If you’re at this blog, what are you doing here? We moved! TBA can now be conveniently found at www.TheBannockAlternative.com. Isn’t that nice? We merged our blog with our main website into a new great place where you’ll find the blog you love with the content from our print publication. What could be greater? Don’t worry, nothing has changed content-wise. You can still find the same great TBA blog stories on the new site, just scroll down past the featured posts to find it. So get out of this ghost town, already!
Who ever said people from southeast Idaho don’t accomplish anything great? It certainly wasn’t Shelley’s Rayce Bird, who won the SyFy networks’ reality competition show “Face Off.” He’ll now join an elite group of some of the best movie makeup artists in the country. In more good(ish) news, the INL is only forcibly laying off 19 people after they scared everybody with a number of nearly 200 back in February. The dog who was shot Monday is now back on its feet and heading home, while the man who shot him is still facing charges. Not the worst news in the world today, folks. Isn’t this how Friday is supposed to be?
- The Idaho National Laboratory was supposed to cut up to 185 jobs, but it looks like the ax won’t be so harsh after a high number of employees decided to take voluntary lay offs. Mark Holubar, the INL’s director of human resources, said 56 people volunteered to leave during a two-week period. Now, only 19 people will be laid off as part of reduction efforts. So what about those other 110 jobs? Holubar said they will analyze how much money these cuts save the INL, and whether or not they will need to cut more. [LN8]
- The dog shot by a Pocatello man earlier this week is going home and is on its way to recovery. Jack, who was tentatively named Mr. Amazing until the owner was found, will still need to return for regular visits for dental work and checkups on the damage to his nasal cavity and tongue. Brock Merrill, who lives on the outskirts of Pocatello, said he shot the dog in self-defense after it came to his home several times in a week. Merrill said Jack became agressive, so he shot him. He has been cited with cruelty to animals and discharging a firearm within city limits. [KPVI]
- Idaho Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill has given in to requests by state Democrats to convene an ethics panel, investigating New Plymouth Sen. Monty Pearce for potential conflicts of interest on 21 votes made on oil and gas drilling legislation. Pearce disclosed Wednesday, before his 22nd vote on oil and gas issues, that he has leased oil and gas drilling rights to an oil company since the ’80s. He sees no problem with the potential conflict of interest, and said he just never thought about the connection. But Democrats are up in arms, as Pearce championed bills and rules through the Senate Resources and Environmental Committee as its chairman without ever revealing his connection. Hill said the panel will convene by the end of the day Friday. [IDS]
- A Shelley man is enjoying the spotlight after winning SyFy network’s reality game show “Face Off.” On the show, contestants created special effects, masks and intricate makeup that you might see in Hollywood movies, but in the end Shelley’s Rayce Bird was the champion. Bird won despite not having as much experience as some of his opponents. He works as a tattoo artist at the Spider’s Web in Idaho Falls but just considers himself an all-around creative guy. His prize for winning the show was $100,000, a new car and $25,000 of movie makeup. [LN8]
Sometimes you’re just a truck stuck on a guy wire, you know? You’re helpless to do anything but sit there and wait for a scissorlift to come and help you down. I think that’s the lesson all the people in our morning briefs today learned, especially that guy who actually was in a truck stuck on a guy wire.
- A three-vehicle crash near Eden sent one person to the hospital Wednesday afternoon. According to Idaho State Police, Becki Carlson, 42, was driving west on I-84 near milepost 187 when she rear-ended another car. Both pulled over to the side of the road to the report the crash, but before an ISP trooper got to the scene, Carlson left, driving the wrong way down the highway, where she then crashed into a semi, before hitting the median. Carlson was taken to St. Luke’s Magic Valley hospital for minor injuries. Charges are pending.
- A pickup truck wound up teetering on a power pole’s guy wire Wednesday afternoon, in an unlikely accident that you have to see to believe. According to Jefferson County deputies, a man was driving his pickup truck east on 4200 East near Rigby when he took a corner too fast. Instead of crashing into the pole or running off the road, the truck ended up stuck on the guy wire. There was little damage to the truck and the pole, but the driver had to be rescued with a scissorlift because of the danger of the truck falling. He was not injured, said deputies, but he was a little embarrassed. [LN8]
- Fremont County Commission Chairman Skip Hurt issued a disaster declaration for the county Wednesday night after heavy flooding devastated the area. Flood waters overtook County Roads 3200 East, 1000 North and 3000 East, prompting their closure. Hog Hollow Road has also been flooded, as has at least one home and a private road. The flooding is expected to continue through the weekend, as residents and officials started sandbag operations to prevent damage. [LN8]
- A magistrate judge dismissed two misdemeanor charges filed against an Occupy Boise protester Wednesday, who was charged for putting up a tent in Capitol Park in Boise and refusing to leave. The city prosecutor decided not to pursue the case and filed a motion to dismiss it. The protester, 63-year-old retiree George Burns, said he was staging a personal political protest as the Occupy movement’s Global Day of Action on October 15. Although he’s glad he’s not going to jail, he said he was looking forward to his day in court. [IDS]
Nothing’s official, so don’t freak out too much about this, but a few brands of dog jerky could actually kill your dog.
