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Ricin suspect appears in U.S. District Court for scheduling

Clad in a white Spokane County Jail jumpsuit and sporting a long, black beard, the Spokane man accused of sending ricin-laced letters to a federal judge and President Barack Obama appeared in court Wednesday to set a tentative timeline for his legal proceedings.

Matthew Ryan Buquet, 38, was mostly silent during an appearance in U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington on Wednesday morning, conferring in whispers with his attorneys and sipping water from a styrofoam cup. Buquet has been in federal custody since he was arrested shortly after mailing letters containing the biological toxin derived from castor seeds in mid-May. His case was recently transferred to District Judge Ancer Haggerty of Portland, Ore., because Buquet allegedly mailed one of the poisioned letters to Eastern Washington District Judge Fred Van Sickle.

According to a federal indictment filed earlier this summer, each of the letters Buquet sent read, "We have a bomb placed, we are going to Kill you! Hezbollah."

Though the FBI has said field tests have produced positive results for the presence of ricin in the letters, Eastern Washington Assistant U.S. District Attorney Stephanie Van Marter said Wednesday the government expected to have final, peer-reviewed test results by the beginning of October. Judge Haggerty set motion hearings for January and February ahead of Buquet's expected trial date, to begin in May of next year.

The FBI discovered a total of five ricin letters mailed from Spokane in May, including missives directed to Fairchild Air Force Base, the CIA and a post office. Buquet's legal team declined comment on the pending investigation Wednesday. No one was injured as a result of the poisoned letters.

Buquet has pleaded not guilty to the three counts against him: one charge of developing, producing or possessing a known biological toxin and two counts of mailing a threatening communication. The first count carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Mailing threatening communications carries a maximum penalty of five years under federal law.

Murray backs Obama’s plan not to negotiate

The new leader of the U.S. Senate’s Budget Committee said Tuesday that Republican threats to shutdown the government are irresponsible.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said there will be opportunities to negotiate budget cuts without crafting a deal around increasing the county’s borrowing limit.


“The budget ceiling debate just puts our country in a very precarious position where we’re defaulting on our loans,” said Murray, who held a forum about job programs in Spokane on Tuesday. “That puts every business and person in our country in jeopardy. And it’s not a good place to be debating.”


To read more of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Obama coming to Seattle next week

OLYMPIA — President Obama will hit the Washington state campaign ATM again next week. He's scheduled to attend two fundraisers in Seattle.

A press release this morning from the Obama campaign said Washington is on a list of stops the president will make to raise money: Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington and Louisiana.

No firm details on the stops yet, although there will be two in Portland before the two in Seattle.

Obama was last in Seattle, for a pair of fundraisers, on May 10, the day after he announced he'd changed his mind and was supporting same-sex marriage. He also made campaign money stops in Seattle in February and last September.

Designers don’t like request by Obama for donated jobs posters

obama poster companyWe found this curious, ironic story at Rollingstone.com, describing some harsh reactions by designers to the suggestion by President Obama that they design a free poster for his jobs campaign.

The president has asked graphic artists to donate their work for nothing. That's set off a few people to attack the idea, saying that the program has plenty of cash and that no one should be asked to work for free. Especially in this economy.

The full hullabaloo is over at Rolling Stone, and the story notes those designers whose work is chosen will not get paid but receive a framed copy of their poster, signed by the president. (Approximate retail value: $195.)

The effort to generate the posters came out of Obama's relection campaign, not from the White House. The goal was to cite the president's jobs campaign as a reason why graphic artists support his election.

A "creative brief" that explains how to submit work is right here.

The "sample" poster on the right is by Ryan Roche and was reprinted at RollingStone.com.

ICB: Is Obama Proud Of America?

It is a curious time for me as an American who has always been proud of America and what it stands for. I don’t remember a time in my life ever questioning America’s good in the world. I certainly never questioned if our President was proud to be an American or of this country. Not even Jimmy Carter, as misguided as he was. Unfortunately today, with President Obama I can’t say the same. Over the last two years by his words and actions I can’t help but question how President Obama feels about America. It’s my belief that President Obama is not proud of America or to be an American/Idaho Conservative Blogger. More here.

Question: What do you make of ICB's contention that President Obama isn't proud of this country?

