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Friday 24 Apr, 2015

Ted Cruz doesn't mind gay men (if they write him a check). Unforgettable Hubble photos. Cloud computing soars for Amazon.

Catch the Olympia Arts Walk through Saturday

at 8:39pm by Robert LeCompte

Kids get the full picture on art at the Olympia event. Credit: Robert LeCompte
Kids get the full picture on art at the Olympia event. Credit: Robert LeCompte

The Olympia Arts Walk, which has become a local tradition, will be held for the 50th time this weekend. The twice-annual event will feature hundreds of local artists and musicians and will be hosted by over 100 of the many businesses in downtown Olympia. That’s quite a bit more than the first Arts Walk, in which 14 businesses and seven art studios participate. “It has made our community really comfortable with and really literate about the arts, which is not something you see a lot of in communities,” Stephanie Johnson, the event’s organizer, told The Olympian. You can visit the Arts Walk to 10 p.m. Friday and on Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. If you can’t make it to the Spring event, you can always catch the Fall Arts Walk in early October.



City Council interviewing applicants at 4 p.m.

at 3:31pm by Joe Copeland

The Seattle City Council is interviewing the eight finalists to fill a vacancy, created by the resignation of Sally Clark. Each candidate will make a short presentation and then face about 15 minutes of questions from council members. The council is scheduled to vote Monday on who should fill the remainder of the term through this fall’s election. We hope to have recordings of each presentation available later today.

Share your thoughts with Amazon?

at 1:12pm by Joe Copeland

GeekWire has been testing out what happens if a user falls for — err, utilizes — a new “Amazon wonders …” question that has been greeting people who have signed into Amazon.com. When different GeekWire folks answered the question (they got one about whether time travel is possible), they were given the survey results and, naturally, some product recommendations. GeekWire’s Tricia Duryee writes, “So, now I wonder … Will the questions be a hit among customers, or a small test that disappears in the night?”


Seattle Children's adding a 13-story building downtown

at 12:41pm by Marissa Brent-Tookey

Seattle Children’s Research Institute is running out of space and has plans to construct a large facility in the middle of downtown Seattle, the Puget Sound Business Journal reports. The new 13-story, 440,000-square-foot Building Cure project will be located at 1920 Terry Avenue. A May 12 “early design guidance” meeting will offer Seattleites an opportunity to learn more.

'Earth Primer': a textbook for tactile people

at 11:42am by Marissa Brent-Tookey

West Coast programmer Chaim Gingold recently released a game that doubles as a textbook on geophysics and environmental studies. Grist calls Earth Primer “strangely hypnotic,” and “a climate change game you’d actually want to play.” The interactive iPad app allows users to build mountains, raise sea levels and see what happens when they reshape the Earth’s geography. One thing the game doesn’t do is lecture players on conservation and carbon emissions. It’s more subtle. “I’d rather people draw their own conclusions than me sort of spell it out,” says Gingold.

Light rail scheduled to run north...eventually

at 11:00am by Marissa Brent-Tookey

Locals approved of light rail as early as 1996, according to Everett Herald reporter Noah Haglund, but now, almost 20 years later, Sound Transit’s board of directors has just decided on a route that will reach Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood by 2023. Link light rail trains will likely reach Everett in another 20 years — assuming voters approve a new construction package. In a related matter, the Seattle Transit Blog questions whether there’s enough tax generated in Snohomish County to complete the Everett leg using a more expensive route (through the Paine Field area, where there are lots of jobs) without cheating other parts of the region, especially the Eastside.

"Everybody Loves Raymond" actor dead at 19

at 9:29am by Mary Bruno

Sawyer Sweeten, who starred as one of actor Ray Romano’s twin sons on the popular sitcom, committed suicide on Thursday. Sweeten’s older sister Madilyn confirmed his death. “We are devastated to report that our beloved brother, son, and friend, Sawyer Sweeten, took his own life,” said Madilyn in a statement released Friday. Real-life siblings Madilyn, Sawyer and his twin Sullivan appeared alongside Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton for the show’s entire 9-year run (1996-2005).

Bear repellent release clogs Pioneer Square

at 9:06am by Mary Bruno

KIRO reports that the spray was released in the basement of  77 Washington Square. No one was hurt, except for commuters trying to get to work in the neighborhood. Alaskan Way South is closed from Yesler Way to South Main Street.

Cloud computing has been very, very good to Amazon

at 9:01am by Mary Bruno

Amazon Web Services hauled in $4.6 billion in sales last year, according to our hometown e-tailer, and the division’s first quarter performance is even stronger: Sales are up 49 percent. AWS traffics in computing and storage services and lives in the cloud. Thursday was the first time investors got a peek at AWS performance — and they liked what they saw. Amazon shares jumped 15 percent with the news.

“We estimated that AWS was profitable,”  Robert W. Baird & Co. analyst Colin Sebastian told The Seattle Times. “But not that high.”

Unforgettable Hubble photos

at 6:45am by Mark Matassa

15-066It was 25 years ago today, Friday, that the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, and NASA is commemorating the anniversary with a review of some of the incredible images it has captured. The New York Times has a stunning gallery, with NASA scientists commenting on their favorite images. “It is always humbling to think about the birth of other stars and how they mirror our own,” says Pam Jeffries, graphic designer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates Hubble. “The time, distance and forces involved always put your stress and self-importance in perspective.”

Here’s NASA’s Hubble anniversay page.


Time to cut some elected offices?

at 6:00am by Mark Matassa

You want to clean up state government, streamline policymaking and save some money too, asks Seattle Times op-ed columnist Richard S. Davis. Eliminate several of the state’s nine elected executive positions. Davis says this has nothing to do with the legal trouble facing Auditor Troy Kelley, but that is one of the positions he would whack.

Charge: Ann Rule’s sons stole $100,000 from her

at 5:19am by Mark Matassa

It sounds like the set-up of a book by the true-crime writer. Although she has been financially supporting her children for years, two of her sons, both in their 50s, allegedly forged checks, used credit cards and stole mail from their mother, to the tune of $100k and counting, reports the Seattle Times. Rule was diagnosed last month with dementia.

Ted Cruz doesn’t mind gay men (if they write him a check)

at 5:02am by Mark Matassa

Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz

He doesn’t like gay marriage, but the Republican presidential candidate has nothing against gay campaign contributors. At a reception for him this week at the Manhattan apartment of two prominent gay hoteliers, reports the New York Times, Cruz didn’t mention his opposition to gay marriage. And he said that if one of his daughters were gay, “I would love them just as much.”

Thursday 23 Apr, 2015

Earth Day, from too many kids to too many libs. Oregon woman fed murder victims to her pigs.

Zoo, activists argue over elephants' San Diego detour

at 9:07pm by Cody Olsen

The Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants and other activists are calling for the an investigation into the botched transportation of Chai and Bamboo to Oklahoma City Zoo.

Zoo officials say the animals are doing well in San Diego, where they were re-routed because of bad weather warnings on the way to Oklahoma.

Julie Woodyer, who previously assisted in the planning of an elephant move from the Toronto Zoo to the PAWS sanctuary in California, questioned why the elephants were moved when there were severe weather warnings on the way to Oklahoma. “I would like to see a full investigation on what has happened.” Woodyer said.

Reporters at the scene questioned Fortgang and Woodyer about what good a potentially costly investigation would do now that the animals are already out of Seattle. Woodyer said the cost to the taxpayer would not be that high, even offering to pay for the investigation herself.

“We want them kept in San Diego until an investigation can be completed,” said Alyne Fortgang of the Friends of Woodland Park Zoo. At a zoo press conference, KING 5 reports, Chief Operating Officer Bruce Bohmke said the elephants will stay for a few weeks in San Diego and then continue their journey.

Comcast to cancel its merger with Time Warner Cable

at 8:57pm by Robert LeCompte

Following opposition from both the FCC and the Department of Justice, Comcast is likely going to cancel its proposed $45.2 billion merger with Time Warner Cable, according to a source who spoke to Bloomberg Business.  The two companies were reportedly told by the FCC that the merger, one of the largest in history, would not benefit customers in any way. Comcast could announce a final decision on the deal as early as Friday.

credit: Steven Depolo
credit: Steven Depolo

Restaurant owner opts for service fee over tips

at 4:05pm by Cody Olsen

Seattle restaurant owner Jeremy Price is jettisoning the usual restaurant tipping procedures in favor of a flat service fee for all customers. Price, who owns three restaurants (The Whale Wins, The Walrus and the Carpenter, and Barnacle), says starting in May there will be an 18.5 percent service fee on all meals instead of tips. The move is in response to the higher minimum wage as well as extra costs associated with the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s going to free up and help us to provide benefits to our employees, health insurance, as well as matching retirement accounts,” Price told Seattlepi.com. He says the service fee will help balance the scales between front end servers and those working in the back who traditionally have not gotten tips 

Not waiting for the full phase-in of Seattle’s minimum wage law, Ivar’s Restaurants have already jumped all pay to $15 per hour. The restaurants are encouraging customers to abandon tipping, since the costs have been built into new, higher menu prices.


Loretta Lynch is officially the new Attorney General

at 3:10pm by Robert LeCompte

Despite delays on her confirmation by the Senate, Loretta Lynch has just been confirmed as the new Attorney General, becoming the first black woman to ever hold the position. Lynch faced strong opposition from the Republican Party because, as the NY Times reports, she supported President Obama’s stance on immigration. Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz was among those who opposed Ms. Lynch, going so far as to call her “lawless.”

Attorney General Loretta Lynch. credit: United States Mission Geneva
Attorney General Loretta Lynch. credit: United States Mission Geneva

Gov. Inslee to call legislators back next Wednesday

at 2:26pm by Joe Copeland

With lawmakers deadlocked on the budget, Gov. Jay Inslee today said he will call a special session of the state Legislature that will start Wednesday. The state could face a partial shutdown of state government if no budget is passed by June 30. The governor also said he will invite the lead budget negotiators for the Legislature to meet with him Monday.

Canadian High School band tours Seattle

at 1:34pm by Cody Olsen


If you found yourself walking around Pioneer Square midday Thursday, chances are you heard orchestra music wafting around. That’s because students from Canada’s Bert Church High School band are touring the Seattle area and decided to play an impromptu concert near the Pergola in Pioneer Square.

The group of roughly two dozen students from north of Calgary, with music teacher Doug Zacharias conducting, played a variety of numbers, including the creepy yet lively “A Night On Bald Mountain” — best known from Disney’s Fantasia.

Calbuco volcano erupts in Chile

at 1:22pm by Robert LeCompte

Credit: Philip Oyarzo Calisto (via Flickr)
Credit: Philip Oyarzo Calisto (via Flickr)

The Calbuco volcano in Chile, one of the country’s three most dangerous volcanoes, erupted Wednesday. There have been no reported casualties as the Chilean government was able to respond quickly to the eruption, evacuating some 4,000 people living in the vicinity of the volcano, reports the BBC. A state of emergency is in place for a 12-mile radius surrounding the volcano, and flights arriving and departing the region have been cancelled. According to officials at the scene, the volcano seems to have expended the majority of its energy some time around 3:30 a.m. local time, so it is unlikely that there will be any further eruptions.

