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Tuesday 2 Dec, 2014

The EPA orders $342M Duwamish cleanup. The real lives of Issaquah nudists. A WA Powerball winner?

Going polar

at 3:27pm by Joe Copeland

The nation's only heavy-duty icebreaker, the Polar Sea, took off over the weekend on a months-long mission to the Antarctic. As a recent Associated Press report noted, Russia and China have been beefing up their icebreaker fleets — with eyes on controlling natural resources. Despite the lack of any action in Congress on new icebreakers, some people are looking ahead.The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington is now offering students the opportunity to earn a Minor in Arctic Studies. The purpose of the program is for undergraduates to develop skills addressing science and policy issues in the arctic region. The program is said to be one of the first of its kind offered in the states. KPLU reported earlier this year that the university hopes to eventually turn the program into a major and send students out on polar research vessels.  — T.W. 

Jordan Stead photographs a nudist camp

at 3:27pm by Taylor Winkel

Last summer, Jordan Stead from seattlepi.com stripped down to his birthday suit to get a firsthand look at the nudist culture in Washington. After keeping the project under wraps since July, he finally posted pictures yesterday. Since 1945, Fraternity Snoqualmie’s Family Nudist Park located near Issaquah on Tiger Mountain, has provided nudists a place to be free. For many, nudism (also known as naturism) isn’t about sexuality. Nudists enjoy the beauty of the body, regardless of how perfect or imperfect it may be.Stead writes that the fraternity enforces a strict set of rules and all visitors are subject to a background check. Registered sex offenders are not allowed. Every year, a “Bare Buns Fun Run 5K,” is hosted on the property. Rumor has it that the run is a gateway for first timers to join the frat. Thanks for taking on the difficult assignment, Jordan! — T.W.

Voter turnout: Meh

at 3:27pm by Joe Copeland

Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Gov. Jay Inslee today certified the results of the November general election, and the final count showed that just 54.1 percent of registered voters actually cast ballots. Wyman had originally predicted 62 percent turnout, but adjusted that later to say it would be somewhere in the 50 to 60 percent range.An item on the Secretary of State's official blog notes that the turnout ended up being similar to the 56 percent figure recorded in 2002, the last non-presidential voting year in which — like this year — Washington had no U.S. Senate contest to create interest. Interestingly, the blog notes that the Democratic governor was "in a jovial mood" as he certified the results of an election that increased the number of Republicans in the Legislature: Could Inslee be looking forward to working across the aisle quite a bit more than in his first two years? — J.C. 

Washington scores winning Powerball ticket?

at 3:27pm by Taylor Winkel

It’s believed that someone in Washington is holding onto the winning $90 million dollar Powerball ticket. King 5 reports the winning ticket was purchased from a convenience store in Auburn. While a lottery spokesperson has said a person contacted officials claiming they have the winning ticket, no one has yet presented it for verification. If confirmed, this would be the first time a winning ticket in the multi-state lottery has been purchased in this state. The numbers are 13-24-42-48 and the Powerball 27. — T.W. 

Duwamish River plan unveiled

at 3:27pm by Joe Copeland

The federal Environmental Protection Agency today unveiled a $342 million plan for cleaning up the badly polluted Superfund site along the lower part of the Duwamish River. EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran praised local governments for work that has already been done to address the worst areas of contamination from the area's long industrial history. The EPA said it would use dredging, capping and other methods to remove 90 percent of the contamination over the next seventeen years. The remaining pollution should be controlled by the natural buildup of clean sediments on top of less-polluted sections of the river bottom.Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine issued statements saying they would continue to work on long-term efforts to ensure a healthy ecosystem along the Duwamish and in neighboring communities. Leaders of the citizens group Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition said the EPA didn't go as far as they had hoped, but praised the plan for improving on an earlier draft and opening the way for local decisions that could build on the federal requirements. While still reviewing the statement, the coalition's James Rasmussen said, "We see that it is going in the right direction."  — J.C.

Monday 1 Dec, 2014

The Background-check law going into effect. Amazon crowds in the robots. Med school alliances emerge.

Mariners hope they've found their offense in Nelson Cruz

at 2:43pm by David Kroman

The Mariners' offense has been, oh, challenged for the last decade. And while Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager have bolstered their left-handed hitting slightly, Mariners’ right-handed hitters are the worst since the 1988 Pittsburgh Pirates. The team has not had a consistent right-handed hitter since Edgar Martinez retired in 2004, since then hosting a carousel of power hitters like Richie Sexson, Michael Morse and Corey Hart, none of whom has worked out.

Last year was the most promising year since 2003 for the Mariners as they fell one game short of the playoffs. General Manager Jack Zduriencik proved today that he means to capitalize on last year’s success by signing right-handed power hitter Nelson Cruz to a four-year $57 million contract, reports ESPN. Cruz played with the Orioles last year and hit an impressive 40 home runs while driving in 108 RBIs.

Reports suggest the Mariners were close to signing Cruz last year, but that management nixed the deal amid doubts that he’d recover after being suspended for use of performance-enhancing drugs. His power was also questioned because of his long career in Texas, a famously friendly ballpark for hitters. However, his success on the road last year appeared to show that he’s able to hit anywhere. At least, that’s what the Mariners are hoping, as Safeco Field is notoriously hard on hitters. 

There will be skeptics who think he’s too old and too expensive, concerns that could very well be true. But in this massive right-handed drought, the Mariners — and their diminishing fan base — are willing to try anything. — D.K.

