White House, tribal leaders hail ‘historic’ deal to restore salmon runs in PNW

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration, leaders of four Columbia River Basin tribes and the governors of Oregon and Washington celebrated on Friday as they signed papers formally launching a $1 billion plan to help recover depleted salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest.

The plan, announced in December, stopped short of calling for the removal of four controversial dams on the Snake River, as some environmental groups and tribal leaders have urged. But officials said it would boost clean energy production and help offset hydropower, transportation and other benefits provided by the dams should Congress ever agree to breach them.

The plan brokered by the Biden administration pauses long-running litigation over federal dam operations and represents the most significant step yet toward eventually taking the four Snake River dams down. The plan will strengthen tribal clean energy projects and provide other benefits for tribes and other communities that depend on the Columbia Basin for agriculture, energy, recreation and transportation, the White House said.

“Since time immemorial, the strength of the Yakama Nation and its people have come from the Columbia River, and from the fish, game, roots and berries it nourishes,” Yakama Nation Chairman Gerald Lewis said at a White House ceremony.

“The Yakama Nation will always fight to protect and restore the salmon because, without the salmon, we cannot maintain the health of our people or our way of life,” Lewis said, adding that Columbia Basin salmon are dying from the impacts of human development.

“Our fishers have empty nets and their homes have empty tables because historically the federal government has not done enough to mitigate these impacts,” he said. “We need a lot more clean energy, but we need to do development in a way that is socially just.”

Lewis was among four tribal leaders who spoke at the hourlong ceremony at the White House complex, along with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek and an array of federal officials.

The agreement, formally known as the Columbia Basin Restoration Initiative, “deserves to be celebrated,” said Jonathan W. Smith, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation.

The settlement “takes the interests of all the stakeholders in the Columbia Basin into account,” he said. “It lays out a pathway to restore salmon and steelhead to healthy and abundant levels and moves forward with the necessary green energy transition in a socially just and equitable way.”

Corinne Sams of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation called the signing ceremony a historic moment, not just for the tribes, but also for the U.S. government “and all Americans in the Pacific Northwest. My heart is big today.”

The Columbia River Basin, an area roughly the size of Texas, was once the world’s greatest salmon-producing river system, with at least 16 stocks of salmon and steelhead. Today, four are extinct and seven are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Dams are a main culprit behind the salmon’s decline, and federal fisheries scientists have concluded that breaching the dams in eastern Washington on the Snake River, the largest tributary of the Columbia, would be the best hope for recovering them, providing the fish with access to hundreds of miles of pristine habitat and spawning grounds in Idaho.

Conservation groups sued the federal government more than two decades ago in an effort to save the fish. They have argued that the continued operation of the dams violates the Endangered Species Act as well as treaties dating to the mid-19th century ensuring the tribes’ right to harvest fish.

Friday’s celebration did not include congressional Republicans who oppose dam breaching and have vowed to block it.

Dams along the Columbia-Snake River system provide more than one-third of all hydropower capacity in the United States, said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Washington Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In Washington state, hydropower accounts for 70% of electricity consumed.

The Snake River dams “helped transform Eastern Washington into one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world,” including 40% of America’s wheat, Rodgers said in a statement.

She denounced “secret negotiations” led by White House senior adviser and climate envoy John Podesta, saying he and other officials “worked behind closed doors with a select group of radical environmentalists to develop a secret package of actions and commitments” that advance ”efforts to remove the four Lower Snake River dams.”

Biden officials “ignored the concerns of people who live in the Pacific Northwest and who would be significantly impacted if these dams were breached,” Rodgers said.

Podesta and other speakers at the White House ceremony looked past those concerns, with few even mentioning the dams.

“President Biden understands that the Columbia River is the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest, for its culture, for its economy and for its people,” said Brenda Mallory, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

“The historic agreement is charting a new and exciting path to restore the river, provide for clean energy and live up to our responsibilities and obligations to tribal nations,” Mallory said. “I’m confident we will secure the vision … of securing a restored Columbia River Basin, one that is teeming with wild fish, prosperous to tribal nations, (with) affordable clean energy, a strong agricultural economy and an upgraded transportation and recreation system.”

