News

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Senate plan would cost 22 million Americans their health insurance, fires ignite in central Washington, and morning headlines

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 9:07 AM


ON INLANDER.COM


Alice Jacobs, a 90-year-old from Virginia, relies on Medicaid for health insurance. - KHUE BUI/THE NEW YORK TIMES
  • Khue Bui/The New York Times
  • Alice Jacobs, a 90-year-old from Virginia, relies on Medicaid for health insurance.
NEWS: 22 million more people would be left without health insurance by 2026 under the Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That's slightly better than the 23 million who would be left uninsured in the House health care bill. (New York Times)

HOOPFEST:
Check out these photos of NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant coming to Hoopfest on Sunday.

FOR FUN! Twenty-five unproven rumors about Spokane's potholes.

SPORTS: Just when we thought the Mariners were toast, a good month of June has fans' hopes up once again.


IN OTHER NEWS

Lighting strikes twice (and twice more)
Last night's storm was fun, and beautiful, but the lightning sparked fires in central Washington, burning an estimated 4,400 acres. Together, the fires in Douglas and Chelan counties are being called the Spartan Fire. (KHQ)

You've got mail, if you work for it
Mail delivery to one neighborhood in the Shadle area has been cut off due to safety concerns to the mail carriers. Now, those residents are being asked to go to the post office, something many have trouble with. (KHQ)

Say hello to the future
Washington can now say it has the first electric-vehicle-friendly scenic byway in the entire country, U.S. Highway 2 from Spokane to Everett. (Spokesman-Review)

Travel ban partially reinstated
In a small victory for the White House, the U.S. Supreme Court has permitted a limited version of President Trump's travel ban on those coming from six mostly Muslim countries. The justices will hear the the case in the fall. (Washington Post)
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Monday, June 26, 2017

NBA star Durant hits Hoopfest, Supreme Court to weigh in on Trump travel ban, and morning headlines

Posted By on Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 9:27 AM


ON INLANDER.COM


NEWS: Washington state lawmakers will likely let thousands of high schoolers who failed a "make-or-break" biology test get their diplomas anyway, by passing a bipartisan bill that Sen. Andy Billig (D-Spokane) praised.

NEWS: Less than a week after the Inlander published a cover story about Dr. Suzan Marshall and others who question decisions made by Spokane County medical examiners regarding their loved ones' deaths, Marshall received a letter alerting her that someone had filed a complaint with the state Department of Health, claiming she was "practicing beyond scope of practice."

FOR FUN: NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors surprised Hoopfest fans on Sunday, showing up to share a moment in the world's largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament.

WHAT'S UP: Pulp Fiction, CdA brew fest, the Love Dimension and more are on this week's schedule. Here's what else is happening.


IN OTHER NEWS
The Supreme Court intends to rule on a case involving Trump's travel ban this fall.
  • The Supreme Court intends to rule on a case involving Trump's travel ban this fall.


Less for more?
A UW study found that as Seattle's minimum wage is increasing in phases toward $15 an hour, workers are getting fewer hours and losing money, and the researchers estimate the city is losing out on low-paid jobs that it would otherwise have, the Seattle Times reports.

Supreme schedule
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review President Donald Trump's travel ban, reinstating it in part until the case is heard this fall. The court also agreed to hear a case involving a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. (Washington Post)
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Friday, June 23, 2017

Washington lawmakers will likely allow high school seniors who failed state test to graduate

Posted By on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 2:50 PM

news4-1.jpg

With thousands of high school seniors in jeopardy of not graduating because of one failed test, the state legislature has taken action to make sure those students get their diplomas.

Thursday, legislators announced they had come to an agreement on a bill that would allow high school students to graduate even if they failed an end-of-course biology test that was required for graduation. The full legislature is expected to pass the bill next week.

In a statement, Sen. Andy Billig (D-Spokane) praised the bipartisan bill.

"Our schools today perform at high standards and no one should become a dropout at the end of their senior year simply because they do not perform well on a single, make-or-break test," Billig said. "This bill offers a path to a better future for thousands of hard-working students in our state and I am glad lawmakers were able to come together and find common ground."

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Why Dr. Suzan Marshall says someone is trying to silence her

Posted By on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 12:52 PM

Suzan Marshall above the spot where her husband's body was found in the Spokane River last year. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
  • Young Kwak photo
  • Suzan Marshall above the spot where her husband's body was found in the Spokane River last year.

