Local News

'Critical for our students in Spokane': Bank of America provides $100,000 grant to Washington STEM

<p><p>Statewide nonprofit Washington STEM announced Tuesday that it received a $100,000 grant from Bank of America to increase access to science, technology, engineering and math skills and pathways to postsecondary credentials for students in the Spokane region and across Washington state.</p></p><p><p>Washington students need STEM access to give them the skills they need to succeed, a news release from the two institutions said.</p></p><p><p>The grant’s focus is on rural students, students of color, females and students from low-income communities.</p></p><p><p>“Washington STEM’s commitment to advancing excellence, innovation and equity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education for Washington students is critical for our students in Spokane and around the state,” Kurt Walsdorf, president of Bank of America Spokane, said in the release. “A career in STEM begins with access and a clear pathway to success, especially in our under-resourced communities. Bank of America’s grant is one way we are working with area nonprofits to create more inclusivity and greater economic mobility.”</p></p><p><p>Washington ranks among the top states in the nation in the concentration of STEM jobs, the release said. By 2030, more than 70% of these jobs will require education beyond high school in the form of a two- or four-year degree or certificate, and 68% will require STEM credentials or literacy.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Driver reportedly hits pedestrian north of Coeur d'Alene, flees

<p><p>The driver of a vehicle struck a pedestrian and then fled late Tuesday afternoon in Hayden, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office.</p></p><p><p>The sheriff’s office received the report around 4:20 p.m. and responded to Ramsey and Tugboat roads. The victim was treated at the scene and taken to Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene for non-life-threatening injuries, Lt. Ryan Higgins said in a news release. </p></p><p><p>Meanwhile, witnesses described the suspect’s vehicle as a dark 1990s Jeep Grand Cherokee. It was last seen heading south on Ramsey Road, Higgins said.</p></p><p><p>Ramsey Road was blocked for several hours because of the crash.</p></p><p><p>If you witnessed the accident or observed the vehicle, contact the sheriff’s office at (208) 446-1300. </p></p> ... Continue Reading

Missing Idaho girl found, suspect arrested in Spokane Valley after Amber Alert

<p><p>A 15-year-old Lewiston girl has been found safe and a suspect is in custody after an Amber Alert was declared for the girl Monday.</p></p><p><p>Washington State Patrol spokesperson Ryan Senger said Lillian Ray Dixon and 36-year-old Jonathon Wayne Bowles, a sex offender who had three warrants for his arrest in Garfield County, were located Tuesday night near Maxwell Avenue and Park Road in Spokane Valley.</p></p><p><p>Senger said a resident called 911 Tuesday to report the vehicle Bowles was driving on Pines Road near Valleyway Avenue. WSP troopers reportedly spotted the car near Pines and Trent Avenue and tried to stop it.</p></p><p><p>Senger said the vehicle came to a stop for a short time, at which time troopers saw a male and female inside the vehicle. But the vehicle fled and a short pursuit ensued. </p></p><p><p>The vehicle was ditched on the 1800 block of North Ely Road, he said.</p></p><p><p>Dixon was taken into protective custody, Senger said. He said she received medical treatment but there was no indication of injuries.</p></p><p><p>Bowles was listed in the Spokane County Jail roster with charges of attempting to elude police, third-degree assault on an officer, possession of a stolen vehicle, obstructing an officer, resisting arrest and second-degree kidnapping.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

No testimony from Aguirre as both sides rest cases in former officer's murder trial; store clerk, suspect's sister take stand

