Thursday, June 30, 2011

June Deadliest Month in Iraq Since 2008

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 10:41 AM

While Americans prepare to celebrate another year of independence, the Pentagon had a stark reminder today that the United States is still at war. The military announced that three more American soldiers were killed this week, bringing combat-related deaths for U.S. forces in Iraq to a monthly toll not seen since 2008.

The deaths occurred Wednesday during an enemy attack in southern Iraq, though the Pentagon has yet to disclose the details on how the soldiers died. American convoys have recently come under increasing threat from improvised explosive devices. Fifteen American soldiers were killed in June, the highest number of combat fatalities since June 2008, when 23 soldiers and Marines were killed.

Meanwhile, approximately 1,500 soldiers from the Idaho Army National Guard are approaching their final months at Camp Taji, north of Baghdad, Iraq. The 1,500 are joined by 600 soldiers from the Montana Army National Guard and 600 soldiers from the Oregon Army National Guard to make up the 116th Cavalry Brigade, headquartered in Boise. The 116th is responsible for life support, facility maintenance, land management, force protection and base defense for Camp Taji.

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Two Fewer Homes, One More Boise Parking Lot

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 9:06 AM

Unless someone steps forward to move two century-old homes in Boise's Central Addition District, they will be demolished in September in order to make room for a parking lot.

Trilogy Development of Meridian has purchased the properties at 411 and 413 South Fifth Street, the current location of a home built in 1894 and another in 1904. Kent Brown of Bailey Engineering, working for the developers, said the original intent was to build an apartment building on the sites, but instead they will seek a conditional use permit from the city to put in a gravel parking lot, including 28 spaces.

411 and 413 South Fifth Street, Boise
  • 411 and 413 South Fifth Street, Boise

"It will technically be a temporary lot," said Brown. "That means we would have to approach the city again in five years if we wanted it to still be a parking lot."

Sheri Freemuth, program officer of the Western Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said her organization would be more than happy to work with anyone who would take ownership of the homes and move them to another location.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

GBAD: More Division, More Rancor

Posted By and on Wed, Jun 29, 2011 at 6:14 PM

The new chair of the Greater Boise Auditorium District Board, Hy Kloc, opened today's meeting of the GBAD board with hope that the session would be less hostile than last week's meeting.

"We had a contentious start," said Kloc. "I hope we can get past that."

But within minutes, the board divided and stayed split through 90 minutes of rancor and 3-2 votes. Kloc, Mike Fitzgerald and Gail May voted for every motion and Stephanie Astorquia and Judy Peavey-Derr voted against.

To set the tone, the board spent the better part of a half-hour disagreeing on what items should or should not be on the agenda.

Fitzgerald said he wanted a change in legal counsel to the GBAD board, wanting to dump current counsel Wayne Meuleman of Meuleman Mollerup.

"He was way too deeply involved in policy making," said Fitzergerald. "And he bumped up their rate to $325 an hour. I think we should find someone who is less expensive and possibly more effective."

Voting 3-2, the board voted to replace Meuleman with Nick Miller of Hawley Troxell, asking Miller to help craft a new contract with the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau. The GBAD board restored temporary funding to BCVB last week.

The board then—again by a 3-2 vote—asked Miller to provide a legal opinion on a 2008 Idaho Supreme Court ruling that said the Pocatello auditorium district could not spend hotel room taxes to promote a broad region. GBAD board members are divided on whether the ruling directly impacts Boise.

"I gather we're shopping for opinions with attorneys," said Peavey-Derr, disagreeing with the motion. "We already have opinions from the Supreme Court, the Attorney General and our previous legal counsel."

"I don't like where this is going," said Astorquia. "And I don't think it's an appropriate use of public funds."

But Astorquia and Peavey-Derr were, again, on the losing side of a vote.

The session ended the way it began: deeply divided.

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Fireworks Ban in Foothills

Posted By on Wed, Jun 29, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Boise firefighters have posted signs, reminding citizens that all fireworks are banned in the Boise Foothills.


Additionally, Ada County commissioners said fireworks are banned in the unincorporated areas of the county that are not located in city limits or within a fire protection district.

In this week's BW, we visit fireworks retailers, including one of the largest sellers of illegal pyrotechnics.

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Inmate Says Soldier Lied About Holmes' Role in War Crimes

Posted By on Wed, Jun 29, 2011 at 10:59 AM

The Seattle Times reports that Pvt. Jeremy Morlock, a key witness in the military trial of Pfc. Andrew Holmes of Boise, allegedly told another inmate at Joint Base Lewis-McChord he falsely implicated Holmes in the slaying of unarmed civilians in Afghanistan.

Morlock has been convicted and is serving a 24-year sentence for the murders of three Afghans, and agreed to testify against Holmes and three other soldiers accused of the war crimes. At a pretrial hearing in May, Morlock testified that he and Holmes repeatedly reviewed a plot to murder an Afghan man before carrying out the crime in January 2010.

But now, according to the Seattle Times, Spc. Ronald Washington said in a sworn statement that Morlock told him that Holmes had nothing to do with the crime, "but he lied about (the) involvement to get the benefit of a better deal."

An Army spokesman at the base, Maj. Chris Ophardt, said that the war-crimes investigation is ongoing and evidence continues to be evaluated as it is submitted.

