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Thursday 26 Feb, 2015

Differences on Pasco shooting autopsies. Protests for minority rights on UW campuses. Amazon hires ex-White House press secretary.

City pushes zoo on sanctuary for elephants

at 4:15pm by Amy Augustine

City officials are putting pressure on Woodland Park Zoo officials to send two Asian elephants to a sanctuary instead of sending them to another zoo, according to documents obtained by KUOW.

In November, the zoo announced it would close its elephant exhibit shortly after Watoto, a 45-year-old African elephant, died after failing to stand up. A necropsy found that the animal had joint disease, though it is unclear whether she fell or lay down. Zoo officials plan to announce where the remaining elephants, Chai and Bamboo, will be placed early next month.

The documents show the city, including several city council members and Mayor Ed Murray, have pushed zoo officials to pursue the sanctuary option, going as far as involving the city attorney’s office. Separately, the city attorney’s office considered filing civil or criminal charges against the zoo in the wake of Watoto’s death, the documents reveal.

The zoo is located on city land and receives about a third of its funding from the city and county. It is managed independently though a 20-year agreement. Attorneys for the city found that while the city cannot legally pressure the zoo by withholding funds, it could condition any future funds on what happens with the elephants.

The city has asked the zoo to report back before making a final decision on where to send the elephants.

Zoo officials responded to KUOW’s story with a statement: “We very much appreciate all of the interest and concern by the Mayor and members of the City Council about our evaluation process and the strict criteria we are following to make this important relocation decision. . . . As we move closer to the relocation decision, we are doing our best to keep the City, our zoo family, members and the public informed of what it takes to ensure the best interests of Chai and Bamboo are our top priority.”

Transportation package gets go-ahead; gas tax remains sticking point

at 3:57pm by John Stang

The Senate Rules Committee green lighted an 11-bill transportation package on Thursday. The bills can now show up for full floor votes­­ as a group or individually.

The GOP controls the rules committee, so the Majority Coalition Caucus – made up of 25 Republicans and one Democrat – is confident it can get most or all of the package passed. A fundamental rule of the Legislature is that the majority party never allows a bill on to the floor until it has the votes to pass it.

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler declined to say if 25 votes are lined up yet for passing the package­­, parts of which are controversial. “We’ll move when we feel comfortable,” he said.

Senate floor sessions are scheduled for Friday and for every day next week.

The two biggest controversies in the package are an 11.7­ cent-per-gallon gas tax hike and the so-­called “poison pill,” a provision that would shift much of the package’s transit, pedestrian and bike-path money to road projects if Gov. Jay Inslee installs low­-carbon fuel standards.

Democrats are against the poison pill plank but are powerless against it, except if the GOP needs Democratic votes to pass the gas tax. Some Republicans don’t like the gas tax increase, which has kept the entire package from being a GOP slam dunk.

Differences emerge on Pasco shooting autopsies

at 2:50pm by Amy Augustine

Results from an independent autopsy of the man shot and killed by police officers in Pasco this month differ from what investigators have said, according to an attorney for the slain man’s wife, the AP reports.

The independent autopsy this week from a Seattle pathologist found that 35-year-old Antonio Zambrano-Montes was shot seven times, with at least two entrance wounds on the back of his body.

That differs from what a spokesman for the special unit investigating the shooting has suggested. The spokesman said Wednesday that the preliminary results of the official autopsy showed the victim was struck by five or six bullets, none from behind.

Efforts gear up on grizzly restoration in North Cascades

at 2:44pm by Amy Augustine

Forty years after grizzly bears were listed under the Endangered Species Act, efforts are under way to boost their numbers in the North Cascades. The Herald took a look today at the work of the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with local agencies to bring the bears back to the area — part of their natural range. That includes many of Snohomish County’s popular hiking peaks.

Returning grizzlies to the area would help restore the natural ecosystem of the North Cascades, Chris Servheen, coordinator for grizzly bear recovery for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the Herald. Federal dollars to study the environmental effects of returning the bears to the area recently became available. The study is expected to take about three years with a $550,000 price tag.

The last biologist-confirmed grizzly bear sighting in North Cascades was in Snohomish County in 1996, south of Glacier Peak. The grizzly in 1980 was listed as an endangered species in the state of Washington, which boasts nearly 10,000 square miles of potential habitat for the bear in the North Cascades ecosystem; British Columbia’s North Cascades hold about 3,800 square miles of grizzly habitat. There are six areas of potential habitat outlined in the federal grizzly bear recovery plan for the North Cascades.

Starting next month, state and federal agencies will hear public feedback in six cities around the state.

Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

FCC allows state-owned broadband

at 2:43pm by Cody Olsen

In a day full of FCC news, the agency also overruled a North Carolina law blocking municipal broadband companies from expanding to offer a viable alternative to private companies.

Grounded: Bad weather cancels 7,000 flights nationwide

at 2:41pm by Amy Augustine

It’s been a bad week for American air travelers, with more than 7,000 flights grounded thanks to inclement weather, according to USA Today. As of Thursday afternoon, nearly 1,300 flights had been canceled nationwide and another 3,700 delayed.

A Southwest Airlines 737 is de-iced before takeoff in Manchester, N.H. (Credit: James Lee, Flickr)
A Southwest Airlines 737 is de-iced before takeoff in Manchester, N.H. (Credit: James Lee, Flickr)

 

 

 

New residential buildings downtown

at 2:13pm by Cody Olsen

According to the Seattle Business Journal, 56 new buildings are planned or under construction in the downtown area. This comes in a time when the Seattle economy is booming, but rent prices are sky high in many areas due to a lack of living spaces for Seattle’s workforce.

Astronomers discover supermassive black hole

at 1:58pm by Amy Augustine

An international team of astronomers has discovered a black hole as massive as 12 billion suns that formed some 900 million years after the Big Bang, NPR reported on Thursday. The finding may help scientists better understand the universe when it was young.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech illustration
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech illustration

Study finds world is becoming more hostile toward Jews

at 1:23pm by Amy Augustine

Though worldwide social hostilities involving religion are declining, a new report finds a seven-year high in the percentage of countries where Jews face harassment from governments or society — particularly in Europe. The Atlantic looks at the numbers here.

Adam Baker/Flickr
Credit: Adam Baker/Flickr

Chicago detainees speak out

at 12:50pm by Cody Olsen

On the heels of The Guardian’s expose on Chicago’s detention facilities, another detainee is stepping forward and telling her story.

Retirement by way of Airbnb

at 12:30pm by Cody Olsen

One Seattle couple has ditched their town house and sailboat for a less traditional retirement. The New York Times today profiles the travels and travails of Debbie and Michael Campbell, 58 and 69, who were staring down retirement when their daughter suggested something slightly novel: World travel, made affordable through Airbnb, a service that lets homeowners rent out their unused space, usually at lower price than traditional hotels.

After some serious number-crunching, the Campbells took their daughter’s advice. They have now been traveling across Europe for over a year and a half and have no immediate plans (or plane tickets) to bring them home.

“We’re not retiring in the traditional sense,” Mr. Campbell told the Times.

“Most of the fun comes from opening the door and not knowing what’s on the other side,” Ms. Campbell said.

Protests for minority rights on UW campuses

at 12:08pm by Amy Augustine

Hundreds of students on three UW campuses walked out of classes on Wednesday to protest what they call a “state of emergency” for minority students within the university system, KIRO reported.

The protests, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, took place on UW’s Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma campuses, where marchers delivered demands specific to each location. The demands addressed issues of inequity for blacks and other underrepresented communities and included a demand that the administration work to repeal Initiative 200, which The Daily describes as “a 1998 piece of legislation that prohibits the state from either discriminating or giving preferential treatment on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, or national origin within public employment, contracting, and education.”

In addition to the UW protests, hundreds of Seattle University students and faculty walked out to demand changes for adjunct professors, as part of National Adjunct Walkout Day.

Click below to see a video covering the protests from The Daily, UW’s student newspaper:

 

 

Amazon hires former White House press secretary

at 11:47am by Amy Augustine

Politico is reporting that former White House press secretary Jay Carney has joined the upper ranks at Amazon as senior vice president for Worldwide Corporate Affairs.

Jay_Carney_on_April_5,_2011
Former White House press secretary Jay Carney. (Credit: Pete Souza, whitehouse.gov)

In the new position, Carney will report directly to CEO Jeff Bezos, splitting his time between the Seattle headquarters and Washington D.C., where Amazon veteran Paul Misener will continue to run the company’s lobbying efforts. No word yet on whether Carney will commute via drone.

The new position brings the e-commerce giant’s worldwide public relations and public policy shops into one department. Misener and PR chief Craig Berman will now report to Carney, who will forfeit his position as a senior political analyst on CNN for the new gig.

