News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Face to face with Spokane's CIA torture architect

Posted By on Fri, Dec 19, 2014 at 2:38 PM

Arches and pillars line Bruce Jessen's home south of Spokane. The former Air Force psychologist helped design the CIA's controversial interrogation program. - JACOB JONES
  • Jacob Jones
  • Arches and pillars line Bruce Jessen's home south of Spokane. The former Air Force psychologist helped design the CIA's controversial interrogation program.

A red tractor idles in the courtyard of Dr. Bruce Jessen’s massive $1.2 million home south of Spokane. Pillars and stone arches line the entryways. Red ceramic tiles cover the roof of the estate. When the former Fairchild Air Force Base psychologist and now-infamous architect of the CIA’s brutal interrogation program steps out, he freezes for a moment before realizing I am just a reporter. He’s a little on edge.

“There’s a lot going on,” he tells me last week. “It’s a difficult position to be in.”

Bruce_Jessen_torture.jpg

Jessen explains nondisclosure agreements prohibit him from discussing the newly released CIA torture report, despite what he called “distortions” reported in the press. Polite, but clearly upset, Jessen notes he has a “No Trespassing” sign near the end of his driveway. As he heads toward the tractor, he adds an ominous observation.

“You know, they didn’t prosecute Zimmerman,” he says.

In hindsight, this seems a clear reference to the legality of deadly force in so called “stand your ground” situations. So that’s where his mind went. At the time, I thought he was alluding to something in the new CIA report that I was not familiar with. His comment confused me, but did not scare me.

For the record: Reporters hate cold-knocking on someone’s door. But Jessen had rejected calls from all across the country, so it was a last resort. When I happen to catch him taking out the trash, he acknowledges he would like to “set the record straight,” but can’t. While his colleague Dr. James Mitchell has contradicted aspects of the report, Jessen says Mitchell is a smarter, better public speaker. The pair's company reportedly received more than $80 million for its work at the CIA. Jessen still declines to comment further.

“There’s nothing more I can say,” he says.

Jessen then shakes my hand to end the conversation. I wish him a merry Christmas, but ask once more if there was anything he would like to add. He suggests I leave while we are still on “amiable terms.” Then he closes the door of the tractor cab and puts the machine in gear.


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MB: STA expansion plan, Seattle cops' body-cams, and Dr. Oz is full of ...

Posted By on Fri, Dec 19, 2014 at 8:03 AM


HERE

Another monster-length meeting in local government as the Spokane Transit Authority board spent four hours Thursday deciding to send a $300 million expansion plan involving a sales-tax increase to voters this spring. (S-R)

E-cigarette shops aren't too stoked on the governor's plan to impose a massive tax hike on vapor products. (KREM)

Former congressman and current Inlander columnist George Nethercutt is making the rounds voicing support of the president's plan to normalize relations with Cuba. (KXLY)

THERE

The Seattle Police Department is getting on board the body-cam train this weekend. (Seattle Times) Spokane has been there, done that. (Inlander)

Turns out Dr. Oz and other TV physicians are wrong in their medical advice about half the time. (Washington Post)

Soccer's governing body is going to release its report on corruption in the game and how World Cup venues are selected. (Al Jazeera America)

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Weekly report: Cutting WA carbon, national parks and top outdoor gift guides

Posted By on Thu, Dec 18, 2014 at 2:31 PM

Palouse Falls, along with several other Northwest waterfalls, were featured in a national list. - JACOB JONES
  • Jacob Jones
  • Palouse Falls, along with several other Northwest waterfalls, were featured in a national list.

