What’s news in the Northwest today:
TACOMA — A federal judge is considering whether Washington state can require pharmacies to stock and sell Plan B or other emergency contraception. Closing arguments are set for this morning at U.S. District Court in Tacoma. Ralph’s Thriftway in Olympia and two licensed Washington pharmacists brought the lawsuit, saying that dispensing the drug would infringe on their religious beliefs because it can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. They say they can easily refer customers to nearby pharmacies that are willing to sell the drug. The Washington Board of Pharmacy requires pharmacies to dispense any medication for which there is a community need. The state says the rule is legal because it applies neutrally to all medicines and pharmacies and promotes an important government interest, the timely delivery of medications.
Seal rarely seen in Puget Sound is in good shape
EVERETT — An Arctic ribbon seal rarely seen in Puget Sound had its southerly sojourn interrupted Tuesday for a medical checkup. Marine mammal experts from NOAA fisheries in Seattle threw a net over the white-striped seal on an Everett dock and held him for a 20-minute examination. NOAA’s Kristin Wilkinson told The Daily Herald the 185-pound adult male appears to be in good shape. It’s believed to be the same ribbon seal that was seen last month in the Seattle area. Researchers are unsure why it’s so far from its home waters off Alaska and Russia. Wilkinson says it may have been caught in a storm or it may have been chasing food. She says there are a lot of shrimp in Puget Sound right now.
Mom challenges Internet porn at Seattle library
SEATTLE — A Seattle woman is challenging the Seattle Public Library’s policy of allowing some of its computers to be used for viewing Internet pornography. Julie Howe says her 10-year-old daughter was disturbed after looking over the shoulder of a man Jan. 22 as he watched pornography at the Lake City branch. She complained to a librarian who was sympathetic but told her the library doesn’t censor information. A library spokeswoman, Andra Addison, told The Seattle Times it “believes in the right of each individual to have access to constitutionally protected material.” She says the library does filter computers in the children’s section and is considering ways to deal with inadvertent viewing at other terminals.
UM sexual assault investigation complete
MISSOULA — University of Montana’s president says he’ll discuss the results of an investigation of reported sexual assaults involving UM students next week during two public forums. Royce Engstrom received the report Tuesday from former state Supreme Court Justice Diane Barz, who was hired in mid-December to perform an independent investigation. UM Vice President Jim Foley says there is significant detail in the report and Engstrom wants time to review it before commenting. Engstrom plans to discuss the investigation at two public meetings on Tuesday, one on campus that afternoon and another downtown that evening. The probe was spurred by reports that two UM students were drugged and raped by multiple male students.
Journey drummer pleads not guilty in OR
SALEM — Deen Castronovo, drummer in the rock group Journey, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to four misdemeanor charges related to a reported domestic violence incident in West Salem. The 47-year-old was arrested Jan. 20 after a dispute with a woman and charged with recklessly endangering another person, interfering with making a police report, criminal mischief and harassment. The Statesman Journal reports the woman told police he had accused her of cheating and they had broken up.
Yellowstone continues work on winter use plan
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — The National Park Service plans a series of open house meetings in February to get public comment on what issues to address in a long-term plan to guide winter use at Yellowstone National Park. The issue of how many snowmobiles and snow coaches to allow into Yellowstone during the winter months has been contentious for years. The National Park Service released a plan in May 2011, but later decided that more study of the issue was necessary.
MT prison makes inmate banking easier
HELENA — The state says that families of female inmates can now use the Internet to deposit money into their personal accounts. The Montana Department of Corrections says that the Inmate Trust Account Deposits Service was first launched last year at the Montana State Prison. It allows pre-approved family members and other individuals to make deposits into accounts that inmates use to buy personal clothing, hygiene products, over-the-counter medications, and other items. Jo Acton is the warden at the women’s prison in Billings. She says sending a few dollars to an inmate is the easiest way to show they care, boosts the morale of the inmates. Previously, family members had to submit deposits by mail using money orders.
Couple says MT prostitution ring ‘clean,’ paid taxes
BILLINGS — A Montana couple who say they ran an “immaculately clean” prostitution ring and dutifully paid its taxes are seeking leniency from a federal judge. Massage parlor owners Gregory and Suzie McFarland are scheduled to be sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull in Billings. They are forfeiting $1.2 million in proceeds and face decades in prison after pleading guilty to interstate promotion of prostitution and money laundering. Authorities say the couple ran a sex ring through a company that contracted with 35 women and operated out of two massage parlors — Far West Sauna and Shangri-La Spa and Sauna. The McFarlands claim in court documents that they never hid their income and treated employees and customers “fairly and with courtesy.” Their attorneys want a sentence of home confinement.
Oregon storms caused $38 million in damage
PORTLAND — Preliminary assessments indicate the wind, rain and snow that hit Oregon in mid-January caused an estimated $38 million in damage to nine counties.
The Oregonian reports that figure is expected to grow. Flooding was blamed for two deaths. Hard-hit Marion County has tallied $11.2 million in damage, including about $8 million to bridges in Salem undermined by floodwaters. Red Cross officials estimate that 207 buildings in Salem sustained flood damage. Oregon Emergency Management spokeswoman Jennifer Chamberlain says the storm battered more than 400 homes around the state. Most of the damage came from floodwaters but homes also were damaged by fallen trees or wind. The $38 million figure doesn’t account for personal items damaged by the storm. The number covers losses to housing, businesses, agriculture, infrastructure and the cost of such things as sandbags, debris removal and damage to parks.
Idaho man faces charge of running over dog
GRANGEVILLE, Idaho — A Cottonwood man has been charged with a misdemeanor after prosecutors said he ran over a neighbor’s pet dachshund. The Lewiston Tribune reports Kenneth E. Seubert has pleaded not guilty to malicious injury to property. He’s set for a hearing on Feb. 14. Idaho County sheriff’s deputy Samuel Clark said in a court document that Ronald Schnider said Seubert had previously threatened to kill his dogs. According to the report, Schnider was outside with the dogs on Jan. 6 when he heard Seubert’s pickup coming. Schnider says he was putting one of the dogs in the house when the other ran into a ditch along their shared property line. The deputy said in his report that Seubert then followed the animal and ran it over in his field.