FCC upholds net neutrality

at 11:29am by Cody Olsen

The FCC finally did something cool today. As expected, The New York Times reports that the FCC just voted this morning to reclassify the internet as a public utility under the Telecommunications Act of 1934. The 3-2 vote along party lines bars Internet service providers from charging media companies like Netflix a premium to serve their content faster and ensures that no content will be blocked. The ruling also includes mobile data.

Over the last year, an abundance of public comments, partially inspired by John Oliver’s call to action last year on Last Week Tonight, as well as support for the measure from tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo, had put pressure on the FCC to pass net neutrality regulations.

Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement praising the decision,”This is a big win for Washingtonians who create, innovate or communicate on the internet.”

It's official: Direct evidence shows humans are causing global warming

at 11:22am by Amy Augustine

File this under “not really news:” A study published in the journal Nature shows a direct correlation between human-produced concentrations of CO2 and the greenhouse effect. Study author Daniel Feldman of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory told the AP that researchers saw “the fingerprint of carbon dioxide” trapping heat in the data, which spanned over ten years. The scientists observed that carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil and gas is the chief cause of global warming.

shutterstock_179942231
(Credit: Tatiana Grozetskaya/Shutterstock)

 

 

 

Now is the time to pay attention to the net neutrality saga

at 10:15am by Amy Augustine

The Federal Communications Commission makes its long-anticipated vote Thursday on regulation of the Internet, and according to the media gurus at the Poynter Institute, now is the time to pay attention to the long-unfolding saga. Here are seven things you should know about the vote.

PR lessons from Mars Hill

at 6:00am by Joe Copeland

Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com notes that a former spokesperson for the now-imploded Mars Hill mega church is trying to share some lessons for other congregations that might face troubles enough to get them in the media spotlight. It’s pretty good, straightforward stuff about honesty and preparation. Of course, it would be even better to avoid the kind of problem that would a church in need of such advice (for what not to do, check back to our most read story of 2014, “Inside Mars Hill’s massive meltdown“). As former Mars Hill spokesperson Justin Dean advises, don’t put the PR person in a position of trying to defend the indefensible.

Obama promises to use veto to protect immigrants

at 5:40am by Joe Copeland

Visiting in Miami, the man with the suddenly hot veto pen said he will block any bill that would undo his executive action, the Miami Herald reports.

Weather: Good chance of rain

at 5:17am by Joe Copeland

The weather around the Puget Sound region looks pretty normal for the next few days. Nothing great in the way of snow for skiers.

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Reader photo

at 5:15am by Joe Copeland

Downtown Seattle Sunday Afternoon Crowd
Downtown Seattle Sunday Afternoon Crowd/Credit Joe Wolf/Flickr

Wednesday 25 Feb, 2015

Changes for I-90. Mass vaccination for U of O. Saving the heart of the CD.

We wouldn't want health insurance to get boring or anything

at 5:19pm by David Kroman

Everybody remembers the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act website. Over time, things smoothed out enough that Obamacare’s tech problems don’t often make the front page anymore.

But now, KOMO reports the Washington Health Benefit Exchange is keeping things interesting by mistakenly overcharging about 13,000 customers. The glitch led to those insurance holders getting charged three times their normal monthly rates recently, which for some could mean upward of $800 extra on top of what they already pay.

Michael Marchand, communications director of the benefit exchange, promised quick action, expecting reversals of the withdrawals within 48 hours. Still, for many an extra $800 could lead to overdraft fees and other complications. Most customers were notified by phone or e-mail.

 

House oil train bill advances

at 5:13pm by John Stang

Split along party lines, the House Finance Committee recommended 9-to-7 Wednesday that the full House pass an oil train safety bill.

“Just in the last two weeks, we’ve seen two serious explosions,” said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien.

A Feb. 14 oil train derailment in Ontario injured no one, but fires took almost a week to burn out in the sub-zero temperatures. On Feb. 16, 27 cars on a 109-car oil train derailed in West Virginia, causing fire-balling explosions. And on July 24, three oil cars on a 100-tanker-car train derailed under Seattle’s Magnolia Bridge, but no injuries nor fire occurred.

“The derailment in my legislative district was extremely upsetting to my constituents and is a symbolic representation of the risks,” said committee chair Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle.

The committee’s Republicans said they wanted to support the House oil transportation bill, but lost on three attempts to amend it. Two attempts were to lighten proposed regulations on tug boats working with oil-tanker ships. The third defeated attempt was to eliminate a proposed six cents tax increase on each 42-gallon barrel. The money would manage the state’s expanded oil safety programs. The current tax is four cents a barrel.

“A 250 percent tax increase is unwarranted. … Creating a huge slush fund is unacceptable,” argued Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee. Fitzgibbon countered that the tax increase would ensure that the oil safety program won’t have to raid other funds for money in the future.

This oil transportation bill was introduced by Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle. The House Environment Committee has already recommended — along party lines — that the House pass the bill. If the House passes Farrell’s bill, it will likely run into a bill sponsored by Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, that is working its way through the Senate.

Farrell’s bill covers a long list of oil transportation safety matters — including spill-related emergency training and responses, tugboat regulations regarding oil shipping in Washington’s waters, information to be provided to emergency agencies. Ericksen’s bill is similar, but has no public disclosure requirements about planned shipments, as does the Farrell’s bill. And it addresses only oil transportation by rail.

Local leaders fight to save hub of African-American business in the Central District

at 4:00pm by Alyssa Campbell

The intersection of 23rd and Union has historically been the heart of the Central District’s African-American community. It was the breeding ground for Seattle’s Civil Rights Movement and is now home to the Northwest African American Museum and the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. However, as gentrification has taken hold in the Central District since the 1990s with new developers investing in the area, African-American owned businesses have increasingly been replaced by condo developments. As The Stranger reports, 23rd & Union has seen redevelopment on all of its corners, except at one very important property:

The MidTown center, a 106,000 square-foot commercial property home to several African-American owned businesses, is one of the last properties at the intersection that has yet to experience redevelopment. However, this will soon change as the building’s owners seek out potential buyers. Local stakeholders, concerned over the future of the MidTown center, held a neighborhood meeting last weekend to discuss a plan of action on how to ensure the property will remain in community hands.

The meeting saw the coming together of residents, local activists and business leaders. The Union Street Business Association (USBA), a group protecting the business interests of the local African-American community, is now trying to raise money to buy the property. However, they might not be able to act fast enough. So far every interested buyer has been white.

Tom Bangasser, whose family has owned the building since 1941, is well-aware of his property’s importance to the future development of the area, noting that it has the power to “set the tone of what this whole area will become.”

University of Oregon to vaccinate en masse

at 2:35pm by David Kroman

Twenty-one of 50 states require freshman entering state schools to get vaccinated for meningitis before beginning their education. Oregon is not one of them (nor is Washington).

According to The Daily Emerald, four University of Oregon students have developed menogococcemia since Jan. 17. One student, freshman gymnast Lauren Jones, died. As a response, the university will vaccinate upward of 22,000 students to try to contain the bacteria. They also distributed pre-emptive antibiotics to all the students living on Jones’ floor.

Although they are from the same bacteria, menogococcemia is not quite the same as meningitis. However, menogococcemia infection is still potentially contagious and very dangerous.

The CDC identifies three strains of the meningococcal bacteria that circulate and cause disease: B,C and Y. The B strain, which is not prevented with the standard vaccination, causes about 50 percent of all infections. Officials believe the U of O outbreak is this strain, although that is not confirmed.

Beginning Monday, the U of O will administer primarily a vaccine that protects against the B strain, a shot that was approved by the FDA just last October. The Lund Report, which covers Oregon health issues in depth, says the bill could run to $7 million and will involve a “monumental logistical effort.”

The university is taking its response example from Providence College in Rhode Island and Princeton University in New Jersey, two schools that have also had recent outbreaks. The Seattle Times reports that officials at Washington State University and the University of Washington are watching the Oregon situation carefully.

I-90 Express Lanes to Close By 2017

at 2:00pm by Alyssa Campbell

The I-90 express lanes now used by cars and buses will be off-limits to cars by 2017, as KIRO Radio Reporter Chris Sullivan explains. The express lanes will ultimately be reserved exclusively for the new Sound Transit Link light rail line from Bellevue to Seattle.

The number of lanes designated for cars, however, will not shrink as more HOV lanes are added to the exterior. Construction of these HOV lanes will begin this week, marking the beginning of a series of 28-weekend closures on I-90 Eastbound. Traffic, get ready.

Sound Transit plans to have the light rail line fully opened and in ready for use by passengers from Seattle all the way out to Redmond by 2023.