Federal and local law enforcement agencies crack down on downtown.

at 1:14pm by David Kroman

Mayor Ed Murray, Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole and federal law enforcement officials today unveiled Operation Crosstown Traffic, a joint effort between local and federal law enforcement officials to identify suspected drug dealers and thieves frequenting the downtown retail core.

Officers have been working, largely undercover, for four months, compiling a list of 186 suspects so far. As of Thursday morning, police had arrested 95 people; 37 have received federal indictments, said Acting U.S. Attorney Anette L. Hayes.

The announcement comes in tandem with the city’s new 9 1/2 block strategy, reported by the Seattle Times on Wednesday, which will bump up the number of foot and bike cops on the downtown beat.

The call for this kind of action has been surprisingly uniform. A letter sent last October, urging the Seattle City Council to increase downtown police presence, was signed by both local businesses and advocates for the homeless, including Real Change Newspaper and King County’s Committee to End Homelessness.

Last March, the Downtown Seattle Association asked for $20 million from the city to clean up the area between Pike Place Market and Capitol Hill’s Melrose Market.

“It’s important we don’t confuse mental health and homelessness with criminal activity,” said Murray. In enforcing the 9 1/2 block strategy, the city will lean heavily on its new Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program (LEAD), which aims to divert low-level offenders into mental health and rehabilitation service instead of jail.

Last year, said Murray, the retail core experienced eight to 12 incidents a day, largely drug deals and property crime. Suspects identified by Operation Crosstown Traffic and the 9 1/2 block strategy will not be allowed back into the Pike/Pine downtown corridor.

There remain several unanswered questions: Will the drug market simply move elsewhere? How will officers recognize citizens facing legal bans from downtown? How many new officers and dollars are necessary to make the plan work?

With May Day approaching — an often contentious time in Seattle — O’Toole made sure to point out that there had been no use of force in the 95 arrests.

We Day in Seattle

at 11:38am by Cody Olsen

Thousands of Seattle’s youth headed to the Key Arena to celebrate We Day. A movement started in 2007 to promote engagement from today’s student population, it encourages students to get involved with combating the problems facing our world today.

“We believe in supporting this potential by educating today’s students about the greatest local and global issues of our time,” the event’s website says. My Northwest notes that the speakers include such Seahawks as Coach Pete Carroll, Doug Baldwin, Luke Willson and Bobby Wagner.

Obama apologizes for hostage deaths

at 10:40am by Cody Olsen

President Obama apologized Thursday for a drone strike’s accidental killing of two hostages, American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto, during an attack on an Al-Qaeda compound in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. “As President, and as Commander-in-Chief I take full responsibility for all our counter-terrorism operations including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni,” President Obama said. USA Today reports that Weinstein family members issued a harsh statement criticizing the administration for its lack of support for hostages and their families.

Also killed in the strike was Ahmed Farouq, an American and one of the Al-Qaeda leaders being targeted.

Inslee blocks part of 75-mph highway bill

at 7:00am by John Stang

The prospect of driving 75 mph – legally — on parts of Interstate 90 in Eastern Washington is less a sure thing that it might have appeared. Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday vetoed one section of a bill passed by lawmakers to pave the way for 75 mph speeds.

The vetoed section of the bill by Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, would have given the state Department of Transportation the authority to carry out blanket increases in the current 70 mph speed limits on parts of I-90 and other highways.

However, Inslee signed into law other sections of the bill that would allow the Washington Department of Transportation to increase speed limits to 75 mph after it has studied the safety and desirability of such increases. “We need to really know what the research is before we make such a decision,” Inslee said, citing safety concerns.

A-Rod is no Say Hey, whatever the numbers

at 6:21am by Mark Matassa

Willie Mays
Willie Mays

As Mariners fans’ favorite boo-target Alex Rodriguez approaches a notable number of home runs, the New York Times remembers the day that Willie Mays hit his 660th and final dinger — the number that A-Rod now has in his sights. Mays, the “Say Hey Kid” and the best ballplayer of all time, hit that mark with the New York Mets, where he faded into retirement after a legendary career with the New York and San Francisco Giants.

Oregon woman fed murder victims to her pigs

at 5:11am by Mark Matassa

In Southern Oregon, a 66-year-old woman was sentenced to 50 years in prison after being convicted of killing two men and feeding the remains to her pigs. The (Medford) Mail Tribune has the grisly details, along with creepy courtroom testimony by the defendant, whom the judge called a “cold-blooded killer.” Why didn’t you call the police, asks the prosecutor. “My stupid sense of humor,” she replies.

Earth Day, from too many kids, to too many libs

at 5:03am by Mark Matassa


Wednesday was Earth Day, which meant of course that the Internet lit up with essays, photos, time-lapses and a bunch of other solo- and multimedia celebrations and diatribes about this little ball we call home.

Wired had an interesting piece on the biggest threat to the Earth: not climate change, not drought, not pollution, but children. “There will be speeches about sustainability, discussions about air quality, and pamphlets on how to reduce your carbon footprint,” the site said about the day’s observances. “You might even learn how to help save some sub-Saharan elephants, but nobody will be addressing the elephant in the room. That’s the fact that every single environmental solution is addressing the same, ugly problem: The world has to support a lot of hungry, thirsty, fertile people.”

Fox News, as is its wont, was having none of it. “This is perhaps the single greatest misinformation campaign in world history,” it concluded.

Elsewhere, Fast Company celebrated the country’s “10 Best Green Buildings of 2015,” led by Seattle’s Bullitt Center.

And the New York Times rolled out an awesome time-lapse video of the tip of Manhattan, covering 515 years of history, glimpsing the short life of the World Trade Center and ending with the view from the 102nd-floor observatory of the new 1 World Trade Center. Great stuff.

Wednesday 22 Apr, 2015

Idaho, international superpower. The third rail? No thanks. They don't change that much in the casket ...

Should Jean Godden be worried?

at 4:01pm by David Kroman

Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com has bad news for incumbent city council candidate Jean Godden: she’s in fourth place.

The numbers are no death knell just yet: This was merely the result of a straw poll among 43rd District Democrats at a meet-the-candidates forum.

But, Connelly (the dean of local political writers) says that of the city council candidates seeking re-election, Godden is likely the most vulnerable. This poll did nothing to improve that assessment.

Paralegal Michael Maddux won the poll with 102 votes; transportation champion Rob Johnson received 69 votes; business owner Tony Provine got 57; and in fourth, with 44 votes, was Godden.

Awkwardly, Godden was there to see it unfold.

Longtime residents, who make up a good portion of her support base, were not necessarily present, so her numbers may appear weaker than they are in reality. But the primary is starting to loom a bit larger for the three-term council member.

NASA Messenger to smash spectacularly into Mercury

at 2:18pm by Marissa Brent-Tookey

NASA Messenger’s first image of Mercury from orbit. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA says its Messenger spacecraft, launched in 2004 to explore Mercury, will run out of fuel in about a week. The probe will crash into Mercury’s surface at a speed of 8,750 mph. Messenger’s mission has given scientists an enlightening perspective on the planet closest to the sun. Principal Investigator Sean Solomon explains that its “polar regions serve as a witness plate to the delivery to the inner solar system of water and organic compounds from the outer solar system, a process that much earlier may have led to prebiotic chemical synthesis and the origin of life on Earth.” In addition to these findings, the Messenger has demonstrated the viability of technological innovations designed specifically to withstand extreme temperatures and save fuel.

Drone, radioactivity found on Japan PM's office roof

at 1:45pm by Joe Copeland

The drone on the rooftop of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office contained a bottle marked with the symbol for radiation, The New York Times reports. The liquid in the bottle is being analyzed. Cesium was detected but that could have blown from the Fukushima area.

Teachers strike - for a day - in 3 Washington school districts

at 11:29am by Marissa Brent-Tookey

Teachers from Stanwood-Camano, Arlington and Lakewood school districts have begun a one-day strike. “They want lawmakers to fully fund education as ordered by the state Supreme Court … smaller class sizes and better pay,” explains KING 5. A group of teachers and supporters hoisted signs along a thoroughfare in Arlington this morning. Teachers in several other districts have strikes planned in the coming weeks.

Compromise clears way for Loretta Lynch confirmation

at 10:59am by Mary Bruno

If she is actually confirmed this week as the U.S. Attorney General — that’s the expectation — New York’s U.S. attorney Loretta Lynch will become the first black woman to hold the position. (She will replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, the first black man to hold the post.) But the more interesting and strange aspect of Lynch’s protracted confirmation process might be how it became hostage to an abortion provision in a human trafficking bill.

Briefly, Republicans wanted to pass a human trafficking bill before debating the president’s nominee for AG. Dems and Republicans got all deadlocked over what medical services to offer the victims. Dems wanted abortion to be one of the services. The GOP balked. And Loretta Lynch waited. Until this week, when both sides struck an unusual compromise: Victims of human trafficking, reports the Washington Post, will get healthcare via a fund “that already restricts abortions, except for in cases of rape or incest.”

Problem solved. Helloooo, Loretta.

Murray initiative to spread the green

at 10:38am by Marissa Brent-Tookey

Mayor Ed Murray launched what he is calling the City of Seattle Equity and Environment Initiative (EEI) this morning — just in time for Earth Day.

The initiative is meant to address a social justice problem that Seattle, like most U.S. cities, faces: The people who create environmental policy and benefit most from it tend to belong to upper-income, white communities.

A steering committee of members from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds will develop an agenda to act on the initiative. The primary goal is to involve leaders from groups who are routinely excluded from the environmental movement, such as “people of color, immigrants and refugees, people with low incomes, and limited-English proficiency individuals.”

Members of the Community Partners Steering Committee include Becca Fong of Seattle Tilth, Roxana Norouzi of OneAmerica, and Roshni Sampath of the Statewide Poverty Action Network.

In a statement from Murray’s office, Dennis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation and the coordinator of the first Earth Day, says that “changing urban demographics lend a special urgency to the issue … [EEI] is a big step by this progressive city to provide a model for cities everywhere.” Happy Earth Day, Seattle.

Seattle targets drug dealers with new “9½ Block Strategy”

at 9:00am by Mary Bruno

We all know (don’t we?) that drug dealers operate, 24/7, in downtown Seattle. Business is especially brisk in the blocks bordered by First and Fourth avenues and Union and Stewart streets, and neighborhood business owners and residents have been complaining. According to The Seattle Times, the Seattle Police Department fielded 10,000 calls from that part of town last year. (That’s a lot.) Well, the city has finally had it with the drug trade and its related crime, so civic and business leaders and the SPD are deploying a new “9½ Block Strategy” to take back those streets. “Bus stops will be moved, alleys restricted and newspaper boxes used by drug dealers removed,” reports The Times. Will it work? We’ll wait and see.

Microsoft to report lowest earnings in 5 years

at 8:00am by Mary Bruno

Reeling from the one-two punch of weak PC sales and a strong dollar, Microsoft is expected to report its lowest quarterly profit in five years this week — and no improvement in market or monetary conditions is in sight this year. “The PC environment continued to be tough, and the currency has moved against them,” Walter Pritchard, a software analyst with Citigroup in San Francisco, told The Seattle Times. “Right now, the question is ‘How low do the numbers go?’ ”

Governor wants leave without pay for Kelley

at 7:30am by John Stang

Jay Inslee says that indicted state Auditor Troy Kelley should not be paid while he is on a planned leave of absence to deal with the charges. However, the governor has no official say on the matter.