The FDA is investigating complaints collected from pet owners and veterinarians that call out at least three Chinese-made brands of jerky treats in reference to mysterious illnesses in at least 600 dogs, including many deaths, according to documents obtained through an msnbc.com public records request.
The brands are Waggin’ Train or Canyon Creek Ranch jerky treats or tenders, both produced by Nestle Purina PetCare Co., and Milo’s Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats, produced by the Del Monte Corp. The FDA is no stranger to dog jerky warnings. The department has warned the public three times since 2007, most recently this past November. But now, there is a brand name attached to those warnings.
In response, Nestle Purina and Del Monte officials have said their treats are safe. They even claimed that repeated FDA tests have shown no tie to any brand or manufacturer. But the FDA is still looking for a link. A spokeswoman for the department said they are still taking complaints and samples from owners and veterinarians to hopefully find some kind of link.
Owners are already convinced. There are already three different petitions circulating that demand recalls of jerky treats made in China. One that started in December has more than 3,400 signatures from around the world.
U.S. lawmakers have also jumped on the bandwagon, as some are pressing the FDA to release the results of their tests on the jerky. But until the FDA finds some kind of definitive link to the illnesses, the jerky treats will still be on shelves.
by Jamie Hale
Idaho State University scored an early win in their First Amendment fight with a group of faculty Tuesday, after a federal judge denied a temporary restraining order filed by the faculty group.
The fight started when the university blocked access to a previously-used “facultymemos” email listserv from the heads of the Provisional Faculty Senate. The university didn’t want the group circulating their draft of the faculty constitution on an ISU-controlled listserv, so the group sued for what they are calling a violation of their First and 14th Amendment rights.
The temporary restraining order would have forced ISU to return access to the listserv until the full case is heard.
But Judge B. Lynn Winmill said in his decision that the faculty group failed to prove that their speech deserves to be treated as that of private citizens, rather than that of ISU employees.
In the March 2 hearing, the group admitted that the speech at issue is related to their job, an admission that when coupled with the university’s control of the listserv, basically defeats the argument, said Judge Winmill in his ruling.
But the lawyers for the faculty group are staying optimistic, in their minds the ruling actually helped their case quite a bit, thanks to footnote nine.
Footnote nine is buried in the ruling, but it has become the new arguing point against ISU, said Ron Coulter, lawyer for the faculty group. It states:
“As noted, the Court’s findings are not final in the injunction setting. Given defendants’ representations, the Court expects ISU and its IT department to cooperate fully with the plaintiff’s members should they wish to send mass emails through an un-moderated listserv.”
To Coulter, the interpretation is simple. “You may not be able to use the facultymemos listserv, but the real issue here is you need a way to communicate with the faculty that is unmoderated,” he said. “I think [Judge Winmill] is really telling the parties to do something. ‘I expect you to do something.’”
Coulter said while he’s reserving all their legal rights, this footnote now opens the door to finding a solution out of court that allows the Senate to send emails to the rest of the faculty, free from university oversight.
The university, however, issued a one-sentence response to the case, saying they are pleased with the judge’s decision. Beyond that they don’t comment on ongoing litigation, said Kent Tingey, vice president for university advancement.
While the temporary restraining order was denied, Judge Winmill also denied the university’s motions to dismiss the case. Although he has sided with ISU initially, the judge made it clear in his ruling that this case is far from over.
Contact Jamie at JHaleTBA@gmail.com.
You might be thinking that the crashed car up there is some sort of metaphor, say, for the American political system or something. But it’s not! If today’s briefs prove anything it’s that the system is very much alive and kicking! Voters turned out around southeast Idaho to vote on school bonds and levies and the like, agreeing on most everything public officials suggested. A controversial bill is appearing a an Idaho Senate committee today, and people who don’t like it will protest. In the south, voters came to support their favorite Republican presidential candidates, but mostly Rick Santorum. Democracy in action!
