What’s news in the Northwest today:
KENNEWICK, Wash. — A Tri-Cities health board reversed itself Wednesday and voted against endorsing a colon cancer awareness campaign that uses billboards saying, “What’s up your butt?” The Tri-City Herald reports the Benton Franklin Health District commissioners responded to complaints the ads are in poor taste. The butt billboards have been displayed in Yakima to raise colorectal cancer awareness and encourage people to get screened for the disease.
Idaho education agency paid $860 for third panic button
BOISE — Records show the Idaho Department of Education paid more than $800 in March to have a third panic button installed at the agency’s office in Boise. The Times-News reports the department paid Allied General Fire and Security Inc. $868 to install the device to help protect staff near a public entrance to the building. Education Department Spokeswoman Melissa McGrath says staff requested the security measure last year, but costs prevented immediate installation. Ultimately, installation coincided with an increase in public unrest over education reforms promoted in the 2011 Legislature by public school chief Tom Luna. Luna’s proposal sparked emotional testimony, protests and rallies statewide and even a case of vandalism to Luna’s own vehicle. McGrath says the timing is a coincidence and not directly related to public unrest.
Lawmaker took cruise during Washington special session
BREMERTON — State Rep. Jan Angel of Port Orchard missed part of the special session of the Legislature in Olympia because she was on a European cruise. The Kitsap Sun reports she consulted with Republican Party leaders before she left. They couldn’t tell her when she would be needed, so she took the cruise. Angel says she missed 32 votes for the trip and also because she was sick a day. She was back on the House floor Wednesday for the final day of the session.
Comic superhero patrolling Wenatchee streets
WENATCHEE, Wash. — A Wenatchee man dresses up in the costume of the Marvel comic character Deadpool about once a week and goes around the city looking for people to help. The man who did not reveal his name to The Wenatchee World says he is not actively seeking out crime but would call police and hold a criminal until officers arrive. He puts up fliers to let people know what he’s up to, so they won’t be alarmed by a superhero appearing. Police Capt. Doug Jones says they’ve had no complaints about Deadpool. Jones says, “Anyone doing good deeds is encouraged unless they get too pushy.”
Judge rejects plea deal in N. Idaho traffic fatal
MOSCOW — A state judge has tossed out a plea agreement reached for a man accused of killing a Potlatch woman in a drunk driving accident because the recommended sentence was too harsh. The agreement was rejected Wednesday by 2nd District Judge John Stegner in the case of 28-year-old Jessie Hewes. Hewes pleaded guilty in March to vehicular manslaughter and aggravated driving under the influence for his role in a November accident. Now, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports Hewes will be go to trial facing one count of vehicular manslaughter and three counts of aggravated DUI. Prosecutors were seeking a minimum of five to 10 years in prison, with a maximum of 25 years. Prosecutors say Hewes was driving before an accident that caused the death of 22-year-old passenger Therra Alexander.
Lewiston bank robbery suspect arraigned
LEWISTON — A 69-year-old Clarkston, Wash., man charged with robbing a Lewiston bank and later pointing a gun at officers has been arraigned. Prosecutors say David Payton used a gun to rob U.S. Bank branch on Feb. 3. Police say when they tracked him down, Payton pointed a gun at them and officers shot him. He was hospitalized for two months. Payton is charged with robbery and four counts of aggravated assault. Nez Perce County prosecutors asked Magistrate Judge Jay Gaskill to arrest Payton Wednesday because of the seriousness of the charges and because Payton has been seen casinos. Police suspect gambling debts may have been the motive for the robbery. Gaskill allowed Payton to remain free, but ordered him not to enter casinos. His preliminary hearing is set for June 8.
Horse virus worries cancel Ore. high school rodeo
BAKER CITY, Ore. — A high school rodeo has been canceled in Baker City due to concerns about an outbreak of a potentially fatal horse virus. The Baker City Herald reports the annual event that was set for this weekend would have brought an estimated 150 teenage competitors and about 250 horses to town. The decision to cancel it was made by the executive board of the Oregon High School Rodeo Association. A high school rodeo in Burns was canceled earlier this month. The outbreak was linked to a national cutting horse competition earlier this month in Utah. But state veterinarian Don Hansen says only four horses in Oregon have tested positive for the virus — and just one showed symptoms.
Flooding puts Mont. town under 6 feet of water
BILLINGS, Mont. — The Musselshell River has put a central Montana town under an estimated 6 feet of water and people are cut off in isolated areas across the state as flooding continues to spread. Roundup resident Cameron McCleary says water started coursing through the town early today and is continuing to rise. Authorities say the Musselshell River is expected to crest between Friday and Sunday. More rain is forecast through the weekend as flood emergencies were announced in Jefferson, Sanders and Musselshell counties. To the south, residents and officials in Carbon, Yellowstone and Big Horn counties continue to pump water from hundreds of flooded basements.
Yellowstone bison capture facility closed
GARDINER, Mont. — Yellowstone National Park officials say all of the bison that had been temporarily held in fenced pastures north of Gardiner have been released back into the park. Nearly 700 bison had been held in the Stephens Creek facility, some since the beginning of February. Small groups of bison were released beginning in early May. Over the past month, the number of free roaming bison in the Gardiner Basin has fluctuated between 200 and 300, but park spokesman Al Nash said today the bison are moving into the park. Also, 58 bison plus several newborn calves were released from the Brogan Bison Facility in Corwin Springs and moved back into the park on Tuesday. The bison are being managed in an effort to prevent them from passing the disease brucellosis to cattle.