Dr. Suzan Marshall still doesn't know for sure what happened to her husband, John, whose body was found in the Spokane River in January 2016. Marshall, who is a surgeon, has been highly critical of the Spokane County medical examiners' work on her husband's case, as well as in several other death investigations.

John Marshall's death was ultimately ruled an accidental drowning by Spokane County Medical Examiner Dr. John Howard — a conclusion that Marshall disagrees with.

In the year and a half since her husband's death, Marshall has led an effort to identify other cases where families question the medical examiners' official rulings. Earlier this year, she filed a complaint against Howard and Dr. Sally Aiken, the county's other medical examiner, with the state Department of Health, citing her husband's case and three others. A Department of Health spokesman says a total of about 10 complaints have been filed against Spokane's pathologists. Marshall has also been vocal in her criticisms of law enforcement.

Now, Marshall says, someone is retaliating against her.

Less than a week after the Inlander published a cover story earlier this month that included Marshall's critical comments, she received a letter saying that someone had filed a complaint with the DOH accusing her of "practicing beyond scope of practice."

The letter dated June 14, 2017, says the Board of Osteopathic Medicine within the state Department of Health is investigating the complaint, but it does not identify who filed it, or what specific event triggered the alleged misconduct.

"We are bound by two different laws, which may seem in conflict," the letter reads. "The first requires that we immediately notify you that a complaint has been filed. The second, the whistleblower law ... prohibits us from identifying the name of the complainant until we have received a signed waiver allowing us to do so."

"It's absolutely about giving my opinions as a trauma surgeon on autopsies," Marshall says of the accusations against her. She notes that she is not currently treating patients or practicing medicine, though DOH records show that her medical license is active. "I'm not outside my scope, and I'm perfectly happy for the medical board to verify that for everybody."

DOH spokesperson David Johnson says complainants can remain anonymous, but that could limit the department's ability to fully investigate.

The Spokane County Medical Examiner's Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. We'll update this post if we hear back.

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Senate Republicans reveal health care bill, Baumgartner gets 2018 opponent, and other morning headlines

Posted By on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 9:44 AM

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may be happy, but experts worry that by eliminating the individual mandate, the Senate's proposed health care bill threatens to tank the individual market.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may be happy, but experts worry that by eliminating the individual mandate, the Senate's proposed health care bill threatens to tank the individual market.

ON INLANDER.COM


Shutdown looming

A rally yesterday in Spokane implored the Washington state legislature to come to some sort of agreement to prevent a government shutdown on July 1.

Impatient for change
Local civil rights leaders aren't happy with the pace of progress to fix inequities in the justice system.

Teacher vs. Baumgartner

Washington 6th District state Sen. Michael Baumgartner despises the state teachers union. Next year, he's going to face a teachers union member in the 2018 election.

Pot stops
With small amounts of marijuana no longer illegal in Washington, traffic stops resulting in searches have plummeted.

Zags duo drafted
Two Gonzaga players were selected in Thursday's NBA draft: forward/center Zach Collins was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers  after being picked 10th overall by the Sacramento Kings, and guard Nigel Williams-Goss was taken in the second round, 55th overall, by the Utah Jazz.


IN OTHER NEWS


Unfilled
The Spokesman-Review looks into why the city pays so very few pothole claims.

Justice delayed
Evidence that helped acquit Jason Obermiller of murdering a 2-year-old girl last year in Spokane was not disclosed by prosecutors until mere minutes before their last witness was called. (Spokesman-Review)

Kentucky Mitch and the spiral of doom
The Senate's health care bill threatens to send the individual market into the death spiral that Republicans were always warning about with Obamacare. (Vox)

Loss leader
Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, has overseen massive losses for her party and has become an easy target for Republican ad makers. But she doesn't think that should be held against her. (New York Times)

Putin's provocation
The Washington Post reveals the inside story of how President Obama struggled to figure out how to respond to Russian hacking in the final weeks of last year's election.
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Rally in Spokane urges state legislators to prevent looming state government shutdown

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 5:33 PM

Nikki Lockwood, a parent with children in Spokane Public Schools, addresses a crowd of more than 50 people yesterday in a protest against a looming state government shutdown at Parkview Early Learning Center. - BRAD BROWN
  • Brad Brown
  • Nikki Lockwood, a parent with children in Spokane Public Schools, addresses a crowd of more than 50 people yesterday in a protest against a looming state government shutdown at Parkview Early Learning Center.

As the state legislature inches closer to a potential government shutdown, members of the Spokane community rallied on Thursday to urge lawmakers to reach a budget deal.

