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Monday 30 Mar, 2015

Zags come up short. Bertha cutterhead resurfaces. Comicon dispatches. Sex ed revisited. Google tops list of Seattle's best employers.

The legacy of Harry Reid

at 3:45pm by Cody Olsen

With Harry Reid’s announcement that he won’t be seeking re-election next year, The New Yorker opted to highlight what might be Reid’s most important legacy as Democratic leader in the Senate: his transformation of the federal judiciary.

In 2013, with a slim Democratic majority in the Senate, one that could not overcome Republican filibusters, Reid allowed Senate Democrats to change the chamber’s rules, making a simple majority all that was needed to move potential judges to a vote. Folks might remember this as the so-called “nuclear option.” The Democrats, spearheaded by Reid, went on to push though 13 judicial appointments to the appeals court, and more than 100 district court judges as well.  The New Yorker suggests that in a time when Congress is known for its overwhelming dysfunction, Harry Reid took bold action to reshape the federal judiciary, action that will effect court rulings long after both Reid and President Barack Obama leave office.

Sasquatch! finalizes 2015 line-up

at 3:30pm by Alyssa Campbell

The 2015 Sasquatch! Music Festival finalized its line-up today, with the addition of Sleater-Kinney and several other artists. The festival will take place, as usual, on Memorial Day Weekend (May 22-25) at the Gorge. Other headliners include Of Monsters and Men, Ayron Jones and the Way, Lana Del Rey, Milky Chance, Kendrick Lamar and Ryan Adams. It’s a hefty $350.00 for a four-day pass, with VIP passes soaring into the thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, there’s no a la carte ticket option; festival-goers have to purchase a ticket for the entire event.

Tim Cook condemns Indiana's legislation

at 3:04pm by Cody Olsen

On the heels of Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post condemning the legislation for making it easier to discriminate. “These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear,” Cook said.

“I have great reverence for religious freedom. As a child, I was baptized in a Baptist church, and faith has always been an important part of my life. I was never taught, nor do I believe, that religion should be used as an excuse to discriminate.”

At last check, the Post website was reporting “5,000+” comments.

Google tops the list as Seattle area's best employer, above local companies

at 3:00pm by Alyssa Campbell

According to a recently published Forbes’ list, Google is the best place to work in the Pacific Northwest. As the Seattle PI reports, Forbes compared 25 companies in 25 different industries across the U.S. To be eligible for consideration, businesses had to employ at least 2,500 employees.

So, which locals made the list? Issaquah-based Costco finished second on a list that also featured Seattle Children’s Hospital, Alaska Air Group, Starbucks, the University of Washington, Nordstrom, Microsoft and Expedia – all of which, interestingly, ranked above Amazon, Seattle’s fourth-largest employer.

Bertha cutterhead surfaces today

at 2:55pm by Mary Bruno

Monday afternoon, the giant red crane looming over Seattle’s waterfront began hoisting Bertha’s 4-million-pound, malfunctioning cutter head to the surface. It’s a tricky maneuver — the cutterhead itself is five stories tall — which could take 16 hours or longer, according to Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP). The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) plans to keep the Viaduct open (gulp) throughout the unearthing. But we shouldn’t worry. STP says that the super crane doing all the heavy lifting was built by the U.S. firm Mammoet, which has successfully lifted a whole Russian nuclear sub from the bottom of the Barents Sea. This time-lapse video, in which we learn that “it takes two cranes and months of hard work to build a SUPER crane,” shows the crane being built.

It’s likely to be the middle of the night before the work is completed. You can follow the progress on the live pit cam. And keep an eye out for a report by Crosscut’s David Kroman tonight.

Far right sees gains in local French elections

at 2:45pm by Alyssa Campbell

The Front National (FN), France’s infamous anti-immigration and anti-EU political party, gained significant ground in last weekend’s elections, as The Guardian reports. FN leader Marine Le Pen hopes the party’s local success will help her launch a successful run for the French presidency in 2017. Meanwhile, the strength and unity of the French left is on the wane.

Trevor Noah to replace Jon Stewart

at 1:30pm by Alyssa Campbell

Credit: Indiewire

As the New York Times reports, Trevor Noah, a 31-year-old South African comedian, is set to replace Jon Stewart on ‘The Daily Show’ after Stewart announced last month that he would be leaving the show at the end of its current season. It is hoped that Noah will bring a fresh international perspective to news satire in the U.S.

Oil train bills compete in Olympia this week

at 8:30am by Mary Bruno

Oil trains at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes.
Oil trains in Anacortes. Paul K. Anderson

The issue of safely moving oil through Washington State will be on the legislative agenda this week as competing bills move through the state House and Senate. The measures, writes Everett Herald’s Jerry Cornfield, “could bring higher taxes for refiners, larger crew sizes on trains for railroads and more inspections of tracks and railroad crossings.” The two bills from Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, and Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, face key hurdles this week. On Monday, Ericksen’s Senate Bill 5057 will be considered by the House Environment Committee. On Tuesday it’s Farrell’s turn, as her House Bill 1449 comes up for before the Senate environment panel.

Ed Murray punishes Indiana for religious freedom act

at 8:17am by Mary Bruno

Mayor Ed Murray
Mayor Ed Murray

Not long after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed his state’s religious freedom act into law, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray banned city employees from traveling to Indiana. Murray, says the Puget Sound Business Journal, also plans to audit city contracts to make sure Seattle isn’t doing any business with Indiana-based firms. The mayor joined corporate leaders  from Salesforce, Apple, Angie’s List and others in opposing the religious freedom act, which opponents argue is a thinly-veiled attempt to sanction discrimination.

Seattle overcome by comic-apocalypse known as Comicon

at 7:02am by Berit Anderson

Every year around this time thousands of geeks in costume overrun downtown Seattle for the Emerald City Comicon, an epic celebration of comics. Even if you’re not a comic book nerd (or if you are, but afraid of crowded spaces), the convention is worth a look for amazing people-watching and its collection of animation talent. Geekwire has a collection of great shots from photographer Brendan Lash, not least of which is this incredible horde of pikachus.



Outsourcing the sex talk

at 6:07am by Berit Anderson

Local Julie Metzger isn’t embarrassed to talk about sex. Or penises. Or vaginas. Or anything in between. In fact, if you pay the $70 to attend her sex-ed class at Seattle Children’s Hospital, she’ll likely talk your ear (and those of a gaggle of parents and pre-teens) off about them. Metzger is the subject of a recent New York Times Magazine article about her uniquely open approach to sex-ed.

“Parents walk in feeling almost victimized by preteens and puberty, and my job is to utterly transform their ability to connect,” she told writer Bonnie Rochman. “That sounds so arrogant, but I know when I walk in that room, that is my work.”

Gonzaga breaks 15-year drought, but can't get past Elite 8

at 6:00am by Berit Anderson

Spokane sweetheart Gonzaga broke through the Sweet 16 this weekend after a 15-year drought, but lost to Duke on Sunday. Writes the Seattle Times’ Bud Withers, “Gonzaga’s dream of its first Final Four appearance was derailed by Duke, the most predominant team of the last generation in college basketball, Sunday here at NRG Stadium, 66-52, as the Blue Devils finished on a 13-1 run.”