Obama Delivers Graduation Address

Students react with tears and laughter after meeting President Barack Obama before he delivers the commencement address at the Booker T. Washington High School graduation at Cook Convention Center in Memphis, Tenn., today. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Question: Do you remember who gave your commencement address, either at your high school or college graduation?

Militia man guilty in Idaho grenade case

A self-described militia leader pleaded guilty this week to federal gun charges connected to a grenade manufacturing operation at his trailer in Spirit Lake, Idaho.

Kenneth B. Kimbley Jr., 58, discussed bombing local bridges with an undercover federal agent and made threatening statements toward President Barack Obama, leading investigators last July to seize 20,000 ammunition rounds and several firearms from Kimbley’s property, where he and other suspected militia members gathered to construct grenades, according to court documents.

Kimbley, who remains in federal custody, pleaded guilty to Monday to unlawful possession of a firearm and attempt to make a firearm in violation of the National Firearms Act. He faces up to 10 years in prison when he’s sentenced Feb. 22.

“There was no plea deal,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan.

Past coverage:

Sept. 20: Glenn Beck inspired alleged grenade maker

July 6: Illegal grenade manufacturing uncovered in Spirit Lake

Obama urges liberals to “keep up the fight”

President Barack Obama signs emergency unemployment benefits legislation Thursday

LAS VEGAS – President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders sought to soothe relations with the party’s disgruntled left wing Saturday in advance of elections in which Republican gains could upend the White House agenda.

“Change hasn’t come fast enough for too many Americans. I know that,” Obama said in a surprise video appearance to liberal activists and bloggers at Las Vegas convention. “I know it hasn’t come fast for many of you who fought so hard during the election.” In a year when Democrats are expected to lose seats in Congress, party leaders have grown increasingly concerned with malaise running through the left wing. More here.   Michael R. Blood, AP Political Writer

Do you agree that there’s “malaise running through the left wing”? If so, what’s the cause?

Another Green Monday

“There has never been a month —- not at least since the heady days of the early 1970s —- when environmental policy has moved so dramatically towards a sustainable future. The challenge now is to keep up the pace.” That optimism came from Carl Pope, the former Executive Director of the Sierra Club, last Thursday, examining the momentum of positive environmental **news since he announced he was stepping down, which, coincidentally, was three days after January 20th. (Read: A very green President.) History is happening quickly; there’s little time to look back yet comparisons to the early 1970’s are not coincidental either. DTE has a mind-blowing project to evoke the Expo ‘74 Spokane theme, “Celebrating a Fresh, New Environment” on the horizon. More on this later, but for now, there’s no plans on slowing down here Mr. Pope.

“No mom, dumpster diving really does count for credits.” Some 200 University of Idaho students recently emptied and sorted through the garbage from ten of their campus garbage bins as part of their enrollment in the “Field Activities in Environmental Science 102” course which, under the direction of Tom Nagawiecki, a master’s student in Environmental Science, was part of a waste characterization study. According to a recent U of I press release that discussed the results, “thirty-eight percent of what individuals throw away can be recycled using the current University of Idaho recycling programs, and an additional 30 percent of what is thrown away can be composted.” Read more of the press release HERE, and for the results, view this Excel file.

Who is the greenest of them all? This article would have been timely had we had put it on last Monday’s President’s Day AGM, however, it is still interesting to consider – because who doesn’t like lists. Bill Chameides of the National Academy of Sciences recently wrote about the greenest presidents of all time, and called for President Obama to, “distinguish himself from Democratic administrations that promised a lot but delivered little on the environment.” The list is fascinating, if for only the fact that it gives validation to DTE’s long-held belief that despite all of President Nixon’s mistakes, his environmental record is one to be honored. Read more HERE.


Up against a deadline without all of the information. That’s how county commissioner Bonnie Mager described the county commissioner’s vote to allow CH2M Hill Constructors Inc. to begin construction on the wastewater treatment facility near Freya and Boone. “I guess I’m just disturbed that once again we find ourselves in a position to be shoved up against a deadline without all the information to make a really informed decision,” she said in The Spokesman-Review on Saturday. “My main concern … is still that we don’t build a plant that we will have to mothball even for a short period of time because we don’t have a place to discharge.” If you’ll recall – the discharge proposals still haven’t met EPA standards meaning this plant could get built before anyone knows how water will be discharged and at what cost and effect. Read more from the Spokesman HERE and go back through our archives to catch up on this story.

