skip to main content
KUOW Blog Header.jpg
KUOW Blog Header.jpg

KUOW Blog

News, factoids, and insights from KUOW's newsroom. And maybe some peeks behind the scenes. Check back daily for updates.

Have any leads or feedback for the KUOW Blog? Contact Dyer Oxley at dyer@kuow.org.

Stories

  • This newsletter is legend...wait for it...dary!: Today So Far

    KUOW Blog
    words generic
    Enlarge Icon
    • Does that word mean what you think it means?
    • Skagit County is aiming to protect farmland, which has been dwindling in recent years
    • Crime is up, way up, in Seattle.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for February 8, 2023.

    This one is for the word nerds.

    Does the Boeing 747 deserve to be called "iconic"? How about "legendary"? It might qualify as iconic if you ask KUOW's Bill Radke. It certainly does if you ask Wikipedia, which states the 747 set a standard for decades. It's why we have the term "jumbo jet." It was featured in more than 300 films. The 747 was the plane that President James Marshall saved in 1997, and it was the plane that heroic Officer John McClane went up against in 1990.

    Bill, however, argues that something or someone needs to be fictional to be legendary. Yet, "legendary" gets thrown around more than Barney Stinson planning a night out. It's one example of how some words get used so often their meaning is weakened.

    "Headline writers are the worst," GeekWire's Mike Lewis said on KUOW's Week in Review. "Because they want something that is going to grab you into the story, but frequently when they use the word 'slams' ... and you read the story, it's very mild criticism."

    As a headline writer, I am greatly offended by Mike's comments. He clearly has an axe to grind and has abandoned all reason! OK, he's actually a beautiful human being, and I admit, he's right. Here's a tip: If there is an excessive adjective in a headline, that's your first clue that it's more hype than anything else.

    This conversation on Week in Review about "iconic" and "legendary" eventually made its way to the celebrated, venerable, renowned, and acclaimed Beth's Cafe in Seattle.

    "I'd say neither, and I like Beth's ... that omelet is something," Mike said. "I don't know that I'd go down the legendary or iconic road."

    I'll have to counter Mike's opinion on this one. Beth's may represent something more than itself in this regard. Classic, genuine dives and diners have been disappearing from Seattle, which is now more filled with boutique this and specialized that. The kind of places that make getting food in a jar feel hip and fancy (how did that happen?). I'd argue that the longevity of Beth's represents the now legendary Seattle dive that has faded away. The kind of place you stuck around because your feet literally stuck a little bit to the floor. That's legendary. But I digress.

    Moving on from "iconic" and "legendary," Bill now needs your help. What are some words that are so overused, they've lost their impact? Or words that are commonly misused? Email bradke@kuow.org, or text at 206-926-9955 with your thoughts.

    I would like to suggest the word "unique." It's just used way too much. It's not like the also overused word "literally," which people often say when they actually mean "figuratively." "Unique" is not on the level of writing an entire song about irony but failing to provide an actual example of irony in the lyrics, which is pretty ironic, don't ya think?

    Continue reading »
  • Washington politicians respond to Biden's 2023 State of the Union address

    KUOW Blog
    caption: President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington.
    Enlarge Icon
    President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington.
    Credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

    Washington's Democratic Congress members are responding to President Biden's 2023 State of the Union address, echoing the president's main message: "Let's finish the job."

    Biden touted the accomplishments of 2021's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Tuesday evening. It was a point that many of Washington's Democrats echoed following the address. Representatives Pramila Jayapal, Rick Larsen and other Washington Democrats said we must continue that work, improving infrastructure and the lives of Americans.

    Washington's two Republican Congress members critiqued Biden's speech, both pinpointing fentanyl as an issue they say the White House isn't doing enough on. Both Republicans called for more solutions for fentanyl than Biden presented in his address, namely asking for a crackdown on dealing and drug sellers.

    Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a staunch conservative leader who represents the Eastern Washington's 5th Congressional District, says Biden has a "radical rush-to-green" agenda.

    Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse, who represents Washington's 4th District, said in a video, "there were good things he pointed out" and also, "I hope we can work together with the president." But he added, "I didn't see the leadership there, the unification there, that we need as a country."

    Continue reading »
  • Washington won't be among early primary states ... that's OK, Democratic leaders say

    KUOW Blog
    vote election voting ballot generic
    Enlarge Icon

    Washington will not be one of the early states to hold a Democratic presidential primary next year. State party leaders aren’t taking the news too badly.

