Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The big stories of this morning

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 9:26 AM

In Case you missed it from the Inlander:
- Spokane police shooting justified in case of a speeding stalker in a Monte Carlo
- Graying farms raise worry for agriculture

Sorry tea lovers, it’s National Coffee Day today.
Here are some of the places around the area serving up free or near-free java in celebration. (KHQ)

A Stevens County man killed his half-brother with an arrow.
When deputies arrived on the scene Monday afternoon, Brian Brodie, of Chewelah, was bleeding heavily from an apparent arrow wound. At that time, Brodie was not responsive. His half-brother Raymond Rudd was then taken into custody. (KREM)

The Mariners hire a new general manager.
Not to say this will ease any of the team’s troubles, but the new GM Jerry Dipoto (fresh from the Angels) does fit the “young, analytical, computer-nerd type’’ bill that the franchise’s ownership was looking for. (Seattle Times)

Volkswagen is trying to clear the air and its name.
After its diesel-emissions cheating scandal, the car company is prepared to refit all of the affected cars with updated engine software, which is as many as 11 million cars. Not helping their plight: airbag recalls.

Trevor Noah’s version of The Daily Show debuted last night.
And it didn’t go terrible. 

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Spokane police shooting justified in case of speeding stalker in a Monte Carlo

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 4:32 PM

The Spokane County Prosecutor's Office will not file charges against Officer Michael Roberge for shooting at a fleeing suspect last November. 

Roberge fired four rounds at Joseph Hensz, hitting him once, as he drove past the officer in a red Monte Carlo. Hensz was treated and released from Sacred Heart Medical Center and is currently serving time in Geiger Corrections Center.

Earlier that afternoon, police responded to a domestic stalking call in north central Spokane, where Hensz had been allegedly circling his ex-girlfriend's residence, according to the prosecutor's news release. Hensz evaded police in a high speed chase. 

Roberge and his partner, Officer Amy Woodyard, caught up with Hensz later that evening as he sped past them at more than 100 miles per hour, according to court documents. Roberge bumped his car into the right rear end of the Monte Carlo, causing both vehicles to stop. Hensz ignored orders to get out of the car, instead revving the engine and accelerating toward the officers. Roberge fired at Hensz as he passed. 

Investigators found three bullets inside the car along with a clear baggie containing white powder, the Spokesman-Review reported in 2014. Roberge was wearing a body camera, but it was not turned on.

Police spokeswoman Teresa Fuller says the Administrative Review Panel will now conduct an internal investigation and make a recommendation on any violation of policy and procedure to the chief if necessary. 

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Graying farms raise worries for agriculture

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 4:16 PM

Randy Suess, 61, finished his last harvest at his family's century-old farm near Colfax, Wash. Agriculture experts worry that the aging population of farmers makes it difficult for younger farmers to break into the business. - CHELSEA KEYES PHOTO
  • Chelsea Keyes photo
  • Randy Suess, 61, finished his last harvest at his family's century-old farm near Colfax, Wash. Agriculture experts worry that the aging population of farmers makes it difficult for younger farmers to break into the business.

COLFAX — Randy Suess, a 61-year-old family farmer, has finished his last wheat harvest. The tractors are stored in the metal shed, and Suess recently signed the paperwork to lease out the century-old family farm.

“It’s bittersweet — not only because of my own farmland, but we’ve been leasing from other families for three generations, and that was tough to tell them that a member of my family won’t be farming anymore,” Suess said.

U.S. farms are turning unmistakably gray, as younger generations opt for other careers and older farmers remain on the job longer than most American workers. The dearth of younger farmers has worried agricultural experts, who have pushed for incentive programs to encourage family farms to continue their operations.

Washington state has been at the forefront of this effort, spending millions to help beginning farmers — defined as those who have been farming for fewer than 10 years.

“Fifty to 100 years ago, farmers would have kids, and you would have the succession plan set,” said Patrick Lewis, executive director in Whitman County’s Farm Service Agency, which provides support to Palouse farmers. “I don’t know if that’s still the plan.”

State and federal agencies are developing programs to assist young farmers who often struggle with high startup costs, particularly with the recent dip in prices for many staple crops like wheat.
  • Chelsea Keyes photo

For example, the federal Transition Incentives Program provides two additional rental payments on land enrolled in expiring Conservation Reserve Program contracts, as long as the owner sells or rents the land to a beginning farmer. This program helps younger, aspiring farmers get started in the industry.

The state of Washington has spent $2.2 million on the program within two years, the most spent by any state, said Jonelle Olson, who helps farmers navigate the program. After exhausting the original funds allotted in the 2014 Farm Bill, Washington was offered additional funds for the program this month.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also offers loans to beginning farmers to mitigate the high costs of starting a farm and purchasing equipment. One concern is that older farmers, nearing retirement, are less willing to invest in innovative technologies that can improve U.S. production, experts say.

