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Thursday 2 Apr, 2015

Councilmember Sally Clark to step down early. Murray, Expedia confirm move to Seattle. Iran nuke deal breakthrough. Highway 20 opens Friday. Mark Driscoll resurrects himself. Social media for the soul.

City council announces process to fill vacated seat

at 6:03pm by Amy Augustine

City Council president Tim Burgess on Wednesday announced the process to fill the vacancy for exiting council member Sally Clark, who leaves the position April 13.

In a statement, Burgess said he believes the council should appoint an experienced “caretaker” who will not to seek election to the council this year. The city charter states that a new member must be appointed within 20 days.

“In this context, we need someone who can hit the ground running,” Burgess wrote.
The filing period is April 2 through April 14. Finalists will be chosen April 20 ahead of a full council vote on April 27. Council member Clark’s last day is April 13.

BNSF bites back against state's leak allegations

at 6:00pm by Amy Augustine

Railroad giant BNSF is criticizing the state’s claims that the company failed to report more than a dozen hazardous material spills, claiming it found inaccuracies of more than 90 percent of the alleged violations, the Bellingham Herald reported.

The report, released by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission on March 19, recommended over $700,000 in fines for the company, finding that between Nov. 1 and Feb. 24, there were 14 incidents of releasing hazardous materials not properly documented with the state. By law, spills must be reported to a state hotline within the required half hour of learning about them.

In its report, the state claimed that in some cases BNSF did call the hotline, but not within the required 30 minutes. In other cases, it claimed BNSF did not call at all but submitted a copy of a federal report required within a month of any hazardous material spill.

BNSF claims, however, that the company reported at least six of the other incidents to the hotline, and it has the reports to prove it, according to an email newsletter sent Monday.

“We are disappointed we were not provided the opportunity to review the report and correct some of the misinformation before it was issued,” the BNSF newsletter reads.

In the most severe of the allegations, which included up to 111 violations involving a tank car that leaked 1,600 gallons of crude oil, the state claimed it was not notified until nearly a month after the incident, when it got a report BNSF sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

In its statement, BNSF said the leak was “discovered off BNSF property,” that the car was not in transit, and that it was not it in the company’s custody when the incident happened.

Karina Shagren, spokeswoman for the state Emergency Management Division, told the Herald that BNSF had, in fact, reported the Dec. 7 and 8 incidents, but not within 30 minutes of when the spills were reported to have happened.

Four other incidents on Dec. 9, Shagren said, were reported to the state by an employee from the National Response Center, the federal government’s 24-hour hotline for reporting spills of hazardous materials and oil. A copy of those reports shows that BNSF reported the spills to the NRC.

Read Crosscut’s coverage of the spills here.

A train carrying a class 3 flammable liquid (the category that crude oil falls into) passes a rail crossing on Lander Street in Sodo.Credit: Bill Lucia
A train carrying a class 3 flammable liquid (the category that crude oil falls into) passes a rail crossing on Lander Street in Sodo. Credit: Bill Lucia

 

 

 

147 killed in attack on Kenyan university

at 1:01pm by Amy Augustine

Nearly 150 sleeping college students were killed in a terrorist attack on a Kenyan university Thursday, the country’s worst attack in nearly two decades, the Washington Post is reporting.

Militants stormed the university’s dormitories, fatally shooting two security guards and starting their bloody rampage. Nearly 500 people were rescued by Kenyan security forces; an unknown number of Christians were taken hostage and 79 injuries were reported.

Terrorist group al-Shibab took responsibility for the attack. Al-Shabab considers Kenya an enemy because the country sent troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight the group, according to WaPo.

“If you were a Christian, you were shot on the spot,” said Collins Wetangula, a student who was in a dormitory when gunmen burst in, opening doors and asking whether students were Muslim or Christian, according AP. “With each blast of the gun, I thought I was going to die.”

Breakthrough in Iran nuke agreement

at 12:02pm by Cody Olsen

 

Photo credit: US Department of State
Photo credit: US Department of State

The United States and Iran reached a framework agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear program early Thursday. The negotiating parties released a statement saying they had “reached solutions on key parameters of a joint comprehensive plan of action.” The text of the framework agreement can read here.

Secretary of State John Kerry tweeted about the success.

The P5 +1 Kerry references are, China, France, Russia, the UK, and the U.S., plus Germany. Between now and June 30th the negotiating parties will finalize the language of the draft and sign it, ending the negotiations.

