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Today So Far Blog

News, factoids, and insights from KUOW's newsroom. And maybe some peeks behind-the-scenes. Check back daily for updates. And read the Today So Far newsletter here.

Have any leads or feedback for the KUOW Blog? Contact Dyer Oxley at dyer@kuow.org.

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  • The slow coup: Today So Far

    Today So Far Blog
    caption: An image of a mock gallows on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is shown at a House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol hearing.
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    An image of a mock gallows on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is shown at a House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol hearing.
    Credit: AP
    • While speaking with KUOW's "Soundside," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee comments on the "continuing coup effort" following Jan. 6.
    • Washington's proposed carbon pollution plan is garnering some criticism because not everybody would have to follow the new rules.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for June 29, 2022.

    The congressional hearings into the January 6 riot continue to reveal more and more about that day, and provide further evidence that it was indeed an insurrection (as I've said before in this newsletter, just because they were bad at it, doesn't mean it wasn't an insurrection).

    If you ask Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, it was a coup — an attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power by someone who lost an election. It was deterred by Americans who not only did their jobs, they stood their ground as patriots. People like Vice President Mike Pence, who kept America's process on track.

    "This is a continuing coup effort. It is not finished," Inslee told KUOW, shortly after hearing Tuesday's testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aid to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

    "I think the most important thing of this testimony is to understand the depravity, number one, of Donald Trump," Inslee said. "But number two, to understand how democracy is continuing under a threat. Now it's under threat from multiple sources — the filibuster, gerrymandering, the court packing that gave us these (recent Supreme Court) decisions."

    It's also under threat from people who have taken their ideology to the ballot, whether because of misinformation, a dedication to a culture war, or other (take your pick). Here in Washington, conspiracy theory-driven candidates have run for office, and have been elected to office. And more are coming in November's election. Candidates like Washington's Loren Culp and Joe Kent, and a handful of hopefuls in smaller races, have promoted the unproven, and disproven, notion that the 2020 election was stolen.

    Such ideological camps have always existed in our region. But there has been a modern movement to achieve legitimacy and influence through the ballot. And perhaps now, this movement is a slow coup in the wake of Jan. 6, 2021. Gov. Inslee's conversation with KUOW's "Soundside" covered a lot more than Jan. 6, such as removing local dams, and abortion rights. Hear/read more of that discussion here.

    AS SEEN ON KUOW

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  • Councilmember wants King County to come up with a plan to clean homeless encampments

    Today So Far Blog
    caption: Reagan Dunn is running for Washington's 8th Congressional District
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    Reagan Dunn is running for Washington's 8th Congressional District
    Credit: Dunn campaign

    King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn wants the county to come up with a plan to clear homeless encampments. He's targeting an encampment along the Green River for the first job.

    He says that King County currently does not clear such encampments in unincorporated areas, and doesn't have any procedures in place to do so.

    That's why he's introducing legislation that he says would create an interagency task force to handle that work.

    Dunn says he hopes the encampment along the Green River between Auburn and Kent can be used as a pilot project for the proposed plan. He's targeting it because he says it's the largest in the region, and has been active for years. He says neighbors have complained about the camp for three years.

    “The conditions we are seeing at the Green River encampment are deplorable and inhumane — littered with human feces, infested with pests, and filled with stolen goods,” Dunn said. “This is no way for anyone to live, and certainly not fair to the surrounding community that deserves a neighborhood that is safe and clean. To make progress, we must start setting boundaries on what is acceptable, address the root causes of homelessness head on and get folks into shelters and into treatment. This legislation gives us the opportunity to learn the best way to do that.”

    The proposal comes amid Dunn's run for Congress. He is challenging incumbent Democrat Kim Schrier for Washington's 8th Congressional District seat. Dunn is the most high-profile Republican attempting to take the district back from Democrats after it flipped.

    Dunn has therefore made headlines on recent hot topics, such as high gas prices or abortion.

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  • Bothell man sentenced for mail order meth crime

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    A Bothell man accused of using computer hard drives and the U.S. Postal Service to distribute methamphetamine around the world has been sentenced to five years in federal prison.