“A lot of the things we do day-to-day are helping these folks grow and stay in business,” Lewis said. “With so many farmers getting ready to retire, we’ve solidified a lot of these [programs].”

Still, the numbers are telling: Only 8 percent of American farmers are under the age of 35, according to 2012 Census data. The average age of farmers in the U.S. is nearly 59 years. That’s about 17 years older than the average U.S. worker, and about eight years older than the average farmer in 1980.

Experts like Carl Zulauf think these numbers can be deceiving. Zulauf, a professor and agricultural economist at Ohio State University, said the average age of farmers is growing nearly in sync with the U.S. labor force.

The 17-year age gap between U.S. farmers and the general labor force is due to a culmination of reasons: technology that eases the laborious aspects of farming, the sheer size of the baby boomer generation, and a love of farming.

As in all professional fields, experience is key. Zulauf said returning to the family farm may not grant that experience — at least, not initially.

“I always encourage my students to go work for someone else for their own personal growth before they go to their own family farm,” Zulauf said. “It builds their human capital. They are more willing to innovate, see farms in a different light, and be an independent thinker.”

Suess’ only son, Brian, decided against returning to the family farm. Instead, he is living in Spokane where he works as an insurance agent.
  • Chelsea Keyes photo

Brian grew up in a sun-bleached brick house on the family farm in Colfax, where he helped seed and harvest club wheat throughout his childhood. A half-mile away, his grandparents lived on Suess Road and farmed all their lives until they passed the farm down to Brian’s father.

“Being the last Suess kid around, I knew it was up to me to carry it along — or not, unfortunately,” Brian said.

Although Brian said farming is not his passion, it helped him develop skills that served him in the professional world.

“It was realistically the best experience of my life,” he said. “It taught me that if you want something, you have to work your tail off for it. It’s where I got my work ethic from — from Dad, Grandpa and the farm.”

Randy Suess’ transition out of the farm is nearly complete. He held an auction at his home for more than 500 people where he sold the majority of his farming equipment this month. This included tables covered with century-old farming tools that were used by his parents — everything from dusty hand scythes used to cut wheat to an old metal hand-crank drill.

A longtime friend of Suess — another family farm owner — has decided to lease the 1,350 acres of the Suess’ farmland.

“I’ve known him pretty much my whole life,” Suess said. “They farm like I do. They take care of the place, they take care of the weeds, so I picked them.”

Looking forward, Suess has begun applying to new jobs within the wheat industry.

“I’m on to something new,” Suess said. ♦

This article was provided by Murrow News Service, which is produced by journalism students at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.
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5 news stories you need to know now

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 9:34 AM

Sunday night's super moon lunar eclipse, aka super blood moon. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Sunday night's super moon lunar eclipse, aka super blood moon.

Last night, many gazed upon a coppery supermoon lunar eclipse.

According to NASA, the last supermoon/total lunar eclipse occurred in 1982 and you’ll have to wait until 2033 to see another. (Spokesman-Review)

The Seahawks FINALLY won last night. Washington state rejoices.

Duck needed repairs.
Federal investigators announced the Duck vehicle involved in Thursday’s deadly Aurora Bridge crash was recommended for a safety repair back in 2013, which never happened. A fifth crash victim died Sunday. (Seattle Times)

Shell calls it quits on Alaska drilling.
Just weeks after Shell won approval to fully drill a well in Alaska’s Arctic waters, and spending billions in the process, the company has decided to move on, citing expense, regulations and insufficient amounts of oil and gas.

President Obama blasts Putin ahead of the first formal sit-down the pair have had in two years.
In a speech at the U.N. General Assembly this morning, President Obama had harsh words for Russia regarding Syria and Ukraine. Naturally, Putin got his say on 60 Minutes with Charlie Rose Sunday night. Things are starting off well. 

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Raúl Labrador's tumultuous history with departing House speaker John Boehner

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2015 at 3:51 PM

Raul Labrador, critic, ally and irritant of departing House Majority Leader John Boehner
  • Raul Labrador, critic, ally and irritant of departing House Majority Leader John Boehner

So. Speaker of the House John Boehner is stepping down, not just from his Speaker of the House position, but from Congress entirely.

To understand why, you’ve got to understand Boehner’s relationship with guys like Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador. Over the past five years, the relationship between Labrador and Boehner has been an uneasy, often adversarial one.

Robert Draper’s Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives, highlights Labrador’s first year in Congress, along with other freshmen congressmen:

Just before the vote was scheduled, Raul Labrador was summoned to the Speaker’s office.

Boehner knew that the Tea Party freshman was never one to mince words. So the Speaker cut to the chase: “Are you with me?” he asked.

”I’m sorry, I’m not,” Labrador replied. “This is not a bill I can support. I actually think this is a terrible bill.”