With lawmakers having less than eight days to reach that deal, the All In For Action coalition hosted several protests across the state, blaming Senate Republicans for the state of stasis.

Pastor Andy CastroLang, from the Westminster Congressional United Church of Christ, was the first to take to the podium in front of a crowd of more than 50 people, stressing the importance of reaching a budget deal.

“Our budget is a moral document that reflects our values as a state,” says CastroLang. “It’s time for the Legislature to get its job done to ensure families throughout our communities do not suffer.”

If a deal isn’t reached by midnight on June 30, an estimated 32,000 state employees would stop receiving paychecks, nearly 11,000 camping reservation holders for the Fourth of july weekend will be notified of state park closures, and about 31,000 low-income, working families will lose child care payment assistance, according to the state Office of Financial Management (OFM).

“It’s time for the Senate to come to the table to avoid the devastating impacts that come along with a government shutdown,” says Luc Jasmin, director of Parkview Early Learning Center on North Division, where the rally was held.

“Thousands of families and kids depend upon not only childcare services from the state, but also access to food programs and other safety net programs. The devastating cuts in the Senate’s budget proposal are unacceptable, and it’s time for them to do what we teach our children — work together and find common ground.”

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Anti-teachers-union state senator Michael Baumgartner gets an opponent for 2018 — a local teacher

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 3:56 PM

Spokane Public Schools board member and Central Valley teacher Paul Schneider is challenging Washington State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, a Republican, for his 6th District seat.
  • Spokane Public Schools board member and Central Valley teacher Paul Schneider is challenging Washington State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, a Republican, for his 6th District seat.

It's safe to say that, at a minimum, Washington state Sen. Michael Baumgartner is not a fan of the Washington Education Association. Anyone who follows his Twitter page knows how he feels.

After all, Baumgartner has said that the WEA would "would make a banana republic dictator blush," and accused the Washington state Supreme Court — which ruled that the state is unconstitutionally underfunding education in the controversial McCleary decision — of being "mushy-headed WEA puppets."

Baumgartner also has asked if "[longtime Zimbabwean dictator Robert] Mugabe or [Russian President Vladimir] Putin" were advising the court, and tweeted out a picture of a hammer and a bag of sand, suggest that the court should go pound sand. (We would love to link to all these comments; Baumgartner, sadly, has developed a habit of regularly deleting the tweets on his account.)

"After seven years of being in the legislature, there is no special interest group more obtuse and self-serving than the teachers union," Baumgartner tells the Inlander. "There are a lot of great teachers in the state but the WEA is an impediment to improving education in Washington state... What the teachers union does, is that it always talks about these issues in a crisis for kids, when in reality what they’re solely focused on [is] teacher pay increases and union control."

But next year, Baumgartner will face off against a dues-paying member of the Washington Education Association — Central Valley teacher and Spokane Public Schools board member Paul Schneider — in the race for his 6th District seat.

"I don’t know that Michael has done what he needs to do for students in this state. For students in this region," Schneider says. "Honestly, on education issues, he has been one of the leading obstructionists."

Schneider points to the ongoing budget stalemate — which has threatened to trigger a state government shutdown on July 1 — as evidence of the need for someone who can seek compromise.

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Spokane community frustrated with racial, ethnic disparities in criminal justice system

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 2:00 PM

Spokane County Jail
  • Spokane County Jail

The statistics confirm what many in Spokane known for a long time. Racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system do exist, and it's not getting better.

In Spokane County, for example, African American and Native American adults in 2014 were detained before trial 6.7 times and 6.1 times more often than white adults, respectively, according to an analysis by the W. Haywood Burns Institute. The disparity in arrests for these three groups is similar: 4.5 African American and 5 Native American adults were arrested in Spokane County in 2014 for every one white adult.

And while the average length of stay in the Spokane County Jail, regardless of race, is 17 days, African Americans spend 25 days on average, Native Americans spent 21 days and white adults spent an average of 16 days, the Burns Institute found.

Last week, a band of community leaders and activists sent a letter to members of the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council expressing their building frustration with the pace at which the council is moving to address these disparities.

The letter, signed by 24 individuals, notes that only $20,000 of a $1.75 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation is earmarked for addressing racial and ethnic disparities. The grant is part of the foundation's nationwide Safety and Justice Challenge that also provides Spokane and 40 other cities with and access to resources, such as the Burns Institute.

