Skip to main content

You make this possible. Support our independent, nonprofit newsroom today.

Give Now
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

  • Capital gains tax receipts in Washington state tumble

    Washington state capitol
    Enlarge Icon

    Washington state officials report $433 million in payments in April, down from $786 million in 2023. Lawmakers may need to address the decline.

    Capital gains tax collections in Washington have plummeted in their second year, creating potential challenges for the next governor and legislative budget writers in 2025.

    Washington took in $433 million as of May 15, 2024. That's down from $786 million netted in 2023, the first year the tax was paid. The number of those filing remained steady, according to state Department of Revenue data.

    RELATED: SCOTUS won't hear case challenging the WA capital gains tax

    And again, a handful of filers accounted for a significant share of the dough. The top 10 payments accounted for $142 million this year compared to $394 million last year. Overall, there were around 3,000 payments in each of the last two years. There are nearly 8 million people in Washington state.

    State lawmakers knew the capital gains tax would be an unpredictable revenue source, prone to up and down swings. Now they have a better sense of what that volatility looks like.

    “It’s such a new tax. We’ll see what happens,” said Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “It looks like revenue for the budget will be less. As a budget writer, you don’t like to see that but I’m really not that surprised.”

    How much less isn’t clear yet.

    Each fiscal year, up to $500 million from the tax is deposited into a state account for schools, early learning, and child care programs. Any tax collections beyond that amount go to an account that helps pay for school construction and renovations.

    The tax has generated slightly more than $1.2 billion for the current two-year budget cycle, which runs through June 30, 2025. But lawmakers counted $1.5 billion for the state’s operating and capital budgets, and $1.7 billion in the next biennium.

    That means steps may be needed to cover any gap. Next month, the state’s chief economist will release a new revenue forecast with estimates of how much this tax will bring in for the next couple years.

    Continue reading »
  • Federal Way's rhododendron garden has noticed how NW summer is affecting certain rhodys

    caption: The Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way has more than 700 species of rhododendron, and often adds even more varieties from around the world.
    Enlarge Icon
    The Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way has more than 700 species of rhododendron, and often adds even more varieties from around the world.

    What does Washington state have in common with Nepal, West Virginia, the Jiangxi province in China, and the Indian state of Sikkim?

    All these places have chosen rhododendrons as their region's symbol. It's the provincial flower of Jiangxi and the national flower of Nepal. And it's the state tree of Sikkim. In Washington, the Pacific Rhododendron, aka Coast Rhododendron or Rhododendron macrophyllum, has been the state flower since the late 1800s (officially, since the 1950s).

    But here's the thing: All the above mentioned rhododendrons are actually very different plants.

    RELATED: What Ciscoe Morris says you should know about Seattle gardening in 2024

    "Most people think of, 'My grandma had this in her driveway. It's big, it's pink and red,'" said Atsuko Gibson, nursery manager and assistant curator at Federal Way's Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden. "But rhododendrons are such a diverse group of plants. Some rhodys can be grown like ground cover ... and some rhodys can be grown like a tree ... and everything in between."

    Listen to Seattle Now's full conversation with Atsuko Gibson here.

    The garden in Federal Way has more than 700 species of Rhododendron, mostly from the wild. Its curator even takes part in plant-hunting exhibitions and often brings back new varieties.

    Out of this immense rhododendron world, only the Pacific rhody is native to the Washington state region. It blooms around June, mostly in mountainous regions, like Mount Rainier, Gibson noted while chatting with Seattle Now.

    Gibson calls the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden "a zoo for plants," offering an opportunity to see the eclectic array of rhodys, including varieties that may be extinct in the wild.

    Gibson has noticed that in recent years, local conditions for rhododendrons have been changing. She told Seattle Now the summers have gotten warmer, and drier, with heat waves lasting longer than she recalls in the past. There are certain species that the garden can no longer grow because of this.

    "Our summers, especially in the last five or six years or so, have changed," Gibson said. "I've seen massive die offs, especially in nurseries. When they're in a container, soils get exposed to heat a lot more. So, in the nursery, I'm seeing massive die offs after a heat event. We didn't used to have above 90 degrees seven days in a row, now we do. So, we are reevaluating what we can grow successfully."