Amnesty International: 2014 was 'catastrophic,' 2015 will be 'bleak' for human rights

at 12:30pm by Alyssa Campbell

The 424-page report released by Amnesty International outlines human rights abuses around the world, from Boko Haram in Nigeria to those in our own country. The report calls 2014 a “catastrophic” year as “the world’s politicians miserably failed to protect those in need.”

US Supreme Court likely to defend ability to wear headscarf

at 10:37am by Alyssa Campbell

In yet another labor lawsuit against Abercrombie & Fitch for failure to embrace diversity, a young woman claims that she was not hired because her headscarf ruined the company’s preppy “East Coast” style.

Ukraine cease fire takes hold, for now

at 9:15am by David Kroman

According to Reuters, the Ukrainian military said none of its troops had been killed in the past 24 hours —  for the first time in several weeks.

Watch a spacewalk live!

at 8:41am by David Kroman

NASA astronauts take a 6 and 1/2 hour stroll outside of the International Space Station. Watch them here.

Southwest grounds 128 Boeing 737s

at 6:00am by Joe Copeland

According to Associated Press, Southwest failed to inspect the backup systems that control the rudder in case the main system fails.

Journalism loses diversity champion

at 5:30am by Joe Copeland

Dori J. Maynard, who led the Oakland-based Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, has died at age 56. Journalism blogger Richard Prince has a roundup of reactions. The Oakland-based institute has been a leader in training young people of color.

A weather turn for the worse

at 5:15am by Joe Copeland

The weather is turning, on both sides of the state.

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Reader photo

at 4:30am by Joe Copeland

Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year/Copyright: Mike Waller (Flickr)

Tuesday 24 Feb, 2015

Gates calls for more energy research. Cancer Care Alliance expanding in SLU. Props for Capitol Hill restaurants.

U.S. won't prosecute George Zimmerman in death of unarmed teen

at 2:29pm by Amy Augustine

The Justice Department closed its investigation into the 2012 killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, saying it did not meet the standard for a hate crime. His family told The Guardian that they are heartbroken by the news.

The US doesn't put enough into energy research

at 2:10pm by Cody Olsen

Bill Gates is one of six executives calling for the United States government and private companies to make alternative energy research a national priority, the New York Times reports.

Flickr user Sparky
Flickr user Sparky

 

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance expanding in SLU

at 1:06pm by Amy Augustine

The Seattle Cancer Care Alliance forked over $20.5 million for an acre of land and an empty office building near its South Lake Union headquarters, the Puget Sound Business Journal reported on Tuesday.

The acquisition of the empty 25-year-old office building, at 1213 Valley St., “”will provide needed space for SCCA staff, freeing up space in our current 825 Eastlake clinic to treat more cancer patients,” facilities director Kristie Logan said in a statement.

The seller, I-5 Limited Liability Co., previously applied to the city for a permit to build on the property. That permit application was cancelled last month, the PSBJ reported.

SCCA, a coalition of doctors and researchers from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, UW Medicine, and Seattle Children’s, has no immediate plans to develop the property, a spokesperson told the PSBJ.

 

 

2 reasons Crosscut's staff can't stop smiling

at 12:53pm by Berit Anderson

photo (1)There are two reasons the Crosscut staff are grinning ear-to-ear this morning.

1. Sunshine.

2. The programs for the Community Idea Lab just arrived at the office! Aren’t they shiny?

How can we make K-12 classrooms more student-focused, individualized and community-rooted?

That’s the question we asked all of you this winter as part of the Community Idea Lab, a new kind of community problem-solving journalism invented by Crosscut last spring. More than 70 of you submitted ideas.

Tonight, our five finalists will pitch their ideas to the audience at MOHAI. Learn more about the finalists and their ideas here. 

David Harris, the winner of our first Community Idea Lab, will MC and our killer panel of judges, including Lyon Terry, Washington’s 2015 Teacher of the Year; Elham Kazemi, UW Geda and Phil Condit Professor in Science & Math Education; Kim Mead, President of the Washington Education Association; and Chirag Vedullapalli, an 8th Grade Student at Chief Kanim Middle School, will give feedback on each idea.

Then the audience will vote on the winner. We hope you’re one of them.

There’s just one hour left to buy your tickets, so don’t delay!

Obama vetoes Keystone XL pipeline bill

at 12:51pm by Amy Augustine

President Obama on Tuesday delivered an anticipated veto against the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline bill, retaining his authority to make the final judgement over the project, which would deliver up to 800,000 daily barrels of petroleum from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

The veto, the first major strike-down of his presidency, is a demonstration of political strength directed at Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress, the New York Times reports. Administration officials say the president will make a final decision when the environmental and regulatory reviews are complete.

Northern Lights make an appearance in Washington

at 12:09pm by Amy Augustine

A muted but visible aurora borealis showed its colors over western Washington on Monday night, KOMO news reports. Resident Liem Bahneman captured the celestial phenomenon while waiting for the Mukilteo ferry dock in 15 second exposures and created the following time lapse:

A little fuzzy on what the Northern Lights are, exactly? Check out this video for an excellent explanation of how particles from deep inside the sun’s core create the spectacular light show here on Earth.

TVW picks former legislator as new president

at 11:37am by John Stang

A former state legislator has been named president of TVW, Washington’s version of  C-Span. Renee Radcliff Sinclair, will replace Greg Lane as president March 2. She was a state representative from Snohomish County from 1995 to 2001, earning a strong reputation as a middle-of-the-road Republican. Most recently, she was in charge of Apple’s education policies for the Pacific Northwest. She has also served stints as president of the Everett Area Chamber of Commerce and in congressional and public affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Repurposing Bertha?

at 11:10am by Joe Copeland

Some folks with both some good ideas and a great sense of humor have put up a real-looking “Notice of Proposed Land Use Action” in Pioneer Square.
Born Again Bertha

Just in case the tunneling machine never gets un-stuck, they propose a “Born Again Bertha,” with — among other highlights — the Apollo Ohn-O sports center, a skate park in the abandoned tunnel, and the Mike McGinn elementary and middle schools. You can see it virtually here or on Occidental Avenue just south of Occidental Park.

Capitol Hill restaurant gets nod from GQ magazine

at 11:04am by Amy Augustine

Trove restaurant, a noodle and BBQ joint on Capitol Hill, ranks among the top 25 restaurants in America, according to GQ magazine. It came in at number 22.  Salivate over Trove’s menu here.

trove
Trove restaurant. Source: foodhipster206.com

 

Clinton tackles gender - in softer, subtle tones

at 10:40am by Amy Augustine

Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign isn’t shying away from issues of gender, the New York Times reports, but this time around she’s straying from the assertive, feminist tone she’s known for and highlighting her experience as a mother and grandmother.

Eugene Robinson: The GOP's derangement

at 6:00am by Joe Copeland

Speaking as someone who overcame Bush Derangement Syndrome, the Washington Post columnist suggests that Republican presidential candidates need to spend some of their massive bucks on curing their own Obama Derangement Syndrome.

Council dropouts mean more power for the mayor

at 5:30am by Joe Copeland

Ellis Conklin of the Seattle Weekly takes a smart look at the impact of city council changes on Ed Murray’s power. Hint: He’s the one watching out for the whole city.

Nuclear limits on Iran: For how long?

at 5:20am by Joe Copeland

The New York Times reports that negotiators are trying to find a middle ground on how long Iran should face limits on its ability to produce nuclear material.

What's shaking with the Washington National Guard?

at 5:10am by Joe Copeland

The News Tribune conducted a wide-ranging interview with the head of the state National Guard: He talks about last year’s Oso landslide and the Big One he worries about.

Weather outlook

at 5:05am by Joe Copeland

It’s still mostly sunny around the region today, according to the National Weather Service. But a change is on its way.

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Reader photo of the day

at 4:51am by Joe Copeland

Otters at Nisqually
Otters at Nisqually by Jim Culp/Flickr (from the Crosscut group on Flickr)

 

Monday 23 Feb, 2015

Parental leave in Seattle. Protest in Burien. Sea-Tac expansion. Homeless idea.

Seattle looking at paid parental leave program

at 6:00pm by Alyssa Campbell

Seattle could again lead the way for progressive labor policies, well ahead of the federal government. This morning, Mayor Ed Murray announced plans to introduce legislation for a paid parental leave program, which would give all City of Seattle employees access to four weeks of paid time off for the birth or adoption of a child.

The policy would cost the city up to $1.35 million each year. Councilmember Jean Godden, who serves on the city council’s Gender Pay Equity Committee and announced the proposal with the mayor, said the policy is important to creating gender equity in the workplace.

From raising the minimum wage to $15 to recognizing same-sex marriage for city employees before Washington state in 2004, Seattle has long taken initiatives on social and labor reforms. Murray argued for his paid parental leave policy, saying, “The United States is the only developed nation in the world without a statutory right to paid parental leave. … I hope this is yet another way Seattle leads the nation.”

