Political news

Saying that "the tense geopolitical situation between Russia and Ukraine" could accelerate the already heavy flow of money coming out of Russia, Standard & Poor's on Friday cut that nation's credit rating to just above "junk" level.

What's more, S&P says it doesn't expect things to improve anytime soon:

Ever wonder why your voice sounds so much better when you sing in the shower? It has to do with an acoustic "blur" called reverberation. From classical to pop music, reverberation "makes music sound nicer," acoustic engineer Trevor Cox tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. It helps blend the sound, "but you don't want too much," he warns.

Presenting Income/Upshot, brought to you by the Marketplace Wealth & Poverty Desk. This tool lets you calculate how far above or below the median income you are for your area.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington lawmakers missed a midnight deadline Tuesday night to rebalance the state budget. But they didn’t go home. Instead, Governor Chris Gregoire called yet another overtime session. At this hour, lawmakers are still voting on a final budget deal. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins has the latest.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – It’s the final day of Washington’s 30-day special session. But still no deal on a plan to rebalance the state budget and pass a series of government reform measures. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports closed door talks broke up late Monday night.

A weary Governor Chris Gregoire held a news conference just before midnight.

Gregoire: “We’ve made progress over 11 hours, but we’re not done and everybody’s still working.”’

Senate Holds Hearing On Protecting San Juans' Public Lands

Mar 23, 2012
Photo by KenBungay / Flickr

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A bill to establish a National Conservation Area that would give permanent protection 1,000 acres of unique landscapes in the San Juan Islands is wending its way through Congress. A key committee took up the legislation Thursday.

Potjie / Flickr

OLYMPIA -- Washington’s Public Records Act and other transparency measures have earned the state a high score in a nationwide study. The State Integrity Investigation looked at every state’s disclosure practices. It ranked Washington third in the country, with a letter grade of "B-."

But budget cuts are curtailing investigations by government watchdogs. And all three branches of government have tried to put more of their records outside the law’s scrutiny. KUOW’s Amy Radil reports.

Photo by Eric Hunt / Wikimedia Commons

BOISE, Idaho – A new investigative project ranks Idaho 40th out of 50 states for government accountability and openness. The Gem State fails six categories outright, including ethics enforcement agencies. As Scott Ki reports, The study comes out Monday as state senators investigate one of their own.

Whats Next for Wolves After Court Decision

Mar 15, 2012

BOISE - The wolf hunt in Idaho will continue through June in part of the state. That’s because the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday upheld Congress’s decision to strip federal protection for wolves in Idaho and Montana. Aaron Kunz has reaction to the decision.

Photo by Amelia Templeton / Northwest News Network

SALEM, Ore. -- Congress may be close to funding county timber payments for one more year. The senate passed a transportation bill Wednesday that included an extension of the rural aid program.

Idaho Lawmakers Weigh In On National Contraception Policy

Mar 14, 2012
Photo by Mark Kobayashi-Hillary / Wikimedia Commons

BOISE, Idaho -- Some Idaho lawmakers are weighing in on a national debate over whether religious institutions should be required to provide birth control coverage to employees. Samantha Wright reports.

Photo by Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington legislature has adjourned. But not for long. Late Thursday night, Senate Democrats failed to muster the votes for a plan to re-balance the state budget. That means Washington lawmakers will return to the Capitol to finish their work. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports.

Photo by Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington lawmakers are headed into special session after adjourning their 60-day regular session. The final gavels fell just after midnight Thursday night.

“The 2012 regular session of the 62nd legislature is adjourned sine die.”

Despite the celebration, majority Democrats failed to muster the votes for a plan to re-balance the state budget. That means they will return to the Capitol Monday for an extra inning. Our Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins filed this report overnight.

Photo by Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

BOISE, Idaho -- Super Tuesday didn’t deliver the string of decisive victories candidate Mitt Romney surely hoped for. But here in Idaho, there was no contest. Romney took more than 60 percent of the vote. He far outpaced Ron Paul, who finished second. Like Romney’s Idaho victory, the state’s first ever Republican caucus appears to have gone off without a hitch. Molly Messick has this view of how the day unfolded at the largest caucus, in Ada County.

SALEM, Ore. -- Candidate filings are in for Oregon's May primary. As Oregon Public Broadcasting's April Baer reports, Republican candidates will be scarce in some statewide races.

The state Republican party hasn't found candidates to run for State Attorney General or State Treasurer. A Republican surgeon from Bend, Knute Buehler, will run for Secretary of State against incumbent Democrat Kate Brown, who faces a primary challenge from Paul Damian Wells.