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Supremes Will Consider Idaho Case

Posted By on Wed, Jun 29, 2011 at 10:55 AM

An Idaho couple, who claim that construction on some of their property led to a federal land grab, will have their day in court. In fact, it will be the Supreme Court.

The high court has agreed to hear the case of Mike and Chantell Sackett vs. the Environmental Protection Agency when the new court session begins this October. The couple arged that the EPA seized their land after ordering them to stop building a house on a half-acre lot near Priest Lake in Idaho's panhandle. The EPA said the area was a federally designated wetland. The Sacketts were accused of violating the Clean Water Act, and ordered to return the property to its original condition or face steep fines. The Sacketts wanted an immediate appeal before a federal judge, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the Sacketts already had a sufficient avenue of appeal.

The Sacketts appealed and have now secured the opportunity to argue their case before the highest court in the land.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Safe and Sane? Idaho's Fireworks Debate

Posted By on Tue, Jun 28, 2011 at 11:03 AM

Fire officials have fanned out across the Treasure Valley, inspecting scores of fireworks stands that have once again surfaced in anticipation of the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.

Last year during July, 372 incidents involving illegal fireworks were reported in Ada County, including 189 by Boise Police. Caregivers at area hospitals told Citydesk that they regularly treat severe burns and burst eardrums each July Fourth. Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan said he has witnessed people lose fingers and hands when handling illegal fireworks.

In tomorrow's BW, we examine the conundrum surrounding so-called "safe and sane" fireworks vs. "illegal" pyrotechnics that can be sold in Idaho but can't be used here legally.

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AEHI's Ransom Resigns

Posted By on Tue, Jun 28, 2011 at 10:37 AM

Jennifer Ransom, a key figure in last winter's Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of Alternate Energy Holdings' plans to build a nuclear reactor, has resigned from the company. In a statement released late yesterday, AEHI said Ransom was resigning due to significant health-related issues from her position as president of Energy Neutral, an AEHI subsidiary.

"Ms. Ransom was the first full-time employee with AEHI in Idaho," said AEHI CEO Don Gillispie. "She fought through much of the company's challenges as it relates to nuclear power. She suffered a variety of insults and rumors on anti-nuclear blogs and beyond, which took a tremendous toll on her health and her family."

Gillispie had described Ransom as "a pretty blonde" in previous interviews.

"Quite frankly, Asians like a pretty blonde face to look at," said Gilliespie. "So it doesn't hurt." Gillispie referred to the numerous trips that he and Ransom had taken together, including to the Far East.

In a Feb. 2 court hearing, AEHI attorneys presented Ransom as a secretary, with "no day-to-day responsibilities." At the time, Ransom said she was not an employee of AEHI but rather the president of Energy Neutral, a company founded by Gillispie. During the hearing, AEHI attorneys referred to something called Bosco Financial LLC, through which hundreds of thousands of dollars had flowed. Ransom later said that Bosco was the name of a family dog.

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Not Much Meeting or Greeting at Aryan Event

Posted By on Tue, Jun 28, 2011 at 10:23 AM

The Northwest Region of the Aryan Nation was supposed to have a “eat, greet, and meet” event June 27, at Valley County’s Lake Cascade State Park. According to fliers and a website, the event was to take place between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Idaho Parks and Recreation communications manager Jennifer Blazek told Citydesk a group of about eight individuals showed up at 5 p.m. and left at 9 p.m.

“They set up their awning and flag, had a barbecue, and then left before sunset,” Blazek said, calling it a “non-event.”

Lt. Dan Smith, Valley County Sheriff’s information officer, said the department had advance notice of the event but did not plan to provide security. Smith said the secluded campground does not "get much traffic," and no calls or complaint were received.

Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Report for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Citydesk, “The reality is, we have been seeing a resurgence of the radical-right in this country over the past several years, especially the last two years, and the Pacific Northwest is very much a part of that. This is part of a much larger national trend.”

“It is worth saying;” added Potok, “I do not think that Idaho or Montana are at the levels that they were. The destruction of Aryan Nation has changed the calculus there. I do not doubt that there are still several hundred white supremacists in the area, but they do not have near the organizational energy that they once did. The [SPLC’s law] suit really destroyed them.”

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Hearing Officer: Let Mega-Loads Roll on U.S. 12

Posted By on Tue, Jun 28, 2011 at 10:16 AM

Years after ExxonMobil first considered hauling hundreds of mega-loads across U.S. Highway 12 and more than a year since the oil giant first met serious opposition to its plans, a hearing officer recommended Monday that Exxon be issued permits to allow the giant oil rigs to roll across Idaho.

The company hopes to move approximately 200 mega-loads from the Port of Lewiston across U.S. 12 next to the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers, into Montana and up to the Kearl Oil Sands project in Alberta, Canada.

"I conclude that none of the complaints or issues raised by the protesting parties are sustained," wrote retired judge Duff McKee. You can read his full recommendation here.

All parties now have 14 days to file a motion for reconsideration with the hearing officer, who will have an additional 21 days to rule on the motion. The parties can then appeal the ruling to Idaho Transportation Department director Brian Ness, who would have 56 days to rule on the appeal. After the process is complete, or if no appeal is filed, Ness will accept, reject or modify the ruling.

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