“Well, I need you with me on this,” Boehner pressed.

“I understand. But I can’t vote for it.”

Labrador saw the Speaker’s strength as his weakness: he was fair and believed others would be, too. Boehner had actually told Labrador one time, “I trust Harry Reid.”

Labrador had nearly come unglued. Are you out of your mind? Labrador was a lawyer. By training he had learned it was wise to assume the worst in people. He didn’t trust Reid. He thought Obama was lying to the American people about the government running out of money on August 2.

Then Labrador added, “But I’ve talked to several folks and I know how we can get out of this mess. If you can amend the bill to make it closer to Cut, Cap, and Balance, I think I can get you some votes. I’ve been talking to people all day—I think I can convince maybe ten people.”

Despite Labrador’s tough stances and his occasional obnoxious outbursts in conferences, the Republican leadership and the whip team admired his willingness to work toward a positive outcome.

Boehner brought in a legislative assistant. “Allen West would tell you, the bill is basically Cut, Cap, and Balance,” the aide said.

“It’s not even close,” Labrador scoffed. He acknowledged there were political considerations. West’s district is like sixty percent Medicare recipients.” By contrast, Labrador’s constituents were hard-core right wingers, the freshman told the Speaker. They made Labrador seem ideologically tame in comparison

In Draper’s book, his clash with leadership comes up multiple times.

Continue reading »

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The stories you need to know to start your day

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2015 at 8:23 AM


- A man convicted of murdering an elderly Spokane woman when he was a juvenile was resentenced and now has a chance to serve less than his original life sentence. 
Did you know Spokane was home to the inventor of the portable baby cage? Oh, you don't know what a baby cage is? Read this
- The first outlet for popular California chain Blaze Pizza opened in Spokane Thursday, and is offering free pizza all day Friday to its social media followers. 

U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner to resign under pressure from GOP conservative wing
Reports today indicate Boehner is ready to resign his Ohio congressional seat at the end of October, a move that could lead to more than the usual chaos in Washington, D.C., as the government faces a shutdown if Congress can't get at least a temporary budget put together to keep the government functioning. For years Boehner has had to juggle the radical Tea Party members of the House with the more moderate wing of the GOP as they tried to kill Obamacare and push through a conservative budget. The latest showdown involved many members refusal to pass a budget that includes any money for Planned Parenthood, and the next speaker selected steps into the same difficult dynamic heading into fall. 

Seattle tour bus and duck boat collide, killing four and injuring 12
Four international students were killed when a duck boat — a vehicle that can travel on land and in water, popular for tourism in cities on waterfronts — collided with a bus on the Aurora Street Bridge. Many of the duck boat passengers were students from North Seattle College on a sightseeing tour before classes start on Monday. 

Rolling out the red carpet
China president Xi Jinping is making his first state visit to the White House, where he is expected to be welcomed with a lot of ceremonial bells and whistles, but a colder shoulder from President Obama behind closed doors, due to a mutual distrust between the two countries' leaders as China attempts to expand its presence across Asia and the U.S. tries to counter the power play. 

Smells like nostalgia
Nirvana's breakthrough Nevermind album turned 24 years old Thursday, and the Internet was aflutter with think pieces and statistical breakdowns, like this one from Billboard that shows just what a phenomenon the album was at the time. 

Here's the song that set it off for the band: 

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Juvenile who killed elderly Spokane woman given new sentence

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 3:37 PM

Vy Thang showing a picture his niece drew for him. - MITCH RYALS
  • Mitch Ryals
  • Vy Thang showing a picture his niece drew for him.

Vy Thang, the man given a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole for a murder he committed at 17, was given a chance at release Wednesday. 

Thang was originally convicted in 1999 (and again in 2003 after a retrial) of aggravated murder in the first degree when he broke into the home of an 85-year-old woman. Superior Court Judge Gregory Sypolt re-sentenced Thang to 35 years to life. That means Thang is eligible to appear in front of the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board in 2031.

A pre-sentencing investigation from the Department of Corrections conducted in June of this year recommended Thang be released when he is eligible. 

Ten of Mildred Klaus' family and friends packed into the court room Wednesday morning to say something on behalf of their mother and grandmother.

"I'm a person who believes in forgiveness, but let's not confuse forgiveness for giving somebody a third chance to kill," says one of Klaus' grandsons, J.J. Klaus. He is referring to the fact that prior to Klaus' murder, Thang escaped from a juvenile detention facility where he was locked up for burglarizing and kicking another elderly woman, who survived the attack.

"The effect this has had on our family has been really hard. It would be even harder if he were out on the streets," J.J. Klaus says.

When given his chance to speak, Thang first turned toward Mildred Klaus' family: 

"I'm sorry this is the third time you've had to go through this. I was a coward, and I have no excuse for what I did," he told them. "Mrs. Klaus was more than a victim. She was your mother, she was your grandmother, she was a friend to so many people and I took that away."

