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Friday, April 3, 2015

What it's like to interview nuns in a cloistered monastery

Posted By on Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 2:39 PM

After 28 years in monasteries, Sister Marie Joseph is no longer cloistered, but she still helps out her fellow nuns at the Carmel of the Holy Trinity. - DANIEL WALTERS
  • Daniel Walters
  • After 28 years in monasteries, Sister Marie Joseph is no longer cloistered, but she still helps out her fellow nuns at the Carmel of the Holy Trinity.

Typically, trying to get an interview with a closed-off organization goes like this: You call some high-up corporate public relations manager, he asks you what your story is about, you tell him and ask for an interview, there's a negotiation over terms, and, if you're lucky, you get a brief conference call interview with a jargon-spouting executive with the public relations manager occasionally interrupting. 

But the Carmel of the Holy Trinity monastery is a closed-off organization in a more literal sense. When I wanted to reach them to talk about their worries that a proposed development could harm the silence and privacy they've built their lives around, it was a lot trickier. 

First of all, there's no marketing professional or public information officer to set up the interview. I called up Eric Meisfjord, the communications manager of the local Catholic diocese, but he said he couldn't help me. The Carmel is not officially affiliated with the diocese, rejecting the changes of the Second Vatican Council, by, for example, continuing to have mass in Latin.

I tried to call the diocese number directly. But there's only 30 minutes each day — from 10:45 am to 11:15 am — when they answer their phones. And on Thursday, at 11 pm, there was no answer. 
Sister Marie Joseph outside the stone walls of the Carmel of the Holy Trinity, near the now-closed Painted Hills golf course in Spokane Valley. - DANIEL WALTERS
  • Daniel Walters
  • Sister Marie Joseph outside the stone walls of the Carmel of the Holy Trinity, near the now-closed Painted Hills golf course in Spokane Valley.


So, Friday morning, I just decided to drive there, down to the Spokane Valley, down Dishman Mica Road. Google Maps GPS gets the final leg wrong, and deposits me in the middle of Spokane Valley suburbia. "You have arrived at your destination," my smartphone lies. 

I fumble my way around for a half an hour before finally arriving, there's a mid-sized stone building, cross on top, with a 10-foot-high wooden fence surrounding 18 acres of property. There are no holes, cracks or slats in the fence that you could look through. 

I ring the doorbell at the wooden door to the side, and wait. Finally, there's the sound of footsteps, and Sister Marie Joseph opens the door. For health reasons, she's no longer a cloistered nun here. But she still helps out, cleaning the outside rooms where the cloistered nuns are not allowed to tread. 

She says she'll have the prioress, Mother Marie of Jesus Hostia, give me a call later that day. When she calls, we set up an in-person meeting, after Saturday's Mass. She asks politely that, since I'm not Catholic, that I refrain from taking Communion with the congregation. I agree.

I'm hoping to have a tour of the monastery — to see where they pray, eat, and garden. Instead, after Mass on Saturday, I'm led into this room: 

The "small parlor" room, where I interviewed Mother Marie of Jesus Hostia and the subprioress from behind an opaque screen. - DANIEL WALTERS
  • Daniel Walters
  • The "small parlor" room, where I interviewed Mother Marie of Jesus Hostia and the subprioress from behind an opaque screen.

Mother Marie and the sub-prioress (who requested her name not be used) are behind those brown bars and a black screen. I can't see them. They explain that looking upon the faces of strangers, or even their own congregation during Mass, is a considered a distraction. There are exceptions, of course, like when the nuns leave the monastery for medical or dental appointments. 

But in this case, I have to settle for hearing their voices through the grate. When they pass me pamphlets about their order, they don't slip it through a slot. They place it in a revolving cabinet called a "turn," a device used in monasteries since the medieval ages, and spin the cabinet around so I can take it. They receive food in a similar fashion.

Larger gifts, like the rhododendron the Dominican Sisters from Post Falls have brought, are left in a hallway that works as a kind of airlock. The outer door is closed before the inner door is opened. 

In 1996, the New York Times wrote a great piece about a similar monastery in Brooklyn. (Which, presumably, would have even greater noise and privacy challenges than in Spokane Valley.) Check it out if you're curious

A notice explaining, in English and French (with a Latin "Thank You") that another nun will be silently listening in to conversations held through the grate in the parlor. - DANIEL WALTERS
  • Daniel Walters
  • A notice explaining, in English and French (with a Latin "Thank You") that another nun will be silently listening in to conversations held through the grate in the parlor.

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Mental health evaluation and treatment wait times ruled unconstitutional in Washington state

Posted By on Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 1:35 PM


A district court decision filed yesterday says that Washington state violates the constitutional right of inmates with mental health issues who wait longer than seven days for an evaluation and treatment. 