Only 23 months till Election Day

at 2:43pm by David Kroman

Before we’ve even had time to catch our breath after the 2014 election, we’re off and running on 2016. Don’t believe it? Well, if you gave money to Jay Inslee during the 2012 election — or even thought about it for that matter — you may very well have begun receiving appeals for campaign funds, reports seattlepi.com. And so it begins …

Washington is largely seen as a blue stronghold: It hasn’t voted for a Republican president since Ronald Reagan in 1984. The state and city initiatives legalizing marijuana and gay marriage, increasing background checks for guns, and increasing the minimum wage have garnered national press and strengthened Washington’s lefty reputation. However, while there hasn’t been a Republican governor since 1980, the race for the office has been consistently close. Recall the Rossi-Gregoire race of 2004 in which Gregoire won by 133 votes.

In his bid for funds, Inslee wants his supporters “to make Republicans think twice about running against me.” Really? While he appears to be selling the early appeals as a show of strength — an intimidation dance in the vein of the sports the governor so loves — it seems more plausible that he knows it will be a close race and desperately wants to stay a step ahead of whoever his opponent may be. For the rest of us, however, it may be just one more step towards non-stop elections. — D.K.

Rev. Jesse Jackson talks Ferguson, future

at 2:43pm by Cambria Roth

Rev. Jesse Jackson is touring through Western Washington speaking about the need for minorities in high-tech jobs. King 5 reported that he spoke to Seattle’s Mount Zion Baptist Church Sunday congregation, and the topic of conversation turned to the problems in Ferguson, Missouri. Jackson told churchgoers that the grand jury got it wrong and officer Darren Wilson should have been charged. “The jury said that he was justified in killing Michael Brown. We don’t accept that,” Jackson said. He also said that President Barack Obama should go to Ferguson himself. “I think this is a defining moment that President Barack cannot miss.”Jackson pointed out that while the African American community needs to be heard, violence isn’t the answer. “Let's stop the looting and the shooting,” he said. “We should not engage in violence.”What’s next on Jackson's tour? A speaking engagement at the the technology-oriented  TAF Academy school in Kent today and another talk at University of Washington on Tuesday. — C.R.

Med school fight heats up

at 2:43pm by David Kroman

Update 4:10 p.m. Last weekend’s Apple Cup was not the only display of the UW-WSU rivalry. There were two developments today related to Washington State University’s push to establish a medical school.Today, Sen. Michael Baumgartner and Rep. Marcus Riccelli, both of Spokane, said they will hold a press conference on Tuesday to outline legislation to create a WSU medical school. The bill would provide $2.5M for WSU’s medical school. The bipartisan news conference — Baumgartner is a Republican, Riccelli is a Democrat — will be at 11 a.m. on WSU’s Spokane campus.Gonzaga University, meanwhile, announced that it is looking seriously into joining the University of Washington as a partner in continuing the UW’s existing medical school program in Spokane. The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that the UW had invited Gonzaga to replace WSU as the partner in providing medical school training in Eastern Washington.WSU’s stated goal is to establish their own medical school to provide much needed doctors to rural communities. UW, however, contends that their school is already working to increase the number of rural doctors. They believe that establishing a second medical school would dilute already scarce public dollars. WSU, on the other hand, says that UW only admits 120 students per year, not enough to provide for Washington state’s medical needs. — D.K.

Amazon uses robots, not people

at 2:43pm by Cambria Roth

Today is Cyber Monday, so NPR (among others) did a story on the robots Amazon is using to fulfill the demand. Amazon’s order-fulfillment center in Tracy, Calif., is more than a million square feet — or 28 football fields. Most warehouses have goods on shelves and humans go to them to stock or retrieve items. This warehouse is different because Amazon uses orange robots the shape and size of ottomans. The robots zip under shelves, lift them up and whisk them to stations where a worker is waiting. Then, a computer terminal displays the specific item the worker needs to grab and where it is on the shelf. Amazon doesn’t need aisles for humans, so the company can squeeze 50 percent more product into warehouses.Amazon, to be sure, is also ramping up its human staffing for the holiday season. Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Andrew McAfee told NPR's reporter that an entirely mechanical workforce wouldn’t work yet. “Robots aren’t really, really good at manual dexterity. Their vision systems are often not as good as our vision systems,” He said. Amazon acquired Kiva Systems in March 2012 and the robot concept isn’t new, but the grand scale of their use at Amazon is: There are 15,000 Kiva machines whisking around Amazon warehouses throughout the country. — C.R. 

How will gun control be enforced starting Thursday?

at 2:43pm by Cambria Roth

Tougher gun background checks, approved by voters as part of Initiative 594 in November, are set to take effect in Washington on Thursday. The measure requires background checks on all sales and transfers, including private transactions and many loans and gifts. But how is it going to be enforced? We are still waiting to find out. Mitch Barker, executive director for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, told Associated Press that the initiative could increase workload for local law-enforcement agencies, and that it will be tricky to enforce.“If somebody committed a crime with a firearm, and if the source was tracked back to someone who didn’t do a background check of the person who they transferred the gun to, that to me would seem to be the most likely scenario where a law-enforcement official would take action,” he said. Under I-594, a person who knowingly violates the law could be subject to a gross misdemeanor; a knowing violation twice or more is a Class C felony. — C.R. 

Wednesday 26 Nov, 2014

The NRA hints at I-594 fight in Olympia. Will slashing price save Amazon phone? Zmuda drops Eastside Catholic suit.

Holiday break for the Troll

at 3:48pm by David Kroman

We will take a break over Thanksgiving and be back Monday. Safe travels. And Happy Thanksgiving!

