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NW today: Vancouver UFO identified as kite with lights

Compiled from wire reports
What’s news in the Northwest today:

VANCOUVER, Wash. — A UFO mystery in Vancouver has been solved. The Columbian says the reports last month of lights in the sky were caused by a large kite carrying nearly 500 LED lights. The owner demonstrated the kite again Monday night in the Fisher’s Landing neighborhood in Vancouver. He says he called 911 first, in case dispatchers received more calls about a UFO. Last month, several folks reported seeing something high in the air, only after dark, something that danced strangely back and forth and emitted vivid blasts of flowing colors, sort of like large fireworks displays or some huge electrified, airborne chameleon. Some said the object resembled a flying saucer. It generated a media buzz from here to Seattle. The Chinese-made kite, manufactured from parachute fabric in a triangle shape, stands 7.5 feet tall with a wingspan of 13 feet.

Idaho sheriff says ‘SSS’ raffle not about wolves
GRANGEVILLE, Idaho – A North Idaho sheriff’s raffle called “.308 SSS Wolf Pack Raffle” for a rifle and shovel in a region where SSS commonly stands for the process after killing a federally protected wolf — “shoot, shovel and shut up” — has brought in $13,000. Idaho County Sheriff Doug Giddings says the SSS in the raffle stands for “safety, security and survival,” and the drawing held Tuesday isn’t meant to encourage the illegal shooting of wolves. But he says the added publicity with the wolf angle helped sell 13,000 of the $1 tickets, with some buyers as far away as Florida. Top prize went to Norm Sonnen of Greencreek, Idaho, who tells the Lewiston Tribune that he doesn’t hunt wolves but supports the sheriff. Raffle money is being divided among local schools.

UI proposing 8.4 percent tuition increase
MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho is proposing an 8.4 percent increase in fees and tuition, meaning in-state undergraduates could pay about $450 extra for their education next year. The Idaho State Board of Education has the final say in the matter and is expected to set 2011-12 rates in April after considering proposals from each of the state’s public universities. At the UI, where in-state undergraduate student and matriculation fees are $5,402 this year, an 8.4 percent increase would add about $450. In addition to the increase in in-state undergraduate tuition and fees, the UI is proposing increases of 8 percent for out-of-state students, 7.9 percent for law students and 15 percent for graduate students.

Nevada man convicted for illegal hunt in Idaho
BOISE — A Las Vegas man has pleaded guilty in federal court to illegally killing a mule deer in southeastern Idaho and hauling the meat across state lines on his way back home. Federal prosecutors say 49-year-old Peter Balestracci pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act governs interstate commerce and his decision to take the meat and an antler out of Idaho triggered the federal crime. Idaho game wardens say Balestracci was hunting near Soda Springs, Idaho, in October when he shot and tagged a deer with a non-resident, junior mentored permit assigned to his son. Idaho hunting law makes it illegal to use and transfer a tag issued to any other hunter. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge scheduled sentencing for May 31.

Case against man accused of slashing cop still being sorted out
LEWISTON, Idaho – A Washington State University student who allegedly attacked a Pullman police officer with a knife last week could face additional charges and may need to undergo a mental health evaluation, according to the Whitman County Prosecutor’s Office. Superior Court Judge David Frazier set a bond of $100,000 for DJ Bortko, 20, who is accused of smashing his Chevy Blazer into at least seven cars parked on Lost Trail Drive early in the morning of Feb. 28 and slashing one of the officers who attempted to arrest him. Deputy prosecutor Bill Druffel said he will argue against reducing Bortko’s bond at his arraignment Friday. Bortko is charged with second- and third-degree assault, both felonies, and misdemeanor harassment for allegedly threatening a resident on Lost Trail Drive.

Lewiston voters say no to new school
LEWISTON – The latest attempt to build a new Lewiston High School was shot down by 48 percent of voters in Tuesday’s election. Of the 10,432 ballots cast, 5,388 were in favor of the $52 million bond and 5,044 were against the proposal. A bond requires approval from at least 66.67 percent of voters to pass. Replacing the high school has been a contentious topic in Lewiston for years. In 2004, voters rejected a $34.8 million bond on the same issue and five months ago, a $52 million bond also fell short. In the 2004 election, more than 6,400 voters showed up at the polls with 46 percent saying yes to the bond and 54 percent voting no. In the 2010 election, the turnout increased to more than 8,500 voters, and the yes tally reached almost 62 percent, about 5 percent shy of the number required to pass a bond in Idaho.

