Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Boise School Levy Vote to Be Considered by Council

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 7:30 AM

When the Boise City Council votes tonight, they'll vote on a vote.

In a non-binding resolution, the council will weigh in on the upcoming Boise School District supplemental level election, which is asking voters for $14 million over the next five years to help fill budget gaps and, in effect, preserve class size, according to district officials. The levy is set for Tuesday, March 13.

In Wednesday's BW, we consider a campaign, waged by Friends of Boise Schools, which is about to ramp up in a big way, mobilizing as many as 400 volunteers to man phone banks and canvass neighborhoods through the school district. On the flip side, we'll also visit KIDO talk show host Austin Hill, who isn't shy with his criticism of the district's adminsitration.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Reinke: Another Idaho Execution Might Be Scheduled in Spring

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 3:13 PM

Brent Reinke, Idaho Department of Correction director, told members of the House Health and Welfare Committee this afternoon that Idaho could see another death row inmate scheduled for execution as early as this spring.

Thirteen men and one woman currently sit on Idaho's death row.

Reinke was briefing lawmakers on how his department, the third-largest in the state, is holding up in the wake of budget constraints while continuing to see growth of its inmate population. Additionally, Reinke and his staff had to manage the Nov. 18 execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades, the first instance of Idaho putting an inmate to death since 1994 and only the second since 1957.

IDOC said the cost of the execution totaled $53,411. Of the total, $25,583 went to employee overtime and $27,828 went to operational expenses, including medical supplies, equipment rentals and meals.

Reinke said today that his department would have some new recommendations concerning execution procedures that he would present to lawmakers in the coming months.

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Former HHS Secretary Urges Lawmakers to Move Forward With Insurance Marketplace

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 2:47 PM

Health care reform was on the menu today for a Boise luncheon packed with lawmakers and Chamber of Commerce members from each corner of Idaho. A side order of politics was also served up.

A man who knows a lot about both was the featured speaker: Michael Leavitt, the three-term governor of Utah and former secretary of Health and Human Services, under President George W. Bush. Levitt also served as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The gathering of the Idaho Chamber Alliance wasn't necessarily neutral regarding the Affordable Care Act. As each attendee opened the agenda to the program, tucked inside was a flier that said, "Say no to a federal exchange because the right solution for Idaho is a state exchange."

Leavitt urged attendees to get going on developing Idaho's own health care marketplace, rather than default to a federal version.

"You have three choices," said Leavitt, referring to what he called Obamacare. "Number one: fight it and die. Number two: accept it and maybe you'll get a chance to change it. Number three: lead it and prosper."

Levitt pointed to his home state of Utah's exchange, which is still not federally qualified under the guidelines set by the ACA. But he insisted that it would be a part of a group of at least 25 other states designing their own exchanges, forcing the White House's hand to acknowledge local control.

"I don't believe HHS won't approve those," he said.

Now retired from public service, Leavitt has a very personal stake in health care. He has returned to his family-owned Leavitt Group, which is now the nation's second-largest privately held insurance brokerage, including its Boise office.

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New Language in Gas Exploration Legislation Would Include More Local Oversight

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 9:21 AM

Petroleum industry advocates say they'll soon be ready to to present a package of bills regarding oversight of Idaho's natural gas exploration industry, and when they do, they'll be alongside Idaho's county administrators to support the measures.

The Idaho Association of Counties spent weeks working with the Idaho Petroleum Council, an association of oil- and gas-related companies, to craft new oversight guidelines as part of legislation that should come before the Idaho Legislature sometime in February.

"We've been meeting with all of the appropriate state agencies regarding the language," said John Foster, a consultant to IPC, who said that it was still to be determined which Idaho House or Senate committee would see the proposed legislation first.

According to a statement from the IAC and IPC, the proposed measures would include a requirement that the state notify local governments when a company applies for an exploration permit in that county. Local governments will be able to regulate construction and operation of the processing stations, pipelines and other infrastructure required for the exploration and delivery of natural gas, "as long as the county rules do not prevent that infrastructure from being built," according to the statement.

The proposed legislation would also grant local governments "the freedom and flexibility to pass their own industry-specific ordinances as long as those rules do not conflict with state law."

Foster said the bills' sponsors already considered several legislators as "great champions" for the industry, including Republican Rep. Judy Boyle, House Speaker Lawerence Denney and Sen. Monty Pearce, all from District 9, the southwest Idaho region that has seen the greatest interest in natural gas exploration.

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Feds Could Begin Deleting All Megaupload Data Thursday

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 9:17 AM

In the wake of the controversial shutdown of Megaupload on Jan. 19, U.S. federal agents said today that they're prepared to begin wiping out the site's data, which could tick off up to 50 million file-sharing customers. The data could be wiped out as early as this Thursday, and would include all files, including non-copyright-infringing data.

The move by the U.S. Attorney's Office comes a week-and-a-half after agents froze the assets of Megaupload and charged seven of the company's officers with copyright infringement. Customers have been locked out of their accounts on the site ever since.

Prosecutors said they no longer have any need to access the data, and instead of copying it, they have asked a federal court to delete the files. Lawyers for Megaupload said they're trying to work with the feds to stop the deletion.

"We're cautiously optimistic at this point because the United States, as well as Megaupload, should have a common desire to protect consumers," Ira Rothken, counsel for Megaupload told the Associated Press.

