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Associated Press

A panel discussion in Seattle this week hosted by Barokas Public Relations and GeekWire sparked a lively debate around the intersection of two questions:  Why are Facebook, Google, HP, Zynga and Salesforce.com building big shops in Seattle? And, Is Microsoft vulnerable to engineer-poaching because of its culture?

SP8254 / Flickr

The late train from Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, will no longer be coming to a stop.

The nightly service was scheduled to end on October 31, when Canadian officials said they expected Amtrak to start paying for the extra border staff it requires. The Canada Border Services Agency wanted $1500 a day to compensate for keeping patrol agents around later into the evening, according to Railway Age Magazine:

It seems like everyone is talking about the J word lately. That would be JOBS. The President was on the road in the Midwest talking about them this week.

Now Democratic Senator Patty Murray spent a couple hours at a local Seattle factory talking about how to keep them, how to create them and how to train people for them.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – One of Washington’s largest health insurers faces a hefty fine for refusing to pay for the removal of a certain type of birth control device.

Regence BlueShield will pay a $100,000 penalty for improperly denying claims from nearly 1,000 women. The women had their IUDs removed because the device was outdated or they wanted to try to have a baby.

Washington's jobless rate is turning back up, reaching 9.3 percent in July after falling to as low as 9.1 percent earlier this year.

Kin Cheung / AP

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wants some change in Washington D.C. and the best way to get it, he says, is by boycotting donations to political campaigns. In an open letter sent to Starbucks on Monday, he urged other company heads to withholding campaign contribution until President Obama and Congress solve the nation’s financial woes.  

Vanessa Romo / KPLU

Mention Rotarians and most people's thought bubble consists of this: A group of older white guys in suits meeting for breakfast. But that's changing. In fact, there's a Rotary club in Seattle that's working hard to buck that stereotype.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

One of the best-known Northwest brands is closer to getting out of bankruptcy. A federal judge has given a tentative okay to the recovery plan for Oregon gourmet food and gift retailer Harry & David.

David Zalubowski / Associated Press

Mortgage rates fell to near-record lows this week: The nationwide average for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 4.3% according to Freddie Mac. Rates that low are proving to be catnip to consumers in an otherwise dismal week.

Washington Apple Commission

Washington State harvests about 65% of the nation's apples each fall. But this year, because of the chilly spring, those cheery orbs of goodness could be a bit smaller and possibly less sweet.

Idaho is among a handful of Western states using their gun-rights cred in this tough economy to attract jobs in the firearms industry.

Brent Moore / Flickr

On Tuesday when we started the conversation on our Facebook page about the real impact of the bad economy, the DOW was back on the mend and the fallout from S&P downgrades seemed to be moderate. In that calm before the storm, however, we still felt that the blows to the economy are adding up and causing real people real headaches.

Boy is it, and according to one expert the kind of economic recession we have had will take years to pull out of.

PULLMAN, Wash. – The Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University reports home sales and prices declined in the second quarter statewide.

Governor Chris Gregoire is telling state agencies to prepare for further budget cuts because of the faltering economy. Her budget office today asked agencies for ideas to reduce planned spending by 5 or 10 percent. 

Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor's downgrade of federal debt is unlikely to have much near term effect on the borrowing costs for the state. Although, S&P did deal the city of Tacoma a blow by downgrading it's credit rating on debt backed by the federal government.

Soon after downgrading the credit rating of the United States, Standard & Poor’s has taken the city of Tacoma’s rating down a notch from AAA to AA+ on debt it has issued that is backed by the federal government, according to a report in the Puget Sound Business Journal.

A new agricultural plant near Othello in Eastern Washington is breeding highly specialized corn for the huge world-wide seed company Monsanto. The laboratories and growing facilities are slated to help the company more quickly distil the genetics of corn to get top characteristics to market.

A decline in the number of homes for sale in the area has raised hopes the market is improving or at least stabilizing, but some analysts say it's actually proof of a bank foreclosure bottleneck.