The State Auditor is a statewide elected office that does not fall under the governor’s supervision. The Auditor’s Office has requested guidance from the state Attorney General’s Office on how a statewide elected official can take a leave of absence. Thomas Shapley, spokesperson for the Auditor’s Office, said the salary question is one of several that attorneys are exploring. It seems we are in unchartered legal territory here.

A federal grand jury indicted Kelley last week on 10 counts, including of tax fraud and lying to the Internal Revenue Service. His trial is tentatively set for June 8. He plans to go on a leave of absence on May 1.

Feds to help prep Puget Sound for climate change

at 7:15am by Cody Olsen

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency are launching an effort to help a few regions, including the Puget Sound, deal with the effects of climate change. The Resilient Lands and Water Initiative aims to build upon existing cooperation between state, local and federal agencies in combatting the effects of global warming, such as a rise in sea levels. The Initiative focuses on four locations where the feds will “conserve and restore important lands and waters and make them more resilient to a changing climate.”

In Puget Sound — and the Snohomish River watershed, specifically — officials hope to build on existing cooperation among various agencies, local authorities, tribes and non-profit groups to preserve the environment and promote “climate resilience.” Mike Stevens, Washington state director for The Nature Conservancy, said, “We are living with the evidence of a changing climate. Longer and more intense winter flooding, low river flows in the summer, and rising seas are affecting both cities and farmlands in the Puget Sound region.”


Inslee dislikes income tax proposal

at 7:00am by John Stang

The governor is not happy with the income tax piece of an education-related tax reform proposal offered by State Treasurer Jim McIntire. A state income tax has generally been considered a non-starter in Washington state politics for decades. McIntire calls for a constitutional amendment to install a 5 percent state income tax to fund education in Washington. McIntire’s wide-ranging proposal, presented Monday, also includes eliminating the state’s property tax, reducing the sales tax rate, and requiring 60 percent majorities in the Washington House and Senate in order to change the new tax rates.

“I’m not supportive,” said Inslee about the proposal. Neither are GOP lawmakers, who voiced a lack of enthusiasm for McIntire’s call for a task force to figure out how to overhaul Washington’s tax system, universally considered the most regressive in the nation.

The third rail? No thanks

at 6:45am by Mark Matassa

Washington_State_Capitol_Legislative_BuildingFor anyone who suspected that state Treasurer Jim McIntire’s income tax proposal is a stalking horse for Gov. Jay Inslee, a fellow Democrat, the guv denied any interest on Tuesday. He surely knows that for decades the income tax has been considered a “third rail” of Washington politics; touch it and you’re dead. Inslee’s not opposed to more taxes — he has proposed taxes on carbon polluters and a limited capital gains tax — but does not support McIntire’s idea. Said Inslee’s spokeswoman: “He is not proposing a state income tax.”

Still, the Legislature seems nowhere close on a budget deal, with the legislative session set to expire Sunday. That means, says the Times, that a special session is likely.. Crosscut’s John Stang broke down the McIntire plan earlier this week.

They don’t change that much in the casket …

at 6:00am by Mark Matassa

Bad enough that a funeral parlor put the wrong body in the casket of a Kelso man, charges a lawsuit by his family. But then the employees tried to convince Jerry Moon’s loved ones that the body in the casket really was Moon. “People look different in death,” one of the mortuary employees allegedly told Moon family members. The Seattle Times has more morbid details.

New Yorker encore for Elizabeth Kolbert

at 5:09am by Mark Matassa

In honor of the writer’s Pulitzer Prize this week for her nonfiction book “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History,” The New Yorker reprints Kolbert’s 2009 magazine piece that led to her award-winning book.

Idaho, international superpower

at 5:05am by Mark Matassa

It’s a lovely spot and all, but it’s hard to imagine Idaho as so powerful that it can stop an international treaty negotiated at The Hague. As the New York Times reports, “It took five years for negotiators to work out the details of a multinational treaty on child support that would make it easier to track delinquent parents around the world. It took only a couple of minutes for a committee of the Idaho Legislature to endanger America’s participation.” All 50 states must approve the concept for the U.S. to be a party to the treaty. Idaho said it didn’t want foreign governments telling it what to do.

Tuesday 21 Apr, 2015

To the left man, far out. Amazon, and then some. Jeb Bush picks up big bucks, big backer

Orting's firing of first black cop goes national

at 4:05pm by Robert LeCompte

The Washington Post has given in-depth treatment to the story of Gerry Pickens, the first black police officer in the small town of Orting, his firing and the divisions in the Pierce County community. Not only was he fired, but someone spray painted a racial slur on Pickens’ car. “I keep telling myself that this doesn’t have anything to do with my race but something’s going on,” Pickens said. Although he tried to simply move on and find another police job elsewhere, Pickens is now suing the town of Orting for $5 million.


Increased security at Sea-Tac

at 3:10pm by Cody Olsen

Airline and airport employees at Sea-Tac are looking at increased security measures, after a baggage handler in Atlanta was accused of trying to smuggle a firearm onto an airplane. TSA will now conduct regular criminal background checks on all airport airline employees, and screen employees for weapons before they board a flight, KIRO-TV reported. National reports indicate that there will also be random screenings of employees while they work.


NY court goes bananas for two chimpanzees

at 3:02pm by Robert LeCompte

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe has granted two chimpanzees a writ of habeas corpus, essentially deeming them to be legal persons by treating their captivity as something that must be explained to the court, reports The Guardian. The chimps in question, Hercules and Leo, were used in medical experiments at Long Island’s Stony Brook University. The court order means that SBU President Samuel Stanley must defend why the chimps are being held and argue for why they shouldn’t be transferred to Save the Chimps, a chimpanzee sanctuary in Florida.

“She never says explicitly that our non-human plaintiffs were persons but by issuing the order,” says Steven Wise, a lawyer for the Nonhuman Rights Project, “she’s either saying implicitly that they are or that they can be.” A spokesperson for the judge said the order does not say the chimps are persons. Wise has argued that chimpanzees are intelligent, emotionally complex, and self-aware and as such, they should be awarded basic human rights, such as rights that protect against unlawful imprisonment and cruel treatment. The court date for Hercules and Leo is set for May 6.

A baby chimpanzee and his mother. Credit: Tambako the Jaguar (via Flickr).
A baby chimpanzee and his mother. Credit: Tambako the Jaguar (via Flickr).

NFFTY showcasing female filmmakers

at 3:00pm by Robert LeCompte

Only 4.7 percent of films released by major studios from 2009 to 2013 were directed by women. Local film festival NFFTY (pronounced “nifty”) is looking to change that, reports The Seattle Times. The festival, which features short films from directors aged 24 and below, is introducing a new category this year called Femme Finale. The closing-night slot will showcase films directed by young women; the winner receives a partial four-year scholarship. Look for Crosscut’s NFFTY story tomorrow.

DEA chief expected to resign

at 1:52pm by Robert LeCompte

Michele Leonhart is expected to resign her post as Director of the Drug Enforcement Administration following an investigation that found DEA agents having “sex parties” paid for by Colombian drug cartels. The investigation, according to CBS News, showed that this type of behavior dates back to 2001, maybe even further. Both Democrats and Republicans have condemned the behavior, with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee saying they have zero confidence in Leonhart. “After over a decade of serving in top leadership positions at DEA,” said the House Oversight Committee in its official statement,” Administrator Leonhart has been woefully unable to change or positively influence the pervasive ‘good old boy’ culture that exists throughout the agency.”



At home cancer-risk test. No, really.

at 12:40pm by Cody Olsen

Former Google staffers have developed an at-home, reasonably affordable, test for inherited factors related to ovarian and breast cancer, reports Fast Company. The test is called Color Genomics, it’s a kit, which has to be doctor-ordered, and is purchased online; you receive the test, provide a saliva sample and then mail it back. Color Genomics tests 19 genes connected to breast and ovarian cancer to determine risk levels. The “patient” is then connected with a genetic counselor to explain the results.

Developed by Othman Laraki and Elad Gil, formerly of Google, along with pathologist Taylor Sittler and biologist Nish Bhat, the kit costs $249 flat, and is not affiliated with any insurance companies. The developers sat they hope the cheaper cost will better allow women of all income levels to find out if they are at risk of these types of cancer. The New York Times notes that the University of Washington’s Dr. Mary-Claire King, a Lasker Award-winning pioneer in the genetics of breast cancer, is one of Color Genomics’ unpaid advisers.

Seattle Elephants in San Diego

at 11:43am by Cody Olsen

Former Woodland Park Zoo elephants Chai, 46, and Bamboo, 48, continue to restat San Diego Zoo after being re-routed en route to their new home at Oklahoma City Zoo, when a snowstorm forced a change of plans. KOMO reports that there are still plans to finish moving the elephants to Oklahoma City, but Woodland Park has not set a new date yet. Some members of the Woodland Park staff are at San Diego keeping an eye on the elephants, with more staff expected to fly down this week. The elephants are being housed in the zoo’s animal care center for aging and geriatric elephants (don’t worry, ladies, you don’t look a day over 30), which is not open to the public.

Seattle activists previously tried to block the elephant’s transfer to Oklahoma City Zoo, saying large animals need the space provided by a sanctuary. The LA Times today quotes Woodland Park general curator Nancy Hawkes as saying, “Bamboo is showing signs of contentment by rumbling and purring to her keepers.” One thing that must be coming to mind in more than a few quarters, especially considering a federal judge’s harsh remarks about the Oklahoma City move: If they’re doing so well at San Diego, which has a climate much better suited to the elephants, is anyone thinking of letting them stay there?

ISIS declares jihad on ...

at 11:09am by Robert LeCompte

ISIS is officially declaring jihad (a holy war) on the Taliban. In the announcement, according to LiveLeak, ISIS leader Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi calls the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Omar, a “fool and an illiterate warlord,” as well as saying that Mullah Omar does not deserve spiritual or political credibility. Al-Baghdadi also boasts that ISIS has made more “achievements” in the past two years than the Taliban has in the past 10. Anyone else think it might be hard to choose sides here?


Go home, sex offenders

at 10:59am by Cody Olsen

The state Legislature has passed a bill that would encourage judges to send sex offenders who have completed a prison term back to the county where they were living before imprisonment. The proposal, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Inslee, seeks to combat the disproportionate amount of sex offenders that wind up in Pierce County after their release, though none of them came from there, according to The Olympian.

New gee whiz tech for Space Needle

at 9:00am by Mary Bruno

A Seattle celebration of New Year's.

Karen Olsen, the Space Needle’s wizard of tech, is preparing to roll out her latest bag of gee whiz tricks. Puget Sound Business Journal reports that visitors to the city’s iconic attraction will soon be able to don virtual reality headgear and take a “so-called halo walk” around the outside edge of the observation deck. There’s more. Cameras positioned miles from the Needle will soon let folks snap closeups of themselves on the observation deck. If Olsen keeps this up, the Needle’s $20-plus admission cost might just be worth it.

"All the Light We Cannot See" wins Pulitzer

at 8:01am by Mary Bruno

All the light we cannot see2Anthony Doerr’s lyrical novel, also nominated for the National Book Award, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction; Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History was honored for general non-fiction.