    The dru- dealing endeavor rivals a plot from a "Breaking Bad" script. Ryan Kane, 34, was using hard drives to hide meth, which he then mailed inside the United States and across the globe.

    Law enforcement agents intercepted two packages Kane sent to Australia. The packages contained computer hard drives. But upon closer inspection, those hard drives were filled with drugs.

    “Mr. Kane was distributing nearly pure and addictive methamphetamine across the world, concealed in computer hard drives,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. "He used the Dark Web to conceal his identity and make dangerous drugs available as far away as Australia and New Zealand.”

    Kane pleaded guilty to a charge of Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute in March.

    Law enforcement became aware of Kane after noticing his online vendor account on the Dark Web. Kane was using the account to sell mail order meth. Detectives searched his Bothell home in July 2021 and found more hard drives, containing what added up to three kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride. They also found artwork that related to his Dark Web vendor account.

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  • 1/3 of Seattle teachers say they're not sticking around in 5 years

    Today So Far Blog
    caption: Third grade teacher Lucero Heredia-Valdovinos talks with students about masks during the first day of school at Mount View Elementary school on Thursday, September 2, 2021, in Seattle.
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    Third grade teacher Lucero Heredia-Valdovinos talks with students about masks during the first day of school at Mount View Elementary school on Thursday, September 2, 2021, in Seattle.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

    Only 1/3 of Seattle Public School teachers say they see themselves still working for the school district in five years, according to a new study from the Seattle Education Association.

    The association, which serves as the teacher's union, also found that a third of educators said they plan to leave the district, or get out of education altogether in five years.

    The union says these findings show the district needs to "take action if it's going to retain experienced educators."

    This summer, the Union and the district will negotiate what's being described as the first full contract opening since the pandemic. The current contract expires on August 31.

    The survey of union members also found that:

    • 93% are working beyond contract hours
    • 25% are working 10+ additional hours per week
    • 77% don’t get the support they need from the superintendent and other district leadership to be successful in their jobs.
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  • Are the drones finally upon us?: Today So Far

    Today So Far Newsletter
    caption: An Amazon package is tested with a vertical compression tester on Tuesday, October 22, 2019, at an Amazon Packaging Lab in Seattle.
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    An Amazon package is tested with a vertical compression tester on Tuesday, October 22, 2019, at an Amazon Packaging Lab in Seattle.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
    • Amazon says it's ready to fly its delivery drones.
    • Answering common questions in the wake of overturning Roe v Wade.
    • Congress says it has new evidence for today's hearing on the January 6 insurrection.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for June 28, 2022.

    It seems like every year that goes by, there's a story about how Amazon has a grand plan to deliver packages via drones. And we keep waiting. Well, it finally seems like this is the year it happens.

    Amazon will officially start delivering packages via drones straight to front doors, or back yards, in a small Northern California town. Lockeford has about 3,500 residents who will serve as guinea-pig customers for the drone deliveries. Though, I will point out that despite presenting a plan to test the drones in Lockeford, Amazon is still saying the small-town test will happen sometime later this year. So we're still waiting.

    As Northwest News Network's Tom Banse reports, it's been touch and go for Amazon leading up to this point ... as well as a few crashes. Amazon has been testing drone models in Eastern Oregon. They weigh about 85 pounds. Apparently, the drones have been crashing quite a bit during the testing process — on a monthly basis between May 2021 and last February. But now the company says it's ready. If this works, it really could change the whole buying/delivering lifestyle that continues to grow in our society.

    Folks are still processing the overturning of Roe v Wade. It was a big discussion during Pride weekend. And with that comes a lot of questions. So KUOW has compiled answers to some common questions about what will happen in Washington state following the decision.

    Washington state's top officials and lawmakers are now gearing up for battles ahead over abortion rights and more. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson is preparing for legal fights with states that implement abortion bans. Democrat Rep. Pramila Jayapal says that she is discussing a package of protections with colleagues. That package would not only address abortion rights, but also issues related to contraception and marriage equality. Passing such laws through Congress could protect such rights from later Supreme Court decisions. Of course, to do that, they're probably going to need some more Democrats in DC, and they know it.

