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Despite an elegant and emotional plea by Boise Mayor Dave Bieter to save the Ada County Courthouse from destruction, the Idaho Senate voted down a bill to renovate the 1939 Art Deco building, clearing the way for the bill to demolish it to move forward. Ten Senate Republicans joined every Democrat (6) only to be narrowly defeated 18 to 16. If the bill containing the plan to demolish the courthouse fails to pass then the state is back to square one. The legislative task force determined that the cost of renovating would be $2 million less than demolishing and rebuilding a modern building.

Governor Dirk Kempthorne still owes $120,000 in campaign debt and since last July has reduced the debt by less than $6,000. At this rate it will take more than 10 years for him to pay it off.

A survey of 112,003 high school students commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, whose mission strives to improve standards of journalistic excellence and the defense of a free press, found that 36 percent believed that newspapers should get governmental approval before publishing a story and 75 percent of students believe burning or defacing an American flag is illegal. (The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that flag-burning is protected free speech.) What happened to American civics classes? No child left behind? We can't say anymore about this. An FBI agent is now reviewing our copy and has asked us to stop.

The Idaho State Board of Education has endorsed the concept allowing Idaho universities, with the exception of University of Idaho, to charge tuition. What makes the Vandals so special? Apparently the Idaho State Constitution, that's what. According to the State Board of Education member bios, half of the eight member board are graduates from the University of Idaho. Only one, Milford Terrell, is a Boise State alumni, the first appointed since the 1980s.

We bet Dan Walters knows how to tell a black bear from a grizzly now. He pled guilty last week to shooting a grizzly with his bow near Yellowstone Park in 2002 after mistaking it for a black bear. Grizzly bears are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Walters must pay a $15,000 fine and is banned from hunting for two years.

The Ada County Housing Authority was awarded $426,380 for supportive housing programs by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The money will be used to expand assistance to Ada County's low-income and homeless population.

Idaho Congressmen Mike Simpson and C.L. "Butch" Otter have cosponsored legislation legalizing the importation of prescription drugs from Canada and other foreign countries, but only from U.S. government approved sellers. In other words, let the campaign contributions flow from the exporters. Also interesting is that any participating drug exporter must register all business-related buildings with the U.S. government and make facilities available for unannounced, onsite inspections. Is this an expansion of the search for WMDs?

Bicyclists had better check their brakes if Senate Bill 1058 passes. The bill will make it illegal for cyclists to go through a red light after stopping (which is currently legal if cross-traffic permits). Many stoplights, however, turn green because of the weight of the automobiles waiting on the lower-trafficked street. Most bicyclist in Idaho do not weigh greater than 1,000 pounds so a cyclist's choices would be: Do nothing and sit for hours at deserted intersections; ignore the new law and pay for citations; or get politically active and let your legislator know what a stupid idea this is.

Don't be surprised if a federal agent comes knocking on your door asking about someone you know. Electronic Data Systems (EDS) is hosting a job fair to hire 300 help-desk and information technology employees to support a new Navy and Marine Corps Intranet call center. It's the largest government information technology contract ever awarded and will serve more than 400,000 sailors, Marines and Naval employees. Employees of the call center must be U.S. Citizens and able to obtain a government security clearance, hence the background checks. The pay is not bad either, $12 to $15 per hour. Beats working at McDonalds. Call 208-287-9770 for more information.

Les Bock has returned to private law practice after serving as the executive director of the Idaho Human Rights Education Center for four years. His legacy with the IHREC is ushering through and completing the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in 2002. His law practice will focus on tax-exempt organizations, business entities, taxation and immigration and will continue to work with the Centro de Cumunidad y Justica to provide pro bono legal assistance for those with immigration documentation needs. Thanks for your work, Les.

Major General Larry Lafrenz of the Idaho National Guard wants Idahoans to know that while 1,600 members of Idaho's Guard are over in Iraq, 2,900 are left in Idaho to deal with natural and man made disasters such as fires, floods, winter emergencies or terrorism, should the Governor call on them to serve. They're also ready in case Nevada decides to invade.

Guess what? Idaho has a lot of radon. In response, the first 1,000 callers to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's Indoor Environment Program will receive a free radon test. Radon is an odorless, colorless gas which seeps into homes through cracks and gaps in walls and foundations. It is naturally produced by the decay of Uranium in the soil and in high levels may be toxic. For more information or to get your free test, call 800-445-8647.

Opponents to the amendment to ban gay marriage in Idaho say it is expected to fail when the vote is taken on the senate floor this week. They say they have the 12 senators needed to defeat it. They claim tho have six Democrats and six Republicans on their side, but senator Gerry Sweet (R-Meridian), one of the bills co-sponsors, claims he has the needed votes. By the time you read this it most likely will have either passed or failed.

war in Iraq

U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Tuesday, February 1, 1,431 U.S. service members have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 1,096 in combat and 335 from noncombat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 10,770. Idaho has lost 11 soldiers to the war on terrorism.

Last week 60 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense

IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 15,612 and 17,842.


COST OF IRAQ WAR: $152,317,000,000.




In the feature article "A Lion Looks Back" (BW, Jan 19, 2005), Bill Cope got a couple of things wrong. Perry Swisher was not a member of the Idaho legislature when Idaho State University was made a four-year school in 1947. Swisher was first elected in 1952, but he was among the "scads of tacticians" (Swisher's words) involved in bringing about the change.

Also, Swisher founded The Intermountain in '52, not 1959 as stated in the article.

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