"This seems to contradict the message that was communicated to the Spokane community members and stakeholders who participated in the grant application process," the letter reads. "And we are concerned that a year into the MacArthur grant's implementation, less emphasis has been placed on community engagement and racial equity than what was initially implied."

Spokane Regional Criminal Justice Administrator Jacquie van Wormer, who was heavily involved in writing the grant application, says she understands the concerns.

"If the community is frustrated about the data, I think everybody within the system is just as frustrated," she says. "But we are working on it. We hoped that we would be further along by now with that data process."

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Study: Marijuana legalization leads to fewer traffic stops by the Washington State Patrol

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 12:38 PM

A new study says Washington's legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012 has resulted in fewer scenes like this.
  • A new study says Washington's legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012 has resulted in fewer scenes like this.


Washington state has seen a sharp decline in the number of traffic stops resulting in searches by state police — a result of the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012,

a new analysis shows.

A team of Stanford University researchers with the Open Policing Project studied data for

more than 130 million state patrol stops in 31 states from 2011 to 2015, including 8,624,032 stops in Washington state, the largest collection of traffic stops to date. Digging through the numbers, they reached two major conclusions: after legalization, stops resulting in searches have gone down. This could potentially result in limiting the number of dangerous clashes between drivers and police, according to Stanford researchers.


But racial disparities still exist.

“After marijuana use was legalized, Colorado and Washington saw dramatic drops in search rates,” according to Stanford researchers. “That’s because many searches are drug-related. Take away marijuana as a crime and searches go down… In Washington and Colorado, far fewer people — both whites and minorities — are searched overall. However, the racial disparities in searches remain, and there is a persistent gap in the threshold for searching white and minority drivers.”

While the Stanford research showed substantial drops in the amount of searches for all racial groups, glaring racial disparities were still apparent for black and Hispanic drivers.

“When we apply the threshold test to our traffic stop data, we find that police require less suspicion to search black and Hispanic drivers than whites,” according to the Stanford researchers. “This double standard is evidence of discrimination.”

The Marshall Project and Reveal, a weekly radio program from the Center for Investigative Reporting, partnered to review the stop-and-search data, finding a 34 percent decrease in the search rate for black drivers, while the search rate for white and Hispanic drivers decreased by about 25 percent.

Yet racial disparities were still apparent before and after legalization. The Marshall Project analysis of Washington State Patrol data showed that black drivers were still searched roughly twice as much as white drivers, and Hispanic drivers were searched about 1.7 times as much as white drivers.

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New details from the psychologists behind the CIA's torture program, acquittal in toddler murder and morning headlines

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 9:56 AM


ON INLANDER.COM

NEWS:
These grannies have had it. For decades, the gaggle of quirky women (and men) have tried to call attention to global climate change with little effect. Now the 60- and 70-somethings have resorted to breaking the law. Next week, they'll make their case to a judge.

MUSIC: Ahead of Rhymin' Paul Simon's stop at the 
Paul Simon: Plays the Arena tomorrow night.
  • Paul Simon: Plays the Arena tomorrow night.
Spokane Arena tomorrow,  music editor Nathan Weinbender ranks his post-Simon and Garfunkel discography.

ECSTASY: When you unwittingly take the euphoric drug at a wedding in Australia, and Slayer is blaring, and the "joyous cherub" of a best man is not persuaded by your nihilistic worldview, there is peace.


IN OTHER NEWS

Verdict: not guilty
The man accused of beating a 2-year-old to death was acquitted yesterday. Jason Obermiller was charged with murder in the death of Adalynn Hoyt, the daughter of Lovina Rainey. He remains in Spokane County Jail, facing federal drug charges. Obermiller's attorneys say they believe Rainey and another man were involved in the child's death. (Spokesman-Review)

Repeal and replace
Senate Republicans released their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. It will begin to phase out Medicaid expansion by 2021, repeals the "individual mandate" that requires almost all Americans to carry health-care coverage, cuts taxes for wealthier Americans and bars Medicaid patients from getting treatment at Planned Parenthood. (Vox)

Psych docs' videos
Video depositions of the two psychologists said to be the architects of the CIA's torture interrogation program have been released. John Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, who had an office in Spokane, say they were pressed to continue the controversial interrogation tactics — such as waterboarding — despite their reluctance. Their statements in the newly released depositions clash with previous portrayals of the men as "eager participants," the New York Times reports.

"I think the word that was actually used is that 'You guys are pussies,'" Mitchell says in sworn testimony released as part of a federal lawsuit filed in Spokane. The ACLU sued the psychologists on behalf of former detainees.
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