    Continue reading »
  • UW student protesters vow to keep speaking out for Palestinians

    caption: University of Washington students pack up a tent and belongings after an agreement between protesters and the University to remove the encampment, on Friday, May 17, 2024, in Seattle.
    Enlarge Icon
    University of Washington students pack up a tent and belongings after an agreement between protesters and the University to remove the encampment, on Friday, May 17, 2024, in Seattle.
    KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer


    The University of Washington Quad was quiet Monday afternoon. There were a couple dozen people lingering. Some were packing up. Some were folding blankets. Others were stuffing plastic bags with their belongings or leftover supplies.

    RELATED: What comes next for the pro-Palestine protesters at UW?

    The pro-Palestinian encampment first appeared April 29 and started ending quietly last week after the university administration and protesters reached an agreement.

    One protester, who would only identify himself as Kashf, said they’re not claiming victory. But he said he hopes the deal will create an opportunity for 20 displaced students from Gaza to study at UW.

    “They’re going to be able to get an education,” he said. “[And] create a quality of life for themselves, and maybe, god willing, go back to Gaza and fight for a better future.”

    Nearby, Jess Jones, a former student, was packing up a tent. She said it was remarkable how the protest was largely uneventful despite the times when tension nearly erupted, including when conservative commentator Charlie Kirk held an event at the Husky Union Building.

    RELATED: UW president repeats call for pro-Palestinian camp to disband following graffiti, vandalism on campus

    “It was meaningful that things remained peaceful, despite a lot of factors that could’ve expanded it into more difficulty,” she said.

    Continue reading »
  • Bumbershoot 2024 lineup announced: Pavement, Cypress Hill, Kim Gordon, more coming to Seattle

    caption: Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth performs in 2008. Gordon is among the acts headlining Bumbershoot 2024 in Seattle, along with Pavement, Cyprus Hill, James Blake, Kurt Vile, Courtney Barnett, and more.
    Enlarge Icon
    Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth performs in 2008. Gordon is among the acts headlining Bumbershoot 2024 in Seattle, along with Pavement, Cyprus Hill, James Blake, Kurt Vile, Courtney Barnett, and more.

    The music scene is crazy. Bands start up each and every day. I saw another one just the other day. A special new band, but not all are special enough to headline Seattle's Bumbershoot, which just announced its 2024 lineup. Seattle's Labor Day Weekend festival this year boasts Pavement, Kim Gordon, Cyprus Hill, James Blake, Kurt Vile, Courtney Barnett, and many, many more.

    Bumbershoot 2024's culinary program is bringing in 29 local restaurants, and 26 wineries and breweries, many of which are James Beard Award finalists or have been featured on The New York Times list of Seattle’s best restaurants.

    RELATED: Bumbershoot's new look attracted large crowds in 2023

    The festival is also bringing back its Fashion District and Animation District as part of its visual arts offerings. As part of the Animation District, Bumbershoot will hold a new international competition: Bigfoot deepfakes. Folks are invited to submit their best deepfakes of Bigfoot. The festival says it is meant to be a "comedic and harrowing portrait of current deepfake technology."

    Continue reading »
  • Bremerton treats Kitsap Lake to tackle toxic algae

    caption: Toxic algae covers the surface of Lake Kitsap in Bremerton in 2019.
    Enlarge Icon
    Toxic algae covers the surface of Lake Kitsap in Bremerton in 2019.
    City of Bremerton

    Ever heard of lanthanum? The metallic element is a fairly obscure one, number 54 on the periodic table of the elements, soft enough to cut with a knife.

    Some kidney patients take chewable tablets of lanthanum to lower levels of phosphate in their blood.

    The city of Bremerton plans to use a powdered form of lanthanum on Monday and Tuesday to lower levels of phosphorus in the city’s only lake, Kitsap Lake.

    RELATED: EPA sides with tribes on petition to regulate toxic tire chemical that kills salmon

    The plan is for contractors on a barge to stir lake water and a lanthanum-clay mixture in a vat, then spray the liquid both onto the lake surface and below it. The lanthanum bonds with phosphorus in the lake and turns it into a mineral, making the phosphorus unavailable for toxic algae to use as a nutrient.

    “Algae grows very well in a nutrient-rich environment,” said Chance Berthiaume with Bremerton Public Works and Utilities.

