Governor signs Hawkins’ renewable hydrogen bill
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday signed a bill to allow PUDs to produce, distribute and sell renewable hydrogen via pipeline or shippable pressurized containers.
State Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, introduced Senate Bill 5588, which was unanimously approved by the Senate Feb. 15 and the House of Representatives April 9.
The PUD plans to separate oxygen molecules from water, using electrolysis, to produce renewable hydrogen and sell it. Spokeswoman Meaghan Vibbert said last week that the plan was still in the preliminary stage and, if the governor signed the bill, the PUD would work on a pilot project.
U.S. wins WTO case against China over grain exports
WASHINGTON — The World Trade Organization handed the United States a win Thursday in a trade dispute with China, ruling that Beijing did not fairly administer quotas on U.S. wheat, rice and corn.
The WTO, the Geneva organization that oversees the rules of global trade, found that China had not been transparent, predictable or fair in managing so-called tariff rate quotas on U.S. grain exports. The import tax, or tariff, is higher on U.S. grain shipments that exceed the quota.
The case, started by the Obama administration, is not directly related to the larger U.S.-China trade standoff.
Two Clark County clinics to receive $100,000 grants
Two clinics that provide free health care to low-income residents in Clark County will receive $100,000 grants from a coalition of regional medical providers.
The Free Clinic of Southwest Washington will use its grant to improve and expand its volunteer program. The clinic also wants to broaden its funding base by increasing community awareness and conduct an assessment of client needs.
Battle Ground HealthCare will use the $100,000 to hire two part-time employees and improve health care for low-income residents.
Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Legacy Health, PeaceHealth and Providence Health & Services joined forces to create the “Health Systems Access to Care Fund,” with each partner contributing $300,000. The coalition announced Thursday that the $1.2 million fund, administered through the Oregon Community Foundation, will provide two-year $100,000 grants to the two clinics in Clark County and to six clinics in Oregon.
The Free Clinic in Vancouver was started in 1990 as an urgent care clinic, open one night a week. Today, the Free Clinic, located at 4100 Plomondon St., is the largest walk-in, free urgent care clinic in Washington.
For the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2018, the clinic recorded more than 6,900 patient visits. Nearly 500 volunteers provided 17,600 hours of care valued at $692,000.
“A lot of what we do is trying to help people who are falling through the cracks,” said Ann Wheelock, the clinic’s executive director. “You would be surprised that a lot of your neighbors, they work hard, they are employed, but they don’t have health insurance.”
The $100,000 actually consists of a $50,000 grant the Free Clinic received earlier this year, plus another $50,000 it will get in 2020.
Wheelock said the money will help the clinic bump up hours for its part-time volunteer coordinator so she is close to being a full-time employee.
“It’s just really critical that we be organized when health care providers — doctors, nurses and pharmacists — want to volunteer,” she said. “We need to make sure that potential volunteers know about us.
“Nobody wants to be a volunteer and have a bad experience,” she added.
The needs assessment will allow the Free Clinic to stay abreast of changing medical needs in the community, Wheelock said.
“We are seeing more people these days who have chronic conditions,” she said. “We want to be sure we have the right physician specialists here.”
Battle Ground HealthCare, located at 11117 N.E. 189th St., began providing medical care in May 2011. The clinic added dental care in April 2014 and started providing rehabilitation services in November 2016.
The clinic provides a variety of health services to adults, 18 and older. It treated 823 patients in 2016, with dental care accounting for about 60 percent of patient visits.
Sue Neal, executive director of Battle Ground HealthCare, said the $100,000 grant will allow the clinic to hire a part-time fund development director to work with existing donors and seek new funding and a part-time director of operations to oversee clinic operations.
“We are absolutely delighted that our health care systems recognize that operational funding is so difficult for free clinics,” Neal said, adding that grants often are awarded for new programs, not for ongoing operations.
“We are just very, very grateful to the health systems for providing this support and being partners in serving this community,” she said.
Report: Burr passed FBI probe info to White House
WASHINGTON — The Republican running the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election appears to have passed information regarding the status of the FBI’s probe of Russian influence on to the White House Counsel’s Office in early 2017, according to special counsel Robert Mueller III’s report.
The report states that the White House Counsel’s Office “appears to have received information about the status of the FBI investigation” from Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., in March 2017, just about a week after former FBI Director James Comey briefed the “Gang of Eight” — the congressional leaders privy to the most sensitive intelligence — about the bureau’s Russia investigation.
Through a spokeswoman, Burr said Thursday that he did not recall any such conversation taking place.
