States oppose plan to charge for U.S. water
BISMARCK, N.D. — Attorneys general from a dozen western states want the Trump administration to halt a proposal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that they say usurps states’ authority over their own water.
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the Water Supply Rule proposed in the waning days of the Obama administration could allow the Corps to charge for water drawn from reservoirs it manages.
Stenehjem and attorneys general from Idaho, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming sent a letter Thursday to the Trump administration asking to withdraw the proposal, which has lingered for nearly three years.
Stenehjem said Friday he thought the proposal had languished but attorneys general recently learned that it was still being reviewed.
“They have continued with it stubbornly and we are worried these rules could be implemented,” said Stenehjem, who is heading the effort. “The use and management of water that flows through states always has belonged to states. The Corps is clearly wrong and they need to take it back and undo it.”
The Corps did not immediately respond Friday to telephone calls seeking comment.
The agency, in its request for comments on the proposal in December 2016, said the intent “is to enhance (the Corps’) ability to cooperate with interested parties by facilitating water supply uses of reservoirs in a manner that is consistent with the authorized purposes of those reservoirs, and does not interfere with lawful uses of water under state law or other federal Law.”
Stenehjem said the proposed rule has “implications for all states” but it would especially be harmful to the six reservoirs of the Upper Missouri River, including South Dakota’s Lake Oahe and North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea, the biggest along the 2,341-mile river.
Tri-Cities picked for electric grid research complex
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has been picked as the site of a new national grid energy research facility by the Department of Energy.
The proposed project would mean tens of millions of dollars will be spent on a new complex at the Richland campus of the Department of Energy national laboratory.
And it’s expected to attract additional funding and researchers to PNNL.
“(Energy storage) is an area of critical importance to the Department of Energy as it takes on the energy resilience problem for the country,” said Steven Ashby, PNNL director. “We expect to see funding in this area increase over time.”
The facility would help modernize the nation’s utility grid to make it more resilient, secure, reliant and flexible.
Affordable energy storage could help ensure that electricity supplies can recover rapidly if there are malicious attempts to tamper with the grid or if severe weather or natural disasters take down parts of the grid.
“If you had longer lasting batteries …in terms of days or weeks, that would change the game in terms of resiliency,” Ashby said.
Energy storage technologies also could help include significantly more renewable energy, such as intermittent wind or solar production, onto the grid.
PNNL was picked for the facility by an independent review team that evaluated several potential options.
The initial approval is for authorization to begin planning and designing the research building.
Additional approvals will be needed, along with money for the project in the federal budget.
The Trump administration’s budget request for the next fiscal year includes $5 million for planning and design work to get the project started.
Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., will continue to ensure the project is supported in the congressional budget process, he said.
“Affordable grid energy storage is going to be critical for our nation’s energy future and this new facility will build upon PNNL’s expertise in this field of research,” he said.
The Washington Legislature also is providing some key seed money for the project, with Rep. Matt Boehnke, R-Kennewick, and Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, leading efforts to secure $8.3 million in the state’s 2019-21 capital budget to purchase equipment for the proposed new facility.
“As we continue moving toward a future in which we are increasingly reliant on a more flexible power grid, the advancement of scalable, reliable and cost effective energy storage must be a top priority,” Boehnke said during the legislative session.
The new facility and the equipment bought with state money will ensure that it is, he said.
“Were it not for this state commitment, our chances would be diminished,” Ashby said.
PNNL already has been doing extensive work in grid energy storage and battery reliability testing.
It has provided leadership to DOE’s goals on modernizing the grid through research that has focused on improving battery performance, reliability and safety.
Its current Energy Storage Reliability Test Laboratory brings together the lab’s capabilities in grid energy storage and power grid modernization, backed by researchers in a wide breadth of scientific disciplines.
DOE has primarily focused on accelerating the development of rechargable lithium-ion battery technology, used for electric vehicles and portable electronics like mobile phones and, to a smaller extent, grid storage.
But it took 40 years to get the current lithium-ion batteries to the current state of technology, said Jud Virden, the associate laboratory director for PNNL’s energy and environment directorate.
The project is intended not only to improve U.S. grid resiliency and security, but maintain the United State’s research and development leadership in energy storage innovation, according to PNNL.
Judge: Woman in hacking case is danger to self, others
SEATTLE — A U.S. judge on Friday ordered a woman accused of hacking Capital One and at least 30 other organizations to remain in custody pending trial because she is a flight risk and poses a physical danger to herself and others.