<p><p>The former Pasco police officer accused of a 1986 murder didn’t testify at his trial as the defense and prosecution rested their cases Tuesday. </p></p><p><p>Richard Aguirre, 57, is accused of murdering Ruby Doss, 27, who was <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/nov/30/attorneys-give-opening-statements-in-cold-case-mur" target="_blank">found beaten and strangled</a> near Playfair Race Course on Jan. 30, 1986. Doss was a sex worker, living in the El Rancho Motel with her daughter and boyfriend at the time of her death.</p></p><p><p>DNA evidence linked Aguirre to the Doss killing in 2015, and he was charged with murder later that year. Those charges were dropped while investigators waited for more DNA testing, according to court records. Prosecutors <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2020/sep/18/murder-charge-refiled-against-former-pasco-officer" target="_blank">refiled charges last year</a>.</p></p><p><p>Deputy prosecuting attorney Stefanie Collins’ first witness Tuesday was Lorraine Heath, a DNA expert who testified both to the history of DNA testing and to her work done at the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab for the case. Other witnesses called to the stand Tuesday included Aguirre’s sister and the store clerk who said he saw Doss on the last day of her life.</p></p><p><p>Here’s a look at what came up on the last day of testimony in Aguirre’s trial.</p></p><p><h3>Scientist details journey to developing case DNA profile</h3></p><p><p> In January 2015, a forensic hit in the national CODIS database matched two profiles from different crime scenes, one from semen found in a condom used around the time of Doss’ death and another from a crime scene Heath did not explain to the jury.</p></p><p><p>The sample came from a <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/nov/28/former-pasco-police-officers-trial-for-1986-killin" target="_blank">2015 rape investigation</a> for which Aguirre was acquitted by a jury. </p></p><p><p>Less than a month after the match, Spokane Police Detective Kip Hollenbeck sent a number of items to the crime lab for additional testing.</p></p><p><p>Heath performed that testing and created a report in July of that year.</p></p><p><p>The DNA profile developed from the semen found in the condom on scene was a definitive match to Aguirre, Heath testified.</p></p><p><p>Several other DNA profiles were found on items at the scene, like one of Doss’ coats, but none of those profiles matched Aguirre or anyone else, Heath said. Some of the samples had multiple contributors, Heath said.</p></p><p><p>She also testified about the envelope that contained the condom that another DNA technician said last week was “consumed” as part of her testing in the 1990s.</p></p><p><p>Heath swabbed the envelope to see if any DNA from the outside of the condom had transferred to the envelope. She found DNA and was able to develop two profiles, one for the sperm cells and one for the non-sperm cells, Heath said. The sperm cells were a match to Aguirre, Heath testified.</p></p><p><p>The non-sperm sample was a mixture of two individuals’ DNA, but in 2017 there wasn’t enough for a good comparison, Heath said. In 2018, a special type of genotyping became available that uses a statistics and mathematical algorithm to help compare the DNA profile.</p></p><p><p>Heath found that the non-sperm sample is 8,100 times more likely to be a combination of Doss and Aguirre’s DNA than a combination of Aguirre and another person’s DNA.</p></p><p><p>Aguirre’s defense attorney, John Browne, cross-examined Heath. Heath explained that a reagent blank is a vial of chemicals used in a DNA testing process that can be tested to determine if the chemicals are contaminated.</p></p><p><p>Creating and maintaining a reagent blank is a part of standard protocol now, but in the early 2000s, when some of the DNA testing was done, it was not, Heath said.</p></p><p><p>In this case, there was not a reagent blank sent along with the extracts from the condom. When asked by Collins if there was any indication the evidence was compromised, Heath said “absolutely not.”</p></p><p><h3>Store clerk, Aguirre’s sister take the stand</h3></p><p><p>Prosecutors then called Eric Cook, the clerk at a store that sold pornography and condoms in the 1980s near the crime scene. Cook said he saw Doss on the night of her death and she bought a condom from his store.</p></p><p><p>The prosecution rested its case after Cook’s testimony.</p></p><p><p>The defense called Lisa DeRuyter, Aguirre’s older sister, as its first witness.</p></p><p><p>DeRuyter testified that her oldest son was born on Jan. 1, 1986, making that year’s holiday celebrations memorable. She remembers the family had an early Christmas gathering because of Aguirre’s upcoming deployment to Korea. She then testified Aguirre was deployed on Dec. 23, 1986, based on records she requested from the Air Force but not on her own memory of the time.</p></p><p><p>Prosecutors asked DeRuyter if Aguirre was cleared for deployment on that date or actually deployed. DeRuyter said she wasn’t sure and wasn’t aware of military procedure.</p></p><p><p>Cleared can mean different things to different people, she said.</p></p><p><h3>Detective testifies on condom, footprints</h3></p><p><p>Browne then called Detective Hollenbeck back to the stand. He testified that he sent 59 pieces of evidence to the crime lab and Aguirre’s DNA was only found on the condom and the envelope the condom was placed in.</p></p><p><p>He was also asked about the photos of shoe prints at the scene, which measured about 10.5 to 11 inches.</p></p><p><p>Hollenbeck said that he sent the images to the FBI for enhancement but, due to the softness of the ground, they couldn’t make a determination on the shoe size or make, he said after a question from prosecutors.</p></p><p><p>Browne then asked when Hollenbeck learned the condom was missing. Hollenbeck said he found out the condom had been consumed in testing when he first got involved with the case, but that prior detectives on the case were aware immediately.</p></p><p><p>When asked if the condom was found more than 250 feet from where Doss’ body was found, Hollenbeck said yes. Then prosecutors asked if the condom was found near the straw area where Doss’ belongings were found, and Hollenbeck estimated the condom was found 5 to 8 feet from that area.</p></p><p><p>He explained the condom location was consistent with it being thrown out the passenger side window of a car parked in the straw area.</p></p><p><p>Closing arguments are set to begin Wednesday morning.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Major outage hits Amazon Web Services; many sites affected