Dog food: No dressing with that?

at 3:48pm by David Kroman

Everyone expects traffic to be horrific in the coming hours and days as people head off to visit friends ans family for Thanksgiving. But here’s something no one saw coming: a dog food spill on on I-5. Shortly before midnight last night, KOMO reports, a semi-truck driver apparently fell asleep at the wheel and crashed, spilling thousands of pounds of dried dog food everywhere. The driver is fine. But it took crews several hours to clean up all those kibbles. Couldn't crews have just called in the K-9 unit and gone home early. — D.K.

More Police Department turmoil

at 3:48pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle police Sgt. Ella Elias is suing the city. One of the SPD's pioneering women officers, Elias claims she lost her assignment after she raised questions in 2012 about Assistant Chief Nick Metz's habit of handing lucrative overtime assignments to his friends. Seattlepi.com's Levi Pulkkinen's well-detailed report says that after an exemplary career and leadership of a patrol squad in South Seattle, Elias was given a fill-in assignment out of Belltown. The City Attorney's Office declined comment. The case is another  headache, er, challenge for new Chief Kathleen O'Toole.  — J.C.

Eastside Catholic suit dropped

at 3:48pm by Joe Copeland

Mark Zmuda, the former Eastside Catholic High School vice principal, has dropped the lawsuit he filed against the school, according to seattlepi.com. Zmuda sued Eastside Catholic after his same-sex wedding led to his dismissal. Attorneys for the two sides declined to discuss the suit's dismissal, and there is no indication that there was a settlement agreement. A King County Superior Court judge, Catherine Schaffer, approved the suit's dismissal last week. — J.C. 

Cheaper Amazon Phones

at 3:48pm by David Kroman

You may remember a few weeks ago that Amazon's share prices fell 8 percent. The company had posted less than expected earnings (as in zero) and the market reacted. In that same week, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer questioned whether Amazon was even a company: “In my world, you’re not a real business until you make some money." Defenders of the company quickly countered that growth and investments, not earnings, are measures of success. But David Limp, Amazon's senior vice president of devices, did admit one mistake: the mis-pricing of Amazon’s Fire smartphone. "I think people come to expect a great value," said Limp, "and we sort of mismatched expectations.” The Fire phone, originally priced at $449, tanked and Amazon ate $83 million in unsold inventory.The Puget Sound Business Journal is reporting today that Amazon has taken action on the bombing phone, reducing the price by $250 to $199. Can the Fire-sale save the phone? If not over during the holiday season, than likely never. — D.K.

NRA: We will get action in Olympia

at 3:48pm by David Kroman

Washington’s Initiative to expand background checks on firearms passed in a landslide (60 percent voting in favor). The big story leading up to that November decision was the considerable endowment amassed by the Yes (on expanding background checks) campaign. Conversely, those opposed to the measure seemed a bit miffed at the NRA’s laissez faire performance. Now, Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com is reporting that the NRA seems to be getting in the game. In a letter to supporters, the pro-gun group promised that it is working on “legislative remedies to the most onerous provisions.” How its cryptic promise will unfold is unclear, but the NRA is not (usually) one to back down from a fight. — D.K.

Tuesday 25 Nov, 2014

The Protesters take to Seattle streets. Murray gets a new communications head. Cyclist seeks $2.5 million from Seattle.

Murray will propose city law on medical pot

at 3:12pm by Joe Copeland

Mayor Ed Murray is promising to give the City Council a proposed ordinance on regulating medical marijuana in Seattle by the end of the year. The state Legislature is widely expected to try to add to medical pot to the existing regulatory system for recreational sales and distribution. In his announcement on Monday (somewhat overshadowed by the Ferguson events after a grand jury returned no indictments in the death of Michael Brown), Murray noted that any new state system is unlikely to go into effect until 2016. Murray has outlined many of his ideas and goals (here): ensuring safe access to marijuana for patients; reducing impacts on stores' neighbors; and "clarifying laws for medical marijuana." Presumably he's not expecting to provide complete clarity. — J.C. 

King County Library hires new head

at 3:12pm by Joe Copeland

The KIng County Library System today said it has hired a new director, Gary Wasdin. The board of trustees selected Wasdin, currently the director of the Omaha Public Library, after a nationwide search. The system serves 1.3 million users. It's ranked as the 62nd largest in the country based on volumes held, on a list of the top 100 dominated by universities' libraries. Sorry, Seattle, you're not there at all.  — J.C. 

Claim over Seattle council member's bike accident  

at 3:12pm by Joe Copeland

A man who was injured in a Tacoma bicycle accident in 2012 has filed a claim for $2.5 million in damages from the City of Seattle. City Councilmember Sally Clark was the driver of an SUV involved in the crash, and the claim asserts that she was performing official duties at the time, according to The Seattle Times. In a statement, Clark said she was cited and fined, expressing regret for the injuries and recovery time for the cyclist, Steve Fairbanks, who now lives in Oregon. He had a broken leg, and has chronic pain, the claim said. — J.C. 

Murray hires a DelBene aide

at 3:12pm by Joe Copeland

Mayor Ed Murray has hired a top aide to Congressmember Suzan DelBene as his new communications director. Viet Shelton, DelBene's press secretary, worked with Murray in the state Senate before taking a variety of positions, including with then-Gov. Chris Gregoire as press aide and Greg Nickels while he was mayor. Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com notes that the highly regarded Shelton's two years with DelBene were "successful": She got re-elected. Maybe Murray is hoping for a similar fate in 2017, though it's a lot more unusual for a Seattle mayor to be re-elected than a member of Congress (or just about any politician, for that matter). — J.C. 

