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God Hates Who? 

A visit from the Westboro Baptist Church. Plus, old folks rock the vote.

click to enlarge Army veteran Mike Ehredt has been running since May 1 to honor fallen soldiers.
  • Army veteran Mike Ehredt has been running since May 1 to honor fallen soldiers.
‘VAIN, SELFISH, SINFUL … ’

It’s a surefire blueprint for media publicity. Swing through a city, throw out some incendiary rhetoric, pepper a few area colleges with hit-and-run half-hour picketing sessions and reap the massive exposure that comes from the outrage and much larger counter-protests.

On Oct. 21, the Westboro Baptist Church — the chaps with the unique theological belief that God punishes America because He hates gays and Jews, among others — is following its blueprint in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. On its website, it announces protests of Gonzaga University, Whitworth University, Rogers High School, Eastern Washington University, the Synagogue Chavurat HaMashiach, and, get this, Moody Bible Institute. On Oct. 22, it’ll hit up Coeur d’Alene and Lake City High Schools before targeting the Laramie Project production at North Idaho College.

The rationale varies. High school students are “vain, selfish, sinful, violent, lusty, God-hating, brats who turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness.” Whitworth University students — on a campus that prohibits alcohol — “spend more time pursuing their drunken sins than their academic studies.” Moody Bible Institute is full of collection plate-obsessed “false prophets” Almost immediately at the announcement, dozens of Facebook groups popped up, as Spokane’s citizens discussed exactly how to respond to the Westboro protesters.

Do we set up a large-scale counter-protest? Do we spend time, instead, offering support to gay students? Or do we just ignore them until they leave? (Daniel Walters)

RUN, MIKE, RUN

Army veteran Mike Ehredt has been chugging across America at a pace of roughly 11 minutes per mile since May 1, when he started at the Pacific Ocean near Astoria, Ore. How far will that get you?

In a Facebook post last Thursday, Ehredt writes, “Left New York behind today (same) as I came in 13 days ago ... in the rain. Now into Vemont ... 4056 miles are complete. 363 miles to go!!! Can almost smell the ocean!!” Check out the Locate Mike link at the website projectamericarun.com. Click the right-side arrow a couple of times and the Atlantic comes into view.

Ehredt is making the run to honor every single American soldier who died in Iraq — a number that currently stands at 4,424. Every mile along his route, Ehredt has stopped to place a small American flag in the ground. Attached is a yellow ribbon with the name, age, rank and hometown of one of the fatalities.

Ehredt has organized the flags in reverse chronological order, so that by the time he reaches his last mile at the shores of the Atlantic Ocean near Rockland, Maine, the one flag he has left will be for the first soldier to die in Iraq: Marine Maj. Thomas Jay Aubin.

He will reach the Atlantic Ocean in a week. The Inlander intends to locate the flags of all the soldiers with local ties who died in Iraq. A couple years ago, there were more than two dozen. Do we know them all? If there is a soldier who lost his or her life in Iraq that you think we need to know about, e-mail [email protected] (Kevin Taylor)

GERIATRICS VOTE, YOUTH SHRUG

One lesson coming out of the August primary is this: Young people still couldn’t give a damn about what happens in government. Even after Obama, the Tea Party and all the other random crap that’s made politics — if not fun again, at least — entertaining.

This simple fact was proven last week by Secretary of State Sam Reed, whose office wrote up a blog post with a handy spreadsheet breaking down the vote by county, gender and age.

Almost 4,000 people below the age of 25 in Spokane County voted in last month’s primary. That’s only 3.5 percent of the ballots cast. Another 6,600 folks between the ages of 25 and 34 voted — just 5.9 percent. (The ladies outperformed the dudes in both age groups.)

Way to go, youth of America. You — and by you, I mean me and a bunch of us here at Inlander HQ — let folks over the age of 35 cast more than 90 percent of the votes.

And not to scare you or anything, but as the age groups get progressively older, their members’ love of voting grows. So do the groups’ power over you. (Because, again, you’re not voting.)

The group with the greatest civic participation? Those 65 and older. More than 38,000 senior citizens voted. More than three of them voted for every one person younger than 35. So, prepare yourself for a never-ending Tea Party. (Nicholas Deshais)

WHITWORTH WELCOME

To welcome its new president, Beck Taylor, Whitworth University has organized a week of events, including speakers and panels, open to the public. On Oct. 11 at 7 pm, Inlander Editor and Publisher Ted S. McGregor Jr. will be part of a big old panel at the Bing Crosby

Theatre, discussing “what it takes for Spokane to be a community of courage.” Other big names on the panel are Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, attorney Breean Beggs and Betsy Cowles of KHQ-TV.

There are other events, including an appearance by political commentator Michelle Bernard (Oct. 13, 7 pm at Weyerhaeuser Hall on campus). Check www.whitworth.edu/inauguration for details — including the inauguration itself on Oct. 15 at 3 pm at the Whitworth Fieldhouse. (Daniel Walters)

KIDS AND E-SMOKING

They aren’t cigarettes, not really. There’s no tobacco streaming out from e-cigarettes, just water vapor and nicotine. But the Spokane Regional Health District has passed a resolution encouraging Spokane-area lawmakers to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

“We are in an awkward position. I want people to quit smoking, but I don’t know enough about this product,” says Christopher Zilar, program manager for tobacco prevention at the Spokane Regional Health District. “Even if someone were able to quit with the product, would they then become addicted to this product, and would there be some long-term health effects?” E-cigarettes are relatively untested. The FDA has not approved them, Zilar says, despite the claims of some manufacturers. There’s no proof of how much nicotine is being delivered. There haven’t been studies yet saying they’re effective at helping people quit smoking.

“What we do know is nicotine is a highly addictive substance,” Zilar says. “You’ll find agreement about protecting youth for something that’s addictive.”

And despite claims from vendors that they do not sell electronic cigarettes to minors, Zilar says, minors were sold e-cigarettes in 90 percent of attempts. (Daniel Walters)

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