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Liz Jones / KUOW

To many people, the holidays are about family tradition. Tradition is what brings Barry Ford and his wife, Shirley Babilya, to Seattle every December. They drive their RV across country from Iowa to do a job they love in the town where Ford grew up.

This year, the couple is 1,849 miles apart. Shirley is home in Iowa recovering from a heart attack and Barry is on his own in Seattle this season. When some Seattle neighbors found out, they stepped in to help fill the void.

When Governor Chris Gregoire leaves office in January, she’ll take with her nearly a quarter-century’s worth of expertise on one of the most contaminated places on earth. Cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has been one of her top priorities. Before Gregoire was governor, she worked on Hanford issues as the state’s attorney general and before that as ecology director.

Gregoire knows cleaning up Hanford is no easy task. She’s been involved longer than many of the top federal site managers. And despite all of the problems and complexities she’s still optimistic.

The U.S. Army announced Wednesday that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will face a general court-martial on 16 counts of premeditated murder and other charges. If convicted, the maximum penalty is death. The decision follows a pretrial hearing last month.

An attorney for  Bales says she's "disappointed" by the Army's decision to seek the death penalty against the Washington-based soldier accused of massacring Afghan villagers in March.

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho - The protected status of a small population of reindeer in the Northwest is getting a second look. Snowmobilers and an Idaho county that depends on winter snow sports petitioned the government to delist the animal.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to do a status review on woodland caribou in the Selkirk Mountains of Idaho and Washington. They’re part of a larger herd from Canada.

GLENEDEN BEACH, Ore. - It goes without saying that the Pacific Ocean is vast. So it may come as a surprise to hear the sea described as "crowded." Perhaps even too crowded to make room for the nascent industry of wave and tidal energy.  Taxpayers and investors have pumped tens of millions of dollars into finding ways to turn the ocean's power into electricity.  In recent weeks, high stakes negotiations to identify wave energy sites on the Oregon Coast are finally getting somewhere.

Scientists will soon head to the Olympic coast to evaluate a dock that washed ashore in a remote section of Olympic National Park. It could be debris from last year’s tsunami in Japan. It might even be as big as the gigantic piece of debris that showed up on Oregon’s coast in June. That dock weighed 188 tons.

Dave Workman with the Washington state Marine Debris Task Force tells KUOW’s Sara Lerner scientists need to see if invasive species might be hitching a ride on the dock. They also need to figure out how to remove it.

SALEM, Ore. – The state of Oregon is at odds with the federal government over how to use money from Japan meant for cleaning up tsunami debris. It can’t be used to reimburse the state for money it’s already spent.

The Japanese government donated $5 million to the US this fall to help pay for the cost of cleaning up debris from last year’s deadly tsunami. But Oregon hasn't seen a penny of that money so far.

School buses parked in a parking lot.
Flickr / tncountryfan

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire proposed a new wholesale vehicle fuel tax Tuesday that you might notice at the gas pump. The governor said the move will help the state support education by helping cover the costs of getting kids to school.

Currently, school districts help pay for students' transportation needs, but a recent court ruling says state government is not doing enough to support education. That includes education-related transportation.

The Day Instagram Almost Lost Its Innocence

Dec 18, 2012

The wildly popular photo-sharing site Instagram nearly caused a user revolt when it revamped its terms of service and privacy policy to suggest it could allow uploaded photos to be used in ads without users' permission.

The change — which was posted in dense legalese on its website Monday — sparked users to vow to stop posting their color-filtered, tilt-shifted photos to Instagram.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Outgoing Washington Governor Chris Gregoire is proposing to extend two temporary taxes for three-and-a-half years in order to make a $1 billion down payment on a recent Supreme Court ruling that found the state is not adequately funding public schools. Much of that new money would go to reduce K-2 class sizes, speed up the phase-in of all-day kindergarten and help districts with basic operating and maintenance costs.

A massive fire that burned 61 homes in Central Washington was likely caused by Department of Transportation contractors. That’s the upshot of a report issued Monday by Washington’s Department of Natural Resources.

The aptly named Taylor Bridge Fire started August 13 right after transportation contractors did some welding work on that bridge. It happened near the mountain town of Cle Elum.

Doctor
Flickr Photo/Alex Proimos (CC-BY-NC-ND)/https://flic.kr/p/bt29wL

In less than 10 months, Washington state will launch its own health exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act. The exchange will be an online marketplace where people can buy health insurance with the help of a navigator.

Some say it will be like Expedia for health plans, and this has some insurance brokers worried. Many fear it will have a negative impact on their livelihood, just like Expedia removed the need for travel agents.

US Army

Suicide is now the number one cause of death for US troops. Nationally, more than two-thirds of suicides of active duty troops involve firearms. Most are personal weapons.

Former vice chief of staff for the Army General Peter Chiarelli wants commanders to have the ability to talk to distressed troop members about their private weapons as part of an effort to reverse the trend.

RICHLAND, Wash. – We’ve heard a lot about whistleblowers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington. Some workers there have gone public with serious concerns about how the government is cleaning up radioactive waste.