Google's mobile-friendly search tweak

at 7:30am by Mary Bruno

iPhone.Google is rolling out promised changes to its search ranking system this week that will advantage mobile-friendly sites. “The changes,” reports GeekWire, “will favor sites that avoid technologies like Flash that don’t work on phones, have layouts that automatically scale so that users don’t have to scroll side-to-side or zoom, and have links placed far enough apart that they can be easily tapped with a finger.” Time for that responsive design!

To the left, man. Far out.

at 5:30am by Mark Matassa

potWhat with medical marijuana, legal weed, corporate weed and just plain old pot, it’s becoming practically un-American not to spark one once in a while. But as the Internet’s coverage of “420 Day” proved on Monday, the counterculture feel of taking a hit is still very much alive. “Four-twenty” is sort of an unofficial pot holiday, apparently named in the early 1970s after a California police code for public smoking. It is celebrated, as the Seattle Times notes, on the 20th day of the fourth month – April 20.

Portland’s alternative paper Willamette Week devotes this week’s entire edition to the holiday; its “420 Issue” includes reviews of the newest strains and of Portland’s best weed shops, as well as a “feminist critique of sexy stoner chicks.”

Huffington Post examines “How ‘Weed Day’ got its name.”

Willie Nelson plans to roll out his own brand of pot, “Willie’s Reserve,” says the Associated Press via KOIN 6 TV.

And the Seattle Times, following the money, reports (with charts!) that the average price of legal marijuana has dropped steadily since legalization, to about $12 a gram.

Amazon, and then some

at 5:28am by Mark Matassa

Turning his eye to Seattle’s economic boom, the Seattle Times’ consistently good business columnist Jon Talton says there’s much more to it than Amazon’s phenomenal growth. Talton looks at housing, venture capital and other factors in his roundup of the city’s boom.

What about the Prime Directive, Captain?

at 5:14am by Mark Matassa

William Shatner, in a very un-“Star Trek” move, proposes a giant water pipeline to California from Seattle. “I want $30 billion … to build a pipeline like the Alaska pipeline. Say, from Seattle — a place where there’s a lot of water. There’s too much water,” Shatner says in a Los Angeles Times story.

Jeb Bush picks up big bucks, big backer

at 5:03am by Mark Matassa

Jeb Bush ReligonNews.com, Creative Commons

He hasn’t announced yet, but the presumed Republican presidential candidate has a campaign in full swing. He was in Seattle Monday for a pair of big-ticket fundraisers (one cost $12,500 a plate), says the Seattle Times.

And on the East Coast, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, trying to build some campaign momentum of his own, lost a top aide to the Bush camp, reports the Washington Post.


Gary Rubens' millions fund Washington State scholarship

at 2:00am by Robert LeCompte

Local investor Gary Rubens has made a $20 million donation to the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS), reports GeekWire. His contribution will be matched by the state of Washington thanks to the Rubens Family Foundation. “I grew up poor and did not have an opportunity to go to college because my family could not afford it,” Rubens says, “so I have a passion for those in need of an education.” WSOS funds tuition for students from low and middle income families, who plan to pursue a career in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Math) fields.

Monday 20 Apr, 2015

Who is the real Troy Kelley? Sometimes, just talking is difficult. Oregon's new growth industry: surrogate parenting

Seattle Times, Boise writer win Pulitzers

at 1:18pm by Marissa Brent-Tookey

The staff of The Seattle Times today won a Pulitizer Prize in breaking news for the paper’s coverage of the Oso landslide and its followup reporting on the factors that may have played into the catastrophe. Anthony Doerr of Boise, Idaho, won the fiction prize for his novel All the Light We Cannot See.

State democratic party opts for Caucus over Primary

at 1:09pm by Cody Olsen

Seattlepi.com reports that the Washington state Democrats have decided not to host a presidential primary in the state, instead opting for their usual caucus. Secretary of State Kim Wyman had previously called for a primary.

Gay marriage still a go in Oregon

at 12:59pm by Marissa Brent-Tookey

The National Organization for Marriage has done it again — struck out in an attempt to overturn a court decision legalizing gay marriage. On Monday, the Supreme Court refused to hear NOM’s appeal of gay marriage in Oregon on Monday, reports Jeff Mapes of The Oregonian. It instead maintained U.S. District Judge Michael McShane’s May 2014 decision ruling that Oregon’s gay marriage ban was unconstitutional.


Business interests can kill more than trees in Honduras

at 12:56pm by Marissa Brent-Tookey

With Earth Day just ahead, The BBC reports on a Global Witness study indicating that 2014 saw a 20 percent rise in murders of environmental activists. The majority of killings were in Central and South America, and 40 percent of those murdered were indigenous. Activists trying to protect their land from companies’ destructive policies have little protection from the government in some of the countries. In fact, government and corporate interests sometimes go hand-in-hand. Global Witness took a deeper look at Honduras, where it puts the death toll at 101 from 2010 through 2014.

Vancouver's sporty version of Google Glass

at 12:00pm by Marissa Brent-Tookey

Recon Instruments, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, just released the Recon Jet, a smart glasses headset designed just for athletes. Tom Fowler, chief marketing officer, tells The Vancouver Sun that the Jet “is a full bore, legit, stand-alone computer,” as well as a sensor with accelerometer, gyro and the like/ It is also Bluetooth-enabled to connect to heart-rate monitors and other external sensor devices. The hope is that the Jet will benefit not just cyclists and runners but be adapted by a host of other users — which would be very different than Google’s experience with Glass.

Will new book, "Clinton Cash", threaten Hillary's 2016 chances?

at 10:00am by Mary Bruno

Credit: Amazon
Credit: Amazon

In the upcoming book, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, author Peter Schweizer alleges an unsavory connection between donations to the Clinton Foundation from foreign agents and quid pro quo favors from Hillary’s State Department. Clinton Cash “is proving the most anticipated and feared book of a presidential cycle still in its infancy,” says The New York Times. “The book won’t hit the shelves until May 5, but already  the Republican Rand Paul has called its findings “big news” that will “shock people” and make voters “question” the candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton.” Dum-da-dum-dum.

Distracted driving and the multi-tasking myth

at 9:43am by Marissa Brent-Tookey

National Safety Council CEO Deborah Hersman was in Seattle last week to promote Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and Mike Lindblom of The Seattle Times took the opportunity to interview her. This comes just after lawmakers in the state House rejected a bill that would forbid drivers from using mobile phones in any way – with or without hands. “Hands-free is not risk-free,” says Hersman. “Human beings are not multitaskers. Carnegie-Mellon actually did brain scans to show when people are driving [on simulators] and they’re talking on the phone, 37 percent of their brain capacity is diverted.” Translation: Don’t talk and drive.

Campaign finance reform as 2016 theme

at 9:11am by Mary Bruno

Stacks of money can be yours, without having to risk your own.

Last week, there was the Florida mailman, oops, person, gyrocoptering campaign finance reform protests letters to Congress. That mission didn’t end well, but the theme rages on. Hillary Clinton made campaign finance reform it a centerpiece of her 2016 presidential bid. (Risky choice, since she’s expected to raise infinite sums to underwrite her encore) And Hillary has a Republican compadre on this one.

Reuters reports GOP Senator — and dark horse presidential candidate — Lindsey Graham telling a group of Republicans recently: “We’ve got to figure out a way to fix this mess, because basically 50 people are running the whole show.” The mess is too much private money in politics; the 50 people Graham alludes to include major GOP donors such as conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch, who are expected to plunk down $900 million for 2016 campaigns. 




Cruz control

at 7:39am by Mary Bruno

Nelson Cruz homered in the first and third — he leads the majors in dingers with eight — before singling with three aboard and two outs in the ninth to cap the Ms’ improbable, come-from-behind victory over Texas (11-10). Ms’ manager Lloyd McClendon predicted that his team “is built for greatness,”  writes Art Thiel in SportspressnNW. “… but I prefer, for the moment, to lean toward the explanation offered by SS Brad Miller. ‘You never know,” he said. ‘Baseball is crazy.’”

Sometimes, just talking is difficult

at 5:34am by Mark Matassa

With Sunday’s deadline bearing down, lawmakers aren’t making much progress on writing the state budget, reports the Seattle Times. In fact, Democrats and Republicans have stopped talking. The two sides are about a billion dollars apart. Key sticking point: how to meet court orders to spend more on K-12 education and improve mental-health services. The Ds want to raise taxes. Repubs say no way.

Party leaders also are disagreeing about college tuition, the Times says, with Republicans proposing an eye-popping 25 percent tuition cut at state colleges and universities. Dems say the plan would be unfair to lower-income students.

Oregon’s new growth industry: surrogate parenting

at 5:22am by Mark Matassa

Thanks to a combination of supportive laws, a liberal culture and shifting feelings worldwide about adoption and gay and lesbian couples, Oregon is emerging as one of the most popular places to pay people to have a baby. Reports The Oregonian: “Couples from all over the world, especially gay and lesbian couples, come to the state and pay $100,000 or more for the chance to become biological parents, a transaction that mixes business with joy and wraps the resulting babies in a bundle of practical, legal and ethical questions.”

The path to “Today, I announce …”

at 5:11am by Mark Matassa

Very nicely produced and even entertaining video at the New York Times about the stages candidates go through as they consider running for president. Hillary Clinton looks right at the camera at one point and says, “Absolutely. Not interested.”

Who is the real Troy Kelley?

at 5:05am by Mark Matassa

State Auditor Troy Kelley
State Auditor Troy Kelley

He seemed like a good guy, Democratic colleagues of the state auditor tell the Seattle Times. And his resume seemed built for the gig. But now that he’s under a 10-count indictment alleging that he stole millions of dollars while processing real-estate paperwork, another view of Kelley is coming into focus: “descriptions of him as a secretive, absentee official whose Democratic colleagues say they really knew little about.” Good news profile by Lewis Kamb and Jim Brunner.

Friday 17 Apr, 2015

Is that a petition in your pocket? West Coast beaches overrun with blue jellyfish. The world according to Jeb.

Drivers beware: I-90 Westbound lane closures

at 3:54pm by Cody Olsen

For anyone trying to get into Seattle this weekend to support the Mariners, or partake in some other springtime activity, fair warning: Westbound I-90 will likely be a nightmare. From 11 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday all I-90 westbound traffic between Bellevue Way SE to Rainier Ave S. will be diverted to the two express lanes, allowing WSDOT contractors to work inside the Mercer Tunnel and Mount Baker Tunnel.

If you find yourself stuck in the construction-induced traffic this weekend, take solace — if you can — that these delays are to allow crews to improve the traffic flow on I-90 for the future, by adding HOV lanes to the outer general purpose lanes, and also prepare the center roadway for Sound Transit’s light rail extension. For more info check out WSDOT’s project summary.

Green protesters greet Shell oil rig in Port Angeles

at 2:48pm by Marissa Brent-Tookey

KING 5 News reports that the Blue Marlin, toting a Shell oil rig bound for the Arctic, has reached Port Angeles. Next stop: Seattle. As it headed into Port Angeles today, the ship was met by protesters in kayaks, who wielded a “SHELLNO.ORG” banner. As Martha Baskin’s story for Crosscut from earlier this week reports, more protests are expected when the rig, scheduled to work in the Arctic this summer, arrives in Seattle.