Friday 27 Mar, 2015

Harry Reid resigns. State House Dems release budget. HBO expands Seattle footprint. 40 percent of Washingtonians favor higher taxes.

Marysville gets federal grant after school shooting

at 3:00pm by Alyssa Campbell

The Department of Education will soon give the Marysville School District $50,000 to help with the unforeseen expenses that followed the fatal shooting there last October. That’s according to My Northwest. After 15-year-old Jaylen Fryberg shot and killed four fellow students — and then himself — teachers, students and staff were understandably traumatized. The federal grant is part of a program to support schools after this kind of tragic event. In the case of Marysville, the money will help defray the cost of substitute teachers, transportation, overtime and other shooting-related spending the school district never planned for.

Amanda Knox acquitted

at 2:52pm by Joe Copeland

Today - Season 62Italy’s highest court has acquitted Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito of the 2007 murder of Knox’s roommate Meredith Kercher. The court, according to The New York Times, dismissed all charges, shocking Italy and finally putting an end to the eight-year-long drama over Kercher’s death. The Guardian calls the decision “stunning.”

In from Seattle, Knox thanked her supporters, saying she was “relieved and grateful” for the decision and that “knowledge of my innocence has given me strength in the darkest times of this ordeal.”

Positive messages, but only when it rains

at 2:00pm by Alyssa Campbell

Finally, a little glow in the city of gloom. A video featuring Rainworks, street art that’s activated only when it rains, went viral this past week. According to the website, Rainworks are “positive messages and art that appear when it rains … to make people smile on rainy days.” Through messages such as “Stay dry out there” to hopskotch games, Rainworks creator Peregrine Church is “on a quest to make the world a more interesting place.”

Yesterday, the Seattle PI went along with Church as he installed his water-activated messages in the U-District with friends. So, if you find yourself bummed by this weekend’s drizazly forecast, just plan a Rainworks treasure hunt. And use this map.

HBO to expand its Seattle operation

at 12:30pm by Alyssa Campbell

Credit: PSBJ

Seattle’s tech expansion marches on. As PSBJ reports, HBO announced plans to quadruple its office space in Seattle by leasing four floors in South lake Union’s new Hill7 building. The cable network hopes to “tap into the local talent” here, hiring 90 new tech workers. The Hill7 building is owned by developer Touchstone, which also owns the Troy Block buildings where Amazon plans to expand.

Geekwire looks at the impact on Seattle’s tech opportunities. In an email to Geekwire, HBO confirmed that “We are expanding our Seattle footprint so we can further tap into the local talent. The plan is to grow off of our current 90 employees in the area of technology as well as create additional positions that will support a variety of departments throughout HBO.” The principal focus of HBO’s Seattle outpost has been HBO Now, the network’s streaming service.

Germanwings co-pilot hid illness

at 11:39am by Cambria Roth

New evidence shows that Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot who is believed to have deliberately crashed the Germanwings jet into the French Alps on Tuesday, neglected to inform the airline about a medical condition. The New York Times reports that investigators searching Lubitz’s home found a doctor’s note excusing him from work on the day of the crash — and another that had been torn up.

These documents “support the preliminary assessment that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and colleagues,” said prosecutors in a statement. The exact nature of that “illness” remains unclear.

Will there be high-speed rail across Russia before Light Rail gets to Ballard?

at 11:04am by Alyssa Campbell

Credit: The Telegraph

A 12,400-mile superhighway and high-speed rail line between London and Alaska? Developers presented the idea before the Russian Academy of Science recently, as The Telegraph reports. The project, known as the Trans-Eurasian belt Development (TEPR), would be the first route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, joining up with existing networks in Europe.

According to the Siberian Times, this ambitious transportation corridor would give rise to new industries and cities and help develop Russia’s vast interior. “The idea,” said Vladimir Fortov, head of the Russian Academy of Science, “is that based on the new technology of high-speed rail transport we can build a new railway near the Trans-Siberian Railway with the opportunity to go to Chukotka and Bering Strait and then to the American continent.”

With Sound Transit still awaiting approval by the State Legislature to put Sound Transit 3 on the ballot next year, will we see high-speed rail across Russia before Light Rail gets to Ballard and West Seattle? Vladimir Putin may be able to give the go-ahead on major infrastructure projects with the snap of his fingers, but around here, well, things tend to take a little bit longer.

Indiana governor signs controversial religious freedom act

at 9:18am by Mary Bruno

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a controversial “religious freedom” bill into law on Thursday, despite strong opposition from a variety of industry leaders, who believe the measure invites discrimination, especially against the LGBT community. The Huffington Post reports that organizers of the massive gaming convention Gen Con have threatened to stop holding the event in Indiana and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff tweeted on Thursday that his company would now shun the state.

Hillary Clinton tweeted her dismay as well: “Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn’t discriminate against ppl bc of who they love .”

Pence, the IndyStar reported, signed the bill in a private ceremony in his office just before 10 a.m. Thursday, making “Indiana the 20th state in the nation to adopt such legislation. It is modeled on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which President Bill Clinton signed in 1993.”

We have two words for you: DONATE, please.

at 8:26am by Mary Bruno

50 matchThere are four days left in our abbreviated Spring Member Drive. That means we have four days to convince you to support Crosscut, the Northwest’s only not-for-profit, independent, digital-only, reader-supported experiment in journalism. Brigades of informed, engaged citizens is what we need to tackle the challenges we face: Think traffic, a meh public school system, traffic, a yawning haves v. have nots gap, traffic … So how about this: If you give us your support, we’ll give you the info, insight and analysis you need to wage war on apathy, get involved and make a difference on all those critical issues. And if you give today — $50 or more —  one of our generous donors will match your gift! So, double your impact. Arm yourself with info. Support Crosscut today.

The great King County diaspora

at 8:00am by Mary Bruno

New census data suggests that a growing number of people are leaving King County for more affordable Pierce, according to Gene Falk, the FYI Guy. Newbies are still pouring into King County. But based on the latest “net domestic migration” data, writes Falk, “the balance of that flow seems to have shifted markedly toward those who are leaving.” Not so with Pierce County, which “registered a surplus” of newcomers last year. Is King County’s loss becoming Pierce County’s gain? We won’t know for sure, says Falk, until the U.S. Census Bureau releases its county level numbers.

Harry Reid won't seek reelection

at 7:50am by Mary Bruno

The Senate Minority Leader and Nevada Democrat announced on Friday morning that he won’t be running for a sixth term. Reid said his decision was not driven by the injuries he sustained during a New Year’s Day fall or by his demotion to minority leader. “I want to be able to go out at the top of my game,” said Reid, 75, who has served five terms in the Senator.