OUTLANDER serves as a weekly round up of Inland Northwest outdoor recreation and natural resources news. This feature will highlight a wide variety of issues and events, ranging from camping tips to national environmental disputes. We’ll also try to include some scenic photos. Feel free to pass along suggestions or curiosities celebrating the Great Outdoors.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee outlined an ambitious plan for cutting greenhouse gases this week, proposing a Carbon Pollution Accountability Act — a billion-dollar cap-and-trade program tied to transportation. (Grist/Seattle Times)

University of Washington tool lets you calculate your potential carbon tax charges. (UW)

Wildlife officials confirm wolves have killed at least one sheep belonging to a Whitman County commissioner. (NW Sportsman)

Meanwhile, Washington range rider program finishes another season with no livestock lost to depredation. (Conservation Northwest)

Palouse Falls, other Northwest waterfalls featured in travel guide. (Conde Nast)

GAO report says Hanford Nuclear Reservation tanks continue to deteriorate. (AP)

But those other facilities involved in the Manhattan Project may be made into national parks. (CNN)

Speaking of, enjoy the largest expansion of national parks and wilderness areas in 40 years passes as part of defense bill. (CNN)

Conservation group calls for reintroduction of grizzly bears to Selway-Bitterroot mountains. (AP)

Fish poaching in Grant County results in minimal consequences. (S-R)

Hiking the new Dishman Hills trail to “the Cliffs.” (OutThere)

Rare footage of Selkirk caribou from Northeastern Washington. (City Light)

Tribal fisheries recognize outgoing WDFW director. (NWIFC)

Portland’s pot-eating deer named Sugar Bob. (WW)

And some munchies for deer in wildfire damaged regions of Central Washington. (NWSportsman)

Seattle group wants to compost dead people. (Yahoo)

What will they think of next? New phone app predicts Yellowstone geyser eruptions. (NPS)

Some amazing photos of national parks covered in snow and ice. (Daily Mail)

A few of Stephen Colbert’s top ecology segments. Last show tonight. (EcoWatch)

First Nations offended by proposed British Columbia dam. (Globe and Mail)

This dog will go skiing in Patagonia with you. (Adventure Journal)

ONE WEEK TO CHRISTMAS: Here are a few outdoorsy gift guides for the Wild-inspired thru-hiker or lumbersexual on your list — Snowlander - Outside Magazine - Backpacker - and an insider wishlist from Gear Institute.

And what are the historic chances of getting a white Christmas? (NOAA)


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MB: Bird flu, Inslee's carbon-emissions plan and not seeing The Interview

Posted By on Thu, Dec 18, 2014 at 8:36 AM


HERE

The Catholic diocese of Spokane got the okay to pursue its malpractice suit against the law firm that represented it during its 2007 bankruptcy case. (S-R)

The avian flu has made its way into some Washington bird populations. (KREM)

A Kennewick high school student was killed in an officer-involved shooting in Minnesota. (KHQ)

ELSEWHERE

Gov. Inslee is proposing attacking the state's carbon emissions with an aggressive cap-and-trade plan. (Seattle Times)

A Missoula man was convicted of killing a German exchange student in his garage, a major test of the state's stand-your-ground laws. (Missoulian) 

The U.S. normalizing relations with Cuba leaves North Korea as the last Cold War outlier on America's "Cold War blacklist". (New York Times)

That's probably part of the reason none of us will be seeing The Interview in movie theaters. (CNN)

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

MB: CdA arms parades, The Interview's issues, and keep our zombies local!

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 8:07 AM


HERE

Keep our zombies local! Washington film industry supporters want a boost in tax incentives for local productions. (Inlander)

The Spokane City Council had a marathon meeting thanks to a controversial idea about its apprentice program. (Inlander)

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up former Spokane police officer Karl Thompson, Jr.'s case looking to overturn his conviction in Otto Zehm's death. (S-R)

Spokane police are looking for a man who stabbed an acquaintance in Riverfront Park. Were you in the area around 5 pm Tuesday night? (KHQ)

THERE 

The 4th of July in northern Idaho just got a lot more interesting as the Coeur d'Alene City Council overturned its ban on guns at parades. (KREM)

Portland has released a report detailing how the police should deal with the local hip-hop community. (Oregonian)

Got Comcast? If so, your broadband speed is getting the steroid treatment. (Seattle Times)

ELSEWHERE

Have a cigar! The U.S. and Cuba are in talks to reestablish diplomatic ties. (New York Times)

New York theater cancels its premiere of The Interview due to threats of the Sony hackers. (CNN)
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A marathon city council meeting takes on unskilled labor

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 1:21 PM

Spokane City Council’s last meeting of the year was a marathon session that lasted over four hours and brought out the largest group of people the city’s legislative body had seen all year.

