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


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

ProPublica exposes Big Pharma ripoff, Complete Eats rewards healthy choices, and dealing with hoops-related injuries

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 3:43 PM

Washington's Department of Health and Safeway have teamed up on a new program, called Complete Eats, that rewards healthy food choices by offering $5 rebates on $10 qualifying purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables. - WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
  • Washington State Department of Health
  • Washington's Department of Health and Safeway have teamed up on a new program, called Complete Eats, that rewards healthy food choices by offering $5 rebates on $10 qualifying purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Ripped off by Big Pharma
Say you’re a big pharmaceutical company looking for a way to make some fast cash. How about combining two over-the-counter medications, available to consumers for about $40 a month, into a new “specialty” medication that gets billed to insurance at more than $3,000 for a month’s supply? It happened, and the drug earned the company, Horizon Pharma, $455 million in sales. You won’t want to miss this installment in ProPublica’s series on wasteful spending in health care.

Healthy eating rewards
Safeway is teaming up to offer $5 rebates on $10 qualifying purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables for participants in the Washington State Department of Health's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The new program, called Complete Eats, is aimed at rewarding healthy choices. “We are pleased to partner with Safeway to help our most vulnerable kids and families get fresh, accessible and healthful foods,” said state Secretary of Health John Wiesman in a statement. “Complete Eats exemplifies how much we can achieve when government and private industry work together.”

Read more about helping kids get a healthy diet in the current issue of InHealth!

Hoopin’ it up

As the ballers take to downtown Spokane's streets this weekend, there will be a lot of fun, but also some unfortunate ankle sprains, finger jams, and cuts. Here are tips on how to cope.

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$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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Foo Fighters, A Perfect Circle schedule dates for Spokane Arena

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 10:12 AM

On Dec. 4, Foo Fighters will play in Spokane for the first time in more than 14 years.
  • On Dec. 4, Foo Fighters will play in Spokane for the first time in more than 14 years.

For the first time since 2003, Foo Fighters are coming to Spokane. Led by Dave Grohl and arguably the biggest American rock band of the past 20 years, Foo Fighters will hit the Spokane Arena stage on Dec. 4 on their tour in support of a new album, Concrete and Gold.

Tickets for Foo Fighters go on sale Thursday, June 29, at 10 am at the Spokane Arena box office and all TicketsWest outlets. They'll sell for $51, $81 or $101. English band the Struts will open the show for the Foos.

The new Foo Fighters album comes out Sept. 15. Grohl said in a statement, "I wanted it to be the biggest sounding Foo Fighters album ever." For anyone who's kept up with the band from its early days as a Grohl one-man band until its current six-man lineup, that's saying something.

"Run," the first single from Foo Fighters' new album, arrived a couple of weeks ago:

A Perfect Circle plays Spokane Arena on Nov. 28.
  • A Perfect Circle plays Spokane Arena on Nov. 28.

Also announced this week, A Perfect Circle will swing by Spokane Arena on Nov. 28 for a headlining show. The group fronted by Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan has a new album on the way as well, but a release date and title haven't been announced.

A Perfect Circle tickets go on sale Friday, June 23, at 10 am through the Spokane Arena box office and TicketsWest outlets. They'll cost $49.50 and $69.50. The Beta Machine opens the show.
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