Protesting peacefully in Seattle

at 3:12pm by Taylor Winkel

This afternoon’s protest in solidarity with Ferguson proved to be considerably more peaceful than last night’s protest, which resulted in five arrests. Late this morning, Garfield High School students met with a group of protesters outside Mount Calvary Christian Center on 23rd Avenue and Union Street. Together they marched down Union toward Broadway. The group, composed of about 350 people of every race and color, was lead in part by Pastor Lawrence Willis of the United Black Clergy. Police escorted them as they marched from Broadway to Pine, chanting and stopping traffic in major intersections along the way. The crowd was passionate, but gentle.At every stop, Willis reminded marchers of how important it was to stay peaceful. As they finished their protest route at the Federal Courthouse, more protesters and advocates welcomed the group with cheers and applause. Willis says he is in contact with the National Action Committee in Ferguson and has connections to the Brown family. He said the family plans to “file for excessive use of force with the federal government and the federal courts.” Gerald Hankerson, President of the Seattle King County NAACP, rallied the crowd at the courthouse. Michael Brown "lost his life for what we exercised as our right to do today, marching in the middle of the streets,” he said. “I’m tired of using the word change… We need results.” — T.W.

A woman at the Ferguson protest in Seattle holds a sign reading, "I can't believe I'm still fighting for my civil rights." Photo: Taylor Winkel

Monday 24 Nov, 2014

The Seattle groups protest. WSU warning about mumps. Kyle Seager to stay.

You've officially missed your chance to visit the North Cascades

at 10:07pm by David Kroman

Planning to go to the North Cascades? Taking the northern route to Colville for Thanksgiving? Think again. It's closing time for Highway 20. This is no emergency: The beautiful drive that goes through the mountains, past glacial lakes and into northeast Washington closes every year. Maintenance crews took an assessment, found that there’d been some slides/avalanches and figured it wasn’t worth it. With the short week, who can blame them? — D.K.

Housing overtime faulted

at 10:07pm by John Stang

Update 3:31 p.m. A State Auditor's Office report Monday says that two Seattle Housing Authority employees received $130,853 in overtime pay for time that was not actually worked from Jan. 1, 2011 to July 31, 2014. One was a manager in the housing authority's solid waste division who received $103,292 in unearned overtime pay and the other and an administrative specialist who received $27,561 in unjustified overtime pay. The auditor based the findings largely on work done by the authority's internal investigators.The housing authority fired the manager this fall. The administrative specialist left the housing authority prior to the State Auditor's Office completing its report. Both cases have been referred to the King County Prosecutor's Office for possible further investigation. The state audit blames internal financial controls for allowing the problem to occur, and the housing authority agreed to fix the deficiencies. — J.S. 

Homegrown all-star gets bigtime money

at 10:07pm by David Kroman

The Mariners have not produced a lot of homegrown talent since Felix Hernandez. Despite their minor league system consistently ranking as one of the most promising, their can’t miss prospects have, well, missed. Jesus Montero got fat. Dustin Ackley has fallen well short of expectations. Justin Smoak was cut. Michael Saunders has gotten hurt every time it looks like he’s coming around. Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton have all struggled with command and/or injury.The shining exception has been their third baseman Kyle Seager. While his numbers aren’t Hall of Fame worthy, they have been solid, consistent and shown marked improvement with every year. This season, he made the all-star team and won a gold glove, both firsts for the 27-year-old. For the chronically underperforming Mariners, a player they can count on is one to be treasured.They’ve shown just how much they treasure Seager today, signing him to a seven-year, $100 million contract. The deal, although not yet confirmed by the Mariners’ organization, was reported by Yahoo Sports. Seager follows Hernandez and Robinson Cano in the Mariners’ third straight year of signing triple digit contracts. — D.K.

University of Puget Sound is 2015 Rhodes Scholar

at 10:07pm by Cambria Roth

William J. Rathje isn’t your ordinary student. In high school, he applied linguistics to protein search engines. This resulted in the identification of a persistent bias in scientific literature. He taught himself organic chemistry and the programming language Python. He helped found Proscenium, a free online journal for playwrights. Then, when he had 200 submissions for an issue, he decided to create a new computer code to make the submission to publication process less tedious.Now, as a result of his hard work he joins 31 other young men and women who will represent the United States as 2015 Rhodes scholars. The scholars receive full financial support to pursue degrees at the University of Oxford in England. Rathje is currently a computer science and English literature major at the University of Puget Sound. Next October he will study for a Master of Science in computer science at Oxford, as just the third UPS student to win a Rhodes scholarship. — C.R. 

Mumps at Washington State University

at 10:07pm by Cambria Roth

Washington State students have something to look forward to when they return to campus after Thanksgiving Break — mumps? WSU put out a press release advising students to make sure their MMR vaccinations are up to date before returning to Pullman. The advisory comes in response to an outbreak of mumps at University of Idaho, which is only 7.5 miles away, right over the Washington-Idaho border. Ten cases have been confirmed at UI and there are 20 mump reports under investigation.Mumps is a contagious viral illness that spreads from person to person via droplets of saliva or mucous of an infected person. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and loss of appetites and painful salivary glands. Outbreaks are uncommon, but can happen in crowded environments like college campuses. No cases have been reported in Pullman or Whitman County, but could the virus jump the border? — C.R. 

