copeland

most expensive. ESPN blogger Mike Sando reported on the hefty prices Monday; as of Tuesday afternoon, the cheapest ticket available to watch the Niners v. ‘Hawks in person will run you $238.50 on Stubhub.com, and you'll be in the bleachers of section 321. Of all the regular season games across the league, it was the most-expensive cheapest-priced ticket, and it doesn’t even include a seat. Yup, there’s only standing room in bleacher section 321. The second-most expensive nosebleed seat ($223.10) is at Lambaeu Field when the Packers host the Redskins that same weekend. You could get a season ticket package for the Cleveland Browns for $295.50. But then you'd be in Cleveland.

Al Jazeera in Seattle

at 3:15pm by Joe Copeland

Al Jazeera will staff a new Seattle bureau with longtime KING5 reporter Allen Schauffler as its first correspondent, The Seattle Times reports. Seattle is one of a dozen U.S. cities where Al Jazeera America is launching bureaus in what the conservative Washington Times calls "a massive expansion." The overall list of hires is impressive, as well. Al Jazeera has had rough spots, including a recent walkout by staff in Egypt who complained they'd been told to promote the Muslim Brotherhood's position. But the network's news operations have generally earned considerable respect among journalists. 

'Kitchen Nightmare' redux in Everett

at 3:15pm by Joe Copeland

Fox TV's provocative "Kitchen Nightmare" host Gordon Ramsay (called "that bleeping blasphemous Brit" by a Herald writer) is returning to Everett to check up on a restaurant makeover he oversaw there earlier this year. The Herald says he will be at the Prohibition Gastropub tomorrow (no admissions) for a program that will recap "his three worst nightmares" of the past TV season. Restaurant owner Rishi Brown says she thinks Ramsay will be pleased with the changes she has carried out. This video clip from last spring's original broadcast has had nearly 1.2 million YouTube viewers.

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