At a hearing in Seattle, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michelle Peterson said Paige Thompson’s “bizarre and erratic” behavior makes her a risk. The judge also said Thompson has no stable employment, residence or ties to the community and has stated that she wanted to die.
The 33-year-old Thompson is charged with accessing personal information earlier this year on 106 million Capital One credit card holders.
Prosecutors argued that Thompson, a former Amazon software engineer who goes by the online alias “erratic,” has a history of stalking and threatening to kill people and to get herself killed by police.
Police in Mountain View, Calif., said she threatened to shoot up an undisclosed company in May, while she was living with a convicted felon who had a stockpile of weapons and ammunition.
Lawyers for Thompson, a transgender woman, denied that she is violent and said she should be released to a halfway house where she would have better access to mental health care. Citing a doctor, they say her safety is at risk in the male facility.
“The risk of being continuously misgendered and becoming a target for intimidation by other inmates is likely increased in a male facility,” Dr. Matt Goldenberg wrote.
Prosecutors argued that the Bureau of Prisons has a protocol to care for transgender inmates, so she’ll get everything she needs.
Authorities say Thompson previously has been the subject of an extreme risk protection order due to mental illness issues. State red flag laws permit police or family to petition a court to remove firearms from a person deemed to be a danger to themself or others.
“In today’s America, it is easy enough to obtain firearms, and there is every reason to be concerned that Thompson, who repeatedly has threatened to kill, would obtain the means to carry out … her threats – particularly when confronted with the alternative of near-certain conviction and imprisonment,” prosecutors said in their motion to keep her in custody.
Capital One said among the information obtained by the hacker was 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 bank account numbers. It said no credit card account numbers or log-in credentials were compromised.
The breach was among the largest on record involving a major U.S. financial institution. Thompson had talked about the hack online in chat groups, authorities say.
At least 40 lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. against Capital One following the breach, saying it failed to protect consumers. Eight other suits were filed in Canada.
“Capital One appreciates the diligent and thorough work of the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in this investigation, and their efforts to keep the community safe,” a Capital One spokesman said in a statement. “We have seen no evidence that our customers’ data was used for fraud or disseminated, and the government’s statements are consistent with that. We continue to investigate this matter and will be as supportive as possible to federal authorities in their investigation and ongoing court case.”
Seattle police were granted the risk order against Thompson in May 2018. Four months later, two of Thompson’s former friends secured a protection order against her, saying she had stalked and harassed them.
In May, Thompson focused on a California social media business and sent a series of Twitter messages to a former Amazon co-worker, according to police.
“I feel bad, when my cat dies, I’m going to California to shoot up (REDACTED) office I hope you are not there,” the message said. “Sorry. But it has to be done.”
The message continued: “I like you but I can’t let you stand in the way of what has to be done.”
The person responded, police said, and Thompson wrote back: “maybe spd could do something kind and come over and shoot me.”
Oregon quorum eyed after walkouts
SALEM, Ore. — After two walkouts this year by minority Republican senators in the Oregon Legislature, Democrats said Friday they will ask voters to change quorum rules, allowing the statehouse to convene with only a simple majority of lawmakers present instead of the current two-thirds requirement.
The boycotts by the Republicans prevented the Senate from convening. Democrats dropped proposals on gun control and vaccines and Democratic Gov. Kate Brown ordered the state police to bring the missing lawmakers back during the second walkout.
The Republicans left the state to avoid apprehension, and returned only after Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney announced her party lacked the votes to unilaterally pass a sweeping bill to combat global warming.
Senate Democrats said that Majority Leader Ginny Burdick will introduce a constitutional amendment in the 2020 legislative session to lower quorum requirements. Voters would then decide on the proposed change in the 2020 election.
“Stopping the work of the people by denying a quorum is unconscionable and undemocratic,” Burdick, a Portland Democrat, said in a statement. “I hope our Republican colleagues now see that this is not a tactic that should ever be used again.”
There was no immediate comment from Republicans.
“Democrats were not happy when Republicans walked out on them this year. I believe Republicans were just as upset when Democrats walked out on them in 2001,” Courtney said.
Courtney also announced Friday that the Legislature will not fine the 11 state senators who left the state to deny a quorum during the second walkout that lasted nine days. They had faced a $500 fine for each day they missed. Courtney said attempting to collect the fines would have resulted in costly litigation.
As Washington meth use rises, this treatment is one of few that works
When Michael McDonell was a mental-health clinician at Seattle Children’s hospital, he decided to experiment on himself.