The council's agenda touched on a beautification project, a pilot program meant to deter speeders in school zones and an ordinance intended to use the city’s economic clout to boost the number of skilled workers in the area.

It was this ordinance, accompanied by two others meant to steer city procurements and contracts to local businesses, that filled council chambers with people who largely urged its passage.

The ordinance mandated that 15 percent of all labor hours on city public work projects be done by apprentice labor. Spearheaded by City Council President Ben Stuckart, the ordinance is meant to address the shortage of skilled labor contractors are facing in the Spokane area and across the state. Speaking before the crowded council chambers, Stuckart said that the shortage will worsen as construction projects pick up significantly in coming years. 
The council passed an ordinance requiring apprentice labor in public works projects, despite concerns from Mayor David Condon.
  • The council passed an ordinance requiring apprentice labor in public works projects, despite concerns from Mayor David Condon.


“We, as a participant in the market, have to do something,” said Stuckart, who pointed to about a dozen other schools or government entities in Washington that have similar requirements. He also mentioned a slew of multi-million dollar projects the city had planned in coming years, which, under the ordinance, could be used as an incubator for new skilled workers.

The ordinance, starting July of next year, will require 5 percent of all labor hours on all city projects to be done by apprentices, who will get on-the-job training for in-demand professions. That requirement would steadily rise to 15 percent by 2017. The ordinance allows these requirements to be waived under some circumstances, but contractors who don’t meet it could face fines.

The ordinance was amended by Councilwoman Amber Waldref with provisions meant to encourage contractors to hire local labor (particularly minorities, women and people from economically distressed areas).

Stuckart said that in drafting the ordinance he made multiple modifications to address the concerns of contractors, to no avail. Several contractors showed up to testify that the measure was too punitive and imposed unrealistic requirements on an industry still struggling to recover from the Great Recession.

“For our organization, it will not work,” an owner of a small construction company solemnly told the council.

But the majority of the nearly 40 people who testified were in support of the ordinance and included many individuals from the Spokane Alliance, a coalition of religious and labor groups focused on economic issues. A parade of current and past apprentices came before the council to tell stories of how apprenticeship programs gave them second opportunities after plans of college didn't work out.

Councilman Mike Allen noted that his father probably would have fit in with the apprentices testifying in support of the ordinance, but he still couldn’t support placing a new requirement on businesses. Councilman Mike Fagan expressed concerns that the ordinance would “steamroll” local businesses.

“Again, I ask, why is OK to make this mandatory?” he asked. “Why is this OK to attach a penalty?”

Although the ordinance passed 5-2, Spokane Mayor David Condon has concerns about it as well. In a letter to Stuckart, he wrote that the ordinance should be reworked to better take into account the concerns of all stakeholders and to broaden its focus to creating more family-wage jobs in the area.

In addition to passing the apprenticeship ordinance, the council also voted to shuffle money from existing funds and direct them toward the $800,000 revitalization of the Division Street Gateway, a heavily used entry point to the city that sees 28,000 pass through it each day. Although Fagan questioned if it was a good use of funds and George McGrath, who spoke against nearly everything the council did during each public comment period, called it a “hair-brained scheme to make Spokane's entry way beautiful on Division Street,” the measure passed.

Additionally, the council voted to set up a pilot program meant to deter speeding at Finch and Longfellow elementary schools. Sponsored by Councilman Jon Snyder, the measure, beginning next year, will set up speed zone cameras that will take a picture of speeding drivers and send them a ticket in the mail.


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Gov. Inslee announces education agenda

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 11:09 AM

Gov. Jay Inslee
  • Gov. Jay Inslee

At a town hall on Monday evening, Gov. Jay Inslee announced his plan to pump $2.3 billion into public K-12 schools, colleges and teacher workforce training in the next biennium. 