“In this deal, Iran has undertaken to carry out a 75 percent reduction in its uranium enrichment infrastructure, from 19,000 installed centrifuges to just over 5,000 in the Natanz enrichment plant,” wrote the Guardian,  which breaks down other key elements of the deal, like the international community terminating all economic sanctions against Iran.

The New York Times details the last-minute talks between President Obama and John Kerry late Tuesday, where the President instructed the Secretary of State to disregard the original March 31st deadline, and continue with the negotiations, so as to not let the self-imposed deadline prompt any major, last-minute concessions to Iran.

Councilmember Sally Clark to step down April 12th

at 11:49am by David Kroman

City Councilmember Sally Clark at an announcement on viaduct demolition

Outgoing Seattle City Councilmember Sally Clark has found her next career: University of Washington’s director of regional and community relations. She’ll leave the council on Sunday, April 12th, and start her new job on May 18th.

Clark announced last February she wouldn’t seek re-election, insisting that her decision had nothing to do with Seattle’s new district election system. Clark began a campaign for one of Seattle’s two city-wide seats then called it off, but said she wasn’t worried about her chances of winning. “I’ve done city-wide campaigns before,” she said at Wednesday’s Civic Cocktail. “It’s what I know.”

According to the UW website, the Office of Regional & Community Relations “links the University with surrounding neighborhoods, civic groups and local government.” According to UW vice president of external affairs, Randy Hodgins, its new director “brings a wealth of leadership experience to the office, not only from her time on the Seattle City Council, but also in her neighborhood and economic development work.”

No word yet on a replacement for Clark on the City Council.

Can high schoolers turn Nickelsville into a state-of-the-art homeless camp?

at 11:47am by Brian Hagenbuch

What would the Nickelsville homeless encampment look like with state-of-the-art micro homes, composting latrines, solar panels to power LED lights and heat water and a communal kitchen for residents?

Sawhorse Revolution, a non-profit carpentry program for high school students, hopes to show us by 2008. They have paired top-shelf designers, architects and builders with students in a program they call Impossible City. You can help make it possible here, through their Indiegogo campaign.

 

North Cascades Highway set to open Friday

at 11:36am by Amy Augustine

The Everett Herald is reporting that the North Cascades Highway will reopen tomorrow in one of the fastest reopening efforts in the scenic byway’s 42-year history. It took just three weeks this year for crews to clear the roads, compared with six last year. If you don’t have time to cruise the full 400-mile loop, check out the Washington State Department of Transportation’s virtual drive online.

North Cascades view in 1935. (Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr)
North Cascades view in 1935. (Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives via Flickr)

Murray, Expedia confirm travel company's move to Seattle

at 11:35am by David Kroman

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and CFO Mark Okerstrom confirmed the rumors Thursday morning: The online travel-booking company will be moving from Bellevue to Amgen’s spot on Seattle’s waterfront. “The view from the Amgen campus is beautiful,” said CEO Khoskowshahi.

Expedia’s buying the 40-acre, 750,000 square feet campus for $228.9 million — in cash, of course — and taking possession at the beginning of 2016 after Amgen, the biotech firm that’s closing its Seattle office, fully vacates. Expedia plans to move its 3,000 workers to their new home in 2018. And its building an extra 200,000 square feet on site to accommodate a 1,500-worker expansion. (No timeline yet on that growth.)

One big moving challenge: transportation. Khoskowshahi said 75 percent of his employees live on the Eastside. He figures their average commute will increase by 5-6 minutes. Hard to believe when you consider that those Eastsiders will be traveling straight down Mercer street and along the South Lake Union corridor, two of the most congested parts of town.

Look for a more in-depth story on the ramifications of Expedia’s move on commuting and employee happiness.

Local videographer captures planes struck in lightening storm

at 11:15am by Amy Augustine

Local videographer Owen Craft got a good show when he went out looking to film lightning strikes during the thunderstorm that moved through the regionWednesday night: As two jets approached Sea-Tac Airport, he filmed them getting struck by lightning.

Planes are built to withstand lightning strikes; no injuries were reported.

