Jessica Robinson

Inland Northwest Correspondent

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.

Prior to joining the Northwest News Network team, Jessica was the news director of Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Oregon, where she produced a newsmagazine on Northern California and Southern Oregon. In 2010, she spent a year in central Mexico and reported for an English-language newspaper in San Miguel de Allende. Jessica's investigative and feature stories have earned awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Idaho Press Club, the Radio Television Digital News Association, and Public Radio News Directors Inc. A Northwest native, Jessica grew up in an off-the-grid log cabin in the Columbia River Gorge.

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Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Two cross-country skiers from the Seattle area died and two others were injured Tuesday in an avalanche in the southern Wallowa Mountains in eastern Oregon, according to the Baker County sheriff.

The skiers were part of an eight-member group on a guided tour when the avalanche hit. After a dry period, the Northwest is seeing heavy snow, which has increased the avalanche danger across the region.

U.S. Forest Service

Forest managers in western Washington and northern Idaho will be closing some popular camping areas this year. They say nearby trees are infected with root rot and post a threat to campers. It’s a problem Northwest forests may see more of in the coming years.

The Bumblebee Campground near the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River is typically full of people every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day. But Jason Kirchner of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests says inspectors recently discovered all 25 campsites were close to at least one diseased tree at risk of falling.

Seth Wenig / AP Photo

A school district in Sweet Home, Oregon is considering whether to pull a book by Northwest author Sherman Alexie from junior high classrooms.

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is frequently targeted for removal from school reading lists for its language and depictions of violence and sexuality.

Jessica Robinson

Gay rights advocates say legislation introduced this week in Idaho would undermine local anti-discrimination ordinances passed in seven Idaho cities. The new bills are aimed protecting religious people from activities they say violate their beliefs.

Republican Idaho lawmakers are responding to incidents elsewhere in the Northwest. A florist in Richland, Wash., faces lawsuits for refusing to provide the flowers for a same-sex wedding. In Oregon, investigators found a baker in Gresham who made a similar stand violated the state's civil rights laws.

AP Photo/IntelCenter

The U.S. military has obtained a new video showing captured Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl alive. The Idaho native has been a prisoner of the Taliban for the last four and a half years, and his parents in Hailey, Idaho are asking for his safe return.

Jessica Robinson

Researchers at Washington State University say the same kind of self-tracking technology that's become popular among smartphone users could also help police officers stay safer on the job.

A criminal justice professor will debut an app that monitors alertness at a White House conference Tuesday.

Courtesy of Evergreen Public Schools.

Two airmen from the Northwest were killed in a helicopter crash in England this week. The Pave Hawk helicopter went down in a marshy nature preserve in eastern England, killing the entire four-member crew.

Jessica Robinson

Beginning Wednesday, visitors at schools in Idaho’s Coeur a’Alene School District will be required to check in by video and be buzzed in. It’s one of many security measures parents and students are seeing across the Northwest as a result of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.

But one of the most talked about changes — arming teachers — has failed to materialize.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Local health officials are urging people of all ages to get vaccinated against the flu, which has already claimed four lives in King County alone this season.

In addition to the deaths, the number of positive tests has doubled since mid-December, according to Dr. Jeff Duchin with Public Health – Seattle & King County. And this year's most prevalent strain, the H1N1 virus, is one that hits younger people especially hard.

Jessica Robinson

Jan. 1 marked the end of the era of your standard, soft white Edison-designed incandescent bulb in the U.S. — at least in theory.

Loopholes in the law will make the incandescent still widely available if you really want it.

David Tulis / AP Photo

Northwest banks say 2014 may be the year consumers start to see a new generation of credit cards that are less prone to fraud. The cards are already in use in Canada, Mexico and countries in Europe and Asia. Experts say they could have protected U.S. consumer data in the recent security breach at Target stores.

King County Solid Wast

The same shiny gift wrap and bright bows that make Christmas presents so enticing are exactly what give recycling centers headaches the day after Christmas.

At the Kootenai County Solid Waste Department in north Idaho, the day after Christmas has two distinctions: it's one of the busiest days of the year by volume, and one of the lightest days by weight. The reason: wrapping paper, says Roger Saterfiel, who oversees the department.

Celeste Lindell / Flickr

New federal data show Idaho leads the country in something you might expect more from Seattle, Portland or Silicon Valley.

The state has the highest portion of adults who have switched over entirely to cellphone.

Source: National Telefilm Associates

Portland and Spokane have been trying to prevent people from jumping off the cities' iconic bridges. In the last few weeks, police in both cities have responded to suicides or attempted suicides.

Many people believe the gloomy weather this time of year increases the suicide rate. But it turns out that’s just not true.

Jessica Robinson

The huge piece of oil equipment winding its way through eastern Oregon is expected to cross over into Idaho early Saturday.

Meanwhile, another so-called “megaload” project has emerged farther north. And the proposed extra-heavy haul is making some homeowners nervous in a north Idaho resort town.