Mayor Murray plans 100-bed shelter for homeless

at 2:41pm by David Kroman

Following a recommendation from his Task Force on Unsheltered Homelessness, Mayor Ed Murray is announcing plans to partner with Downtown Emergency Services Centers to establish a new 100-bed homeless shelter at a City-owned property.

According to a statement from the mayor’s office, the project will cost $350,000. “The City,” the statement says, “is working with the Human Services Department and Finance and Administrative Services Department to identify a City-owned property that is appropriate for temporary housing.”

The announcement comes as advocates and city officials grapple with what to do with the region’s growing homeless population — up 21 percent in 2014, according to King County’s One Night Count — despite Seattle spending more on services than any U.S. city but New York and Los Angeles.

In the background of the city’s efforts to bring down the number of homeless is the question of what to do about “public disorder,” or low-level crimes committed in busy parts of downtown. In the Seattle Times today, the two issues seem to be equated, if not explicitly, in a report on the extent of the county’s prosecution  of drug charges. And as a ban on smoking in parks is considered, some wonder if this is not also a clean-up effort aimed at Seattle’s homeless.

Regardless, this announcement caps a busy week of action from the mayor’s office on homelessness. On Wednesday, Murray unveiled five new youth shelter beds and on Thursday, he announced $620,000 in funding for more rapid re-housing programs.


Kickstarting Seattle

at 2:32pm by Marissa Brent-Tookey

Seattle is fifth on the list of most Kickstarter projects launched among major U.S. cities. Seattle loves crowdfunding, and it seems that crowdfunding loves Seattle. PSBJ finds that Seattle-based projects on Kickstarter have a 33 percent higher success rate than the global average, with 51.3 percent of funding goals reached. The city’s top project types include publishing, arts and games.

Sean Kemp reigns on OKC's misery

at 11:34am by Joe Copeland

Former Sonic superstar Sean Kemp cemented himself a little deeper in the city’s heart by holding a party on Thursday night to celebrate a flop: The Oklahoma City Thunder failed to make the NBA playoffs. (With the league’s bloated post-season formula, that’s some feat, even with the unfortunate injury to the Thunder’s classy superstar, Kevin Durant.) Maybe the best part of Kemp’s party: It made news in Oklahoma City — where we’re guessing the not-so-classy owners of the Thunder keep up with what’s reported locally about their team.

Inslee turns up the heat on Kelley

at 11:32am by Mark Matassa

More pressure this morning on State Auditor Troy Kelley to resign immediately. In what the Seattle Times calls an “unsubtle letter” to the auditor, Gov. Jay Inslee said it’s time to go. The “grand jury indictment makes it clear that you can no longer serve the citizens of Washington as state auditor,” reads the letter, adding later: “But you have now been indicted for the very type of conduct that your office is tasked with regulating; in turn, you have lost the public’s trust.”

Kelley maintains his innocence.

Meet Dan Price, CEO who cut his pay to raise workers'

at 8:03am by Mary Bruno

The recent news of Price’s decision to draw from his own $1 million salary so that all his Gravity Payments’ employees would make a minimum $70,000 per year went viral. Naturally, Price took a spin on the talk show circuit, with appearances on NBC’s Today Show and E!Online. But long before his 15 minutes of fame, GeekWire reminds us, Dan Price was a guest at this year’s GeekWire Startup Day. Here’s what he had to say back then:

Whooping cough spiking in WA State

at 8:00am by Mary Bruno

The state Department of Health currently reports 319 cases of whooping cough. Last year at this time, there were 49. Health officials tell The Seattle Times that vaccinating pregnant women, kids and teenagers is the best way to contain the spread.

Pot industry in Washington about to change

at 7:33am by Robert LeCompte

credit: Laurie Avocado
Credit: Laurie Avocado

A bill that just passed both the State House and Senate would close practically all Washington’s medical marijuana dispensaries, reports The Stranger. Medical marijuana would instead be sold through recreational pot outlets that have been authorized to sell the medical product as well. These stores would employ people trained in the medicinal qualities of different pot varieties; stores would also have to abide by rules and regulations governing the sale of medicinal marijuana, something dispensaries are not now required to do. A few medical marijuana stores may be allowed to survive. Priority will be given to dispensaries that have already applied to make the change.

The bill will also affect patients. They can choose to sign up for a registry, which would let them to buy three ounces of marijuana at a time (considerably less than the current 24-ounce limit). The registry also qualifies patients to grow up to six marijuana plants, instead of the current 15. The downside? The federal government has been known to prosecute people for purchasing marijuana, which is still a federal offense.


Truck rolls on I-5 releasing load of honeybees

at 7:25am by Mary Bruno

A truck load of honeybees were freed when the semi hauling them rolled over at the I-5, I-405 interchange near Lynnwood. The Seattle Times reports that beekeepers are on the scene trying to round up the free bees. (Yeah, good luck with that.) “Everybody’s been stung,” Sgt. Ben Lewis of the State Patrol told the Times.


West Coast beaches overrun with blue jellyfish

at 5:30am by Mark Matassa


The coolest science story of the week was the report of thousands — millions, even billions in some accounts — of jellyfish-like creatures called Velella velella washing ashore in Oregon, Washington and California. The creatures normally float atop the ocean in huge groups, but their distinctive blue-jelly fin acts like a sail. Occasionally, including this week, a strong wind will push entire squadrons of them onto the beach, where they die, reports The Oregonian.

The world according to Jeb

at 5:25am by Mark Matassa

Over the years, many Republican activists and strategists have described Jeb Bush as more moderate and, frankly, sharper than his famous brother, President George W. Bush. But now that Jeb is exploring a presidential run next year, his positions and even his speech sound pretty familiar, says the Washington Post. One example, he promises to root out “barbarians” and “evildoers” around the globe.

‘Can you hear the boos, Fernando?’

at 5:20am by Mark Matassa

The Mariners had the day off Thursday, but that’s no reason for the apparently growing throng of Fernando Rodney critics to rest too. Rodney’s the team’s always gut-wrenching “closer”— entering the game in the ninth inning, shutting down opponents, protecting the Mariners’ lead and sealing the win with a save. So far this season, not so much. On the other hand, he hasn’t had to break out his annoying trademark move, pretending to take an arrow out of a quiver and firing it into the sky when he saves a game.

A couple of fans have rewritten new lyrics for the old ABBA song “Fernando,” reports The Seattle Times. Check it out.

State auditor vows to fight tax-fraud indictment

at 5:17am by Mark Matassa

In a late follow-up to yesterday’s news that he was indicted on 10 counts, Troy Kelley declared his innocence and said his actions have been “squarely in line with industry practices” He’ll take a leave of absence but Gov. Jay Inslee and other leaders called on Kelley to resign. The Seattle Times has an updated story with a video of Kelley’s comments.

Is that a petition in your pocket?

at 5:02am by Mark Matassa

In the political equivalent of a tough guy flashing a pistol in his waistband, gun advocates in Oregon are staring down gun-control supporters in the Legislature with recall petitions. It’s a tactic that could spread, says The Oregonian.

Thursday 16 Apr, 2015

No magic feather for Seattle elephants; Hillary Clinton, yes on quac; Is it time to end the 'Fernando Rodney Experience?'

New oil refinery on the West Coast?

at 3:55pm by Cody Olsen

Riverside Energy Inc. is looking at a variety of locations in Washington and Oregon for a site to put a crude oil refinery. KUOW reports that it would be the first such refinery on the West Coast in 25 years. The plans were brought to light by Columbia Riverkeeper, an environmental group, which made a public records request. They discovered an unsigned agreement between Riverside Energy Inc. and the Port of Longview in July 2014.

The energy company predicts the proposed job would employ 400 construction workers, and 150 permanent employees once everything is up and running.

State auditor pleads innocent, resists calls for resignation

at 3:53pm by Joe Copeland

In a U.S. District Court appearance this afternoon, state Auditor Troy Kelley pleaded innocent to a 10-count indictment of charges that include obstructing an IRS investigation, lying to IRS agents and stealing at least $1.4 million while at a previous business, money that was allegedly owed to real-estate borrowers.

Gov. Jay Inslee, a host of other Democrats and a number of Republican legislators called for the auditor, a Democrat, to resign immediately to restore public confidence in state government. Kelley resisted, saying — in a statement issued through a PR firm that boasts of its crisis communications services — that will take a leave of absence but won’t resign. “I fully intend to resume my duties after I put these legal matters to rest,” he said.

For a full story, click here.


Microsoft partners with Cyanogen

at 3:08pm by Robert LeCompte

Microsoft has officially partnered up with Cyanogen, the small Seattle-based mobile operating system (OS for short) company. The two companies, according to Puget Sound Business Journal, plan to integrate Microsoft apps like Bing and Word into Cyanogen’s OS. A potential win-win for Microsoft if the partnership helps its own OS (Microsoft Phone) and apps gain more traction in the mobile arena.

The new deal is just the latest bit of attention — read that: money — that giants like Microsoft have been showering on Cyanogen lately. The local startup recently raised $80 million from Twitter, Qualcomm, even Rupert Murdoch. This could be the young company’s shift from producer of hobbyist software to major player in the mobile OS market.

Boeing adding on in Everett

at 1:56pm by Robert LeCompte

Boeing's Everett Factory credit: Jeremy Elson
Boeing’s Everett Factory. Credit: Jeremy Elson

Boeing is expanding its plant in Everett, reports Puget Sound Business Journal. The company is adding a 115,000 square-foot structure that near the Everett Delivery Center and a 39,758 square-foot hangar near the Everett Modification Center. “This construction activity supports the continued Boeing investment in Everett that will provide the infrastructure for future airplane production,” said Paul Bergman, a Boeing spokesperson. The larger of the two buildings should be done in early 2016. No word yet on when the new hangar will be open for business.

Insurance companies under scrutiny over contraceptives

at 1:17pm by Cody Olsen

A survey conducted by Northwest Health Law Advocates and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington found that insurers were giving out false or incomplete information regarding contraceptive coverage under Washington’s health exchange. Under the Affordable Care Act all federally approved contraceptives must be offered without a co-pay, yet volunteer “secret shoppers” calling the insurers were often told certain contraceptive methods had co-pays.

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said he convened a meeting between the women’s health advocates and the insurers. He said the eight insurers agreed to revamp the information given to consumers, and they will meet again in the fall to discuss their progress.

What's the highest-paying company?

at 1:04pm by Cody Olsen

Glassdoor, a website where employees and former employees can review their company anonymously, has compiled a list of America’s 15 highest-paying companies. The No. 1 spot actually belongs to law firm Skadden Arps, where the median base salary is $182,000 (with that name, maybe the firm has to pay extra to get recruits’ attention). But streaming giant Netflix came in just below at No. 2, with a median base salary of $180,000.

Google was also present on the list, taking No. 13, with a median base of $116,000. Seattlepi.com notes that that only three industries show up on the list: tech, law and consulting.

Steinbrueck withdraws application for council seat

at 12:55pm by David Kroman

Former Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck was all in on Sally Clark’s vacant seat … until he wasn’t. He informed the current council members Thursday by e-mail that he was withdrawing his application. He told Crosscut today that he had never really made up his mind, submitting an application as place holder while he weighed the pros and cons. In considering his personal and career goals and what he felt was best for the city, the cons won out. Visit here for the whole story.