“Chairman Burr does not recall this specific conversation with Mr. McGahn in March of 2017; however, any conversations between the two would have been in reference to the need for White House personnel to voluntarily comply with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation,” intelligence committee spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll said in a statement. “If specific individuals were discussed, they would have been those known to the Committee, the White House, and the media. The Chairman’s stewardship over the Committee’s bipartisan and fact-based investigation over the last two years speaks for itself.”
Comey’s briefing about the FBI’s Russia investigation with the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, as well as the heads of the intelligence committees, took place March 9, 2017. On March 20, Comey confirmed publicly during a House Intelligence Committee hearing that the FBI was looking into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin — the FBI’s first official acknowledgment it had been looking into such matters since late July 2017.
Burr’s conversation with former White House counsel Donald McGahn’s office appears to have taken place March 16, 2017, according to information McGahn’s chief of staff at the time, Annie Donaldson, provided to the special counsel’s probe.
According to Donaldson’s notes at the time, Burr told them about the existence of four to five “targets,” identified as former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, former Trump campaign adviser Paul Manafort, and the “Greek Guy,” presumably former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, Mueller’s report surmises.
Senate OKs vaccine bill after debate
Rep. Paul Harris recalled sitting in his office at about 6 p.m. on Wednesday when he received a text informing him that one of his key priorities for the current legislative session was dead.
In January, the Vancouver Republican, along with Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, sponsored House Bill 1638 to eliminate the state’s personal or philosophical exemption for the requirement that children receive the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination before attending school.
Washington is among 17 states that allow the exemption. The opt-out has been blamed for a measles outbreak in Clark County that’s seen 73 confirmed cases, has spread to Oregon and the Seattle area and prompted Gov. Jay Inslee to declare a public health emergency that’s cost over a million dollars.
The bill passed the House last month and Wednesday was the last day for it to pass out of the Senate before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on April 28. After getting the text, Harris left his office to walk over to the Senate thinking that he would have to wait until next session to reintroduce it.
But it turned out the bill had been properly brought to the Senate floor in time for the deadline. The bill later passed out of the chamber on a 25-22 vote. The vote followed a two-hour debate where Republican senators unsuccessfully introduced over a dozen amendments asking for additional studies, accountability from the state Department of Health, protections from possible vaccine injury, as well as new safeguards for the state’s religious and medical immunization exemptions, among others.
“I was very happy,” said Harris after finding out his bill was still alive. “I think this bill will protect and help our community.”
While the bill passed, the Senate floor debate revealed Republican senators’ unease, including two from Clark County, with mandating vaccination requirements and concerns about their safety.
Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, responded to criticisms of the bill during the debate. She said that since the measles vaccination was introduced in 1968, exposures dropped in Washington from 20,000 to less than 1,000 in one year. She also had a stark message for her fellow lawmakers.
“A vote against this bill is a vote against public health,” she said. “A vote against this bill is a vote against the safety of our public spaces.”
Both Sens. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, and Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, voted against the bill after offering their own amendments. Both expressed concern that the bill was a step toward weakening the state’s religious and medical exemptions while undermining parental authority.
While Rivers said she was initially inclined to support the bill, she said she was dismayed after the Senate summarily voted down amendments offered by Republicans, who are in the minority in the chamber. Both were among other senators who questioned if the crisis had been overstated.
“We keep hearing ‘the science is settled, the science is settled,’ ” said Wilson. “It is not settled.”
Wilson said that there is a risk associated with vaccines, that there shouldn’t be a “one-size-fits-all” approach and that parents should be given a choice. She described how physicians frequently warned her about the possible side effects of treatments she’s undergoing for breast cancer. She spoke in favor of an amendment that required parents to be informed of the possible side effects of the vaccine.
Cleveland said such notification is already required.
Stating that she’s not anti-vaccine, Rivers said she had done research and spoken with doctors. She said that as more research is done on DNA, patients will have a better idea of how vaccines will affect them.
“I just think that whenever we educate parents and we empower them to make good decisions they do,” said Rivers. “No parent wants to hurt their child.”
Redactions heavier on Russian meddling than on obstruction
WASHINGTON — Across nearly 450 pages, blocks of black interrupt parts of Robert Mueller’s careful, dry narrative recounting Russian election meddling and President Donald Trump’s fear and ire. Most often, the Justice Department redactions mask a few words or paragraphs. In a few spots, they stretch for an entire page.
