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Romney, Obama zero in on Ohio, a GOP must-win

VANDALIA, Ohio (AP) — Ohio has emerged as the presidential race's undisputed focus. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are making multiple stops this week alone in a state that's trending toward the president, endangering Romney's White House hopes. The popularity of Obama's auto industry bailout and a better-than-average local economy are undermining Romney's call for Ohioans to return to their GOP-leaning ways, which were crucial to George W. Bush's two elections. Ohio has 18 electoral votes, seventh most in the nation, and no Republican has won the White House without carrying it.

Court grants appeals from 2 people without lawyers

WASHINGTON (AP) — Well-heeled clients pay tens of thousands of dollars to hit the legal jackpot — Supreme Court review of their appeals. But on Tuesday, the court decided to hear cases filed by two people who couldn't afford or didn't bother to hire an attorney. One was written in pencil and submitted by an inmate at a federal prison in Pennsylvania. The other was filed by a man with no telephone living on Guam.

Romney kicks off bus tour of battleground Ohio

VANDALIA, Ohio (AP) — Kicking off an Ohio bus tour, Republican Mitt Romney says President Barack Obama is offering a "foreign" vision of government. At an airport rally in Vandalia, Romney told several thousand cheering supporters that Obama believes bureaucrats in Washington, quote, "know better than free people." He says Obama will "weaken our economy and turn us into Greece."

Union-buster Walker calls for return of union refs

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Nothing brings political enemies together in Wisconsin like the Green Bay Packers. Following a controversial game-ending call by replacement referees that cost Green Bay a win over the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football, Wisconsin officials from across the political divide united behind the Packers.

High court to consider drunken driving case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will decide when law enforcement officers must get a warrant before ordering a blood test on an unwilling drunken-driving suspect. The issue has divided federal and state courts around the country and the justices on Tuesday agreed to take up a case involving a disputed blood test from Missouri.

Local governments try to cut costs via efficiency

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — In some places, it's as simple as pulling the plug on thousands of unused telephone lines or installing software that automatically shuts off idle school computers to save on electric bills. Other places are doing such things as merging town fire departments, combining 911 centers or outsourcing collection of parking fines. Around the country, governments big and small are embracing cooperation, consolidation and efficiency to wring a few more dollars out of the budget as the effects of the Great Recession linger.

South Carolina voter ID gets judges’ scrutiny

WASHINGTON (AP) — Recognizing this year's elections are just a few weeks away, a panel of three federal judges questioned on Monday whether South Carolina should wait until 2014 to put its voter identification law into effect. The judges raised the question as an attorney for South Carolina delivered closing arguments in the trial over whether the state's law discriminates against minorities. Last December, the Justice Department refused to "preclear" — find it complies with the Voting Rights Act — the law so it could go into effect.

Texas inmate prepares for 3rd trip death house

LIVINGSTON, Texas (AP) — What Cleve Foster remembers most about his recent brushes with death is the steel door, the last one condemned Texas inmates typically walk through before their execution. "You can't take your eyes off that door," he says.

Tom DeLay still waiting to learn legal fate

HOUSTON (AP) — Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay — still waiting to learn his legal fate since being convicted nearly two years ago for his role in a scheme to influence Texas elections — is praying for vindication but also preparing for the possibility of imprisonment. DeLay's three-year prison sentence has been on hold as his case has made its way through the appellate process. For both DeLay and his critics, the process has been frustratingly slow, due in part to some of the appeals court justices in Austin recusing themselves as well as DeLay's successful effort to have a judge on the panel removed because of anti-Republican comments she made.

Bond at risk for Ohio Amish hate-crime defendants

CLEVELAND (AP) — Nine of 16 Amish convicted in beard- and hair-cutting attacks on fellow Amish in Ohio have remained free, but the government asked Friday to have them locked up, which could leave up to 50 children with one or both parents behind bars. By law, "Detention is mandatory for these defendants," the government said.