Even as the stock market takes stomach turning plunges this week, it’s still good to be a luxury item retailer.

Seattle’s online diamond jeweler, Blue Nile, put out its second quarter earnings report on Thursday. And though the numbers aren’t dazzling, they’re still on the rise.

cobalt123 / Flikr

The next time you head down the interstate, that truck in the lane next to you could be from Mexico. That's because of a recent cross-border trucking accord between the United States and Mexico.

Opponents say putting Mexican trucks on U.S. roads is risky. But there's little evidence to show that Mexican trucks are actually a hazard on the highway.

Per Ola Wiberg / Flikr

A crackdown on illegal immigrants would put local strawberry farmers out of business.

That’s what one leading farmer in Skagit County told the Bellingham Herald

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

At a rally in downtown Seattle late this afternoon roughly 60 protesters marched on city hall to show their opposition to the waterfront tunnel scheduled to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The protestors carried a 25-foot replica of what they said represented the “monster tunnel that eats money.”

A smaller group of tunnel supporters also showed up with props to argue that killing the tunnel would cause too much congestion.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Seniority won't be the only factor for determining layoffs at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington. Pink slips are expected in six weeks by several Hanford contractors because federal stimulus money is tapering off.

CH2MHill and Mission Support Alliance are the federal contractors planning on the 1,600 lay-offs. The companies say union employees will lose their jobs based on seniority: those with the least experience going first.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – In this era of plastic, Washington still issues unemployment benefits the old fashioned way: by check. That's a stark contrast to neighboring Oregon where jobless benefits are loaded on a debit card. So what are the trade-offs?

Currently in Washington about 180,000 people are receiving unemployment. Half of them are signed up for direct deposit.

The rest get a check in the mail. It costs the state 45 cents to issue each check – most of that is postage.

Liesl Matthies

The Congressional stalemate over the debt ceiling isn't the only Washington standoff in the news this week. A separate showdown over spending by the Federal Aviation Administration is having an immediate effect on jobs and airport construction in our region.

Since last week, this little noticed budget battle has shut down non-essential divisions of the FAA. Airline ticket taxes are going uncollected and the federal workers who drive that money back out for airport improvement projects are furloughed.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

BASIN CITY, Wash. – Peaches, nectarines and apricots are some of the iconic delights of summer. But this year, Northwest apricots are at about half the usual production according to the Washington Fruit Commission. Peaches and nectarines are down too, about 10 percent. And they're all late.

Richards Studio, Tacoma via Tacoma Public Library Archives

More than two-hundred workers who lost their jobs when the "Nalley Valley" canning plant in Tacoma closed last month are now eligible for special retraining through the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Program.

The newly unemployed, consider it a victory.

Solo / Flickr

Recently, Washington's Employment Security Department sent out a news release announcing it had identified 9,000 people in 2010 who were not actively seeking work. The state said the individuals would have to pay back $23 million in benefits.

But those claims of jobless benefit fraud may be overstated.

A message from Frank Russo, WTP Project Director, and Bill Gay, WTP Deputy Project Director

Fellow WTP employees,

Over the past several weeks, there have been reports about the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) Project that question our project’s safety culture and resolution of technical design issues, and that suggest cost and schedule objectives are favored over technical risk and safety. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

 SAFETY

RICHLAND, Wash. – The heads of two Hanford Nuclear Reservation contractors tried to reassure workers with a memo this week. It says there is a strong safety culture on the massive waste treatment plant now under construction. The memo comes after several workers have come forward with concerns about the plant.

Northwest News Network

RICHLAND, Wash. – More Hanford workers are starting to raise safety concerns about a massive nuclear waste treatment plant under construction in southeast Washington.

A federal nuclear watchdog agency has called the safety culture at the Hanford facility “flawed.” That finding is bolstered by a string of new letters from workers who say they have firsthand knowledge of problems at the plant.

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