What’s news in the Northwest today:
BOISE — The gap between how much men and women earn in the Gem State widened in 2010. The salary disparity between men and women increased by 2.2 percent during the previous year, according to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The survey showed the full-time wages of Idaho women were 77.6 percent of what men earned. Idaho was ranked 36 among states for the ratio of salaries between the sexes. State lawmakers previously passed a resolution to bring attention to the disparity and established Equal Pay Day on April 28. The date is recognized nationwide to mark how far the average woman would have to work into the year to catch up to what the average man earned in the previous year
Police search for North Idaho teen in hit-and-run
LEWISTON — Police are searching for a teen driver accusing of fleeing from an accident at a Lewiston drive-thru that injured a 17-year-old girl. The Lewiston Tribune reports Seth S. Thorson was driving a pickup truck that allegedly ran over Alexis Taylor outside a Jack in the Box early Thursday. Witnesses told police Thorson, who is also 17, fled on foot before police arrived. He is wanted on suspicion of a felony hit-and-run, though police say no charges have been filed yet in connection to the accident. Police say the girl was leaning out of the pickup when she dropped her cell phone and got out to search for it. Thorson was reportedly unaware she was beneath his truck when he ran over the girl, who suffered a broken arm.
Longview soldier reportedly killed in Afghanistan
LONGVIEW, Wash. — The family of a Longview woman serving with the Army in Afghanistan says she was shot and killed Wednesday in a guard tower. The stepmother of 21-year-old Spc. Mikayla Anne Bragg told The Daily News she had been scheduled to leave Afghanistan and return to the United States on Jan. 6. The Defense Department has not confirmed the death. The stepmother, Amber Bragg of Longview, said Bragg’s father, Steve Bragg, flew to Dover Air Force Base to identify the body. Mikayla Bragg joined the Army after graduating from Mark Morris High School in 2008. She was deployed in August from Fort Knox in Kentucky to Afghanistan as truck driver with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. Her mother, Sheyanne Baker, lives in Shelton.
North Idaho deputy wants new trial in ex-wife’s death
LEWISTON — A former sheriff’s deputy convicted last week of strangling his ex-wife to death in northern Idaho wants a new trial. The Lewiston Tribune reports an attorney for Joseph A. Thomas Jr. filed a motion Thursday in Nez Perce County, where the man was found guilty today of first-degree murder in the death of his former wife, Beth Irby-Thomas. Thomas is to be sentenced March 2. The Lewiston woman was found underneath a blanket in her living room May 1 with a belt wrapped tightly around her neck. During trial, prosecutors argued Thomas killed his ex-wife, while he claimed she died accidentally while practicing autoerotic asphyxiation. An attorney for Thomas claims he was deprived of a fair trial for reasons that included the judge’s order limiting references to autoerotic asphyxiation.
Lane County investigating death of Creswell teen
EUGENE, Ore. — The Lane County sheriff’s office is investigating the death of a 16-year-old Creswell teen whose family belongs to a faith healing church. Austin Lewis Sprout died Tuesday of unknown causes, pending an autopsy. An obituary notice sent to the The Register-Guard says a graveside service is planned Tuesday at the Creswell Pioneer Cemetery, followed by a dinner at the General Assembly and the Church of the First Born. The Register-Guard reports the church has a history of controversial deaths related to healing by prayer. Sheriff’s Sgt. Billy Halvorson confirmed the investigation but had no details on the boy’s death.
Minimum wage set to go up New Year’s Day
HELENA, Mont. — Montana’s minimum wage is scheduled to go up again on New Years’ Day. The Economic Policy Institute says the increase will directly benefit 15,000 workers in the state. The state’s minimum wage will increase 30 cents to $7.65 an hour. The institute says that means an extra $624 per year in wages for a full-time minimum wage worker. The increase comes as a result of an initiative Montana voters adopted in 2006 that established annual cost of living increases.
Idaho to accept comment on NCLB waiver in January
BOISE — The state plans to accept public comment in January on Idaho’s application for a federal waiver to skirt provisions under the No Child Left Behind education law. Officials at the state Department of Education had hoped to have the waiver application ready for review in December and hold a 21-day public comment period before submitting it in February. But the agency notified school districts Wednesday that the proposal was still undergoing edits. Idaho and other states have complained the nation’s key education law sets unrealistic benchmarks for schools while failing to accurately measure student growth. President Barack Obama announced in September that since Congress had failed to rewrite No Child Left Behind, he would allow states that meet certain requirements to apply for a waiver to get around it.
