Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lewiston Tribune: Gold Miner Warned He's Too Close to Salmon River

Posted By on Sat, Mar 31, 2012 at 10:33 AM

A Central Idaho gold miner has been warned to stay away from the banks of the Salmon River near White Bird.

The Lewiston Tribune reports this morning that the Idaho Department of Lands has yet to issue a violation or fine, but has officially informed Mike Conklin of Grangeville that his operation is too close to the high-water line of the Salmon. In the spring, the DOL said such operations should been 30 feet away from the high-water line.

According to the Tribune, the Salmon River between Riggins and White Bird is a popular place for miners "who use small-scale suction dredges ... that suck sand, gravel and sometimes flakes of gold from the river bed."

Conklin operates his mine on the west bank of the river.

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Proposed New Rule Aimed at Helping Immigrant Families

Posted By on Sat, Mar 31, 2012 at 10:31 AM

New federal rules, expected to be made public on Monday, will propose that undocumented immigrants who are immediate relatives of citizens could stay in the United States while applying for permanent residency. The Obama administration said late Friday that the move could affect as many as 1 million of an estimated 11 million immigrants living here illegally.

Currently, undocumented immigrants must leave the country to apply for a legal visa, often leading to extended isolation from their families. The new proposal would allow an individual to remain the country as they applied for legal status. Once approved, applicants would be required to leave the U.S. briefly - approximately one week - to return to their native country and pick up their visa. The White House hopes to have the new procedures in place by the end of the year.

Last December, the U.S. Senate killed Obama's proposed Dream Act, a law that would have created a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who are enrolled in the military or U.S. colleges.

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More Rain Setting Northwest Records

Posted By on Sat, Mar 31, 2012 at 10:29 AM

How much rain has fallen in the Pacific Northwest? Consider this: It's the second-wettest March ever for Portland, and Seattle is on track for its third-wettest March. We're talking about Portland and Seattle, people.

The National Weather Service is calling for more showers through the weekend, with a good chance of the rain turning to snow early Sunday. The forecast should yield a bit of sunshine on Monday, but the rain is expected to return by next Wednesday, continuing again into next weekend.

In Western Idaho, weather watchers are keeping a close eye on the Weiser River in Washington County. The heavy rain and snow melt has produced a flood warning until this evening. The flood stage is 9.5 feet, and early this morning, the Weiser River was running at 8.9 feet.

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FDA Denies Ban of BPA

Posted By on Sat, Mar 31, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Many consumer advocates believe that BPA, or bisphenol A—the plastic-hardening chemical found in drink packaging—can harm the reproductive and nervous systems, particularly in small children, and potentially lead to cancer.

Yet the Food and Drug Administration has rejected the latest call to ban BPA. Government officials said Friday that BPA opponents did not provide compelling scientific evidence to suggest a ban.

BPA is a synthetic estrogen developed more than 70 years ago. It came into wide use in the 1960s and 1970s to make polycarbonate plastic for things like baby bottles. It is also used as an epoxy resin to line metal cans. BPA can also be found in cellphones, dental sealants, eyeglasses, and as a coating for cash register receipts. It has been detected in the urine of more than 93 percent of Americans tested.

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Scientists: Human Brain Resembles Manhattan

Posted By on Sat, Mar 31, 2012 at 10:07 AM

The image shows the Manhattan-like grid structure of brain fibers using a powerful new scanner that is used to map the complex organ.
  • MGH-UCLA Human Connectome Project
  • A powerful new scanner shows that the layout of brain fibers more closely resembles a Manhattan-like street grid than a pile of spaghetti.

A new groundbreaking study indicates that the human brain is laid out in a complex series of grids, rather than the commonly held belief that brain fibers are tangled like a pile of spaghetti.

The new report from Massachusetts General Hospital used a newly developed scanner to map the brain's fibers.

"Basically, the overall structure of the brain ends up resembling Manhattan," physicist Van Wedeen told the Boston Globe. "[It's as if] you have a two-dimension plan of streets and a third axis, an elevator going in the third dimension."

Wedeen and his team at MGH scanned living human subjects and animals, using the new scanner that reportedly can achieve 10 times the resolution of conventional MRI machines.

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Whole Foods to End Sales of 'Unsustainable' Seafood

Posted By on Sat, Mar 31, 2012 at 9:38 AM

Whole Foods, which is rapidly building its first Idaho location in Boise, said Friday that it would stop selling unsustainable seafood.

