Jessica Robinson

Regional Correspondent

The former spokeswoman for Herman Cain's presidential campaign has taken a job with a freshman congressman from Idaho. Republican Representative Raúl Labrador announced Tuesday he's hired Ellen Carmichael to be his communications director.

Ellen Carmichael said in a statement she welcomed the opportunity to work in Washington, D.C. for what she called an "unwavering conservative." Congressman Labrador represents Idaho's 1st district, which spans the entire length of the state's western flank.

Doug Nadvornick

A wave of returning National Guard soldiers from Oregon and Idaho is coming face to face with the Northwest's lack-luster job market. The 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team returned from Iraq in September.

After a month of post-deployment vacation, the troops are starting to return to the civilian workforce.

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

PRIEST RIVER, Idaho – A fight over less than an acre of land in a remote part of the Northwest could alter the way the government enforces environmental regulations across the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court this winter will hear a case brought against the EPA by Mike and Chantell Sackett of north Idaho.

U.S. Census Bureau

New numbers show the gap between the rich and poor has grown across the nation. But income inequality in the Northwest is lower than the national level. That's according to an analysis released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Northwest senators are trying to block new federal guidelines for school lunches. An amendment introduced Monday to an agriculture appropriations bill is a response to a recommended cutback on potato servings. Both of Idaho's senators and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden are backing the amendment.

The USDA is recommending that districts in the National School Lunch Program limit servings of starchy vegetables to one cup a week per student. The means fewer dollops of corn, lima beans and most politically charged — potatoes.

College students have helped propel Occupy Wall Street protests to cities across the Northwest. But the left-wing movement is a tougher sell on some campuses – like conservative Brigham Young University's campus in eastern Idaho.

University of Washington students joined camped-out protesters at Seattle's Westlake Park. A rally at the Idaho Capitol was organized in part by students at Boise State University. And a University of Oregon senior started the Occupy Eugene Facebook page.

A fire at a Northwest fur business has attracted the attention of the FBI. Federal agents are now looking into into whether the blaze in Caldwell, Idaho was an act of domestic terrorism. Anonymous members of an animal rights group have claimed responsibility.

The first Idaho town to propose a ban on plastic grocery sacks is running into an unusual cross-current: the push to buy local. That's because the city of Hailey in central Idaho is just up the road from a plastic bag factory.

Local high school students gathered enough signatures this summer to put the ban on plastic bags before Hailey voters. The town of 7,000 near Sun Valley would be the first in Idaho to ban retailers from using the thin plastic grocery bags. It's similar to bans passed in Edmonds, Wash., and most recently, Portland and Bellingham.

Hundreds of miles of power lines across Oregon, Idaho and 10 other states would be fast-tracked under a federal plan announced Wednesday. The Obama administration hopes to create more jobs by speeding construction of Idaho Power and Portland General Electric transmission lines.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu says the country needs to modernize its power grid to meet future demand, and get more green energy to market.

A north Idaho mining industry supplier plans to double its workforce over the next year. The company broke ground Tuesday on a new factory in Post Falls. As correspondent Jessica Robinson reports, the mining industry offers a rare economic bright spot in the Inland Northwest.

Gov. Butch Otter: “Three! Two! One!”

SPOKANE, Wash. - A Washington state senator from Spokane plans to take on U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell. Michael Baumgartner made his announcement Monday. He's the first Republican to launch a 2012 challenge against the Democratic senator from Washington. Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports.

Baumgartner, at age 35, is fairly new to politics. His resume includes work in Iraq and Afghanistan as an economic consultant. In 2010 he ran for state senate and beat the Democratic incumbent in a race that went down as the most expensive in Washington senate history.

Jessica Robinson / KPLU

COEUR d’ALENE, Idaho – It's been five months since a rockfall at the Lucky Friday Mine in north Idaho killed veteran miner Larry Marek. Much about the accident is still unknown. But public records going back several years suggest the federal agency that oversees mines did not adequately ensure the safety of workers at the Lucky Friday.

A 2008 report on another collapse there went missing. And since Larry Marek’s death, inspectors have found a dramatically higher number of safety violations.

Wildlife agents are investigating a grizzly bear attack that left one man dead on the north end of the Idaho-Montana border. Mike Weland is a spokesman for the Boundary County Sheriff Department in north Idaho. He says the man was attacked while hunting on Buckhorn Mountain, near the Canadian border.

“The hunter's partner did shoot and kill the bear while the attack was in progress, but he was too late to save his partner,” Weland said.

Inciweb.org

Fire crews battling the Monastery Fire north of Goldendale, Wash., say they're gaining the upper hand. All they need now are a few more windless days.

The 42-hundred acre fire has already consumed 24 homes in the area. Crews say they're halfway to containing the blaze. More than a thousand firefighters have been called out to the incident.

EPA

An environmental clean-up settlement could also be a mini-stimulus for the Inland Northwest economy. A federal judge has approved the Hecla Mining company's $263 million settlement in one of the largest superfund clean-up projects in the country.

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