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NW today: Pasco spud eater is Potato Man of Year

What’s news in the Northwest today:

MOSES LAKE, Wash. — Sticking to an all-potato diet for 60 days has earned Chris Voigt the National Potato Council’s Potato Man of the Year honor. The award was presented to the Pasco man last weekend at the council’s annual meeting in Las Vegas. The award goes to someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty to represent the potato industry. Voigt is head of the Washington Potato Commission. He ate nothing but potato dishes for a 60-day stretch last fall to demonstrate they are healthy and not junk food.

Budget so tough, Otter doesn’t have enough phones

BOISE — How hard has Idaho’s shaky economy hit state government? Well, the governor’s office says times are so lean it doesn’t even have enough phones for every desk in its office. State budget director Wayne Hammon told budget writers, “Luckily we have five vacancies or we wouldn’t have enough phones.” Hammon presented Gov. Butch Otter’s $1.85 million executive office budget proposal Friday morning to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. He says interns no longer get paid, which limits the pool of applicants to just youngsters from southwestern Idaho, not the breadth of Idaho, as had once been the case.

Governor’s proposed regional ferry system a no-go

OLYMPIA — Lawmakers from both parties are giving a thumbs-down to Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal to create a regional authority for the state ferry system. The Kitsap Sun reports that at a House Transportation Committee hearing Thursday, representatives shot down the proposal, saying they don’t think it has the votes to pass. The chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee says she won’t even give the proposal a hearing. Gregoire’s proposal would create a nine-county, semi-independent regional authority to take control of the Washington State Ferries. Gregoire says that would avoid the ferries’ capital fund running into red ink in coming years. But some lawmakers wonder how the counties are expected to pay for it, when the state cannot.

Rare whale heads from Russia toward Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A highly endangered whale typically seen near Russia’s shore is taking a swim across the Bering Sea toward Alaska. U.S. and Russian researchers are tracking a 13-year-old male western Pacific gray that has made it more than halfway across the Bering Sea. Bruce Mate of Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute says a tag was placed on the whale last September because little is known of their winter habits. Eastern Pacific gray whales, also called California gray whales, are a familiar sight feeding in Alaska waters during summer. Western Pacific gray whales are the second-most threatened species of the large whales and Mate says their population stands at just 130 animals.

Otter opposes Obama policy on wilderness lands

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is decrying an Obama administration plan to reverse a Bush-era policy and make millions of undeveloped acres in the nation once again eligible for federal wilderness protection. In a letter this week to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Otter writes that the new policy concerning land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will result in the federal agency treating “much of the Idaho acreage under its control as de facto wilderness.” Salazar announced the policy late last month. “Without any state or public input, the Interior Department has circumvented the sovereignty of states and the will of the public by shifting from the normal planning processes of the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) to one that places significant and sweeping authority in the hands of unelected federal bureaucrats,” Otter wrote.

Legislature moves to ban illegals from work comp

HELENA, Mont. — A legislative plan to ban illegal immigrants from receiving workers’ compensation insurance benefits cleared its first committee hurdle and now goes to the full state House. Backers of the proposal say it is needed to send a message to those wrongly employing illegal immigrants. Opponents argue the workers will still get injured, and hospitals will have to pick up the tab for treating them in emergencies. The politically charged arguments surround a perceived problem that could be very small — or even nonexistent. Montana State Fund says that in 2010, it could only find eight claims out of more than 8,000 that had a suspicious Social Security number that may indicate an illegal immigrant. Another bill up for initial debate Friday bans illegal immigrants from getting drivers’ licenses.

Bozeman’s new streetlamps to match historic ones

BOZEMAN, Mont. — NorthWestern Energy has agreed to replace a group of 75-year-old streetlamps in a historic section of Bozeman with replicas of the original concrete poles. The utility had earlier offered to replace the lighting system with one of the company’s standard fiberglass pole designs, but residents said the concrete poles embodied the character of the area. KBZK-TV reports Bozeman’s Historic Preservation Advisory Board got in touch with a company that could produce concrete poles very similar to the originals installed in 1935.

Oregon woman in wheelchair struck by pickup

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — An Oregon woman crossing a street in a wheelchair was struck by a pickup driven by an off-duty Springfield police sergeant. The Register-Guard reports an initial investigation showed that 24-year-old Felicia Echeverria of Springfield was hit as she crossed against the signal that instructed her to remain on the sidewalk. Oregon State Police Lt. Gregg Hastings said Echeverria was taken to a Springfield hospital with nonlife-threatening injuries and she was released following treatment. State troopers are handling the investigation because it involves a city police employee. Hastings said no citations have been issued.