Groups are ready to protest Ferguson decision

at 10:07pm by John Stang

Update 10:08 p.m. Groups gathered in Westlake Park downtown to protest the grand jury decision against indicting a Ferguson, Missouri police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown. Demonstrators blocked downtown traffic for a time before marching.As the march was occurring, Mayor Ed Murray said at a press conference, "Our city is committed to the goals of racial, social justice in all areas." But he said, "We are failing our young African American men." Murray added, "We in this city are listening to you. We in this city hear you. We in this city love you." One group, called, “Justice for Michael Brown,” had announced earlier that it would march from Westlake Park and then rally at Seattle Central College. Another group called, “the October 22nd Coalition Against Police Brutality, Repression and The Criminalization of a Generation” also said it would hold an event at 6 p.m. at Westlake Park. Their Facebook event page had an aggressive statement, “If the murdering pig walks: AmeriKKKa must be brought to a halt.” One of the group's members wrote, “Whatever the decision, people everywhere must pour into the streets to demand justice for Michael Brown.”The City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Department had their own forms of preparation. The Stranger obtained an email sent to dozens of city and council officials from Emergency Management Director Barb Graff. It said, “Seattle’s Emergency Operations Center will plan to activate shortly in advance of the decision in much the same way as we have for several years for May Day events.” Shortly before 9 p.m., the city announced that it had closed the emergency operations center.SPD spokesperson Sean Whitcomb said the Seattle police didn’t view the protests as a threat. “It’s not a showdown, it’s not a conflict, it’s a landmark discussion about race and social justice…They don’t need police permission to exercise a constitutional right.” 

Protesters lie down in the street at Fourth and Pine in downtown Seattle. Photo: David Kroman

Friday 21 Nov, 2014

The Sound Transit ballot measure coming in 2016. Public utility workers in deep doo-doo. Amazon Travel?

The Daily Toke

at 2:49pm by David Kroman

Two pieces of pot news today, both from The Seattle Times:First, Capitol Hill could end up with a pot shop. The crowded neighborhood was previously considered off-limits due to the Liquor Control Board’s requirement that retail marijuana stores be 1,000 feet from parks and schools. But one pot activist/real estate broker says he’s found those 1,000 feet. Final decision is due next week.Second, the City of Seattle hopes to have new legislation for medical marijuana by the end of the year. Medical pot shops have been a question mark as almost all recent marijuana legislation and attention has been focused on figuring out how to implement Initiative 502 for recreational marijuana. Medical pot details should surface shortly. — D.K.

Bye-bye Beta Theta Pi

at 2:49pm by Cambria Roth

After a suspension in early October due to hazing reports, University of Washington has ordered its Beta Theta Pi fraternity to close shop. UW confirmed to King 5 News that the national fraternity has revoked the charter of its UW chapter over hazing. (Beta Theta's charter was suspended back in 2004 over an incident involving pillowcases and pancake syrup. Don't ask.) Frat members have to move out by the end of the semester. UW says it will help them relocate to University housing. — C.R

Recordings from SPU shooting released

at 2:49pm by Cambria Roth

Seattle Police Department has released chilling audio from witnesses to last spring's Seattle Pacific University shooting. The most unsettling recording was the interview from Jon Meis, the student hailed for stopping suspected school-shooter Aaron Ybarra. Meis's 15-minute interview with Seattle Homicide Det. Russ Weklych is among the 33 witness statements released after The Seattle Times and other media submitted public records requests. The witnesses recount what they saw and did after Ybarra rushed onto campus with a shotgun and fatally shot one student and wounded two others.The recordings flesh out what happened that day and reveal a few unsung heroes. Two security officers recount how they performed CPR on students and another SPU student grabbed a knife nearby the gunman, ensuring the suspect couldn’t get to it while Meis held him down. Meis describes how he took pepper-spray he carried with him out of his backpack after hearing Ybarra say, “Nobody move.” And then rushed in to spray, tackle and disarm the gunman.Ybarra only said one thing, according to Meis, who was sitting on him at the time: “He told me, ‘you shouldn’t have taken the knife away, I was going to slit my throat.” Hear the full recording of the Meis interview in The Seattle Times story. — C.R.

Amazon rumored to enter new market

at 2:49pm by Cambria Roth

Amazon is at it again. This time, the local tech giant is scheduled to launch Amazon Travel in New York, Los Angeles and Seattle on January 1. Skift.com spoke with representatives of three hotels that have been approached by Amazon sales representatives about the service. Hoteliers say they would upload the basics such as room types, availability, pricing and photos to an Amazon extranet and pay a 15 percent commission to Amazon for every prepaid bookings.Initially, Amazon Travel would stiart small — focusing on hotels but not flights, cars or other travel-related services.Amazon didn’t respond to Skift. But Amazon Local ads for travel market managers in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Dallas provide more evidence for the Amazon Travel launch. Why now, you wonder? Could it have anything to do with the fact that Alibaba recently rebranded its travel offering, Alitrip, made investments in hotel technology and is moving in next door to Amazon headquarters in Seattle? — C.R.

Seattle Public Utility workers in deep...sludge

at 2:49pm by David Kroman

We like to thank our military personnel, our doctors and our community volunteers. Here’s a thought: Lets add public utility repair-people to that list, especially considering what they'll be dealing with for the next two weeks along Aurora Ave. Repairs to the stretch of Aurora between Ward and Comstock streets were expected to wrap up today (Friday). But then workers discovered a collapsed sewage pipe. The pipe is more than 50 percent blocked and sewage is overflowing. Rather than just unclogging the, um, "sludge" (as SPU's traffic advisory calls it) with a high-powered snake, workers now have to dig the whole thing up. One southbound lane will be closed until Monday, and a northbound lane for up to two weeks as they shovel you know what. Says Jeff Fowler, construction management director at Seattle Public Utilities, “I certainly understand the frustration of motorist trying to get through the area.” That’s thoughtful of you, Jeff. But how about a shout out to your colleagues who are going to be digging through all that sewage rather than just being delayed by it. — D.K.