The pundits are already debating Reid’s effectiveness, not to mention the impact of his withdrawal on the Dem’s chances to retake the Senate in 2016. But one thing the snarky among us will miss is Harry’s way with an insult. Politico rounded up Harry’s greatest jabs. Like this one from January, 2010, about former President George W. Bush’s pet: “Your dog is fat.”

Tacoma police dog dies after inhaling meth

at 7:23am by Mary Bruno

Barney, a Tacoma police dog, died after inhaling methamphetamine during a drug search.
Credit: Tacoma Police Department

Barney, an 11-year-old black Lab mix, who worked with the Tacoma police narcotics squad, died Wednesday night, a day after he inhaled methamphetamine during a drug search in Puyallup on Tuesday. Read more at Tacoma News Tribune.

House Dems to release 2015-2017 budget proposal

at 5:10am by John Stang

House Democrats in the state legislature will unveil their proposed 2015-2017 state operating budget on Friday at 11:30 a.m. The total will likely exceed $37 billion, and call for new, yet-to-be-identified taxes as a way to meet the obligations imposed by the Washington Supreme Court’s McCleary mandate: to improve teacher-student ratios in Grades K-3.

Senate Republicans will announce their budget proposal in a few days. The GOP budget total will likely be in the $37 billion neighborhood, and will not include any new taxes. Crosscut will publish a short rundown of the budget highlights early this afternoon.

Reader photo: Skagit Valley Barns

at 5:04am by Mary Bruno

Skagit Valley barns
Credit: Flickr user M. Waller

New poll: 40 percent of Washingtonians favor higher taxes

at 5:03am by John Stang

A new poll from Boston-based pollster Tom Kiley found that Washingtonians want to tax wealthy residents and large corporations more. The phone poll was commissioned by Washington United For Fair Revenue, a coalition of roughly 100 predominantly liberal organizations. It surveyed 513 Washington residents from across the state.

Forty percent of the respondents thought taxes should be higher. Of that 40 percent, 59 percent were Democrats, 39 percent were independents and 13 percent were Republicans. In the same poll, 64 percent of those responding thought large corporations are not taxed enough; 54 percent believed the wealthy are not taxed enough; 2 percent believed small businesses are not taxed enough; and 3 percent thought the middle class is not taxed enough. (The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent.)

The poll also surveyed participants about specific tax proposals floating around Olympia, but Washington United For Fair Revenue did not want to release those numbers because, according to spokesperson Reiny Cohen, the organization has not yet taken a position on any of those proposals.

Warm on Friday, wet weekend ahead

at 5:01am by Mary Bruno

Look for temperatures to remain balmy on Friday (high near 80 in Walla Walla), but rain is on the way this weekend.

Screen shot 2015-03-26 at 9.33.55 PM


Screen shot 2015-03-26 at 9.33.16 PM

In fight against Boko Haram, Nigeria fails to act

at 2:30am by Alyssa Campbell

In a report by the New York Times, Chad’s president Idriss Déby criticizes the Nigerian government for not doing enough in the fight against Boko Haram. After leading a military operation against the terrorist group in Northern Nigeria, Déby insists Chad is not “Africa’s policeman.”

Thursday 26 Mar, 2015

Ed Murray's affordable housing goal. Social safety net encourage entrepreneurs. 30 Dreamliners for China. Microsoft makes vendors offer contract workers benefits.

Car prowls in South Seattle

at 3:42pm by Cody Olsen

The South Seattle Crime Prevention Council warns South Seattle residents to be extra cautious with their belongings as the neighborhood has seen an uptick in car prowler activity recently. The worst affected areas are from South Spokane Street to the north, south to South Rose Street, and from MLK to the west, east to Lake Washington.

The Council cautions residents not to leave anything valuable in their cars, reminding everyone that perps have smashed car windows to grab as little as $1 in change. Check the Crime Prevention Council site for detailed instructions on how to report non-emergency car prowls.

Ad-free tragedy

at 3:30pm by Cody Olsen

Slate’s Future Tense blog reports on a finding from Parker Higgins of the Electronic Frontier Foundation that says something about how a publication chooses to handle a difficult situation — in a positive way. While reading The New York Times‘ coverage of the downed Germanwings flight, Higgins noticed that editors had inserted a line of HTML code that put the crash story in “sensitivity” mode, limiting or altogether blocking ads. The code ensures that sensitive stories like the fatal Germanwings crash are handled with an air of decency.

Homeless and senior on the Eastside

at 2:01pm by Cody Olsen

The number of seniors in need of housing or other basic services has increased in Bellevue, according to the Bellevue Reporter. The article, which also looks at the growing numbers of people in their 50s facing homelessness, highlights the lack of affordable housing on the Eastside. The article notes that seniors with limited income can face special burdens from health issues. While they may have Medicare, they generally only qualify for the additional help from Medicaid if they suffer from one or more health issues. Absent a significant health issue, they may find themselves having to decide between paying rent or mortgage and buying groceries.

The article also highlights national figures, where the number of homeless among the elders population has increased 33 percent since 2009.

Mayor announces affordable housing goal

at 1:05pm by Cody Olsen

Mayor Ed Murray announced Thursday he has directed the Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee to come up with a strategy for developing 50,000 housing units over the next 10 years, 20,000 of which would be income-restricted affordable units.

The mayor’s proposal would more than double the current affordable housing production of 700 units per year.

Crosscut will have a full story on the proposal later today.

Does the social safety net encourage entrepreneurs?

at 12:37pm by Cody Olsen

Are we a nation that values pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, or one that’s on the road to being a welfare state? According to The Atlantic, the two might not be mutually exclusive. Citing 2014 research by Harvard Business School assistant professor Gareth Olds, author (and associate Harvard Business Review editor) Walter Frick argues that expanding public benefits programs can actually encourage potential entrepreneurs by ensuring them a safety net should their enterprise fail. In some states, writes Frick, the expansion of food stamps in 2000 actually, “increased the chance that newly eligible households would own an incorporated business by 16 percent.”

Consumer Protection Agency (John Oliver too) takes aim a payday lenders

at 12:29pm by Cody Olsen

The Washington Post reports that the $50 billion payday lending industry could soon be regulated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, one of the financial regulatory agencies created in the wake of the 2008 recession.

Payday lenders give out small short term loans for borrowers in need, usually in the range of $500. The industry has come under fire for the high interest rates it charges, sometimes in the triple digits annually. The practice has sent some lower-income borrowers into a debt spiral, forcing them to take out second and third loans to pay back the initial ones.

The CFPB released a proposal Thursday, suggesting payday lenders might want to determine a borrower’s ability to actually repay the loans before issuing them. Some payday lending agencies see this as unfair regulation, others say the proposal wouldn’t do enough, because the CFPB isn’t allowed to cap interest rates.

For a deep, comedic dive into the problem, check out John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, which ran this segment on the topic six months ago.




Chinese carrier orders up 30 Dreamliners

at 10:30am by Mary Bruno

The Boeing Dreamliner.

