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NW today: Students use pennies to illustrate debt

What’s news in the Northwest today:

SNOHOMISH, Wash. — Students in a Snohomish High School marketing class illustrated the national debt for their classmates with a display in the cafeteria using pennies. Each penny represented $1 billion. It took 14,352 pennies to represent the national debt. The national budget was illustrated with 3,834 pennies. The population of the world — each penny representing a billion people — was seven pennies. The teacher, Ben Doucette, told The Daily Herald of Everett that the debt demonstration Monday was not political. He says it’s a timely topic.

3 men face murder charges in stabbing death

ST. MARIES, Idaho — A Plummer woman testified that her former boyfriend and two other men broke into her house and stabbed her live-in boyfriend to death last month in front of her 13-year-old grandson. After Monday’s preliminary hearing in Benewah County, Magistrate Patrick McFadden bound 41-year-old Jody A. Miller over to District Court for trial on first-degree murder for the April 17 stabbing death of 37-year-old Antowyn Swiney. The Coeur d’Alene Press reports 22-year-old Stephen Milton and 21-year-old Israel Kennedy waived preliminary hearings on first-degree murder charges. Prosecutors say Milton is expected to accept a plea agreement on a lesser charge. Angelita Ashby testified that she and Swiney had run into Miller at a bar earlier in the evening and Swiney told Miller that Ashby “is my woman” now. The boy testified he saw Miller stab Swiney.

Central Oregon cave vandalized, suspects sought

BEND, Ore. — A popular cave on the Deschutes National Forest in central Oregon has been vandalized and the U.S. Forest Service is looking for suspects. KTVZ-TV in Bend reports officials are still investigating the full extent of the recent damage at the Hidden Forest Cave but they say it’s one of the worst cases of vandalism they’ve seen. Officials said graffiti was sprayed on many of the cave’s features, trees and rocks were damaged, and fires destroyed many of the cave’s cultural and ecological resources. Hidden Forest Cave is off China Hat Road south of Bend. The Forest Service plans an assessment of the site in about two weeks to determine what it will take to restore the area.

Port of Olympia’s peregrine falcon chicks banded

OLYMPIA – Four newly hatched peregrine falcons had some unusual-looking visitors Monday. Four men, some wielding umbrellas to guard themselves from the chicks’ divebombing mom, stormed their nest atop the taller of two cranes overlooking West Bay at the Port of Olympia. There, Jack Lewis of Olympia, wearing a hard hat to protect him from the distressed mother falcon, reached into her nest, plucked out four downy white chicks and placed them in a pack. Back on solid ground, Lewis helped Olympia’s Glenn Phillips place tracking bands on the birds, one on each leg. Then Lewis returned them unharmed to their perch, one of the highest in town. Overhead, their mother circled and screamed. It’s a yearly ritual. The same nesting couple have spent years on the port’s crane, and every May the pair have chicks.

Human bone fragments found in dumped dirt in Ore.

FAIRVIEW, Ore. — Police in the Portland suburb of Fairview are investigating the discovery of human bone fragments on property where a regional government agency dumps dirt from local cemeteries. The Oregonian reports that Fairview police on Monday found bone fragments, including what appeared to be parts of skull and vertebrae. Officers also found plastic that looked like part of a graveside memorial wreath. Detective Brad Robertson said he spoke with officials at Metro and he believes the bones originated in a cemetery that the regional agency operates. Metro contracts with companies to dig graves and then has the excess dirt dumped on a piece of land near Blue Lake Regional Park in east Multnomah County. But occasionally, the excavators dig up human remains.

Marion County Jail garden runs out of water

SALEM, Ore. — A garden operated by Marion County jail inmates has dried up. The Statesman Journal reports there’s no water to irrigate the nearly 6-acre plot where inmates grew corn, tomatoes, squash and other vegetables and fruits. They donated nearly 150,000 pounds of produce in the past five years to Marion-Polk Food Share. The garden had been receiving water from nearby land farmed by the Santiam Correctional Institution. But the Department of Corrections shut down the pumps when the Legislature authorized it to sell the land for a business development. The sheriff’s office doesn’t have the money for water, so the jail garden is now covered with weeds.

Wolf killed after attacking dog near Hamilton

HAMILTON, Mont. — State wildlife officials say a Hamilton-area man shot and killed a wolf that was attacking his dogs. Fish, Wildlife and Parks Warden Lou Royce tells the Ravalli Republic that Jason Ekin was justified in shooting the wolf Saturday morning because he was defending his dog’s life. Sarah Ekin says they were awakened at about 5 a.m. Saturday when their dogs let out a terrified bark. Then they heard one dog yelp. They looked out and saw what they thought was a wolf. Jason Ekin went outside with a rifle and thought the wolf had left, but it came back and walked within 12 feet of a dog house sheltering a Walker hound. When the wolf turned broadside to him, Ekin shot it. Royce says one of the dogs was bitten.

Oregon man gets 6 years in sex play manslaughter

PORTLAND, Ore. — An Oregon man has been sentenced to six years in prison after pleading no contest to second-degree manslaughter in the strangulation death of his girlfriend during what he told police was sex play. The Oregonian reports that 44-year-old Lonnie Oscar Brown had been indicted on the more serious charge of first-degree manslaughter in the February 2010 death of 43-year-old Faith Blackbird in her Portland apartment. A prosecutor said none of the evidence was inconsistent with Brown’s version of events. He told investigators that he didn’t realize that he’d gone too far in choking Blackbird until it was too late. A defense attorney said Brown has a history of mental health problems. Brown apologized at his sentencing hearing.

Intruder with knife attacks Portland girl

PORTLAND, Ore. — Police say a man armed with a knife crawled through the window of a Portland apartment about 4:20 a.m. today and attacked a 14-year-old girl. She was able to fight him off and he fled. Officers searched the neighborhood with a dog but did not find the suspect. The girl was not hurt. She does not know the suspect. Sgt. Pete Simpson told The Oregonian that investigators don’t know the intruder’s intent — whether it was an attempted burglary and the girl happened to be in the room. Her parents were home at the time.

Salt Lake councilman cleared of break-in charges

SALT LAKE CITY — Criminal charges have been dismissed against a Salt Lake City councilman who admitted breaking into a Washington state cottage leased by his former business partner. Soren Simonsen agreed to pay $150 to repair glass broken in the Jan. 16 incident in Bellingham, Wash., and trespassing and malicious mischief charges were dropped Monday in Bellingham Municipal Court. The two-term councilman tells the Salt Lake Tribune he traveled to Bellingham to retrieve a drafting table, bed frame and office equipment from the property leased by Salt Lake City Planning Commissioner Kathleen Hill. Hill says she’s disappointed the charges were dismissed. Hill and Simonsen in November ended a two-year urban-planning business partnership known as Community Studio Professional. Hill hired a lawyer after the acrimonious split, and is seeking nearly $100,000 from Simonsen.

North Idaho College goes tobacco-free

COEUR D’ALENE — North Idaho College officials say that starting in July, no tobacco use will be allowed on campus. That means no cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookahs, and no smokeless tobacco products like chew or snuff. But the smoke-free campus is not an official policy. Instead, NIC Vice President John Martin told the Coeur d’Alene Press, it’s a guideline approved by groups representing students, staff and faculty. Martin says that after a year, the board of trustees will decide whether to make it a full college policy. Starting July 1, violators will be given warnings or “courtesy tickets” along with educational materials. Repeat offenders risk disciplinary action by the dean of students or the director of human resources.

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