Effective Earth Day, April 22, the mega-market will no long sell fish caught from depleted waters or sell so-called "red rated" seafood, indicating the fish came from overfished waters or caught in a way that harms other species.

According to the Associated Press, among the seafoood disappearing from Whole Foods shelves will be octopus, skate, gray sole, and Atlantic cod and halibut caught by trawls, which can destroy habitats. Instead, Whole Foods will stock cod caught on lines and halibut from the Pacific.

In 2008, Greenpeace first published a seafood sustainability scorecard on which 20 of the nation's major supermarket chains failed. But in 2011, 15 of the 20 had passing scores.

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Lucky Numbers: 2-4-23-38-46 and 23

Posted By on Sat, Mar 31, 2012 at 9:32 AM

A collective sigh could be heard across the nation last night, right about 9:01 p.m., Boise time. At least three ticket holders matched all six numbers in the Mega Millions lottery in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland, securing a share in the world's biggest ever jackpot: $640 million.

The winning numbers were 2-4-23-38-46 and the Mega Ball was 23.

If there are only three winners, each could each receive $213 million before taxes. Twenty-five percent will go to the IRS as federal withholding tax.

Friday night, as the clock ticked closer to the drawing, tickets were being sold at a rate of $1 million a minute. In the past week, more than $1.5 billion changed hands in lottery transactions. And that's a bonanza for many states, like Idaho, that receive hundreds of thousands of dollars for education and building stabilization funds.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Business Review: John Foster, Kate Haas Countersue Strategies 360

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 11:43 AM

The Idaho Business Review reports that former journalist and current lobbyist John Foster is countersuing his former employer in the wake of his firing over working with the Otter administration. Foster's colleague, Kate Haas, has joined in the countersuit.

Foster and Haas, who worked together for former Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick and later staffed the Boise office of Strategies 360, were dismissed by the Seattle-based consulting group in early February soon after aligning with Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to support the so-called "Luna laws," a controversial package of education reforms passed by the 2011 Idaho Legislature. The Luna laws will be challenged in this November's election and the Otter administration is gearing up to promote the reforms.

But Strategies 360 claimed it was losing clients because of the new alignment with Otter, and Foster and Haas were dismissed soon thereafter. Strategies 360 sued the pair, claiming they broke a non-compete clause in their employment agreements. Foster and Haas started another consulting and lobbying firm, Kestrel West. Strategies 360 claimed that Foster and Haas had poached their client list when starting their new firm.

But according to IBR, Foster and Haas, in their countersuit, claim that officials with Stategies 360 signed off on the Otter project and were "encouraging." Foster and Haas additionally claim that they were fired without cause and did not steal any clients. They're seeking 30 days of back pay, attorney fees and punitive damages for defamation of character and breach of contract.

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Lawmakers Hit the Bricks

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 10:16 AM

Moving day at the Idaho Legislature is a mixed bag of emotions - some emotion, some frustration and plenty or relief.

When the Idaho Senate adjourned Thursday at 7 p.m. (four hours after the House gaveled for the final time), it closed a session that included tax breaks for Idaho's wealthiest individuals and corporations, some restoration of public school teachers' salaries, a couple of anti-Occupy bills, and a package of new rules to govern the state's burgeoning oil and gas industry.

But the Legislature also had some significant shortfalls - refusal to hold a hearing on the Add the Words measure, yet another House stall on an anti-bullying bill, and despite pleas from the Legislature's only physicians, a refusal to restrict indoor tanning for minors in an attempt to rein in some of the highest levels of melanoma in the nation.

Ultimately, the final day of business also included more than a few farewells. Nearly 40 legislators said goodbye, choosing to step away from the Statehouse after this session. Several of their colleagues may join them once all the dust has settled in the May primary and November general election.

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Report: Millions of Mastercard, Visa Accounts Potentially Breached

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 10:01 AM

The U.S. Secret Service confirmed this morning that there has been a potential breach of security on some MasterCard and Visa accounts. The Secret Service declined to say when it first got word of the breach and whether any suspects had been identified.

MasterCard issued an official statement, saying "the incident is currently the subject of an ongoing forensic review." Visa had not issued a statement by Friday morning.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Global Payments - a transaction processing company - had some of its data apparently breached. According to the Journal, "it wasn't immediately known if banks are planning to reissue cards to their customers."

The Krebs on Security blog speculates that as many as 10 million credit cards may be involved and that the data theft took place between Jan. 21 and Feb. 25.

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