U.S. travelers can now rent homes in Cuba

at 10:56am by Amy Augustine

Home rental service Airbnb is now offering homes in Cuba following a recent Obama administration easement on some travel restrictions to the Caribbean island nation. According to BBC, there are over 1,000 properties that can be rented by U.S. travelers, some for as cheap as $42 a night. The San Fransisco-based company expects Cuba to become one of its biggest markets in Latin America.

A man sells Cuban cigars in Havana (Credit: Les Haines via Flickr).
A man sells Cuban cigars in Havana (Credit: Les Haines via Flickr).

Muslims to surpass number of Christians worldwide this century

at 10:37am by Amy Augustine

Islam is the world’s fastest-growing religion, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center, which also says that if current trends continue, the religion will nearly match Christianity by 2050 before eclipsing it by 2070. NPR says the main reason for the Muslim boom is location, location, location. “Muslim populations are concentrated in some of the fastest-growing parts of the world,” says Alan Cooperman, Pew’s director of religion research.

The Masjid-i-Jahan Numa, commonly known as Jama Masjid of Delhi is the principal mosque of Old Delhi in India. (Credit: Shashwat Nagpal)
The Masjid-i-Jahan Numa mosque of Old Delhi in India. (Credit: Shashwat Nagpal via Flickr.)

Jerry Brown can thank dad for California water crisis

at 10:00am by Mary Bruno

The late California Gov. Pat Brown was the zealot behind “massive mid-century water projects in the Golden State,” says the Washington Post. His son is now paying for it.

Pat Brown’s $1.8 billion California Water Project, brought enormous volumes from wet northern to parched southern California. “I wanted this to be a monument to me,” said Pat Brown back then. Fast forward 50 years: California governor and enviro, Jerry Brown was forced to imposed mandatory statewide restrictions on water use in the face of the state’s unprecedented drought and water shortage. “It’s a different world,” Jerry Brown told the Post. “We have to act differently.

Germanwings' co-pilot researched suicide, cockpit door security

at 9:00am by Mary Bruno

After examining an iPad belonging to Andreas Lubitz, German prosecuted found that the Germanwings co-pilot had been searching for information on how to commit suicide and on cockpit door security in the days before he crashed the jet into the French Alps. The New York Times has all the details.

Geekwire to Expedia: moving's a bitch.

at 7:38am by Mary Bruno

Moving is never easy, especially when you’re relocating an entire company. Bellevue-based Expedia surely knows a thing or two about travel. But Geekwire asked Glympse CEO Bryan Trussel, who moved his software startup across the lake three years ago, for some relo tips: Hardest part by far, said Trussel, was the toll on employees: “Almost the entire company went from a 5 minute commute, and free parking, to a 25-40 minute commute + Bridge Toll + Parking Fees.” Welcome to Seattle.

Can this guy create a social network that combats depression?

at 6:30am by Berit Anderson

Robert Morris is a self-described researcher and inventor at MIT Media Lab. What he’s not, presumably, is a fan of Facebook trophy-stalking, the self-deprecating hours spent scrolling through an endless feed of others’ accomplishments, humblebrags and photos of their cats in boxes.

And, according to a recent Wired article, he’s taking matters into his own hands.

Starting with the desired effect of helping people deal with depression, he developed Panoply, a crowdsourced website for improving mental health. The site, which was the focus of his doctoral thesis at MIT Media Lab, trained users to reframe and reassess negative thoughts, embedding an established technique called cognitive behavioral therapy in an engaging, unthreatening interface. After a study confirmed the site’s effectiveness, Morris formed a company and is now working on turning the idea into a polished consumer app.

 

He's baaack: Mark Driscoll resurrects himself in time for Easter

at 6:18am by Berit Anderson

Writes SeattlePI.com’s Joel Connelly, “The former senior pastor at Mars Hill Church has a new website name and an e-book out for Easter, as Mark Driscoll tries to resurrect his ministry more than five months since quitting the Seattle-based megachurch he co-founded.”

 

VA breaks ground on $152 million mental-health expansion

at 6:04am by Berit Anderson

“For the first time in nearly three decades, Seattle’s Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital campus is poised to expand, with construction of a new mental-health and research building set to start later this month amid a booming veteran population seeking treatment,” writes Seattle Times staff reporter Lewis Kamb.

Wednesday 1 Apr, 2015

Seattle sales tax goes up today. Pac Man with Google Maps. Joni Mitchell hospitalized. Marysville shooter's dad bought guns illegally.

