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Washington State News Archive

Below are archived news items for the current month. To view a previous month, choose it from the list below.

"Police write few citations for violation of phone law"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
With great fanfare Washington enacted a law prohibiting people from holding a cell phone to their ears while driving. Everybody seemed to have a story about other people driving stupidly and dangerously while talking on cell phones. So how many tickets have been issued since the law went into effect on July 1? All of 116 statewide. It turns out driving with a cell phone to your ear is a secondary offense, meaning the police can't ticket people for it unless they've stopped them for some other traffic violation. If it were a primary offense, police could ticket someone as soon as they saw the person driving with a cell phone to their ear. New Jersey issued thousands more tickets for driving while cell phoning as its law jumped the act from being a secondary offense to a primary offense. - 08/01/2008

"3 pesticides singled out in report as threat to salmon"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
A new study released by the federal Fisheries Service says that the pesticides may interfere with young salmon’s ability to find food, avoid predators, and reproduce. The three pesticides mentioned in the report, Chloripyrifos, Diazinon, and Malathion, are all allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency for agricultural use. Some critics of the study say that fish in the wild are never exposed to pesticides for as long or in as high of concentration as the study exposed them. However, proponents say that pesticides can concentrate in high quantities in small side streams, which is where young salmon can often be found. Apparently the pesticides interfere with a salmon’s sense of smell. - 08/12/2008

"A bad omen for a new bridge"--Vancouver Columbian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
U.S. Senator Patty Murray isn’t confident that she will be able to secure federal funds for the I-5 replacement bridge connecting Washington and Oregon. In a time of belt-tightening, she said she cannot guarantee that the $400 to $600 million in federal funds the bridge package calls for will materialize, particularly in a climate where pork-barrel spending has been highly scrutinized. Senator Murray is chairwoman of the senate appropriations subcommittee on transportation, and Columbia River Crossing supporters were hoping her influence would get them the money. Some opponents of the replacement bridge wonder whether a new bridge is even necessary in light of rising fuel prices, fewer cars on the road, and decreasing revenues from gas taxes. - 08/14/2008

"State farmworkers face low quality of life, study finds"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
A study released by the Washington State Farmworker Housing Trust shows that the average yearly salary of a farmworker in Washington totals about $17,500, which falls below the federal poverty line. In addition, the survey of workers reports that housing conditions are often subpar, with 32 percent saying that their housing is overcrowded, and 23 percent reporting rodent infestation. Only 11 percent of farmworkers own their own houses. The study also found that over half of those surveyed said they might not continue to work in the field. Housing for farmworkers is a problematic issue, despite the state’s efforts to provide adequate accommodations. - 08/15/2008

"Far-offshore windmills draw attention in energy quest"--Bellingham Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Innovative thinkers are hoping to harness powerful ocean breezes as an alternative energy source. Wind farms developed 15 or so miles offshore may generate as much as 900,000 megawatts of electricity, and could probably produce energy 45-50 percent of the time, as opposed to the 30 percent that land farms produce. However, officials at the Northwest Power and Conservation Council say that offshore wind is not part of their five year strategic plan. The Department of Energy ranks the winds off the Pacific Northwest shore as five or six on a seven point scale, meaning they could power all of western Washington with the appropriate technology. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the U.S. is the leading producer of wind energy. - 08/17/2008

"Rape trial lets family share decades of pain, secrets"--Seattle Times
A new Washington state law now allows testimony from previous sexual abuse victims to be admitted as evidence in current sexual offense cases. Victim advocate groups are applauding the law, saying that it will let prosecutors demonstrate patterns of sexual abuse, and will hopefully lead to more convictions. The new law is being tested in a Bellevue rape case, in which a 14-year-old girl has accused a 79-year-old relative of sexual abuse in 2002. Nine other family members and family friends told authorities that they, too, had been molested or raped by the defendant. In Washington, the statute of limitations on rape charges runs out upon the victim’s 21st birthday or seven years after the offense occurred, whichever happens later. - 08/19/2008