Intelcenter

Supporters of a captured soldier from Idaho are urging people to add one more name to their holiday mailing list.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been a prisoner of the Taliban since 2009.  And organizers in his hometown of Hailey, Idaho are trying to get Christmas cards to him and to send a message to the White House.

Matt Jenkins

A set of lawsuits winding its way through federal court in Idaho combine a couple phrases you might not expect to find together: massive international cartel and potato.

According to a group of grocers, the innocuous-looking potato on your plate got there through a conspiracy involving price-fixing, coercion and aerial surveillance. But potato growers counter there is no cartel; just a co-op.

Jessica Robinson

The Christmas tree destined for the nation's capital begins a cross-country road trip this week, starting in the Northwest.

This year, the carefully-chosen Capitol Tree is a spruce from Washington's Colville National Forest. And getting an 80-foot tree out of a national forest isn't quite like going to a U-cut.

Jessica Robinson

It's hard to find anyone who orders anything by phone or through the mail anymore—unless they're signing up for health insurance under the new Affordable Care Act.

With all the online snags in the first month, people are turning to some decidedly old-fashioned methods. And some managers in the Northwest say snail mail and the phone are the best workarounds for the time being.

Quagmar / Flickr

 

Officials at a school district in north Idaho say a plan to arm teachers is off. The proposal has been generating controversy in the Sandpoint area.

But that part of a school safety plan is no longer under consideration.

Jessica Robinson

Public health officials are trying to stop a series of gonorrhea outbreaks in the Northwest. And they’re offering a service to infected patients: anonymous notification of former sexual partners.

That's right. There is a government worker out there whose job it is to call, text, Facebook or track down your exes to let them know they might have an STD. The job has become a key part of controlling disease outbreaks.

A subsidiary of General Electric says it’s looking for alternative options for moving huge water purification equipment from the Northwest to Alberta, Canada. A route through the middle of Idaho turned into a legal battle with the Nez Perce Tribe, and the alternatives are limited.

Resources Conservation Company International, the GE subsidiary, decided to withdraw a federal appeal that sought to reopen Idaho's Highway 12 to so-called “megaloads.” A judge had ordered the Forest Service to close the wild and scenic corridor to the shipments.

Steven Hurd / Flickr

Health officials officials across the Northwest are trying to figure out why they’re seeing a big upswing in the number of people with gonorrhea this year. Washington announced Thursday five counties are in the midst of an outbreak of the infection.

The Washington outbreaks are in Spokane, Benton, Yakima, Kitsap, and Thurston counties. Overall, the state has seen a 34 percent increase in gonorrhea cases over this time last year.

AP Photo

 

Former U.S. House Speaker Tom Foley has died of complications from strokes. He was 84.

The Democrat served nearly 30 years in Congress before being defeated in the Gingrich Revolution of 1994.

Foley had the distinction of becoming the first, and so far only, Speaker of the House from the Northwest. He was also the first Speaker defeated at the polls since the Civil War.

Foley grew up on Spokane’s South Hill, the son of a prominent judge. As a politician, he described himself as a “peace maker, not street fighter.” It might have been his Achilles heel.

In the food business, everything comes down to that moment when a shopper studies a label and decides whether to buy or move on. That’s why food producers have a big interest in Washington’s Initiative 522 on the ballot next month.

U.S. Forest Service

Loggers are packing up and leaving timber sales uncut across the Northwest as a result of the partial federal government shutdown. Timber companies say even if a deal is reached soon at the nation's Capitol, the effects from the logging hiatus could be felt all the way into next spring.

Timber companies received letters from the U.S. Forest Service telling them to cease operations after employees who oversee and inspect timber sales were furloughed.

National Security Archives

A U.S. Senator from Idaho who once warned about misuse of government surveillance was himself the subject Vietnam Era domestic wiretapping. That's one of the revelations in a newly de-classified NSA document. The security agency itself described the program as “disreputable ... if not outright illegal.”

Jessica Robinson

A north Idaho school district is launching a campaign to curb bullying.

School officials in Coeur d’Alene announced Wednesday the effort includes curriculum changes and focus groups with a cross section of student cliques. It’s a response to a spate of recent complaints from parents and students.

Jessica Robinson

Tribal casinos are trying to appeal to a new kind of customer—one who may not even gamble at all.

Across the Northwest, one-time no-frills casinos are expanding into resort-style destinations and adding high-end amenities like spas, fine dining, and luxury hotels. The tribes are hoping to give Las Vegas a run for its money.

Let's face it: there's not much ambiance in a room with a thousand slot machines. Or maybe it's really that there's too much ambiance.

Jessica Robinson

A federal judge has halted so-called “megaload” traffic through a wild and scenic corridor in Idaho. The ruling issued Friday orders the Forest Service to close a section of highway to an Oregon company trying to move oil equipment to Canada. 

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