Expedia moving to Seattle

at 4:11pm by David Kroman

Tomorrow, Mayor Ed Murray will officially announce a “Major employer” relocating into Seattle. The Puget Sound Business Journal reported today that the employer will be travel giant Expedia. The company will move its 3,000 employees from Bellevue into the old Amgen campus in Seattle.

When contacted, a spokesperson for Expedia said she could not comment on the move. However, she did say, “I’m going to have to move my hair appointment tomorrow.”

The company’s move has been rumored since February when CEO Mark Okerstorm said the company was looking to relocate, but said they were committed to the Puget Sound region.

 

 

State whistleblower? Join the (growing) club

at 3:01pm by John Stang

The number of state government whistleblower complaints significantly increased from 2013 to 2014, a Washington Senate committee was told Wednesday. State Auditor’s Office officials told the Senate Accountability & Reform Committee that 224 whistleblower complaints were filed by state employees in 2014, compared to 146 in in 2013.

Those complaints led to 47 investigations in 2014, compared to 18 in 2013. And 14 complaints were found valid in 2014, compared to eight in 2013. No reasons were given for the increases.

What missing our fundraising goal means - to you.

at 2:54pm by Mary Bruno

Newsletter Thermometer(1)Each month, some 150,000 of you read Crosscut. More than 5,000 of you get our eNewsletters. We counted on you, our readers, to support the production of all those in-depth articles and analysis on the issues that affect our region. We need you now.
Many of you have contributed — mightily — during the past two weeks, but our shortened (two-week) member drive fell short of its goal. We pride ourselves on the depth and breadth of our current coverage, and the only way we can keep delivering it is with your support. So please . . .
If every single Crosscut reader gave just $4, if every single eNewsletter subscriber gave just $120, we could fund our entire not-for-profit for a whole year. Will you make a gift today to support quality, independent, in-depth news?

Newly legalized: WSU's medical school

at 1:31pm by John Stang

The proposed new Washington State University medical school is now legal. Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Wednesday to repeal a 1917 law that limited the state’s medical schools to the University of Washington. (Full disclosure: Both WSU and the UW are Crosscut University Members.)

Nature Conservancy buys big tract on Olympic Peninsula

at 12:30pm by Alyssa Campbell

Credit: Frank Kovalcheck

The Nature Conservancy recently spent $7 million for a 3,184-acre tract of timberland on the Olympic Peninsula, reports the Seattle Times. The land was purchased from the global forest products company Rayonair as part of a larger Olympic Peninsula forest-restoration initiative, whose goal is to create a 32-mile, wildlife-friendly corridor between the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and Olympic National Park. The corridor will protect the habitat of species such as the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet.

Rayonier President David Nunes called the sale an “economically viable agreement.” Mike Stevens, director of the Nature Conservancy in Washington State, pointed to the acquisition’s loftier impact, ensuring that native forests and salmon runs “will continue to provide recreation and sustainable livelihoods for generations to come.”

UW debate over Seattle's rising cost of living

at 11:32am by Alyssa Campbell

On Tuesday night, the University of Washington hosted a panel discussion titled: “Priced out: The struggle for an affordable Seattle.” As the Seattle Times reports, hundreds of locals showed up to discuss how best to address the rising living cost in the city. Soaring real-estate prices are a hot topic everywhere lately. According to a recent study by Forbes, the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett metro area is the 16th most overpriced city in the country, with housing affordable to only 51.2 percent of households. The cost of transportation, groceries, and healthcare, as PSBJ points out, are all above than the national average.

The four panel members in Tuesday’s affordability debate came from the city’s real-estate and labor markets. Skylar Olsen, chief economist at Zillow, linked the rise in housing costs to zoning restrictions that limit growth relative to demand. Jake McKinstry, principal at Spectrum Development Solutions which specializes in mixed-use and transit-oriented development, talked affordability from the perspective of Seattle’s newest, mostly higher-income residents.

Emigres from pricey New York and San Francisco find Seattle very affordable, said McKinstry. A perspective not shared by longtime Seattle residents.

David Rolf, the president of the Service Employees International Union 775, argued that low-wages that fail to keep pace with rising costs are behind the affordability problem. Seattle’s growth, he notes, is excluding low-income residents.

The answer, Rolf and McKinstry agreed, is more incentives for developers to build mixed-income housing that creates more economically diverse neighborhoods.