"The mentally ill are deserving of the protections of the Constitution that our forefathers so carefully crafted," the court decision reads. "The rights protected can be difficult and sometimes costly to secure; however, the Constitution is a guarantee to all people, and is not dependent upon a price tag." 

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman has given the state nine months to hire more staff and make other accommodations for the ruling. According protections outlined in the Constitution, inmates must receive a mental health evaluation and treatment no more than seven days after a court order. Pechman will also appoint a monitor to make sure her decision is carried out.

Spokane public defender Kari Reardon was in court when a notification on her iPad alerted her to the decision, so she had to contain her OMGs. Reardon says almost all of her clients have been affected in some way by weeks-, and sometimes months-long, delays in mental competency evaluations and treatment. 

"It's delayed their trials, the resolution of their cases and getting appropriate treatment," she says, noting that victims of crimes are impacted as well as because trials can't begin until the evaluations are completed. "Judge Pechman's ruling was on point. This will make a difference for people who are in need of help. It will make a difference in the lives of many."

The court decision clearly states that jails are toxic environments for people with mental illnesses. They are frequently put in solitary confinement, not for disciplinary reasons, but for their "erratic or unpredictable behavior" that can result in more charges. Incarceration "exacerbates" symptoms, sometimes to a point of no return, and increases the likelihood of suicide, according to the decision.

The only negative outcome Reardon can foresee at this point is the cost to the Department of Social and Human Services, the agency responsible for overseeing evaluations per Washington state law, and the defendant in the suit. But it costs money to prosecute people, too, she adds. 

Read the entire decision below: 

Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law - 131


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No efforts planned to promote marijuana tourism in Washington

Posted By on Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 10:55 AM


If you’ve read this week’s paper, you’ll know that the legal ambiguity over what constitutes private or public when it comes to marijuana consumption can be a tricky subject for businesses wanting to accommodate stoners that just want a social space to light up.

With it being illegal to consume cannabis on the street, pot lounges being clouded by legal ambiguity and hotels generally frowning on smoking anything in their rooms, this issue is particularly acute for the state’s marijuana tourism industry as it seeks to accommodate visitors who might want to light up. Although travelers have come from all over the world to experience the Evergreen State’s pot and the state even has a commission to promote wine tourism, don’t expect Olympia to throw its support behind encouraging people to come to Washington to enjoy its cannabis anytime soon.

David Blandford, Washington Tourism Alliance board member and vice president of communications for Visit Seattle, says that ambiguity over what “public” means for the consumption of pot makes promoting marijuana tourism difficult. That issue aside, he says that promoting marijuana tourism is currently not on the WTA’s agenda because the organization is currently focused at the moment on securing long-term funding from the legislature.

He also says that there are concerns about restrictions on how marijuana can be advertised, and Blanford isn’t even sure that tourists would respond.

“I’m not aware of any research that there is a pot tourism market,” says Blanford. So far, he says, all the evidence has been anecdotal.
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MB: Craigslist safe zones, seaman rescued and a new Game of Thrones excerpt

Posted By on Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 9:16 AM


HERE

Idaho teachers are about to get paid more, after Gov. Butch Otter signed a new $125.5 million teacher salary bill. (Idaho Statesman)

Don’t get ripped off again: The Spokane police have offered up their North Precinct as “safe zone” meeting place for Craigslist transactions. (Spokesman-Review)

The number of reported Spokane child abuse cases has quadrupled since this time last year. (KXLY)

A federal judge issued that Washington state must fix its problem with jailing mentally ill people for long periods of time. (Seattle Times) 

THERE
Kenyan police are hunting for terrorism suspects who killed at least 147 people on a university campus yesterday. (NPR)

A rescued shipwrecked sailor survived a whopping 66 days at sea. (Washington Post)

The preliminary framework for curbing Iran’s nuclear program has actually been announced. (NBCnews)

FRIDAY FUN
Author George R.R. Martin revealed an excerpt from his upcoming Game of Thrones series book, The Winds of Winter. Don’t’ worry, it will probably take him two more years to finish writing the novel. (georgerrmartin.com)

The Mariners home opener is next week, and already there's great expectations! Get excited, baseball is back! (Boo Indians and Yankees and A’s and Angels and Rangers and well … anyone who isn’t the Mariners). (Seattle Times)


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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Gov. Jay Inslee meets with formerly homeless Spokane women

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 5:40 PM

Governor Jay Inslee shakes hands with a client at Volunteers of America Thursday April 2. - LAEL HENTERLY
  • Lael Henterly
  • Governor Jay Inslee shakes hands with a client at Volunteers of America Thursday April 2.