    Last year, Washington’s Democratic Party launched a bid under then-chair Tina Podlodowski to join the primary reshuffle. Podlodowski said she believed Washington stood a strong chance of getting one of the few available slots because of its diverse population, proportion of Indigenous tribes, and high union membership rates.

    But Washington faced a lot of competition. A total of 17 states vied for just a handful of slots. There was only one space open for a Western state. Washington, Nevada, and Colorado wanted the nod. Nevada got it.

    State Democratic leaders took a positive view of the situation. In a statement Monday, current party chair Shasti Conrad said that Washington could claim some credit for helping steer early primaries away from longtime leaders Iowa and New Hampshire, to states whose demographics better reflect the current Democratic base.

    Conrad also said Washington would be a good candidate for an early slot in 2028, if the Democratic Party wants to shuffle its calendar again. That is possible. President Biden and some national party leaders have suggested rotating the early primaries among multiple states over time.

    Read the full story from Brandon Hollingsworth at Spokane Public Radio.

    Continue reading »
  • WA geographical sites renamed after Black homesteaders

    KUOW Blog
    map olympic peninsula generic
    Enlarge Icon

    A lake and a wetland in Washington state are soon to have new names in honor of two early Black settlers on the Kitsap Peninsula.

    A 10.5-acre acre lake near Tahuya, Wash. will soon be called "Nathaniel Sargent Lake." Sargent was a Black man born into slavery who homesteaded near Seabeck. He died in 1954.

    A nearby 18-acre wetland will now be known as Rodney White Slough. White was also born into slavery in Missouri. He began homesteading in Mason County in 1890, started an orchard, and lived there until his death in 1913.

    Both the geographical sites near where Sargent and White lived in Mason County previously had names which included a racial slur toward Black people.

    “The stories of Rodney White and Nathaniel Sargent are important," said U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer, Mason County’s representative in Congress. "They made positive impacts on their communities, but they are not widely known. I’m proud to have supported this effort because renaming these locations in Mason County recognizes their contributions and impacts that might have been forgotten due to the color of their skin.”

    RELATED: 18 sites across WA contain a slur for Indigenous women in their name, but not for long

    Two other locations in Washington state are also getting name upgrades. Their previous titles included terms that are derogatory toward Indigenous women.

    South Tucannon Spring is the new name for a spring in Garfield County. The name is derived from "tukanin," meaning bread root.

    And Gooseberry Creek is the new name for a creek in Okanogan County. Gooseberries are common in the area. The stream is near Aeneas and is two miles long.

    The name changes were approved by the Washington State Board of Natural Resources on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

    Continue reading »
  • WA will need more clean energy from other states by 2050

    KUOW Newsroom
    windmills clean energy generic
    Enlarge Icon

    Washington state aspires to be a leader in clean energy, but its wind, solar and other renewable energy sources can only produce so much.

    Meanwhile, the state Department of Commerce recently told lawmakers our power needs will nearly double by 2050. So, the state may have to rely on energy from our neighbors.

    "Essentially, we're weaning ourselves away from fossil fuels. Our state is growing at the same time," says John Stang, who reported on the impending shift for Crosscut. "Electricity is replacing fossil fuels, and therefore, we're going to need a heck of a lot more electricity."

    Speaking to KUOW's Morning Edition, Stang says much of the additional energy we'll need will likely come from Montana and Wyoming, where the wind and solar energy industries are thriving.

    In fact, the state Department of Commerce expects about 36% of Washington's clean energy will come from those states by 2050. That would represent a significant shift for the state, which currently exports energy to other states.

    So, why can't Washington just increase its own clean energy output to keep up with demand?

    "A major problem with that is, essentially, every way that you can produce electricity has a hurdle or something wrong with it," Stang says. "Hydroelectric dams hurt migrating fish. Solar can mess up a critical habitat. Wind turbines can mess up some critical habitat and could kill threatened species of birds."

    Other proposals across the state have clashed with Indigenous cultural concerns. And then, of course, "you have fossil fuels, which put carbon in the air."

    But getting energy from out of state is easier said than done.

    Stang explains the state will need to invest in significant infrastructure, particularly transmission lines, that will take years, if not decades to build.

    Lawmakers in Olympia are currently considering a bill to start the planning process.

    That's just the beginning.