    Washington Democrats are also planning on codifying abortion rights in the state Constitution. The state GOP is commenting, however, that Democrats are using the recent news to distract "from their record on public safety and affordability." Read more here.

    We have another hearing on the January 6 insurrection today. This time, Congress members say they have "recently obtained evidence" that they want to present. I don't know what that could be, but it sounds so cryptic and intriguing, like a sudden plot twist in a Perry Mason episode (or Matlock if that's more your thing ... or perhaps "My Cousin Vinny"). KUOW is streaming the live proceedings, which you can watch here.

    Want more updates? Check out the Today So Far Blog!

    AS SEEN ON KUOW

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  • Teatro ZinZanni is returning to Seattle

    Today So Far Blog
    caption: "That's Zintertainment!" at Teatro ZinZanni.
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    "That's Zintertainment!" at Teatro ZinZanni.
    Credit: Michael Craft

    Teatro ZinZanni is returning to the Seattle area this fall. The circus dinner theater will pop up in Sodo Park, from mid November through February 2023.

    An exclusive ticket presale begins in August.

    An announcement on its websites states:

    "SEATTLE, WE’RE COMING HOME. This holiday season, prepare to be ZinZanni’ed once again! In partnership with the incredible SODO Park venue and its award-winning catering team Herban Feast, audiences can look forward to nights of international cirque, comedy, cabaret, and fine dining – all in ZinZanni’s signature style."

    Teatro ZinZanni has been around for nearly 25 years and have performed at different locations. The troupe spent a considerable stretch of time at a spot in Lower Queen Anne, before moving to a temporary site in Marymoor Park. After that, it popped up in Woodinville. Financial hardships from the pandemic prompted that last location to close in September 2020.

    The Seattle Times reports many veteran and other key staff who were let go in 2020 will be hired back for the upcoming shows, which the owner hopes will serve as a prelude to a more permanent and full-time operation next year.

    More updates on KUOW's Today So Far Blog!

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  • Washington state's Democrats start planning in wake of Roe v Wade overturn

    Today So Far Blog
    caption: Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.
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    Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.
    Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

    Local democratic leaders are laying out their strategy to secure abortion rights in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade.

    It involves new laws, more funding, and increasing the number of Democrats in power.

    U.S. representative Pramila Jayapal says she and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been texting back and forth about a package of new bills. But Jayapal says they’d have to get past the senate.

    “So what we must do is elect two more Democratic pro-choice senators who are willing to overturn the filibuster or at a minimum carve out important exceptions to protect our rights," Jayapal said.

    Jayapal said she wants to codify "rights" the Supreme Court may examine next, such as rights protecting contraceptives and same-sex marriage.

    Meanwhile, the Washington state Democratic Party is also looking for ways to secure a two-thirds majority for their party so it can be large enough to amend the state constitution.

    But Washington's Republican Party says Democrats are "posturing ... and making abortion a central campaign issue to distract from their record on public safety and affordability."

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  • A year after the heat dome, King County wants an extreme heat plan

    Today So Far Blog
    caption: The sun radiates over Nevada.
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    The sun radiates over Nevada.

    It's been one year since instruments at the SeaTac Airport hit an all-time record high of 108 degrees for the day.

    The heat dome of 2021 resulted in more than 30 people dying in King County and more than 100 deaths statewide.

    Now, King County officials across multiple departments are developing the region's first strategy to combat extreme heat waves.

    “The goal is to strengthen short term actions to cope with heat during a heat wave," said Lara Whitely Binder. "Particularly in developed areas where pavement and other hard surfaces can amplify heat. This is also known as the urban heat island effect.”

    Whitely Binder oversees the extreme heat response plan. Details of that plan are expected to be released in 2023.

    Meanwhile, she and others are looking for ways to limit the so-called urban heat island effect by adding green spaces and other feature to keep cool.

    Some areas with lots of concrete and hard surfaces can be up to 23 degrees hotter than places with more natural landscapes.

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  • Pray to play — Supreme Court sides with Bremerton football coach: Today So Far

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    • Supreme Court sides with Bremerton's praying football coach.
    • What's up with the weather?
    • Washington aims to further protect abortion rights.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for June 27, 2022.

    Stay up to date with the Today So Far Blog!