 

Shell oil train plan needs environmental review

at 4:20pm by Joe Copeland

A hearing examiner today ruled that a full environmental impact statement must be prepared before Shell Oil goes ahead with plans for refining significant amounts of crude oil brought by train to Anacortes. The Skagit Valley Herald reports that the refinery manager expressed disappointment but promised that Shell would do whatever is needed. A half-dozen environmental groups had appealed an earlier Skagit County planning office ruling that no full review would be needed. Jan Hasselman, an attorney with the Earthjustice law firm, pointed to recent explosions of oil trains and hailed the ruling as a “common sense victory for communities along the rail line.” Those include Seattle, Edmonds, Everett and Mount Vernon.

You might soon regret 'nefarious' drone activities

at 3:54pm by John Stang

Using an unmanned aerial vehicle — a drone — to plan or commit a crime could add one-year to a person’s prison sentence.

The Senate Rules Committee unanimously decided Monday to put a bill by Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, to a full floor vote. Roach’s proposal would add 12 months to the standard sentencing range for any crime committed with the help of a drone. The bill’s language calls the use of an unmanned plane in planning or committing a crime a “nefarious drone enterprise.”

A person convicted of a crime could face the additional year imprisonment even in cases where an accomplice was the only one using a drone.

The bipartisan vote by committee members indicates the bill will likely pass the Senate sometime this week. The bill would then go to the House for a possible vote, and the measure would also need the signature of Gov. Jay Inslee.

US can't blame immigrants for measles

at 3:00pm by Alyssa Campbell

The spread of the disease can be linked to unvaccinated Americans. Just in case you were still in any doubt.

Microsoft researcher predicts Oscar winners

at 1:45pm by Cody Olsen

Is there an algorithm that  can predict the Oscar winners? Economist David Rothschild seems to be pretty close, according to GeekWire. The member of Microsoft Research’s New York City lab led a team that correctly predicted 20 of 24 winners last night, as well as 21 of the winners in 2014, and 19 winners in 2013. The Microsoft team nabbed most of the big categories, including Best Picture, only missing out on original screenplay, original score, animated feature and film editing. Any system that can predict the occasionally head-scratching decisions made by the Academy is nothing to scoff at.

Rothschild is also part of a site that predicts the outcomes of a variety of other topics, including sports and politics. PredictWise is already starting to break down the 2016 election, saying there’s a 59.8 percent chance the Democratic Party will retain the White House. The PredictWise people see Hillary Clinton as the frontrunner with a 48.1 chance of being the president, followed by Jeb Bush at 17.1 percent.

Widow of slain Pasco citizen withdraws claim. For now.

at 1:05pm by Cody Olsen

After receiving new legal representation, the widow of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, the man slain by police officers in Pasco weeks ago, has withdrawn her $25 million wrongful death claim against the city of Pasco. MyNorthwest.com reports this withdrawal isn’t a concession though. The new legal counsel Charles Herrmann is convinced that the police officers used excessive force, but wants more time to decide what exactly Antonio’s widow, Teresa de Jesus Meraz-Ruiz, should do.

“Antonio posed no threat or grievous harm to these policemen at the moment they took his life,” Herrmann wrote in an email. “The mere fact that he may have thrown rocks before, or even if he possibly had a small pebble hidden in his hand, it cannot possibly justify police resorting to deadly force.” Herrmann’s firm is conducting an independent investigation, and he says they plan to file a new claim when they have all the information.

Meanwhile demonstrations protesting the Pasco shooting continued largely without incident, though bridge traffic between Kennewick and Pasco was temporarily shut down Saturday morning by the protestors.

U.S Appoints Special Envoy for LGBT Rights

at 1:01pm by Alyssa Campbell

The first-ever envoy will help defend LGBT rights abroad.

Joe Biden wouldn't win the presidency...

at 12:18pm by David Kroman

…But he should run anyway, says Slate.

Protests planned against Burien ordinance that may target the homeless

at 11:07am by David Kroman

Advocates will protest Monday night against a Burien City ordinance they see as unfairly targeting Burien’s homeless population. The ordinance was adopted in August and allows police to remove people for reasons that included boisterous behavior and poor body odor.

The ordinance was revised to exclude language about body odor in January after the ACLU called it unconstitutional. But the ACLU had asked for repeal of the ordinance, and protestors still see the ordinance as too vague. “This law targets the most vulnerable members of our society,” says a statement from the group Standing Against Foreclosure and Eviction (SAFE). “Homeless people have human rights just like everyone in Burien.”

According to the Seattle Times, Burien City Manager Kamuron Gurol said the law is a response to citizens’ concerns about feeling intimidated in public spaces.

However, Burien Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz sees it as targeting a specific group of homeless youth who spend time at the library (which shares a building with Burien City Hall).

In a Crosscut piece from last January about King County’s annual Count Us In survey of homeless and unstably housed youth and young adults, the Burien Library staff praised their library for its acceptance of homeless youth. “What’s the difference between homeless kids taking a nap and someone nodding off while reading?” said the library’s manager. It sounds like there will be new discussion of whether the library’s doors will be as open under the new ordinance as they’ve been before.

Are comics still a boys club?

at 10:21am by Cody Olsen

Marvel Comics’ superhero population is getting more diverse, and ratcheting up the girl power lately.

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Will we see progress with the Iran nuclear talks soon?

at 10:09am by Cody Olsen

Secretary of state John Kerry said the nuclear talks with Iran are progressing, while critics like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to publicly criticize the talks.

Patricia Arquette's acceptance speech gets cheers, jeers

at 10:00am by David Kroman

After winning the award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Boyhood star Patricia Arquette made the following acceptance speech.

Her speech received a standing ovation and many on social media were quick to share the speech.

But she was not praised across the board. Time reported that some feminists saw her speech as blind to the issues still facing gay people and people of color.

Vox also criticized Arquette, not for her speech, but for what she said backstage.

"Birdman" snags Best Picture Oscar

at 8:54am by Mary Bruno

Along with statuettes for Alejandro Iñárritu (Best Director and Best Original Screenplay) and Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki (Best Cinematography). “Birdman” Star Michael Keaton got skunked (Best Actor went to “The Theory of Everything”‘s Eddie Redmayne). See — and hear from — all the winners here.

Sea-Tac growing. Homelessness, too. New bridge has mechanical trouble.

at 12:02am by Joe Copeland

Sea-Tac expansion, The News Tribune looks at expansion plans for Sea-Tac International Airport. There is a lot in the works, starting with a new International Arrivals Facility and a drastically expanded and upgraded North Satellite. But those won’t be enough to keep up with either short- or long-term growth. There may have to be temporary gates and check-in facilities while the Port of Seattle figures out longer-range construction projects.

Danny Westneat’s column Sunday turned to Utah for a look at how homelessness is being tackled there, an issue where King County and Seattle need all the help they can get. He interviews Bill Hobson (the outstanding leader of the Downtown Emergency Services Center), who tells him that Utah Republicans were among those who realized that providing apartments to the chronically homeless made fiscal sense. Whether or not the homeless got jobs or swore off drugs. Westneat (in one of the moments where you think, What Would Seattle Do Without Him?) even manages to find a silver lining in King County’s badly failed 10-year plan to end homelessness, concluding: “Maybe the failure of the 10-year plan isn’t just a crisis, but an opportunity.”

The South Park Bridge reopened Saturday night after getting stuck partially open almost all day, Q13 Fox News reports. With a new part for a transmission pump not scheduled to arrive until Tuesday, King County Department of Transportation crews worked late into the night Saturday to get it fully closed. So, give the workers a shoutout, even while you might wonder who the heck is to blame for an 8-month-old bridge having problems. The bridge will have to be closed again when a repair schedule is established.

Among the Oscar winners: Laura Poitras’ film Citizenfour, about Edward Snowden, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. On Friday, Crosscut’s Rustin Thompson wrote about another film, The Surrender, which Poitras co-produced. The film looks at the government’s prosecution/persecution of former State Department analyst Stephen Kim for leaking information about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities to a Fox News reporter — ultimately succeeding in imprisoning Kim just to make a point about the leaking of classified information.

Reader photo: Jeffry N. Curtis captured this shot of cargo ships backed up in Bellingham Bay by the dispute on the West Coast docks — thankfully resolved, although Bloomberg reports that it could take eight weeks to clear the backlog. Copyright Jeffry N. Curtis/Flickr

Bellingham ships

After a sunny weekend, here’s what to expect (by Thursday night, Stevens Pass has a 60 percent chance of snow).

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Sunday 22 Feb, 2015

Troop withdrawal may be slowed. Koch money funds climate change denier.