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Republicans Expected to Link Keystone Pipeline to Other Legislation

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 9:14 AM

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama denied an application from TransCanada to build a Canada-to-Texas $7 billion pipeline, citing an inappropriate amount of time to review its environmental impacts.

But Republican congressional leaders said this morning that they'll still find a way to force the so-called Keystone XL pipeline through, even if they have to attach it to other legislation. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said he may attach the XL to an energy and highway bill or even a pending deal to extend payroll tax cuts for workers, which already has bipartisan support.

Boehner's first choice would be to attach the XL to a plan that would open up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, which has inadequate support in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate.

Opposition to Keystone insists the project contributes to higher greenhouse gas emissions. Supporters insist the project creates thousands of jobs.

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Study Ranks Idaho Suicide Rate Fourth in Nation

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 9:08 AM

In a troubling report out today, Idaho is ranked fourth in the nation when measuring suicide rates in 2009.

The study from the American Association of Suicidology said Idaho's 2009 suicide rate of 19.7 per 100,000 population was far higher than the national average rate of 12.0. Only Montana, Alaska and Wyoming were ahead of Idaho. Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona and Utah rounded out the Top 10.

"The ranking is higher than we've experienced," said Kathie Garrett, chairperson of the Idaho Council on Suicide Prevention, pointing to a 2008 study that ranked Idaho as sixth in the nation.

The council, along with the Suicide Prevention Action Network, Veterans' Services Administration, Idaho State University and the Idaho National Guard have been working to re-establish a suicide prevention hot line for Idaho, which was closed in 2006 after loss of funding.

"Our goal is to raise at least two years' worth of funding so we can be assured that a hot line would not be opened one year and closed the next," said Garrett. "We want to be sure that when Idahoans call the hot line, the telephone is answered."

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK.
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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fungicide-Tainted Orange Juice Seized

Posted By on Sun, Jan 29, 2012 at 3:45 PM

The rule is clear: fungicides are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, particularly to prevent fungus damage for oranges.

Yet according to the FDA, this month alone, 14 percent of the orange juice imported into the United States has been detained for having trace amounts of fungicides, specifically carbendazim, which is used in other countries. The seized shipments originated from Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, Belize, Honduras, Lebanon and Turkey. Coca-Cola, which distributes orange juice under the Minute Maid and Simply Orange brands, said it found the fungicide in its juice and rival juices, and reported the findings to the FDA.

The United States imported $438 million worth of orange juice in 2010.

The FDA said it was currently testing domestically grown orange juice for any traces of fungicides and those results are expected to be made public this coming week.

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Flags at Half-Staff Throughout Idaho Monday

Posted By on Sun, Jan 29, 2012 at 12:57 PM

Flags will be lowered to half-staff from dawn to dusk Monday at all state office buildings in Idaho.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter ordered the flags lowered in honor of slain U.S. Marine Kenneth Cochran from Wilder.

Otter and his wife Lori are in Parma today to attend the funeral services for the 20-year-old Lance Corporal who was killed Jan. 15 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Cochran was a 2010 graduate of Parma High School, where today's services will be held.

Cochran will be laid to rest at the Idaho State Veterans' Cemetery in Boise.

Cochran is at least the 61st Idahoan killed in the Afghanistan or Iraqi conflicts since Sept. 11, 2001.

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Hundreds Across the State Rally Lawmakers to Add the Words

Posted By on Sun, Jan 29, 2012 at 12:04 PM

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Over 1,000 Idahoans stood on the steps of the State Capitol Saturday to deliver a clear message to state lawmakers: They want Idaho lawmakers to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act.

For the last five years, the Idaho Legislature has refused to grant a hearing on the proposed amendment, which would grant LGBT Idahoans basic protections in employment, housing and education. So this year, volunteers with the Add the Words campaign organized a statewide day of action to push for the legislation. Rallies were held in over 10 Idaho cities on Saturday.

“We are completely blown away by the outpouring of support that we received today,” said Mistie Tolman, spokeswoman for Add the Words. “We had at least three times as much people here as we did last year. I don’t know how the legislators can ignore us any longer. I think this will send a really big message that it’s time to add the words.”

Speakers at the event included Marisol Cervantes, the president of Borah High’s Gay-Straight Alliance; local transgender advocate and mentor, Drew Weston; and State Representative Cherie Buckner-Webb, who reminisced on the similarities between Saturday’s event and the rallies held in support of Idaho’s 1969 Civil Rights legislation.

Tolman shared what she said was some positive news to the crowd: On Wednesday, Feb. 8, at 8 a.m., an Add the Words bill will get a print hearing in front of the Senate State Affairs Committee. She called on the audience to fill the committee room so that its standing-room only.

After the speeches, State Sen. Nicole LeFavour invited the large crowd into the Capitol to place sticky notes along the chamber and hallway doors. The audience obliged, and hundreds of LGBT communities members, their friends and family, entered the building and filled its doors with notes calling upon lawmakers to add the words.

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State Sen. Nicole LeFavour adds her own sticky note.
  • State Sen. Nicole LeFavour adds her own sticky note.

Crowds filled the halls of the State Capitol to place Add the Words sticky notes on the doors.
  • Crowds fill the halls of the State Capitol to place Add the Words sticky notes on the doors.

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