But this story is about a different kind of Hanford Whistleblower.

Every Sunday evening at 7:15 p.m. sharp, Chris Doran welcomes several Hanford Whistleblowers into his book-filled home. His wife Nancy brings out the tea and homemade baked goods. They sit and chat politely. And then, they start to play.

SALEM, Ore. - Governor John Kitzhaber called the Special Session after he said Nike was being courted by other states for a major expansion. The Democrat said he wanted lawmakers to authorize the governor to extend Nike an offer: In exchange for freezing the way Oregon calculates its taxes for as long as 30 years, Nike would agree to spend at least $150 million in capital improvements and expand by at least 500 jobs. Lawmakers grumbled about the short timeframe to consider the proposal, but in the end relatively few voted against it. Democratic Senator Mark Hass said it was a fair bargain.

President Obama grieved with the community of Newtown, Conn., Sunday night, telling residents at a memorial service that he was there to assure those who lost loved ones in Friday's brutal attack "that you're not alone in your grief, that our world too has been torn apart — that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you."

Muraco Kyashna-tocha with cockatoo
Amy Radil

Marijuana legalization in Washington is taking effect against a patchwork of conflicting city laws. Some cities don’t allow marijuana dispensaries. But Seattle began requiring business licenses for them last year. Some medical marijuana providers see benefits to playing by cities’ rules. Others are fighting their restrictions.    

U.S. Customs and Border Protection / cpb.gov

When a police officer needs to question someone in Spanish, or any other language, they can no longer use US Border Patrol agents as interpreters. This change in federal policy comes after a group of attorneys and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) in Seattle filed a complaint earlier this year. 

Parent with child
Flickr photo/Dimitris Papazimouris

KUOW has assembled advice from health care professionals and child advocates on how to manage the many emotions that may arise from tragic events, like the explosions at the Boston Marathon.

UW 150: Downtown Real Estate Helps Fund University

Dec 14, 2012
Flickr photo/Michael Hilton

In Downtown Seattle, near where the Fairmont Olympic Hotel now stands, history was made back in 1861. The University of Washington was founded at this spot by a small group of local boosters, with the blessing of the Territorial Legislature. Seattle pioneer Arthur Denny donated the land. A single hall was built that housed the UW during the school's early decades, but the UW outgrew its first campus, and had to move and leave behind the old downtown site.

T.J. Guiton

The Arctic Challenger left Puget Sound's Bellingham Bay Wednesday night and arrived at a deep-water anchorage near Anacortes, Wash., Thursday morning. The barge is part of Shell Oil’s fleet of vessels aimed at exploring the Arctic Ocean for oil.

The Arctic Challenger’s oil-spill containment system failed its first field test off Anacortes in September. Since then, Shell has rebuilt a 20-foot oil-containment dome that was “crushed like a beer can” in the first test.

Medical marijuana providers are challenging Seattle’s licensing rules in court. They say having to obtain business licenses forces them to incriminate themselves under federal law.

Scantron test sheet
Flickr Photo/COCOEN daily photos (Cc-BY-NC-ND)

Washington’s chief of K-12 education says the state’s high school students are required to take too many exit exams in order to graduate.

Image Courtesy/Vulcan

The Seattle City Council is debating a plan that would transform a huge swath of the city’s center, and that for the first time would allow developers to build residential high rises just a block from Lake Union.

People's Harm Reduction Alliance

A public memorial service is planned Thursday for Bob Quinn. Quinn was a public health maverick. He died last month.

Washington Speaker of the House Frank Chopp (D-Seattle) will “have to learn” to negotiate. That tough talk comes from former Republican Governor Dan Evans in reaction to the announcement that a philosophical majority of Republicans and two Democrats have formed to take control of the state Senate for the 2013 session.

SALEM, Ore. – An Oregon lawmaker wants to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines in the wake of Tuesday's shooting at the Clackamas Town Center.

Police say Jacob Tyler Roberts opened fire at the crowded shopping mall, killing two people and seriously wounding another. Then he turned the gun on himself. Investigators say he was using a stolen AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

Democratic Senator Ginny Burdick says she's circulating a bill for the upcoming legislative session that would ban the sale of magazines with more than 10 rounds in Oregon.

Jacob Tyler Robert
courtesy of Clackamas County Sheriff's Department.

Two people, plus the suspected shooter, are dead after police say a gunman opened fire at a crowded shopping mall in suburban Portland Tuesday.

An ambulance took one survivor of the attack to OHSU Medical Center in Portland. The young woman is expected to survive.

Ashley Ahearn

Exporting coal via the Northwest has become an issue so divisive that old friendships and alliances strain under the pressure. No matter how you feel about climate change or construction jobs or any number of issues bound to the five coal export terminals under consideration around the Northwest, chances are you know someone who feels differently about the issue than you do.

The state of Washington will not appeal a federal court decision to strike down a new state sex trafficking law. The law would have held online websites like Backpage.com accountable for illegal ads posted on their sites.

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