Mining resumes at Signal Peak; gas levels lower
BILLINGS, Mont. — Mining has resumed at a Montana coal mine where high levels of dangerous carbon monoxide gas prompted a shutdown of most underground operations that lasted three weeks. Signal Peak Energy spokesman Mike Dawson said today that nitrogen pumped into a portion of the Bull Mountain mine had lowered concentrations of the gas to safe levels. He says mining resumed late Thursday. Federal safety inspectors cleared the company to resume some underground maintenance work earlier this week. Prior to that, work was restricted to the mine’s surface while the gas problem was addressed. The high carbon monoxide levels were found Dec. 1 in an area away from active mining. The 300-employee mine is north of Billings near the community of Roundup.
Kennewick ferry to hit water Jan. 6
KENNEWICK, Wash. – A $68 million boat named after an oasis in Washington state’s desert is set to begin navigating the waters of Puget Sound next month. Before that, Kennewick city officials and citizens will get a chance to tour the Motor Vessel Kennewick – the newest Washington state ferry – Jan. 6 in Port Townsend, it was announced Thursday. The MV Kennewick, a Native American word for “grassy place,” will serve the Port Townsend/Coupeville (Keystone) route. The celebration in Port Townsend is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Public tours of the boat will be available after the ceremony and until 1 p.m. Event parking will not be available at the terminal. Vigor Industrial built the 64-car vessel, and Kennewick is the last of three such ferries – the Salish and the Chetzemoka – to be built as part of the Kwa-di Tabil class construction program. The class was finished three months ahead of schedule and $6.7 million under its budget of $213 million, said the state.
Man guilty of impersonating police, extorting sex
SEATTLE — A 26-year-old felon has pleaded guilty of impersonating a police officer to extort sex from a woman and two 15-year-old girl escorts. The Seattle Times reports that Julian Tarver pleaded guilty Wednesday to 15 criminal charges, including unlawful imprisonment. Tarver had been in prison for a litany of crimes that included arson. But as bad as his crimes were, King County prosecutors were troubled how he found the two 15-year-old girls. According to charging documents, Tarver found them on backpage.com, the online advertising site owned by Village Voice Media, the parent company of Seattle Weekly and a dozen other weekly alternative newspapers across the country. Backpage.com has been the center of attention for authorities, who say it’s used to traffic underage sex workers.
Coin worth $1,700 donated to Salvation Army kettle
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. — A Secret Santa discreetly dropped off a rare gold coin valued at $1,700 in a University Place Salvation Army kettle this past week. But that act of kindness may not be as rare as it seems. The South African Krugerrand was found by a volunteer bookkeeping on Wednesday. However, The Tacoma News Tribune reports that other Krugerrands have been donated to the Salvation Army across the country, from Georgia to Nebraska. And someone, possibly the same person, also donated a Krugerrand at the same location in the past two years. Local Salvation Army officer Major Warren Dabis says the coin was wrapped in a dollar bill. Salvation Army officials are working with a local coin dealer to sell it for the highest bid.
Idaho growth rate slows from mid-2010 to mid-2011
BOISE — The Idaho Department of Labor reports that the state’s population grew by nine-tenths of a percent between mid-2010 and mid-2011. The agency says that’s the lowest growth rate for Idaho since 1990. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Idaho’s population at 1,584,985 on July 1, up by 14,000 over the previous year. Most of the growth in the last year came from births rather than new people moving to the Gem State. The slower pace of growth is a stark change from the state’s 16 percent growth rate recorded between 2006 and 2007. Still, Idaho grew at a faster rate than the nation overall and more than neighboring states like Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Wyoming. But Idaho fell behind the pace in other western states, including Washington and Utah.
Chicago man dies after sparring in Vancouver
VANCOUVER, Wash. — Police are investigating the death of a Chicago man after a sparring match in Vancouver, Wash. Police say 38-year-old Salvador Flamenco came to Vancouver after agreeing to fight at the home of a Vancouver man he met through an online chat room. They sparred on Dec. 15 and Dec. 16. After the second day of fighting, police say Flamenco showed medical distress. An ambulance took him to a hospital where he died.
Man killed by train near Amtrak station in Pasco
PASCO, Wash. — The body of a man was found on railroad tracks Thursday night near the Amtrak station in Pasco. A railroad worker saw the body and called the police. Police told KNDU the man may be a transient who was hit earlier in the day.
Laid-off IT worker admits hacking former employer
MISSOULA, Mont. — An information technology worker accused of crashing his company’s system after he was laid off has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of unlawful use of a computer. The Missoulian reports Vladimir Ivanovich Shved entered his plea Thursday and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 23. Shved was laid off by Edulog in Missoula in late October, and on Nov. 2, multiple servers crashed nearly simultaneously at the company. Its sister company, Logisys, which provides software for law enforcement, fire and emergency management services, also was affected. Court records say Edulog actually offered Shved an hourly rate to help resolve the problem, and he countered with a demand for a contract of up to five years at $100 to $150 an hour. He didn’t get the contract.