    Continue reading »
  • Local Turkish Americans raise money for earthquake disaster

    KUOW Blog
    caption: eople remove furniture and household appliances out of a collapsed building after a devastating earthquake rocked Syria and Turkey in the town of Jinderis, Aleppo province, Syria, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. The quake has brought down thousands of buildings and killed thousands of people.
    Enlarge Icon
    eople remove furniture and household appliances out of a collapsed building after a devastating earthquake rocked Syria and Turkey in the town of Jinderis, Aleppo province, Syria, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. The quake has brought down thousands of buildings and killed thousands of people.
    Credit: AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed

    Turkey and Syria are continuing search and recovery efforts after the magnitude 7.8 earthquake Monday.

    Washington state’s Turkish-American community is coming together to raise money and create care packages for victims of the devastating earthquake that killed more than 7,000 people. Tufan Erdink, president of the Turkish American Cultural Association of Washington State, says his organization helped fundraise money after the 1999 earthquake in Turkey. Following this week’s quake, the group is gearing up to do it again.

    Erdink says it’s a sad and devastating situation. Many cities have been cut off due damage to the roads. Erdink also worries as survivors of the earthquake now need to also fight hyperthermia.

    “They don't have that much time. Even if they survived the earthquake, they might still be in danger, fighting with cold weather and the harsh conditions,” Erdink says.

    Erdink's organization is raising money and also accepting donations. The group is collecting emergency items like blankets, sleeping bags, and winter jackets. Erdink says they are working with the Turkish consulate and Turkish airlines to send care packages to the areas affected.

    Donate here.

    Related: Turkey's Fault lines similar to those under Puget Sound

    NOTE: You can prepare for an earthquake by creating an earthquake kit, preparing and setting aside two weeks of food, and picking a location to meet with your family if communication lines are severed during a quake.

    Continue reading »
  • Top cop criticizes police culture in Washington: Today So Far

    KUOW Blog
    caption: A 2021 law curtailed police vehicle pursuits in Washington. Critics say it led to "lawlessness," and want police to have more discretion. Supporters say the law reduced bystander deaths related to those pursuits.
    Enlarge Icon
    A 2021 law curtailed police vehicle pursuits in Washington. Critics say it led to "lawlessness," and want police to have more discretion. Supporters say the law reduced bystander deaths related to those pursuits.
    • Former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr says police culture has to change for progress to be made.
    • King County and Seattle are dropping a Covid vaccine requirement.
    • Someone in Washington has a winning Powerball ticket.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for February 7, 2023.

    Years ago, I was in a Kansas City BBQ joint and found myself chatting with a local police officer. The conversation started over an agreement that "The Wire" was the best show we've seen on TV. He went further and said that it was the best representation of police culture on screen.

    "Ya know, it doesn't always make cops look all that great," I said.

    "Uh huh," he responded.

    The comment I remember most from that conversation is that, in his opinion, the patrol car had a very negative effect on officers. He said that officers don't get out in their communities. Instead, they stay in a car where they live in an us-versus-them mentality. It was them inside the car, and everybody else out there. The nuance, the reality, was lost.

    I thought of that interaction while listening to Sue Rahr's conversation with KUOW about cultural issues plaguing police departments far and wide. She worked her way through the ranks at the King County Sheriff's Office before becoming the county's first female sheriff in 2005. She went on to lead Washington's Criminal Justice Training Commission in 2012. After serving, leading, and training, Rahr says she learned a few lessons too late, and now wants new recruits to learn them from the start.

    "What I told the class of (recent) recruits is, 'This is the best time to go into policing. We are at the front end of a changing era in policing. This is a time where people who really are motivated to make their communities better, to improve safety, we're on the brink of getting better at doing that.' I believe that with every fiber of my being," Rahr said.

    This "changing era in policing" deals with a police culture that Rahr says has to change.

    "The mythology is about fighting a war between good and evil, and so being a warrior is very consistent with that. Also, being a warrior, particularly for young men, that's a wonderful identity to say, 'I'm a mighty warrior, I'm strong, and I'm capable.' I also think during the '80s and '90s when politically it was very popular to be tough on crime, the warrior mentality fit into that. Post–9/11, when we had all kinds of excess military equipment, the convergence of all these factors came together to really fan the flames of making frontline police officers look like and operate like the military."

    Rahr says she now has the benefit of hindsight.

    "I realize why this all keeps coming out so wrong, because the premise is false. Just simply arresting lots of people and putting them in jail is not what contributes to community safety."

    Continue reading »
  • Can AI help increase expression of empathy?