    Harmful algae blooms have become a problem in lakes and saltwater bodies around the country.

    A 2023 study of 2,800 lakes in the United States in the journal Nature Water found that a warming climate is boosting the production of algae toxins, with the highest levels in water temperatures between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

    RELATED: Snake River toxic algal bloom warnings now lifted

    Decades of polluted runoff containing phosphorus and nitrogen essentially fertilized Kitsap Lake and fueled its boom in toxic algae. The City of Bremerton found that a buildup of phosphorus in the 248-acre lake’s sediment was the main driver of Kitsap Lake’s toxic cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, as well as aggressive vegetation growth.

    Between algae blooms and E. coli bacteria outbreaks, the lake had to be closed to public use about 80% of each summer, Berthiaume said.

    Continue reading »
  • Samish Indian Nation debuts first village in 125 years to 'bring the elders back home'

    caption: Samish Indian Nation Tribal Chairman Tom Wooten (right) beats a drum at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the tribe's new Xwch'ángteng housing community in Anacortes, Washington on Friday, May 17, 2024.
    Enlarge Icon
    Samish Indian Nation Tribal Chairman Tom Wooten (right) beats a drum at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the tribe's new Xwch'ángteng housing community in Anacortes, Washington on Friday, May 17, 2024.
    KUOW Photo / Gustavo Sagrero Álvarez

    The Samish Indian Nation on Friday debuted a new affordable housing project spanning 2 acres of tribal land in Anacortes. The project, called Xwch'ángteng, contains 14 two-bedroom cottages that are ADA-ready, along with a new community center and playground.

    Samish tribal members who are seniors, disabled, and low-income will get priority for the new cottages, which are each roughly 1,000 square feet.

    Tom Wooten, tribal chairman of the Samish Indian Nation, said there hasn’t been a Samish village in over 125 years.

    “We’ve always had people living here, residing at our traditional territories as individuals, but this is the first time we’ve located [Samish elders] in one place,” Wooten said at a ribbon cutting ceremony for Xwch'ángteng on Friday.

    “This is me trying to bring back our families,” he added.

    RELATED: Kelp has protected Samish people for millennia. Now it needs their help

    “I think the idea is to bring the elders back home, and for them to have a critical part in generational teachings,” said Sharon Paskewitz, senior director of essential services for the Samish Indian Nation.

    “You can have the elder generation teach — what does it mean to pray when you have lunch, what does it mean to be a Samish citizen, what is the history behind that?” she said.

    Marilyn Howard, a grandmother of five, will be among the first residents of the village. She currently lives in Bellingham.

    “Can you imagine? I don’t think we realize when we stepped in…we’re more than blessed,” Howard said. “Blessed be all — that’s a great honor.”

    Continue reading »
  • Dungeons & Dragons is headed to a Washington state library near you

    caption: Tabletop game dice, commonly used in Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games. With a donation from Wizards of the Coast, Washington's Secretary of State's Office is sending 75 free D&D kits to libraries across the state, along with the potential for game-playing grants.
    Enlarge Icon
    Tabletop game dice, commonly used in Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games. With a donation from Wizards of the Coast, Washington's Secretary of State's Office is sending 75 free D&D kits to libraries across the state, along with the potential for game-playing grants.

    It's perhaps no surprise that copies of Dungeons & Dragons are rolling out to libraries across Washington state. The Washington State Library falls under the purview of Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, a frequent dungeon master.

    Though, as a D&D player, Hobbs is known as "Happy Tracker Meow Meow," a bard for the Tabaxi college of lore. Also these days, he's playing a human evocation wizard, 17th level.

    RELATED: The (economic) force is strong with Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle

    “I have been a fan of tabletop games for most of my life, so I’m overjoyed to bring this opportunity to library patrons throughout Washington,” Secretary Hobbs said in a statement. “Dungeons & Dragons, and other role-playing games, provide players with fun and compelling ways, including therapeutic usages, to strategize and build relationships.”

    Earlier this year, Wizards of the Coast (the producer of Dungeons & Dragons) donated 75 game kits to the Secretary of State's Office. Now, 50 libraries across the state will get at least one copy of the game, including public, tribal, and community college libraries.

