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NW spring doesn't start until this happens...: Today So Far

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  • When does spring start in the Northwest? Warmer temps? More sunlight? I look for one thing each year.
  • Washington state lawmakers passed an assault weapons ban, but this isn't the last step for the new law. Here's what happens next.

This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for April 24, 2023.

When does spring start in the Northwest? Not the actual date, but the genuine feel and flow of the season. For some, it's the warmer temperatures, budding flowers, increasing sunlight, or the emergence of very pale Northwest skin reflecting that sunlight like those tanning reflectors featured in 1960s TV shows. Perhaps it's when Northwesterners stop wearing thick socks with sandals, and just wear sandals. Or when Seattle goths get out their umbrellas, for shade.

For me, there is a clear, near-scientific indicator that spring has arrived. It's when the local news reminds everybody: "Don't jump in the water! It's still freaking cold!"

Every year, like clockwork, sunlight overpowers critical thinking and folks have to be reminded that our local waters come from ice. Yeah, up in the mountains, that's all snow and ice that feeds local lakes and Puget Sound. When you jump in, it's like an ice tank. Cue the rescue sirens speeding across Lake Washington.

Jacob DeFlitch with the National Weather Service delivered some good-weather news to KUOW this morning, but was quick to also note, “The water's still very cold in the lakes and the rivers."

The waters have been kept cold around here. The National Weather Service has pointed out that this April is already the second-coldest on record, with many days hitting record, if not near-record lows.

That trend is about to change this week. DeFlitch says that temps in the upper 50s are expected to kick off our week, and rise from there, so "certainly, it’s a great time to be out and enjoy some of the outdoors later this week.”

“Friday and Saturday are looking like the warmest days with temperatures certainly reaching the 70s if not low, low 80s in spots, especially on Friday away from the water.”

Over the next couple weeks, the Northwest can expect above-normal temps, and below-normal rain. Just to reiterate — it's spring and the water is still cold. It's not like it's summer already. Summer doesn't officially start until local newspapers print "gleeful child on a sunny day running through a fountain" photos on the front page.

Another big change is slated for Washington state after lawmakers passed a controversial bill in Olympia — an assault weapons ban.

I say "controversial" in that this bill passed largely along party lines, with heated stances all around, from perspectives that widely vary (more on that below). Such a ban has been attempted before in Washington state, but has never survived a legislative session. Perhaps because there have been even more high-profile mass shootings this year, the bill easily passed this time around.

Do you hear that? That's the sound of gun rights organizations locking and loading lawsuits to challenge Washington's new assault weapons ban. Consider such legal challenges the next step for this new law — bill is proposed, bill is voted on, bill passes, the state gets sued.

Lawsuits could stall implementation of this ban. Meanwhile, purchases of assault rifles listed in this legislation are likely to skyrocket locally (if you own an assault rifle before the ban kicks in, then you get to keep it). The usual suspects — like the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation — are already talking about the legal fight ahead. At the very least, Second Amendment arguments are going to be a core part of such lawsuits. But you never know, attorneys might throw in an Equal Protection Clause just for kicks. I should probably note at this point that I have no law degree and am not a legal expert.

On the other side of the political spectrum is the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club. KUOW has previously covered this left-leaning gun organization here. In a statement, the group did not indicate it has any plans for a lawsuit, like other groups. It did, however, express opposition to the new ban.

"Gun laws are classist and benefit those already in possession of firearms, which marginalized people are less likely to currently be among, while also being the least likely to be protected by law enforcement, if at all. Furthermore, the so called assault weapons ban gives exemption to the police, meaning that it is not truly a ban on assault weapons sales and transactions. Once again, the self described 'progressive' WA state government have proven themselves to be the opposite of pacifists while they stand behind state sanctioned violence."

While speaking with KUOW recently, Gov. Jay Inslee commented that the new assault weapons ban "should survive," because it's a "very common sense measure." While Inslee added that he cannot predict how a court will ultimately decide such a case, he did say, "I can tell you it will be well-defended by our excellent attorney general, Bob Ferguson."

That statement may seem like the usual political saber rattling, but it's an interesting point. As Ferguson said at the start of the session, he has pushed for an assault weapons ban seven times in the past. It's fair to assume that he has already spent plenty of time crafting legal arguments and helping build legislation that can hold up in court. Or at the very least, legislation that can partially survive a lawsuit. Nine other states, and Washington, D.C., already have some form of an assault weapons ban, plus these firearms were banned federally for 10 years back in the '90s. So Washington is not exactly entering unknown legal territory.

Read more from Gov. Inslee here.


caption: The Sloop Tavern in Ballard
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The Sloop Tavern in Ballard
David Hyde

The Sloop Tavern in Ballard is just one stop that KUOW's David Hyde made on a political pub crawl through Seattle Council District 6. Crime, ranging from theft, vandalism, and the threat of violence, has rattled Ballard's beloved nightlife scene in recent years. Such concerns around crime could play a role in shaping the city council race in District 6 this fall. (David Hyde / KUOW)


Miller High Life is the longest-running beer brand for the Miller Brewing Company. Like most great American beer, Miller's roots and success can be credited to one contribution — immigrants. More specifically, Germans who came in a massive wave in the mid-1800s. America had a lot of beer after that, and Miller was among them. But it wasn't until 1903 that it began pouring its flagship brew, High Life, with its proprietary blend of Miller yeast, Pacific Northwest hops, and malted barley. It came in bottles, which wasn't as common then as it is today. That bottle ended up playing into the overall brand. High Life was distinct for its rather high carbonation level. The image that Miller wanted to promote was that this beer was crisp, classy, and light, like Champagne. The bottle itself implied a Champagne vibe. By 1906, Miller was advertising the beer as the "Champagne of Bottled Beer." That was shortened to the "Champagne of Beers" over time. It has continued to be a major player in the beer market ever since.

Fast forward to 2023Miller's slogan has prompted controversy in Europe. In the European Union, some products with a specific origin are protected by law. "Champagne" is one such protected term. When the Comité Champagne learned that a shipment of Miller High Life — proudly stating "The Champagne of Beers" on every can — was being imported through the port of Antwerp in February, it could not let a single drop flow into the EU. It filed a complaint and the Belgian Customs Administration seized the shipment of 2,352 cans. The shipment was en route to Germany, and since Miller's parent company doesn't ship High Life to Europe, it was a custom order. The Champagne zealots, er, I mean parties of interest, ordered the cans to be destroyed. This morning, all those Miller High Life cans in Antwerp were crushed.


caption: Tucker Carlson, host of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," poses for photos in a Fox News Channel studio on March 2, 2017, in New York.
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Tucker Carlson, host of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," poses for photos in a Fox News Channel studio on March 2, 2017, in New York.
Richard Drew / Associated Press

Tucker Carlson departs Fox News following network's $787 million settlement

Fox News announced Monday that primetime star Tucker Carlson is leaving the network, effective immediately. Fox said Carlson's last day hosting his show was Friday. The ouster of Fox's top opinion host comes less than a week after Fox settled an epic defamation lawsuit by an election technology company for more than $787 million.


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