He’d gained 50 pounds in grad school and struggled to lose them since. He’d read about something called “contingency management” — the idea that it’s easier to establish a habit or change a behavior with a reward than a punishment.
The plan: He’d get a dollar for every day he ran. If he got to 365, he could spend it on whatever he wanted, but if he missed even one day, his wife would get to keep it all.
He made it to the end of that year, and 10 years later, he’s only missed one day of running.
As a new wave of methamphetamine crashes over Washington, bigger than it’s been for decades, public health officials have struggled to spread an intervention for meth addiction that’s as effective as medication-assisted treatment has been for people using opioids.
Contingency management, researchers like McDonell say, is that thing: It works, patients like it, and it’s cost-effective. Literature reviews and analyses often agree: A review of 69 reports released from 2009 to 2014 found “high levels of treatment efficacy” in contingency-management treatment. On average, it increased a patient’s odds of reaching abstinence by 117 percent.How it works
Here’s how the treatment works: You come in a few times a week, complete a urine test, and if it’s negative, you draw for a prize — at a trial McDonell is running in Wallingford, there are “small” prizes like shampoo or a toothbrush, “big” prizes like a coffeemaker, or rare “jumbo” prizes like a DVD player. The longer you’re sober, the more draws you get, but if the test comes back positive, the clinician says “see you next time.”
“It’s like being a kid at a carnival,” said one participant in a 2018 Seattle study McDonell co-authored.
When the Department of Veterans Affairs expanded patients’ access to this treatment in 2011, at the Seattle VA, 87 percent of all urine screens came back negative for meth, cocaine or other targeted substances; and of the 119 patients who have started treatment since 2012, more than half completed all 12 weeks.
“If (contingency management) were a drug, it would have been approved decades ago,” said Dr. Sterling McPherson, one of McDonell’s colleagues at WSU.
It’s cheap — the average cost at the local VA was less than $100 per patient — and since all it needs is someone to take a urine test and give out a prize, you don’t need a licensed provider or clinical staff to do it.
But because it’s not a traditional way of treating addiction, it’s harder to pay for than talk therapy or medication. Medicaid, the nation’s largest source of drug treatment, won’t cover it, and it’s unclear how health care providers would bill for the prizes, according to Dr. Charissa Fotinos, deputy chief medical officer with Washington’s Health Care Authority, which manages the state’s Medicaid program.
The state is exploring whether federal grants could pay for this treatment. But right now, in Washington, the treatment is not widely available for people struggling with any kind of addiction.
The prizes-for-sobriety model is based on an idea that is counterintuitive to how Americans often think about drug use: That people addicted to a drug still can make rational decisions, if they’re given an alternative.
A study in the 1990s offered habitual users a dose of crack cocaine or $5 when the experiment ended in a few weeks. The less crack the person had smoked that day, the more likely they were to say yes to the $5.
“Drug users are rational human beings,” McDonell said.
But contingency management, while not exactly radical, makes some uncomfortable. When the Seattle VA Addiction Treatment Center started providing it in 2012, Hang Ruan, the center’s program manager, was entirely behind it.
Ruan sat down with 500 Post-It notes, and on half he wrote “good job,” “way to go,” and when he ran out of ideas, even “cowabunga!” On the others, he wrote “$1,” “$20,” even “$100” — all redeemable at the VA store. The more weeks a patient was sober, the more times they got to reach into the fishbowl of slips.
But the staff had concerns: Was this essentially paying people not to do drugs? Was the slip-draw method basically gambling?
But once they saw it in action, according to Ruan, staff began referring people into the program. Since then, 72 patients have completed treatment — mostly for cocaine and meth use — and only eight patients have had repeat the program because the first treatment wasn’t successful, according to the VA. Sixty-eight dropped out — an attrition rate similar or better to most studied treatment programs other than methadone (whose attrition rate is low).
Federal officials suppressed document, ordered revision
LOS ANGELES — Federal officials suppressed a lengthy environmental document that details how one of California’s unique salmon runs would be imperiled by Trump administration plans to deliver more water to Central Valley farms.
The July 1 assessment, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, outlines how proposed changes in government water operations would harm several species protected by the Endangered Species Act, including perilously low populations of winter-run salmon, as well as steelhead trout and killer whales, which feed on salmon.
But the 1,123-page document was never released.
Two days after federal scientists submitted their review, called a biological opinion, a regional fisheries official pulled the document and replaced the team that wrote it with a new group tasked with revising it, as The Times reported in July.