Inslee's education plan would fulfill the state Supreme Court's McCleary mandate to fully fund basic education a year earlier than the court-set deadline; freeze college tuition increases for two years; and restore teachers' cost-of-living pay raises. You read his full plan here

What his plan doesn't do is cover the full cost of the voter-approved class-size reduction initiative, which comes at an estimated $2 billion price tag. Instead, his proposal dedicates $448 million in new spending to reduce K-3 class sizes, as required by the court's McCleary decision.  

"What we've decided here is that we cannot fully fund [the class size initiative] in this first biennium, so what we've chosen to do is fully-fund the K-3 portion of that this biennium," David Schumacher, director of the state's Office of Fiscal Management, told KPLU. "There's just simply not enough money available."

There's no word yet on where or how the governor expects to get the money to pay for his plan. He'll release his entire budget proposal on Thursday. 
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MB: Rodeo queens gone wrong, 10 Barrel's Boise problem and a WSU hero

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 8:19 AM


HERE

Eastern State Hospital got hit with a contempt ruling and some serious fines for the delays in its inmate evaluations. (Inlander)

Spokane's recently departed Catholic bishop is denying he orchestrated a smear campaign against the diocese's old lawyers. (S-R)

The suspect in a Lapwei, Idaho, shooting escaped from police custody Monday. (KHQ)

THERE

Idaho beer distributors are trying to shut down 10 Barrel Brewing Co.'s Boise brewpub after the company's sale to Anheuser-Busch. (Idaho Statesman)

A former Boise St. Bronco Girl and Idaho rodeo queen is going to jail for embezzling. Giddy-up! (KREM)

The heroic cafe manager in the Sydney hostage standoff was a WSU alum. (Seattle Times)

ELSEWHERE

The Taliban killed 141 in a school assault in Pakistan, most of them children (AP)

New York Magazine's story about a $72 million-earning teenage stock trader turned out to be bogus. (Washington Post)

Vox takes a look at predictions about millennials from a 2000 book you might recall from our recent cover story on The Selfie Generation. (Inlander)
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Monday, December 15, 2014

Spokane judge fines Eastern State for contempt over evaluation delays

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 4:29 PM

A Spokane judge found Eastern State Hospital and the Department of Social and Health Services in contempt on Friday for failing to provide timely competency evaluations for jailed defendants. - CHRIS BOVEY
  • Chris Bovey
  • A Spokane judge found Eastern State Hospital and the Department of Social and Health Services in contempt on Friday for failing to provide timely competency evaluations for jailed defendants.

Challenging the state’s mental health priorities, a Spokane County judge last week issued the first contempt of court ruling against an Eastern Washington psychiatric hospital for failing to conduct timely evaluations of several jailed defendants awaiting trial, fining the hospital $200 for each day of delay for each defendant.

Judge Salvatore Cozza ruled Friday that Eastern State Hospital had willfully violated multiple orders by not conducting competency evaluations, or even scheduling them, within court-established deadlines. Cozza notes that several Seattle-area courts have issued similar rulings as backlogs have increased.

“We are clearly in a situation where individuals are languishing [in jail] way too long,” Cozza says during the hearing Friday afternoon. “Their cases are getting backed up and we really are getting into an intolerable situation.”

State law calls for jailed defendants to undergo mental health evaluations within seven days, but wait times often average more than a month. Cozza faults state lawmakers and administrators for setting such deadlines without the staffing and budgetary support to meet them, leaving defendants caught in limbo.

“There have been conscious decisions … that have created this problem,” Cozza says. “This is not something that snuck up on decision makers without warning. This has been coming for a long time.”

Mental health advocates have repeatedly asked for stronger enforcement of deadlines on competency evaluations. Some defendants have served more time awaiting evaluation than they would face upon conviction of their alleged crimes, upward of six months in some cases.

In December of 2013, 25-year-old Amanda Cook killed herself in the Spokane County Jail after waiting several weeks beyond the state deadline for an evaluation.


