We’ve been watching the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree for the past month as it was cut from the Colville National Forest, stopped in Spokane and then continued across the country for its place of honor outside the Capitol building.
So it was exciting to see it today, all decked out with handmade ornaments and ready for its lighting ceremony. The bipartisan festivities began at 5 pm eastern time in Washington D.C., and the full video is now posted on C-SPAN. The lucky little guy who got to help flip the switch is Colville first-grader Giovanni Gayner.
But if you don’t feel like watching the full program, here’s the before-and-after. So pretty.
Despite losing his bid for Spokane City Council by nearly 6,000 votes, former state Rep. John Ahern has requested — and is paying for — a hand recount of four South Hill precincts totaling just over 1,700 ballots.
In a phone call with the Inlander today, Ahern refused to say why he's asking for the recount.
"I've really been instructed to keep quiet on this thing right now," he said. "Give me a call after the recount."
County Auditor Vicky Dalton says her office will set the final details tomorrow, but she expects the recount to be completed Monday. State law allows candidates to request recounts, but requires them to pay the cost of elections office employees' time and benefits if the race is within more than one-half of 1 percent.
Ahern paid a $429.50 (25 cents per vote) deposit to request the recount, and Dalton says his total cost will likely be around $1,500.
The precincts in which Ahern is requesting recounts (3219, 6219, 6225, 6220; see map here) are not necessarily those in which the results were the closest, so it remains unclear what his campaign may hope to glean from a recount.
Councilman Jon Snyder, who won the race against Ahern with 64.46 percent of the vote, says he's "not sure what they hope to find out" with the recount and he doesn't expect it to have any impact on the election because of his wide margin of victory. Spokane County GOP Chariman Ben Oakley says the party is not affiliated with Ahern's request and he does not know Ahern's reasoning.
"I don't get it," Oakley says.
Over the weekend, a few complaints started trickling in to First Night Spokane, the giant family-friendly New Year's bash, about their ads running with the Rush Limbaugh Show on KQNT, a local talk radio station that’s also host to Sean Hannity and and Glenn Beck. Limbaugh is notorious for his sexist, racist and homophobic diatribes, even in the less-than-polite world of talk radio.
First Night Spokane acted immediately, posting this in response to complaints on Facebook:
“First Night Spokane takes pride in being a family friendly, diverse, non-discriminatory New Year’s Eve event in downtown Spokane and in no way condones or supports the comments made by Rush Limbaugh or others associated with the Rush Limbaugh talk show, therefore we are pulling any programming of promotional information regarding our event from this station.”
Executive Director Lona Barnum says it was a swift decision for the board. The organization doesn’t take political stances, she says, but they do care a lot about listening to the community and representing local families.
“We pay a lot of attention to our constituents,” she says.
Nationwide, dozens of other companies and organizations have received similar complaints about their ads running with Limbaugh’s show. It’s part of a liberal grassroots effort, led by Stop Rush and Flush Rush, that took hold in 2012 after Limbaugh called Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” after Republican congressmen refused to let her testify on birth control coverage.
On its site, Stop Rush keeps a constantly updated list of advertisers and their contact information. Companies and organizations that have pulled their ads after pressure from consumers include Disney On Ice, Citibank, CVS, Papa John's, H&R Block and CNN. The activists’ goal is to eventually push Limbaugh off the air for lack of willing sponsors.
Many of the advertisers say they were unaware their ads would run during the show, and that’s what happened to First Night Spokane. Like most ad buys, it was part of a package deal, and Barnum says they’ve learned it’s important to have a discussion up front about what’s acceptable for your organization.
“I think you have to be really clear about who you want to align yourself with,” she says.
As 2014 approaches, you’ll continue to hear radio ads for First Night Spokane on other stations — but no longer with Rush.
Those rascally cyber bandits who screwed with local grocery stores' credit card processing systems have been blocked. But you should still keep an eye on your bank account. (Spokesman)
More about the people who serve coffee in their underwear and why we're supposed to care about that. (KREM)
Why would a mother and a son in Spokane Valley attack the cops? Because they were on meth, of course! (KHQ)
That Christmas tree cut from the Colville National Forest is getting all lit up tonight in Washington, D.C.
The Seattle Seahawks were all like "Hey, America. We're up in the top left corner and you better pay attention to us" on Monday Night Football last night, destroying the allegedly good New Orleans Saints. Chances of the Hawks playing their playoff games at the loudest stadium in NFL history are good. (Seattle Times)
Everyone is talking about how Amazon wants to use flying robots to deliver you the stuff you buy from Amazon.
Here is Eddie Vedder encouraging you to run for Spokane County Commissioner.
The vote on Washington’s Initiative 522 may be over, but the battle over labeling genetically engineered foods isn’t finished. We recently wrote about where the fight in Washington goes from here, and there’s a good chance we may see it on the ballot again.