US appeals court declines to delay execution of Idaho death row inmate

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A U.S. appeals court panel on Friday declined to delay Idaho’s scheduled execution next week of one of the nation’s longest-serving death row inmates.

Thomas Creech was sentenced to death in 1983 for killing a fellow prison inmate, David Jensen, with a battery-filled sock. Creech, 73, had previously been convicted of four murders and was already serving life in prison when he killed Jensen.

He is also suspected of several other killings dating back half a century.

His attorneys had asked a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in San Francisco to delay Creech’s death by lethal injection, set for Wednesday.

They said they needed additional time to pursue a claim that, under the nation’s evolving standards of decency, his death sentence should be set aside because it was issued by a judge — not a jury. Among people on death row around the country, just 2.1% were sentenced to death by a judge alone, they said.

During oral arguments Thursday, the three judges expressed skepticism. They noted that while arguments about “evolving standards of decency” have been used to bar the execution of juveniles or people with severe developmental delays, Creech’s lawyers had presented little or no evidence that the people in the U.S. increasingly disfavor the execution of inmates who were sentenced by judges rather than juries.

“We gave you an opportunity to tell us what evidence you have of an evolving standard, and you haven’t provided anything,” Judge Jay Bybee told Jonah Horwitz, an attorney for Creech. “This feels like it’s a delay for delay’s sake and it’s a shot in the dark.”

The Idaho attorney general’s office opposed Creech’s request for a stay, arguing that Creech could have raised the issue long ago but waited until the last minute to try to forestall the execution: “This is a claim that was basically being held in the back pocket of Creech’s counsel, waiting until there was an actual execution that had been scheduled,” said Deputy Attorney General LaMont Anderson.

In Friday’s ruling, the panel rejected the idea that any national movement away from executions of judge-sentenced prisoners is a new development. It could have been just as true in 2002 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case known as Ring v. Arizona that juries, not judges, should impose the death penalty — as it is today, the panel noted.

Even then, “only a small minority of jurisdictions authorized judge-imposed death sentences,” the panel wrote. “It was clear, once Ring was decided, that the small number of executions of judge-sentenced capital defendants would decrease in the years to follow as those defendants were executed, were granted clemency, or died of natural causes, or as their States imposed broader restrictions on executions generally.”

In other words, someone was always going to be the subject of the last execution from a judge-imposed sentence, and Creech didn’t do enough to prove that the attitudes toward judge-imposed executions had notably changed in recent years. That means this claim should have been raised in an appeal long ago, and now it’s too late, the panel found.

Creech’s attorneys in recent weeks have filed three other challenges regarding his execution. Two are with the U.S. District Court in Idaho, over the adequacy of his recent clemency hearing and over the state’s refusal to indicate where it obtained the drug it intends to use to kill him. The other is an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

An Ohio native, Creech’s history of being involved in or suspected of murders dates back half a century. In 1974, he was acquitted in the stabbing death of 70-year-old retiree Paul Shrader in Tucson, Arizona; Creech was a cook who lived at the motel where Shrader’s body was found.

He then moved to Portland, Oregon, where he worked as a maintenance worker or sexton at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. The body of 22-year-old William Joseph Dean was found in Creech’s living quarters on Aug. 7, 1974, and a grocery store worker in Salem, Sandra Jane Ramsamooj, was shot to death that same day.

In November, Creech and his 17-year-old girlfriend were hitchhiking in Idaho when two traveling housepainters picked them up. The pair — John Wayne Bradford, 40, and Edward Thomas Arnold, 34 — were found shot to death and partially buried along a highway. Creech was convicted. His girlfriend testified against him.

During police interrogations, Creech made some far-fetched claims — claims that his attorneys say he made under the influence of so-called truth serum — that he had killed 42 people, some in satanic rituals and others in contract killings for motorcycle gangs in several states. Authorities were unable to corroborate most of his claims, but said they did find two bodies based on information he provided and they did tie him to nine killings: two in Nevada, two in Oregon, two in Idaho and one each in Wyoming, Arizona and California.

Authorities initially didn’t believe one of the stories that Creech told them. Creech claimed that while he was being treated at the Oregon State Hospital following a suicide attempt, he earned a weekend pass, traveled to Sacramento and killed someone, and then returned to the treatment center.