"Hantavirus claims life of Ellensburg police officer"--Yakima Herald-Republic - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Cute little mice can be disease vectors, and some of the diseases they spread can be fatal. The Kittitas County Public Health Department announced that hantavirus was the likely cause of Nelson Ng's death. He was an otherwise healthy police officer who died suddenly, displaying the symptoms of hantavirus. According to the Washington State Department of Health, this disease is tied to exposure to deer mouse droppings and urine. The Centers for Disease Control has a website with general and technical information about hantavirus. - 08/19/2008

"Hanford waste initiative dead after no appeal made"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Even if voters pass an initiative, courts can overturn it. Washington voters passed Initiative 297 in 2004. It mandated that mixed radioactive and chemical waste sites had to be cleaned up before any new waste could be added to them. The resulting state law was challenged three times in state and federal courts and lost each time. The most recent loss was last May in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court's decision pointed out that although Initiative 297's intent "... is understandable...the passage of Initiative preempted by federal law..." since the federal government regulates nuclear waste. The state could have appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, but let the deadline for filing an appeal pass since it saw little chance of the Supreme Court taking the case. - 08/20/2008

"A dubious distinction: Worst soot in Washington"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The EPA is expected to announce in December that Tacoma’s soot pollution exceeds federal legal limits. Tacoma is the only area in Washington to receive this honor. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency also just announced that Tacoma’s air violates federal regulations for ground-level ozone standards. Air particulates, also known as soot, and ground-level ozone can both damage lungs. Tacoma’s air is worst not in the hazy days of summer, but in the winter when residents fire up their wood stoves. A stove-swapping program may help alleviate the problem; the compliance deadline for cleaning up Tacoma’s air is 2015. - 08/20/2008

"Tribes gather to explore economic diversity"--Everett Herald
Tribal leaders from all over the west coast are gathering at a conference on the Tulalip Indian Reservation this weekend to discuss diversifying their business assets. Though tribal casinos are generating a lot of income for tribes at the moment, that might not always be the case. The conference will look at different business ventures some tribes have undertaken to insure their economic viability in the future. Hotels and entertainment venues are popular ways to diversify, but other tribes are also exploring agricultural avenues and wind power, among other things. - 08/21/2008

"Yakima doctor faces new charges"--Yakima Herald-Republic
The Uniform Disciplinary Act gives the Department of Health the responsibility of overseeing the quality of health care in Washington state. The Health Professions Quality Assurance office (HPQA) performs this duty. It is made up of several boards, commissions and committees that regulate dozens of health care professions. Part of the regulatory process involves processing complaints about health care professionals and disciplining them as necessary. For example, Dr. Rosa Martinez has been charged with malpractice by the Medical Quality Assurance Commission (MQAC) which oversees physicians. A similar story, "Local psychologist on probation for revealing patient identity," in the August 19 issue of the Wenatchee World tells how James Goodwin (also known as the Pied Piper of Prozac) has been disciplined by the state Board of Psychology. The HPQA website allows you to search health care professionals' credentials and see if any disciplinary action has been taken against them. - 08/21/2008

"25 schools to get state fruits, vegetables"--Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The Local Farms-Healthy Kids bill, which handily passed the state legislature this year, calls for the state to connect local farms with schools to insure that kids have access to nutritious food. The new law also requires two people to help school nutritionists make contact with farmers and arrange for produce to be delivered to the schools. But the recently-instituted state hiring freeze interrupted that hiring process, so it’s possible that many schools won’t see the fresh produce for some time. However, schools will still receive state and federal grant money to buy the produce. The extra time required to contact farms and pick up the produce will still mean a hardship for busy school staff - 08/22/2008

"I-985 often shuns traffic audit: Eyman stands by his version of congestion relief"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Initiative 985, a Tim Eyman-sponsored initiative, claims to aid in traffic congestion. The initiative calls for HOV lanes to be open to everyone during non-peak hours—all but three hours in the morning and evening on weekdays—and requires every city, county and the state DOT to synchronize traffic lights. However, critics of the initiative say it flies in the face of recommendations made by an expansive report on traffic congestion overseen by the state auditor’s office. The report calls for expanding the number of HOV lanes and would require single-occupancy drivers to buy their way into the lanes. But the coordination of traffic lights is supported by the audit. - 08/24/2008