Hainan, China’s fourth-largest airline, wants 30 Boeing Dreamliners to accommodate China’s growing demand for overseas travel, reports Reuters. The cost of 30 787-9s? Oh, you know, $7.7 billion. That’s the biggest order this year for the Boeing Dreamer.

Microsoft makes vendors offer contract workers benefits

at 9:45am by Mary Bruno

Microsoft Way sign

Microsoft has had a stormy relationship with its contract workers, paying out $97 million to settle a lawsuit brought by contractors in the 1990s. But a recent unionization effort prompted the company to think seriously about upgrading working conditions for the tens of thousands of contractors who toil for Microsoft vendors on Microsoft projects. The result, according to The Seattle Times: Microsoft will now require any of its U.S. suppliers (from food to transportation services) that employ more than 50 people to offer employees working on Microsoft projects 15 days of paid leave each year.

“This kind of step is good for people and good for business,” Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith told The Times. “It seemed to be the single biggest step that we could take that would have the biggest impact.”

Co-pilot crashed Germanwings jet on purpose

at 7:32am by Mary Bruno

The chief prosecutor investigating Tuesday’s crash of a Germanwings jetliner in the French Alps has said cockpit voice recordings indicate that 28-year-old co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately locked the pilot out of the cockpit before sending the Airbus jet into its deadly dive. “… [T]he interpretation we can give at this time,” said prosecutor Brice Robin, “is that the co-pilot through voluntary abstention refused to open the door of the cockpit to the commander, and activated the button that commands the loss of altitude.” Read more in The New York Times.

Saudis' attack on rebels in Yemen raises fears of wider conflict

at 6:00am by Joe Copeland

The air offensive, reportedly coordinated with other nations, raised fears of a regional conflict, the New York Times reported.

California's attorney general seeks to kill initiative that calls for shooting gay people

at 5:30am by Mary Bruno

The Guardian is reporting that California attorney general Kamala Harris will go to court in an effort to stop the Sodomite Suppression Act. The proposed ballot initiative filed last week by Huntington Beach attorney Matt McLaughlin includes a clause suggesting that “any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head, or by any other convenient method.”

Supporters need 365,880 signatures to put the Sodomite Suppression Act on the November 2016 ballot. The “attorney general does not have the administrative authority to kill the proposal on her own,”” writes The Guardian. “She does, however, have the right to ask a judge to do it.” It’s unclear how the court would rule.

Germanwings pilot got locked out of cockpit before crash in France

at 5:03am by Mary Bruno

In the early part of the flight from Barcelona to Düsseldorf, a crash investigator who had listened to the cockpit voice recorder told The New York Times, after some “very smooth, very cool” conversation between the doomed plane’s pilots, one of them left the cockpit and never got back in. “The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door, and there is no answer,” the investigator told The Times. “And then he hits the door stronger, and no answer. There is never an answer. You can hear he is trying to smash the door down … At the very end of the flight, the other pilot is alone and does not open the door.”

Reader photo: Don't some trees know it's spring?

at 5:02am by Mary Bruno

Seattle trees
Credit: Flickr user Mr_Bull_

Get ready for some heat

at 5:01am by Mary Bruno

Temperatures could top 70 east of the mountains . . .

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Wednesday 25 Mar, 2015

Recovering from traffic trauma. Twitter rolls our "quality filter." Coming soon: ruling on Amanda Knox appeal. Jimmy Fallon (sweetly) roasts "Villanova piccolo girl."

GeekWire asks the question about Amazon's size

at 3:30pm by Joe Copeland

“Is Amazon too big?” That’s the big headline on GeekWire — and if a top-notch tech publication is asking, we probably should all be thinking about it. GeekWire co-founder John Cook has a thoughtful essay on some of the main points .

Burien residents: Panhandlers must have permits

at 3:13pm by Alyssa Campbell

Burien is making headlines again for its attempts to deal with the homeless. As KIRO 7 reports, certain Burien business owners want to require panhandlers to obtain a permit before collecting money on the streets. Darla Green, a local shop owner in Burien, plans to discuss the idea before the City Council within the next month.

Green argues that it is unfair that that she must apply for a permit to run her business when panhandlers aren’t forced to do the same. However, getting any legislation through the City Council will be difficult. Doug Honig at the American Civil Liberties Union argues, such a law would be “unconstitutional, especially in Washington state [which] has very strong protection for free speech.”

The City of Burien made headlines back in August for approving a trespass law that allows police to remove people from public spaces for bad hygiene and for boisterous behavior. Although the clause on body odor was removed in January, Burien residents protested last month to remove the ordinance all together.

From business owners arguing that panhandlers should require permits to locals calling the city trespass ordinance a cruel way to exclude homeless youth from public places, one thing is clear: the people of Burien remain strongly divided on how to interact with a visible homeless population.

Spring Member Drive Countdown: 6 days left to give

at 11:46am by Mary Bruno

The hourglass tree frog
Credit: Flickr user Brian Gatwicke

(Okay, the 6 day thing isn’t entirely true — we’re happy to accept your generous support at any time of year.) But it’s especially important this week as our annual Spring Member Drive enters the homestretch. So, Crosscut members, please consider renewing. And if you are not a Crosscut member, spring’s the time to take the plunge.

You may not know this, but your support of Crosscut has made a real difference in our community. One example: a few months back, we wrote about the Seattle Police Department exceeding its overtime budget by $7 million. (Boy, what we couldn’t do with $7 million.) After our story broke, Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole decided to expand her review of overtime spending to the entire police department.

Supporting local investigative journalism can make stuff happen. When you become a member of Crosscut, you’re not only staying informed, you’re keeping other people in the loop too — and you’re investing in news that makes a difference.

Can we count on you to make a gift today? (About that photo: It’s an hourglass tree frog to inspire you. I know it has nothing to do with fundraising but it came up when I searched Flickr for an hourglass image to use with this post and I thought it was cool.)

Amanda Knox appeal to be decided within days by Italian high court

at 11:30am by Alyssa Campbell

Credit: The Huffington Post / NBC

The Italian high court started the appeal process today for Amanda Knox’s conviction of murder, reports KIRO 7.  The court will announce a decision by Friday, which could either permanently free the Seattle native or sentence her to 28 1/2 years in prison. Knox was first convicted of murder in 2009 by a trial court in Perugia, but that was overturned in 2011 by an appellate court. Knox has been free in the U.S. ever since. In 2013, her acquittal was overturned by an Italian Court of Cassation. This week, Knox awaits the news in Seattle. However, even if she is convicted, it would take an act of extradition on behalf of the U.S. to force Knox to return to Italy to face her sentence.

Jimmy Fallon (sweetly) roasts "Villanova piccolo girl"

at 11:00am by Mary Bruno

Villanova student Roxanne Chalifoux’s tearful piccolo playing — as her Wildcats lost a heartbreaker to North Carolina State in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Sunday — made the arena’s JumboTron before going viral and turning the Villanova band member into a trending sensation and landing her a guest spot on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, who reportedly wanted something good to come of Roxanne’s March Madness sadness.