    Another U.S. Supreme Court decision on a local case is likely to cause some friction. I think I hear some Satanists getting ready for a demonstration...

    After losing his case in lower courts, Bremerton Assistant Coach Joe Kennedy was victorious at the Supreme Court which has decided in his favor 6-3.

    You may recall back in 2015, Coach Kennedy refused to stop praying on the 50 yard line at the end of every football game. The school district fired him for it, arguing that as a public employee he was crossing a line that kept government and religion separate. The district worried that his prayers would be considered an endorsement of a religion. The Supreme Court disagreed and said that Kennedy's actions were individual and personal.

    RELATED: What does Kennedy v. Bremerton SD mean for how schools handle religious speech?

    Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the dissenting opinion and said the majority ignored the fact that Kennedy was often joined by students and players in prayer, and that he incorporated his religion in his football speeches. Kennedy has always argued that he never required players to pray with him — it was their personal choice.

    Just like it is the choice of anyone under the thumb of an influential authority. It's a choice for children to be good for Santa Claus. It's a choice to pretend to like sports to suck up to your company's management. It's a choice to compliment a police officer who is deciding whether or not to give you a speeding ticket.

    And it's my personal choice to get KUOW News Director Gigi Douban her morning latte each day, ensuring that it is exactly 112 degrees when it reaches her hand. And when she throws it on the ground because it mistakenly had soy milk instead of oat milk, it is my choice to race five blocks away to get her a replacement ASAP.

    It's on the record that when Kennedy performed his post-game prayers, some students felt compelled to join despite not being religious. Court documents state that some felt that if they didn't pray, they wouldn't get to play. That is the influence of a coach, in this case, a coach taking a public employee paycheck, performing public employee duties. So like I said, this decision is going to cause some friction.

    Which brings me back to the Satanists. When Coach Kennedy made headlines in 2015, a local congregation of Satanists demanded equal time on the field. They got it. No word yet on if local Satan worshipers will have a response to the Supreme Court's latest decision.

    Speaking of Satan, it's getting hot around here (sorry, I needed some transition). It seems that the wonderfully dim and cool June weather has burned off and warmer temps have finally arrived. Despite the recent 80s/90s, temperatures are expected to drop into the 60s/70s over the coming week. Maybe even the 60s, and maybe even some rain, but I don't want to get my hopes up so let's move on.

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  • Washington abortion services bracing for surge in patients

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    Abortion providers in Washington are bracing for a surge of patients from out of state. That follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning decades long protections. At the same time, Northwest companies are adjusting their benefits to accommodate employees who may need abortion services.

    Courtney Normand heads the Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.

    “We definitely are getting inquiries not only from people in Washington who need reassurance and clarity about what their rights are, but also from folks who think they may need to come here," Normand said.

    Washington law protects abortion rights. But in neighboring Idaho, a trigger law banning abortion takes effect next month. Normand says Planned Parenthood is changing operations and logistics to handle the influx of out-of-state patients.

    “We’re also doing things like moving as much family planning care online as much as we can in order to make more space for abortion care in our schedule," Normand said.

    King County has also responded with $1 million emergency fund. Half will go toward the county's public health system. The other half to the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, which helps secure abortion services in the Pacific Northwest.

    Meanwhile, some major Seattle-area companies will offer assistance to employees in areas where abortion services aren’t available.

    Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks will help with expenses for workers who must travel great distances to access abortions. Reuters reports that Amazon will give $4,000 in yearly travel expenses. And Microsoft will add travel expenses to its abortion benefits. Starbucks says it will reimburse employees who need to travel more than 100 miles to obtain care.

    The Northwest companies join a list of corporations offering similar travel benefits, including Disney, Lyft, Tesla, Netflix, Kroger, and JP Morgan Chase.

    Washington is not the only region expecting to see more patients. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is indicating that his country will continue to allow Americans to get abortions in Canada.

    Trudeau says that the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn a constitutional right to abortion could lead to the loss of other rights. He's echoed concerns that the ruling could someday allow a rollback of legal protections for gay relationships.

    Get more updates in KUOW's Today So Far Blog!

