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NW today: Boeing, Microsoft pledge scholarships

Tue., June 7, 2011, 9:23 a.m.

What’s news in the Northwest today:

Corporate giants Boeing Co. and Microsoft Corp. announced Monday that each will pledge $25 million in the next five years to a new public-private college scholarship program to help students at state colleges and universities pay for steep tuition hikes. The state will contribute $5 million in seed money in the next two years. Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the Opportunity Scholarship Act into law Monday at a Seattle high school. At the same event, she signed a measure that gives the state’s six four-year colleges and universities the authority to set tuition through 2019. The transfer of tuition-setting authority from the Legislature to college and university governing boards is intended to help institutions offset a half-billion dollars in state budget cuts for higher education in the next two years and allow them to preserve programs and faculty. The Opportunity Scholarship Program will fill a void in state financial aid programs by making available modest scholarships – worth a minimum of $1,000 each – to students from middle-class families with incomes as high as $98,000 for a family of four.

Members of Libyan royal family find peace in Poulsbo

POULSBO, Wash. – The United Nations reports that some 893,000 people have escaped the turmoil in Libya and are seeking asylum in other countries. The path of one Libyan couple has led them from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi all the way to Poulsbo. Alsanosi Fonaas and his wife, Heba, are members of the former Libyan royal family, which was ousted in 1969 when Moammar Gadhafi’s regime took over. They escaped Libya just a month before their daughter was born. Samia is now 10 months old. The couple have student visas and are learning English at a local college. The Fonaas family has applied for asylum in the U.S. Their immigration hearing is set for June 15.

2 hikers in Oregon extreme outdoor contest found

BEND, Ore. — A pair of hikers who disappeared during an extreme outdoor competition near Antelope in Eastern Oregon were found safe after a major search effort. The Bulletin in Bend reports that 23-year-old Ryan Johnstone of Portland and 32-year-old Luis Trybom of Milwaukie, were participating in a GPS geocaching event near Antelope on Saturday. When the pair failed to check in at the event’s required check-in time and could not be found, camp staff notified the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office the hikers were missing. The pair were found Sunday near the John Day River by an aircraft assisting in the search and rescue efforts. The two hikers were not injured, and were escorted back to the Washington Family Camp by officials.

Top House Dem scolds colleague for reform email

BOISE — Idaho’s House Minority Leader has admonished a Democratic colleague for sending an email from her legislative account suggesting that high school government teachers focus on the three referendums aimed at overturning new education reforms. House Minority Leader John Rusche says the nearly 800 emails sent by Boise Democrat Sue Chew were inappropriate and crossed the line. The Idaho Statesman reports that Chew sent the May 12 note to the private account of teachers, but about 30 copies of the email went to school accounts. Chew acknowledged her error and said she was simply trying to keep students active in a heated political debate. On Monday, opponents of Idaho’s new education reform policies say they turned in enough signatures to put the measures to a referendum next year.

Yellowstone visitor numbers down so far this year

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — The number of people visiting Yellowstone National Park is down substantially so far this year compared to last year’s record numbers. The park reports visitor numbers are down more than 11 percent from January through May compared to the same period last year. A record 3.6 million people visited Yellowstone all last year. Yellowstone’s peak season is yet to come: Typically as many people visit in the first two weeks in July as during the first five months of the year. Yellowstone has been unusually snowy this spring. The number of visitors to the park last month was about 218,000, down nearly 13 percent from May 2010.

Mayor makes appeal for cash for Kendrick pool

KENDRICK, Idaho — Inhabitants of the small northern Idaho town of Kendrick are being asked to chip in to keep their local swimming hole open this summer. Mayor Dale Lisher is challenging neighbors to help raise about $20,000 to help operate the town’s newly refurbished public pool. He says even more cash is needed to keep the local meal site for senior citizens open. The Lewiston Tribune reports the community will have a chance to contribute Saturday during a raffle and auction. Bidders could win riffles, loads of gravel, tools, outdoor gear and credit for vehicle maintenance. Lisher says the pool plays a critical role in the rural Latah County town of 300 residents. He says kids were at a loss for things to do when it shut down in 2007.

