Monday 23 Mar, 2015 A leader in dreariness. Coffee with Congressman Jim. Pickets at Gates Foundation. Gonzaga doubles down. So long, sunny winter: Seattle named nation's dreariest city at 6:00pm by Alyssa Campbell Credit: Näystin According to a recent study, Seattle tops the nation’s Dreariness Index — a composite measure of total annual precipitation, days per year with precipitation, and average annual cloud coverage. Places across the US were ranked on a scale of 3 to 30 – with 30 being the most dreary. Seattle had a score of 27, tied with Buffalo, New York. What exactly makes Seattle so dreary? It is not so much the rain as the large number of overcast days that persist through every season. Yet, a reality check is needed – you would be hard pressed to find any other ranking where Buffalo and Seattle share a spot. While Seattle may be gloomy in terms of weather, it is far more vibrant economically and culturally than its northeastern counterpart. Local artist turns trash into treasure at 5:00pm by Alyssa Campbell Credit: Isobelle Ouzman When local artist Isobelle Ouzman finds discarded books around Seattle, she doesn’t miss an opportunity to bring them second life through her Altered Books series. Using a mix of techniques and materials — including water colors, glue, and pens — Ouzman renders new visual works of art through carving out concentric designs (mentioned on the Laughing Squid blog) from the old pages of forgotten books. Coffee with Congressman Jim McDermott at 4:18pm by Cody Olsen U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle. Saturday morning Congressman Jim McDermott met with more than 40 constituents at Bustle Caffe, an event aptly named “Coffee with your Congressman.” The representative of Washington’s 7th Congressional District described it as a “no agenda” meeting to hear from his constituents and tell a bit about the goings-on in Congress. McDermott had just returned from visiting refugee camps in Turkey, where many Syrians displaced from the ongoing civil war reside. He said he came back sad, because the situation has “no good answer” for what the United States should do. On the Middle East, McDermott noted that Obama is seeking another Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a document originally drafted in the days after 9/11 giving then-President George W. Bush the authority to combat a stateless extremist group like Al-Qaeda. However, since the United States is now targeting a different extremist group, the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the president’s continued use of the 2001 authorization has come under scrutiny. McDermott says another authorization should be passed, arguing that without one, President Obama has “no authorization” to engage in military operations against the Islamic State. On domestic issues, McDermott mused, “Are we ever gonna raise taxes or cut loopholes?” McDermott expressed frustration at what he sees as the country’s squeamishness toward any taxes, eliciting some encouraging nods from the crowd: “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that guy behind the tree.” Within Congress, McDermott suggested, the key element to pretty much all aspects of life, compromise, has been sorely missing for the last six years. He spoke about the dynamic in the Republican party, especially the House where there’s an ideological rift between John Boehner, the centrist Republicans and the Tea Party flank of the party. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and I don’t know when people are gonna vote those …. people out.” McDermott said of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, eliciting laughter from the crowd as he forced himself to use a kinder word than he maybe would have liked. “I stopped myself from being myself.” He said. To which one of the audience members yelled, “You’re among friends!” After speaking for about 30 minutes he fielded questions from the audience, including one about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement on trade with 11 other Pacific Rim nations. McDermott said, “I disagree with the President on TPA. There’s just not a lot of good stuff in there for us.” McDermott highlighted foreign aid as a place where Republicans and Democrats can come to together, saying he’s a firm believer in foreign aid as a means of diplomacy. “American foreign policy has become driven by military strength,” McDermott said, raising his fit in mock-bravado. “You’ll do what I want ’cause I have the most powerful military in the world.” Extended stay in Space at 4:03pm by Cody Olsen Seattlepi.com reports Astronaut Scott Kelly launches into space Friday, as part of a prolonged mission that NASA scientists hope will let them study some of the adverse effects long-term space travel has on the human body. He will be in space for nearly a year. Seattle has 5th largest LGBT community in the nation at 3:30pm by Alyssa Campbell Credit: Joel Bradshaw According to a recent survey by the Gallup Organization that Richard Florida analyzes for CityLab, Seattle has the fifth highest percentage of LGBT population among the nation’s largest metro areas, at 4.8 percent. This number comes after Gallup conducted more than 370,000 interviews across the country asking respondents “Do you, personally, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?” What cities beat out Seattle for having a higher proportion of LGBT residents? San Francisco tops the list, followed by Portland, Austin and New Orleans. Interestingly, Salt Lake City also ranks in the top 10 as a regional LGBT center. New thinking about alcohol dependency at 12:30pm by Cody Olsen Most Americans tend to look at alcohol dependence in terms of two distinct groups, alcoholics and everyone else. But, as NPR reports, that thinking is changing among psychiatrists and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The emerging view is that alcohol dependency is more of a spectrum, with varying degrees of severity and risk, rather than those who have the disease and those who do not. A new study from the CDC finds that many Americans who drink more than one or two alcoholic drinks a day are not necessarily alcoholics, as they do not report typical symptoms of dependence. Another CDC study finds that these types of heavy drinkers are capable of cutting back without drastic intervention. With this new thinking comes more options than the nearly monopolistic Alcoholics Anonymous. For those worried about their drinking but who feel AA isn’t the right fit, NPR notes, other groups like Moderation Management may be an option. Microsoft's