Digital dollars at Real Change

at 12:40pm by Cody Olsen

Real Change, a weekly non-profit newspaper in Seattle, is going digital. The newspaper, typically sold by low-income street vendors, has until now been cash only, but a new app developed by a volunteer staff of Google employees makes an all-digital transaction possible. Vendors’ ID will include tags that have a barcode and buyers need only scan the barcode with their smartphone to purchase the $2 newspaper (or $2.99 for a digital version).

Before the official unveiling in Occidental Park near Real Change’s Pioneer Square offices, Jill Woelfer, one of the Google volunteers working on the project for the past two years, talked about her passion for the app. “The real excitement is doing something for the social good.” Woelfer said. The hope is that not needing cash on hand to purchase the paper will open up the market considerably.

“I hope so. I support it,” said vendor Lisa Sawyer. She notes that despite a lot of support from the public, she has “every so often” customers who pass on the paper because they don’t have cash with them.


U.S. now more in debt to Japan than to China

at 12:29pm by Robert LeCompte

credit: Japanexperterna.se
credit: Japanexperterna.se

The U.S. Treasury Department announced on Wednesday that Japan has officially overtaken China as the top holder of U.S. debt. China’s holdings, reports ABC News, fell 1.2 percent to $1.22 trillion. Japan — the largest holder of U.S. debt before the financial crisis — again holds the most U.S. Treasury bonds, although by only $700 million more than what China does. This is likely because China’s economy has been slowing down as of late, leaving them less money to invest abroad, while Japanese investors have been putting their money into dollar holdings due to the higher rate of return.

Clinton's "everyday Iowans" not so everyday

at 11:16am by Robert LeCompte

Hillary Clinton has been in Iowa lately to speak with what she calls “everyday Iowans,” in order to drum up support in the important swing state. But the Daily Mail is reporting (in its usual somewhat-breathless style) that a supposedly impromptu conversation with a few people at an Iowa coffee shop was not so spontaneous. Several people sitting around her were all driven in from surrounding areas and had ties to the local Democratic Party, and the local mayor was there promising that “she has my vote.”

Worst job: Newspaper reporter

at 9:59am by David Kroman

According to Careercast.com, everyone at Crosscut has made a terrible, terrible choice. Out of the 200 careers the website ranked, “newspaper reporter” was the worst job of 2015. Based on industry growth outlook, income and job stress (how do you quantify stress?), reporting the news is apparently worse than cutting down trees, driving a cab, fighting fires and going to war. Yup, reporting is risky business. (Just ask John Stang.) One more reason to support Crosscut: We report the news, so you don’t have to.

D.C. court hears coal-related challenges to Clean Air Act

at 9:42am by Mary Bruno

Today (Thursday) two related climate change cases will be argued in the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. America’s two biggest coal companies, along with 14 coal-producing states are challenging the proposed EPA regulation that would limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. EPA officials are relying on the authority of the Clean Air Act to make their carbon-curbing case. “If put in effect as E.P.A. officials have proposed,” says the The New York Times, the rule would “fundamentally transform the nation’s power sector, shuttering hundreds of coal plants and expanding renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.” That’s an outcome the Obama administration is championing and the coal industry is ready to fight tooth and nail.

Gyrocoptering for campaign finance reform

at 9:06am by Mary Bruno

You have to hand it to Doug Hughes, the 61-year-old Florida mailman, seen here (thank you, ABCNEWS) landing his gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building in D.C. According to the Washington Post, the ardent advocate for campaign finance reform was trying to deliver letters to Congress demanding reform. Hughes publicized his so-named “Kitty Hawk Project” both online and in his hometown paper. Score another point for Capitol security, which arrested Hughes shortly after he touched down. No word on what happened to the letters.

GOP hits pause button on state budget talks

at 7:30am by Mary Bruno

The clock is ticking, loudly, on budget negotiations in Olympia — the legislative session officially ends on April 26. So imagine the surprise of House Democratic leaders when, according to The Seattle Times, they showed up for Wednesday’s scheduled midday negotiating session with Senate Republicans only to learn that the session had been cancelled. Budget talks are apparently being held hostage until the House votes on capital-gains and business tax increases. Those taxes are in the House budget proposal — emphasis on proposal — but GOP leaders want proof that they’ll actually pass. Absent that certainty, it appears that budget talks are stalled. “It was an ultimatum,” House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan told The Times. “I was stunned.”

Read Crosscut’s scouting report on the legislator’s four point men on budget talk.

M’s lose again. Is it time to end the ‘Fernando Rodney Experience?’

at 6:00am by Mark Matassa

The Seattle Mariners, who may already have misplaced the pre-season predictions of their awesomeness, lost for the third day in a row to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In this one they trailed all the way, but the superb Seattle Times sports columnist Larry Stone says it’s not too early to start thinking about the future of the team’s bullpen closer, Fernando Rodney, who has been less than stellar so far this year.

Earl’s rescuer found

at 5:44am by Mark Matassa

Kind of a heartwarming follow-up story in The Oregonian to its feature earlier this week about a local man who was rescued as a 5-year-old boy in the Vanport flood of 1948. Vanport was Oregon’s second largest city at the time, then was washed away by the raging Columbia River. The newspaper ran an old black-and-white photo of 5-year-old Earl Woods, being carried through the floodwaters by an unidentified man in a fedora and white shirt. After seeing the picture in the paper, an 82-year-old Kalama, Wash., woman identified the mystery rescuer as her late father, Roy Ludwig. Good feelings ensued.

Hillary Clinton, yes on guac

at 5:29am by Mark Matassa

Starting with her Chipotle order outside of Toledo, The New Yorker examines the candidate’s early campaign moves and its digital operation, which the magazine reports is planned to be three times the size of President Obama’s in 2012. “Clinton’s success over the next several months (not to mention the next nineteen) will hinge less on her plans for Yemen than on her ability to persuade people not to roll their eyes at the mention of another President Clinton,” the magazine says.

Troll likes this funny spoof of the Chipotle moment, also in The New Yorker.


No magic feather for Seattle elephants

at 5:05am by Mark Matassa

Despite nearly a decade of protests by animal-welfare activists, Woodland Park Zoo’s two elephants were trucked off Wednesday evening to the Oklahoma City Zoo, where the Seattle zoo’s CEO said they would have a better life. The move was cleared earlier Wednesday by a federal court decision.

Wednesday 15 Apr, 2015

Congress takes piece of Iran negotiations. UW Law School program boost for minorities. Early campaign coverage, from policy to props. Free ice cream.

Murray adds youth shelter beds

at 3:54pm by David Kroman

It’s a small but — for five homeless young people a night — significant move: Mayor Ed Murray today is announcing $152,000 for Peace for the Street by Kids from the Streets (PSKS) to expand the shelter from 15 beds to 20. The money comes on the recommendation of Murray’s Emergency Task Force on Unsheltered Homelessness.

PSKS operates out of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and is open five nights a week.

Tackling homelessness has proven to be a stubborn problem for Seattle and King County. Despite spending more than $40 million on services over the last 12 months (third most nationally, behind New York and L.A.) the number of unsheltered people jumped by 21 percent in 2014. King County’s Count Us In survey showed the number of homeless and unstably housed youth and young adults holding steady at around 800.

PSKS Executive Director Susan Fox calls the shelter a “last resort for many of the youth we serve as many have pet companions, identify as LGBTQ, and are dealing with difficult life circumstances.”

In-flight internet opens door for hackers

at 1:15pm by Marissa Brent-Tookey

With service upgrades, new planes and more international routes on the way, homegrown Alaska Air remains the dominant Northwest carrier.
Credit: Flickr user Aero Icarus

A report published yesterday by the US Government Accountability Office examined weak links inherent in in-flight internet setups, according to the BBC. Increasingly interconnected computer systems provide satellite navigation and air traffic communication, as a part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen modernization program. The GAO says that “new networking technologies … expose these systems to new cybersecurity risks.” Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, a member of the House Subcommittee on Aviation, gets right to the point: the FAA needs to step up its security plan to “prevent a terrorist with a laptop in the cabin or on the ground from taking control of an airplane through the passenger wi-fi system.”

Could Hugo Awards crash and burn in Spokane?

at 12:55pm by Marissa Brent-Tookey

Hugo Award rocket trophy
Hugo’s rocket trophy. Credit: Flickr user Cory Doctorow

This year’s voting for the Hugo Awards is more political than merit-based, argues GeekWire’s Frank Catalano. Two fan groups, Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, appear to have an iron grip on all the sci-fi categories. And both groups promote conservative agendas that have sparked controversy.

Bloc voting is not new to the Hugos, but in past competitions it hasn’t had much effect on the outcome. It’s a different story this year, says Catalano, when “we’ve seen a reduced reliance on “quality” gatekeepers …”

New UW Law School program to give minorities a boost

at 11:51am by Marissa Brent-Tookey

Washington State Governor, Christine Gregoire
Christine Gregoire

Only 12 percent of Washington State Bar Association members were minorities in 2012, and studies have shown that the imbalance is worsening. But this fall, according to The Seattle Times, nine minority students at the UW School of Law will receive grants, mentoring and practical experience through the new Gregoire Fellows program.

The program is a collaboration between UW Law School dean, Kellye Testy, and Brad Smith, Microsoft’s VP of legal affairs. The two hope their Fellows initiative, named for former Washington governor and attorney general Christine Gregoire, will encourage applicants from more diverse backgrounds. Gregoire herself will act as a mentor. “Lawyers have a unique role in democracy — to make sure people’s rights are protected,” says Smith. The lack of diversity threatens the protection of those rights.

The Gregoire Fellows program already has the support of high-profile local companies and law firms, including Amazon, Starbucks and Foster Pepper. Their contributions cover not only law school scholarships, but some of the costs associated with obtaining a license, such as a bar-preparation course, which can run around $5000.

Surprise stowaways: Asian fish found in boat keel off Oregon coast

at 10:58am by Marissa Brent-Tookey

Debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami is rarely examined at sea. It often reaches shore before scientists get a look at it. Over the past week, however, marine biologists and invasion ecologists have been studying 21 organisms that survived a trans-Pacific journey in the bow of a boat found drifting off the Oregon coast.

According to The Oregonian’s Beth Nakamura, the stowaways include yellowtail jack fish and an Asian striped knifejaw from Japan, and a few species that most likely came from an entirely different, and more tropical part of the Pacific.

This “rudimentary fish tank” presents a unique opportunity, says Caren Braby Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “It gives us insight into the types of species that have more flexibility and more plasticity in the environments they can live in.” Useful intel in this age of global climate change.


Tax day = buzz kill for pot business owners

at 10:23am by Mary Bruno

Most businesses benefit from a whole barrel of federal tax deductions come April 15th. But not Washington’s marijuana growers and retailers, who say they can’t write off a darn thing, even if they’re duly licensed. No surprise, they want to change things. “We don’t want special favors,” Nick Cihlar, co-owner of Ferndale pot grower Subdued Excitement Inc. told McClatchy reporter Rob Hotakainen. “We just want to be treated like businesspeople.”