Oregon sees lull in oil train traffic

at 8:53am by Joe Copeland

The Oregonian reports that oil production is still rising in North Dakota but, with prices low, much is being sent to a giant storage facility in Oklahoma that has some remaining storage capacity. Increased oil train traffic is likely within a few months.

Income inequality: Not rising now

at 7:18am by Joe Copeland

The New York Times’ David Leonhardt writes that the break in the increasing inequality dates to the beginning of the financial crash, which had its biggest effects on the wealthiest Americans’ income. And government has done more to help the poor and middle class, showing the potential of federal action on the issue.

Energy industry funded prominent climate denier

at 6:00am by Joe Copeland

The Koch brothers’ foundation also chipped in for the work of one of the more prestigious researchers, Willie Soon at the Harvard-Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics, to dispute a human role in global warming, according to The Guardian.

New Defense secretary says withdrawal from Afghanistan could be slowed

at 5:01am by Joe Copeland

Visiting Kabul on his first trip abroad, Ashton Carter says the administration is considering keeping more troops in Afghanistan in 2015 and 2016. A deal could be reached as early as next month, according to The Washington Post.

Saturday 21 Feb, 2015

Oregon's weirdest legislative bills. South Park Bridge stuck open. Mug shots may go public. Pot bucks rise.

And the winners for the 2 weirdest bills in Oregon's Legislature ...

at 10:49pm by Joe Copeland

The Oregonian editorial board honors, so to speak, one Republican-sponsored bill and one that has all the earmarks of a bad Democratic idea — only no one had the guts to put his or her name on it. One bill would — in completely unconstitutional fashion — outlaw Sharia law. The other would raise corporate tax rates if … Oregon schools’ graduation rates fell.

This is the first year for the tournament-style competition. Why don’t other papers do this?

New South Park Bridge: not working early in week

at 10:38pm by Joe Copeland

Officials blame problems with a transmission pump for the closure of the bridge, expected to last until Tuesday. The King County Department of Transportation bridge only opened last June.

Weekend read: Haruki Murakami short story in The New Yorker

at 6:15pm by Joe Copeland

“The man always sat in the same seat, the stool farthest down the counter …” here.

NY Times 'relaunching' its magazine

at 11:57am by Joe Copeland

The paper gives “an introduction to our ambitions.”

Definitely do not read this while sitting in traffic

at 10:51am by Amy Augustine

The average Seattle driver spends 40 hours sitting in gridlock traffic each year. That’s according to KCTS9’s IN Close program, which this week took a closer look at Seattle’s traffic mess, finding it is the third worst in the nation.

With streets and highways beyond capacity, the program investigates (woefully delayed) projects to alleviate traffic, proposed mass transit solutions, and simple things drivers can do behind the wheel to make traffic better for everyone. We would be remiss not to mention Seattle drivers being among the worst and most dangerous in the country.

Now that we have your attention, want an East Coast native’s perspective? Seattleites could stand another driver’s ed class or two, might study up on the concept of merging and could consider using the high-speed lane for passing rather than as the spot for a leisurely Sunday drive.

See the video here.

Green for green: State pot profits higher than anticipated

at 9:45am by Amy Augustine

The state picked up $2 million more than expected in marijuana taxes in the last three months of 2014, according to a briefing by the state’s chief economist Steve Lerch to the Washington Revenue Forecast Council on Friday.

In November, the state had expected to raise almost $10 million in marijuana-­related taxes in October, November and December 2014. Instead, the state raised almost $12 million. The current long­-range revenue forecast for marijuana taxes and license fees is $43.4 million in the biennium that ends the middle of this year; $221.6 million in 2015­-2017; and $362.8 million in 2017­-2019.

A Muslim scholar walks into a Catholic college and starts talking 'Holocaust'

at 9:05am by Joe Copeland

The New York Times’ ‘On Religion’ columnist tells an inspiring story about Professor Mehnaz M. Afridi, director of Manhattan University’s center on the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education.

House bill making mug shots public passes committee

at 8:44am by Amy Augustine

Booking photos of those charged with crimes could be made public under a bill that passed a near-unanimous House committee vote, the Associated Press reported on Friday.

The bill, proposed by Rep. Dave Hayes, a Republican from Camano Island, would require detention faclities to make mug shots accessible to the public in the same way that names, booking dates and charges are presently. That, according to Hayes, might give an increased sense of security to alleged victims.

“They simply want to be able to see a photo of the person that made them a victim,” Hayes said. “Under current law, they don’t have that ability.”

Rowland Thompson, executive director of the Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington, told the committee last week that Washington is one of only a few states nationwide in which booking photos aren’t currently public.

Under the bill, photos would only become public after a person is charged and arraigned; the release of the mug shot would be delayed if it would cause problems for an ongoing investigation.

Rep. Sherry Appleton, a Democrat from Poulsbo, cast the sole vote against the bill, citing privacy concerns of people later found innocent. “. . . Now their picture is found everywhere, and we have effectively ruined their life after they didn’t do anything wrong,” Appleton said.

 

Friday 20 Feb, 2015

Mourning loss of reasonable rents. Budget gets little help. Kurt Cobain's b-day.

Fire rips through 79-story residence tower in Dubai

at 11:08pm by Joe Copeland

Authorities say residents are all safe, according to BBC and other reports.  The name of the residential tower: The Torch.

Port deal comes after White House sets deadline

at 10:01pm by Joe Copeland

Dock workers came to a deal with representatives of West Coast port operators and shipping lines as they faced a deadline set by President Obama, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

It's missing Knute Berger...

at 4:40pm by David Kroman

But the week in review is worth hearing nonetheless. 

Oregon's new governor pushes ethics reform

at 3:06pm by Amy Augustine

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown held her first press conference in the gubernatorial seat on Friday, tackling the topic of ethics reform that her predecessor made timely.

Brown pledged to curb her own power, including a move to remove her own authority to veto appointments to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, the Oregonian reports. And she’ll take steps to ensure that public records — including those related to former Gov. John Kitzhaber and former first lady Cylvia Hayes — are released quickly.

Kitzhaber, the state’s longest-serving governor, resigned in the face of a criminal investigation stemming from his finance’s state contracts.

Brown stopped short of saying she would sign legislation to delay Oregon’s clean fuels program, which seeks to cut greenhouse gases by lowering the carbon content in Oregon transportation fuels and was to take effect this month. She brushed off arguments by Republicans that the legislation should be tabled until the Kitzhaber and Hayes investigations are complete.

“For me, clean fuels translates into cleaner air for Oregonians, and I think that’s a good thing,” she said.

To watch a video of the briefing, go here.

 

Modest revenue gains as state lawmakers prepare new budget

at 2:06pm by John Stang

Washington’s state government will raise roughly $140 million more than expected in 2015-2017 revenue, which means . . . not really much.

The forecast follows a recent trend of modest improvement, the state government’s lead economist Steve Lerch said when the announcement was made on Friday.

“It removes some suspense from producing a budget,” added Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina and the House’s chief budget writer.

The forecast also means that lawmakers cannot expect to be saved from hard decisions about spending cuts and tax hikes by a sudden surge of new income. Washington’s 2015-2017 operating budget is expected to be in the range of $37 billion to $39 billion — $3 billion to $5 billion more than the final 2013-2015 budget. The Democratic-controlled House is expected to unveil its budget proposal in late March, followed several days later by a proposal from the Republican-controlled Senate.

The two sides have radically different philosophies on what should be in the budget. In 2013, it took two extra special sessions for the GOP and Democrats to agree on the 2013-2015 operating budget.

Police body-cams bill worries ACLU

at 1:28pm by David Kroman

There are a few bills floating in the Washington Legislature to clarify the murky waters surrounding use of body cameras by police. One bill, HB 1917, made it out of the House Judiciary Committee Thursday and it has the ACLU nervous.

HB 1917, introduced by Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, would clear the way for implementing use of the cameras — something sought by police reform advocates — by providing that police video and audio recordings of any kind are exempt from the state’s Privacy Act. The act generally forbids making recordings without the consent of everyone involved. It also exempts undercover officers from the Privacy Act so long as they’ve received authorization. Finally, the bill would restrict access to recordings to those who were directly involved with an incident that was recorded or who had a court order.

As it stands now, recordings must be disclosed to anyone who asks (as demonstrated with flair by Tim Clemans last fall).

The ACLU of Washington released a statement Friday denouncing the bill. They see the language as vague enough to allow for huge exemptions: “The bill applies not just to police body-cameras, but to all video and audio recordings by uniformed police and corrections officers.” And the bill’s current language would allow recordings of third parties without warrants, potentially expanding surveillance greatly,the ACLU said.

They are also concerned the bill’s access restrictions would make it difficult for journalists to obtain material. Said the ACLU’S Shankar Narayan, “It should create conditions for body camera pilots that emphasize accountability, not surveillance.”