shortcomings in a chart at 11:04am by Cody Olsen To a mere mortal this chart might look like one giant mess, a fury of circles and lines, signifying nothing. But to Chris Capossela, Microsoft’s top marketing executive, it’s a quick visual indicator of how Microsoft is doing compared to Google and Apple. The answer, reports GeekWire, is decidedly mixed. “[The chart] shows you that we’ve got a lot of big businesses at Microsoft,” Capossela told an audience at the Microsoft Convergence Conference in Atlanta last week. “Windows is big, IE is big, Office is big, etcetera. But it also shows you that we don’t have nearly the connectivity between our products that Google has engineered and that Apple has engineered.” John Oliver: “How the bleep is it possible for a grandmother to go to jail for traffic tickets?” at 10:00am by Mary Bruno John Oliver couldn’t keep quiet in the wake of revelations that officials in Ferguson, Missouri were balancing the municipal budget by fining black residents. In Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, host Oliver explains — and rages against — how committing a minor municipal violation (like not paying a parking ticket) can spiral out of control, leading to fines, penalties, and eventually jail. “Most tickets come with a fine,” says Oliver, “and if you’ve ever lived paycheck to paycheck you know that can be difficult.” In fact, it can ruin your life. Also noted: failure to vaccinate your ferret can get you in really big trouble with the law. For more of Crosscut’s take on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, check out Rustin Thompson’s latest Viral Video piece. "War on coal" hits Supreme Court at 9:58am by Mary Bruno “The name of the law at issue before the Supreme Court on Wednesday is the Clean Air Act. It is not the Coal Industry Protection Act, despite what that industry’s advocates seem to want the justices to believe,” writes The New York Times editorial board today. The Environmental Protection Agency wants industry (mostly coal-fired power plants) to emit fewer toxic pollutants — like mercury, a documented danger to the developing brain and nervous system. Industry backers like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell call the regs costly and unnecessary. Clean Air Act opponents, argues The Times, “view every regulation, whether aimed at protecting human lives or the future of the planet, as nothing more than a war on coal. But profits and human health are not mutually exclusive.” Why is that so hard to agree on? Amazon vs. Expedia: hotel booking wars? at 9:11am by Mary Bruno Travel site Skift has noticed that a few indie hotels are now offering up rooms at regular rates through Amazon Local. This development, says Skift, “is a big departure from the steeply discounted, distressed inventory that has been the mainstay of Amazon Local over the past couple of years.” What doth this move portend? Amazon is angling to attract hotels “on an ongoing basis,” writes Skift, “and not just when they have rooms to sell at 40 percent or 52 percent cheaper than published rates.” Participating properties include Gleneden, Oregon’s Salishan Spa & Golf Resort and the Ocean Place Spa & Resort in Long Branch, New Jersey. Okay, not exactly the Hilton chain. But everybody has to start somewhere. Expedia, beware! REI reports big jump in 2014 sales at 7:23am by Mary Bruno If 2014 is any indication, the recession may be over for the Kent-based outdoor retailer. The Seattle Times says REI’s $2.2 billion in sales last year represents the biggest annual jump (9.9 percent) since 2010. Credit a rise in membership, healthy demand for REI-run trips and classes and the fact that a whole lotta tents, kayaks and other outdoor paraphernalia went flying out the door. Ted Cruz wants to be in White House. Is Obama thinking of Oahu? at 6:45am by Joe Copeland First term U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is announcing his presidential candidacy today at a weekly convocation on the campus of Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr.’s Liberty University, hoping to get a jump in the Republican nomination race as the first officially declared candidate, according to the New York Times. Politico reports that the Obamas could already have picked out their new address, on the Waimanalo Beach section of Oahu. A mysterious transaction took a house that was used as the backdrop for the 1980s TV show Magnum, P.I. off the real-estate market last week. Pickets to protest Gates' Africa seeds position at 6:15am by Joe Copeland Activists in Seattle and London are promising simultaneous picketing at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation this morning and at a London meeting site. The Seattle-based Community Alliance for Global Justice says it is concerned that foundation representatives and the United States Agency for International Development are meeting in London in what the group says is an effort to promote privatization of seed and agricultural markets in Africa. A recent Humanosphere article noted that Bill Gates continues to speak positively about GMO crops as one way to help meet Africa’s food needs. Gonzaga doubles down on March Madness at 6:00am by Joe Copeland Not only did the Gonzaga men’s basketball team batter Iowa to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 with a win in KeyArena, but the Gonzaga women upset Oregon State to reach their Sweet 16 as well. Bud Withers of the Seattle Times has the men’s story from Seattle here. The Associated Press report on the women’s win notes that they come home to Spokane for the next round. Starbucks done 'together' cup messages at 5:45am by Joe Copeland CEO Howard Schultz sent a letter Sunday to employees saying Starbucks’ baristas wouldn’t write any more “race together” messages on coffee cups, but a spokesperson said that had been the plan all along, according to the New York Times. So, if you were actually worried about being confronted with a coffee cup mentioning the nation’s No. 1 divide — or opportunity to improve — it’s all clear as of Monday morning. But beware of pundits on either the left or the right claiming they got the company to back down. Reader Photo: New buses at 5:30am by Joe Copeland A pair of new Excelsior coaches resting at the Kenmore P&R. Copyright: WhenEliseSings/Flickr Weather: Seattle won't be spoiled next few days at 5:00am by Joe Copeland It looks like more normal weather patterns are returning to Seattle this week; late week should be better. Sorry, Spokane, it looks like you might get some of it, but the weekend could be fabulous.