<p><p>Amazon Web Services suffered a major outage Tuesday, the company said, disrupting access to many popular sites.</p></p><p><p>The company provides cloud computing services to many governments, universities and companies, including the Associated Press.</p></p><p><p>Amazon said in a post an hour after the outage began that it had identified the root cause and was “actively working towards recovery.” The issue primarily affected its services in the Eastern U.S., it said. It did not disclose any additional details about the cause.</p></p><p><p>Amazon later updated the dashboard to note that the company was “starting to see some signs of recovery. We do not have an ETA for full recovery at this time.”</p></p><p><p>The outage also affected Amazon’s ability to provide status updates, it said.</p></p><p><p>Problems began midmorning on the U.S. East Coast, said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik Inc, a network intelligence firm. “AWS is the biggest cloud provider and us-east-1 is their biggest data center, so any disruption there has big impacts to many popular websites and other internet services,” he said.</p></p><p><p>Customers trying to book or change trips with Delta Air Lines were having trouble connecting to the airline. “Delta is working quickly to restore functionality to our AWS-supported phone lines,” said spokesperson Morgan Durrant. The airline apologized and encouraged customers to use its website or mobile app instead.</p></p><p><p>Dallas-based Southwest Airlines said it switched to West Coast servers after some airport-based systems were affected by the outage. Customers were still reporting outages to DownDetector, a popular clearinghouse for user outage reports, more than three hours after they started. Southwest spokesman Brian Parrish said there were no major disruptions to flights.</p></p><p><p>Also according to DownDetector, people trying to use Instacart, Venmo, Kindle, Roku, and Disney+ have reported issues. The McDonald’s app was also down. But the airlines American, United, Alaska and JetBlue were unaffected.</p></p><p><p>Toyota spokesperson Scott Vazin said the company’s U.S. East Region for dealer services went down. The company has apps that process dealer warranty claims and other services, over 20 of which were affected.</p></p><p><p>Madory said he did not believe the outage was anything nefarious. He said a recent cluster of outages at providers that host major websites reflects how the networking industry has evolved.</p></p><p><p>“More and more these outages end up being the product of automation and centralization of administration,” he said. “This ends up leading to outages that are hard to completely avoid due to operational complexity but are very impactful when they happen.”</p></p><p><p>Kentik saw a 26% drop in traffic to Netflix, among major web-based services affected by the outage, Madory said.</p></p><p><p>It was unclear how, or whether, the outage was affecting the federal government. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in an email response to questions that it was working with Amazon “to understand any potential impacts this outage may have for federal agencies or other partners.”</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Starbucks bid to halt union vote count is rejected by labor board

<p><p>Bloomberg</p></p><p><p>The National Labor Relations Board rejected Starbucks Corp.’s bid to quash the counting of unionization ballots from three of its upstate New York restaurants, paving the way for a Thursday vote count that could create the first labor foothold among the coffee chain’s thousands of corporate-run U.S. locations.</p></p><p><p>“We just want a voice in our workplace and despite the money Starbucks has spent on lawyers trying to stop that, the NLRB is telling us we have a right to this vote,” Jaz Brisack, a Starbucks employee and activist at one of the stores that has voted, said in a statement.</p></p><p><p>When asked about the ruling, a Starbucks representative referred to an open letter to employees issued earlier Tuesday by Starbucks Chief Executive Officer Kevin Johnson, who wrote regarding the elections that “we respect the process that is underway and, independent of any outcome in these elections, we will continue to stay true to our mission and values.”</p></p><p><p><span class="print_trim">Starbucks shares rose 3.1% at 12:14 p.m. in New York amid broad market gains.</span></p></p><p><p>The coffee chain had asked the board to overrule an acting regional director’s Oct. 28 ruling that green-lit store-by-store elections at three Buffalo-area sites where workers petitioned in August to unionize. That decision meant the company would be required to collectively bargain if a majority of voters at any one of those locations cast ballots for the union.</p></p><p><p>Starbucks argued that any election should instead involve at least all 20 of the region’s stores, meaning that the union, Workers United, would win only if it secured a majority of votes from the much larger group.</p></p><p><p>Starbucks had also pleaded unsuccessfully with the agency to intervene and quash the mailing of ballots last month. Instead, the labor board sent ballots to employees Nov. 10, that are due to be returned by Wednesday and counted the next day. <span class="print_trim">Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, has more recently also petitioned for unionization votes at three more New York sites, and another in Arizona.</span></p></p> ... Continue Reading

Washington State quarterback Jayden de Laura earns offensive freshman of the year, three Cougars pull in first-team honors from Pac-12

