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H-2A ‘deathbeds’ | Trump obstructs | Daughter’s dire request

Friday, January 26, 2018




► In today’s Seattle Times — State monitors found radioactive contamination from troubled Hanford demolition project — Monitors at the federal Hanford Nuclear site found plutonium and americium contamination up to 10 miles from a troubled demolition project that was suspended in December due to concerns about the spread of radioactive particles. The state monitoring picked up signs of radioactive americium and plutonium particles from the demolition of the Plutonium Finishing Plant that appear to have spread over a far larger zone of the federal site than initially thought…. The Energy Department this week started to release the results of bioassays of workers concerned the contamination made its way into their bodies. Two of the first 91 workers who had bioassays tested positive for inhaling or ingesting contaminated particles.

► In today’s Tri-City Herald — State Senate passes bill to help ill Hanford workers — A bill that should help more ill Hanford nuclear reservation workers qualify for state worker compensation was approved by the Washington state Senate Thursday night. The vote was 35-14.

► In today’s Seattle Times — State’s ‘Dreamers’ would be eligible for state aid under new bill — The bill would make students who have been here for at least three years before earning a state high-school diploma eligible for College Bound, a scholarship program for low-income Washington students. The bill passed 38-11 Wednesday, with all Senate Democrats and about half of Republicans in favor. A similar bill in the House has also garnered bipartisan support.

ALSO at The Stand — Bills protecting state’s Dreamers advance

► In today’s (Everett) Herald — Property tax bills to rise by up to 27%, assessor says — Homeowners might want to brace for some sticker shock when they open their property tax bills next month. The bill for the average-valued Snohomish County home will go up by $600 compared to last year, hitting $4,360. Countywide, the increase is being driven largely by changes in state education funding in response to the state Supreme Court ruling in the McCleary case.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Don’t forget. Members of both parties voted for these tax increases, it was Senate Republican leaders who insisted last year on raising property taxes higher in “property-rich” areas of the state — read: Democratic-leaning populous areas in Western Washington — to fund McCleary. Democrats proposed raising the revenue via capital gains and other taxes targeted toward the wealthiest, and not middle-class and low-income families. But Republican negotiators rejected that plan. Washington already has the most upside-down, regressive tax code of any state in the country, where the rich pay the least and the poor and middle class make up the difference. The Democratic proposal would have been far more fair to Washington’s working families.




► In today’s Bellingham Herald — These migrant workers alleged poor conditions and were fired. Now the farm is being sued. — A class action lawsuit was filed Thursday on behalf of about 600 foreign farmworkers who were hired to pick blueberries on a Sumas farm last summer, including 70 who were fired after they went on a one-day strike to protest what they said were poor working conditions and lack of medical care for an ill co-worker. That co-worker, Honesto Silva Ibarra, was taken to Harborview Medical Center, where he died Aug. 6. The 28-year-old father of three was from Mexico. He was among the workers, all from Mexico, who were brought to Sarbanand Farms in Sumas under the H-2A visa program, which allows farms to employ seasonal laborers when they can’t find enough U.S. workers to do the job.

► From KUOW — They were ordered to work unless on their ‘deathbed,’ blueberry pickers claim

► In today’s Olympian — Engineer from Amtrak derailment was confused about where he was on track, investigators say — The engineer who was in charge of an Amtrak train that derailed near DuPont may have lost track of where he was on the route, federal officials said Thursday. Three people were killed and 62 injured when the high-speed train crashed Dec. 18 while making its inaugural run from Tacoma to Portland.

► In today’s Seattle Times — Fewer cranes on Seattle skyline for first time in years, but city still leads U.S. — Seattle’s crane counts fell significantly compared with the last count six months ago, even as all other cities tracked in a new report saw their crane totals grow slightly or remain the same.




► In today’s NY Times — Trump ordered Mueller fired, but backed off when White House counsel threatened to quit — President Trump ordered the firing last June of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, but ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive. Mueller learned about the episode in recent months as his investigators interviewed current and former senior White House officials in his inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice.

► From Politico — It’s now likely Mueller thinks Trump obstructed justice — The case against Trump has grown stronger in recent months, and it now appears likely that Mueller will conclude that Trump obstructed justice.

► From CBS News — Trump calls report he ordered Mueller fired ‘fake news’

► From The Hill — Crowd boos after Trump attacks media at Davos

► In today’s Washington Post — Trump’s handling of the Russia probe has never looked more like a coverup — President Trump didn’t just consider the most drastic conceivable response to the special counsel’s investigation; he actively tried to do it — until someone stopped him.