He then turned to the judge: 

"After hearing the victim's family speak, I don't know if I deserve to get out," he said. "I would like to. Given the chance, I would like to help others, but I just don't know anymore." 

Thang's new sentence came about because of a 2012 United States Supreme Court ruling that mandatory life without parole sentences constitute cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the Eighth Amendment. The Washington state Legislature subsequently tweaked its laws to reflect the Court's decision in 2014. 

In his argument before the court, prosecuting attorney Larry Steinmetz argued for the judge to maintain Thang's life without parole sentence by drawing distinctions between the defendant in the Supreme Court case and Thang. The defendant, Evan Miller who was 14 at the time he committed the murder, had also been drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana, had been abused, and had attempted suicide multiple times. None of those circumstances applied to Thang, Steinmetz argued. 

There are 29 people in Washington state who could get new sentences. As of September 23, two were re-sentenced to life without parole, five were given 25 to life, which means they have a chance of release after a hearing in front of a parole board, and one (Thang) was given 35 to life and one was given 40 years.  
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The stories you need to know to start the day

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 7:47 AM

• An upcoming season of the Serial podcast will focus on Idaho soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who famously either deserted his unit, or was kidnapped while serving, depending on who you listen to about the case.
• Spokane UFC fighter Julianna Pena could be next in line to fight champ Ronda Rousey if she wins her next bout. A Q&A as she trains for the Oct. 3 fight.

Pope addresses Congress Thursday morning

The pontiff's magical mystery tour of North America continues with the hotly anticipated speech to U.S. politicians who might not be too excited to hear his thoughts on greed, income inequality and the environment. 

Fallout from Spokane police chief resignation
Assistant Chief Rick Dobrow is now officially the man leading the Spokane Police Department, and there doesn't appear to be any rapid movement to start a search for a permanent replacement of departed Chief Frank Straub. The Center for Justice, which as worked with the department to improve transparency in police work, has some questions about how the Straub departure went down

Hundreds killed in stampede at Islamic holy ceremony in Saudi Arabia
Less than two weeks after more than 100 people died when a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia is the scene of another tragedy as more than 700 people (and counting as of this morning) were killed during a ceremony for Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, when the masses pushed forward suddenly, trampling people in the city of Mina during a ceremony called "stoning the devil." 

May the hype be with you
There's a really cool new 360-degree interactive Star Wars video that lets users steer a ship through a set from the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It's an exclusive to Facebook so we can't show you the video ourselves, but you can check it out right here

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

WW: WA teens dodge pot felony, Twain's hash exploits, weed alcohol in Oregon?

Posted By on Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 11:00 AM

Welcome back to Weed Wednesday, your weekly dose of pot news. Wondering what this is about? Click. Looking for our previous marijuana coverage? Click. Got a question or tip? Email me at [email protected]

The big weed story in Washington that played out over last week is a story of teenagers with pot and prosecutorial misinterpretation.

Remember SB 5052, that big overhaul of Washington’s pot laws that reconciled the state’s medical marijuana market with its recreational market, among other things?

Well, among those other things was a provision that stiffened penalties for individuals under 21 years of age caught with weed. At least, that was the initial reading from a prosecutor in southeast Washington. As first reported by the Lewiston Tribune, three teens in Asotin County ages 14, 15 and 17 were charged with felonies for possessing pot that could have landed them in prison for five years each.

But the prosecutor decided he had misinterpreted the law and instead will just charge them with misdemeanors.

Here’s the news elsewhere:

A man in Denver who is accused of shooting his wife while high has changed his plea not guilty by reason of insanity.

A Colorado congressman has introduced legislation that will ensure that a future president won’t overturn state laws that legalize marijuana.

Get ready for Snoop Dogg’s pot-focused media company, Merry Jane.

The Cannabist has an article about how Mark Twain used to eat hash candies in the days before prohibition.

Marijuana-infused alcohol could be coming to Oregon, if it gets past regulators.

Speaking of Oregon, the state is in the process of erasing pot convictions from people’s records now that the drug is legal.
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4 stories you need to know as you start your day

Posted By on Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 7:43 AM

• The Palomino to reopen under new management, less country
Oprah, Katy Perry and Glenn Beck walk into a weed shop...
• City Council's recognition of Islamic civil rights group draws ire from Matt Shea

Frank Straub
  • Frank Straub

• Frank Straub forced out as Spokane police chief
Abrasive management style is cited as reason. An assistant chief will take over in the interim. 

• The Happy Birthday song is free to all
A judge rules the song is not copyrighted.

• Kam Chancellor in Seattle, may end holdout
Looks like he's back, even without getting a new deal.

• Pope Francis in Washington
In White House ceremony, he praises President Obama on climate change issues.

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