<p><p>Washington State’s football team received three first-team all-conference postseason honors Tuesday, plus an award for quarterback Jayden de Laura as the Pac-12’s offensive freshman of the year.</p></p><p><p>NFL-bound right tackle Abraham Lucas, edge rusher Ron Stone Jr. and Dean Janikowski, a first-year starter at place-kicker, raked in first-team accolades for the Cougars.</p></p><p><p>A WSU player had never taken home the annual prize for offensive freshman of the year in its 22-year history, and it’d been six years since so many WSU players landed on the conference’s first-team list.</p></p><p><p>Not a bad haul. But still, the Cougars have reason to feel a bit shortchanged.</p></p><p><p>WSU collected 14 All-Pac-12 honors, the conference announced.</p></p><p><p>Along with the three first-team selections, two Cougars earned second-team nods from the conference’s coaches – surprisingly, neither of WSU’s standout slotbacks made the first team. Another nine players were given honorable mentions.</p></p><p><p>De Laura was the Pac-12’s top frosh on offense, but apparently not one of its two best QBs.</p></p><p><p>That’s despite de Laura leading the conference this season with 2,742 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and 249.3 passing yards per game.</p></p><p><p>De Laura, who was sidelined for about a game and a half this year, completed 64% of his passes against nine picks.</p></p><p><p>The dynamic Honolulu product developed into a star in 2021 and became somewhat of a WSU folk hero, known for his blended traits of poise and bravado.</p></p><p><p>De Laura’s ceiling raised as his second season in Pullman progressed.</p></p><p><p>He captained the Cougars (7-5, 6-3 Pac-12) to bowl eligibility and a number of memorable victories after coach Nick Rolovich – a mentor to de Laura – was fired in mid-October.</p></p><p><p>WSU’s offense going forward will center around de Laura, who new coach Jake Dickert credits often for rallying the Cougars this year.</p></p><p><p>Utah’s Cameron Rising and UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson were named to the first and second team, respectively, while de Laura picked up an honorable mention nod.</p></p><p><p>De Laura is listed on WSU’s roster as a sophomore, but he’s still considered a freshman in the eyes of the NCAA because the pandemic-altered 2020 season didn’t count against his eligibility.</p></p><p><p>Lucas, a three-time second-team performer in his WSU career, started 12 games this year and didn’t allow a sack across 477 passing downs. The Everett native graded out as the Pac-12’s most effective pass-blocker and the No. 3 pass-blocker nationally, per Pro Football Focus.</p></p><p><p>He will play in the Senior Bowl early next year and presumably be scooped up by an NFL club in April.</p></p><p><p>Stone, a breakout junior from San Jose, California, ranked fifth in the Pac-12 with 11.5 tackles for loss, fourth with 38 pressures and eighth with five sacks. He logged 59 tackles and had a sack in four straight games.</p></p><p><p>Although his stat line wasn’t staggering, Stone was a consistent disruptor in the backfield for Dickert’s resurgent defense.</p></p><p><p>The first WSU D-lineman on the first team since Hercules Mata’afa in 2017, Stone was PFF’s No. 4 run defender in the Pac-12.</p></p><p><p>Janikowski won a position competition in fall camp and solidified himself as the Cougars’ kicker, connecting on 14 of 17 field goals – the best percentage among Pac-12 kickers. The sophomore from Fallbrook, California, hit four field goals in WSU’s 40-13 Apple Cup win over Washington on Nov. 26, including a career-long 41-yarder.</p></p><p><p>Floridian slotbacks Calvin Jackson Jr. and Travell Harris finished second and third in the conference with 955 and 801 receiving yards, respectively. Both were named to the second team – behind the clear-cut Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year in USC’s Drake London and UCLA’s Kyle Philips, who paced the conference with 10 TDs.</p></p><p><p>“Truly don’t get it but it’s alright lol,” tweeted Jackson, who tallied seven TDs and led the conference at 79.6 yards per game, after awards were revealed.</p></p><p><p>“The disrespect,” added Harris, who scored nine times. “It’s cool though. (I’ve) been underrated my whole life and I’ll continue to prove them wrong.”</p></p><p><p>Harris totaled 73 catches and Jackson 63. Both vets had their most productive years as Cougars in their final college seasons.</p></p><p><p>Harris is fourth in WSU history with 4,194 all-purpose yards and 10th with 176 receptions. He’ll try to move up the list when WSU closes its campaign against Miami in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31.</p></p><p><p>Jackson and Harris are the first Cougar receivers to be named to the conference’s first or second team</p></p><p><p>Honorable mentions include running back Max Borghi, linebacker Jahad Woods, nickel Armani Marsh, cornerback Jaylen Watson, safety Daniel Isom, edge Brennan Jackson, wideout De’Zhaun Stribling and all-purpose player Lincoln Victor.</p></p><p><p>Borghi enters his WSU finale a touchdown away from breaking the program’s all-time scoring record (42 TDs). The Arvada, Colorado, product rushed for 880 yards and 12 scores this year, finishing the season with back-to-back 100-yard outings.</p></p><p><p>Woods reached 100 tackles this year, and was one of only four Pac-12 players to do so. But he must settle for his fourth straight honorable mention.</p></p><p><p>The weakside LB from San Diego is WSU’s record-holder in career starts (52) and the Pac-12’s active leader in tackles (419). He ranked fourth in the conference this year in tackling and made six for loss, along with two forced fumbles and a pick.</p></p><p><p>Marsh, a former walk-on from Spokane, had 62 tackles, five for loss and recorded a team-best three interceptions – two, including a game-sealing pick-6, in the Apple Cup. Marsh will return to WSU next year.</p></p><p><p>Jackson, a junior from Temecula, California, earned two awards for the Pac-12’s D-lineman of the week this season. He registered 40 tackles, five in the backfield.</p></p><p><p>A versatile senior who’s been called a glue piece of the Cougars’ defense, Isom forced two fumbles and made 57 tackles. The St. Louis native will play his last game with WSU on New Year’s Eve.</p></p><p><p>Watson, a pro prospect from Georgia who’ll be attending next year’s Senior Bowl, picked off two passes and led the Pac-12 with four fumble recoveries.</p></p><p><p>Stribling started all 12 games in his true freshman season, snagging 42 passes for 458 yards and four TDs. The Hawaiian led all Pac-12 rookies in catches and shares the top spot among the conference’s freshmen in yards and scores.</p></p><p><p>Victor, a first-year Cougar who transferred out of Hawaii, was impactful on special teams. The West Camas, Washington, native also contributed 208 yards and a touchdown in the receiving game.</p></p><p><p>Utah’s Kyle Whittingham was awarded coach of the year after guiding the Utes to a Pac-12 title and their first Rose Bowl berth. Stellar Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd was picked as defensive player of the year. His teammate, defensive tackle Junior Tafuna, pocketed defensive freshman honors</p></p><p><p>.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