► In today’s Washington Post — The confrontation that Republicans were trying to avoid has just arrived — Republicans had given the president the benefit of the doubt that he wouldn’t fire Robert Mueller III. But can they do that anymore?

► In today’s Washington Post — It’s looking more and more like there is a coordinated GOP effort to discredit the Trump-Russia investigation (by Amber Phillips) — There is no evidence that texts between two FBI agents sharing their opinions indicates a broader FBI conspiracy or a “secret society” within the agency. But several powerful congressional Republicans are saying there is political bias at the highest levels of the FBI and suggesting there might be corruption as well, perpetrated, perhaps, by secret, deep state meetings… This is all escalating exactly when Trump would like it to: when the special counsel is trying to interview the president himself about potential obstruction of justice related to his firing of former FBI director Comey. It sure looks like there is a coordinated effort among Republicans to undermine the Mueller investigation, exactly when it’s staring to get very serious.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Our own Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-3rd) has fanned the flames of the GOP’s conspiracy theories, telling her constituents that she was “very deeply concerned” after having read Republican political staffers’ classified memo critical of the FBI’s actions in the Russia investigation. Democrats who read it had a different take. “Rife with factual inaccuracies and referencing highly classified materials that most Republican Intelligence Committee members were forced to acknowledge they had never read, this is meant only to give Republican House members a distorted view of the FBI,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.). He called it “a deep disservice to our law enforcement professionals.”

► MUST-READ in today’s Washington Post — GOP leaders’ complicity grows as their members undermine the rule of law (editorial) — A foreign power interfered in the 2016 presidential election. U.S. law enforcement is trying to get to the bottom of that story. Congress should be doing everything possible to make sure the investigation can take place. Instead, to protect the president of their party, who may or may not be complicit, Republican leaders in Congress are allowing and encouraging the baseless slander of the investigators. It is a new low for the leadership, and one that could do lasting harm to the nation.




► From CNN — White House proposes path to citizenship for 1.8 million people — President Trump is proposing giving 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship in exchange for $25 billion for his long-promised wall and a host of other strict immigration reforms.

► In today’s Washington Post — Opponents of Medicaid work requirement file lawsuit to try to stop Kentucky plan — Three organizations opposing profound changes to Kentucky’s Medicaid program filed a lawsuit Wednesday to block the nation’s first experiment to compel low-income people to work or otherwise engage in their communities to qualify for the safety-net health insurance.




► From Bloomberg — Uber-union proposal on benefits met with skepticism from labor — Uber is teaming up with a labor union to promote a modern reboot to the safety net that could help gig-economy workers, like its drivers, get benefits. But some members of organized labor are dismissing the new partnership as a Trojan horse, unconvinced that Uber’s new chief executive officer truly has workers’ best interest at heart. In an open letter Tuesday, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, announced support for “portable benefits,” that would give contract workers a way to access some of the perks that full-time employees often receive even if they switch jobs or just work part-time for several companies.

The letter, released by Uber, was also signed by SEIU Local 775 President David Rolf and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, both of whom have been leading proponents of the concept… Uber hopes working with Rolf and Hanauer to pass legislation in Washington will change the national conversation on these issues, although Rolf said any law that were to newly declare a group of workers categorically as not “employees” would be unlikely to make it through Washington’s Democratic-controlled legislature.

► From El Diario — Latinos increased their union membership in 2017 — In 2017, there were 261,891 more members in unions than in the previous year, and a good part of this progress is due to the grown in membership among workers under 34 and Latinos.

ALSO at The Stand — Washington state posts big gains in union membership

► In today’s NY Times — Why is pay lagging? Maybe too many mergers in the Heartland — Consolidation is often seen as a consumer problem. But it may also reduce competition for workers, especially outside big cities, holding down wages.

► From The Onion — Dazed Jeff Bezos realizes he spent entire conversation thinking about how to automate person talking to him — “Sorry, could you repeat that? I just lost focus for a second [as I indifferently watched you open and close your mouth, becoming increasingly aware of the fact that a simple machine could do the exact same things as you],” Bezos said to the Amazon vice president in front of him.




► Point of personal privilege: There are moments when you realize you have done a pretty good job raising your kids. The Entire Staff of The Stand had such a moment last week when our daughter texted us from college: “Dude, you gotta use (the following video) as your TGIF video. It’s insane.” She’s right. Enjoy.


The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.

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