Tension Lingers After Coup In Washington Senate

Mar 6, 2012
Photo by Wikimedia User Visitor7 / Wikimedia Commons

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Tension lingers in Olympia as Washington legislators head into what is supposed to be the last week of session. The task of re-balancing the state budget was put into disarray on Friday when Republicans and centrist Democrats took over the state Senate.

Photo by M.O. Stevens / Wikimedia Commons

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon lawmakers wrapped up their 2012 legislative session after dark Monday night. One of the last bills they signed off on was a measure to slow the pace of home foreclosures. Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman reports.

Photo by Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington’s Republican caucuses over the weekend gave Mitt Romney a boost going into Super Tuesday. The straw poll was non-binding, but it still attracted robust turnout from Republicans. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins has this wrap up from both sides of the Cascades.

Landowner Caught In Middle Of Wind Moratorium

Mar 5, 2012
Photo by Aaron Kunz / Northwest News Network

BOISE, Idaho -- Wind energy is facing some tough opposition in one Northwest state. Idaho lawmakers are hearing concerns that utilities and their customers are paying too much for power because of subsidies for wind energy. But on the other side of the argument, there are some who benefit from wind. Aaron Kunz reports.

Photo by Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA -- Record numbers of Republicans in Washington turned out to select delegates and cast votes in a non-binding presidential straw poll this weekend. Mitt Romney was the clear winner, followed by Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. But it will be months before the campaigns know exactly how many delegates they can count on from Washington State. Deborah Wang has this look ahead.

Photo courtesy OurChildrensTrust.org

EUGENE, Ore. - Environmental lawyers are trying a new legal tactic, hoping to force the government to take more aggressive steps against global warming. They’re bringing lawsuits on behalf of kids – including young plaintiffs in the Northwest. The cases use a legal theory put forth by a University of Oregon professor. Correspondent Jessica Robinson explains.

Photo by Anna King / Northwest News Network

PASCO, Wash. – Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum flew into Pasco in south central Washington Thursday to rally supporters before the state’s Republican caucus on Saturday. Some wore cowboy hats and boots. Others were fresh off work from the Hanford nuclear site. Correspondent Anna King was there.

Photo by: Eric Hunt / Wikimedia Commons

BOISE, Idaho -- Some Idaho legislators are concerned about a bill that reduces county control over the oil and gas industry.

The Senate Resources and Environment Committee grilled industry leaders and stakeholders Wednesday over legislation that gives the state control to regulate the natural gas industry.

Photo courtesy Oregon Governor's Office

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon lawmakers and Governor John Kitzhaber say they've reached a last-minute deal on two of the Governor's legislative priorities. The agreement paves the way for a possible adjournment Thursday or Friday. Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman reports.

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- If you buy your own health plan, you probably go through an insurance broker. By next year you’ll be able to shop through a health insurance exchange. Most states are creating their own marketplace for people to compare and shop for health plans. Reporter Ruby de Luna has a preview of what Washington's exchange could look like, and what to expect.

Photo courtesy Washington State Legislature

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington voters consistently send Democratic majorities to the statehouse. But four times over the past 20 years they’ve also voted to require a supermajority of the legislature to raise taxes. Most recently, in 2010. Now a group of Democratic lawmakers and their allies are challenging the constitutionality of that two-thirds rule. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 9th. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins previews the case.

Photo courtesy Associated Press

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- Former House Speaker and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich visited Federal Way, Washington Friday. He blasted President Barack Obama’s energy and tax policies. Some party officials hope to translate Friday's crowds into support for Gingrich at the Republican caucuses March 3rd. KUOW’s Amy Radil reports.

Photo credit: Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho - Newt Gingrich was in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Thursday night to fund raise and rally voters before the state’s Super Tuesday caucus.

Newt Gingrich: “Barack Obama is, in national security terms, the most dangerous president in our lifetime.”

Gingrich called it “disgraceful” that President Obama apologized to Afghan authorities for Qurans accidentally burned on a U.S. military base.

Correspondent Jessica Robinson talked to voters at the north Idaho event … and found that for many, the race for the Republican presidential nomination is between two candidates.

GOP Voters Learn The Ropes Of Caucusing

Feb 22, 2012
Photo by Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

SPOKANE, Wash. - Some Republican voters in the Northwest have more to figure out than just which presidential candidate to vote for. They’re figuring out how to vote in a caucus. And as Jessica Robinson reports, the different campaigns want to make sure their supporters know how it works.

Photo courtesy University of Idaho

MOSCOW, Idaho -- University of Idaho President Duane Nellis says he’s disappointed in the decision made by the State Board of Education last week to remove the word ‘flagship’ from the university’s proposed mission statement. Northwest Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley reports.