'Absolute last resort': Spokane City Council approves $3.4 million to cover unanticipated firefighter overtime

<p><p>The Spokane City Council begrudgingly pulled $3.4 million from city reserves to compensate for the Fire Department’s massive use of overtime pay this year. </p></p><p><p>The city has pledged to conduct a review of its sick leave usage after overtime pay surged this year, exacerbating <a href="https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/nov/25/spokane-fire-department-budget-soars-5-million-pas" target="_blank">an issue members of the City Council have been calling out for several years</a>.</p></p><p><p>The administration’s initial request last month was for an extra $5 million, but the amount was whittled down by council and administration budget staffers in recent weeks. The administration also initially asked to pull the money from the city’s contingency reserves, which the council resisted.</p></p><p><p>Instead, the money was pulled from reserves tied to the Public Safety Levy approved by city voters in 2019 and from the American Rescue Plan.</p></p><p><p>“That’s an absolute last resort in my book… we can always work together to find creative ways to finance some of these problems before we hit that last stopgap,” Councilwoman Candace Mumm said.</p></p><p><p>Administration officials expressed surprise and dismay last month at the level of overtime spending incurred by the fire department and increased use of sick time. In a typical two-week pay period, overtime costs are about $232,000, but they spiked to about $576,000 per pay period this fall, according to city officials.</p></p><p><p>Spokane Firefighters Union Local 29 has claimed that the overtime costs are related to staffing levels. Its leaders have argued that the city has been unable to hire new employees at a pace that keeps up with the retirements and departures in recent years.</p></p><p><p>The union has also noted that the uptick in sick leave coincided with the arrival of the delta variant and increase in COVID-19 cases across Spokane County.</p></p><p><p>The department hopes to bolster staffing with 20 new hires in 2022.</p></p><p><p>The fire department’s budget woes appear likely to continue into the new year. While the city will commence with a review of sick leave usage, it will not be complete in time to influence the 2022 budget before City Council votes on it on Monday.</p></p><p><p>The city has started an external study of overtime use by the fire department. The study will cost $110,000.</p></p><p><p>City Council members excoriated the administration last month, noting that funding was allocated for an overtime study in the 2021 budget but there still hasn’t been one.</p></p><p><p>The budget for fire and emergency medical services was about $56 million in 2021, but it’s been clear for months that the city would likely exceed that number.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Denver-based private capital firm KSL Partners buys Davenport Hotels