Some people think any step toward labeling is positive, and others would never support labeling of genetically modified food. (We summarized some different positions here.) But the worst case scenario would be passing a labeling law that has at least some cost and then discovering it doesn’t really tell us anything at all. So here are a few ways to write a smarter labeling law that could probably get broader support.
1. Put the label with the rest of the ingredients information.
Washington’s initiative had the requirement that the GMO label be put prominently on the front of the package, which makes it seem more like a scarlet letter than useful information. (Even California’s very similar Prop. 37 only required front labels for “raw agricultural products,” such as whole sweet corn.)
Because I’m a skeptical consumer and a vegetarian, I’m used to going straight for the nutrition facts and ingredients every time I pick up a product at the grocery store. I imagine a lot of the people who believe in the “right to know” are the same way. So a label on the front of the package is not helpful, it’s inconvenient. Most countries that require GMO labeling include it as part of the ingredients, and that’s the way to go. Proponents say the label isn’t a “scare tactic,” it’s about more information — if that’s true, it would be much better to put it where those of us who care are already looking.
2. Ditch the emotional manipulation and shaky science.
Throughout the election season, the Yes on 522 campaign was very careful not to outright say that you should be afraid of genetically modified food. That’s mostly likely because the scientific consensus is that GMO food is not harmful to human health. But plenty of people have their doubts, which why there’s a push for labeling in the first place, and the Yes campaign didn’t do much to disguise how their organizers and donors really felt. (Some amount of theatrics is to be expected in politics — but delivering the signatures to the statehouse in an ambulance, really?)
More troubling, though, is the connection between labeling supporters and other fringe groups. Dr. Mercola, one of the top donors, is a natural medicine guru who preaches against vaccines and fluoridation while peddling products that consistently get him in trouble with the FDA for making unfounded health claims. (For comparison, the Dr. Bronner’s reason for supporting I-522 is much more reasonable.) The cost study the campaign featured most prominently was commissioned by the Alliance for Natural Health, which counts “vaccine choice” among its top causes and fights regulation of dietary supplements.
Most of labeling campaigns’ top donors are organic companies that would benefit if consumers are scared away from non-organic brands, which makes sense. But the GMO labeling movement often gets dismissed by critics as “anti-science,” and labeling supporters need to take a hard look at the ties to groups promoting unfounded (and dangerous) health claims and denounce them as needed, otherwise there’s a large segment of moderate and conservative voters who aren’t ever going to take it seriously.
3. Require a more reasonable threshold.
The way I-522 was written, it allowed that processed foods could have a very tiny amount of genetically modified material — 0.9% of the total, by weight — without being labeled. Until 2019. Then the threshold expires and presumably drops to zero.
Whenever we talk about keeping something out of the food supply, we’re really talking about thresholds. The FDA has a whole publication called the Food Defect Action Levels that lists how much “insect filth” is allowed in peanut butter, or how many rodent hairs are allowed in spices. These thresholds are very, very low. Another comparison is the new FDA standard for “gluten-free,” which sets the threshold at 20 parts per million.
The “zero threshold” was a talking point for the No on 522 campaign, but it’s valid. The European Union labeling laws allow for the 0.9% threshold, as does the Non-GMO Project. The reason: Keeping agricultural products entirely separate during production, transportation and processing is very difficult and very costly. There’s no realistic way to achieve a zero threshold without entirely removing GMO commodities from the food supply — again, something labeling supporters may want, but that’s a goal that goes far beyond the issue of consumer choice.
4. Make it national.
Labeling supporters frame the issue as the “right to know,” and they’re using the same state-by-state strategy that’s worked in the past for civil rights issues. But regardless of the phrasing, GMO labeling is ultimately more about commerce than rights — and that requires a consistent, national approach.
Many of the large food manufacturers that fight labeling laws sell food worldwide, including countries in Asia and Europe that require labeling. So it’s not like they’re incapable of dealing with this. But the influx of cash in Washington state is just further evidence that they’re not going to acquiesce at the state level. A patchwork of laws that vary a bit from state to state is an organizational nightmare — and local producers are right to worry that it would put them at a disadvantage. (There’s a reason the states that have actually passed GMO labeling laws this year wrote them in such a way that they don’t go into effect until other states get on board.)
Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association — top donors against labeling efforts — have made public statements about being open to a national law that’s in line with other FDA regulations. And while that may not be entirely genuine, a national law has a much better chance of gaining support from the business community.
5. Consider a label that would tell you more.
A blanket GMO label treats genetically modified food like a simple, black-and-white issue. Either it’s a GMO, or it’s not. If you consider all genetically modified food bad, then this makes sense. But if you actually want to know more about your food, these blanket labels are frustratingly unhelpful.
Which ingredient is genetically modified? What proportion? Is it an ingredient from one of Monsanto’s crops designed to resist pesticides? Or modified for other reasons? What trait was it genetically modified for? Does the part of the plant that was modified actually carry over to the food product?