President Obama to maintain current level of troops in Afghanistan through 2015

at 10:30am by Alyssa Campbell

After meeting with President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, Obama announced that the U.S. will maintain 9,800 troops in the country until the end of the year. This is being done in part to allow the CIA to continue operating drone strikes in the region, as the New York Times reports.

Utah's firing squads prompts question about humane executions

at 9:45am by Mary Bruno

On Monday, Utah governor Gary Herbert signed a bill to replace lethal injection with firing squads as the preferred method of dispatching death row inmates. This latest development in America’s thorny debate over the death penalty — that debate focusing now on how to humanely kill someone — prompted The New Republic to argue: “There is No Such Thing as a Humane Execution.”

In 2011, explains essay author and staff writer Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, the European Union stopped exporting lethal injection drugs in hopes that, absent the means to perform state-sponsored executions, we’d just stop the practice altogether. “Though the ban did slow the rate of American executions,” writes Stoker Bruenig, “it now seems Europe’s humanitarians underestimated old-fashioned American ingenuity.” Which brings us back to Utah’s firing squads.

Twitter rolls out "quality filter" - and not a moment too soon

at 9:23am by Mary Bruno

Twitter“Twitter can be a cesspool of bullying,” writes TechCrunch’s Catherine Shu. So vile at times that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo allowed in an internal memo that tweeters are actually fleeing the platform. But wait. Twitter’s new “quality filter” to the rescue. It will eventually let users filter out the icky tweets. Twitter told TechCrunch that the bouncer is only available to “verified users on iOS.” For now.

SPD nabs suspect in King Donuts assault case

at 7:36am by Mary Bruno

Officers arrested a 21-year-old man whom they believe assaulted and robbed Heng Hay and Chea Pol, owners of King Donuts, a fixture in the Rainier Beach neighborhood. SPD flushed the suspect from the crawl space of a building in the International District on Tuesday.

Anti-oil activists see threat from Canada's security bill

at 6:30am by Joe Copeland

A First Nations chief is among those saying the Canadian government’s proposed new security law is more about disrupting opposition to oil-sands exports than about halting terrorism, according to the Vancouver Sun.

Exposing diamond abuses? Worthy of jail

at 6:00am by Joe Copeland

An Angolan journalist is facing possible imprisonment next week for a 2011 book on abuses in diamond mining operations. He tells his story in the Guardian.

Another great Seattle traffic jam ...

at 5:30am by Joe Copeland

Tuesday was such a mess that the Sounders started their match at CenturyLink field late, buses were delayed and former Mayor Mike McGinn received dozens of retweets and favorites for a message suggesting that the afternoon commute showed the value of street cars, trains and other transit separated from car traffic. Seattlepi.com reported that the main culprit, a truck accident on Highway 99 next to Safeco, occurred before 2:30 p.m. Who knows how long until the next massive tie-up?

Warming ahead

at 5:30am by Joe Copeland

The weather in Seattle is supposed to turn warmer late in the week. But it might not be a prime spot for finding sunshine.

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Reader photo: Near CenturyLink

at 5:00am by Joe Copeland

Blue hour at the Wave Apartments Photo: Joe Wolf/Flickr
Blue hour at the Wave Apartments Photo: Joe Wolf/Flickr

Tuesday 24 Mar, 2015

Ports meeting privately. New insights on Super Bowl ticket problems. Plane crash in France.

Our Spring Member Drive continues with Double Your Gift day!

at 3:39pm by Mary Bruno

Seven days left to go in our Spring Member Drive and guess what?? One of our most dedicated donors said he’d match the first 15 gifts of $150 or above with an additional $150! Can you help us earn his match and instantly double your contribution to Crosscut? Of course you can!

We believe that an informed public is the only way we’ll find solutions to the challenges of our time. Your gift of $150 or more today makes that belief a reality. Help us give you the info and insight you need to be a smart player on the civic scene. Please give today.

New insight on Super Bowl ticket practices

at 3:34pm by Cody Olsen

For some Washington residents, Seattle’s agonizing Super Bowl defeat wasn’t the only shocking disappointment that day. The Seattle Times reports new details about how some ticket brokers reneged on their deals with customers: Some brokers turned around and sold tickets in the same area for a much higher price the day before the Super Bowl.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has received 138 official complaints about dozens of Super Bowl ticket brokers not providing the tickets customers bought. Many of those brokers provided refunds, but those refunds often failed to cover the cost of travel for the customers.

Ted Cruz: Prodigy? Pest? Both?

at 11:30am by Mary Bruno

Check out Washington Post writer Marc Fisher’s profile of Ted Cruz, the ultra-conservative Texas Senator who just officially announced his candidacy for president. “His Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz, calls him “off-the-charts brilliant,” writes Fisher. “Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican and unsuccessful presidential candidate, once dubbed Cruz a “wacko bird.” His own wife says Cruz’s supreme certainty had a way of being “irksome.”

City council throws Pike Place Market a bone (or a fish?)

at 10:56am by David Kroman

The Seattle City Council Monday approved $34 million to help expand the Pike Place Market. The $74 million project will take the place of an underutilized parking lot just below the market near Western Avenue and will connect the market to the waterfront. According to KING 5, the new building will house 50 new stalls; 300 underground parking spaces; 40 low-income, senior housing units; and a 30,000 square foot plaza for enjoying views of the Puget Sound and Seattle.

The construction could begin as early as May and is scheduled to take 18 months. But its connection to the waterfront is contingent on the destruction of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. In other words, there’s no completion date.

In celebration of our most beloved tourist attraction, here’s the original trailer for Sleepless in Seattle. Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner can be seen eating at Lowell’s inside the Market at 1:13. Enjoy!

Even more Amazon

at 10:47am by Cody Olsen

GeekWire reports that Amazon is (unsurprisingly) continuing to expand in Seattle, leasing 817,000 square feet of office space at the new Troy Block building, which sits just east of Amazon’s current offices in South Lake Union.

Mystery still shrouds last month's departure of head White House florist

at 9:56am by Mary Bruno

Laura Dowling, the Obama administration’s chief of flowers, has been arranging White House blooms since 2009. But according to Washington Post sources, Dowling was suddenly escorted from Pennsylvania Avenue on Friday Feb. 13 (ohh, bad day) and more than a month later people still don’t know why.

The administration has been largely mum on the subject, confirming only that “Laura left her position earlier this year,” thanking her for her service and wishing her well. Dowling was politic in her statement, saying she’d “resigned in order to pursue exciting new opportunities and explore my passion for floral artistry and design.” And the mystery lingers  . . .

German jet disaster in Alps: Recorder found. Students among the passengers.

at 9:30am by Mary Bruno

The Airbus A320, operated by a low-budget Lufthansa partner, went down on Tuesday in the south of France en route from Barcelona to Düsseldorf. The 144 passengers and six crew members aboard are feared dead. Read more in The New York Times. There’s also a blog on the The Guardian’s web site: Investigators have the black box. A group of 16 students and two teachers were among the passengers.