Based on that information, California police retested fingerprints found at the home of murder victim Vivian Grant Robinson — and they matched Creech. They also realized he had called the treatment center from her home to say he’d be returning a day late. Creech was convicted of that case in 1980.

During Creech’s clemency hearing last month, the state offered new information — without supporting evidence — that Creech had committed another killing in California, that of Daniel Walker in San Bernardino County in 1974. Prosecutors there say they do not intend to file charges, noting Creech’s upcoming execution.

Creech was initially sentenced to death following his 1975 Idaho conviction, but after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that automatic death sentences were unconstitutional, it was converted to a life term. After killing Jensen he was again sentenced to death.

▶️ Destination Oregon: Vacuum museum in Portland

When you think of museums, the names that come to mind might be Smithsonian or The Louvre But probably not the Vacuum Museum. But there is actually one in downtown Portland.

In reality, the museum at the Starks Vacuum store on Grand Avenue in Portland is more of a wall of old vacuums, bu they call it a Vacuum Museum History Timeline.

The museum timeline begins with vacuums from the turn of the century. 

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Believe it or not, until the 1930s, vacuum cleaners were luxury items for only the very rich. Others had a more primitive way of cleaning rugs.

Not all of the off-brand vacuums were winners. Hoover, on the other hand, was very successful. They really cleaned up.

Starks is, after all, a vacuum store. They sell the new-fangled vacuums with all the bells and whistles, which can be a little overwhelming for a vacuum nerd like me. In fact, your great-grandparents might roll over in their graves if they knew you could now spend up to $1,600 on a vacuum cleaner.

Now I know Portland’s Vacuum Museum is probably not on your list of must-sees for your next trip to the Rose City. But for the few and the nerdy, it’s kinda fun. 

Oregon lawmakers propose more funding for opioid addiction medication in jails

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Kendra Sawyer spoke with her dad from the Deschutes County jail and told him she loved him. Six hours later, in the throes of opioid withdrawal, the 22-year-old took her own life.

A year later, Sawyer’s father, Kent, is left wondering whether his daughter, troubled as she was, might still be alive if the jail hadn’t failed to provide her with medicine to ease the agony of her withdrawal, as he claimed in a recently filed lawsuit.

“Kendra was screaming in pain and crying for hours and hours, and nobody was doing anything,” Sawyer said. “No one truly deserves to die in a painful way.”

RELATED: Deschutes County faces wrongful death lawsuit over woman’s death in jail

Oregon jails could soon see a rise in the number of inmates struggling with opioid addiction like Kendra, if efforts are successful during this legislative session to roll back Measure 110, the state’s first-in-the-nation drug decriminalization law that legalized the possession of “personal use” amounts of illicit drugs such as heroin. In response, state lawmakers from both parties are pushing for more funding for medications used to treat opioid addiction in jails.

The measure, passed by voters in 2020, has come under fire as Oregon struggles with a fentanyl crisis that’s fueled one of the nation’s biggest spikes in overdose deaths, and overhauling it is a top priority during this year’s legislative session.

The latest proposal would allow jails seeking to create or expand medication treatment programs to apply for grants from a $10 million fund. It has bipartisan support and the backing of public health advocates and some in law enforcement.

“This is a policy that sets politics aside and that really is about what jails need to take care of people,” said Democratic state Rep. Pam Marsh, who drafted the measure. “If we are serious about providing treatment for people, it’s an obvious gap to fill.”

In Lincoln County, for example, the jail currently spends nearly $50,000 a month — or more than $1,600 a dose — on addiction medication for 30 inmates, Marie Gainer, the corrections sergeant who oversees the program, said in an email. The jail program on Oregon’s rural Pacific Coast, about 130 miles (210 kilometers) southwest of Portland, treated 91 inmates last year, she said.

Backers of jail-based treatment programs say they save lives by allowing people to continue or start recovery while incarcerated.

Roughly 60% of people in American jails have substance use disorders, federal data shows, and overdose is a leading cause of death for people newly released, partly because their tolerance diminishes when they’re not using behind bars.