"Vets helping vets in Tri-Cities adjust to life back home"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
Older veterans in the Tri-Cities are mentoring younger veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Veterans of Viet Nam are also veterans of readjusting to to civilian society and learning what benefits and programs are available to them. Their advice can steer the younger vets to much needed resources. Veterans can get services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (including such sites as VetSuccess), the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs , the Department of Labor, and the Employment Security Department. - 08/25/2008

"Immigration initiative seeks state crackdown"--Seattle Times
Backers of Initiative 409 are trying to gather enough signatures to place the ballot in front of state lawmakers this January. The initiative wants the state to get tougher on illegal immigrants by requiring everyone applying for a driver’s license to prove their citizenship or residency status; by requiring employers to use the federal government’s E-Verify system to make sure employees are qualified to work in the U.S.; and by denying medical and social services to anyone who cannot prove they are legal U.S. residents. The initiative would nullify Seattle’s and King County’s statuses as immigrant sanctuaries. - 08/26/2008

"City has plan for Morgan bridge, but lacks money"--Tacoma News Tribune - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The estimated cost for renovating the Murray Morgan Bridge, which connects downtown Tacoma to the tideflats, is $80 million. The state legislature will give the city of Tacoma $40 million, but only if they agree to assume ownership of the historic bridge. The state department of transportation currently owns the bridge. The plan that most stakeholders seemed to agree on at a city council study session is a section-by-section approach to renovation, which would eventually turn the four-lane bridge into a two lane road with room for pedestrians and bicyclists. It would also restring the cables so that the bridge wouldn’t have to be locked in the upright position. The sufficiency rating of the renovated bridge is 71 out of 100, whereas the current bridge is at a rating of 2 out of 100. Now the city council just needs to agree to assume ownership of the bridge. - 08/27/2008

"WASL results have schools wondering what it all means"--Yakima Herald-Republic
The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has released the results from the spring round of Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) testing. A drop down menu lets you search overall results for each school district and the results for individual schools in the district. The Vancouver Columbian has a useful article, "Web site shows which schools make grade," that explains how to read the tables in the district and school reports. The WASL is important--and controversial--because poor test results can bring sanctions to low-performing schools. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy has done a series of studies on the WASL. - 08/27/2008

"State Patrol: Motorcyclists need endorsement to ride"--Pasco Tri-City Herald - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
A Washington resident driving a motorcycle needs a special endorsement on his or her driver's license. Now the State Patrol is cracking down on motorcyclists who don't have that endorsement. The State patrol is doing this because it's getting tired of investigating fatal accidents. So far this year 48 people have died in motorcycle accidents. Most of these deaths were avoidable since they were the motorcyclist's fault. Fatal motorcycle accidents have been rising across the nation in recent years. The Department of Licensing has a webpage with information on getting a motorcyle endorsement. - 08/28/2008

"7 school districts fail U.S. standard"--Olympia Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction released a report which showed that 57 districts in the state—for a total of 628 schools—failed to meet benchmarks set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. In Thurston County, only one school district met the federal standards across the board. Under the law, schools must make Adequate Yearly Progress in math and reading assessments. If they don’t meet standards for two years in a row, they must take part in an improvement plan. Consequences for being a school in improvement include allowing parents to move their children to another school that is not in improvement. Only schools that receive Title I federal funding need to take part in the improvement plan. - 08/29/2008

"Study: 12 percent of Indian deaths due to alcohol"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
A study published in "Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report" (MMWR) documents the deadly effects of alcohol abuse among Indians. 11.7% of deaths among Indians are alcohol-related (and this number might be low) while the national rate of alcohol related deaths is 3.3%. The main causes of alcohol related deaths were traffic accidents and liver disease. The study was done in cooperation between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Indian Health Service. Since this article and the study it's based on focus on fatalities, it doens't mention the cross-generational scourge of fetal alochol syndrome. - 08/29/2008

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