On April Fool's Day, city government can have a sense of humor too.

at 11:25am by David Kroman

City Hall is having fun this April fool’s day and not just because of the new minimum wage ordinance.

At an Education and Governance Committee meeting Wednesday morning, Council President Tim Burgess opened by saying, “The council would like to declare its support for aerial drone delivery.” He added, “Oh yes, it’s April 1st.”

Mayor Ed Murray’s office sent out a press release declaring that Seattle would now use the metric system. “The Seattle Parks Department will change all wildlife information kiosks to refer to inchworms as centipedes,” it read. “All stadium vendors and food stands selling hot dogs will be encouraged to market their 30.48 centimeter-long hot dogs.”

The press release did not say it was an April fool’s joke and Murray’s Press Secretary Jason Kelly clearly got a little spooked that people would read it as fact, quickly sending a follow-up e-mail that read, “Hope you’re all having a fun April Fool’s Day!”

Crosscut knows a thing or two about satire taken as fact. Last year, our second most read story was “International Space Station flies Seahawks 12th Man flag.” ESPN even contacted us for details.

Last January, when we ran a story about Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s “13th Man” initiative, in which we joked that she was organizing together a class of fans without tickets to CenturyLink, a number of people believed this was, in fact, Ms. Sawant’s next big social justice effort.

Just saying: Be careful with your jokes this April 1st.

Let Seattle's minimum wage begin!

at 11:16am by David Kroman

If your Starbucks barista seemed happier this morning, it may be because she just got a raise. All businesses employing 500 or more employees hiked wages today (to at least $11/hour) thanks to Seattle’s new minimum wage ordinance. Companies with fewer than 500 employees are now required to pay $10/hour, up from the state’s $9.54 minimum wage. (Every minimum wage worker in the city is scheduled to reach the $15 an hour limit by 2021.)

Despite the months of lead-up and all the hoopla, the beginning of the city’s (long) journey to $15 an hour feels subdued. The Seattle Times front page story is about traffic; this morning’s City Council meeting was all about next year’s Pre-K rollout; and construction crews are still banging away at the new Weyerhaeuser building in Pioneer Square.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who arguably won her council seat thanks to her $15 Now campaign, will host a rally Thursday at Westlake to celebrate the rollout — and reveal a new bus campaign to spread the word. According to KOMO, businesses around the city are reacting differently; jumping the gun, Ivar’s raised employee wages to $15 an hour today, rather than phasing it in. (They’ve also raised their food prices and now discourage tipping to compensate.)

Dick’s hamburgers already pays its employees almost $11 and hour, so no hubbub over there.

The city’s Office of Labor Standards is tasked with enforcing the new wage hike, but as Crosscut wrote last week, the agency has yet to hire a director. Patricia Lally, director of the city’s Office of Civil Rights, which oversee Labor Standards, says her team is prepared to field complaints from employees, but proactive investigations into any alleged violators of the new $15 wage are still months away.

Why American business is in a downward spiral

at 8:00am by Mary Bruno

“An extensive body of evidence shows that the public focus on the success of high-tech companies like Apple and Google masks an overall downward trend in key measures of business vitality,” writes author and Columbia University professor Thomas B. Edsall in The New York Times. Many forces contribute to this disturbing trend, including regulation, consolidation and a shortage of workers with high-tech skills. But mostly, argues, Edsall, politics is to blame: “Federal and state officials, often under pressure from major corporations seeking to stifle competition, have adopted a regulatory regime that makes the creation of new businesses more difficult.”

We're #5!! In traffic congestion

at 7:40am by Mary Bruno

Seattle Times reporter Mike Lindblom delivers the bad news from a national traffic rankings report newly-released by the Tom Tom navigation company. Seattle was the fifth most congested city. Some sobering stats: Seattle drivers with a 30-minute commute wasted 23 minutes per day in traffic jams last year; that’s 89 extra hours a year, more than two work weeks. Best commuting days (no surprise) are Mondays and Fridays. Avoid Thursdays at all costs. In fact, the most congested day of 2014 was Thursday, July 31.

Tom Tom’s top 10, in order: LA, San Francisco, Honolulu, New York, Seattle, San Jose, Miami, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Portland.

Westward chef gets top Food & Wine award

at 6:30am by Amy Augustine

westwardAdd another accolade for Seattle chef Zoi Antonitsas (Westward), who was named one of the top 10 chefs in the country this week by Food & Wine magazine. Her Mediterranean-style dishes have been recognized by The New York Times, Bon Appetit, Saveur, and others, according to Eater Seattle.