EU v. Google antitrust battle heats up

at 8:11am by Mary Bruno

As expected, says TechCrunch, the European Union has formally accused Google of stifling competition by abusing its superior web search capabilities. Margrethe Vestager, the European Union competition commissioner, has filed an official Statement of Objections, the latest volley in the EU’s five-year long antitrust investigation of Google. The EU’s gripe involves Google’s alleged habit of displaying its own search results more prominently than those of its competitors. If suspicions prove true, said Vestager, “Google would face legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe.” Google has 10 weeks to respond.

Legislature meshes medical and recreational pot systems

at 7:00am by John Stang

The Washington Senate passed a bill on Tuesday to merge the state’s medical and recreational marijuana systems. The vote was 41-8. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, was significantly modified in the House. The Senate accepted the House changes, and now the legislation goes to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.

Since Washingtonians voted to legalize recreational pot in 2012, the Legislature along with the Washington Liquor Control Board, which administers the regulatory system, has been working on how to control the two markets for pot. The goal in both the House and Senate was to bring medical marijuana regulations to the same strict standards as the recreational industry.

The newly passed bill would create a prioritization system for people applying for retail licenses. It would require the Liquor Control Board to increase both the amount of real estate for marijuana production and the number of stores. House revisions prevent the proposed registry for medical patients from being used to arrest people.

The bill would also limit the ability of any city or county to ban marijuana businesses, making a public initiative the only route. If such a ban is imposed, it must stay in place for at least two years.

Early campaign coverage, from policy to props

at 5:53am by Mark Matassa

The Washington Post is tracking Hillary Clinton’s early campaign stops in Iowa, a state that, it says, “threw her last effort forever off course.” No big speeches or policy statements yet, the paper says, just some small pop-in meetings with folks in restaurants and coffee shops.

2016 logos

Another Post piece has politicos and design experts grading the campaign logos of the four declared candidates: Clinton, and Republicans Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Early consensus: None is great.

Free ice cream cone day

at 5:44am by Mark Matassa

ben and jerry
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, with a rare line around the building in Northwest Portland

It wasn’t that long ago — 30 years or so — that Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream was the groovy upstart, taking on plain-vanilla brands with cool new flavors and names, like Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey. As a promotion it started celebrating the anniversary of the company’s founding with a national free ice cream day, when anybody could walk into a B&J store and score a free cone or cup.

salt and straw
Salt & Straw ice cream shop, in Northwest Portland

These days, at least in Portland, the hipster upstart with the wacky flavors is Salt & Straw, whose Northwest 23rd Avenue store has lines out the door and around the block – every day, even in the rain. People love the crazy combinations with olive oil, black pepper, blue cheese and more.

But yesterday, on Ben & Jerry’s anniversary, there was no line at Salt & Straw. The dessert lovers were three blocks away, lining up for a free treat.

On Medicare changes, Congress and the White House unexpectedly agree

at 5:40am by Mark Matassa

The legislation changes the way doctors are paid, and lifts the immediate threat of a 21 percent reduction in fees, reports the Los Angeles Times. President Obama said he would be proud to sign the bill, calling it “a milestone for physicians, and for the seniors and people with disabilities who rely on Medicare for their healthcare needs.”

Going the other way, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the all-but-declared Republican candidate for president, called for cuts in Medicare and Social Security.

Congress takes piece of Iran nuclear negotiations

at 5:34am by Mark Matassa

After opposing congressional involvement in the nuclear negotiations, President Obama ceded ground Tuesday, saying he won’t block legislation that would give Congress a final review of treaty details, after all. The New York Times supplies a news overview …

… While the Times editorial board immediately disses the change. “Congress has formally muscled its way into President Obama’s negotiations with Iran,” the editorial says, “creating new and potentially dangerous uncertainties for an agreement that offers the best chance of restraining that country’s nuclear program.”

Tuesday 14 Apr, 2015

Beware climate blob. Martin Pang's retirement clock. CEO cuts salary to give Seattle workers big wage hike. UW researchers cure colorblindness.

Canada sending troops to Ukraine to train soldiers

at 3:21pm by Robert LeCompte

Canada will send 200 service personnel to Ukraine to train Ukrainian soldiers, the National Post reports. The commitment of troops Tuesday is in response to continued Russian moves in Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea last year and open support of pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine. “Canada continues to stand with the people of Ukraine in the face of the Putin regime’s ongoing aggression,” says Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The training will begin  this summer and run through March 2017.

Ukrainian Soldiers
Ukrainian troops in Poland for 2013 training exercises Credit: U.S. Army Europe


(Un)Equal Pay Day

at 3:13pm by Cody Olsen

Today, notes the Labor Department, is Equal Pay Day in the United States, a holiday symbolizing how far into this year the average woman would have to work to make the same amount as her male counterparts did last year. GeekWire highlighted a report from the National Partnership for Women and Families, saying that as of April 2015, women make “just 78 cents for every dollar” that a man does. However, while most will agree workplace pay equality still has a ways to go, not everyone agrees with those numbers put out by the report.

The Pew Research Center, a non-partisan think-tank tracking public opinion, says, its estimate, “which is based on hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers, finds women earn 84 percent of what men earn.” Pew also notes that women are more likely than men to have career interruptions, a contributing factor in pay inequality.

The 6 percent disparity between their findings is interesting, and starts to make one understand why there can be so much disagreement among Americans regarding what to believe about gender pay inequality: Even the organizations that agree there’s a problem can’t agree on what exactly it is.

Seattle City Council member Jean Godden, a passionate advocate for equal pay in the workforce, said she isn’t less worried about the number disparities between the two studies. “A gap is a gap,” she says. Seattle City Council recently commissioned a study on gender pay inequity, finding that in Seattle proper the typical earning for a woman is 89 cents on the dollar, better than the national average, but the larger metropolitan area didn’t fare as well, coming in around 73 cents on the dollar.

New warning about tsunamis for coastal communities

at 2:11pm by Marissa Brent-Tookey

A new report from a team of West Coast geologists, including Dr. Nathan Wood of the U.S. Geological Survey, reveals a gap in the infrastructure and training to support tsunami evacuation. The researchers analyzed demographics, geography and systems in place from Northern California to Northern Washington. They concluded that “all coastal communities in the U.S. Pacific Northwest are vulnerable to varying degrees,” and that Washington coast communities should work to build vertical evacuation shelters.

For more details, read the full report published in the science journal PNAS.



UW scientists develop cure for colorblindness

at 1:51pm by Robert LeCompte

Jay and Maureen Neitz, professors of ophthalmology at the University of Washington, have teamed with a California biotech firm to produce a cure for colorblindness. That cure, reports The Seattle Times, comes in the form of an injection, delivered into each eye. That’s how researchers insert the genes that replace missing proteins in the cones of the eye, which process color. “I don’t think there’s any question that it will work,” said Maureen Neitz, who used surgery to correct the condition in colorblind squirrel monkeys back in 2009. Since then, the Neitz’s have worked to develop the cure that does not involve surgery.

"There's nobody with a black-and-white TV who, if you said 'Would you like a color TV,' wouldn't trade it" _ Jay Neitz, (photo credit: Paul Townsend)
“There’s nobody with a black-and-white TV who, if you said ‘Would you like a color TV,’ wouldn’t trade it” – Jay Neitz, (Credit: Paul Townsend)

Seattle releases report on homeless spending

at 12:00pm by Mary Bruno

Mayor Ed Murray made public the Seattle Human Services Department’s (HSD) Homeless Investment Analysis. The report “provides an in depth look at the City’s current and historical investments to prevent and end homelessness.” Authors also make recommendations about how to distribute that very investment in more effective ways.

In 2014, Seattle spent more than $40 million — for 183 contracts with 60 agencies — on services for the city’s homeless. That figure, up 102 percent since 2005, is “one of the highest commitments in the nation,” according to the report. Yet, based on January’s One Night Count, the city’s homeless population grew 21 percent in the last year.

Support for homeless services comes straight out of the city’s general fund. To get the most bang for the buck, the report encourages streamlining the city’s sprawling, “fractured” system of services, investing more in prevention and developing a strategic vision. Amen to that.

CEO cuts salary to give Seattle workers big wage hike

at 11:57am by Cody Olsen

CEO Dan Price is raising the base salary for workers at his Seattle-based company to $70,000 over the next three years. Price’s firm, Gravity Payments, processes credit card payments. Last year price he was named “Entrepreneur of 2014” by Entrepreneur Magazine.

His latest move is already causing a huge stir.  The New York Times reports the drastic move comes after Price read a study from Nobel prize winner Daniel Dahneman and Angus Deaton about the connection between happiness and money. The long and short of the study: Money doesn’t buy happiness, but a lack of money for basics like such things as rent and medical bills can sure make your life miserable.

Price wanted to raise salaries without raising prices or cutting customer services, so to make the wage hike possible he’s cutting his almost $1 million annual salary to $70,000 and raiding 75-80 percent of the company’s anticipated $2.2 million in profits.

Sea-Tac agent wakes up in cargo hold, mid-flight

at 11:26am by Robert LeCompte

The cargo hold: a bad place for naps
The cargo hold: a bad place for naps

An Alaska Airlines flight bound for Los Angeles returned to Sea-Tac for an emergency landing on Monday afternoon after passengers heard banging and screaming coming from somewhere beneath their feet. Turns out, reports the Seattle Times, it was a Sea-Tac ramp agent who had fallen asleep in the 737’s cargo hold before take off and didn’t wake up until he was halfway to LA. The pilots immediately turned back to Sea-Tac. Lucky for the ramp agent, the 737’s cargo hold is temperature-controlled and pressurized. He was rescued, unharmed.

Seattle woman champions human composting

at 10:00am by Mary Bruno

Cremation releases greenhouse gases. But Seattle’s Katrina Spade,  37, has an alternative to that alternative method of burial: Spade wants to compost dead people. And scientists and environmentalists are listening up. “Composting makes people think of banana peels and coffee grounds,” Spade told The New York Times. But “our bodies have nutrients. What if we could grow new life after we’ve died?” All it takes is some wood chips, a little water and some time.

Post-announcement chatter on Rubio, Clinton

at 9:00am by Mary Bruno

After their back-to-back declarations this week, the political world is abuzz with analyses and comparisons of a May-December clash between potential presidential contenders Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton. Republican Sen. Rubio is 43,  the son of Cuban immigrants and, in his fourth year in the Senate, a relative rookie. Clinton, 67, a former FLOTUS, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State is a political pro. Are you getting that deja vu feeling here?

Not surprisingly, said The Washington Post, Rubio is casting himself as the Moses who will lead us into “the new American century” — assuming, that is, he doesn’t get run over by the Jeb Bush fundraising juggernaut. “Yesterday is over,” Rubio told the crowd gathered for his announcement in Miami on Monday, “and we’re never going back.”

For Clinton, yesterday is loaded with land mines, from Whitewater to Benghazi to the recent email scandal from her State Department tenure. But Clinton’s latest liability, suggests The Atlantic, is her glossy, anodyne, politically correct campaign video. “If the War on Terrorism or global economic competition requires the next president of the United States to identify some cheerful, clean-cut, ethnically diverse Americans with winning smiles and glowing complexions, Hillary Clinton is up to the task,” writes The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf. “Her team even made sure to include both dog and cat owners… Every sentence could’ve been uttered by any politician.”