Sound Transit 3 to hit ballots in 2016

at 2:49pm by David Kroman

Politics 101: When you’ve got momentum, use it. After the strong performance of Seattle’s bus measure, Proposition 1, public transportation appears to have plenty of it. Which could be why, this Thursday, less than a month after 60 percent of Seattle voters passed Prop.1,  the Sound Transit board unanimously voted  to seek a new sales tax, car tab fee and/or property tax as a way to further expand rail.If you’ve gone to Dick’s on Broadway or crossed the Montlake bridge recently, you’ve seen the ongoing Sound Transit construction. The project, which will connect Westlake to Capitol Hill to Husky Stadium, is actually a half-year ahead of schedule. That’s right, an underground system that’s going better than planned (we’re looking at you, Bertha).This new tax request would hit the 2016 ballots as Sound Transit 3. According to The Seattle Times, the new taxes could bring in $9 billion over 15 years. The new Sound Transit routes are not set, but proposed connections include Seattle to Everett, Overlake to Redmond and Kent to Federal Way. With traffic as bad as its been, it seems likely that commuters would get behind any promise of relief.But let's not get cocky. Seattle voters may be on a liberal tax and spending spree (see Knute Berger’s The eternal sunshine of Seattle progressivism), but residents in other parts of King County have already killed one transit measure. And with all the construction going on in Seattle these days (Bertha workers are banging outside the window right now), some voters may just want a little peace and quiet. — D.K.

Thursday 20 Nov, 2014

The Waiting on immigration rules. A controversial Duwamish cleanup. Ben Huh's guide to failure.

Do it now

at 4:21pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle photographer/director Mike Folden and formerly Seattle-based photographer/entrepreneur Kyle Kesterson have launched a new passion project, NVRTMRW, a website encouraging others to pursue their dreams and carpe diem. (Get it? Never tomorrow?) The pair made the video below during a roadtrip to move Kesterson from here to Las Vegas and they're encouraging others to submit their own inspirational stories. Something to think about — if not now, then at least as you start making New Years resolutions. — J.C. 

Lessons on failure from King of Kittehs

at 4:21pm by Berit Anderson

Ben Huh is the founder and CEO of Cheezburger. (You know, the Seattle-based company behind all of those funny online cat memes. Also FAILblog.) Today, Cheezburger launched its iOS app, which lets users create and interact with the company's many funny photos of kittehs. That, however, is not why I'm writing. The most notable thing about the launch of Cheezburger's new app is actually the way Huh announced it — through a heartfelt Medium post that details all of the hard, frustrating, depressing ways he screwed things up on the way to this launch. It's a refreshing, vulnerable treatise on what it's actually like to run a company that cuts through all of the misogynistic valley swagger. Worth reading even if you're not planning a digital cat empire of your own. — B.A. 

Duwamish River cleanup

at 4:21pm by Joe Copeland

With the Environmental Protection Agency preparing to issue a Superfund cleanup plan for the Duwamish River, the Seattle Weekly and InvestigateWest took a big look at lobbying efforts aimed at shaping the agency's decision on how much contaminated soil must be removed from the area. (The river has been contaminated by many years of shipping and industry.)One finding from the story: "Industry opposition should be expected. But also lining up on the dig-less side are three local governments often lauded as green: King County, Seattle and the Port of Seattle." Meanwhile, the EPA is hoping that their decision doesn't spur expensive industry or local government lawsuits against them, which would divert money from the actual cleanup. Sounds like, the fairer the decision, the more likely both sides will be angry at the outcome. — J.C. 

Immigration reform: Tune in

at 4:21pm by Joe Copeland

When President Barack Obama lays out his immigration plans at 5 p.m., lots of people will be listening or watching intently. Among those most intent on the address here will be Latino immigrants who will gather at Casa Latina west of the International District. A statement from Casa Latina says it will "celebrate with those who gain relief and continue fighting to help those not included."Although the major TV networks (NBC, CBS, Fox & ABC) have decided their existing programming trumps the value of a live broadcast, there are plenty of other options for tuning in to the speech. CNN, MSNBC and PBS will all air the speech. Driveway listeners can tune into NPR or KOMO radio (an ABC affiliate). If you want to stream directly from the White House, a live broadcast will be here. There will be plenty to digest and, for a lot of people, decisions about what to celebrate and what to worry about. — J.C. 

Wednesday 19 Nov, 2014

The Zoo going elephant-free. 11 firms perfect on LGBT rankings. Buying police service.

Report: Washington state not the best at everything

at 4:25pm by David Kroman

Washington state is number one (at least in the hearts of Washingtonians) in so many things: marijuana, wine, apples, seafood, tech, aviation. Seattle has the highest rate of adults with a college degree. Sea-Tac set the bar with a $15 minimum wage. And Washington has more glaciers than all other contiguous states combined. It’s safe to say we like being number one.With that in mind, Washington received a huge blow to its winning reputation today — our beloved state ranked as the 12th most miserable place to have Thanksgiving. That’s right: According to the Estately blog, there are 38 states that are better for Thanksgiving. The ranking was based on:1. Likelihood of food poisoning (5th)2. Likelihood of relatives binge drinking (20th)3. Likelihood of political arguments at dinner (23rd)4. Dietary restrictions impacting meal quality (30th)5. Likelihood of favorite NFL team losing on Thanksgiving (3rd)6. Likelihood of guests/cooks abandoning meal for Black Friday sale (46th)Actually when you look at, we’re pretty average in most categories. And we can be proud of our Black Friday ranking — no stampeding for this state. But we are exceedingly more likely to have the day ruined if the Seahawks lose (which seems unfair because 44 states have 0 football teams even playing on Thanksgiving). And apparently we all need to make sure that our raw turkey is far from our spinach salad. Use a separate cutting board please!—- D.K.