<p><p>After restoring The Historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane’s downtown and building a brand of luxury hotels in its wake, developers and hoteliers Walt and Karen Worthy announced Tuesday the sale of their five properties.</p></p><p><p>Colorado-based KSL Capital Partners bought the 1914 landmark and the Worthys’ other four properties, comprising more than 1,700 guest rooms in the downtown core. The parties did not disclose the amount of the sale, which is expected to close in the next 30 days.</p></p><p><p>A representative of the new operating group and the hotel brand’s managing director both said Tuesday the sale would not affect the service experience at the five properties, which in addition to the historic hotel includes the Davenport Tower, the Davenport Lusso, the Davenport Grand and the Centennial.</p></p><p><p>“You won’t see any change in the name of the hotel,” said Pete Sams, chief operations officer for Davidson Hospitality Group, which will operate the hotels on behalf of KSL Capital. “We have a great reverence for the service and experience these hotels provide.”</p></p><p><p>Davidson is retaining all staff and the leadership team in place at the Davenport hotels, including Lynnelle Caudill, who has been as managing director of the brand since 2002, when the Worthys reopened the Historic Davenport.</p></p><p><p>“Louis Davenport started this whole thing,” Caudill said. “Then we had Walt and Karen’s chapter. And now, it’s time for a new chapter.”</p></p><p><p>Walt Worthy, who did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, bought the historic hotel at 10 S. Post St. in 2000 for $6.5 million, kicking off an expansion to four more properties.</p></p><p><p>“The time has come to transfer ownership to new hands,” Worthy said in a statement provided Tuesday. “KSL has the depth of expertise and capabilities to provide exceptional service as they have owned and operated some of the most prestigious hotels in the world, and we couldn’t be happier that they will continue to preserve the history and heritage of Davenport Hotels here in Spokane.”</p></p><p><p>For years it had been feared the Historic Davenport, a Kirtland Cutter-designed landmark, would be demolished because of the asbestos contained within the hotel.</p></p><p><!--[photoset id=11622]--></p><p><p>“It’s just a masterpiece sittin’ there waitin’ to get framed,” Worthy told The Spokesman-Review after buying the block. “It’s overwhelming – it’s so damn big. But, once we get started, I think all the pieces will fall into place.’’</p></p><p><p>The Worthys reopened the Davenport two years later, after spending a reported $35 million to renovate it. They next turned their attention to the Davenport Tower, a 21-story hotel opened in 2007. The purchase of the Lusso, a boutique hotel at 808 W. Sprague Ave., followed in 2009, and the Davenport Grand Hotel opened its doors in 2015, though not without some controversy about how much the city of Spokane owed for soil cleanup on the site.</p></p><p><p>The Davenport portfolio was rounded out by purchase of the Red Lion Hotel at the Park in 2018 for $35 million, now branded as the Centennial.</p></p><p><p>Davidson and KSL were enticed by the promise of future growth in Spokane, Sams said. He cited the renovations of Riverfront Park and the construction of the nearby Podium sports facility as well as a new downtown multiuse stadium as evidence they were bullish on Spokane’s hospitality potential.</p></p><p><p>“We believe this is a market on a wave,” Sams said. “We’re catching it on the front end of a wave.”</p></p><p><p>The Davenport hotels will be the first to be operated by Davidson in Washington state, but KSL has regional holdings that include the Hayden Lake Marina, Crystal Mountain Resort, and the citizenM hotel in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, as well as international investments.</p></p><p><p>The firm, which specializes in travel and leisure investments, continued to raise and spend money during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Bloomberg. In October, <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-25/ksl-capital-partners-seeks-3-billion-for-sixth-flagship-fund" target="_blank">the trade publication reported</a> KSL Capital had spent more than $3 billion between April 2020 and Sept. 30, and was actively seeking investors for additional ventures.</p></p><p><p>The Historic Davenport will not be the first historic hotel to join KSL’s portfolio. The firm also owned The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia, from 2006 through 2013, as well as the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island, Michigan. That hotel, built in 1887, was sold to KSL in 2019 and is currently operated by Davidson.</p></p><p><p>The hotel, known for its festively decorated lobby at Christmastime, is listed on the National Historic Register. Caudill said the change in ownership would not change that tradition.</p></p><p><p>“They used to call the Davenport lobby the living room for the Spokane community,” she said. “And I think that hasn’t changed.”</p></p><p><p>KSL’s purchase comes just as the Davenport brand, in recent weeks, has ramped up its hiring in anticipation of a return from the lean days of the COVID-19 pandemic. All properties but the Grand Hotel shut down for several months in early 2020, and the company downsized its staff from more than 1,200 to just a little more than 300 in early 2021.</p></p><p><p>“Not everyone came back, and we just had to start recruiting,” Caudill said, adding that the brand is back up to more than 700 employees. Working with Davidson and KSL will allow them to recruit workers from other parts of the country and incorporate some of the ideas at other properties into the Davenport brand.</p></p><p><p>Caudill said there’s potential for 2022 to be a better year than 2019, with several citywide events planned and the opening of new facilities. Sams said there are indications that business and convention travel are on their way back after a two-year lull due to the pandemic, all comforting signs for an industry that was hard-hit as people stayed home to stay safe.</p></p><p><p>“We could have a remarkable 2022,” Caudill said.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Seattle socialist politician faces tight race in recall push