    “Libraries are valuable spaces for learning and gathering,” State Librarian Sara Jones said in a statement. “The expansion of tabletop role-playing game services will allow communities to explore topics in new, meaningful ways.”

    The state has already started delivering the games. Richard E. Ostrander West Valley Community Library in Yakima was the first to get one.

    Continue reading »
  • Microsoft uses AI to improve battery tech

    caption: A portion of the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, is shown on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023.
    Enlarge Icon
    A portion of the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, is shown on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023.
    KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

    Microsoft is using its artificial intelligence models to help develop the next generation of batteries.

    Experts consider batteries an important tool for utilities trying to give up fossil fuels. That's because batteries can be paired with solar or wind to provide reliable power even when there’s no wind or sun.

    Microsoft VP Jason Zander said his company used AI to scan 32.6 million potential molecular combinations and discovered 18 candidates for brand new battery designs.

    RELATED: Microsoft’s carbon emissions surge despite goal of becoming ‘carbon negative’ by 2030

    "We actually created a new battery substance that's novel. It's never existed before, but uses about 70% less lithium," Zander said. "This was something that would normally take years. We're able to find it in just 80 hours." That’s because AI can do scientific calculations quickly.

    Microsoft is under scrutiny this week following its report revealing that new data centers associated with AI have pushed the company’s electricity use up almost 30 percent since 2020.

    RELATED: Northwest companies charge toward battery tech revolution

    Continue reading »
  • Pro-Palestine protesters to disband UW encampment in Seattle after university makes concessions

    caption: An imprint of a tent is shown in the grass on the University of Washington Quad following an agreement between student protesters and the University to remove the encampment on Friday, May 17, 2024, in Seattle.
    Enlarge Icon
    An imprint of a tent is shown in the grass on the University of Washington Quad following an agreement between student protesters and the University to remove the encampment on Friday, May 17, 2024, in Seattle.
    KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer


    Protest organizers at the University of Washington in Seattle have agreed to voluntarily disband their encampment by 3 p.m. on Monday, according to reporting by the UW Daily.

    Organizers of the Popular University for Gaza encampment say they have reached an agreement with UW.

    RELATED: UW president repeats call for pro-Palestinian camp to disband following graffiti, vandalism on campus

    Protesters secured promises from the University of Washington, according to Sofia Schwarzwalder, news editor of the UW Daily.

    • UW will open a Center for Scholarship of Palestine.
    • UW will convene a military industrial and labor task force.
    • They will have representation on a divestment committee.

    In addition: A statement from the group says UW leadership has agreed to waive tuition for 20 displaced students from Gaza, and review study-abroad programs that exclude Palestinian or other Arab students.

    Schwarzwalder said a community meeting is scheduled for later on Friday.

    Representatives of the group said they are under no illusions that this is a win, as their hope is for Palestinian liberation.

    Continue reading »
  • UW president repeats call for pro-Palestinian camp to disband following graffiti, vandalism on campus

    caption: University of Washington students set up what they are calling the UW Palestine Encampment on Monday, April 29, 2024, in Seattle.
    Enlarge Icon
    University of Washington students set up what they are calling the UW Palestine Encampment on Monday, April 29, 2024, in Seattle.

    University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce is again calling for organizers to voluntarily take down a pro-Palestinian protest camp that is now in its third week on the Quad at UW's Seattle campus.

    RELATED: University of Washington students join pro-Palestinian campus protest movement

    Protesters, for their part, are calling on the university to cut ties with Boeing and divest from Israel over its ongoing war in Gaza.

    Cauce's latest message came after graffiti was found on multiple buildings on campus Wednesday. The main administration building and classroom buildings along the Quad were tagged with slogans like "UW funds genocide" and "divest or die."

    RELATED: UW pro-Palestinian activists take their demands to the university's Board of Regents

    Some of the messages personally targeted Cauce, who described the graffiti as anti-Semitic and violent.

    Leaders at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle also expressed concern and called on UW to clear the protest and enforce any violations of the student code of conduct.

    "Jews hold dearly the right to free speech, and, yet, these criminal actions and hate speech go far beyond free speech and must be treated with the utmost seriousness," the organization's leaders wrote. "Actions by members of the encampment traffic in blatant antisemitism and threaten the physical and psychological safety of many Jewish and Israeli campus community members. At some point, the University leadership’s actions – or lack thereof – speak louder than words. Enough is enough."

