Thursday, June 22, 2017

Spokane community frustrated with racial, ethnic disparities in criminal justice system; officials say progress coming, slowly

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


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.


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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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

$55 million returns zero change in Georgia, Alaska fishermen no match for gangs of whales, and morning headlines

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 9:39 AM

Gangs of unusually aggressive orcas are making life increasingly miserable for fishermen in Alaskan waters.
  • Gangs of unusually aggressive orcas are making life increasingly miserable for fishermen in Alaskan waters.


NEWS: A carbon tax proposed by the right-leaning Climate Leadership Council could result in a monthly dividend check for Americans, courtesy of Big Oil.

MUSIC: Foo Fighters haven't played Spokane in 14 years, but they're coming to the Arena in December; tickets go on sale next Thursday.

NEWS: Advocates for coal and wind energy have found common ground: A push to lower the cost of moving power through Bonneville Power Administration lines in Montana.


Georgia seat stays red

Georgia's 6th Congressional District, held by Republicans since Newt Gingrich's victory in 1988, will remain in GOP hands after Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff in a special election in the suburban Atlanta district; $55 million was spent on the race, the most expensive House contest ever. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution/New York Times)

Democrats are now 0-for-4 in House races this year: Where do they go from here? (Vox)

A secret no more?
Tomorrow, Senate Republicans will finally release a draft of their attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, according to NPR. It may not matter, says the New York Times; a GOP rift over Medicaid and the national opioid epidemic could scuttle the proposed legislation before it even comes up for a vote.

The Jets, the Sharks... and the Whales
Organized groups of aggressive orca and sperm whales are harassing fishing boats in Alaskan waters and and devouring their catches; one boat owner likened them to a "gang.” (The Province)

Acting great says 'farewell'
Daniel Day-Lewis, the only man to win three Academy Awards as Best Actor, announced his retirement from acting at age 60, ending a career of more than 35 years. (New York Times)

Desert scorcher
Think it's hot around here on the first full day of summer? Be glad you're not in Phoenix, where it'll be at least 40 degrees hotter, with highs expected to hit 120°. (Arizona Republic)

Seven things to know about the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. (Vox)
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Want to get a check from big oil every month? They think you should

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 3:37 PM

Major companies that have pushed back on carbon tax plans here and in other places took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal today to pitch an idea: tax carbon.

Yep. You read that right.

ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, and major corporations including Unilever, Procter & Gamble and General Motors, announced their support of a plan by the Climate Leadership Council on Tuesday, June 20.

The plan would tax carbon dioxide emissions starting 
  • Climate Leadership Council
at $40 a ton.

The proceeds of the tax would go straight back to the American people on a "monthly basis via dividend checks, direct deposits or contributions to their individual retirement accounts," according to the council.

That could mean a family of four would get $2,000 in dividend payments in the first year, the council's site states.

The nation would agree to tax the carbon we emit, and have that rate increase over time in order to promote a decrease in emissions.

So, what's the catch?

Well, for one, the cost of that tax would be passed onto you, the consumer, in higher gas and fossil fuel prices.

Oh, and one of the pillars of the plan is "significant regulatory rollback," which, depending on where you stand, could be a good or bad thing.

Over time, the EPA would lose power and authority to regulate carbon dioxide, and the Clean Power Plan would be repealed:

"The final pillar is the elimination of regulations that are no longer necessary upon the enactment of a rising carbon tax whose longevity is secured by the popularity of dividends. Much of the EPA’s regulatory authority over carbon dioxide emissions would be phased out, including an outright repeal of the Clean Power Plan. Robust carbon taxes would also make possible an end to federal and state tort liability for emitters. To build and sustain a bipartisan consensus for a regulatory rollback of this magnitude, the initial carbon tax rate should be set to exceed the emissions reductions of current regulations."

The plan, put out in February, was authored by a group of conservative leaders that includes former secretaries of state, presidential economic advisers, businessmen and founders of the Climate Leadership Council.