    KUOW Newsroom
    caption: Example of the kind of real-time feedback generated by the AI system to increase expression of empathy.
    Enlarge Icon
    Example of the kind of real-time feedback generated by the AI system to increase expression of empathy.
    Credit: Courtesy of Tim Althoff

    These days, someone seeking mental health support can find a variety of online communities to talk through what they’re feeling.

    In these communities, peers are usually responding, and empathy is key.

    But that’s a skill that can be tough to learn and finding the right words in the moment isn’t always easy.

    Enter Artificial Intelligence technology, or AI.

    A team led by University of Washington researchers studied whether AI can help peer supporters interacting on text-based online platforms respond with more empathy.

    They developed an AI system to give peer supporters real-time feedback, like an editor looking over your shoulder while you type a message.

    "It looks pretty similar to how, in like a word processing-type software, how you would get feedback on grammar or spelling. But it was very specific to just help people express empathy more effectively," said UW computer scientist Tim Althoff, who helped lead the study.

    The study showed access to AI input resulted in a 19.6% increase in conversational empathy between peers, with even greater gains among participants who said they usually have difficulty providing support.

    Althoff said some study results also suggested that tools like this could help train peer supporters to feel more confident in responding to people who are seeking help.

    “Peer supporters, after the study, reported that they now felt more confident to support others in crisis, which was a deeply meaningful outcome to us. It suggests this increased self-efficacy,” he said.

    Althoff said online peer support networks help address the problem of access in mental health support, which can exist for a variety of reasons including lack of insurance, stigma, and a lack of trained professionals in the community.

    Most of the time, people interacting on these platforms aren’t trained professionals, and Althoff said there’s room for interactions to be even more effective.

    He said earlier work showed that there are often missed opportunities for empathy in peer-to-peer interactions on sites like TalkLife.

    Continue reading »
  • Bill would protect runaway youth seeking gender-affirming care

    KUOW Blog
    caption: The Legislative Building, left, stands at night on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.
    Enlarge Icon
    The Legislative Building, left, stands at night on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.
    Credit: (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)


    If a teenager runs away from home and ends up in a shelter, are shelter staff required to inform parents? In Washington state, the answer is yes.

    But a bill now before the state Legislature would make a few exceptions to this rule, including if the child has run away to seek gender-affirming care.

    RELATED: Trans patients often travel out of state, pay more for gender-affirming care, study finds

    State Sen. Marko Liias (D-Everett) is one sponsor of SB 5599, which is currently working its way through the Senate Committee on Human Services. He says the measure would allow transgender kids who are not being supported at home to find safe accommodation.

    “We know when people don’t have access to gender affirming care it leads to life-long challenges in terms of mental health," Liias said.

    The bill has prompted considerable pushback as it is being discussed in Olympia this session. More than 4,500 people weighed in on the matter online, mostly in opposition, including parent Eric Pratt.

    “I can imagine children running from another state to Washington with this idea that they are going to be cared for outside the parental guidance that is necessary for their own health care," Pratt argued.

    Under the bill, parents would not be required to be informed of their runaway kids’ whereabouts if there is a "compelling reason." That includes the possibility of abuse, or if the minor is seeking "protected health services" including reproductive services or gender affirming care.

    RELATED: Again, court refuses to hear case challenging WA's ban on conversion therapy for minors

    Continue reading »
  • Violent crime, car thefts reached 15-year high in Seattle in 2022

    KUOW Blog
    Seattle police SPD
    Enlarge Icon
    Credit: Seattle Police Department / Facebook

    Violent crimes and car thefts around Seattle in 2022 were the highest they've been in 15 years. That's among a handful of takeaways from the Seattle Police Department's report on crime statistics for last year.

    Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said at a recent press conference that there may be some nuance in the numbers because not everyone in town is reporting crime.

    "Because they felt like officers were gonna take too long to get there," Diaz said. "And so it's been my encouragement to people — we can't address these issues if we don't know all the issues that are going on."

    According to the report, "Overall citywide crime increased by four percent (1,834) compared to 2021," the 2022 report states. "The percentages may appear lower but reported crime for 2021 was at an all-time high. 2022 totals have now exceeded that with 49,577 reported violent and property crimes. Aggravated Assault and Motor Vehicle Theft were significantly high in 2022 when compared to a five-year weighted average."