    Cauce has said she's hopeful that sweeping the encampment can be avoided.

    On Instagram, protest organizers accused the UW administration of caring more about buildings than lives.

    Continue reading »
  • UW running back charged with 2 rapes cut from football team

    caption: Texas linebacker Jaylan Ford (41) tries to tackle Washington running back Tylin "Tybo" Rogers (20) during the Sugar Bowl CFP NCAA semifinal college football game, Jan. 1, 2024, in New Orleans. Rogers was arrested Friday, April 5, and charged Tuesday, April 9, with raping two women in Seattle. Court documents say he played in two College Football Playoff games for the school after the allegations were known to the university.
    Enlarge Icon
    Texas linebacker Jaylan Ford (41) tries to tackle Washington running back Tylin "Tybo" Rogers (20) during the Sugar Bowl CFP NCAA semifinal college football game, Jan. 1, 2024, in New Orleans. Rogers was arrested Friday, April 5, and charged Tuesday, April 9, with raping two women in Seattle. Court documents say he played in two College Football Playoff games for the school after the allegations were known to the university.

    A University of Washington running back charged with raping two women is off the team.

    RELATED: King County prosecutors 'rush filed' charges against UW football player accused of two rapes

    In an email to KUOW, a UW spokesperson confirmed that Tylin Rogers "is no longer a part of the football program."

    He has also been removed from the 2024 roster online.

    RELATED: Why 2 women paused before reporting that UW football player Tylin Rogers raped them

    Rogers was already suspended from team activities after he was arrested and charged with raping two women in separate incidents last fall.

    Rogers was suspended for one game during the 2023 season under former head football coach Kalen DeBoer. One of the women reported the alleged attack to the university's Title IX Office, and Rogers was taken off the roster for the Pac-12 Championship game just a few days later. However, he was allowed to play in the college football playoffs.

    RELATED: UW football player accused of raping two women pleads not guilty

    In April, Rogers pleaded not guilty to one count of rape in the second degree and one count of rape in third degree. Rape in the second degree usually applies to cases of forced compulsion or when the victim is physically helpless or mentally incapacitated. Rape in the third degree often applies to a "date rape" in which the victim did not consent to sexual intercourse and "lack of consent was clearly expressed by the victim's words or conduct," according to the Seattle Police Department.

    Rogers' trial is scheduled to begin in July.

    Continue reading »
  • More than 16,000 people are experiencing homelessness in King County, up from 2022

    caption: Tents line South Weller Street near the intersection of 12th Avenue South on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, in Seattle.
    Enlarge Icon
    Tents line South Weller Street near the intersection of 12th Avenue South on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, in Seattle.
    KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

    Preliminary data released Wednesday from the King County Regional Homelessness Authority’s Point-in-Time Count found 16,385 people are experiencing homelessness in the county.

    That’s over 3,000 more than were counted two years ago.

    King County officials estimated the number of people sleeping outside in King County is going up. The latest numbers represent a 23% jump from 2022's estimate of 13,368.

    This is widely considered an undercount, and county officials believe the number of people without stable housing is closer to 54,000.

    RELATED: The SCOTUS case that could change the rules on homelessness

    The King County Regional Homelessness Authority said there’s many reasons for the increase, but pointed mainly to the lack of affordable housing in the region.

    The county's Point-in-Time Count, taken over two weeks, also found the number of people who cannot find any shelter is rising. About 9,800 people were estimated to be without any sort of overnight emergency shelter, compared to about 7,700 two years ago.

    RELATED: In Burien, 'the soap opera continues' as quarrels grow over city's camping ban

    Racial disparities in the unhoused community persist.

    According to this year’s count, 19% of people experiencing homelessness in King County identify as Black or African American, but only 6% of King County's total population is Black.

    The 2024 count used methods different from those employed in the past. Instead of sending out dozens of volunteers to count people sleeping outside in one night , officials used a sampling model to estimate unhoused individuals. The King County Regional Homelessness Authority said this "respondent-driven" sampling method is more accurate than a physical count.

    The Point-in-Time Count is required by the federal government every two years for funding.

    Continue reading »