Monday, September 30, 2013

Fairchild AFB prepares for potential furloughs, disruptions as government shutdown looms

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 4:12 PM


Military officials at Fairchild Air Force Base announced this afternoon they have started preparing for the potential government shutdown, warning of furloughs and training interruptions across non-essential operations.

Col. Brian Newberry, 92 Air Refueling Wind commander, says in a news release the base would continue its mission as well as emergency and security services regardless of any government shutdown.

"That said, if government shutdown does occur," he says, "there will be impacts to us, some incredibly significant."

Officials report the base received guidance from the Department of Defense earlier today to prepare for the shutdown. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also issued a statement on the potential shutdown.

Active-duty military personnel, emergency responders and other essential personnel will report for work as normal. Non-essential, or "non-excepted," civilian employees will face "emergency, no-notice, non-pay furloughs" throughout any government shutdown.

Officials noted training, travel and civilian operations would likely be disrupted. Non-essential personnel would only receive back pay if later approved by Congress.

"I do remain hopeful political compromise will be reached," Newberry says.

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Area nurses, hospital workers plan informational picket Tuesday

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 2:22 PM

ICU nurse Robin McIntyre with the union's bargaining team. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • ICU nurse Robin McIntyre with the union's bargaining team.

More than 1,100 union nurses and local health care workers plan to hold an informational picket outside Deaconess Medical Center and Valley Hospital on Tuesday to publicly voice concerns about staffing levels and other working conditions. 

SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, a regional affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, announced the picket Monday, citing frustrations over how recent staffing cuts impact patient care.

“Unsafe staffing is really our main, main concern,” says Teri Nicholson, a Valley Hospital registered nurse with the union bargaining team.

Union representatives expect several hundred workers to take part in the picket line outside Deaconess from 11 am to 1 pm and from 4 pm to 6 pm. A similar picket will run from 11 am to 1 pm at Valley Hospital.

Nicholson notes workers can only picket on their breaks or days off, so the demonstration will not affect any services provided at either hospital.

Employees have been in talks with hospital managers for about nine months. In addition to staffing levels, Nicholson says workers have also challenged contract changes to how sick days get counted and how often they can be sent home from overstaffed shifts.

“Informational pickets are pretty common,” Nicholson explains. “When we want to bring attention to our cause we do that.”

Updated: Sasha Weiler, a spokeswoman for both Deaconess and Valley hospitals, says the union gave the hospitals advance notice of the picket. She also noted the demonstration would not disrupt or change any hospital services. She declined to comment on staffing levels. 

"Our priority is always the care and safety of patients," she says. "We will continue that tomorrow and always." 

In a news release on the picket, union representatives quoted Valley Hospital Intensive Care Unit nurse Robin McIntyre on the risks of reducing hospital staffing.

“As an ICU nurse, it’s important that I have the time to spend with my critically ill patients,” McIntyre says. “Valley cut the staff who answer the phones and process orders and now I have to take time away from my patients to cover those duties.”

McIntyre was featured in an Inlander story earlier this month on the history and evolution of the local labor movement.

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Your granddaughter's in jail, and other recent scams

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 12:59 PM

Today the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office sent out a warning about a scam: This past weekend, a Liberty Lake resident was called by someone who claimed to be “Officer Lambert” and told to wire money to pay $1,800 to bail a granddaughter out of jail after she was caught in a vehicle with drugs.

Of course, no granddaughter was really in jail. Law enforcement officers never ask people for bail money to be sent anymore to release inmates, the press release says. “If anyone receives a call from anyone claiming to be an officer requesting money, please report the incident to Crime Check at 509-456-2233. Please provide any phone numbers and or names provided by the individual calling.”