<p><p>SEATTLE – Preliminary results Tuesday showed Seattle voters narrowly in favor of recalling socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, a firebrand who pushed the city to adopt a $15 minimum wage, raged against hometown tech giant Amazon for its business practices and angered many with her aggressive political tactics.</p></p><p><p>But the election is being conducted by a mail-in vote, so definitive results may not be known for several days as more ballots are counted. And Seattle’s election counts are known to swing wildly until final results are posted.</p></p><p><p>Sawant represents the City Council district considered Seattle’s most liberal and includes the neighborhoods east of the downtown area.</p></p><p><p>If Sawant is recalled, the other eight council members would appoint a replacement until a special election next November.</p></p><p><p>Sawant, 48, an Indian immigrant and an economics professor, is the longest-tenured council member in Seattle.</p></p><p><p>If she survives the recall it would boost the city’s beleaguered left wing, which was bruised during last month’s general election, when business-friendly candidates won the mayor’s office and a council seat.</p></p><p><p>In the first count released by officials Tuesday night, 53% voted to recall Sawant. But she has come from behind during previous elections to win despite larger initial vote deficits.</p></p><p><p>Sawant has had an outsized influence on the tone and direction of Seattle politics since she launched her political career under the banner of the Socialist Alternative party in 2012, when she ran unsuccessfully for state representative.</p></p><p><p>She was elected to the City Council the following year, and her threat to run a voter initiative drive for an immediate $15 minimum wage has been credited with pressuring business leaders and then-Mayor Ed Murray to reach a deal raising the wage to $15 over several years.</p></p><p><p>Seattle was the first major city in the U.S. to adopt such a measure.</p></p><p><p>But critics have said she offers more rhetoric than substance and that her brash antics are incompatible with good governance.</p></p><p><p>Sawant has pushed for rent control, police department funding cuts and increased taxes for corporations like Amazon to pay for affordable housing, schools and community services.</p></p><p><p>But Seattle and other cities are banned by state law from adopting rent control. And last month, a federal appeals court ruled that two Seattle police officers could sue Sawant for defamation after she said a fatal shooting they were involved in was “a blatant murder.”</p></p><p><p>The recall question on the ballot cited a minor campaign finance violation that Sawant acknowledged and for which she paid a fine and her alleged leadership of a protest march to the home of Mayor Jenny Durkan, even though Durkan’s address was protected by a state confidentiality law due to her prior work as a federal prosecutor. The recall question also cites her decision to let a crowd of protesters into City Hall while it was closed due to the pandemic.</p></p><p><p>Sawant denies having led the march to Durkan’s house, though she did participate in it.</p></p><p><p>She has defended her decision to let Black Lives Matter demonstrators inside City Hall following George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police. She said the protesters were only there for an hour and that it was important for them to be seen in the halls of power.</p></p><p><p>To Sawant’s supporters, the charges were a pretext for an effort by big business, developers and commercial real estate interests to accomplish what they failed to do in 2019 – when a late, million-dollar push by Amazon to defeat her and other progressive candidates backfired. Sawant was re-elected by about 4 percentage points.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Shawn Vestal: Gun-industry heretic details how firearm politics poisoned all politics

<p><p>Tuesday morning, Ryan Busse and I talked about his new book, “Gunfight,” which details his evolution from gun salesman to gun-industry heretic and which blasts the NRA for poisoning our politics.</p></p><p><p>Tuesday afternoon came the latest school shooting: four dead and seven injured at a high school in Michigan.</p></p><p><p>It was, as they say, a little too on the nose – an uncomfortably perfect illustration of one of the central themes of Busse’s book.</p></p><p><p>He charts the evolution of our national response to school shootings. Not all that long ago, a particular cycle would play out after a mass shooting: People would be heartbroken and devastated. Calls for change would be raised. Legislation might be proposed. The gun lobby would bunker down – recall Wayne LaPierre’s deranged “good guy with a gun” speech mere days after Sandy Hook – and its bought-and-paid-for politicians would heel.</p></p><p><p>And gun sales would go through the roof.</p></p><p><p>For a time, there was nothing like a school shooting to goose gun sales. In “Gunfight,” Busse notes the occasion when a colleague said – at a moment when sales were flagging – that what was needed was a “ really good back-to-school sale.”</p></p><p><p>However, as “Gunfight” demonstrates and as last week’s ho-hum school shooting confirms, we’ve moved past that now. We’ve adjusted to the mass murder of children in schools now, as if it’s just the acceptable cost of being American.</p></p><p><p>Though the ability of any single massacre to move people to action has waned, the scorched-earth, with-us-or-against-us, take-no-prisoners politics that Busse watched take over the gun industry has broadened far beyond any single incident and into broader culture-war politics.</p></p><p><p>A demonized Democrat in the White House – a “gun-grabber” – does the trick.</p></p><p><p>“It’s not an accident that the most hateful, tumultuous period of either of our lives corresponds exactly with the highest gun-sale rates this country has ever seen, by a huge margin,” Busse said.</p></p><p><p>Busse lives in Kalispell, where he worked for many years for Kimber, a small gun maker with a reputation for high quality. He grew up in rural Kansas, where he read his dad’s issues of the NRA’s “American Rifleman” and where political conservatism was simply “in the water.” He carried those views into adulthood.</p></p><p><p>In his book, he tells two parallel stories. One focuses on his growing disenchantment with gun politics, his growing conflicts with those in his industry and the NRA, and his eventual departure from the business.</p></p><p><p>The other tracks our national evolution on gun politics, from the reaction when President Ronald Reagan and his press secretary, James Brady, were shot in 1981, through the school shooting era, to the current state of politicized inaction.</p></p><p><p>It’s almost shocking to revisit the politics around gun safety that existed after Reagan was shot. Recall that the big push for gun-safety laws then came from a campaign led by Brady’s wife, Sarah, and that the Brady Bill, which implemented background checks for firearms purchases, was passed with bipartisan support, even in the face of NRA opposition.</p></p><p><p>Recall that not long after that, the assault-weapons ban passed – and two former GOP presidents, Gerald Ford and Reagan, urged its passage in a letter to senators calling the legislation “an urgent matter of public safety.”</p></p><p><p>“Could you imagine a Republican president lobbying the Senate to pass gun-safety legislation?” Busse asked. “Could you imagine it?”</p></p><p><p>You could not.</p></p><p><p>Busse’s politics evolved leftward, starting with his dawning interest in advocating for conservation issues. This opened a crack between him and all of those around him; he became a public figure when he spoke out against proposals to open the Badger Two Medicine wilderness to oil and gas exploration.</p></p><p><p>That was his introduction to the vicious backlash that became a hallmark of the gun industry and the strength of the marriage between the gun industry and GOP politics, even in matters that seemingly worked against the interests of hunters and outdoor enthusiasts.</p></p><p><p>After lots of subsequent conflict with key people in the industry – all vividly told in the book – Busse realized his conscience wouldn’t let him stay in the business.</p></p><p><p>He remains a gun owner and hunter.</p></p><p><p>“I was elk hunting two days ago. Bird hunting yesterday,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve changed at all in the ways I view and use guns. … I think the NRA has radicalized a certain portion of gun owners and tried to use guns as a political cudgel.”</p></p><p><p>Busse’s book also tracks the rise of the assault rifle from a niche market to “America’s Rifle.” This has led to a development he deplores – the rise of the “couch commando,” the AR-15 hobbyist who imagines himself a defender of a certain narrow view of the nation, ready to go out and “Kyle Rittenhouse it.”</p></p><p><p>“They’re wanna-be Civil War re-enactors, except they want the Civil War to be now,” he said.</p></p><p><p>Several of them confronted one of Busse’s children crudely and aggressively at a BLM demonstration in Kalispell. That was a breaking point for him, and one of the reasons he wrote the book.</p></p><p><p>“Gunfight” is very good, but it’s also discouraging. Busse calls on people to stop letting extreme bully politics control the issue and raise their voices in favor of sane gun safety, but it’s hard to see any pathway forward in the current system.</p></p><p><p>He finds reason for hope in the response to the book.</p></p><p><p>“I anticipated a lot of the negative trolling, ugliness and calling for beheading that the industry has done for so long,” he said. “Frankly, I got very little of that. Much less. Much less than I anticipated.”</p></p><p><p>Instead, he’s gotten a lot of feedback from people like him – gun owners who want to break from the pack.</p></p><p><p>“There’s nothing wrong with wanting a right as powerful as the Second Amendment right to be balanced with decency and responsibility,” he said.</p></p> ... Continue Reading