 

 

 

 

Marysville shooter's dad charged with buying guns illegally

at 6:00am by Cody Olsen

The FBI has charged Raymond Fryberg, whose son Jaylen shot and killed four Marysville-Pilchuck High School classmates before killing himself, with illegal possession of the pistol used in the October 2014 shootings. According to KUOW, Raymond Fryberg “lied on federal documents when he purchased five guns from a Marysville gun dealer.”

 

Seattle sales tax goes up today

at 6:00am by Mary Bruno

On Wednesday, The Seattle Times reminds, Seattleites will all be paying an extra .1 percent in sales tax. Voters approved the little bump (9.5 percent to 9.6 percent) last November. That little sales tax hike will raise some $21 million for King County Metro Transit service in the city. Lord knows this traffic-choked town could use more buses.

Obama commutes drug-related sentences for 22

at 5:35am by Amy Augustine

President Barack Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentences of 22 people arrested on drug-related charges, saying those individuals had been imprisoned under an “outdated sentencing regime.” Tuesday’s reprieves more than double the number issued during Obama’s six-year tenure, according to the Huffington Post.

Leading up to Tuesday’s announcement, Obama told HuffPo that people awarded clemency should more broadly reflect the demographic pool of all those arrested, with less focus on white-collar criminals.

Joni Mitchell rushed to LA hospital

at 5:10am by Mary Bruno

LA paramedics responded a 911 call at singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell’s Bel Air home on Tuesday afternoon, according to Variety. Mitchell was rushed to the hospital. As of Tuesday night, there was no word on her condition.

 

Tuesday 31 Mar, 2015

Ivars ditches tipping? Madrona Venture Group, only VCs in town. Amazon's new home service marketplace. Inslee bans travel to Indiana.

U.S. pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions over 10 years

at 1:17pm by Amy Augustine

NPR is reporting that the Obama administration is pledging a 28 reduction of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions compared to 2005 levels over the next 10 years. The target was submitted on Tuesday to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

 

Ivar's seafood to do away with tipping

at 12:25pm by Amy Augustine

Ivar’s seafood chain, long lauded for treating its employees well, is doing away with tipping at its Lake Union location and opting to adopt $15-an-hour worker pay right away ahead of the city’s incremental mandatory minimum wage increase. KUOW chatted with Bob Donegan, president and CEO of the company, about the decision, which will raise restaurant prices by about 20 percent.

Ivar's seafood restaurant is raising prices and doing away with tipping at its Lake Union location. (Credit: Oran Viriyincy via Flickr)
Ivar’s seafood restaurant is raising prices and doing away with tipping at its Lake Union location. (Credit: Oran Viriyincy via Flickr)

 

Iran deal down to the wire

at 12:15pm by Cody Olsen

Today is the deadline for reaching a preliminary agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. Although all parties appear to be closer to a deal than ever before, negotiations may be extended until Wednesday, reports the New York Times. A sticking point is how quickly the United Nations will lift sanctions against Iran. Seven nations are involved in the talks: Iran, the United States, France, Germany, UK, China, and Russia. The official deadline is midnight Tuesday in Switzerland, where the talks are taking place. That’s 3pm here in Seattle.

Gov. Inslee bans travel to Indiana

at 12:13pm by Cody Olsen

Gov. Jay Inslee will join Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy by imposing “an administration-wide ban on state-funded travel to Indiana.” Inslee and company are responding to Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allows private businesses to refuse service to customers if doing so would conflict with their religious beliefs. Opponents contend that the law will legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community. (In the wake of protests by the business community, Indiana lawmakers are reconsidering the law’s language.)

In the statement released Monday, Inslee also took the opportunity to make a pitch for Washington State. “We in Washington stand for equality,” said Gov. Inslee. “I applaud those companies and organizations that have spoken out against the law and said they would not locate or expand operations in Indiana. I want to invite all those organizations, and anyone interested in a state that promotes equality and opportunity, to come visit Washington. We are open for business, and open to all people.”

Amazon launches home services option

at 11:44am by Amy Augustine

E-commerce giant Amazon yesterday announced the launch of its home service marketplace, allowing customers to buy everything from goat grazing services to violin lessons online.