Yet just under a quarter of jails provide opioid addiction medication to people who had prescriptions before incarceration, and even fewer — 19% — offer treatment for people without prior prescriptions, according to the most recent federal data from the 2019 Census of Jails.

Courts, however, have recently ruled that withholding addiction treatment medication from inmates with prior prescriptions violates federal law, and more states and local counties have taken steps to expand access.

In Washington state, for example, lawmakers want to dedicate an additional $7.4 million to the issue, on top of the $7.5 million already approved in the biennial budget last year. Part of the proposed boost would come from opioid settlement funds, a month after the state attorney general announced a nearly $150 million settlement with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson. If passed by the Legislature, the supplemental funding would double the number of jails providing medication, from 19 to 38, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office said in an email.

Other states — including New York, Vermont, Maryland and Utah — have passed laws requiring jails to provide medication for opioid use disorder to people who already had prescriptions when they were jailed.

When Utah’s law took effect last May, Colin Conner, who struggled with opioid addiction for years, had been in a Salt Lake City jail for nearly two months. By that point the jail had already discontinued his methadone, which he had been prescribed before his arrest, his father said.

Cut off from his medication, Colin went through agonizing withdrawal, Jon Tyler Conner said. His cravings returned and his drug tolerance decreased. Just days after his release last June, he died of a fentanyl overdose at the age of 32.

“If they would have treated him as they should have by law, he would have been on his methadone. He wouldn’t have died,” said Conner, who lives in Seattle.

The Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office said in an emailed statement that it couldn’t comment “due to the potential threat of litigation.”

In Oregon, Sawyer filed a federal lawsuit against Deschutes County alleging wrongful death and negligence in his daughter Kendra’s death. It accused the county of failing to treat her physical and mental health needs. According to the complaint, records that included information about Kendra previously attempting suicide were available to intake officers during her booking.

Sawyer’s lawyer, Ryan Dreveskracht, said he is still waiting for Kendra’s medical records but has seen no evidence that she received withdrawal medication.

Deschutes County “does not agree with the allegations in the complaint and intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit,” county counsel David Doyle said in an email.

Jails in other states have had success with offering opioid addiction medication behind bars.

Since 2018, New York’s Saratoga County jail has provided such medication for inmates who had prescriptions at booking, and in 2020 it started administering it to people without prior prescriptions who were identified as having an opioid addiction during intake screening.

Ben Deeb, who oversees the program, said participants have had a recidivism rate of 16% since it began.

“That proves that when you give people the medications they need, you provide the education, trauma therapy and peer support they need … that they succeed,” he said. “This needs to be what corrections looks like.”

States have a key role to play in boosting funding for such treatment in jails that is often overlooked, said Jonathan Larsen, legal program manager for the Center for Public Health Research at Temple University in Philadelphia.

“At the end of the day, we already know how to treat this,” he said.

In Oregon, Sawyer knows his lawsuit won’t bring Kendra back. But he hopes his daughter’s story sparks change and raises awareness.

“A little more action can save a lot more lives,” he said.

Boeing ousts head of 737 program weeks after panel blowout on Portland flight

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing said Wednesday that the head of its 737 jetliner program is leaving the company in an executive shake-up weeks after a door panel blew out on a flight over Oregon, renewing questions about safety at the company.

Boeing announced that Ed Clark, who had been with the company for nearly 18 years and led the 737 program since early 2021, was leaving immediately.

Clark oversaw the factory in Renton, Washington, where final assembly took place on the Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 involved in last month’s accident. Federal investigators said bolts needed to help keep a panel called a door plug in place were missing after repair work on the plane.

Katie Ringgold, a vice president in charge of delivering 737s to airlines, will succeed Clark as vice president and general manager of the 737 program and the Renton factory, according to an email to employees from Stan Deal, the CEO of Boeing’s commercial airplanes division.

The company announced several other appointments, including naming longtime executive Elizabeth Lund to the new position of senior vice president for commercial airplanes quality.

The moves are part of the company’s “enhanced focus on ensuring that every airplane we deliver meets or exceeds all quality and safety requirements,” Deal said in his email to staff. “Our customers demand, and deserve, nothing less.”

The blowout of a panel on the Alaska Airlines Max 9 has led to more scrutiny of Boeing by regulators, Congress and airlines.