This isn’t the only scam that’s been coming up recently. Here are some others we’ve heard about:

Health insurance scams

With the state health insurance exchange debuting tomorrow, state officials in Washington and Idaho are warning consumers to expect new health care scams. Scammers may pose as “navigators” — people who help consumers use the new system, Washington Healthplanfinder or Your Health Idaho — or try to sign people up for fake products. Here are tips about how to avoid identity theft while signing up for health coverage in Washington state. And here’s a fact sheet from the federal government about how to verify providers and report potential scams.

Do Not Call Registry scams

The Spokane Better Business Bureau tweeted information about a tricky scam in which someone calls claiming to represent the national Do Not Call Registry, and then either wants to get your personal information or charge a fee to sign up. (The Do Not Call Registry is a free service, and you can sign up at or by calling 888-382-1222.) See other BBB scam alerts here.

Chance-to-win scam

This weekend KXLY’s Colleen O’Brien reported that young people were going around Spokane door-to-door asking for personal information for the chance to win gas. When O’Brien asked, they wouldn’t say what company they worked for or show ID.

Look out for your grandparents

Scammers like to prey on older people, and an unexpected phone call is still the weapon of choice. The Give Wisely campaign through the Secretary of State’s office has a great list of questions to keep by the phone for unexpected phone solicitations. Geared toward charities, the questions also work for other sales pitches or information requests. 

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MORNING BRIEFING: Looming government shutdown, Breaking Bad finale thoughts, Oregon's viral Internet cat

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 8:41 AM


The Spokane City Council plans to vote tonight on several issues to make downtown areas safer as part of a newly introduced "Downtown Livability Initiative" announced last week. (KXLY)

Bundle up and hold on tight — high winds are going to keep up all day until about 7 pm tonight. (KHQ) 

After word spread that a local men's shelter would close on Oct. 3 due to a lack of operating funds, community members donated enough to keep Truth Ministries open through October now. (KREM) 


The U.S. Government is hours away from possibly shutting down. It's a pretty confusing and complicated topic, but what does it mean? If there is a shutdown, how would it affect you (video)? (Wa-Post and CNN)

Two commuter trains in Chicago collided this morning, sending dozens to the hospital with minor injuries. (CNN)

Seattle resident Amanda Knox won't be present during the retrial of the murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher in 2007 while Kercher and Knox attended college in Italy (CNN).


WSU Veterinary students participated in a poll to name the newborn giraffe at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo. His name is Misawa. (WSU News)

Last night marked the end of an era of sorts, as Breaking Bad came to close. Read Inlander staffer Daniel Walters take on the show, pre-finale. (Inlander) 


The world's latest viral feline is a one-eyed, snarly-faced kitten out of Troutdale, Ore. Meet Sir Stuffington! (HuffPo) 

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Who's Really "The One who Knocks" on Breaking Bad?

Posted By on Sun, Sep 29, 2013 at 3:51 PM

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Tonight, as thousands of Breaking Bad fans will tell you, the one who knocks is Walter White.

It’s probably the most famous speech in the entire five-season run of Breaking Bad, inspiring countless gifs and tumblr photos, podcast titles, T-shirt designs, literary parodies and a Samuel L. Jackson reenactment.

In the midst of an argument with his wife over whether he’s put his family in danger, Walt pulls off his undershirt, revealing a T-shirt dark red like congealed blood. And then his voice changes, drops lower and colder, as he lays into his wife’s reasoning.

“Who are you talking to right now? Who is it you think you see? Do you know how much I make a year? Do you know what would happen if I suddenly decide to stop going into work? A business, big enough to be listed on the NASDAQ goes belly up, disappears! It ceases to exist without me. No, you clearly don’t know who you’re talking to, so let me clue you in. I am not in danger, Skyler. I am the danger. A guy opens his door and gets shot and you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks.”

And then, as if dropping the mic, he walks into the bathroom, slams the door, and starts taking a shower.

It’s understandable why the speech is beloved by the type of fan who sees Breaking Bad as a show about badass lines and sweet-ass shootouts.