The 700 service options offered through Amazon Home Services – expected to compete with online consumer review sites like Angie’s List, craigslist and Yelp — are now available in 40 states, though the fewer services are available outside large metropolitan areas like Seattle, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

You can now pay for a goat to mow your lawn on Amazon. Seriously. (Credit: Rebecca Siegel via Flickr)
You can now get a goat trim your lawn on Amazon. Credit: Rebecca Siegel via Flickr

“It’s really a natural extension of what we’ve already been doing for years with physical products,”Peter Faricy, vice president of Amazon marketplace, told the LA Times. “We had over 85 million customers last year shopping for products that need a professional service. At this point, this is what customers want from us.”

A few quirky options offered here in the big SEA? Wireless printer setup, assembly of your elliptical machine and (our favorite) someone to put your cat’s scratching post together (seriously). This is the world we now live in.

Income inequality: Bad for your health?

at 9:00am by Mary Bruno

New data from researchers at the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute suggest that people living in communities where there is high income inequality die before the age of 75 more often than people living in communities where incomes are more equal. “It’s not just the level of income in a community that matters,” Bridget Catlin, the co-director of the project, told The New York Times. “It’s also how income is distributed.” The New York Times has a cool interactive map that shows inequality, county-by-county, across the U.S.

Sea lion party

at 8:50am by David Kroman

The Seattle Times ran an article last Friday about the enormous number of California sea lions at the mouth of the Columbia river in Astoria. Here’s a video Crosscut took of the noisy bunch of salmon eaters.

Council green-lights three new homeless encampments

at 8:41am by David Kroman

The Seattle City Council Monday unanimously approved three new homeless encampments — or ‘tent cities’ — for up to 100 people each.

Debate over whether such encampments help or hurt Seattle’s homeless population has been going on for years now. In 2013, the council rejected similar legislation, worried that tent cities would take the place of more stable housing projects. But the city’s homeless population has been growing — up 20% last year — and unsanctioned encampments appear to be on the rise. In combination with a more progressive council, the measure passed easily.

The sites will be on either city land or private property. For now, encampments will not be allowed in residential areas, but Councilmember Kshama Sawant added an amendment to study the impact of tent cities in neighborhoods. It was approved 6-3.

$170,000 was approved to provide case management services. The ordinance will expire in 2020.

Bertha cutterhead, in photos

at 7:56am by Mary Bruno

The seattlepi.com features a photo shoot of Bertha’s newly-surfaced face (aka, the tunnel boring machine’s damaged cutterhead) which just returned to the surface for repairs. My, how she has aged . . .

2 things make Indiana's religious freedom law dangerously different

at 7:37am by Mary Bruno

“The new statute’s defenders claim it simply mirrors existing federal rules,” argues Garrett Epps in The Atlantic, “but it contains two provisions that put new obstacles in the path of equality.”

Germanwings' co-pilot once treated for "suicidal tendencies"

at 6:00am by Mary Bruno

German prosecutors have revealed that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who crashed the Germanwings jet in the French Alps last Tuesday, had been treated for “suicidal tendencies” before he received his pilot’s license. Since then, added the prosecutor, “no signs of suicidal tendencies or aggression toward others were documented” by psychotherapists who treated Lubitz. Read more in The New York Times.

Madrona Venture Group: Is Seattle a one VC town?

at 5:30am by Mary Bruno

Geekwire’s John Cook asks: What would happen to Seattle’s startup scene if Madrona Venture Group, the region’s preeminent venture capital firm, disappeared? “If Sequoia or Kleiner Perkins disappeared from Silicon Valley, the money train would likely continue unabated,” writes Cook. “When it comes to early-stage venture capital, Seattle is almost the equivalent of a one-sports-team town. And that’s not really a good thing.”

Indiana GOP to revise religious freedom act

at 5:02am by Mary Bruno

Looks like Republican leaders in the Indiana legislature are having second thoughts about that whole Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) thing. The Guardian reports that Indiana’s Republican leaders are “working on adding language … to make it clear that [RFRA] does not allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.”

Prepping Bertha for repairs

at 5:01am by Mary Bruno

Getting Bertha ready for repairs
Getting Bertha ready for repairs. WSDOT

Today’s the day the tunnel boring machine’s ailing cutterhead will finally resurface so crews can repair the problems and get Bertha boring again.

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.

comicon14-620x413

 

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

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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

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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.

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