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Groups push Bonneville Power to drop transmission fee and encourage wind development in Montana

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 11:51 AM

A segment of BPA's utility lines where groups are asking that a transmission fee be dropped. - JEFF FOX
  • Jeff Fox
  • A segment of BPA's utility lines where groups are asking that a transmission fee be dropped.

What can bring supporters of wind and coal together? A push to drop the cost of moving power across a small eastern Montana segment of the Bonneville Power Administration's 15,000-mile network.

Currently, there's about a $2 fee per megawatt hour to use a 90-mile portion of the public utility's network that runs from Townsend to Garrison, Montana.

That fee, added to the normal network charge, could make a huge difference in the bottom line for companies using that line, argue groups that want the BPA to drop the fee.

Most of the capacity on that segment is used by the Colstrip power plant east of Billings, but 184 megawatts have been unused for more than three decades, something politicians on both sides of the aisle in Montana and Washington point to as a sign that the fee should be dropped to encourage more development and use of that line.

But BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer opted to keep the fee in place in a draft of the rates to be charged next year that was released last week.

Supporters of wind development, including the Sierra Club and Renewable Northwest, want BPA to take another look at the fee before the final draft is released in late July.

"For Montana to remain an energy exporting state," a critical achievement "is for them to be focusing their attention on where they have a product their West Coast buyers want: that’s wind," says Doug Howell, senior campaign representative with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.

"This fee is a barrier to wind development," Howell says. "If we can knock that out, we have a much better chance."

Though it may sound small, a $2 fee per MWh can be the tipping point to make a project affordable or not, Howell says.

"I think this is a case of an agency that either doesn’t know about the challenges Montana faces in transitioning our energy economy, or doesn’t care," says Jeff Fox, Montana Policy Manager for Renewable Northwest, a nonprofit that advocates for renewable energy projects.

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American dies after release from North Korean prison, Spokane pot shop allowed to relocate, and morning headlines

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 9:17 AM


A new pot shop, Smokane, will now open in an East Spokane industrial park.
  • A new pot shop, Smokane, will now open in an East Spokane industrial park.
NEWS: After suspicions that an arcade located near a proposed Smokane weed shop just to prevent the weed shop from opening, Spokane City Council enacted an emergency law that let Smokane relocate to an East Spokane industrial park. (Spokesman-Review)

NEWS: Spokane attorney Robin Haynes resigned as president of the Washington State Bar Association on Sunday. Now, she's being accused by two law firms of embezzling nearly $10,000. (KREM)


Tensions rising with North Korea
U.S. college student Otto Warmbier, who was held in a North Korean prison and released last week after nearly a year and a half in captivity, died on Monday. Three American citizens are still being held in North Korea. Arizona Sen. John McCain, meanwhile, says that Americans are "stupid" to travel to North Korea, and should sign a waiver absolving the U.S. from blame should they be harmed there. (New York Times/Associated Press)

Drawing a line
In a potential landmark case, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether gerrymandering, drawing a legislative map along partisan lines, violates the constitution. (Washington Post)

Georgia race in voters' hands
The race for a House seat in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, which some see as a referendum on President Trump, goes to voters today. Democrat Jon Ossoff, facing Republican Karen Handel, is trying to flip the seat. (Associated Press)
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Monday, June 19, 2017

Van attack outside London mosque being treated as terrorism, court OKs offensive trademarks, and morning headlines

Posted By on Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 9:42 AM


WHAT'S UP? This week's calendar brings you Hoopfest, Steel Barrel's birthday, David Sedaris and more. Check out a curated list of events for this week here.

ARTS & CULTURE: Best 25 movies of the century so far? The New York Times came up with their list, so Inlander film editor Nathan Weinbender took up the challenge and made his own. See what made the cut here.

The scene outside a London mosque where a van was driven into a group of worshipers, killing one person and injuring at least 10.
  • The scene outside a London mosque where a van was driven into a group of worshipers, killing one person and injuring at least 10.

