Thursday, October 27, 2011

Consumer Spending, GDP Indicate Economic Confidence

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 9:15 AM

The nation's economic growth increased at its fastest rate in a year in the third quarter. The U.S. Commerce Department said consumers and businesses began setting aside fears about the recovery while stepping up spending.

The U.S. gross domestic product expanded at an annual rate of 2.5 percent in the third quarter, a significant acceleration from the 1.3 percent pace in the April-June quarter. The GDP is the market value of all goods and services produced in a given period. It is traditionally considered a barometer of a nation's standard of living.

Spending was tangibly greater is gasoline and car sales July through September. Government spending was flat, reflecting continued budget cuts by state and local entities.

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Treasure Valley Racing Now 100 Percent Local

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 8:51 AM

Following an abbreviated, but by all accounts successful, season at Les Bois Park, local investors have bought out their Alabama-based partners to take over 100 percent of Treasure Valley Racing. The purchase is expected to be complete Tuesday, Nov. 15.

This year's 15-day season was the first in three years, and produced better-than-expected attendance and 150 seasonal jobs. TVR's lease agreement with Ada County guarantees live races at the Garden City track for the next five years. Organizers said they expect at least 30 race days for 2012.

"Although we faced numerous challenges to reopen the track in time for a live race meet this past July, the unwavering commitment of all involved allowed us to make that a successful reality," said Scott Phelps, a representative of the former partners Alabama-Idaho, Inc. "The community is fortunate to have such strong local support of horse racing."

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chilling Timeline on Benoit, Bustamante

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 3:59 PM

University of Idaho officials released a huge cache of school records today, relating to the murder of graduate student Katy Benoit and subsequent suicide of former U of I professor Ernesto Bustamante. The records provide a detailed timeline of Bustamante's employment at the university (Aug. 12, 2007) through his first encounter with Benoit (when she enrolled in his Psychology 218 class on Aug. 23, 2010) through the tragic series of events that led to her murder on Aug. 22 and his suicide on Aug. 23.

Among the highlights:

Jan. 28, 2008-Bustamante receives high marks from students praising him for "trying to be the best teacher he can be."
Jan. 20, 2008-Bustamante receives annual performance review, which said he "meets expectations."
Dec. 4, 2009-Memo from department chair, noting Bustamanete's "exemplary levels of productivity and engagement."
Dec. 7, 2010-University's Ethics and Compliance Hotline receives anonymous call claiming Bustamanete is having sexual relationships with students, including claims of abuse and coercive relationship with one student.
Dec. 9, 2010-Purported victim denies any improper behavior on Bustamante's part and will not make formal complaint.
Dec. 13, 2010-Bustamante warned of university's intollerance for sexual harassment or retaliation. Bustamante denies any violation of policy.
Feb. 15, 2011-Bustamante receives annual performance evaluation that he "meets expectations."
May 1, 2011-Bustamante emails chair of Psychology Department that he is experiencing significant withdrawal symptoms due to a change in medication. Chair encourages Bustamante to seek medical attention.
June 10, 2011-Benoit first contacts university with complaint against Bustamante.
June 12, 2011-Benoit sends complaint in writing. Benoit is encouraged to access Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse.
July 5, 2011-Benoit gives permission to university to deliver complaint to Bustamante. University says it will direct Bustamante to have no contact with Benoit.
July 19, 2011-University officials conduct in-person interview with Bestamante. He admits to sexual relationship, denies he threatened Benoit with weapon, denies that he carries a firearm, admits to having sexual relationships with other students.
July 20, 2011-Bustamante states his resignation in emails to students and colleagues.
Aug. 5, 2011-Bustamante agrees to separation from university.
Aug. 22, 2011-University officials tell Benoit that Beustamante's contract with the university formally concluded.
Aug. 22, 2011-Benoit is murdered
Aug. 23, 2011-Bustamante commits suicide.

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Idaho GOP Sets Presidential Straw Poll for Jan. 6

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 1:07 PM

As expected, the Idaho Republican Party's Executive Committee has given its blessing to its first-ever presidential straw poll, scheduled for Friday, Jan. 6. The event will be held in conjunction with the committee's winter meeting, which will take place the following day.

The straw poll isn't for everyone. Only Idaho residents who currently are, or want to be, a Republican and pay a $30 admission charge can participate. Planners said those who pay at the door will also be registered with the state GOP.

Idaho's Republican caucus, to select delegates to nominate a national candidate, is scheduled for Tuesday, March 6.