Missouri man gets 21 months for passing phony cash

BOISE — A federal judge has sentenced a Missouri man to 21 months in prison for taking part in a scheme to dupe an eastern Idaho business with counterfeit money. U.S. District Judge sentenced 40-year-old Anthony Lamar Thomas Monday in Pocatello. Thomas pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors in March for his role in a specific plot to pass counterfeit bills at a Lowe’s Home Improvement store in Idaho Falls last year. Prosecutors say Thomas returned a power drill to Lowe’s in August and got $400 in cash shortly after his accomplice bought the drill using phony money. Thomas was also ordered to pay restitution to 18 other merchants in Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Ammon and Rexburg that received counterfeit cash. The other person, Arlene Rivera, was sentenced in April.

Nearly 300 marijuana plants seized in May raid

HELENA, Mont. — Federal agents seized 289 marijuana plants and a variety of pot products during a raid of a Helena marijuana business last month, according to court documents. The raid on Sleeping Giant Caregivers in May came two months after federal agents searched dozens of medical marijuana businesses across Montana. A search warrant listed over two dozen items that were seized, including three gallon-sized bags of marijuana, small pipes and growing tools. Paul Schmidt, the owner of Sleeping Giant Caregivers, said the goods seized are about average for a midsized marijuana growing operation in Montana. He said the 289 seized plants are well below the legal amount for the approximately 450 patients he served. Federal agents also were authorized to seize up to $1.2 million from a business-related bank account.

Seattle University honoring land mine survivor

SEATTLE — Seattle University will award an honorary doctorate Sunday to a Cambodian land mine survivor who will speak about the campaign against the weapons that often cripple civilians as well as soldiers. Tun Channereth lost his legs in 1982. In 1997 he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. The Seattle Times reports he met Seattle University officials in 2007 and worked last September with a group of students who visited Cambodia and assembled dozens of wheelchairs.

Gresham man accused of impersonating officer

GRESHAM, Ore. — Police say a Gresham man pretended to be a police officer in an attempt to scare a driver he says cut him off in traffic. Police say 29-year-old Dean Goff forced a car to stop early Sunday, ordered the 19-year-old driver to get out of the car, show his hands and submit to a pat-down. Police say Goff threatened to use a Taser on the man and pretended to call for backup. What sounded like a police radio was his smart phone, equipped with a scanner application. Witnesses called the real police who arrested Goff on charges that include impersonation, kidnap and menacing.

Woman sentenced for sexual abuse of boy, 13

MOSCOW – Tanya Rippey was unable to stay composed before 2nd District Judge John Stegner at the Latah County Courthouse on Monday, but attorney Catherine Mabbutt read aloud her written statement wherein she apologized to her family and her victim and his family before sentencing was rendered for the crime of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy. Rippey, 31, of Genesee was arrested in early October after the mother of the boy she was having sexual relations with found explicit text messages on his cellphone. She accepted a plea agreement March 21. The boy’s mother claimed she found 645 “predatory texts” from Rippey on her son’s cellphone. Stegner sentenced Rippey to 180 days in jail to be followed by a 15-year probationary period.

WSU water rights case almost decided

MOSCOW – Issuing a decision in a four-year-long legal battle over Washington State University water rights will take some time, Whitman County Superior Court Judge David Frazier told the courtroom Monday as arguments wrapped up. Three plaintiffs are trying to reverse a 2008 decision by the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board that would allow WSU to consolidate its water rights. Consolidating its rights would allow the university to pump the 6,020 acre-feet per year of water they’re legally allowed through any combination of its seven wells. The plaintiffs argued this would allow the university to draw more water than it actually has rights to. The dispute started when the university announced its intent to build a 300-acre golf course that would consume more water than its previous 87-acre course. Osborn, who represents the plaintiffs Scott Cornelius, the Palouse Water Conservation Network and the Palouse Group Sierra Club, argued the university has abandoned its claim to some of the 1.9 billion gallons its water rights allow for because it has never used more than 2,000 acre-feet, or about 651 million gallons a year.

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