Star Seattle attorney Jeffery Robinson takes top ACLU post

at 9:29am by Mary Bruno

Jeffery Robinson, one of Seattle’s most prominent and veteran criminal-defense attorneys heads to New York City to take over as director of ACLU’s Center for Justice. “On the one hand, it’s leaving the practice of law,” Robinson told The Seattle Times. “But on the other hand, this is going to be working on the core issues that have driven me to be a lawyer and have been at the center of my practice since I came out of law school in 1981.”

Redmond's Wiserg lands $11 million to liquefy food waste

at 7:33am by Mary Bruno

Wiserg, reports Geekwire, the Redmond-based “startup that’s looking to convert food waste into organic fertilizer, just picked up $11 million in fresh funding…” The company’s Harvester food waste system liquefies food scraps. Great news for grocery stores – and maybe restaurants too. The big cash infusion came from venture capitalists Second Avenue Partners, along with former Microsoft and Amazon.com executive Brian Valentine and others.

Liberia: Ebola gone but not the devastation

at 6:15am by Joe Copeland

The Washington Post tells the story of countless communities in West Africa through the experiences of Josephine Dolley, a hard-working young icon of her community before Ebola struck. She lost 29 relatives and now has no way to earn a living.

A Kennedy stands against vaccinations (sort of)

at 6:00am by Joe Copeland

Robert Kennedy Jr., a son of one-time Attorney General Robert Kennedy, said families shouldn’t be forced to have children vaccinated, according to Associated Press.  He said all six of his children (yes, he’s a Kennedy) were vaccinated, but he pointed sharp criticisms at the U.S. regulatory systems and pharmaceutical companies for their handling of the issues and concerns. Kennedy is well regarded as an environmental activist and attorney.

Ports talking behind closed doors

at 5:45am by Joe Copeland

The Seattle and Tacoma port commissions are meeting this morning for private discussions of their planned operating alliance. The News Tribune’s well-versed port reporter John Gillie notes that a federal judge has approved the secret confabs but a watchdog is appealing.

Reader Photo

at 5:05am by Joe Copeland

UW Quad Cherry Blossoms Photo copyright WhenEliseSings/Flickr
UW Quad Cherry Blossoms Photo: Copyright WhenEliseSings/Flickr

Weather: Looking sunny Thursday and Friday

at 5:00am by Joe Copeland

Who says it’s always dreary around here?
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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

Jim McDermott.
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

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.

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Sunday 22 Mar, 2015

Oso disaster remembered. Long prison sentences questioned.

Ceremonies mark Oso anniversary

at 11:38am by Joe Copeland

The names of the 43 victims were read one by one during a solemn ceremony this morning. The Herald has a report.

Japan has mixed response to mixed race beauty

at 6:00am by Joe Copeland

The Washington Post details how Japan has responded — sometimes embarrassingly, sometimes supportively — to the selection of a woman from the Nagasaki area, whose father is an African American, as Miss Universe Japan.

Convicts tend to mature out of crime

at 5:00am by Joe Copeland

New studies raise questions about the value of lengthy prison terms, a writer suggests in the New York Times Sunday Review section.

Another bit of Bertha comes up

at 1:01am by Joe Copeland

The piece of the tunnel-boring machine lifted out Saturday was smaller than the one that was brought up earlier in the week, the Seattle Times reports.

Saturday 21 Mar, 2015

Guardian to have first woman as editor. Remembering a Freedom Ride. Zags need to do better.

Art Thiel: Gonzaga will have to be better Sunday

at 5:30pm by Joe Copeland

The Bulldogs let North Dakota State University stay in the game early, providing fuel for Gonzaga’s many skeptics. The Sportspress Northwest columnist says they must be much better against Iowa.

Mount Rainier made easy: Stay at a cabin

at 5:00pm by Joe Copeland

Want to avoid the exhaustion of a day trip? The Seattle Times has a make-you-daydream rundown on places to stay around Ashford, just outside the national park.

Does Iowa love Hillary?

at 4:00pm by Joe Copeland

Politico reports that former Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy in the first caucus state seems to be receiving a somewhat-tentative embrace from state Democrats, who view the Clintons as less than wild about her state. But she has made smart hires for her top staff.

An ex-Boise State prof remembers Freedom Riders' trip

at 3:41pm by Joe Copeland

A retired professor on Friday gave a crowd in Coeur d’Alene a taste of his experience in 1961, when he was arrested for disturbing the peace as soon as he got off a bus in Mississippi. In The Spokesman article, Max Pavesic also talks about the need to confront society’s continuing racism.

British Columbia's gift to pro basketball retires

at 3:06pm by Joe Copeland

Steve Nash, who was raised in Victoria, announced his retirement with an article on the Player’s Tribune, The Province reports. Nash’s article (with great pix of his kids) is here.

Guardian names woman as chief editor for first time

at 3:00pm by Joe Copeland

The Guardian will have its first woman as its top editor, Katharine Viner, who has been its chief editor for its United States edition. The New York Times notes the longevity of recent Guardian editors: The outgoing editor was appointed in 1995, and his predecessor started in 1975.

Friday 20 Mar, 2015

Twin Gonzaga wins. Sally Jewell puts rules on fracking. Mosque bombing kills dozens.

Gonzaga upset? Bulldogs' women win in NCAA. (As do the men.)

at 10:02pm by Joe Copeland

With two players scoring 19 each, Gonzaga’s 11th-seeded women’s team upset George Washington University, AP reports. The highly ranked Gonzaga men’s team won in KeyArena, sending them to a Sunday afternoon game against Iowa, a very methodical team, according to Sportspress Northwest.

137 dead, 345 injured in mosque bombings in Yemen

at 4:58pm by Joe Copeland

ISIL claimed responsibility, but there are other groups that could be behind the suicide attacks, according to Al Jazeera.

Sally Jewell puts new rules on fracking

at 4:04pm by Joe Copeland

The Washington Post reports the Interior Secretary’s announcement Friday covers activities on public lands. Environmentalists weren’t particularly impressed, and the two oil industry groups said they would file suit to block her actions.

Europe underwhelmed by total solar eclipse

at 3:48pm by Joe Copeland

The Telegraph in Britain says today’s solar eclipse in Europe sent “disappointed Brits inside for a cup of tea.”  The Mirror reports that gray skies sent so many people inside to watch nature being broadcast on the BBC that there was a surge in electrical power demand. The best viewing was in the Faroe Islands, which (as we all surely know) are between Scotland and Iceland. The U.S. will have a total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017 with the path of totality pretty much going right over Salem, Oregon. If you’re wondering about weather, a site called Eclipse2017.org already providing links to weather forecasts.

Tim Egan on GOP leaders who betray their roots

at 3:32pm by Joe Copeland

Seattle-based New York Times columnist Tim Egan takes aim at Republican leaders from modest backgrounds who pander to the wealthy and corporations. Republicans may not like his article, but surely librarian-turned-author Nancy Pearl will: In an interview with Crosscut writer Robin Lindley published this week, she cites him as a favorite local writer, both for his books and his columns.