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  • Seattle area Catholics react to overturning Roe v Wade

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    When the Supreme Court announced it was overturning Roe v Wade on June 24, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops commended the decision. Locally, the Washington State Catholic Conference praised the news.

    But views were mixed at a Catholic Church in Seattle over the following weekend.

    Hortencia Plascencia attended the Spanish language mass at Holy Family Catholic Church in White Center. She’s in favor of the Supreme Court decision and hopes abortion becomes illegal in all 50 states, except when the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

    "Porque la vida de un ser humano, desde el momento de la concepción, ya tiene vida. Y ese es un asesinato."

    ("Because life begins at the moment of conception, so [abortion or intentionally ending a pregnancy] is murder.")

    But not everyone here agrees it’s a good idea to make abortion illegal. Elizabeth Cervantes is also Catholic and generally against abortion — but she thinks people should have the right to choose.

    "Que nos dieran el valor de voto como mujer, y la opción de decidir."

    ("That women are valued enough to be given the choice, the ability to choose.")

    Cervantes says she’s lost two pregnancies — one in the third trimester — and the experience convinced her that it’s important to trust women to make decisions about their own health.

    "Puede ser un aborto instantáneo, y uno no tiene control en eso, entonces lo estarían juzgando como un aborto también."

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  • U.S. Supreme Court backs Bremerton coach who prayed on football field

    Today So Far Blog
    caption: Joe Kennedy, a former assistant football coach at Bremerton High School, poses for a photo March 9, 2022, at the school's football field. He was fired for refusing to stop kneeling in prayer with players and spectators on the field immediately after football games. Kennedy said signs like the one on the fence behind him were put up after he started praying after in efforts to keep spectators from rushing the field to join them.
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    Joe Kennedy, a former assistant football coach at Bremerton High School, poses for a photo March 9, 2022, at the school's football field. He was fired for refusing to stop kneeling in prayer with players and spectators on the field immediately after football games. Kennedy said signs like the one on the fence behind him were put up after he started praying after in efforts to keep spectators from rushing the field to join them.
    Credit: Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

    The United States Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Bremerton football coach who was fired for praying at the 50 yard line after each game.

    Cue the Satanists.

    Seven years after Assistant Football Coach Joe Kennedy made headlines by refusing to stop praying on the field, the Supreme Court has sided with him. In a 6-3 decision, which fell along Conservative/Liberal lines, the court said that, as an individual, Kennedy should have been allowed to pray on the football field.

    According to the Court's opinion, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch:

    "Joseph Kennedy lost his job as a high school football coach because he knelt at midfield after games to offer a quiet prayer of thanks. Mr. Kennedy prayed during a period when school employees were free to speak with a friend, call for a reservation at a restaurant, check email, or attend to other personal matters. He offered his prayers quietly while his students were otherwise occupied. Still, the Bremerton School District disciplined him anyway. It did so because it thought anything less could lead a reasonable observer to conclude (mistakenly) that it endorsed Mr. Kennedy’s religious beliefs. That reasoning was misguided.

    ...The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike."

    The court also acknowledges that players and others began praying with the coach, even in locker rooms, and that Kennedy also incorporated religious messages in motivational speeches.

    The Court concluded:

    "Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse Republic—whether those expressions take place in a sanctuary or on a field, and whether they manifest through the spoken word or a bowed head. Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance doubly protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment. And the only meaningful justification the government offered for its reprisal rested on a mistaken view that it had a duty to ferret out and suppress."

    In other words, the Court ruled that the district was mistaken; Coach Kennedy's prayers were private and players were not required to join him, and therefore there was no conflict for the district to fix through firing him.

    Justice Sonia Sotomayor authored the dissenting opinion and argued that he Court has consistently ruled in the past that, "school officials leading prayer is constitutionally impermissible."

    Sotomayor says that the majority justices misconstrued the facts, and ignored that Kennedy, as a public school employee, was often joined on the field by students.

    Sotoymayor further states that the majority failed "to acknowledge the unique pressures faced by students when participating in school-sponsored activities. This decision does a disservice to schools and the young citizens they serve, as well as to our Nation’s longstanding commitment to the separation of church and state. I respectfully dissent."

    Bremerton coach prays on the football field

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