citydesk (2/18/09) 

Minnick Chief of Staff out

U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick's Chief of Staff Isaac Squyres has left his position a little more than a month after Idaho's newest congressman was sworn in.

"Isaac is a trusted friend and one of my closest advisers, and proved the right choice for overseeing my transition from candidate to congressman," Minnick said. "I had hoped to keep him a little longer, but I support him fully and wish him well as he takes advantage of this new opportunity."

A press release from Minnick's office said that Squyres will return to Gallatin Public Affairs, where he worked prior to joining Minnick's campaign. Minnick ousted Republican incumbent Bill Sali by a small margin in last November's election and immediately hired Squyres as his chief of staff. Squyres, a Boise native, worked on Minnick's unsuccessful U.S. Senate run against Larry Craig in 1996.

"It's been a tremendous experience being on the inside of setting up a congressional office, helping recruit a fine staff and getting Walt off to a great start," Squyres said in a press release.

Kate Haas, who is based in Minnick's Washington, D.C., office, will serve as acting chief of staff, according to Minnick's office.

—Scott Weaver

Otter spends first half million of session

Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter has signed the first bill of the legislative session, a back payment for state pest control measures, mostly pesticide spraying to kill a rare invasive potato bug.

Otter signed Senate Bill 1016 on Feb. 10 after it passed both houses unanimously. The bill authorizes $569,700 in "deficiency warrants," emergency funds that were already spent in the last fiscal year and still need to be paid for.

The money paid for Potato Cyst Nematode surveys and treatment in Eastern Idaho ($412,200) as well as gypsy moth, exotic pest and Karnal Bunt (a wheat fungus) surveys.

The bill also pays back $58,300 to the state Military Division for hazardous waste cleanup in the 2008 fiscal year.

Biden touches down, touched

Bringing with him regards from President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden made a brief visit to Boise at the tail end of the Special Olympics World Winter Games. Bookended by press conferences at the Boise Airport, Biden attended a figure skating competition at the Qwest Arena, presenting medals alongside Olympic gold medalist Michelle Kwan.

Biden also visited Boise State and announced the appointment of a special assistant to Obama on disability policy.

BW requested an interview with Biden during his visit, offering to show him Hull's Gulch. But the vice president's office did not respond.

The veep did make one prescient prediction, that states like Idaho, which officially eschewed Obama's stimulus bill, were going to love it.

"And I think you'll find they'll love it when they start turning spades and building roads and making sure the infrastructure gets built," Biden said, according to the Idaho Statesman.

Unlike his predecessor, Dick Cheney, Biden's visit was not greeted with any protests.

war in Iraq

U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009, 4,245 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,410 in combat and 835 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 31,035. In the last week, four U.S. soldiers died.

Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 16 soldiers have died.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense

IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 90,682 to 99,017.


COST OF IRAQ WAR: $597,728,995,679


—Nathaniel Hoffman

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