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NW today: Police open probe of Internet cartoons

FRIDAY, AUG. 5, 2011, 9:29 A.M.

What’s news in the Northwest today:

RENTON, Wash. — Renton, Wash., Police Chief Kevin Milosevich sees nothing funny about a series of animated Internet videos that mock city police and other city employees. In fact, the police department has begun a cyberstalking investigation. A search warrant affidavit asks that Google turn over the real name of “Mrfuddlesticks,” the user name of the creator of nine videos that were posted on YouTube. The affidavit says the videos focus on the new south King County jail, internal investigations, department morale and alleged sex acts involving police employees. The videos apparently were uploaded in mid-April, but removed later that month. Seattle University law professor and legal ethics experts John Strait tells The Seattle Times he thinks Renton could face First Amendment issues if it pursues the case. He says the cyberstalking statute doesn’t apply. ACLU of Washington spokesman Doug Honig agrees in comments to KIRO-TV, which initially aired the story of the mocking cartoonist on Wednesday. Renton police responded Thursday.

Plea deal set in court-martial at Lewis-McChord

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — A soldier who tried to blow the whistle on a plot to murder Afghan civilians is expected to plead guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter today at his court-martial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Spc. Adam Winfield of Cape Coral, Fla., is one of five 5th Stryker Brigade soldiers initially charged with premeditated murder of three civilians last year in Afghanistan. Winfield said he was pressured into taking part. A person familiar with the case who did not want to be named because Winfield had not yet entered a plea said Monday that he had reached a plea agreement under which he’ll serve no more than eight years in prison. The Army said Wednesday a plea agreement had been accepted, but it did not release details.

Female grizzly moved to Cabinet Mountains

KALISPELL, Mont. — State wildlife officials have captured a female grizzly bear south of Marias Pass and relocated the animal to the Cabinet Mountains as part of an effort to boost the grizzly population in northwestern Montana. The Daily Inter Lake reports the 2- to 3-year-old bear was trapped by state Fish, Wildlife and Parks personnel in the Puzzle Creek drainage and released near Spar Lake south of Troy on July 27. Since 2005, eight bears have been moved to the Cabinet Mountains. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Wayne Kasworth of Libby says the intent is to increase reproduction in a population that is estimated at about 50 bears. Kasworm says two of the relocated bears have died and two returned to where they were captured in the Whitefish Range.

Mount Rainier rangers harass foxes for own good

TACOMA, Wash. — Mount Rainier rangers have been squirting water and pepper spray at some rare foxes to re-instill a fear of humans in the animals that have been approaching people and cars for handouts. The News Tribune reports Cascade red foxes have been building dens near the Paradise station for easy access to scraps. Park wildlife ecologist Mason Reid says that has led to four foxes being struck and killed by cars in the past five years. The foxes are a subspecies found only on Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. They are being considered for listing on the state endangered species list. It’s illegal to feed, trap or kill the foxes, but rangers can harass them for their own good.

Sedro-Woolley men skin 16-foot road-kill python

SEDRO-WOOLLEY, Wash. — Two Sedro-Woolley men were driving down a road when they noticed something that turned out to be a dead 16-foot-long python. Lino Silva and Nick Pfeifer told the Skagit Valley Herald they skinned it and plan to use the skin to make a jacket or a vest. They said they learned how to skin a python by watching the Discovery Channel.

Stolen coins found in boat outside Eugene home

EUGENE, Ore. — Police found nearly 500 stolen commemorative coins hidden in a boat when they served a search warrant Thursday at a home in Eugene. The Register Guard reports the coins were part of nearly 3,000 coins that were in a trailer stolen July 28 from outside a medical clinic in Eugene. The whereabouts of the remaining coins is unknown. Police spokeswoman Jenna McCulley says each coin is worth about $3. Detectives also found three handguns, four rifles and a small amount of methamphetamine at the home. Police arrested a 42-year-old man on charges of theft, methamphetamine possession and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Washington berry farms fined for hiring kids 6 and up

PORTLAND, Ore. — The U.S. Labor Department has fined three Washington state strawberry farms a total of $73,000 for employing children as young as 6 years old as pickers. The department’s Portland, Ore., office says Thursday the violations include failing to maintain proof-of-age records and pay minimum wage. A total of nine underage workers were found during a child labor investigation in June at farms in Woodland, Wash., and Ridgefield, Wash. The department says all three employers removed the underage workers and agreed to attend wage and hour training for the next three years.

Contaminated soil found underneath WSU building

PULLMAN – Decades of maintenance to a chemistry building on the Washington State University campus has led to mercury and lead contamination of about 150 cubic yards of soil. Dwight Hagihara, WSU director of environmental health and safety, said the contamination is contained to the crawl space underneath Fulmer Hall, located on East College Avenue in Pullman. “This was resulting from decades of … the chemistry building being there,” Hagihara said. “When they were doing routine maintenance years ago, they’d take a pipe apart and water would leak out. Over time … that water and what was in it kind of built up.” Hagihara said the elements didn’t have a chance to push contaminants too far down into the ground because the crawl space was sheltered by the chemistry building. The affected area is six to 12 inches deep. John Reed, manager of environmental health and safety, said it will cost about $100,000 overall to remove the contaminated soil.

Yellowstone July visitors top 900,000

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — The number of monthly visitors to Yellowstone National Park topped 900,000 in July for only the third time in park history. Park officials say Yellowstone had nearly 907,000 recreational visitors last month. That’s the second-largest number of visitors to the park in one month on record. The record of nearly 958,000 park visitors was set in July 2010. Some 1.8 million people have visited Yellowstone so far this year. That’s down about 8 percent compared to the first seven months of last year, though last year set a record. July is typically the peak month for Yellowstone tourism, followed by August, June, September, and May.

Man hit 6 times in shootout with Yakima police

YAKIMA, Wash. — A man wounded in a shootout with police in Yakima was hit six times — twice in the head — and was in critical condition after surgery at Yakima Regional Medical Center. Police say three Yakima officers and one from Toppenish were involved in the Wednesday night shooting with 30-year-old Lance Nanamkin. Police say he had fled in a stolen car from Toppenish and started firing an assault rifle when he was stopped in Yakima. Acting Police Chief Greg Copeland says Nanamkin fired about 18 rounds and the officers about 50 rounds, all in about 20 seconds. Officers were hit by flying windshield glass but uninjured. KAPP reports Nanamkin is a known gang member with a criminal record that includes a manslaughter conviction.

Detergent ad nets Richland men $1 million prize

RICHLAND, Wash. – Doug Browning and Lance Merkley are riding high this week after winning a $1 million prize for their Gain detergent commercial. “People were so awesome, both here in the Tri-Cities and all over the country, for diligently voting for us every day,” Browning said. “We’re so excited. We have some big plans for the money.” The two Richland filmmakers entered the Smell Like a Million Bucks commercial contest about a month ago. The site shows that more than 650,000 people watched the contest videos. Contestants had to use Gain detergent and get the message across to Internet viewers how good it smells. The winner gets $100,000 a year for 10 years. Browning stayed behind the camera directing the video while Merkley, Lyle Dye and Merkley’s wife Jennifer played the comedic roles. Their skit starts out with Merkley bumbling around in the dark trying to find a clean shirt to wear to work. He whispers to his half asleep and very annoyed wife that he can’t find a shirt in the dark, and she tells him to just follow the clean Gain smell. He ends up waltzing out of the house wearing one of his wife’s gaudy blouses. Then he glances across the street and notices his neighbor, Dye, sailing out his front door wearing his wife’s tacky blouse. To truly appreciate the hilarity of the commercial, watch it online.

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