The momentum is with the GMO issue, but there are many other aspects of food production that seem just as important to know if you’re curious about the content and production of your food: What pesticides were used? Where was it grown? How were ingredients stored and treated? (A new law that just went into effect requires meat to be labeled with the countries where the animal was raised and slaughtered, though it's not yet clear whether shoppers will care.)
At minimum, a useful label should identify which ingredients are genetically modified so consumers can do further research on their own. Otherwise the whole thing is a fight for the right to know very little.
Approximately 1,000 union nurses and hospital support workers expect to hold a one-day strike outside Valley Hospital and Deaconess Medical Center on Wednesday after a year of stalled negotiations over staffing levels and other working conditions.
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, which represents nurses and staff at both hospitals, has voiced serious concerns about how the hospitals schedule and assign workers, arguing employees are routinely left dangerously shorthanded. Workers have also cited issues with how sick days get counted and how often they can be sent home from shifts.
After nearly a year of negotiations, the union set a strike deadline for 5:59 am Wednesday. SEIU spokeswoman Julie Popper says the management bargaining team today "canceled" negotiations for Tuesday, making an agreement by the Wednesday deadline unlikely.
"We're going on strike," she says. "That's it."
Popper says the union represents approximately 500 nurses, nurse assistants, sterile processors, technicians and housekeeping workers at Valley Hospital with another 450 employees at Deaconess. Workers expect to "walk out" at 6 am Wednesday, picketing outside for 24 hours before returning to work Thursday morning.
Sasha Weiler, communications director for Deaconess and Valley, says both hospitals will be prepared for the strike and will make accommodations to ensure all services continue as normal.
"We're planning to take care of our patients that day," she says.
A statement from Weiler says hospital physicians will continue working. The hospitals have also scheduled temporary workers with proper credentials and licenses to stand in for union workers.
"The hospitals expect a peaceful demonstration," the statement adds, "but have taken the precaution of engaging additional security to assist during the strike and picketing."
Union leaders plan to hold a strategy session this afternoon to make picket signs and practice chants. They will then prepare for the walk out at 6 am Wednesday. Popper says the union will maintain a 24-hour presence outside the hospitals during the strike.
A community support rally is scheduled for 4 pm Wednesday outside Valley Hospital. Another rally is set for 5:30 am Thursday before workers return to work.
Teri Nicholson, a registered nurse at Valley, says union members had been hopeful they could avoid a strike. As a member of the bargaining team, she says many were disappointed today. They hope the demonstration will bring managers back to the table in "good faith."
"They just keep dragging their feet," she says.
Nicholson says the union previously threatened a strike during its last contract negotiation in 2010, but it was avoided by a last-minute contract agreement finalized just hours before the strike deadline.
"We've been in this position before," she says. "[But] they've never let it go this far."
For the past five years, the Spokane Police Department has played a hockey game against the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office to raise funds for the Behind the Badge Foundation and Chiefs Care. The Behind the Badge Foundation honors and supports Washington state law enforcement personnel who have been seriously injured in the line of duty and their family members in the case of death. Chiefs Care provides continuing education for Spokane Chiefs players.
According to the hockey game founder, Bradley Moon, “It was supposed to be a one time deal. But, the Spokane Chiefs came back, thought it was a good event and wanted it to continue.”
The original game was played to provide support for the families of four Lakewood police officers killed in a coffee shop in 2009. The hockey game raises an average of $3,000 through a silent auction that takes place during the game.
This year, the Spokane Police Department won 5-1 in front of 800 people.
A truck crashed through a fence at Fairchild Air Force Base on Sunday night; the 22-year-old driver was arrested for driving under the influence. (KREM)
A man unsuccessfully attempted to hide his meth in ice cream. (S-R)
Pearl Jam returned to Spokane for the first time in more than 20 years, with a set list selected by Steve Gleason. (Inlander)
Actor Paul Walker, known for the Fast & Furious movies, died in a fiery car crash after a charity event. (LA Times)
A police helicopter crashed into a crowded pub in Glasgow late on Friday, killing the crew of three and six people in the pub. (BBC)
A commuter train derailed in the Bronx on Sunday morning, killing four passengers, and officials say the crash was likely speed-related. (NYT)
Four people died in a plane crash in a remote part of western Alaska. Rescuers were guided to the site by a survivor whose infant son died in the crash. (CNN)
Huge protests continue in Ukraine after the president decided to abandon a trade agreement with the European Union. (Reuters)
The panda cub at the National Zoo was named Bao Bao, which means “precious” or “treasure.” (WaPo)
Want a fair share of corporate profits? Buy shares of stock that pay dividends. Better…
Might want to have reconsidered legalizing pot. It is a stone around the city's neck…
It's so infuriating listening to these mega corporations making billons of dollars, and paying their…
Love the Grumpy Cat plushie!
Luke Williams Sr. was their father.