4 Blackwater guards sentenced

at 8:00am by Mary Bruno

The former Blackwater Worldwide guards killed 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians at a Baghdad traffic circle in 2007. In the aftermath, Blackwater came to represent the unaccountable abuse of power by U.S. forces. The Washington Post reports that Nicholas A. Slatten, 31, received a life sentence for firing the shots that started the massacre. The three other defendants — Paul A. Slough, 35; Evan S. Liberty, 32; and Dustin L. Heard, 33 — will serve 30-year sentences for manslaughter and attempted manslaughter. The guards insist they acted in self-defense.

Seward Park, through the years

at 5:21am by Mark Matassa

Nice photo gallery in the P-I, documenting changes in the Seattle neighborhood.


Repayment clock still ticking for Martin Pang

at 5:08am by Mark Matassa

Twenty years ago, Martin Pang burned down his parents’ International District warehouse, hoping to score a big insurance payout. He was convicted of arson and is serving a 20-year sentence. As the Seattle Times reports, a state Court of Appeals judge ruled Monday that despite Pang’s argument that time has expired on the financial repayment judgment, he still owes $1 million in restitution and fines. Pang’s scheduled to get out of the state pen in Walla Walla in 2018.

No President Rodham, this time

at 5:06am by Mark Matassa

Following the back-to-back presidential campaign announcements by Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, NPR notes that Clinton, the former first lady and secretary of state, won’t be using her maiden/middle name Rodham this time around.



Beware climate blob

at 5:02am by Mark Matassa

Forget the global warming or climate change debates, the Seattle Times’ Sandi Doughton reports on research by Seattle scientists that blames “a gargantuan blob of water” parked off the West Coast for droughts in the West and blizzards in New England. Without acknowledging the blob, The New York Times says the “mighty Rio Grande” is now a trickle under siege. And another Times story argues that California’s cycles of drought historically have lasted much, much longer than the current one.


Monday 13 Apr, 2015

West Seattle store, Ballard house go national. Rubio to run for president. Salish Sea documentary. City workers get 4 weeks of parental leave

City workers get four weeks of parental leave

at 4:22pm by David Kroman

If you’ve worked for the City of Seattle for more than six months and are planning on having a kid, here’s some good news: You now qualify for four weeks of paid parental leave. The legislation, spearheaded by Councilmember Jean Godden, passed unanimously Monday at a Seattle City Council meeting.

The measure will provide mothers, fathers and foster parents with, as a statement from the city reads, “critical bonding time for employees of the City to have with their children.” In allotting fathers time-off, the statement argues, the measure will also challenge the notion that women should be the primary caretakers of a family’s children.

Only the United States, Liberia, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea have no national parental leave law. By contrast France allows four months for paid maternity leave; Ireland, six months.

The King County Council is currently considering a 12-week parental leave law that would dwarf Seattle’s. When asked in March if there was some one-upmanship going, Councilmember Godden said no, showing support for King County’s efforts. Four weeks, she said, is only the first step.

Mayor Ed Murray will sign the ordinance Friday.

Marco Rubio jumps into 2016 presidential race

at 3:45pm by Mary Bruno

“Yesterday is over,” the 43-year-old U.S. Senator told a crowd of supporters in his hometown of Miami, “and we’re never going back.”

When celebrating, timing is key

at 3:11pm by Cody Olsen

One athlete from the University of Oregon learned a hard lesson about humility, and the proper time for a victory celebration this past weekend (hint: it’s after the victory has actually been achieved).

Participants from Washington, Kentucky and Oregon were competing at the Pepsi Team Invitational in Eugene, Oregon, and during the last moments of the 3,000 meter steeplechase event, the would-be victor, Tanguy Pepiot, slowed down, waving his arms in a “let’s hear some noise” type gesture. The runner just behind him, Meron Simon from UW, was tearing along, and overtook him at the finish line.

A friend of the UW runner posted the video on YouTube, and it’s as cringe-worthy, and hilarious, as you might expect. Seattlepi.com ran the original story. Nice gesture: After winning, Simon goes over to Pepiot, helps him off the ground and embraces him.

'The Unknown Sea' (the Salish) has its moment in the spotlight

at 3:05pm by Marissa Brent-Tookey

The Salish Sea is the focus of a documentary premiering Tuesday at Everett Community College. Collaborators Joe Gaydos, Audrey Benedict and Kevin Campion all have a deep-seated love for the Salish Sea and its ecosystem. Their film, The Unknown Sea, is intended to “portray the many ways that the sea and its watersheds are part of an interconnected web of life.”

The three also co-authored The Salish Sea: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest. In The Herald, Sharon Wootton describes the contents of the book as “bizarre and beautiful, alien shapes and streamlined bodies, the invisible and obvious.” The free premiere of The Unknown Sea will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Jackson Center Wilderness Auditorium at Everett Community College.

The Unknown Sea: A Voyage on the Salish from Deep Green Wilderness on Vimeo.

House approves study of aircraft carrier bridge

at 1:47pm by Marissa Brent-Tookey

Republican state Rep. Jesse Young’s plans for creating a bridge between Bremerton and Port Orchard out of two decommissioned aircraft carriers (reported by Crosscut in February) is a step further along. A transportation bill passed last week by the House includes $90,000 for a feasibility study of Young’s project. The Gig Harbor representative told the Northwest News Network that “people from around the world would come to drive across the deck of an aircraft carrier bridge.” A Navy spokesperson suggested there is little likelihood of providing any used carriers for the project, but Young said he’s not discouraged.

1 dead in SR 410 construction accident

at 12:33pm by Cody Olsen

A temporary sidewalk on the 410 overpass near Bonney Lake collapsed onto Angeline Road, crushing a truck and killing its driver. As MyNorthwest reports, firefighters are on the scene.

Basement classroom for Des Moines kindergartners

at 12:14pm by Marissa Brent-Tookey

des_moines_elementaryWashington state law will mandate full-day kindergarten in a few years, but Highline School District is getting a head start. There’s one problem: Voters recently nixed bond proposals that would have provided construction funds, so schools like Des Moines Elementary are resorting to extremes in an effort to fulfill requirements. KOMO News reports that the school has converted a frequently flooded basement storage room into a kindergarten classroom. Other districts around the state are also struggling to meet the 2018 regulations, which include a student-teacher ratio of 17-to-one.


Who's the geekiest of them all? Not Seattle.

at 11:47am by Cody Olsen

Tech companies like Microsoft and Google along with Seattle’s growing startup market has made Seattle a city ripe with geekiness, but just how geeky are we?

GeekWire reported on a list, compiled by predictive marketing firm Mintigo, that puts Seattle No. 8, just below Dallas — and Atlanta (6), Houston (4) and Chicago (2). Go figure. New York takes the top spot.

B.C. worrying about pot use among teens

at 11:45am by Marissa Brent-Tookey

Parents and the public are increasingly nonchalant about marijuana, to the detriment of teens’ developing brains, claims Dr. Siavash Jafari in Vancouver, British Columbia. He says the city’s growing number of medical marijuana dispensaries helps to normalize marijuana usage in the general population and within the home.

Harvard Medical School research recently suggested a link between cannabis consumption at an early age and brain damage. Joy Johnson, of Simon Fraser University, tells The Vancouver Sun that pot naysayers have “lost [their] credibility because young people go home and see their parents smoking it.”

cbc vancouver medical marijuana

A play inside of a corrections center

at 11:29am by Cody Olsen

Out of all the venues for theater performances — some intimate some grand — the gymnasium of a women’s correction center isn’t usually what one’s mind conjures up. But the Washington Corrections Center for Women is holding performances of an inmate play, Truth Flows Like Water: Transformations in Perdition. The play was written in tandem with Freehold’s Engaged Theater Program, and on April 7 had its world premiere in front of 200 prisoners.

The Stranger was present at a performance the next day, this time for visitors. The paper describes the play as “goggling between the metaphorical town, stories from the prisoners’ lives, fantasies about the future (one woman dreams of reuniting with her dad over dinner at the Space Needle), and snippets of social commentary, like a living newspaper.”

Amazon hires Spike Lee to direct its first feature film

at 11:22am by Marissa Brent-Tookey

Amazon Studios, which until now has only produced television shows (including award-winning Transparent), is branching out. Puget Sound Business Journal reports that Amazon’s first feature film, Chiraq, is in the hands of big-name director Spike Lee. PSBJ’s Emily Parkhurst says the studio’s 12-films-per-year plan will apparently use in-depth data analysis to optimize sales and distribution.

Cuban and U.S. leaders make history

at 10:17am by Cody Olsen

When Barack Obama shook hands with Cuban president Raul Castro on Saturday, he became the first American leader in more than 50 years to meet, face-to-face, with Cuban representatives. The meeting took place in Panama at the Summit of the Americas where the American and Cuban presidents joined other leaders from the Latin American region in two days of diplomatic talks.

Obama and Castro discussed re-opening diplomatic ties between the two countries in the near future. Alluding to the half-century of frosty relations between the two countries, Obama allowed that “… it was time to try something new.” (KUOW has a full report.)

Novelist Guenter Grass dies

at 8:30am by Mary Bruno

The Nobel Prize-winning German novelist and social critic died on Monday at age 87. Grass, reports The New York Times, “whom many called his country’s moral conscience … stunned Europe when he revealed in 2006 that he had been a member of the Waffen-SS during World War II.”

Kayakers killed in Dungeness Bay

at 8:00am by Mark Matassa

 The Seattle Times reports this morning on the sudden storm that killed two kayakers and injured another in the bay near Sequim.


Hillary again, naturally - Rubio later today

at 7:40am by Mark Matassa

To the surprise of no one Hillary Clinton announced her 2016 presidential campaign on Sunday, as rumored. “Everyday Americans need a champion,” said Clinton in her announcement video, “and I want to be that champion.”

Much of the coverage felt, if not supportive, then at least a little bandwagony. A welcome exception was New Republic’s sharp but respectful take, which concluded, skeptically, “There’s Nothing Inevitable About Hillary.”

Would-be Clinton challenger Marco Rubio plans to announce his own candidacy later today in Miami.


Catching ‘Up’ with Edith Macefield’s house

at 7:37am by Mark Matassa

On Saturday, The New York Times put Ballard’s famous “Up” house on the front page, with a sweet kiss of a story that sought to update the status of the late Edith Macefield’s bungalow, which she refused to sell to developers. “She stood her ground,” says one visitor. “She created this gouge in the infrastructure.” The Oregonian filed its own version this morning’s edition. But neither captures the nuance or legend-puncturing of Crosscut’s report last week, by Brian Hagenbuch:” The real story behind Ballard’s ‘anti-development icon.’”

Meanwhile, the Guardian glorified China’s version of this phenomenon (“nail houses”) in a terrific photo gallery.


Traitor Joe’s?

at 7:32am by Mark Matassa

First, the CBS television story, which wasn’t about the West Seattle Trader Joe’s, but did start there in an interesting tale of a Vancouver, B.C., man who shops in huge quantities then takes the goods back across the border … where he sells them at a markup at his store, Pirate Joe’s. TJ’s wants him to stop, has taken him to court and has banned him from its stores. Mike Hallatt, of Pirate Joe’s, says he’s filling a vacuum (there are no Trader Joe’s in Canada) and will close his store only if TJ’s opens one in Vancouver. Read more in the West Seattle Blog.


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