Rohingya sue Facebook for $150B, alleging role in violence

<p><p>LONDON – Rohingya refugees sued Facebook parent Meta Platforms for more than $150 billion over what they say was the company’s failure to stop hateful posts that incited violence against the Muslim ethnic group by Myanmar’s military rulers and their supporters.</p></p><p><p>Lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit Monday in California saying Facebook’s arrival in Myanmar helped spread hate speech, misinformation and incitement to violence that “amounted to a substantial cause, and eventual perpetuation of, the Rohingya genocide.”</p></p><p><p>Lawyers in the United Kingdom have issued notice of their intention to file a similar legal action. Facebook, which was recently renamed Meta, did not immediately, reply to a request for comment.</p></p><p><p>It’s the latest in a series of accusations that the social media giant fueled misinformation and political violence, outlined in redacted internal documents obtained by a <a href="https://apnews.com/hub/the-facebook-papers">consortium of news organizations</a>, including the Associated Press.</p></p><p><p>The <a href="https://www.rohingyafacebookclaim.com">combined legal claims</a> from Rohingya refugees are being filed on behalf of anyone worldwide who survived the violence or had a relative who died from it.</p></p><p><p>The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic group forced to flee persecution and violence in Myanmar starting in 2017, with an estimated 1 million living in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh. Some 10,000 have ended up in the United States.</p></p><p><p>In 2018, United Nations human rights experts investigating attacks against the Rohingya said Facebook had played a role in spreading hate speech.</p></p><p><p>More than 10,000 Rohingya have been killed and more than 150,000 were subject to physical violence, according to the law firms organizing the cases.</p></p><p><p>The lawsuits say Facebook’s algorithms amplified hate speech against the Rohingya people and that it didn’t spend enough money to hire moderators and fact checkers who spoke the local languages or understood the political situation.</p></p><p><p>They also say Facebook failed to shut accounts and pages or take down posts inciting violence or using hate speech directed at the ethnic group.</p></p><p><p>Facebook arrived in Myanmar in 2011, arranging for millions of residents to access the internet for the first time, according to the <a href="https://rohingya-data.s3.amazonaws.com/attachments/ckwunqdtr1v3xgir2ee6ds44s-doe-meta-complaint-12-5-21-master-rff.pdf">lawsuit filed</a> in California Superior Court for San Mateo County. But the lawsuit says the company did little to warn people about the dangers of online misinformation and fake accounts – tactics employed by the military in its campaign against the Rohingya.</p></p><p><p>The lawsuit says Facebook knew that rewarding users for posting dangerous content and allowing fake accounts created by autocrats to flourish would radicalize users.</p></p><p><p>“The resulting Facebook-fueled anti-Rohingya sentiment motivated and enabled the military government of Myanmar to engage in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya,” the lawsuit says.</p></p> ... Continue Reading