RIP affordable housing (Fremont edition)

at 12:31pm by Amy Augustine

Since we’ve been on the subject of costly housing today: If parting with last month’s rent check still has you down, head on over to Fremont on Saturday. A wake will be held to commemorate the so-called death of affordable living.

The event, put on by the Fremont Neighborhood Council and the Fremont Historical Society, will spotlight more than a dozen rental homes — many of which were built before the 1930s — that have either been demolished over the past two years or have a future date with a wrecking ball.

Neighbors will join to “mourn the loss of historical heritage, housing diversity, green space and affordability,” according to a press release from the Fremont Neighborhood Council. The group has filed an appeal under the state’s environmental protection act to appeal one of the projects.

The event will be held on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Fremont Baptist Church, 717 North 36th Street in Fremont.

Our hearts go out to you in your time of sorrow, Fremont.

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Worldwide, more women are working. So why not in the U.S.?

at 11:32am by Amy Augustine

Fewer women are participating in the U.S. workforce today than our contemporaries in other industrialized nations, according to data published Friday on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

In the 90s, we were on par with countries like France, Germany and Canada; it wasn’t until the 2000s that things started to stagnate and decline. One major contributor to women staying home? The high cost of childcare, which, on average is $7,800 per year.

According to Child Care Aware, an advocacy group promoting access to affordable childcare, the average cost of enrolling an infant in a full-time day care center ranges from $5,496 in Mississippi to $16,459 in Massachusetts. In Washington state, the average cost is $12,332.

Here’s a breakdown of the data from the Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development.

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Seattle rents tick up in January, mirroring national trend

at 11:04am by Amy Augustine

Seattle rent jumped 6.4 percent last month over prices in 2014, the 11th highest in the country, according to data released from Zillow on Friday.

That’s not a new story for the Emerald City, which has seen steadily increasing rents along with other pricey metropolitan areas like Boston, Los Angeles and New York. The median cost for an apartment in Seattle? $1,834. Nationally, it’s $1,350.

Nationwide, the real news is that it’s getting more expensive to live in places where growth was previously flat, spiking in smaller housing markets. Currently Americans should expect to spend about 30 percent of annual income on rent, 5 percent more than historical averages, according to the real estate giant.

The fastest growing rent in the country last month was – no surprise – San Francisco, where median rent was up 15 percent year-over-year for the fourth month in a row, the data said. The fastest growing markets in January included Denver, Colo., Kansas City, Nashville, Tenn., Portland, Ore., and Charlotte, N.C., according to the data.

Click here to see the data.

Today is Kurt Cobain's birthday

at 10:54am by David Kroman

He would have been 48. Here’s an animated video of an interview he did with PBS in 1993, 10 months before his death.

But how does the Grateful Dead feel about Bertha?

at 9:55am by David Kroman

We all know that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon lines up with the Wizard of Oz. But did you know that the Grateful Dead predicted Bertha’s problems nearly 40 years ago in their song “Bertha”? “Had a feeling I was falling, falling, falling”? Sounds like the viaduct to me. “Ran into a rainstorm…It was all night pouring, pouring”? Definitely Seattle. “I had to move, really had to move”? Yup. And finally, predicting the voice of Sen. Mike Baumgartner of Spokane with Nostradamus like precision: “Bertha don’t you come around here anymore.”

MLB to add pace-of-play rules

at 9:38am by David Kroman

In an effort to increase the pace of Major League Baseball games, the league announced Friday they would mandate players to keep one foot in the batters box, managers to stay in the dugout during replay reviews and a prompt return to play between innings. ESPN has full coverage.

Rent control for Seattle apodments?

at 8:45am by Mary Bruno

1806 apodment_Footprint

Seattle City Council members are considering a measure that would place a $618 ceiling on rents for micro-apartments, er, “small efficiency dwelling units.” That’s according to The Seattle Times.

Morning Troll: Bertha video. Walkout at Seattle U. Reader photo of day.

at 4:00am by Joe Copeland

The Bertha tunnel-boring machine is now within reach of the spot where a crane can hoist up the cutterhead after reaching, as Crosscut’s David Kroman reported, its repair pit Thursday. The Washington State Department of Transportation has this video of Bertha breaking through. Keep your eyes on the far wall of the rescue pit to see the wall collapse (at about 55 seconds) and the cutterhead appear.

Many part-time faculty and student supporters will stage a walkout at Seattle University at noon. It’s part of a national day of protests organized by a union group working to get better pay and job conditions for part-time faculty. Among those joining will be Seattle City Councilmembers Nick Licata and — wait, don’t guess! — Kshama Sawant. Colleges across the nation have increasingly turned to part-timers as a way to cut costs and increase flexibility — less of that annoying tenure and academic freedom, you know.

A new batch of documents from Edward Snowden shows that U.S. and British intelligence agencies hacked into the largest manufacturer of SIM cards for cell phones, giving intelligence agencies “unfettered access to billions” of phones worldwide, according to The Guardian.

Seattle City Councilmember Sally Clark has proposed a tighter rent cap of $618 per month on some of the smallest efficiency units in apartments built under a property tax exemption program. The Seattle Times reports the bill made it out of committee Thursday and is expected to come before the full council on Monday.

Reader photo of the day (from Crosscut’s Flickr group) @copyright Lorn J. Fant /all rights reserved:

View from Madison Park in winter
View from Madison Park in winter

The weekend weather outlook — pretty nice after today!

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Thursday 19 Feb, 2015

Bertha on the move. Vote to split Seattle schools. Foreign policy: What Would Jeb Do?

Bertha birthed.

at 5:02pm by David Kroman

Bertha, the tunnel boring machine (TBM) that has not seen daylight for a year and two months, broke through the walls of her access pit around noon on Thursday. Some critics were concerned the broken machine would not be able to bore through the 20-foot-thick concrete walls of the pit built to excavate Bertha’s cutterhead. But Chris Dixon of contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners said she did admirably. “We were willing to run it until the internal temperature reached 60 degrees celsius. It never got higher than 30.”

Earlier in the troll, we mentioned hearing a boom before noon. Although it wasn’t confirmed, officials said the noise was likely the falling of the final layer of concrete between the machine and the pit, as can be seen in the video from WSDOT below.

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Chris Dixon in front of Bertha’s access pit. Photo: David Kroman

Dixon spoke with media in front of the cauldron-like repair pit, which was still spewing dust. He said that once the concrete is removed from the pit, crews will move Bertha an additional 40 feet into the open air. Once Bertha is there, they will be able to extract the busted cutterhead with a massive crane, turn the 2,000 ton piece of metal horizontally and replace the rubber seals.

They will also replace the main bearing behind the cutterhead, even though they’re not sure it’s actually broken.

Dixon, although unwilling to hold onto any particular timeline, said the tunnel’s completion date was late 2017, the same date WSDOT has previously provided.

Crew moral? “They were very happy to operate the TBM again,” said Dixon, “even if for only 20 feet.” As they go deeper, said Dixon, the hope is that better, cleaner soils will make for faster progress.

Seattle Schools breakup wins a vote

at 3:50pm by John Stang

The Washington House Education Committee voted Thursday for a bill to split the Seattle School District in two.

The bill sponsored by south Seattle Democratic Reps. Sharon Tomiko Santos and Eric Pettigrew, would force the breakup by forbidding the existence of any school district with more than 35,000 students. With roughly 52,000 students, only Seattle fits that description. Spokane, Tacoma and Kent’s school districts are distant runners-up with roughly 29,000 pupils apiece. The Seattle district is just too big to effectively work with students and parents, the pair have argued.

Pettigrew and Santos’ bill would also limit the number of school board members to five. The Seattle School Board has seven.

The committee recommended that the full House of Representatives vote on the measure.

Under the bill, the state superintendent of public instruction would convene a group to map out the two districts’ new boundaries. Representatives of the regional education service district and other officials would also develop a plan for addressing financial issues, dividing employees between the districts and dealing with union contracts. The full plan, including proposals for new laws that would be needed to carry out the split, would then go to the governor and the Legislature by Dec. 1. The bill does not set a specific timetable for dividing the district.

Foreign affairs: What Would Jeb Do?

at 3:33pm by Joe Copeland

David Horsey has some thoughts.

Health official misquoted by the governor's office

at 1:11pm by Cody Olsen

The office of Gov. Jay Inslee has amended an erroneous quote it ran from state Secretary of Health John Wiesman last week. Weisman was originally quoted in Inslee’s e-cigarette data press release as saying, “Many kids believe e-cigarettes are safer, but scientific evidence suggests they are not.” The quote was criticized as misleading by vaping advocates including Dr. Michael Siegel, professor of public health at the University of Boston School of Public Health, and longtime worker in the field of tobacco control.