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Public College Costs Surge, Idaho Universities Still Much Lower Than U.S. Average

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 11:49 AM

As President Barack Obama announced details of a plan to ease debt burdens for the nation's students, the College Board was simultaneously announcing that average in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges surged 8.3 percent this fall (but 7.4 percent when excluding California). The College Board said the tuition increases stemmed from a weakened economy and state funding that hasn't kept pace with enrollment growth.

Published in-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions average $8,244. This fall, Boise State's in-state tuition for a full-time student (12-18 credits) was $3,594. The University of Idaho's in-state tuition for a full-time student (10-20 credits) was $2,928.

Published out-of-state tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities average $20,770. This fall, Boise State's out-of-state tuition for a full-time student (12-plus credits) was $5,200. The University of Idaho's out-of-state tuition for a full-time student (10-plus credits) was $6,260.

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White House Plan Lowers Loan Payments for 14,000 Idaho Students

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 11:24 AM

The White House estimates that more than 14,000 Idaho students would benefit for its new plan to lower student loan payments.

The Obama administration's "pay as you earn" proposal aims to cap student loan payments at 10 perecent of discretionary income as early as next year, and would also forgive the balance of a student's debt after 20 years of payments. Additionally, the plan would allow millions of the nation's students and recent college graduates to consolidate their loans and reduce their interest rates.

"Steps like these won't take the place of the bold action we need from Congress to boost our economy and create jobs, but they will make a difference," said President Barack Obama at a noontime announcement at the White House.

Current law allows borrowers to limit their loan payments to 15 percent of their discretionary income and forgives all remaining debt after 25 years.

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Mayor Bieter Honors Congo Refugee Fidel Nshombo as a New American

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 7:18 AM

Fidel Nshombo, who came to Boise in 2006 after surviving the conflict in Congo, and much, much more, was honored with a U.S. flag from the U.S. Capitol at Boise City Hall Tuesday.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter gave Nshombo the flag to commemorate his citizenship and his achievements as an advocate for other refugees in the region.

The flag was provided by Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo.

[ Video is no longer available. ]

*Editor's note: Nshombo contributed to Boise Weekly's blog The Grip, which was paid for by a diversity grant from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. Read his work on The Grip.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

E-Cigarettes: What's In a Name?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 1:39 PM

This Wednesday, Oct. 26, Boise Weekly catches up with Jim Longden, owner of Vapoligy LLC, a shop that sells electronic cigarettes. The City Council's smoke-free ordinances, as worded, filter out these tobacco-free nicotine vaporizers.

You're probably asking yourself, "Just what the hell is an e-cigarette, anyway?" Check out the video below to get a taste of what's coming Wednesday. Learn all about the liquid in e-cigarettes, and watch a BW reporter fill his lungs with mango flavor.

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Candidates Court North End Neighborhood Association

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 12:21 PM

Boise City candidates, in an Oct. 24 forum, batted their eyelashes at the North End Neighborhood Association, which represents Boise's oldest neighborhood. The evening brought a mayoral candidate and City Council candidates—all vying for votes—to Hyde Park Mennonite Church at 12th and Eastman streets.

The race for the council’s seat number two is the most contested. Three candidates are running for the seat Lauren McLean is giving up in order to run for Alan Shealy's seat numero uno. Those candidates are Lawrence Johnson, 24, who owns a building company; Michael Cunningham, 59, an area director for the Boise School District; and Ben Quintana, 33, formerly of the Boise Chamber of Commerce.

Johnson supports lowering property taxes but without cutting services. Cunningham believes in a bigger partnership with schools and using a local option tax. Quintana thinks his experience in attracting business to Boise will best fill the seat.

Playing off one another, Lauren McLean and eight-year council veteran Elaine Clegg talked about using a local option tax to fund big projects, creating a circulator in downtown Boise and pushing the Boise School District levy in March. Both Clegg and McLean are running unopposed.

"We have a ton of potential to build a first-class Western city," said McLean.

Continue reading »

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Idaho Power and Solar Project OK New Agreement, Lower Rates

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 11:07 AM

Following a stern suggestion from the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to Idaho Power and a solar-power developer to fix their math, all parties announced late Monday that they had a 25-year deal to generate power from a 20-megawatt project in Owyhee County beginning in July 2012.

Idaho Power had initially struck a deal with Interconnect Solar Development in which the utility would pay $105.25 per megawatt-hour for power generated from the photovoltaic project near Murphy, Idaho. The cost of the power would be passed on to consumers. But following production requests from the PUC, Idaho Power identified errors that, if corrected, would result in a significantly lower cost.

Now, under a revised agreement, Idaho Power will pay the project developer $97.47 per mwh.

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