Attorney General William Barr said the report released Thursday was marred only by “limited redactions,” but that’s true only for the part of the report dealing with possible obstruction by Trump. An Associated Press analysis of the full document shows that nearly two-thirds of the section dealing with Russia’s meddling — 139 pages out of 199 — had some form of redaction.
By comparison, only 24 out of 182 pages in the obstruction section were at least partially masked, the AP analysis shows.
The disparity reflects concerns over disclosing intelligence and ongoing law enforcement matters related to Russian interference in the election and, to a lesser degree, exposing grand jury testimony. The AP analysis showed that nearly 40 percent of the report’s entire 448 pages — including its two main sections, appendixes and even its table of contents — had redactions.
The blacked-out passages leave factual holes that force readers to guess Mueller’s intent. Even before the report’s release, the redactions were at the core of a political battle pitting the Trump administration against skeptical Democratic lawmakers, who have insisted on the release of the full report. They are expected to wage a court fight over it, testing the limits of presidential authority. Barr has promised to provide congressional leaders with a version of the report containing fewer redactions, but it’s not clear if this will satisfy Democrats.
Barr said his department had to redact material related to grand jury proceedings, ongoing investigations, privacy issues and intelligence, but said the redactions were limited.
“Given the limited nature of the redactions, I believe that the publicly released report will allow every American to understand the results of the special counsel’s investigation,” Barr said in a news conference.
Several blacked-out passages refer to efforts by the Trump campaign to keep apprised of WikiLeaks dumps of emails and other materials related to Hillary Clinton and her campaign. The passages refer to now-convicted former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and to other campaign aides and allies.
Washington Supreme Court baffles lawyers with split opinion
SEATTLE — An evenly split ruling from the Washington Supreme Court on Thursday had lawyers scratching their heads.
The court issued a 4-4 ruling in the case of a Shoreline man who had been convicted of obstructing police. Justice Barbara Madsen did not participate in the case, and no temporary justice was appointed to take her place.
Normally in such a split ruling, the lower court’s decision would stand, and that may be the ultimate result of Thursday’s ruling. But Justice Steven Gonzalez’s opinion was designated the lead opinion, and it ordered the conviction vacated and sent the case back to the trial court.
Justice Debra Stephens’ opinion, which would have upheld the conviction, was designated the dissent.
Unlike in some prior cases that have involved evenly split decisions, the court did not provide any guidance about how the result should be interpreted. That left several lawyers and law professors confused. Several said they didn’t know how a 4-4 split could result in a conviction being overturned or whether the conviction had, in fact, been overturned.
“We’re going to take the position that we won,” said David Iannotti, a Kent lawyer who represented the convicted man. He conceded he didn’t know why the split decision would have resulted in his client’s conviction being overturned, and added, “Everyone I’ve talked to is befuddled.”
In an email, court spokeswoman Wendy Ferrell cautioned that although Gonzalez’s opinion was designated “lead,” there was no majority opinion in the case and that typically means the lower court decision stands.
“Parties have the option to file for reconsideration or clarification of the opinion,” she noted.
What to drink while reading the Mueller report
Everyone has a preferred drink that goes with their reading material: a coffee with the morning paper, a glass of red with a novel at night.
But as anticipation runs high for the release of the Mueller report, bartenders and booze experts from across the U.S. have been preparing their own drinks to reflect whatever they expect the contents of the report to be. Here, they’ve shared a few recommendations. Spoiler alert: There’s a lot of Russian vodka.Smoky Margarita
Who: Dale DeGroff, author of Craft of the Cocktail, founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail.
What is it: I’m making a Smoky Margarita for two reasons: 1) Because where there is smoke, there is fire, and 2) This is an easy cocktail to drink until the smoke clears and we get a look at the complete report.
Ingredients: 2 oz. El Tesoro Blanco tequila, 3/4 oz. agave syrup, 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice, 1/8 oz. Del Maguey mezcal.
Shake the first three ingredients with ice and serve over ice, or up in a chilled cocktail glass with a half-salted rim. Float the mezcal on top.Moscow Mueller
Who: Maxime Belfand, Saxon + Parole, New York.
What is it: An ode to the Moscow Mule with a little wordplay thrown in, thanks to the addition of Russian vodka.
Ingredients: 2 oz. premium Russian vodka, 7 oz. ginger beer, 1/2 lime plus a wedge for garnish.
Fill a copper mug with ice cubes. Squeeze the lime half over it, then drop it into the mug. Add the vodka and then the ginger beer. Garnish with lime wedge.Redacted Manhattan
Who: Carlos Artega, general manager of Halifax, Hoboken, N.J.