Had the opinion been adopted and released, it would have interfered with efforts to ramp up irrigation deliveries to powerful California farm interests with ties to the Trump administration. The revision, critics say, is another example of the administration intervening to weaken environmental protections and reverse the findings of federal scientists.
In the report, the National Marine Fisheries Service unequivocally concludes that increasing water deliveries would likely jeopardize the continued existence of endangered winter-run Chinook salmon, threatened spring-run Chinook and threatened Central Valley steelhead, as well as endangered Southern Resident killer whales that dine on salmon.
The proposed changes in California water operations “will produce multiple stressors” on winter-run salmon “that are expected to reduce survival and the overall fitness of individuals,” the agency wrote.Lethal temperatures
Harmful impacts include warm river temperatures lethal to fish eggs and newly hatched salmon; low flows in the Sacramento River and more salmon deaths at the giant government pumps that send supplies south from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
“Winter-run Chinook salmon are particularly important among California’s salmon runs because they exhibit a life-history strategy found nowhere else in the world,” the scientists noted.
Adults leave the ocean and migrate upstream in the winter and early spring. During the summer, they historically spawned in cold, spring-fed rivers and streams in Northern California. But the fish lost access to those spawning grounds after the federal government constructed Shasta and Keswick dams on the upper Sacramento River in the 1940s.
That, coupled with the destruction of flood plains and other habitat, sent the fabled run on a long downward spiral. Now only a few thousand of them typically return to California every year to swim upstream to spawn below Keswick, which regulates flows out of Shasta.
Despite spending millions of dollars on hatchery operations, fish screens and gravel bed restoration, federal water managers have fallen far short of meeting a long-standing congressional goal of doubling the natural production of anadromous fish in Central Valley rivers and streams.
Of more than 165 species that the marine fisheries agency protects under the Endangered Species Act, California’s winter-run Chinook “is considered one of just nine species that are most at risk of extinction in the near future,” the agency wrote.
The extinction risk has increased since 2007, in part because warm-water releases from Shasta during the state’s severe drought cooked salmon eggs and newly hatched fish. In 2015, 96 percent of the eggs and fry died.
Revision of the July 1 biological opinion is “unquestionably an effort to subvert the best available science,” said Noah Oppenheim, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, which represents commercial fishermen.
“Literally before our eyes, we’re seeing science suppressed by monied political interests,” he argued.
Signage at Spokane airport showcases region’s offerings
The travelers passing through Spokane International Airport are being greeted with high-definition animated scenes of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene in terminals and ticket counters.
The airport began installing the expansive, flat-screen monitors about nine weeks ago. They feature moving rapids of the Spokane River and a 3D display welcoming visitors to the region.
Spokane International Airport CEO Larry Krauter said the dynamic presentation is part of an overall project to update the airport’s outdated electronic flight information and baggage display systems.
Krauter said the airport also aims to use the new signage to not only feature iconic images of the region, but to send weather and emergency notifications, directions to the rental car counter and play videos of special events, like Bloomsday or the Coeur d’Alene Triathlon.
“Those are the things that I think are going to really be helpful for people, to come in and see our community differently and say, ‘Wow, what’s that? That’s really neat,'” Krauter said. “I think it’s going to be really nice.”
The airport is working to calibrate the signage –which cost about $5 million — and will eventually have the LCD displays in all terminals.
Krauter said he’s aware of only one other airport that uses the dynamic signage — Orlando International Airport in Florida.
Spokane International Airport obtained video imagery for the displays through an agreement with “a number of different companies” and is building up a video library of scenes featuring Spokane and Idaho locations that are wide-frame shots using an array of special cameras, Krauter said.
But travelers won’t see advertisements on the screens, he added.
The dynamic video screens behind airline ticket counters will be animated according to the season. In the autumn, they may display falling leaves. And plans call for eventually adding sound.
“What’s nice is it just gives us a platform to communicate things and there’s no real limit to that platform in terms of what we can do with it,” Krauter said.
Missing ACT college exams found
Remember those 40 ACT tests that went missing?
The admissions testing company has found them. FedEx delivered the tests — taken by students at Everett’s Mariner High School — to ACT on Wednesday, a spokesman said.
Now, the company is working to score the exams “as fast as possible,” said Ed Colby, the ACT spokesman.
“It’s been so long for the students to get their results,” Colby said. “These students have been through some stress … we’re hoping to get it to them within a few weeks.”
Brian Kirk’s daughter was one of the 40 students whose tests got lost.