But it’s easy to forget that when Walt gives that speech it’s a complete and utter lie. It’s impotent bluster. It’s a powerless toddler, writhing on the linoleum, kicking his feet, screaming and crying that he’s a big boy and you’ll be sorry. It’s an embodiment of the same sort of pride and masculine sensitivity that will eventually destroy everything Walt has built and cares for. After all, he gives that speech in an episode titled, appropriately, “Cornered.”

After all, in that very same room he delivered that speech, madmen with axes had sat on his bed, waiting for him as he obliviously hummed “Horse with No Name” in the shower. But for the grace of Gus, Walt would long ago have been hacked into pieces.

Walt is a prisoner, working under constant video surveillance. He’s got multiple crosshairs trained on him, following his every move. He’s pissed off his boss — the sort of boss who runs a box cutter across the throat as a severance package. And his boss, in turn, is caught in the middle of a feud with the Mexican cartel.

Rewind a few seconds and see that it is Skyler, not Walt, who has the stronger arguments.

She’d been listening, on repeat, to a voicemail from the One Who Knocks, “I just wanted to say I was thinking about you, and the kids. And I love you.” It had clearly been sent while Walt was in danger.

“If we’re in danger, we go to the police,” Skyler insists as Walt scoffs. “If it’s the only real choice we have. If it’s either that or you getting shot when you open your front door — you’re not some hardened criminal, Walt. You are in over your head. That’s what we tell them. That’s the truth. A school teacher? Cancer? Desperate for money? Roped into working for — unable to even quit?! You told me that yourself, Walt. Jesus, what was I even thinking? Walt, please, let’s both of us, stop trying to justify this thing and admit you’re in danger.”

Skyler’s assessment is absolutely accurate.

The One Who Knocks is not a description of who Walt is. It’s who he wants to be. It’s purely aspirational. Throughout most of the Season 4 he’s just as pathetic. He bluffs and yells, but nothing he do can really change his situation. Toward the end, as he lays helpless in the crawlspace, cackling at the absurdity of it all, as the phone rings with a warning, as the camera slowly shakily zooms out, as the composition shows Walt trapped in his own grave, there’s a percussive pounding, deep and slow, on the soundtrack.

It sounds a hell of a lot like knocking.

But Mr. White went into that crawlspace as Walt, and came out as “Heisenberg.” It’s as if, in those manic panicked moments in the crawlspace, he signed a deal with the devil, trading the tattered remains of his soul to finally truly become the One Who Knocks. He crosses even more moral boundaries, does even more horrible things. Manipulates. Poisons a child. Blows up a bomb in a nursing home.

It works. Through science and subterfuge, Walt topples the man who toppled the cartel. “It’s over. We’re safe,” Walt tells Skyler. “I won.”

At the start of the next season, he flicks a couple of switches, and suddenly he’s Carrie at Prom — paperclips slide, shelves topple, computers fly through the air, and the laptop evidence against him is magnetically erased. The very rules of physics bow before Heisenberg.

How do they even know that worked? Mike growls on the drive home.

“Because I say so,” Walt replies, voice drenched in arrogance and confidence. He’s Scarface through way of The Secret. The power of positive thinking erases all obstacles in his way. Seven episodes later and all he has to do is tell a couple of swastika-tattooed thugs to “figure it out” and 10 lives are snuffed out. That swagger continues through the next episode, where instead of hiding from his DEA agent brother when he suspects he knows, he confronts him, telling him to “tread lightly.”

But like all deals with the devil, it comes with a time limit. There’s a time the devil comes to collect. Walt loses his one-who-knocks mojo.

All his money and all his scheming and silver-tongued pleading are no match for a couple of white supremacists with semi-automatic guns. They shrug off his threats and his negotiations and his bribes. Breaking Bad seems to have answered the age-old philosophical debate of “Who would Win a Fight? Cavemen or Astronaut?” resoundingly in favor of the Neanderthals with the bigger clubs. Brute beats brain.