The Federal Aviation Administration grounded all Max 9s in the U.S. for about three weeks for inspections of the emergency door panels, and the agency is limiting Boeing production until other quality concerns are resolved. FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said Boeing is not paying enough attention to safety as it tries to build more planes to meet demand from airlines.

The CEOs of Alaska Airlines and United Airlines — the two U.S. carriers affected by the Max 9 grounding — expressed outrage and frustration with the company. They asked what Boeing intends to do about improving the quality of its manufacturing.

“We caused the problem and we understand that,” Boeing CEO David Calhoun said on Jan. 31. “We understand why they are angry and we will work to earn their confidence.”

Calhoun said the company has increased inspections in its plants and at suppliers, appointed a retired Navy admiral to review quality management, and shut down the 737 assembly line for one day so workers could discuss quality and safety.

Criticism of Boeing has reached levels not seen since the aftermath of two deadly crashes involving Max 8 jetliners in Indonesia and Ethiopia in 2018 and 2019. The crashes killed 346 people and led to the ouster of Boeing’s then-CEO.

Shares of The Boeing Co., which is based in Arlington, Virginia, closed down 1% on Wednesday. They have lost 19% — and about $27 billion in stock-market value — since the door blowout.

To keep whales safe, Coast Guard launches boat alert system in Seattle

SEATTLE (AP) — Photographer Matt McDonald had lived on Puget Sound for years, but had never seen a whale, so he was elated when he spotted a giant marine mammal just off Seattle’s waterfront one evening.

The excitement was short-lived. As McDonald tracked the whale in his camera’s viewfinder, a state ferry that dwarfed the animal came into the frame. The next morning he saw on the news that the humpback whale had died in the collision he witnessed.

“I still remember the moment of when they crossed paths and my heart just sinking like, ‘Oh my God, the ferry just ran over the whale,’” he recalled of the 2019 encounter. “I wish there was something I could have done.”

Now, five years later, there is.

The U.S. Coast Guard has launched a pilot program to alert ships to whale sightings in Washington state’s Salish Sea. The goal of the agency’s “ cetacean desk ” is to keep the marine mammals safe from boat strikes and reduce noise in the highly transited inland seawaters by collecting sightings from civilians and mariners.

The program, which began official operations in December, comes at a time when visits by humpback whales and sea mammal-hunting orcas increase as their populations rebound.

Fed by the Pacific Ocean, the Salish Sea is a maze of islands and canals that make up the inland waters between Washington state and British Columbia, including Puget Sound. Two groups of orcas — one that preys on salmon and the other on sea mammals — as well as baleen whales have cruised these waters since time immemorial and are now often visible from Seattle’s shoreline.

But these waters are now also home to major American and Canadian ports, and nearly 300,000 vessels crisscrossed the area in 2023, from commercial container ships to cruise ships to ferries, according to the Coast Guard. That number doesn’t include private boats.

The new whale desk reduces the risk of collisions by combining sightings by mariners and civilians on whale-watching apps and data from underwater listening devices into an integrated system that will send out alerts to commercial vessels and regional ferries through a mobile app. The alerts will not go out to private or recreational boats.

“We’re focusing on empowering the ship operators with the situational awareness … so they’re able to slow down preemptively, perhaps give a little bit of a wider berth to an area with a recently reported whale,” said Lt. Commander Margaret Woodbridge, who is managing the whale desk.

The Salish Sea is an “incredible area that has a lot of a rich diversity of whale species here,” Woodbridge added. “And also a lot of economic activity on the waterways. And so we’re really trying to help both thrive.”

People who spot whales can download one of two apps that will feed into the Coast Guard’s Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service. Mariners can use radio frequencies and a phone tip line when they spot whales. Participation in the program is voluntary for ships.

The whale desk is modeled to match the Canadian Coast Guard’s “ Marine Mammal Desk.” Both American and Canadian desks are built on the backbone of the Whale Report Alert System (WRAS), a program developed by Canada-based Ocean Wise that incorporates sightings from publicly available apps and other sources, such as tracking information used by whale watching boats.

Work on the four-year pilot program began years ago as state and federal agencies including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grappled with how to help the endangered population of southern resident killer whales, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell said Wednesday.