The cost of climate change action versus doing nothing.  A recent study by the University of Oregon’s Climate Leadership Initiative and ECONorthwest predicts that the cost to the state of Washington for doing nothing to fight climate change would equal out to about $1,250 annually per household come 2020. In a similar study by the Colorado-based Western Business Roundtable, it was predicted that if Western states enacted the Western Climate Initiative that it would cost households approximately $2,300 annually by 2020. It’s confusing to consider these two studies side by side, and it’s frustrating that talks of climate change have no taken on the lingo used by Wall Street execs, but in this economic climate, it might be the only way that citizens and bureaucrats can make sense of it all. As for making sense of these conflicting reports, The Oregonian did a wonderful job of that recently. Read more HERE.

Tuesday Video

How’s this for a stimulus we can all get behind - promote alternative energy while creating new jobs.  In his first weekly address since becoming president, Barack Obama explained details of his stimulus package which includes adding more than 3,000 miles of electric lines to transport alternative energy across the country.  “We will double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy like wind, solar, and biofuels over the next three years,” Obama said.

Another Green Monday

While you were either digging yourself out of snow (Spokane), digging yourself out of an alcohol-induced coma (rest of the world) or digging yourself out of Mayor Nickel’s salt B.S. (Seattle), here are a few stories you may have missed. 

The Washington State Department of Ecology kicked off a new education outreach campaign titled, “Washington Waters - Ours to Protect”. 

“People usually want to do the right thing, but they often do not know what that is,” Washington State Department of Ecology director Jay Manning explained in a recent press release.  This new campaign consists of a new website with tips and advice on how to preserve, protect and be better stewards of Washington’s waters from the Puget Sound to the Spokane River.  As well as funny and quirky posters that you can print to help remind yourself of the potential damage you are causing Washington’s waters. 

Cycling in Spokane in 2008.  From time to time we like to write about bicycling, from a pro- alternative transportation voice to a pro- feeling good about yourself voice, and all the great bicycle events, bicycle people and bicycle news in between.  And when we said last week that we felt 2009 was going to be a big bike year in Spokane we truly felt that.  But after reading John Speare’s absolutely brilliant bicycling year in review piece, “Cycling Spokane in Aught Eight” on his blog Cycling Spokane, 2008 will be a hard year to top.  Do yourself a favor and dedicate a good 20 or 30 minutes to read through this post, follow the links, and let soak in how far Spokane has come and where it is going - all on 2 wheels of course.

When the smartest environmental mind in the world speaks, we listen.  Dr. James Hansen, renowned NASA scientist and climate change expert, with the help of his wife, recently drafted a letter to President-elect Barack Obama and wife Michele calling for swift action to deal with carbon emissions, alternative energy, climate change, and other grave issues facing our civilization.  Read the letter HERE. 

The heat goes on. There seems to be a resurgence in wood heating and wood stoves although—-compared to polluting models of yesteryear—-new ones burn cleaner. According to the AP, shipments of wood stoves and inserts were up 54 percent, and pellet stoves and inserts up were up 212 percent in the first six months of 2008 over the same period in 2007. Libby, Mont.—-of all places—-is participating in a demonstration project sponsored by the EPA to exchange older stoves for more efficient models. There, pollution from wood stoves was reduced by 28 percent in 2007, and indoor air quality improved by 72 percent. EPA certified stoves released 2.7 micrograms of particulates per hour compared to 30 to 50 micrograms per house for pre-1992 stoves. MORE.


Never an easy way out. In Idaho, environmentalists are pitted against environmentalists as alternative energy proposals impact wildlife habitats. It’s a classic Western predicament, that could make some greenzos wince. Laird Lucas, lead attorney for Advocates of the West (he provides lawyers for environmental groups) is skeptical large alternative energy plants in open spaces of the West are the best answer for reducing carbon emissions. “I think there’s a chance that these big solar farms and wind farms will be obsolete almost as soon as we develop them,” Lucas said in the Idaho Statesman. “We need to somehow get people engaged directly in producing our own energy.” Full article HERE.