Walt knocks as hard as ever, even rings the doorbell a couple times, but nobody answers. No matter what he says, he’s rejected, ignored, or disparaged by absolutely everyone he knows. His wife wards him off, slashing at him with a kitchen knife. Walt’s son drops his crutches to wrestle his father to the ground. Baby Holly coos for her mother instead of her father.

Walt’s powers are even worthless with the sniveling lawyer Saul Goodman. “You remember what I told you,” Walt says, in his One Who Knocks voice. “It’s not over until I say…” and then he collapses into a fit of cancer-ridden coughing. Goodman exits for his own spinoff, and Walt doesn’t bother to follow.

And as he hides in a snow-covered cabin 2,200 miles away, with only Mr. Magorium and a $10,000-an-hour card dealer to keep him company, the danger he dismissed descends upon away from Albuquerque. Three separate home invasions of the sort Skyler feared pack the penultimate episode.

It’s no coincidence that it’s Nazi nephew Todd who’s the one who knocks on Andrea’s door.

Skyler’s nightmare plays out before Jesse’s eyes. Andrea, a total innocent, opens the door and she’s shot.

Knocking, however, is a courtesy. These thugs don’t feel bound by such politeness. They bash down the Schrader residence door off its hinges and take what they desire. They enter the White residence without appearing to open a door at all. As a breeze blows through the open window in the baby’s room, masked men cover Skyler’s mouth, threatening her, making her swear not to talk.

At any time, of course, Walt could have ratted out the Nazis. He knows where they live. He could have summoned a platoon of police officers to dismantle the entire operation. But that would have meant admitting that Skyler was right, that his family was in danger, that he had lost the power to protect them. That would have meant spending the last few months of his life behind bars.

And so, of course, it was wounded pride, not his love for his family, that catalyzed tonight’s return to Albuquerque.

It’s very possible that this final episode will allow Walt to ascend to the badass days of yore, that it will be one long hail of 50 cal bullets and ricin-dusted dishes. But I hope it’s not. I hope that Walt finally realizes who he is and who he isn’t. That he fully reckons with what he’s done. And that he’ll hear one last knock upon his door.

Do not ask for whom the door knocks, Walt. It knocks for thee.


How Breaking Bad Redeemed Its Worst Mistakes

Breaking Bad is the best TV show I’ve ever seen. Yet that greatness didn’t come from the absence of mistakes. Far from it. Breaking Bad had plenty of problems. The secret was: It fixed them. Showrunner Vince Gilligan and his writers have this incredible, alchemical talent to take their mistakes, their errors and the show’s weakest points and spin them into gold.

What does a man do, Walter?

A man controls. A man is feared. A man is respected — as a husband, as a father, as a genius, as a king, as a monster. A man makes money and cooks meth and deals death and builds empires. A man sells his soul to please his ego. A man knocks, and demands that doors open.

White and Black and Shades of Walt

For the first few episodes, I scoffed at how fast Walter decided, ‘Hey, I got cancer, might as well make meth.’ But by Season Two, I understood: Even before the cancer, Heisenberg — his simmering, unpredictable anger — had lurked inside Walter. And as the show progresses, the two sides, the milquetoast and the madman, begin bleeding together.

Top TV Show of 2010

Many shows have achieved greatness by following TV's rules and creating beautiful narratives within those rules. But Breaking Bad doesn't succumb to the whims of necessity. After Season Two ended, TV rules dictate that Walt would go straight back to cooking meth. Because that's the premise. Instead, it spent the first half of that season exploring the soul-sapping pain of a collapsing marriage.

And it did so ruthlessly.

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Perspectives on labeling genetically modified foods

Posted By on Sun, Sep 29, 2013 at 12:20 PM

An example of a European margarine labelthat indicates genetically modified ingredients.
  • An example of a European margarine labelthat indicates genetically modified ingredients.