User photo: Bertha's deep, deep pit

at 5:03am by Mary Bruno

On Feb. 17, WSDOT crews opened up a Bertha-sized circle on the southern wall of the deep pit they excavated to reach and repair Bertha.

Preparing for Bertha's breakthrough
Preparing for Bertha’s breakthrough

Amazon gets drone testing go-ahead from FAA

at 5:02am by Mary Bruno

Amazon received a coveted “experimental airworthiness certificate” from the FAA on Thursday, reports Geekwire. The greenlight means Amazon can start testing unmanned aircraft for its drone delivery program. The FAA’s okay is a big deal for Amazon, which had threatened to move drone delivery ops overseas if the agency kept dragging its feet. Amazon drones need to stay below 400 feet and remain within sight of the pilot.

Showers and warm in Bellingham and Seattle

at 5:01am by Mary Bruno

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Thursday 19 Mar, 2015

State Medal of Valor to Oso mudslide communities. Fed to raise interest rates. Balmy Thursday in store.

Campaign urging Gates Foundation to divest from fossil fuel garners 100,000 signatures

at 8:20pm by Amy Augustine

Nearly 100,000 people are asking the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to find a better way to spend its cash after the Guardian revealed it invests over $1.4 billion in fossil fuel companies.

The analysis of the world’s largest charitable foundation looked at data from its most recent tax filing in 2013. The energy companies in which it most heavily invests include Exxon Mobil ($824 million), BP ($372 million), Vale ($32 million), Itochu ($22 million) and Anglo American ($20 million). The charity’s endowment is over $43 billion and to date it has given out $33 billion in worldwide health grants.

Bill Gates gives a TED talk in Feb. 2009 (Credit: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr)
Bill Gates gives a TED talk in Feb. 2009 (Credit: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr)

The petition, organized by the Guardian and launched on Monday, had garnered 97,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon. “Your organisation has made a huge contribution to human progress . . . yet your investments in fossil fuels are putting this progress at great risk. It is morally and financially misguided to invest in companies dedicated to finding and burning more oil, gas and coal,” the petition states.

Christopher Williams, a spokesperson for the foundation, said in an emailed statement that foundation’s assets are managed independently of the foundation itself by a separate entity, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust. “The trust,” he wrote, “does not comment on its holdings.”

More Starbucks race togetherness

at 5:06pm by Cody Olsen

Starbucks “Race Together” campaign continues to be talked about by just about everyone, with many feeling it’s just a bit off, but some actually liking the race dialogue it could start. Take a peak at the hashtag NewStarbucksDrink on twitter right now to see some of the many reactions to the Starbucks initiative.

Crosscut reached out to Juan Cotto, the Diversity Outreach and Inclusion Manager for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “From what I have seen and heard people who don’t like the idea, really don’t like the idea,” said Cotto. “In the long run it could cost [Howard Shultz] a few customers…”

On the plus side, said Cotto, “Starbucks has what, almost 200,000 employees? I bet there were some conversations about race at Starbucks this week and that is not bad…” Rocky reception aside, if the Starbucks CEO’s goal was to get people talking about race, he’s definitely succeeded.

Bellevue man sentenced to 5 years in Silk Road case

at 3:48pm by Amy Augustine

The saga of the Bellevue man who sold nearly $1 million in hard drugs online appears to be over for now, after he was sentenced to five years in prison by a U.S. District Court judge on Thursday.

Forty-year-old Steven Sadler faced up to 40 years in prison based on the volume of drugs he sold. His sentence follows a plea bargain last May after he admitted to selling and shipping up to $70,000 per month in cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine online via the now-shuttered Silk Road, which was compared to the Amazon.com of illicit drug sales.

After completing his sentence, Sadler, a former Intelius programmer, faces four years of supervised release; the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case, recommended he serve seven. At the sentencing, Judge Ricardo Martinez said he is “troubled by this new method, new frontier of drug dealing that is creating a new crop of victims,” according to a statement from the attorney’s office.

Sadler was one of the site’s most successful lynchpins, according to Homeland Security investigators. Under the alias NOD, he essentially ran a digital storefront with his then-girlfriend Jenna White, 22, taking online orders, sourcing drugs and shipping them, sometimes in creative packaging, like smelly markers or birthday cards. White has also pleaded guilty and will be sentenced next month, according to KOMO.

Silk Road was squashed by the FBI in October 2013. Its mastermind, Ross Ulbricht, 30, was arrested — in a San Francisco public libray — on charges of narcotic trafficking, computer hacking and money laundering around the same time as Sadler and White. He was found guilty last month and awaits sentencing. He faces life in prison.



Wither the 40-hour work week?

at 3:30pm by Amy Augustine

Seattle is among the hardest working cities in the country, at least in terms of hours logged, according to data published this week from the office of the New York City Comptroller.

The average Emerald City worker logs 43.17 hours per week, the seventh highest in the nation. We’re not sure whether that number earns us bragging rights or permission to curl up in a fetal position under our desks. The U.S. average is 42.2 hours a week.

Still, we’re slackers compared to San Francisco, where people punch in over 44 hours a week. We also fall behind Washington D.C., Charlotte, N.C., and Fort Worth, Houston and Austin, Texas.

Even factoring in a weekly commute time of 4.06 hours, Seattle again ranks seventh, with a 47.23 weekly combined work/commute average. Traffic may be bad here, but it could be worse: New Yorkers spend a gasp-worthy 6.18 hours per week in their cars commuting to work.

One trend to note: According to global averages of developed nations from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, people are working less, albeit largely (and unsurprisingly) in Europe. In the past decade, nearly all average workweeks have fallen by several hours. The Dutch work just 30 hours per week.

Steno pool in office, 1959. Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr
Steno pool in office, 1959. Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr





State auditor denies wrongdoing after feds search home

at 3:05pm by John Stang

Washington Auditor Troy Kelley says he does not know why federal agents searched his Tacoma home on Monday, an event the News Tribune first reported this week.

“I have been out of the state on family vacation since Friday night. We were not there when our home was reportedly searched and have not yet returned.  I have not been served a search warrant and have not been informed of any reasons for a search,” Kelley wrote in an emailed statement early Thursday.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Seattle has a policy of neither confirming nor denying the existence of an investigation until when any charges are filed, said spokesperson Emily Langlie.

The story about the search warrant being executed on Kelley’s home broke late Wednesday. The News Tribune reported that Tacoma police were informed of the five-hour search by the U.S. Treasury Department as part of a routine notification.

Kelley, a Democrat, represented southern Pierce County’s 28th District as a state representative for three terms before being elected state auditor by a 53 percent-to-47-percent margin in 2012,  according to Ballotpedia. He is a lieutenant colonel in the Washington National Guard’s Judge Advocate General’s office and a former federal prosecutor.