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Tonight: A packed agenda for the last council meeting of 2014

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 9:02 AM

The last Spokane City Council meeting of the year will be held tonight, a week before Christmas. It won’t include any presents for the council’s conservative minority and will have a lump of coal for one council member.

Included in the council’s packed Monday night agenda is a vote on an ordinance that will mandate that contractors for public works projects worth over $350,000 hire apprentice labor. If passed, the ordinance will require beginning next year that 5 percent of all labor hours on public works projects be done by apprentices. That requirement, which can be waived under some circumstances, will rise to 15 percent in 2017.

“Everyone agrees that there is a skilled worker shortage that’s here now and is going to get worse in the future,” say City Council President Ben Stuckart, who points to a survey of Washington state contractors who’ve had a hard time finding qualified workers.

Stuckart says the city has half a billion dollars worth of public work projects lined up. The ordinance, he says, will use the city’s heft to help incubate new skilled workers, which are in high demand for both public and private projects.

“We have a vested interest in making sure that we have a skilled workforce to meet that demand,” says Stuckart, who expects the ordinance to pass on a 5-2 vote.

If it somehow doesn’t, there will be at least one administration employee with not much to do. In November, the City Council passed a budget that included a $60,000 salary for a compliance officer to oversee the yet-to-be-passed ordinance.

Councilman Mike Fagan says that while he’s supportive of having more apprentices, he views this ordinance as an overreach.
Council President Ben Stuckart is pushing an ordinance that would require a certain percentage of apprentices to work on public projects.
  • Council President Ben Stuckart is pushing an ordinance that would require a certain percentage of apprentices to work on public projects.
“Basically, what we are going to do is ram this apprenticeship program down the throats of people that will be employing these people,” he says. “We will be biting the hand that feeds us.”

Fagan says that the construction industry hasn’t entirely rebounded from the recession and this mandate won’t help.

Cheryl Stewart, the managing director of the Inland Northwest Association of General Contractors, opposes the ordinance as well. She agrees that there is a shortage of skilled workers, but she says that ordinance will just make it more difficult for the industry to manage its workforce and some contractors will avoid city projects.

“We all want the same things,” says Stewart, who blames the worker shortage on not enough people being steered toward construction professions. “Instead of mandating and punishing, [the City Council] should be incentivizing and encouraging.”

Fagan also doesn’t care for the politics he says are driving this ordinance.

“We know that there is an outside special interest called Fuse Washington is driving this train,” says Fagan, referring to a Seattle-based progressive advocacy organization.

Melissa Carpenter, the president for the Spokane Alliance, a coalition that supports the ordinance, says that there were a few people from Fuse Washington involved in the campaign, but she says it’s being driven by people in Spokane.

To that end, she says that supporters of the ordinance will be packing the council chambers on Monday.

While this ordinance is likely to be the biggest thing on the council’s agenda, it’s also notable what’s absent.

The council was originally slated to consider a pair of measures from Fagan related to how the mayor’s salary is set. The mayor’s salary is currently set by a clause in the city’s charter, which the council has complained results in overgenerous compensation. Fagan’s measures would have created a ballot proposition, which, if passed, would task the city’s Salary Review Commission with setting the mayor’s salary. He had hoped to get the proposition on the February special election ballot, which he says would have allowed enough time after its passage to apply the changes to the next budget cycle.

However, he said it was taken off the agenda by Stuckart at the request of the school district, which has a levy on the February ballot.

Stuckart defends the decision.

“We were asked by another taxing authority not to put this on the same ballot,” he says. “It’s a respect issue when they don’t want something on their tax ballot.”

He says that different issues bring out different voters, and “schools get 20 percent of funding from local levy, and we don’t ever want to be in position where it fails because we had something on the ballot.”

Now, the proposition likely won’t be considered by voters until August, and Fagan suspects there won’t be any changes to how the mayor’s salary is set until 2017.

“The question that should be asked by the public is: Who does the council work for?” says Fagan. “Does it work for the school district?”

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