Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 3:58 PM

After a hearing last week concerning a bill put forth by Washington state Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, Washington’s aircrafts are one step closer to becoming dependent on biofuel.

“I am encouraged by the widespread positive response to this legislation,” Brown said in a statement, adding that moving away from fossil fuels will provide a clean fuel that can be produced in the state, providing jobs. “On Monday, representatives from Boeing, WSU, the Department of Housing and Finance, the Department of Natural Resources, and Climate Solutions all testified in favor of this bill at a public hearing.”

The bill, if turned into law, will “support the development of commercial-scale aviation biofuels production facilities in Washington by facilitating and streamlining the permitting process for new facilities and the expansion of existing facilities and by providing access to low-cost financing through the issuance of revenue bonds.”

“Washington has an important role in the industry of biotechnology,” says Todd Woodard, spokesman for the Spokane International Airport.

Alaska Airlines, Boeing, Portland International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Spokane International Airport have been part of Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest (SAFN) an organization dedicated to promoting the use and development of biofuels in the Pacific Northwest.

“Washington State University is also a global leader in biotechnology,” says Woodard.

The high cost of importing fossil fuels from overseas has a great impact on an airline’s budget. The cost of fossil fuels in 2011 reduced the profit of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to $8.6 billion, a 46 percent decline in net profits from 2010’s $16 billion.

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Posted on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 3:33 PM

Jonathan Ellington was once again convicted of second-degree murder on Tuesday by a Kootenai County Jury. He was also found guilty of two counts of aggravated battery.

Ellington was originally convicted of the same charge in 2006, which resulted from the death of Vonette Larsen after a high-speed chase. Ellington had accosted Larsen's two daughters, leading to a chase which ended with Vonette Larsen getting run over.

Kootenai County Chief Public Defender John Adams called the verdict "the most unreasonable verdict I've ever seen" and vowed "absolutely" to appeal. 

The Idaho Supreme Court last year overturned Ellington's conviction, saying a crash reconstruction expert hired by prosecutors "very likely" lied on the stand. (Read The Inlander's previous coverage of the case here.)

Ellington's retrial started last month. The jury began deliberating last Friday and returned a verdict this afternoon.

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Posted on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 1:33 PM

James Pants released earlier this month a list of his Top 10 Musical Moments of Inspiration. The globetrotting DJ and former Spokanite, who now works for the Red Bull Academy in Cologne, Germany, writes that "this will be the year that we shed those fears and inhibitions that imprison us into submission and wilt our creativity."

To that end, he posted 10 exquisitely weird musical videos, each of which illustrates a different insight. Highlights include an improvisational performance on a "concerto generator," which, Pants claims, proves that "it is the size of one's will that determines success, not Pete Seeger," and a troupe of Mexican men dancing to baile-techno in absurdly sharp boots, which is supposed to teach us that "if your competition starts making pointy boots, you just make yours pointier. Do not accept defeat."

Here's the first video in his series:

Watch the rest

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Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 10:41 AM

Budget negotiations, water rate adjustments: big decisions involving lots of money that impact most, if not all, Spokanites.

The two issues also lay at the core of attempts by the newly minted Spokane City Council to assert its independence from both the Condon administration and city staff.

Council members spoke last week of engineering their own water rate adjustments in response to a plan due soon by Mayor David Condon's office.

"We should come up with our own rate structure" to counter any proposal made by Condon, Council President Ben Stuckart said at Thursday's study session. "That's how government works."

At Friday's council goals retreat — more like an imprisonment in the basement briefing room — council members expressed frustration that they have little time to react to budget proposals made by Spokane mayors.

"We received the info the same time the media did," said Councilman Jon Snyder, referring to the city's budget overview last May.

Councilman Steve Salvatori recommended asking Condon to allow a council representative to be present for the budgeting process. And Councilman Mike Allen said the council needs to get "our own info and our own analysis" on budget matters to exercise its autonomy from city staff and the mayor's office.

Whether any of those actions can be executed remains to be seen, though the council does plan on discussing its new water rate structure at an upcoming study session.