Watercraft homicide trial under way in Tacoma

TACOMA, Wash. — The defense lawyer for a man accused of watercraft homicide says the man who drowned in a crash on Lake Tapps was responsible for his own death. Lawyers delivered opening statements Thursday in Tacoma in the trial of 43-year-old Richard Neil Larsen. He’s charged in the death of 49-year-old Ron Scott and also charged with watercraft assault for injuries suffered by four passengers in Scott’s boat in the September 2008 collision. The News Tribune reports Larsen’s lawyer, Michael Schwartz, said Scott was responsible for the crash by parking in a narrow channel that night with his lights off. Deputy Prosecutor Mark Sanchez told jurors that evidence will show that boat light was on and Larsen should have seen it.

Oregon wolf pack has 2 more pups than expected

GRANTS PASS, Ore.— The Imnaha wolf pack in northeastern Oregon may have more pups than previously thought. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says aerial surveys documented 16 wolves in the pack, which would mean six pups, instead of just four. Combined with the three adults and two pups in the Wenaha pack, that brings the count in Oregon to at least 21. The department says the Imnaha pack is hanging out in an area with a wintering elk herd, and there were no reports in December of attacks on livestock. The department also posted a new video taken Dec. 30. Wolf Coordinator Russ Morgan says the alpha female and two pups from the Imnaha pack came within 10 yards of biologist Roblyn Brown, who was out looking for tracks.

Investigation: 3 officers shot at Idaho Falls man

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Law enforcement officers have completed an investigation into the death of a 28-year-old Idaho Falls man shot by police officers responding to a report of a possibly suicidal man with a gun. The Eastern Idaho Critical Incident Task Force gave its report to Bonneville County prosecutors, who will now decide if any charges should be filed against three officers in the Dec. 30 death of Nicolas Barker. The sheriff’s office says the responding officers tried to get Barker to put down his gun. At one point, one officer fired a bean bag gun to try to subdue him. Barker then pointed his handgun at the officers and three of them fired at him. It was not clear how many times he was hit. Barker did not fire his gun.

Oregon woman faces trial in death of teen daughter

EUGENE, Ore. — A judge has ruled the aggravated murder trial of an Oregon woman accused of starving, maiming and torturing her teenage daughter will begin on schedule next month. The Register-Guard reports the trial of 42-year-old Angela McAnulty of Eugene will begin Feb. 1 after Lane County Circuit Judge Mary Ann Bearden rejected a defense motion to postpone it until May. McAnulty faces a possible death penalty if convicted in the December 2009 death of her 15-year-old daughter, Jeanette Maples, who reportedly weighed only 50 pounds. The girl’s stepfather, Richard McAnulty, also faces aggravated murder charges in her death. But prosecutors have said they will not seek the death penalty in his case.

Man arrested at Alibi bar sentenced for robbery

LEWISTON — A 40-year-old Lewiston man who was arrested at the Alibi bar after robbing the hotel next door has been sentenced to at least five years in prison. The Lewiston Tribune reports Donald W. Mosley Jr., was sentenced Wednesday by 2nd District Judge Jeff M. Brudie to five to 10 years in prison along with restitution for robbing the Cedars Inn. Mosley asked the judge for help with his drug and alcohol abuse. Mosley was arrested within minutes of the Nov. 10 hotel robbery after a witness pointed responding officers to the nearby Alibi bar. Mosley had been released from prison in October for charges related to the 2005 theft of a Lewiston ambulance. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in December for calling 911 with a false report of an apartment fire.

Union Gap shuts down bong store

UNION GAP, Wash. — The city of Union Gap has shut down a bong store. The city says the owner of the “Glass Hook” store applied last month for a business license to sell glass art, not smoking accessories. City planner David Spurlock told KAPP the business concealed its true nature. The owner says the pipes are legal for medicinal use and were mistakenly left off the license application. She plans to appeal.

2 Duck fans plead not guilty to mascot head heist

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Two Oregon Duck fans have pleaded not guilty to stealing the mascot head of ESPN’s Lee Corso during the Civil War football game in Corvallis. August Michael Zane Cuneo of Eugene and Alexander Joseph Westerberg of Harrisburg entered the pleas Thursday in Benton County Circuit Court. Deputy District Attorney Chris Stringer said there are no plans to jail the men if they are convicted of the misdemeanor theft charges. Cuneo told The Register-Guard that allegations involving him have all been false. Oregon State Police cited the pair, alleging they took the mascot head when they spotted it next to an ESPN trailer on the Oregon State University campus where Corso was covering the Dec. 4 game as an analyst. The prop valued at about $5,000 was recovered and returned to ESPN.

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