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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.

ballot drop box ballot box
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.”

The city of Seattle is seeking citizens for its new Community Police Commission. The commission is being established as part of an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to reform the Seattle Police Department. Federal and local officials have expressed hopes that the commission will play a strong role in police oversight. But it faces some limitations that could hamper its abilities, as the members of another police review board have already found.

Gregoire To Candidates: 'Sounds Good, Doesn't Work'

Oct 26, 2012

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Outgoing Washington Governor Chris Gregoire has a message for the candidates to replace her: “sounds good, doesn’t work.” That’s Gregoire’s take on several of the budget-balancing ideas she’s hearing from fellow Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna.

In response to reporter questions, Gregoire got to play the role of seasoned eight-year veteran of the governor’s office. Both candidates say they would look to close outdated tax loopholes.

“I said that eight years ago," the governor says. "I’ve learned a lot.”

AP Photo/Kevin P. Casey

President Obama is formally throwing his support to Referendum 74, which asks Washington voters to decide on same-sex marriage.

KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

The University of Washington got its launch Wednesday as the country's biggest testing ground for smart grid technology.

Smart grid is a catch-all term for something power providers are still trying to figure out — namely, how do you use modern technology, like the Internet, to manage how much power is flowing through the grid at any given time?

Read the full story on KUOW's EarthFix

Images via TVW

Whoever is elected as governor this fall could change the course of Washington state's Medicaid program. When the US Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act in June, it determined that the law went too far when it required states to expand Medicaid. The ruling left it up to states to decide whether or not to open up the program to cover people without insurance.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - In the presidential race, we hear a lot about the electoral map -- and the math to winning the presidency. It’s all about swing states like Ohio and Florida. At the state level, there’s no electoral college. The candidate with the most votes wins. But there’s still a formula for victory -- even in blue states like Washington and Oregon.

Former state Democratic Party Chair Paul Berendt says the way to navigate a path to victory in Washington -- if you’re a Democrat -- involves what he calls a “salt water strategy.”

Polka Is Out, Even At World Accordion Competition

Oct 25, 2012

SPOKANE, Wash. - This week, the Northwest is hosting an historic event –- historic, at least, in the world of accordion music. The top players from 19 countries are competing in Spokane at the World Trophy Accordion Championship.

It's the first time the prestigious international competition has come to the United States and U.S. accordion players feel they've got something to prove.

There's one big problem facing accordion players here. It goes a little something like this.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington State Democratic Party says it will not return $60,000 in contributions from a controversial spiritual leader from Yelm, Washington. This, despite the release of a video that shows JZ Knight delivering a profanity-laced attack on the Catholic Church and others.

In the video, Knight paces a stage in front of a large boisterous audience. In events like these she claims to be channeling an ancient male spirit named Ramtha. Knight as Ramtha uses the f-word repeatedly and rails against Catholics and the Catholic Church.

Flickr/ Neal Gillis

Public health experts are now recommending that pregnant women get the vaccine for whooping cough during pregnancy. The recommendation is in response to the growing outbreak of the disease in the U.S. So far, there are more than 32,000 reported cases of whooping cough across the country.  If the trend holds, it’s on track to be the highest number of cases since 1959.   

Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani
Flickr/ U.S.-Japan Council

The CEO of the Port of Seattle, Tay Yoshitani, can sit on the board of a private freight logistics company without creating a conflict of interest, according to an outside attorney hired by the Port of Seattle Commissioners. The attorney presented his formal opinion to the port Tuesday.

Suzan DelBene at a podium
KUOW/Deborah Wang

On the campaign trail, Suzan DelBene tells the story of how her family struggled when she was a kid. Her father was laid off from his job when she was nine, and the family moved all over the country as her parents looked for work. “They never got back to a situation where they were financially stable,” she explains.

She recounts that despite her family's financial difficulties, she was able to go to college on student loans. “I was in a position to take care of my family,” she says. “I’m not sure I could tell that story today.”

Tacoma resident Jason Puracal says his fight against the Nicaraguan justice system is still not over. Puracal was recently exonerated of drug charges in Nicaragua and returned to the Northwest. Now, Nicaraguan prosecutors are appealing his case to that country’s high court.

Jason Puracal arrived in Nicaragua about a decade ago as a Peace Corps volunteer. He left there last month from a maximum security prison. He was serving a 22-year sentence following a conviction for drug trafficking and money laundering. He was freed in September after winning an appeal.

School desk
Flickr Photo/ccarlstead (CC BY-NC-ND)

This fall, voters in Washington will decide whether to legalize charter schools in the state for the first time. Washington voters have considered charters three times before. But the details of charter school funding, oversight and independence can be confusing. So we took a red pen to claims by supporters and opponents of Initiative 1240, and gave each claim a grade to see who gets to go to the head of the class – and who needs to go back and check their work.

Court candidates Sanders and McCloud speak before a bar association.
(Photo / Amy Radil)


The race for the open seat on the Washington Supreme Court has drawn two staunch defenders of individual rights. One is former justice Richard Sanders, who hopes to return to the court after losing his seat two years ago. The other is appellate lawyer Sheryl Gordon McCloud. Both are passionate about constitutional issues, and even praise one another’s work. But they cite important differences in their positions and personalities.

Ryder on his first day of third grade.
Bridget Ambrose

Two-and-a-half years ago, KUOW brought you the story of Bridget Ambrose and her son Ryder. Ryder was in kindergarten at the time. He’s on the autism spectrum. At Ryder’s preschool, he’d gotten special education services like speech therapy and the social skills training that many kids with autism need to teach them how to interact with other kids.

The Seattle Times' Political Ads Cause Controversy

Oct 19, 2012
The Seattle Times
Flickr photo/Mr. T in D.C.

The Seattle Times Company began running its own political ads on Wednesday in support of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna and same-sex marriage.

Industry observers are questioning this new move.

Alan Fisco, an executive with The Seattle Times, says print newspapers miss out on the millions of dollars in campaign spending that go to broadcast television.

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