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Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 8:51 AM

Local News

Spokane City Council Recommends Legalizing Legal Marijuana –  No, Spokane hasn’t “legalized it.” The council has, however, unanimously signed a non-binding resolution recommending the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration reclassify marijuana to allow it to be legal with a prescription. (SR)

“No slightly-higher renewal of the same taxes!”  -- One group is attempting to defeat school levies in Spokane County. The curious thing: They haven’t identified their backers, or, according to KXLY, filed with the Public Disclosure Commission. (KXLY)

To-be-arrested development -- A Post Falls developer has a warrant out for his arrest. He didn’t appear in court after being accused of selling alcohol without a license. Also, he’s being sued and filed for bankruptcy. Bad times. (CDA Press)

Unlocal News

Supersized -- Colbert’s Super Pac has raised over $1 Million, or, 1/250th of Mitt Romney’s net worth. (Atlantic Wire)

As goes Florida -- With Florida voters voting tonight, a nation collectively wonders how much, exactly, Newt Gingrich will lose by. (NYT)

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Posted on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 3:06 PM

It's not often that Spokane gets written up in venerable national magazines without getting poked for being some backwards, backwater city.

But last week, The Atlantic wrote about the Lilac City — on its blog, at least — without making fun of us:

Earlier this month, we posed a simple question to about two-dozen cities of varying sizes and climates: How many snowplows do you have? Pretty straight-forward question, we figured. We expected – naively, it now turns out – that cities would get back to us with a single number. Almost none of them did.

Spokane, Wash., responded that they have 33 plow trucks, 10 graders, five de-icers, 11 de-icer/plows and seven sander/plows.

So it's not exactly fawning journalism, but still! 

The piece is an interesting read on how cities determine how many snow plows are needed during a winter. After crunching its data, the piece's author, Emily Badger, shows that Spokane has 1.16 snow plows per square mile. Compared to Calgary's .44 snow plows per square mile, that's pretty good. But next to New York City's 7.37, it's not.

In the world of winter weather events, we're famous. But remember, it's just snow, people.

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Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 2:19 PM

The Spokane City Council tonight will toke, er, take up whether the city should support a change to federal law so doctors can prescribe medical marijuana.

Council members will also vote tonight to decide whether a slew of neighborhood development plans should be endorsed. Included in the alphabet soup is a pedestrian and bike plan for Five Mile, an open space and parks plan for Southgate, and endorsing the planning efforts of the Nevada-Lidgerwood Planning Group

If you can sit still through all that, you might see the council vote on whether to support Mayor David Condon's Use of Force Commission.  

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Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 10:52 AM

This was the situation for me last season.  On a one year hiatus from the Inland Northwest, my adventures for last season took me to Stevens Pass.  I was there for many reasons, none of which seem important to me today.  Early season snowfall in large proportions and busy bartending shifts made the daily commute from the small town of Leavenworth tolerable.  I made it through the busy holiday season grinning ear to ear.  Then came the hangover.  January brought weeks upon weeks of rain.  The totals that are imprinted in my brain are; 17" of rain for the month, 13" of which fell over Martin Luther King weekend and not one measurable inch of snow the entire month.  It was all worth it as I had the best ski day of my life the following month where 14" - bottomless of 6% moisture content snow fell overnight with no wind which made me a believer that SPKA (Stevens Pass Kicks Ass).

I do remember the day it all turned around.  I was making my daily 35 mile commute to the Pass after 31 days of seeing no snow line when all of a sudden, I drove around one of the last bends on Hwy 2 before reaching the Stevens Pass summit and there it was, the illusive snow line.  Over the course of the next month, with moisture in the forecast the snow line was never an issue.  We had our winter back.