The southern residents, which number just 75, use echolocation to hunt salmon. But ship noise disrupts that. By slowing down, vessels reduce the noise they make.

“We kept pushing NOAA. What else can we do? What else can we do?” said Cantwell, a Washington state Democrat who shepherded the legislation that created the whale desk. “When we realized that vessel noise might be part of the situation, people start talking. … The Coast Guard is already like, ‘we know where everybody is,’ and we’re just asking them now to take on a different responsibility: where everybody, including orcas, are.”

“It’s really a bit of a watershed moment,” Kevin Bartoy, who has been chief sustainability officer for Washington state ferries for about a decade, said of the alert system.

The collision between the humpback whale and the ferry was shocking for Bartoy, but it underlined the need for a widely used and available alert system. He said the ferry system had already joined WRAS but it wasn’t widely used in Washington then. The day of the 2019 collision there had been only one alert of a whale in the area, he said.

Now the more integrated network has resulted in an exponential increase of sightings. Woodbridge, of the Coast Guard, said reports spiked by 585% when comparing December 2022 and December 2023 when the desk launched and now that WRAS has sightings from the apps.

“The amount of sightings now that we get on any given day is incredible,” Bartoy added. “We can know essentially where a whale is at any time.”

But work is not done. The whale desk is currently mostly based on what people can see, leaving spotting the animals at night and in inclement weather much harder.

Bartoy said studies are underway in Canada and Washington to start testing land-basedthermal cameras that could potentially spot whales at night by seeking their warmth in the waters as well as a more robust underwater listening — or hydrophone — system to pick up whale songs.

John Calambokidis, senior biologist at the Cascadia Research Collective, said baleen whales, like humpbacks, are especially susceptible to ship collisions at night because they spend twice as much time near the surface then.

Another way to keep whales safe is to adjust shipping lanes where possible, said Calambokidis. Through tagging, biologists know where humpback whale routinely congregate, but shifting shipping lanes is not currently being widely discussed, he said.

Late last year, a young humpback whale visited the waters off Seattle for several days and its visit provided an excellent example of what can happen when ship operators work together, said Jeff Hogan, formerly of the Soundwatch Boater Education Program.

Hogan shadowed the humpback as it breached, and ferries and other boaters adjusted their routes in real time to steer clear of the young whale, he said.

“The fact that the Coast Guard is watching elevates everyone’s behavior. It sets a standard of responsibility,” Hogan said. “We want these animals to be here. We have to make the space for them to go about their lives.”

Study: 50 Idaho obstetricians stopped practicing since abortions banned there

BOISE, Idaho. (AP) — More than 50 Idaho obstetricians have stopped practicing in the state since a near-total abortion ban took effect in August 2022, according to a newly released report.

Data compiled by the Idaho Physician Well-Being Action Collaborative also shows that only two obstetricians moved to the state to practice in the last 15 months, the Idaho Statesman reported on Tuesday. Obstetricians provide health care during pregnancy and childbirth.

The number of obstetricians in Idaho decreased from 227 in 2022 to about 176 in 2023, a decline of 51 doctors, the report said. The Idaho Physician Well-Being Action Collaborative was created in 2018 by local doctors to address problems affecting physicians and patients in Idaho communities, according to its website.

The numbers “should concern every person living in or considering a move to Idaho,” the Idaho Coalition for Safe Healthcare said this week in a news release. The coalition is the parent group of the Idaho Physician Well-Being Action Collaborative.

Additionally, the report said two hospital obstetrics programs — at West Bonner General Health in Sandpoint and at Valor Health in Emmett — have closed since Idaho’s law banning abortion took effect, the report said.

A third hospital obstetrics program is in “serious jeopardy” of closing, the report also said.

Only 22 of 44 counties in Idaho have access to any practicing obstetricians, the report said. About 85% of obstetricians and gynecologists in Idaho practice in the seven most populous counties.

Idaho banned nearly all abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. Idaho makes it a crime with a prison term of up to five years for anyone who performs or assists in an abortion.

Post-Roe, many maternal care doctors in restrictive states are deciding whether to stay or go. They weigh tough questions about medical ethics, their families and whether they can provide the best care without risking their careers or prison time.