It had been a rough couple of years for Julie Firzlaff. After seven years of homelessness she had tried everything to get off the streets. State programs wouldn’t help her because she didn’t have children. Shelters were a stop gap. Then things got even worse. She ended up in the hospital and had gall bladder surgery. Then she was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Released from the hospital, Firzlaff found herself wandering the streets, her thoughts a blur. She could hardly figure out where to get her next meal, let alone plan her next trip to the doctor or the pharmacist. Enter Volunteers of America (VOA) case manager Leona Flowers.

“I call her my guardian angel,” said 37-year-old client April Lassich, who came to Spokane fleeing a domestic violence situation only to find herself homeless with a quickly failing heart and other debilitating ailments. 

Flowers got both Firzlaff and Lassich into respite care facility at Hope House after they left Providence Hospital. She then helped them transition into permanent housing with the VOA's Housing, Homelessness and Healthcare program (H3). The VOA found the women apartments, pays for their rent and helps with transportation needs.

The goal of the program is to put chronically ill people in housing situations where they can stay on track with doctor visits, medications and treatment. This keeps them out of emergency rooms and leads to better longterm outcomes and lower overall costs.

“I wouldn’t be alive today without the help of the Hope House and the Volunteers of America," said Firzlaff, tearing up a bit. "My doctor told me so."

The H3 program is one of the most successful pioneers in a larger state effort to put healthcare in the hands of local communities. Known as Accountable Communities of Health (ACH), these regional collaborations rely on local community organizations that know their clients and can best decide how to address their needs. 

Gov. Jay Inslee listened, rapt, to Firzlaff's story Thursday afternoon. He had stopped by the VOA's downtown location to meet with women who have benefitted from his Healthier Washington plan, a multifaceted effort to make Washington the healthiest state in the nation. 

"You oughta get a gold medal for that," Inslee said to Firzlaff after she finished describing how she survived the streets with a six-inch-deep incision in her abdomen.

"We wanted to show the governor how, in eastern Washington, this is one of the ways we’re implementing his Healthier Washington plan," explained Empire Health Foundation Government relations and Communication Director Erica Hallock. 

So far 267 men and women have been referred and 46 housed through the H3 program. 

"They're one of the best in the state," said Governor Inslee's Senior Health Policy Advisor Dr. Bob Crittenden of Empire Health Foundation's efforts so far.
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Read the typewritten letter sent by cloistered Spokane Valley nuns, worried about proposed development

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 4:40 PM

Sister Marie Joseph says she spent 28 years, seven months and seven days cloistered in this monastery and one in Belgium. After leaving for health reasons, she is no longer cloistered. - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
  • Daniel Walters Photo
  • Sister Marie Joseph says she spent 28 years, seven months and seven days cloistered in this monastery and one in Belgium. After leaving for health reasons, she is no longer cloistered.

We have a story this week about the Carmel of the Holy Trinity, a Spokane Valley community of intensely isolated nuns. They fear that a proposed housing development at the former Painted Hills Golf Course, directly behind them, would hurt their life of privacy and silence. The multi-family apartment complex outlined in the preliminary plans, they worry, could put give apartment tenants views of the nuns while they're outside, praying or gardening on the walled grounds. Not to mention the noise and hubbub associated with more next-door neighbors. 

So, on an electronic typewriter, they wrote this letter: It's signed by the corporate president, Mother Patricia Haynos, and Mother Sarah-Jane Hutchinson (referred to by her religious name, Mother Marie of Jesus Hostia, in the story.) Since the nuns themselves can't ever exit the monastery, the letter was hand-delivered delivered by Father Scott Graves to the Spokane Valley Comprehensive Plan meeting.

Carmel of the Holy Trinity letter



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Deflating Airbnb? Short-term rental regs proposed for Spokane

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 1:51 PM


New regulations for Airbnb and other short-term rentals are starting to take form and could be passed by Spokane's City Council next month.

In recent years, short-term rentals (defined as a rental shorter than 30 days) have proliferated across the country with websites, most notably Airbnb, connecting strangers willing to open their homes to other strangers willing to pay to stay in them.

This growing segment of the sharing economy has brushed up against zoning codes that weren’t designed for the rise of short-term rentals. In spring of last year, city code enforcement told Airbnb hosts that they could be breaking the law but halted any further action while it convened a group of stakeholders to a craft a way forward.

The results of those stakeholder meetings was unveiled April 1 in council chambers in a presentation attended by several members of the city council and residents of Spokane interested in the issue.

“Short-term rentals have and will continue to operate in our cities,” said Councilman Mike Allen, who oversaw the presentation, noting that regulations would need to be changed for an industry that’s all but certain to continue growing.