This week’s cover story is about the debate over genetically modified food, and how this fall voters in Washington will decide this fall on Initiative 522, which would require labeling of food with genetically modified ingredients.

This type of labeling isn’t a new idea — it came up in the U.S. in the early ’90s when the federal government was considering how to regulate genetically modified foods, and consumers successfully pushed for labeling laws in many other countries. (Here’s the EU policy, for example.)

Here’s a comprehensive fact sheet from Colorado State University that outlines current policy and the most common arguments for and against. The nonprofit Center for Food Safety also has a lot of background information, from the pro-labeling perspective.

Since California voters considered a similar measure last year (and narrowly rejected it), the topic of labeling has come up a lot recently. State lawmakers in Connecticut and Maine voted for labeling legislation this year, but with the condition that it won’t go into effect until other states enact similar laws.

In general, people who are against GMOs are for labeling, and vice versa, but that’s not true across the board. Putting aside the specifics of the Washington state initiative — we’ll have more on that separately — here are some pieces that represent different perspectives on GMO labeling:

» Sen. Barbara Boxer of California has been a leading pro-labeling voice in Congress, and she joined other lawmakers with this letter in 2012. (A similar bill was introduced last year.)

“At issue is the fundamental right consumers have to make informed choices about the food they eat. Labeling foods doesn’t imply a product is unsafe or will be confusing to consumers as some may argue. The FDA requires the labeling of over 3,000 ingredients, additives, and processes; providing basic information doesn’t confuse the public, it empowers them to make choices. Absent labeling, Americans are unable to choose for themselves whether to purchase GE foods.”

» Tom Philpott, who frequently writes about the GMO debate for Mother Jones:

“I've written a lot about the hazards, potential and realized, that GM crops bring to bear: the complete domination of them by a handful of large companies, the accelerating pesticide treadmill on which they've placed farmers, and the still-little-tested potential health risks. For all of these reasons, I avoid GMOs, and would vote to require their labeling if I had a chance.

… I think the effort to label GMOs calls for the use of one of those admittedly unwieldy ballot initiatives. That's because at the national level, the GM seed/agrichemical giants, with their well-heeled lobbying efforts, have managed to stymie all other democratic means for reining them in.”

» He was writing in response to Kevin Drum, also writing for Mother Jones prior to the election last year:

“I’ll confess to mixed feelings about this. But I'm afraid mixed feelings mean a No vote. I respect the desire to know where your food comes from, regardless of whether you want to know different things than I do, but on a substantive level I'm not convinced that GM foods pose enough of a genuine hazard to rate detailed labeling laws that are etched in stone forever.

» Author and food reform advocate Michael Pollan wrote about the labeling vote in California as part of a larger movement of consumer awareness about the food system:

“What is at stake this time around is not just the fate of genetically modified crops but the public’s confidence in the industrial food chain. …The industry is happy to boast about genetically engineered crops in the elite precincts of the op-ed and business pages — as a technology needed to feed the world, combat climate change, solve Africa’s problems, etc. — but still would rather not mention it to the consumers who actually eat the stuff. Presumably that silence owes to the fact that, to date, genetically modified foods don’t offer the eater any benefits whatsoever — only a potential, as yet undetermined risk. So how irrational would it be, really, to avoid them?”

» New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, who opposes GMOs, wrote in favor of labeling around the same time:

“As things stand, you can find out whether your salmon is wild or farm-raised, and where it’s from, but under existing legislation you won’t be able to find out whether it contains the gene of an eel.

That has to change. We have a right to know what’s in the food we eat and a right to know how it’s produced. This is true even if food containing or produced using G.M.O.’s were the greatest thing since crusty bread.”

» David Zilberman, professor of agriculture and resource economics at Berkeley, wrote against Prop. 37 before the election (and also wrote this response to the comments he received).