Starbucks celebrates 40 years in business
SEATTLE – Starbucks was born 40 years ago at First and Pike streets in Seattle. The company celebrated its milestone Tuesday with CEO Howard Schultz ringing the opening bell for NASDAQ, by satellite, from that very location. “The 40 years of the company has been an unbelievable journey of our ability to literally affect the culture of America, and now around the world,” Schulz said. Starbucks also used the opportunity to launch the newest version of its trademark “siren” logo, which no longer has the Starbucks name on it. The company says the new “siren” is part of a renewed design approach in everything from the look and feel of the store to the cup in each person’s hand. Starbucks has grown to around 16,000 stores in 50 countries.

Mascot head thief pleads guilty in Oregon court
CORVALLIS, Ore. — Two Oregon Duck fans accused of stealing a mascot head of ESPN commentator Lee Corso during the Civil War football game last year are expected to do community service and apologize. The 3-foot-tall head had been used in a commercial, and an ESPN tweet appealed for its return. Two days later, authorities said, the thieves ditched it. The Corvallis Gazette-Times reports that 26-year-old August Michael Zane Cuneo of Eugene pleaded guilty Monday and will do 40 hours of community service and write letters of apology to the network and the state trooper who investigated the theft. The paper says 25-year-old Alexander Joseph Westerberg of Harrisburg is to appear March 22 to begin a similar diversion program. The head has been returned to the network.

Billings man pleads guilty to criminal endangerment
BILLINGS, Mont. — A 21-year-old Billings man has pleaded guilty to felony criminal endangerment for driving 126 mph and nearly causing a head-on collision with a Montana Highway Patrol trooper. The Billings Gazette reports Alexander J. Milne also pleaded guilty Tuesday to DUI per se, meaning he acknowledged having a blood-alcohol level above the state legal limit of 0.08 percent. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors will dismiss an evidence tampering charge and recommend that Milne be sentenced to five years in the custody of the Department of Corrections. Sentencing is set for June 9. Milne was arrested last June 25 following a bizarre incident that began when a motorist called police to report the driver of a black Mustang had fired a gun at him. Milne was charged in January.

Jeep hits bison in Montana
LIVINGSTON, Mont. — For the second time this winter, a vehicle has struck a bison on U.S. Highway 89 south north of Gardiner. The Montana Highway Patrol says a 29-year-old Bozeman man was northbound about 11 miles north of Gardiner last Thursday when he came upon a group of four bison in the road. Trooper Matt Nilan tells the Livingston Enterprise the man braked and swerved to miss one of the animals and struck another. Nilan says the collision totaled the man’s Jeep and the buffalo’s head came through the windshield, but the driver and his passenger were wearing seat belts and were not seriously injured. The bison was removed from the road with a front-end loader. Nilan says such collisions are rare. However, a teenage boy struck a bison in mid-February.

Carrying guns now OK in Clark County parks
VANCOUVER – Clark County commissioners amended a code Tuesday to make it legal to carry guns in parks. It remains illegal to discharge a weapon, except under specific circumstances, such as in self-defense. The county code regarding guns in parks now aligns with state law, which says people may openly carry firearms in a nonthreatening manner. Last summer, Vancouver resident Joe Winton, a member of a national gun advocacy group, went before the commissioners to ask that the code be updated. The county code pre-dated the state’s open-carry law. Nobody testified Tuesday before the commissioners voted to update the code. Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Chris Horne told commissioners they will still be able to prohibit weapons at county-owned facilities, specifically the Sleep Country Amphitheater.

Some Fred Meyer stores to charge electric cars
PORTLAND, Ore. — Six Fred Meyer stores in the Portland area and six in the Seattle area will install charging stations this summer for electric cars. The Oregonian reports the installations by the Ecotality company are part of a six-state program to support 8,300 cars. The $230 million program is funded by federal stimulus money and private investments.

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