Dr. Kylie Cooper, a maternal-fetal specialist, left Idaho last year. She told The Associated Press at the time that it was a very difficult decision but that she and her family needed to be where they felt reproductive health care was protected and safe.

Data also shows Idaho is at the 10th percentile of maternal mortality outcomes, meaning 90% of the country has better maternal and pregnancy outcomes than Idaho.

“In a time when we should be building our physician workforce to meet the needs of a growing Idaho population and address increasing risks of pregnancy and childbirth, Idaho laws that criminalize the private decisions between doctor and patient have plunged our state into a care crisis that unchecked will affect generations of Idaho families to come,” Dr. Caitlin Gustafson, an OB-GYN and the board president of the Idaho Coalition for Safe Healthcare Foundation, said in the news release.

The loss of obstetricians further strains a health system that was already experiencing a physician shortage, the release said. The national average of live births a year per obstetrician is 94 compared to 107 in Idaho, the news release said.

▶️ Oregon bill to move to permanent Standard Time fails — for now

A bill to move Oregon to permanent standard time appears is not moving forward — for now — after senators voted to send it back to the rules committee. It’s over concerns about other states not passing the same legislation.

Senate Bill 1548, sponsored by Sen. Kim Thatcher, D-Keizer, was born from a coalition of lawmakers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California. The idea was to move all those states to Standard Time permanently, which does not require the approval of Congress. A switch to permanent Daylight Saving Time does. 

A wrench was thrown in earlier this year when the Washington bill failed to make it out of committee. Bills in Idaho and California have also failed to pass at this point.

Senators voted down the Oregon bill Tuesday by a 16-14 vote. That prompted Thatcher to change her vote to make it 15-15, allowing the bill to ultimately be referred back to the rules committee.

The Statesman-Journal reports the rules committee will look to add an amendment, saying the bill can go forward as long as the neighboring states also adopt permanent Standard Time. A public hearing is scheduled for Thursday at 3:00 p.m.

The Statesman-Journal reports that Democrat and Republican senators whose districts border Idaho and Washington expressed concern about moving to permanent Standard Time if those states did not do so as well.

Hawaii and Arizona are the only states on Standard Time permanently. 

Oregon House resolution may end walkouts; voters would get final say

A resolution in the Oregon Legislature could potentially bring an end to extended walkouts like the record six-week boycott last year that brought passage of bills to a halt.

Joint House Resolution 202 would do away with the requirement that two-thirds of lawmakers have to be present to vote on bills. The resolution would change it to a simple majority to continue business in the House or Senate.

Oregon is one of only four states requiring two-thirds of legislators to be present for quorum instead of a simple majority. 

If the resolution passes, it would be a proposed Oregon constitutional amendment that voters would decide on in November.

The two-thirds requirement all but brought business to a halt in the Oregon Senate last year. The extended walkout by Republican senators in the Democrat-controlled chamber prevented a quorum, freezing debates and floor votes on over 100 bills.

Several lawmakers, including Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, will not be able to run for re-election because of their participation in the walkout. Voters approved a measure in 2022 to prohibit them from running for re-election in their next term if they had 10 unexcused absences. The Oregon Supreme Court upheld the measure after a challenge by Knopp and others.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Cyclist in Washington state injured after cougar ‘latched onto’ her

SEATTLE (AP) — A woman suffered injuries to her face and neck after a cougar leapt out and “latched onto” her while she was cycling with a group on a trail in Washington state, authorities said.

The incident happened Saturday on a trail northeast of Fall City, a community about 25 miles east of Seattle, KOMO-TV reported. Friends of the woman, 60, “were able to detach and fight this thing off” after it ”latched onto” her, said Sgt. Carlo Pace with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Police.

“They were able to pin down a good size lion with its claws and teeth and everything else under a mountain bike until we arrived,” he said.

The woman was released from the hospital.

The agency described the cougar as a 75-pound (34-kilogram) young male. The animal was shot and killed by wildlife police.

Witnesses told authorities they had seen a second cougar run through the area. But agency police during a search were not able to find a second animal.

The agency said cougar attacks on people are rare.

Last July, an 8-year-old on a camping trip in Olympic National Park in Washington sustained minor injuries in a cougar attack.