    RELATED: Seattle sues Kia and Hyundai after rise in car thefts

    Violent offenses include crimes such as homicide, rape, robbery, and assault. Property crimes include arson, burglary, theft, and car theft. While arson and burglaries declined in 2022 from the previous year, thefts and car thefts shot up. SPD points to social media-inspired thefts of Kias and Hyundais for the dramatic rise in car thefts.

    "The violent crime rate for the City of Seattle increased from 729 per 100,000 in 2021 to 736 per 100,000 in 2022. Property crime rates increased slightly from 5,730 to 5,784 per 100,000 for 2022," the report states.

    SPD further notes that while crime was up in 2022, there was a dip in crime rates over the last quarter of the year.

    The crime report also shows that gun violence is at an 11-year high.

    SPD says "verified criminal shootings" went up 125% over pre-pandemic levels in 2019. The department also says it took in 1,349 firearms over 2022, which is the second-highest number on record.

    "In 2022, there were 739 verified criminal shootings and shots fired citywide. This represents a 19% (119) increase compared to 2021, a 69% (303) increase compared to 2020 and 125% (410) increase compared to pre-pandemic totals in 2019."

    RELATED: Adrian Diaz sworn in as Seattle’s new police chief

    Continue reading »
  • Skagit County program helps preserve dwindling farmland

    KUOW Newsroom
    crop crops farm farming produce
    Enlarge Icon

    There’s pride in eating locally grown food. But land to grow that food is disappearing. Preservation efforts, like Skagit County’s, works to protect farmlands.

    When you pick up a bag of red potatoes at the grocery, chances are they’re from Keith Morrison’s farm in Skagit Valley.

    “There’s other growers here in the valley like us and they grow wonderful products too,” said Morrison, a fourth-generation farmer.

    In addition to potatoes, Morrison grows vegetable seed crops, grass seed, and various grain crops. “It’s just a neat place to be,” he said.

    But many farmlands like his are facing development pressure. “I’m looking to grow crops, they’re looking to grow buildings,” Morrison explained.

    It’s estimated that Washington lost nearly 100,000 acres of farmland between 2001 and 2016. Morrison is on the advisory board of Skagit County’s Farmland Legacy Program, a county-funded initiative.

    Recently it finalized projects that will protect more than 105 acres of farmland.

    “It stops further development in the critical area where there’s a field," Morrison said.

    The program purchases the landowner’s development rights. The owner still owns the land but keeps it for agricultural purposes.

    To date, the program has protected more than 14,000 acres of farmland.

    Continue reading »
  • Seattle, King County drop Covid vaccine requirement for employees

    KUOW Newsroom
    caption: FILE - In this March 4, 2021, file photo a syringe of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a drive-up mass vaccination site in Puyallup, Wash., south of Seattle.
    Enlarge Icon
    FILE - In this March 4, 2021, file photo a syringe of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a drive-up mass vaccination site in Puyallup, Wash., south of Seattle.
    Credit: (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

    King County and City of Seattle employees will no longer be required to have the Covid-19 vaccine to keep their job.

    Originally put in place in 2021, the mandate required proof of the initial vaccine series as a condition of employment for city and county workers.

    On Monday, officials dropped it, effective immediately.

    “The vaccine mandate was an effective and necessary tool for protecting the health and safety of City workers and the public we serve,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said in a statement.

    “The City’s actions then and now have always been informed by the science of the pandemic and recommendations of public health officials — an approach based on data and dedicated to saving lives.”

    Various layers of pandemic requirements have gradually been phased out at all levels of government in the state as people have tried to adjust to living with the virus.

    The most recent change in policy reflects the changing nature of the pandemic, and the tools available to protect the public, according to King County Executive Dow Constantine.

    “With high vaccination rates and effective, updated boosters available, we are in a different place in the pandemic, and our policies and regulations will change to reflect the best information we have available today, as they have throughout the last three years,” Constantine said.

    In addition to ending the employee vaccine mandate, Constantine also ended the county’s Covid-19 emergency proclamation Monday.

    While health officials say staying up to date with Covid-19 vaccines and boosters is still crucial, they say the threat to the community and health care system has decreased enough that vaccines no longer need to be required.

    Although it was controversial, the initial employee vaccine mandate didn't result in a mass exodus of city and county employees.

    According to the joint statement released Monday, just under 2% of county employees and just under 1% of city employees lost employment due to the rules.

    A vaccine mandate for state workers remains in effect and a spokesperson for Gov. Jay Inslee said via email there's no plan to remove it at this time.

    Continue reading »