This season, the snow line has been fluctuating in 1000 foot increments on a regular basis.  When I see that swing, it has the same effect on my heart.  Last week, while on a birthday trip to Whitefish Mountain Resort, we opted to stay on the lake at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.  I receive about 10 email ski reports, none of which were from Whitefish (I do now).  I religiously open the Schweitzer report first as it is my home mountain.  I was saddened to see that they had received 4 inches followed by rain.  With this information, I was a little skeptical about the conditions at Whitefish.  I immediately went from surfing email reports to surfing the web for the local conditions.  The snow reporter mentioned "the snow line" being at Ptarmigan Village (about half way up to the resort).  He also mentioned the 8" of fresh snow that had fallen overnight.  As we exited the lodge to load up the truck I glanced up at the mountain formerly known as Big Mountain and to locals as "the Big", I noticed and exhaled in a sigh of relief noting the snow line well below the village at Whitefish.  

I love the beauty of the snow line. 

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Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 10:03 AM

‘Round These Parts

Your Pepperoni or you Life -- A man with a knife, making slashy-slashy motions, robbed a pizza delivery man of four out of the five pizzas he was carrying Sunday night. Which poses the question: What sort of sick, twisted madman doesn’t take the fifth pizza? (SR)

Coppers search for Copper Caper Criminals – A reward has been offered to seek information about the thieves of copper wire in Post Falls. The theft caused $10,000 in damage. (CDA Press)

The Lilac Revolution -- A new Lilac Queen has been crowned. Sydnee Scofield of Central Valley High School Queen has not been asked whether she will execute her competitors, scatter their ashes to the wind, and exile their families deep into the Palouse. (KREM)

‘Round Those Parts

Occupy Wall Street’s back, baby -- With the acceleration-factors of technology, now Americans feel “nostalgia” for more and more recent times. Like, remember those halcyon days of 2011, when we were young, and hordes of protesters would march on our capitols and our financial institutions, condemning income inequality and the power of the rich? Well, things have gotten pretty retro lately, with Occupy Oakland’s violent protest spurring 400 arrests and awakening the “Occupy” movement from its slumber. (MSNBC)

Worker drones -- America is out of Iraq. And by “America” we mean, actual flesh-and-blood Americans, not, it turns out, Machine-Americans, like the drones that watch the skies overhead. Already, the drones have angered several Iraqi officials. (NYT)

Complete reformat -- The Great MegaUpload Purge continues, with constant episodes of HBO’s Deadwood and DVD rips of “Bridesmaids” being held hostage. The latest problem to arise after the arrest of the file sharing sites eccentric CEO and seizure is that the site, famous for sundry full-length DVD quality copyright violations, actually held some legitimate material. Now, those files could be erased. (Atlantic Wire)

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Posted By on Fri, Jan 27, 2012 at 4:37 PM

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is asking for help in arresting a man suspected of robbing a Medicine Shoppe pharmacy in Deer Park twice last month.

Deputies are looking for a tall and thin white male in his early 20s, standing between five-feet-four-inches and five-feet-six-inches in height, according to a statement from the sheriff's office.

“If you see something suspicious, tell someone,” says sheriff's office spokesman Mark Gregory. “We can’t do anything if we don’t get reports.”

The robberies took place on Dec. 5 at approximately 4:40 p.m. and Dec. 30 at 4:00 p.m.

In the first robbery, the suspect demanded OxyContin, though in the second robbery, he asked for "pain medication," according to the statement. Gregory says he used a silver-colored pistol in the robbery.

Gregory says the medications stolen are typically either sold or used by the suspect.

“When pharmacies are robbed it’s usually for the medications and they don’t seem to go after cash,” says Gregory, adding that oxycontin is the most commonly stolen drug.

Pharmacy robberies have become increasingly common, with the Drug Enforcement Administration reporting a 79 percent increase since 2006, according to the New York Times.

In 2010, there were several pharmacy robberies in the Spokane area, including of an Albertsons in Millwood. 

“We had some a few years back, but we caught the suspects,” says Gregory. “Nationally pharmacy robberies might be an issue, but locally at this point it isn’t hugely common.”

The sheriff’s office asks anyone who can help identify the suspect to call Crime Check at 456-2233.

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American Inheritance: Unpacking World War II @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

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