“We were happy to be informed [about the found tests], and our daughter is extremely relieved,” Kirk said. “But this entire experience has been needlessly frustrating.”
It was her second time taking the test. Kirk said he has two 15-year-old sons nearing college age, but the experience, “leaves a bad taste in my mouth for the ACT.”
The students whose tests got lost chose to take the ACT’s optional essay portion, which usually takes two weeks to score.
The ACT answer sheets are sent from all over the country to its headquarters in Iowa City, Iowa, where the company scores writing portions and runs the multiple-choice answer sheets through a machine.
But that leaves room for human error — earlier this year, a North Carolina high school lost all 440 ACT answer sheets of its entire rising senior class. More than 120 ACT went missing in transit from Los Angeles in 2017.
“Some packages take longer than others, for whatever reason,” Colby said. “But they usually do turn [up].”
The Mariner High School students whose tests were lost and then found were automatically registered for the September test, free of charge. They will still have the option to take a free test.
Illinois death may be first in U.S. tied to vaping
CHICAGO — Health officials said Friday that an Illinois patient who contracted a serious lung disease after vaping has died and that they consider it the first death in the United States linked to the smoking alternative that has become popular with teens and young adults.
The Illinois Department of Public Health the adult patient was hospitalized after falling ill following vaping, though it didn’t give other information about the person, including the patient’s name, age, hometown or date of death.
The state received the report of the death Thursday, said Dr. Jennifer Layden, the Illinois agency’s chief medical officer.
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that 193 people in 22 states have contracted severe respiratory illnesses after vaping. However, they said a clear-cut common cause of the illnesses hasn’t been identified and that they are being called “potential cases” that are still under investigation.
All of the sickened have been teens or adults who had used an electronic cigarette or some other kind of vaping device. Doctors say the illnesses resemble an inhalation injury, with the lungs apparently reacting to a caustic substance. So far, infectious diseases have been ruled out.
The illnesses have been reported since late June, but the total count has risen quickly in the past week. That may be partly because cases that weren’t initially being linked to vaping have begun to be grouped that way.
Among the newest reports are two in Connecticut, four in Iowa and six in Ohio. Health officials are asking doctors and hospitals to tell state health officials about any possible vaping-related lung disease cases they encounter.
In its news release, the Illinois agency said the number of people who contracted a respiratory illness after vaping had doubled in the past week, to 22.
“The severity of illness people are experiencing is alarming and we must get the word out that using e-cigarettes and vaping can be dangerous,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in the release.
Electronic cigarettes have been described as a less dangerous alternative to regular cigarettes, but health officials have been worried about kids using them. Concern has focused on nicotine, which officials say is harmful to developing brains and might make kids more likely to take up cigarettes.
Some vaping products have been found to contain other potentially harmful substances, including flavoring chemicals and oils used for vaping marijuana, experts say.
A number of the people who got sick had vaped products containing THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana. CDC officials said they do not have a breakdown of how many of the sick people vaped THC.
The American Vaping Association, an advocacy group, issued a statement arguing that “tainted, black market THC products” are to blame. The group called on federal officials to clear nicotine vaping products of suspicion.
Matthew Myers, the head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the illnesses underscore why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should be looking into e-cigarettes and their impact on health before they can be sold to the public.
Justice Ginsburg treated for tumor on pancreas
WASHINGTON — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has completed radiation therapy for a cancerous tumor on her pancreas and there is no evidence of the disease remaining, the Supreme Court said Friday.
It is the fourth time that the 86-year-old justice has announced that she has been treated for cancer over the last two decades and follows lung cancer surgery in December that kept her away from the court for weeks. December’s surgery was her first illness-related absence from the court since being appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and prompted even closer attention to her health.
As the court’s oldest member, Ginsburg has been asked questions for years about her health and retirement plans. She has also in recent years attracted particularly enthusiastic fans as the leader of the liberal wing of the court, which includes four members appointed by Democratic presidents and five by Republicans. Both liberals and conservatives watch her health closely because it’s understood the court would shift right for decades if President Donald Trump were to get the ability to nominate someone to replace her.
The court kept Ginsburg’s latest cancer secret for three weeks, until she finished radiation treatment. Yet there is no obligation for justices to disclose details about their health, and Ginsburg has generally made more information available than some of her colleagues. Retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, for example, had a stent inserted to open a blocked artery in 2005 but the public only learned about it 10 months later when he returned to the hospital to have it replaced.
The Supreme Court said in a statement Friday that a routine blood test led to the detection of Ginsburg’s tumor.