“The public is divided among individuals who believe that GMOs are bad, others who think they are valuable, and many who are basically indifferent. The last group may not see the damage of requiring labeling of GMOs since they do not see the big loss. However, labels make a difference. A labeling requirement creates a stigma effect that will reduce the demand for GM products and may reduce investment in new GM traits. The net effect will be to slow the development of agricultural biotechnology, and this in turn may negatively affect health, the economy, and the environment. It is actually counter-productive to the many environmental and social goals that we cherish.”

» After the California measure failed, Christie Wilcox wrote about how labeling all GMOs the same way doesn’t really inform the consumer:

“The simple fact is that there is no evidence that GMOs, as a blanket group, are dangerous. There’s a simple reason for this: not all GMOs are the same. Every plant created with genetic technology contains a different modification. More to the point, if the goal is to know more about what’s in your food, a generic GMO label won’t tell you. Adding Bt toxin to corn is different than adding Vitamin A to rice or vaccines to potatoes or heart-protective peptides to tomatoes. If Prop 37 was really about informed decisions, it would have sought accurate labeling of different types of GMOs so consumers can choose to avoid those that they disapprove of or are worried about.”

» In the latest food-focused issue of Scientific American, the editors took a stand against labeling:

“At press time, GMO-label legislation is pending in at least 20 states. Such debates are about so much more than slapping ostensibly simple labels on our food to satisfy a segment of American consumers. Ultimately, we are deciding whether we will continue to develop an immensely beneficial technology or shun it based on unfounded fears.”

» Keith Kloor, who frequently writes about genetic engineering and the related debate on his Discover magazine Collide-a-Scape blog:

“Personally, I’m ambivalent about GMO labeling. I see right through the naked cynicism of the Right to Know campaign. It is totally disingenuous. On the other hand, as any student of Aikido or Tai Chi knows, redirecting the force of your attacker is an effective tactic. There is a case to be made that a GMO label on foods would neutralize the opposition and eventually pave the way to greater acceptance of biotechnology.”

» Kloor was responding to a guest post from author Ramez Naam, who says people who believe there is benefit in GMOs should support labeling:

“The only reasonable choice for GMO proponents now is to embrace labeling and help lead the process.  We should embrace it to help dampen consumer fear of GMOs.  We should embrace it to help shape the labeling system into a sensible one.  And we should embrace it because we have absolutely nothing to hide.”
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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Good Samaritans

Posted on Sat, Sep 28, 2013 at 8:24 AM

Thanks so much to the strangers (a girl and two guys) who helped corral the
black Lab in the Perry District on 9/17/13 at about 5pm. Also, thanks to
SpokAnimal for sending someone to pick up "Duke" so quickly. Hopefully
he'll be able to get back to his owners now!
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White House

Posted on Sat, Sep 28, 2013 at 8:24 AM

To the waitress with the pink phone sticking out of your back pocket at
the white house. I was the guy with glasses eating dinner with an elderly
lady friend. You are absolutely beautiful.
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My Friend

Posted on Sat, Sep 28, 2013 at 8:24 AM

SHE - cheers to recognizing that life has higher purpose than solely
realizing OUR immediate favor. Perhaps it is all part of the grand design
that enables us to inspire hope and dream? Cheers to you for showing how
deep love can be in this lifetime and beyond... forever free and without
boundaries, you remain an integral part of me. (there is always hope,) my
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The Way You Smell

Posted on Sat, Sep 28, 2013 at 8:24 AM

What is it with people and their nasty sprays/colones/perfume that causes
them to dump half the bottle onto themselves? You are making other people
sick with your clouds of insecurity. What, do you smell that bad that you
have to drench yourself in that crap? I've got the best solution for that,
stick with me now, I know this suggestion may have not reached your mind as
an idea but...TAKE A SHOWER. Don't go out smelling like you just walked out
of a perfume store. Nobody thinks you smell nice; everyone just thinks
you're an ass. Thanks for the asthma attacks people.
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