Gates Foundation pledges money to fight Ebola

at 4:25pm by David Kroman

In the U.S., Ebola is seen in two lights: as the invasion of a vicious disease with a high mortality rate or as overblown and difficult to catch. The media has swung back and forth between stoking and calming fears, many arguing that the hysteria surrounding the disease is more dangerous than the virus itself.While it may indeed be overblown here, the consequences of the virus in West Africa are grave — despite reports of progress in fighting the epidemic. A new Gates Foundation pledge of $5.7 million is a sign there’s still much to be done. The Puget Sound Business Journal reports The foundation pledged the money "to scale up the production and evaluation of convalescent plasma and other convalescent blood products as potential therapies for people infected with the Ebola virus." This is the latest in a string of pledges from high profile donors like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Ballmer, and the Gates Foundation's announcement points to a long list of partners in the plasma effort. — D.K.

A Tale of 2 Cities

at 4:25pm by Cambria Roth

“A tale of 2 cities” was the appropriate headline of Danny Westneat’s latest Seattle Times column. Westneat outlined a new approach by wealthy Seattle neighborhoods who hire their own cops. It all began with the Laurelhurst neighborhood. Now, many more neighborhood groups are meeting this week to figure out how to combat Washington’s soaring property-crime rate. For $200 per family per year, Laurelhurst residents pay off-duty cops to patrol the neighborhood six nights/days a week for five hours each shift. They are in uniform, carry police radios as well as their police firearms and drive unmarked personal vehicles. They monitor incoming 911 calls and respond to any Laurelhurst calls.Westneat pointed out the divide between poor and rich neighborhoods in Seattle: “The public-transit system may stink, but Microsoft and Amazon have their own private shuttle services. The school district may be dysfunctional, pulling teachers from classrooms midyear, but some parents can hire their own at 90 grand apiece. In the Amazon jungle, the transportation system may be jammed, but privately paid, off-duty police flaggers are there to stop traffic on public streets so the tech overlords can get out of their parking garages.” Does it have to be this way? — C.R

11 companies in Washington are LGBT-friendly

at 4:25pm by David Kroman

Washington State had 11 companies score a perfect 100 in the 2015 Corporate Equality Index, an annual report assessing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) inclusion. There were 781 companies ranked nationally in the report and 365 of those companies earned a perfect 100.The Puget Sound Business Journal reports the Washington State companies earning 100 scores include: Alaska Air Group Inc; Davis Wright Tremaine LLP; Group Health Cooperative; Microsoft Corp.; Nordstrom Inc.; Perkins Coie LLP; Razorfish; REI; Slalom Consulting; Starbucks Corp.; and T-Mobile USA Inc. Scoring a 90 were Amazon.com Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp., Expedia Inc. and Outerwall Inc. The lowest scoring of Washington companies was Corbis Corp., with a score of 50. Here is a link to the report.—C.R.

No more elephants for Seattle

at 4:25pm by Cambria Roth

Seattle kids and adults will miss out on an elephant exhibit in 2015. After a long elephant tenure — filled in recent years with criticisms, bad reviews and elephant deaths — the Woodland Park Zoo announced today that it is eliminating its elephant program.The zoo will send its two female Asian elephants—47-year-old Bamboo and 35-year-old Chai— elsewhere, seattlepi.com notes. The zoo went under fire a year ago when a zoo task force told the zoo it needed to make improvements to the way it cared for its then-three elephants. They suggested enlarging the facility, reducing choke points in the barn and expanding the enrichment program."After several months of working to implement the recommendations of the elephant task force, we have found that adding to the herd of our two aging elephants is not realistic in the foreseeable future. It is in the best interest of Bamboo and Chai to live in a social, multi-animal herd in a healthy environment," Woodland Park Zoo's President and CEO Deborah Jensen said in a statement. "We will ensure Bamboo and Chai will be relocated together to an Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) facility that shares our commitment to animal health and welfare and conservation through education, and provides viewing access to the animals.”The zoo was left with only two elephants when Watoto, a fixture at the zoo for 43 years, was euthanized recently. (An in-depth report Crosscut's Eric Scigliano wrote at the time is here. His article on the Zoo's announcement today is here.) — C.R.

Tuesday 18 Nov, 2014

The Murray needs a new press person. A tunnel through Edmonds? A bit of help for downtown homeless.

NY Times thinks we eat this for T-Day

at 2:22pm by Joe Copeland

The New York Times today unveiled a neat project that it calls "The United States of Thanksgiving": It's a different recipe for Thanksgiving recipes that "evoke" each of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Some of them make immediate sense: cranberry sauce with Pinot Noir, lefse from North Dakota (more Scandinavians than in Ballard) and Russian salmon pie from Alaska. For Washington, it's … glazed shiitake mushrooms with bok choy. The Times' explanation (which concedes the recipe "may not immediately conjure images of Thanksgiving") and recipe are here. — J.C.

Disclosure: City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw is married to Bradley Bagshaw, who is chair of the Crosscut Public Media Board of Directors.

Uber vs. journalism?

at 2:22pm by Berit Anderson

Yesterday, on my bus ride home, I tweeted BuzzFeed's now-viral article about Uber senior VP Emil Michael. Michael, who apparently didn't realize he was on the record, told an influential audience of dinner attendees Friday in NYC that Uber should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to discredit journalists (specifically PandoDaily's Sarah Lacy, who has written critically about the company). Perhaps not surprisingly, journalists generally did not take kindly to this idea. Flash forward to this morning, when I found myself late for a meeting with a friend. Needing to get downtown faster than my typical bus route, I called an Uber. The first driver accepted the ride and then, moments later, dropped it. Then another driver accepted the ride. Moments later it was dropped again. This had never happened to me before. The next accepted ride, third time's the charm, finally stuck. Surely, it was just a busy morning. — B.A.