Dr. Wiesman’s quote has since been amended. It now reads, “Many kids believe e-cigarettes are safe, but scientific evidence suggests they are not.” The dust-up over the extra ‘r’ appears to have been a simple typo or miscommunication, but the American Vaping Association was quick to point out that Gov. Inslee’s office did not publicly announce the typo. The association praised the change.

Gov. Inslee’s data and quotes related to the safety of e-cigarettes can be found here. A Crosscut story that quoted Wiesman has been updated to reflect the change.

The possible links between marijuana and psychosis

at 12:53pm by Cody Olsen

KUOW talks to Roger Roffman, UW professor emeritus, about links between high potency marijuana and psychosis.

Bertha on the move. And a boom in Pioneer Square.

at 12:23pm by Cambria Roth

State officials are putting out the word that Bertha is on the move, headed toward the pit where crews plan to begin repairs. That’s promising news.

But did something happen with Bertha? Around 11 a.m., we felt something at the Crosscut offices in Pioneer Square, a quarter mile or less from the viaduct. It was one brief boom, shake — like something dropped and the floor shook. The shake wasn’t just in our imagination — maintenance workers told us the building definitely shook. Of course, there can be a lot of causes for a big bang in the city.

Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan told us to call Washington State Department of Transportation. “It is their project now.” Washington State Department of Transportation spokesperson Laura Newborn said late this afternoon that the boom was probably related to the Bertha’s movement into the repair pit. She said chunks of concrete flew about as Bertha moved forward to the repair pit.

Superbug outbreak at UCLA

at 10:38am by Cambria Roth

The Los Angeles Times reports the FDA has warned hospitals and medical providers that a commonly used medical scope may have facilitated a superbug outbreak affecting over 170 patients and killing two people.

A step toward $15 in Portland. Girls get robotic. M's hospitalized prospect a little better.

at 4:00am by Joe Copeland

Portland is getting into the $15 minimum wage, but only in a small way for now, at least. The City Council voted unanimously to require $15 pay for 173 contractors and full-time workers who are making less than that. The Oregonian reports that the city is looking for ideas on how it can pay $15 an hour to 1,800 part-time and seasonal workers who won’t be covered by the new policy. While that may leave Portland well behind Seattle, the Oregon Legislature is looking at a bill to raise the state minimum wage to $15. There’s talk in Washington’s Legislature of a possible $12 minimum.

High school robotics may be dominated by boys, but now there’s one all-girls robotics team competing in the Pacific Northwest, according to KING 5. It’s at Holy Names High School, and the team, which came together just 45 days ago, will take part in its first competition next month. There may only be 30 all-girls teams worldwide.

A report out of Venezuela has somewhat encouraging news about a Mariners’ pitching prospect, 20-year-old Victor Sanchez, according to The News-Tribune. After surgery for a head injury, he remained unconscious and in critical condition but was moving his hands and legs. A boat propeller struck him in the head while he was swimming.

Today’s journalistic shoutout goes to Fox News for its use of quotation marks to try to skew perceptions:

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Wednesday 18 Feb, 2015

Gender-neutral graduation for Franklin High.

Benton county florist violated the Consumer Protection Act

at 5:19pm by Cody Olsen

A Benton County Superior Court judge today ruled that a Benton County florist’s refusal to serve a same-sex couple in 2013 violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act. Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a statement supporting the decision. “The law is clear: If you choose to provide a service to couples of the opposite sex, you must provide the same service to same-sex couples.”

The ruling is here.

Councilmember Sally Clark will not seek re-election

at 4:18pm by David Kroman

Councilmember Sally Clark announced Wednesday she would not seek re-election in 2015. She is the third councilmember to withdraw, following Nick Licata and Tom Rasmussen.

The announcement is something of a surprise, as Clark had already settled into her campaign for one of the two citywide seats. “I was looking at what this whole year would hold, doing the fundraising and sponsorships,” she said. “But I found that I was more excited thinking about the future.”

She denied that the switch to district elections had anything to do with her decision. She also denied that her office had collected any information to suggest she wouldn’t win. “I’ve run citywide three times. I know the game and felt good about my chances,” she said.

Clark has been on the council since 2006 when she was appointed to fill Jim Compton’s vacated seat. Since then she has worked extensively on issues of neighborhood planning and banking for low-income populations. Her most recent success was the council’s approval of priority hiring for local construction workers.

When asked what’s next, Clark was unsure. “I’m really trying to stay open. It will be something that involves untying difficult knots.” She added, “I need to work. I can’t retire.”

Her endorsement for the candidate in her district? She only laughed. “This is still pretty fresh. I’m not going to say anything about that.”

Can guns help curb campus rape?

at 4:17pm by Cody Olsen

Gun-rights advocates argue that arming female college students would help curb rapes on campuses.

Chad forces combat Boko Haram

at 4:14pm by Cody Olsen

Security forces in Chad have pushed Boko Haram back from Dikwa, a town the militant group had occupied.

Seattle's James Beard finalists

at 3:38pm by David Kroman

The Seattle Times published a list of this year’s James Beard Award nominees from the Seattle area. They are:

  • Holly Smith of Cafe Juanita for Outstanding Chef
  • Jay Blackinton of Hogstone’s Wood Oven on Orcas Island for Rising Star Chef of the Year
  • Canlis for Outstanding Restaurant
  • Ethan Stowell for Outstanding Restaurateur
  • Wild Ginger for Outstanding Wine Program
  • Canon for Outstanding Bar Program
  • Evan Andres of Columbia City Bakery for Outstanding Baker

Argentine prosecutors rally over colleague's suspicious death

at 3:35pm by Cody Olsen

According to the Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors in Argentina are planning a silent march in response to the Jan. 18th death of fellow prosecutor Alberto Nisman. Nisman was found dead in his apartment last month, a day before he was to report to Congress that Argentine president Cristina Kirchner had conspired to sabotage a probe into the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires. His death has been ruled a suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but many in Argentina are convinced there was foul-play.

 

Carnegie Mellon accepts 800 applicants, then rejects them

at 2:15pm by Cambria Roth

CNN reports that the school’s admissions office mistakenly sent out acceptance emails to 800 rejected applicants for the university’s master’s program in computer science.

Thanks to Marshawn Lynch, W. Washington more prepared for earthquakes than E. Washington

at 2:08pm by David Kroman

According to MyNorthwest.com, a 4.3 earthquake shook the Cascades early Wednesday. Unfortunately, a system of seismometers meant to detect early tremors kicked in 18 seconds later than it should have. Says John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network at the University of Washington, the earthquake would have been much more quickly detected in the Puget Sound region, where there are more sensors. Seattle also has had the opportunity to test their early detection system. How? Think Beast Mode…

Bertha moving

at 1:23pm by Cody Olsen

Update 4:30 PM: She’s gone 6 feet!

Bertha just has to make it 17 more feet, before she reaches an access point where workers will finally be able to remove the front for repairs, seattlepi.com reported Wednesday morning. Seattle Tunnel Partners, the company running the stalled drilling machine, offered up no estimate on the amount of time it might take the wounded behemoth to reach her destination, adding in that if Bertha overheats, operators will temporarily shut her down again. Glass half full? We’re hopefully, almost, getting closer to some tangible progress on the odyssey of our replacement SR 99

Here’s a WSDOT video of the work they’re doing on the other side to help Bertha along. We found it on SLOG.

Kate Brown sworn in as Oregon governor

at 12:58pm by Cambria Roth

World Cup is underway (for Cricket)

at 12:12pm by Joe Copeland

The World Cup of Cricket is underway in New Zealand and Australia — and Afghanistan is the Cinderella team. They lost their first match today, but not before the U.S. Embassy in got so excited by the team’s fast start that it tweeted out a congratulations on their victory. That led to The Guardian (and probably millions of others) mocking American lack of knowledge (and ability: we failed to qualify).

Even in this country, the World Cup is getting a bit of media attention nationally, including a Philadelphia Inquirer article by former Crosscut Publisher Greg Shaw. As he notes, America got off to a good start in sport — G. Washington had the troops playing “wicket” at Valley Forge and the U.S. and Canada actually held the first international cricket competition in 1844. For those who really would like to know, Greg says that the Wikipedia page offers enough explanation that five minutes reading “will tell the beginner enough to enjoy the game.” As someone who conducted a couple fruitless searches for a good guide (after Greg wrote “Coder by day, cricket bowler by night”  on the local scene in 2013), that sounds like a decent place to learn enough to know something to say in cheering for the Afghan team.

According to another Wikipedia page, the U.S. broadcast rights are held by Dish and ESPN Broadband, with both requiring payment.

