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What if there was a crystal ball that could reveal the outcome of an election? Turns out modern day campaigns use forecast models to project the winner of a race long before a single vote is counted.

In vote-by-mail states like Washington or Oregon, political parties and campaigns have an advantage. They can find out on a daily basis if you’ve returned your ballot.

Two relatively obscure waterways in rural southeast Oregon are generating a heated dispute over geographic names. The small streams are both named "Squaw Creek," which is considered offensive to Native Americans. But the landowners in each case object to the proposed new names.

A 25-member volunteer panel called the Oregon Geographic Names Board is methodically working to erase the term "squaw" from the state map. Often, the new names are suggested by Native Americans.

Board president Sharon Nesbit says that's the case for two remote creeks in rural Harney County.

Private docks line the shore of Hunts Point, Wash.
John Ryan

Each election season, little-known political action committees -- and the campaign ads they fund -- assume a central role in American politics. This year, the ostensibly independent committees known as super PACs have raised more money than ever before. Their vaguely patriotic names often disguise their true purpose: spending lots of cash to get certain candidates into power.

Low-income parents will soon have a way to get treatment for their children with autism. Starting in January, Washington state will cover applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy for kids with Medicaid coverage. The new benefit is part of a legal settlement between the state and a local advocacy group for children with autism. 

Washington state Auditor Brian Sonntag has issued a report citing significant deficiencies in the billing systems at Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU). His report is based on annual audits by accounting firms.

HOQUIAM, Wash. – Nearly 300,000 people in Washington are still unemployed and looking for work. But there was reason to celebrate Monday in coastal Grays Harbor County – where the unemployment rate is tied for the highest in the state. A shuttered paper mill there recently roared back to life. With it came 175 jobs.

It was a party atmosphere inside the long, narrow shipping warehouse at Harbor Paper. Several hundred people milled about as dignitaries, including Governor Chris Gregoire, mounted a makeshift stage.

Washington Considers Another Impact Of Wolves: Skinny Cows

Oct 31, 2012

Washington ranchers who can show that wolves are making their cattle lose weight could get reimbursed under a new proposal. The rule before the Fish and Wildlife Commission would expand a compensation program for ranchers living in wolf country.

Washington’s cattle ranchers aren’t the first to complain about skinny livestock. Ranchers in Idaho and Oregon also say the reintroduction of wolves has made sheep and cattle move more and eat less.

That translates into the bottom line, says Dave Ware. He’s the game manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Halloween Spending Up Across Nation

Oct 31, 2012

KENNEWICK, Wash. – If Halloween spending is an indicator of the economy, Americans are appear to be feeling better than this time last year -- or at least more ghoulish.

A new survey commissioned by the National Retail Federation found that seven of 10 Americans will celebrate Halloween this year. And they’re spending more says spokeswoman Kathy Grannis.

“The average person is expected to spend about $79 on Halloween decorations, costumes and candy.”

Flickr/401 (K) 2012 (CC BY-NC-ND)

Businesses have poured millions of dollars into political contributions this election season. But you may be surprised to learn that in Democratic-leaning Washington, the state’s three largest employers tend to favor Republican candidates.

Seattle police patrol cars.
Flickr Photo/Brittney Bollay

A federal judge has appointed Merrick Bobb as the independent monitor to oversee reforms to the Seattle Police Department. Bobb’s appointment follows disagreement between the Seattle city council, the police department,  and the mayor over whether he was the best choice.

Bobb was one of four finalists. As monitor he will assess the City’s compliance with a settlement agreement between the police and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Air pollution from the major shipping ports in Puget Sound has decreased, according to a new report released Tuesday. The 300-page report compared emissions of diesel particulates, greenhouse gases and other air pollutants in five Puget Sound ports from 2005 to 2011. Overall, emissions have gone down.

Library of Congress Van Vechten Collection

On October 30, 1938, Orson Wells' infamous "War of the Worlds" broadcast across the nation.  Fake news of a Martian landing fooled a lot of people on the East Coast, especially around New Jersey, where phony live reports described the alien landing site. But the most infamous panic of all didn't happen in the East. And it wasn't just a single person. It was an entire town, and it happened right here in Washington state.

KUOW Photo/Liz Jones

Procrastinators. That’s how a lot people described themselves while waiting in line Monday for voter registration. It was the final deadline for Washington residents to register for the Nov. 6 election. Hopeful voters had to fill out the paperwork in person since the deadline had already passed to register by mail or online.

Boeing Company

After months of stalemate, Boeing and its engineering union say contract talks have taken a positive turn. In fact, both parties sent out identical statements Thursday saying talks are “productive.”

Voters in both Oregon and Washington are considering measures this November that would legalize marijuana for recreational use. If they pass, the laws would further widen the legal gap with neighboring Idaho, where police worry about spillover.

Idaho State Police Major Kevin Hudgens just learned about the two measures to the west of his state. He says they concern him.

“Common sense tells me that I’m sure we’d see some of our residents going over to Oregon and Washington to purchase marijuana. So, we would likely see an increase in that.”

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