What is it: Just cut out the ice, vermouth and bitters and give me the straight bourbon.Good Morning Heartache
Who: Andrea Needell Matteliano, co-owner of Clay in New York.
What is it: I’ll absolutely need something boozy to sip on while reading — and to fend off the political hangover from all the speculation leading up to it. The Good Morning Heartache is ideal: a floral beet syrup that’s the antithesis of borscht (no collusion here) with peppercorn’s tingly bite to kick-start your own witty criticism.
Ingredients: 2 oz. gin, 75 oz. beet-pink peppercorn-rose syrup (made from peppercorns and edible rose petals steeped in simple syrup), 75 oz. lime juice, 5 oz. Genepy (herbal liqueur).
Combine all ingredients, shake and serve with ice.Dorothy Parker Gimlet
Who: Allen Katz, co-founder, New York Distilling Co., New York
What is it: As an antidote to political correctness, Dorothy Parker would have reveled in our national state of affairs. Were I to sit, reclined or composed, with a penned report of one Robert S. Mueller III — lawyer, government official, Marine, graduate of Princeton — on the topic of one Donald J. Trump — businessman, government official, graduate of the University of Pennsylvania — I would likely retire with a gimlet or three, wishing for sarcasm or elemental humor at the turn of each paragraph. No matter the ending you are rooting for, Parker’s classic quip serves as a timely reminder: “It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard.”
Ingredients: 2 oz. Dorothy Parker gin, 75 oz. lime juice, 5 oz. simple syrup, 25 oz. cinnamon syrup, 4 drops Bittermens Hellfire Shrub.
Shake ingredients over ice and fine-strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish, as you will likely need a few to get through the whole report.Bitter Vesper
Who: Logan Demmy, beverage director of the Citizens Trust in Columbus, Ohio
What is it: A Vesper martini is an excellent cocktail to accompany the modern-day crime thriller. Heavy on the Russian vodka and extra orange bitters. Actually, better make it a double, because I bet the reading will be even slower than Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” — especially with all the naughty bits Sharpied out.
Ingredients: 1 oz. Russian Standard vodka, 1 oz. American gin, 5 oz. Lillet Blanc, 5 oz. orange bitters
Stir. Strain. Garnish with an orange slice.Vodka, Neat
Who: Jim Meehan, author of “Meehan’s Manual”
Why this one: Pour out a glass of warm Russian vodka. Reserve some to dissolve all the black ink in the report.Smoke & Mirrors
Who: Shawn Chen, RedFarm/Decoy, New York
What is it: The Smoke & Mirrors is our smoky twist on a classic Whiskey & Ginger. It goes down easy, no matter the political climate.
Ingredients: 2 oz. American whiskey, 4 oz. smoky ginger ale such as Fever Tree, 3 dashes of rosemary bitters, sliced ginger
In a collins glass, build the drink with whiskey, ginger and rosemary bitters, and top with the ginger ale. Add ice, and garnish with smoked applewood chip (optional) and sliced ginger.
Vancouver man faces child porn allegations
A Vancouver man who allegedly possessed hundreds of images of child pornography made a first court appearance Thursday.
Christopher David Bjerke-Ruhl, 38, appeared in custody on suspicion of five counts of first-degree possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Clark County Superior Court Judge Suzan Clark set his bail at $20,000.
In February, Google became aware of an email account uploading suspected child pornography. Google reported the user, which eventually made its way to the Vancouver Police Department, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Email addresses associated with the account were eventually linked to Bjerke-Ruhl, and IP, or internet protocol, addresses were traced to his Vancouver residence, according to the affidavit.
On April 9, after obtaining a search warrant, police pulled over Bjerke-Ruhl, who had recently left his residence and was driving a silver Ford Escape. A phone, iPad and four thumb drives were seized, and Bjerke-Ruhl declined to speak with police before driving away. Later that day, police seized a Lenovo laptop from his home, according to the affidavit.
Forensic analyses found hundreds of photos and dozens of videos depicting child pornography on devices associated with Bjerke-Ruhl, according to the affidavit. Most of the visuals featured children younger than 10 years old, the affidavit said.
“Complete digital forensic analysis of all seized evidence is pending as of this writing,” the affidavit reads.
Bjerke-Ruhl was arrested Wednesday outside of his home. He is scheduled to be arraigned May 2.
Mueller Report Leaves Unanswered Questions About Contacts Between Russians and Trump Aides
Starting during the campaign and through the transition, a parade of Russians dangled business deals, floated policy options and sought high-level meetings.