Obama allies continue to push secret Romney video

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's campaign allies continued to push out an unauthorized video of rival Mitt Romney dismissing the half of Americans who don't pay income taxes, while the Republican nominee tried to turn the campaign disruption into a debate over the role of government in family finances. "My course for the American economy will encourage private investment and personal freedom," Romney wrote in an op-ed essay in Wednesday's USA Today. "Instead of creating a web of dependency, I will pursue policies that grow our economy and lift Americans out of poverty."

With Alaska’s higher costs, dividends won’t go far

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — This is the day Alaskans crow about to their brethren in the Lower 48, trying to make them jealous that the government gives them money to just live here. Alaskans got word Tuesday that this year's Permanent Fund Dividend will be $878. Almost all Alaskans — nearly 647,000 people — will receive this sum, their yearly share of the state's oil wealth.

AP Exclusive: Mass. inmate lauds sex-change ruling

BOSTON (AP) — A convicted murderer in Massachusetts says a judge's decision to grant her request for sex-reassignment surgery is "the right thing to do." U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled this month that the surgery is the only adequate treatment for Michelle Kosilek's gender-identity disorder, a condition he said is a "serious medical need." The ruling marks the first time a judge has ordered prison officials to provide sex-reassignment surgery.

Pa. high court wants review of voter ID access

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's highest court on Tuesday told a lower court that it should stop a tough new voter photo identification law from taking effect in this year's presidential election if the judge concludes voters cannot easily get ID cards or thinks they will be disenfranchised. The 4-2 decision by the state Supreme Court sends the case back to the lower Commonwealth Court, where a judge initially ruled in August that the divisive law could go forward. The high court asked for an opinion by Oct. 2 — just 35 days before the election.

Free speech, religion clash over anti-Muslim film

CERRITOS, Calif. (AP) — While the man behind an anti-Islam movie that ignited violence across the Middle East would likely face swift punishment in his native Egypt for making the film, in America the government is in the thorny position of protecting his free speech rights and looking out for his safety even while condemning his message. It's a paradox that makes little sense to those protesting and calling for blood. To them, the movie dialogue denigrating the Prophet Muhammad is all the evidence needed to pursue justice — vigilante or otherwise — against Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, an American citizen originally from Egypt.

RI governor open to seizing 2003 club fire site

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee said Monday he was open to using eminent domain to seize the site of a 2003 nightclub fire that killed 100 people so families of the victims and survivors could build a memorial on it. The blaze at The Station nightclub in West Warwick on Feb. 20, 2003, was set off when pyrotechnics for the band Great White set fire to flammable foam that lined the club's walls. Three people were convicted in the blaze: club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian and Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele, who lit the pyrotechnics.

‘Rancher’ has pros, cons for Fischer’s Senate run

VALENTINE, Neb. (AP) — With roughly 35 million head of cattle grazing on nearly half the state's land, ranching retains an iconic status in Nebraska. So it's no surprise that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Deb Fischer's campaign ads show her leaning up against fence posts while she's described as a rancher who is "sharp as barb wire, tougher than a cedar fence post."

Tax on Amazon purchases in Calif. begins Saturday

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Online retailer Amazon.com has tried to become all things to all consumers, but in California, it is about to take on a role it has fought against for years: tax collector. The change, which takes effect this weekend, comes after years of bitter back and forth between the world's largest online mall and the California Legislature over whether Internet retailers should have to charge sales tax. The two sides reached a deal in 2011 that included a one-year grace period set to end Saturday.

11th anniversary ceremony of 9/11 begins in NY

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans paused again Tuesday to mark the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks with familiar ceremony, but also a sense that it's time to move forward after a decade of remembrance. As in past years, thousands were expected to gather at the World Trade Center site in New York, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa., to read the names of nearly 3,000 victims killed in the worst terror attack in U.S. history. President Barack Obama was to attend the Pentagon memorial, and Vice President Joe Biden was to speak in Pennsylvania.

For Sept. 11 anniversary, a turning point passed?

NEW YORK (AP) — As the sun rose over the World Trade Center site Tuesday, the neighborhood around ground zero seemed more like a normal weekday than in previous years on the anniversary, with fewer police barricades and commuters rushing out of the subway. Victims' families and others were poised to gather and grieve at ground zero, the Pentagon and near Shanksville, Pa., for the first time after the emotional turning point of last year's 10th anniversary.