Prior to become state auditor, he owned a business that tracked documents. His 2012 opponent for state auditor, Republican James Watkins, used a nasty lawsuit between Kelley and a former client, Old Republic Title, a title insurance firm. Old Republic Title alleged breach of contract and the misappropriation of $1.2 million against Kelley, according to Ballotpedia. Kelley denied the allegations. The case ended in 2011 with a closed settlement. No criminal charges were ever filed. The News Tribune noted that Kelly was asked questions about tax payments during that case.


Rising ocean temperatures

at 3:00pm by Cody Olsen

Few have complained about the sunny days associated with the Northwest’s mild winter this season, but our El Nino season has caused Ocean temperatures to rise off the coast of Oregon and Washington. KUOW reports that NOAA scientists say ocean temperatures have risen 7 degrees, which means less nutrients in the water a trend already linked to sea-birds dying off.

There is a silver lining for fishing enthusiasts though — more albacore tuna could be in abundance because they prefer warm waters.

Housing for the homeless

at 2:30pm by Cody Olsen

The Olympian is reporting that Homes First, a nonprofit, has offered to buy the Holly Hotel in Olympia and turn it into a permanent housing shelter for the homeless. The motel owners are quoted as being open to the idea, and Homes First hopes to have a proposal to them by September. The housing site would include on-site counseling and a 24/7 staff presence, and would utilize a survey of the client’s housing history, health and background called the ‘vulnerability index’ to determine which individuals have the most need.

According to a Thurston County census report last year, the number of homeless people in the region has increased, with a total of 599 homeless people tallied in 2014, up from 441 in 2006, an increase of 36 percent.

Doing battle with the bridge

at 2:23pm by Cody Olsen

KIRO Radio’s John Curley is taking the 520 toll bridge to court. My Northwest reported that the radio host has been notoriously, and hilariously, combative against the 520 toll — scrawling “F the bridge” on the memo line of each of his payments, and flipping the bird to the camera each time he passes through (yes, there and back). But now now Good to Go claims Curley missed a payment and owes $366 dollars in fines, a claim he disputes and will take to court on March 31st.

After snowiest winter ever, Boston woman reunites with car

at 1:36pm by Amy Augustine

It appears Boston’s brutal, snowiest winter on record is showing signs of letting up. After seven weeks and 100 inches of snow, resident Jillian Tenen was finally able to dig her out car, which somehow started even after the weight of the snow caved in her windshield. Read the Globe’s chuckle-worthy piece here.

A car is buried in Boston this February. Credit: Peter Enyeart via Flickr
A car is buried in Boston this February. Credit: Peter Enyeart via Flickr

Mystery dust on Mars

at 12:35pm by Cody Olsen


Photo by Andy Zeigert/Flickr

 NASA scientists say the MAVEN spacecraft has encountered a high altitude dust cloud that none of the scientists can explain, reports seattlepi.com. The dust cloud implies there’s still much to be learned about the Mars atmosphere.

California unveils emergency drought legislation

at 12:09pm by Amy Augustine

Lawmakers in California have unveiled a $1 billion plan to address the state’s critical water shortage, both in the short term and long range funding for infrastructure initiatives, according to the LA Times.

The state, which is entering its fourth consecutive year of drought, will likely pass down more restrictions to residents. “Don’t have any doubts we‘re going to increasingly control the use of water,” Gov. Jerry Brown warned.

Charles Blow on Starbucks' "race card"

at 9:00am by Mary Bruno

The New York Times columnist responds to Starbuck’s recent “Race Together” initiative, which encourages baristas to engage customers in conversations about race. “The suspicion and ridicule … has been swift and broad,” writes Blow, who goes on to reference comments by former Vice president Dick Cheney, Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama about race. Writing in Entrepreneur Magazine, Kate Taylor calls the Starbucks effort “Tone-deaf and self-aggrandizing …”.

“And yet,” she continues, “I would like to assume that the motive is noble even if something about it feels a shade off.”

U.S. rethinks Israeli support in wake of Netanyahu victory

at 8:30am by Mary Bruno

“The positions taken by the prime minister in the last days of the campaign have raised very significant substantive questions that go far beyond just optics,” a senior administration official told Politico. The administration source did not rule out a shift in U.S. support for Israeli positions at the United Nations, including its withdrawal from Palestinian territories.

Maybe the timing is unrelated, but in an MSNBC interview today, Netanyahu took a noticeably softer stance to his hardline campaign rhetoric around the issue of a two-state solution, as well as his tone toward the U.S., which, in his words, “has no greater ally than Israel.”

Obama floats idea of mandatory voting

at 7:42am by Mary Bruno

President Obama speaks about the school shootings in Connecticut.

President Obama suggested the idea of mandatory voting at a speech in Cleveland on Wednesday. The Associated Press says the president quoted stats from the United States Election Project indicating that fewer than 37 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2014 midterm elections. Most of those no-shows were younger, poorer, less educated and more racially diverse, Obama told the crowd. “If everybody voted, it would completely change the political map in this country,” he said. And maybe counteract the powerful — and corrupting — influence of money on politics. America wouldn’t be the first to make its citizens vote. According to the AP, some two dozen countries have adopted some form of compulsory voting, including Belgium, Brazil and Australia.

Inslee's cigarette tax hike in play

at 6:30am by John Stang

Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, is sponsoring a bill to raise state cigarette taxes by 50 cents a pack. The legislation, introduced on Wednesday, responds to a request by Gov. Jay Inslee for the hike, which would earmark the additional revenue for cancer research and prevention.

Washington’s current cigarette tax rate is $3.02 a pack. This hike would be expected to raise $38 million in 2015-2017.

Hunter’s bill joins a proposed tax on vaping materials for electronic cigarettes that is working its way through the House. Inslee has estimated that the state could raise another $18 million in the upcoming biennium through an e-cigarette tax. A broad vaping-regulatory bill by Reps. Gerald Pollet, D-Seattle, and Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, would levy a 95 percent tax on vaping products, ban minors from vaping, forbid flavored vaping fluids and ban Internet sales of vaping products.


Oso mudslide communities win state's Medal of Valor

at 5:05am by Mary Bruno

The State of Washington awarded the communities of Darrington, Oso and Arlington and the Sauk-Suiattle tribe the state Medal of Valor for their heroism in response to the deadly Oso mudslide, reports the Everett Herald. Accepting were Oso Fire Chief Willy Harper, Darrington’s Quinn Nations, Arlington high school student Brantly Stupey and volunteer firefighter Kevin Lenon for the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe.

For a photographic scale of the damage in Oso, seattlepi.com has put together an interactive gallery of the damage, before an after.

Federal Reserve: Brace for higher interest rates

at 5:02am by Mary Bruno

The Federal Reserve opened the door for a bump in interest rates, reports the Washington Post,  the first increase since the 2008 financial crisis. In an effort to quell fears, Fed Chair Janet Yellen insisted that the Fed would not move on rates until later this year. “Just because we removed the word ‘patient’ from the statement does not mean we are going to be impatient,” Yellen said at Wednesday’s news conference.


Weather for Thursday - balmy

at 5:00am by Mary Bruno

Cloudy and warm today — we’re talking high of 62 — in Everett and Seattle.

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