Attack targets London mosque
The New York Times reports that UK authorities are treating a deadly van attack outside a mosque in London this morning as terrorism targeting Muslims, "amid fears of retaliation for several recent assaults in the country attributed to Islamist extremists."

Offensive or taking back terms?
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a law against registering a trademark of a disparaging term violates the First Amendment, in a case brought by the Slants, an Asian American rock group who were originally told they couldn't trademark their band name, reports the Washington Post.

What remains
Hecla Mining Company (the same company in a deadlock with miners in Mullan, Idaho, who are on strike) has started reclamation work at a mine it bought and closed in Montana two years ago, the Flathead Beacon reports.
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Friday, June 16, 2017

The cost of reduced school suspensions, Amazon gobbles up Whole Foods, and other morning headlines

Posted By on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 9:42 AM


NEWS: On Twitter, a Spokane Valley councilman said that "Countries don't, and shouldn't, care for children. Parents do!" Here's what else Ed Pace said, and what he claims he meant.

An all-white Spokane jury acquitted a white man of manslaughter and murder charges last month for fatally shooting a black man in the back while he was walking away after a fight. The Spokane Ministers Fellowship, Spokane Community Against Racism and the Spokane branch of the NAACP are organizing a "March for Justice" tomorrow to highlight what they see as racial injustice in Spokane.

SPS Superintendent Shelley Redinger has dramatically reduced suspension rates, but some teachers are frustrated about the impact on their classroom.
  • SPS Superintendent Shelley Redinger has dramatically reduced suspension rates, but some teachers are frustrated about the impact on their classroom.

Arcade smoke
Mike Fagan, a marijuana opponent, has come to the defense of a pot shop whose license was denied for being too close to an arcade. (Spokesman-Review)

Lacking discipline?
Spokane Public Schools brings down its suspension and expulsion rates, but some teachers and parents are worried that the progress has come at the cost of classroom management. (Spokesman-Review)

Think kale, but beneath layers of packing peanuts

Amazon buys Whole Foods. What's next? A newspaper? (New York Times)

Dreams live on
President Trump, despite his intense anti-immigration campaign rhetoric, decides not to deport "Dreamers" — for now. (New York Times)

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Why a Spokane Valley city councilman says that government 'shouldn't care for children'

Posted By on Thu, Jun 15, 2017 at 4:27 PM

Spokane Valley City Councilman Ed Pace doesn't believe that it's the role of government to care for needy children.
  • Spokane Valley City Councilman Ed Pace doesn't believe that it's the role of government to care for needy children.
Across the world, 1 in 5 children live in poverty, and 1 in 8 faces food insecurity. The United States ranks near the bottom among wealthier countries in caring for children, according to a report released today by UNICEF.

Locally, children face a number of obstacles both in school and at home. Thousands of students between Spokane and Spokane Valley are homeless, or have to stay with a friend or relative just to have a roof over their head at night. Kids are sometimes raised in homes where they are abused or neglected, then placed in a foster care system lacking in foster homes or adequate facilities.

But for Spokane Valley Councilman Ed Pace, these are things that government shouldn't focus on.

"Countries don't, and shouldn't, care for children. Parents do!" Pace wrote on Twitter today.

The post generated significant backlash, as far as Twitter interactions with a local government representative go. People pointed out that, in fact, many parents don't care for their children. "The greatness of a country is MEASURED by how well it cares for its children and the most vulnerable," responded one person. Others questioned the morals of Pace, who is a Lutheran pastor.

Pace has never been shy about his libertarian views, so the Inlander called him today to find out what he meant by saying countries shouldn't care for children.

Pace says he was responding to a story on National Public Radio about the study done by UNICEF that said the U.S. was low on the list of taking care of its children. When he tweeted "countries," he meant that "government" shouldn't care for children, he says.

"Parents have authority and responsibility over their children," Pace says.

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