7-year-old Butte boy dies in ATV crash
BUTTE, Mont. — Jefferson County officials say a 7-year-old Butte boy has died after an all-terrain vehicle accident about four miles north of Homestake Pass. Deputy Coroner Shaun Gardner says Jet Lovshin suffered fatal injuries in an accident reported at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. He was pronounced dead at the St. James Healthcare in Butte. Montana Highway Patrol Capt. Gary Becker says the victim’s 12-year-old brother was driving the ATV through water on Delmoe Lake Road when he lost control of the ATV and it crashed. Becker says the boys weren’t wearing helmets. The older boy wasn’t injured. Becker says the boys were camping in the area with their family at the time of the accident.
Federal agents raid California suicide kit seller
SALEM, Ore. — Sharlotte Hydorn was surprised when her doorbell rang at 7:30 a.m. and she heard the voices of men threatening to bust their way in. The 91-year-old says she opened the door Wednesday and was greeted by about a dozen federal agents who were there to seize helium hood kits that Hydorn sells online and that people can use to kill themselves. Hydorn is the owner and founder of The GLADD Group. The company’s kits — essentially a plastic bag and clear tubing — can be purchased through mail or telephone order for $60. In December, a 29-year-old Eugene, Ore., man used a kit he bought from Hydorn to asphyxiate himself with helium. Oregon was the first state where it is legal for terminally ill people to end their lives by taking lethal medication supplied by a doctor. State lawmakers, appalled by a newspaper’s March report about Nick Klonoski’s death, are working on a bill that would make it a felony to sell or transfer such a suicide kit to Oregonians.
Young leopard pregnant at Tacoma zoo
TACOMA — Keepers at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma thought a pair of 20-month old clouded leopards were too young to breed. The leopards thought otherwise, and now a litter is expected in mid-June. The News Tribune reports the zoo is one of three places in the United States where the endangered species from Thailand is bred. The zoo has two other pairs. This summer the zoo is opening a $1 million Cat of the Canopy exhibit that features 30-foot-tall climbing structures. The fate of the newborn cubs will be decided by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums species survival plan, which will determine where the animals have the best chance of finding a mate.
Feds test Central Oregon dam for earthquake survivability
BEND, Ore. — Federal workers are testing the Ochoco Dam in central Oregon to see if it can withstand a giant earthquake off the Oregon coast. The Bulletin newspaper in Bend reports the Ochoco Dam was built about 90 years ago using a method called hydraulic fill, which involves taking material from the hillside and using water to sluice it down to an embankment, creating an earthen dam. Officials say dams built using this technique don’t fare as well as other types of dams in earthquakes. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation crews are drilling test holes in the dam to analyze the strength of its foundation. The dam on Ochoco Creek is about five miles upstream from Prineville.
2 grizzly bears captured near Coram
KALISPELL, Mont. — The state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks says two yearling grizzly bears were captured in the Coram area after getting into dog food, chicken feed and bird seed. The bears, a male and a female, were captured and kept in a trap in an effort to also trap their mother. After a few days, when the female grizzly didn’t return to the site, the 90-pound yearlings were fitted with ear-tag radio transmitters and released in the Spotted Bear drainage on Tuesday. Grizzly bear management specialist Tim Manley says the best chance of survival for the yearling bears was to release them in a remote area rather than hold them any longer. Efforts to trap the adult female continue.
Two top Oregon state managers removed after inquiry
SALEM, Ore. — Two top managers at the Oregon Department of Administrative Services have been removed from their positions after an investigation into a lucrative contract granted to a former employee. The Statesman Journal reports that Facilities Division Administrator Robin Harpster is no longer an employee of state government. The division manages building operations and maintenance for the state. Her deputy administrator, Scott Young, was allowed to transfer back to a position he previously held in the Oregon Department of Corrections, effective June 1. Harpster and Young have been on paid leave since April 27 as officials investigated a contract awarded to a former leasing manager for the state agency that paid $90 an hour in consulting fees.
Bellingham mayor apologizes to Chinese community
BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike issued a formal apology today to the Chinese community for the Chinese expulsion 125 years ago. Pike says the apology helps people understand that things that were done by people and the government were wrong. The Bellingham Herald reports the apology and related events this week in the city are part of the Chinese Expulsion Remembrance Project this year, including Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and Mount Vernon. Thousands of Chinese immigrants were driven out of Puget Sound towns in 1885 and 1886.
Mental exam for Moses Lake man accused of killing
EPHRATA, Wash. — A judge in Ephrata has ordered a mental exam for a man accused of killing his 88-year-old mother at the home they shared in Moses Lake. Fifty-seven-year-old Jack P. Simmons is charged with second-degree murder. The Columbia Basin Herald reports the defense lawyer requested the exam at Eastern State Hospital because he says Simmons appears disoriented. His mother, Edna Simmons, was killed in March. The Grant County coroner found blunt force trauma to her head and body.