Urban Rest Stop: Help on way

at 2:22pm by Cambria Roth

Urban Rest Stop (URS) is an all-in-one hygiene center providing bathroom amenities and laundry facilities to Seattle’s homeless population. They have two locations, one in the U-District and one on Ninth Avenue in downtown Seattle. The Ninth Avenue space was in danger of losing 30 percent of its funding until last Friday when the city council specifically channeled $200,000 of next year's budget into the Ninth Avenue Urban Rest Stop.The measure passed with a 9-0 vote, but Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said it wasn’t an easy feat because council members needed to know why the space was so important. Earlier this fall, she made a trip to URS to evaluate the resource herself. “If you look around you, people are doing laundry and getting their hair cut,” she said. "This is a restful place if you’re on the street and you have small children.” According to Bagshaw, Urban Rest Stop is vital for displaced people and families because it gives them a place to go to get showered before work, get their children ready for school and get their laundry done. It is the largest hygiene facility in Seattle and it is the only one open before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m. Monday through Fridays (5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. weekdays) and on the weekends. It’s also the only facility that is open to men, women and children alike. It serves about 300 people daily, but has to turn away four to six times as many. Urban Rest Stop is working to open a third location in Ballard. — T.W.

Edmonds: A trench runs through it?

at 2:22pm by Joe Copeland

Edmonds city officials want the state Legislature to fund a $1.25 million study of a possible possible below-grade trench through the city, where the train tracks run right between the south Snohomish County city's beautiful waterfront and its reasonably dense downtown. The city had put $10.000 into a preliminary report, which estimates a trench might cost $250 million, according to The Herald. That sounds pricey for protecting a relatively small city (population 40,400) but consider: The waterfront has a vital state transportation connections (a big ferry landing, the BNSF tracks also used by Sound Transit's Sounder service and Amtrak, and a couple of state highway routes). And the two major cities to the north and south — Everett and Seattle — both have tunnels for the mainline tracks that run through Edmonds. — J.C.

Help wanted: Communications director

at 2:22pm by Joe Copeland

Mayor Ed Murray will be looking for a new top staffer: Publicola reports that his communications director, Jeff Reading, resigned this morning, less than a year into the job. Writer Josh Feit notes that Reading was a longtime Murray associate, working with him in the state Senate before joining the new administration this year. Reading will go to a politically well-connected consulting firm, Strategies 360, where he will be vice president of communications. In an internal email, Reading continued to talk up the mayor, ticking off a list of "big wins" for the mayor over the past year, including the $15 an hour minimum wage, winning money for added bus service, and hiring "a great chief of police." — J.C.

Monday 17 Nov, 2014

The WiFi with your sleeping bag. Your musical choice as you ride Uber. Pain-ful day for Seahawks.

State plans to untangle braiding issue

at 3:04pm by Joe Copeland

Update 4:07 p.m. A Kent woman who practices the art of African hair braiding is optimistic that the state will come up with a regulation exempting her and fellow braiders from needing to get a cosmetology license. With the help of the libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice, Salamata Sylla had sued after the Department of Licensing ordered her to get the costmetology license – which requires significant time and money for training. The Institute has argued there is no problem with regulation if it’s appropriate to the actual work done, but it said the 1,600 hours program for a cosmetology license doesn’t include any work on hair braiding. Institute attorney Wesley Hottot praised the Department of Licensing for recognizing the problem (it’s also apologized to Sylla), but said that if the planned rule-making fails, Sylla could renew her suit.  — J.C.

The Seahawks' no good very bad day

at 3:04pm by David Kroman

The Seahawks did not have a very good day yesterday. They lost 20-24 to Kansas City Chiefs, only to be immediately raided by federal drug enforcement agents, KING 5 reports. Talk about adding insult to injury.The Seahawks were not specifically the target of the raid, but rather the NFL in general. In one more knock on the League’s embattled reputation, the raid was a response to former players’ claims that teams mishandled prescription drugs. Some of the issues were as follows: trainers and physicians acting without regard to player health, loose distribution of painkillers, withholding information about player injuries, improper acquisition and transportation of drugs and unlicensed trainers distributing the drugs.The Seahawks were one of three randomly selected visiting teams. The other two were the San Francisco 49ers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So far, no arrests or irregularities have been reported. — D.K.

Uber and Spotify partner

at 3:04pm by Joe Copeland

Uber and Spotify announced a partnership today. Those with Spotify Premium will be able to connect their accounts to the Uber app and play their tunes if they are matched with a music-enabled Uber ride. Those Uber drivers who don’t have an AUX or Bluetooth-enabled vehicle are already voicing concerns about potential bad ratings from riders. This partnership is notable for Spotify as it competes with Pandora, Apple and Amazon in the streaming music space. It also comes as Spotify deals with Taylor Swift, who recently removed her music from the streaming service because, unlike a number of services, it doesn't require payments for hearing artists' works by all listeners. — C.R.

Sawant calls for free WiFi for homeless

at 3:04pm by Cambria Roth

What’s next on the list for Seattle’s homeless population? Free Internet service. Councilmember Kshama Sawant wants a portion of the potential $100,000 set aside in the city’s proposed budget for Seattle’s homeless encampments to give tent cities access to the Internet. The former software engineer argued that the homeless need free WiFi to find jobs and look for shelters and basic services.“Just imagine that day you didn’t have Internet access at all,” Sawant told KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz. “You wouldn’t be able to communicate with a lot of people and you wouldn’t be able to know what’s going on.”The measure passed City Council for the proposed budget and must pass one more vote on Nov. 24 for the plan to be seen through. This first vote, though, means the idea could become reality. — C.R.

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