Another try for a meaningful primary. Gender-neutral graduation lines.

at 4:00am by Joe Copeland

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman wants voters to have a 2016 presidential primary that means something — with results that count toward picking the major party’s presidential candidates. As Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com notes, the parties won’t like that. They love their caucuses: If you are new to the state, leaders of either party would be happy to sit down and bend your ear about the glories of meeting with a tiny sampling of neighbors rather than voting. 

At the next graduation, Franklin High School in Seattle isn’t going to put the young men and women into separate lines and seating sections, The Seattle Times reports. The decision will reduce stress for students who don’t identify with male or female — and there’s plenty of stress (as well as pride) around taking a new step anyway. The Times says the traditional separation still holds at some schools’ graduation ceremonies.

Coming soon: Baseball spring training

Lake Tapps is at its lowest level in a decade — but it’s not the weather or any lack of rain. KING 5 reports that the 40-foot drawdown will allow operators to make repairs to aging facilities at the Cascade Water Alliance, which operates the reservoir along the King-Pierce county line. And the weather for Auburn (down on the county line) and Seattle:

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Tuesday 17 Feb, 2015

A call for feds' help in Pasco. AG Ferguson backs immigration orders. Record temps.

Yakima told to change city council elections

at 7:04pm by Cody Olsen

Yakima’s voting districts for their city council elections will soon look a bit different. On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington ordered the city of Yakima to adopt seven single-member districts for city council elections. Although the city population is 40 percent Latino, there has never been a Latino on the council. Back in 2012 the ACLU of Washington filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Yakima residents who felt the city’s at-large voting procedures contributed to the Latino population not being represented adequately.

The court sided with the plaintiffs in August 2014, and today’s decision picked a proposal for changes from the ACLU over one from the city. The city will likely consider an appeal, according to KIMA TV. Under the plan, all seven council seats would be up for election in August.

Report: Non-violent drug prosecutions on the decline

at 6:47pm by Amy Augustine

USA Today reports that mandatory minimum prison terms for non-violent drug offenders dropped to record lows in 2014, according to data released Tuesday.

Figures from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent agency of the judicial branch, show that prosecutors sought harsh mandatory-minimum punishments 51 percent of the time last year, down from 61 percent in 2013. Administration officials say that’s a sign the Justice Department’s new sentencing policy is working.

The data was released ahead of Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech at the National Press Club. Sentencing reform is a cornerstone of Holder’s criminal justice strategy to reduce the overcrowded federal prison population. About 30 percent of the Justice Department budget goes toward federal prison operations.

The number of drug prosecutions also declined by 6 percent during the same period.

 

Zillow closes Trulia deal. Layoffs follow.

at 4:46pm by Amy Augustine

Online real estate giants — and longtime rivals — Zillow and Trulia are now bunking under the same roof, GeekWire reported on Tuesday.

The Seattle-based Zillow forked over $2.5 billion in stock to close on the acquisition of Trulia, based in San Francisco, down from a $3.5 billion price tag when the deal was first announced last summer. Zillow now operates under the name Zillow Group and is comprised of four real estate brands: Zillow, Trulia, StreetEasy and HotPads.

About 350 staffers will lose their jobs in the acquisition, mostly between Bellevue and San Francisco. The company axed 280 people today; another 70 staffers will be let go by the end of the second quarter, according to a press release from the company. The layoffs were primarily to eliminate redundancy in the combined company’s sales and administrative organizations, it said.

CEO Spencer Rascoff said while the decision to lay people off weighed on him, he believes the company is poised in a good place to move forward. He told GeekWire, “I am excited about how we are positioned relative to the size of the opportunity.”

Local leader calls for feds to investigate Pasco shooting

at 2:50pm by Amy Augustine

Hispanic leaders in Pasco are calling on the Justice Department to investigate last week’s deadly police shooting of a 35-year-old orchard worker, the fourth officer-involved shooting there since July.

Felix Vargas, chairman of Consejo Latino, a community organization to advance economic development for Hispanic-owned businesses, said he believes there is a conflict of interest in Tri-City Special Investigations Unit investigating the death and believes federal investigators should assist, KOMO news reports.

This was the fourth fatal shooting involving a Tri-City police officer in Pasco in the past six months. Officers have been cleared of any wrongdoing in the previous cases.

The police said Antonio Zambrano-Montes threw rocks at cars and officers before he was shot last Tuesday as he tried to run away. Police said officers fired because they felt threatened. Zambrano-Montes was unarmed. Witnesses told the Tri-City Herald that Zambrano-Montes ran about half a block before he was killed about 5 p.m.

Locals are split over whether the incident points to a larger trend of racism within the department or whether the shooting was isolated. See Crosscut’s coverage about the events in Pasco.

Pam Roach reprimanded by Lt. Gov. Owen

at 2:45pm by Cody Olsen

“I’ve been the most unfairly treated senator in state history.” Sen. Pam Roach made that statement in response to Lt. Gov. Brad Owen’s letter reprimanding her for her behavior in recent public hearings. The Seattle Times reported on the letter to Roach, obtained Monday by the Associated Press, in which Owen tells Roach he received a written complaint about her behavior at a hearing on a bill about initiative signature gathering. Owen writes about Roach’s treatment of those who appear before her committee, citing a trend of not allowing some committee members to ask questions and talking over others. Crosscut’s John Stang will have a report later on a wide-ranging response that Roach made today.

 

Judge halts Obama's immigration action; state AG supports administration

at 1:29pm by Amy Augustine

The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is putting the brakes on actions to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for work permits and legal protections after a federal judge ruled that the administration had not followed the law in instituting the program.

The move came one day before the executive orders, which would extend temporary work permits for up to five million undocumented immigrants and protect them from the threat of deportation, were to be implemented.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh C. Johnson vowed to appeal the ruling but said the department would comply by suspending plans to begin accepting applications from an expanded group of illegal immigrants on Wednesday.

Locally Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a statement of support for the president, arguing that the move would benefits states by raising revenue and reducing demand for social services.

“I am disappointed in the District Court’s decision to halt needed immigration reform,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Washington and other states have a strong interest in reforms that will improve public safety and strengthen our economies. Delay will hurt our communities and punish hard-working, tax-paying immigrants and their families.”

Record-setting temps across the region

at 1:08pm by Amy Augustine

Unless you’ve been stuck underground in a large tunnel, you’ve probably noticed it’s an unseasonably warm February.

Temps hit record highs on Monday across parts of the state and Oregon as one of the warmest winters on record slogs on. The National Weather Service reported record highs in Sea-Tac, Olympia, Hoquiam, and Vancouver, as well as Portland, Hillsboro and Salem, which topped out at 66.

This week’s weather pattern is being caused by a high pressure ridge creating sunny, dry days, The Olympian reports. Forecasters predict a letup on Wednesday, with a chance of snow and light rain in the mountains, though it may be wise to unpack your spring wardrobe sooner rather than later: The high pressure system is expected to be back at it over the weekend and into next week.

Pilot program to provide early quake detection

at 12:57pm by Amy Augustine

Local businesses and emergency management offices are teaming up with the University of Washington to pilot usage of a program that provides early warnings ahead of earthquakes. The software, implemented by the university’s Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, is the region’s first warning system for quakes. KUOW reports that researchers today met with a trial group that includes Boeing, Microsoft, Sound Transit, Providence Hospital and others to discuss emergency planning and response in the region.

The warning system could be used to slow trains, halt factories, or stop surgeries in the moments before a quake. Beta testing with the companies and agencies will help determine how long it might be before a system could be in general public use here. Earthquake warning systems have long been used in Japan. A similar software system is being piloted in California.

Facebook footprint growing?

at 6:00am by Mary Bruno

Facebook is increasing its presence in Seattle in a big way. TechFlash reports the company will lease all but two floors in the 10 floor Dexter building, which opens next week. Currently Facebook Seattle is headquartered at a building on Minor Avenue that houses 400 employees.

This move will quadruple that presence, adding the potential for 2,000 more employees at their Dexter building site. Sources from Facebook and the Dexter building wouldn’t go on the record, and TechFlash, part of the Puget Sound Business Journal, is using “sources in the commercial real estate industry.”

Parking costs soar. A better car story. Danes gather promising unity.

at 5:00am by Joe Copeland

Perhaps you’ve noticed: Parking prices are soaring all over Seattle. But it’s worse than most of us probably realized: In fact, reports KING 5 News’ Linda Byron, the costs are approaching those in Manhattan and San Francisco. Metro Transit is looking better and better.

On the brighter side of cars: The Seattle Times’ Brier Dudley tells about a museum soon to open in Interbay  that will look at the composite materials pioneered for Lamborghini cars both in Italy and Seattle. But, yes, it will include one of the rarer Lamborghini cars, the Sesto Elemento.

Danes gathered across the country Monday to remember the victims of the weekend terror attacks., The Guardian reports.

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