The Spokane Plan Commission offered a slightly modified version of the recommendation from a stakeholders group, which met for 10 months. Both allow for homeowners to rent out their property without being present and require hosts to get a permit.

One of the big sticking points has been a state requirement that short-term rentals be equipped with fire-suppression sprinklers, which can cost between $3,000 to $6,500 to install. Allen said he tried to convince legislators to change the law to no avail. In the meantime, any short-term rentals that are not occupied by the owner are required to have the sprinklers.

Continue reading »

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Underhanded LFO dealings and the class action settlement that fixed them

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 10:55 AM


In this week's issue, we have a story about recent efforts in the State Supreme Court and state legislature to improve circumstances for people with legal financial obligations, more fondly referred to as LFOs. Both measures aim to reduce the number of people who spend time in jail for nonpayment of LFOs and give defendants who can't pay other options to square their debts.
  
One piece of Spokane County's recent history with LFOs that didn't make it into the article, however, is the approval of a class action settlement that, among other things, would create an "LFO Improvement Fund" to help those recently saddled with crippling court-imposed fines. 

Side note: There are two types of LFOs: mandatory and discretionary. Mandatory LFOs are charges that a judge is required by law to impose on a defendant. They include things like restitution for victims, fines associated with the criminal charge, criminal filing fees and fines for DNA sample testing. For example, there is a "victim penalty assessment" of $500 attached to felony and gross misdemeanor convictions and a $250 fee for all misdemeanor convictions in Washington state that a judge must impose. Discretionary LFOs include attorney's fees and other "court costs" that a judge decides to waive or tack on.

Here's what went down: 

In 2003, Spokane County began issuing bench warrants for nonpayment of LFOs without an on-the-record hearing to determine if the individual was capable of paying. Some people call that a debtor's prison, others say "too bad, you should have paid," but the bottom line remains that people spent time in jail for nonpayment. 

Continue reading »

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MB: New Spokane med school, big teacher scandal and Crystal Cathedral founder dies

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 9:30 AM


HERE

Spokane Police say they have found and arrested the person of interest in the fatal shooting of a Hillyard woman last week. (KXLY)

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill allowing Washington State University to launch a new Spokane medical school. (Spokesman-Review)

A Post Falls man was given a life sentence for lewd conduct with his autistic daughter. (CdA Press)

THERE
Al-Qaeda freed about 300 dangerous prisoners in a Yemen jail break. (Telegraph)

In the largest educator cheating scandal in United States history, 11 Atlanta Public School educators were charged with racketeering and other crimes yesterday. (CNN)

California is about to get a whole lot dryer after Gov. Jerry Brown called for the first-ever mandatory water usage cuts. (LA Times)

DEATHS

John Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia Lennon, and Crystal Cathedral televangelist, Rev. Robert Schuller, have both passed away. (Rolling Stone) (Orange County Register)
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

WW: First Church of Cannabis forms, and is medical weed doomed in Oregon?

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2015 at 12:25 PM


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]

In Indiana, cannaterians, adherents of a new church, say they can smoke pot in the state because of a new religious freedom law.

If you’ve been paying any attention to the news over the last week, you’ve probably heard about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Signed by Gov. Mike Pence, it’s meant to protect the rights of religious people and prevents state or local governments from doing anything that will “substantially burden a person's right to the exercise of religion.”

The law provoked almost immediate backlash, with Apple CEO Tim Cook denouncing it along with a slew of state and local governments banning travel to Indiana.

But for pot smokers in the state, there could be a silver lining to the law.

Shortly after becoming law, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz posted a piece on Indypolitics.org suggesting that it had the effect of legalizing marijauna — for religious reasons. Citing spiritual traditions such as Rastafarianism or the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church that treat cannabis as a sacrament, Shabazz suggested that a church could be set up in Indiana that incorporates smoking weed into its tenets, giving its adherents a fighting chance of partially legalizing marijuana in a state that doesn’t sanction its use for medicinal or recreational reasons.

“You see, if I would argue that under RFRA, as long as you can show that reefer is part of your religious practices, you got a pretty good shot of getting off scott-free,” he wrote.

The Washington Post reports that Bill Levin has filed paperwork, which has been approved by the Indiana Secretary of State, to set up the First Church of Cannabis.

According to the church’s GoFundMe page, which describes its adherents as “cannaterians,” the first of its 12 commandments is “don’t be an asshole.”

In Oregon, Willamette Week has obtained a memo that suggests that state officials secretly planned to put the state’s medicinal marijuana market under its recreational despite promises that wouldn’t happen. Sound familiar? 

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says that marijuana taxes are “blood money.”

Colorado’s attorney general says there will be “chaos” if a lawsuit from neighboring Oklahoma and Nebraska challenging its pot legalization law prevails.

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