- A Madison County man is in jail after driving his car into a pond in Jefferson County. The county sheriff’s office said Tyron Dee Brown, 28, ran from his car after driving it into a settling pond early Tuesday morning. He allegedly was driving north on 3900 East when he ran a stop sign on Yellowstone Highway, hit the railroad tracks and landed midway in the pond. Police found the totaled car on the bottom of the pond. The railroad track was knocked off center with the spikes completely out. The wire fencing around the pond was also damaged, the sheriff’s office said. Police are holding Brown on charges of driving under the influence, obstructing or resisting an officer, leaving the scene of an accident and disturbing the peace. [LN8]
- Voters overwhelmingly agreed on pretty much everything in Tuesday night’s school bond and levy votes. Idaho Falls voters approved a $53 million bond. Bonneville County passed its $14 million bond. Soda Springs and Aberdeen voters passed their own $600,000 supplemental levies. Mackay voters renewed a five-year plant facilities reserve fund. There was only one “no” vote of the night, as Salmon voters rejected a $13.5 million bond to build a new school for the sixth straight year. [LN8]
- An Idaho Senate committee will look at a controversial abortion ultrasound bill Wednesday that is sure to draw heaps of protest and support. The bill, drafted by Boise Sen. Chuck Winder, would require women to get an ultrasound screening before terminating a pregnancy. The idea is nothing new, states across the country have been proposing, and even passing, similar legislation. The idea is that some women could change their mind about going through with abortions after seeing ultrasound images of their fetuses. Last week 250 people protested the bill on the steps of the Capitol, accusing it of being an assault on women’s rights. Don’t expect them to go anywhere if this bill progresses. [TN]
- It was a big night for Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, as Mississippi, Alabama and Hawaii all held their primaries Tuesday night. Santorum beat out Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney in both Alabama and Mississippi, proving his popularity in the deep south. The former Pennsylvania senator won 34.5 percent of the vote in Alabama, nearly five percent more than Newt Gingrich, who has been banking on that region, and Mitt Romney. In Mississippi, the race was much tighter. Santorum won by nearly two percent over Gingrich and three percent over Romney. Hawaii was a much different story, as Romney won easily with 45 percent of the vote. In all, Santorum won the most delegates with 36 to Romney’s 34, Gingrich’s 24 and Ron Paul’s 1. [NYT]
UPDATE: Local News 8 talked to the suspect, who said the dog was a threat to his family. Brock Merrill said the dog, who he believed was a stray, had been frequenting his property over the past week. It got aggressive Monday afternoon, so he shot it. He also said he didn’t realize his property was within city limits.
Pocatello police have charged a man with animal cruelty after he allegedly shot a dog in the neck with a high caliber gun. Interestingly enough, this is right on the heels of legislation to enact harsher penalties on Idahoans convicted of animal cruelty.
Police first responded to the 1100 block of Ceder Hollow, off Bannock Highway, at about 2:30 Monday afternoon after getting a call about an injured dog. Police and animal control arrived at the scene to find the black and white lab mix, who had been shot. The dog was taken to Alta Animal Hospital, where it underwent surgery.
Police followed a trail of blood left by the dog to the 1200 block of Cahina Way, one street over. They identified the suspect, 36-year-old Brock C. Merrill, and charged him with cruelty to animals and discharging a firearm within city limits, both misdemeanor charges. The gun police believe he used is a .357 magnum revolver.
Under Idaho’s current laws, Merrill, if a first-time offender, could face up to six months in jail and a fine of $100 to $5,000. Most people convicted of the crime don’t get anything near the maximum penalty, however.
Despite the veterinarian’s best efforts, the bullet can’t be removed from the dog’s neck, although it is in stable condition and is expected to recover. Pocatello Animal Control is still looking for the owner of the dog, and are asking anybody with information to call 234.6157.
People are very opportunistic today! A group of Idaho Falls residents are suing the city over an eminent domain case, because somebody was bound to do it somewhere in Idaho sometime. In Blackfoot, parents are looking to recall a school board trustee over alleged violations of board policy. State legislators had an opportunity to raise the state’s cigarette tax, but that one didn’t exactly work out. But hey, sometimes it doesn’t!
- Four people are in the hospital after a rollover accident near Inkom Monday night. Ryan Yearsley, 20, was driving north at about milepost 54 on I-15 when he swerved to avoid hitting a deer. He then over-corrected, causing his car to roll into the median. Yearsley and his three passengers, two 18 years old and one 19 years old, were ejected from the vehicle. They were all taken by ground to the hospital, two with serious injuries and two with minor injuries.
- A group of Bonneville County property owners is looking for a restraining order against the city of Idaho Falls. The group, called the Alliance for Property Rights and Fiscal Responsibility, has been threatened with eminent domain from the city for the construction of the 161-kilovolt North Loop Transmission Line. The members said they were given a March 9 deadline to accept the city’s purchase or face condemnation. They also claim that HDR, the engineering firm hired by the city to work on the project, has already suggested alternate routes. [LN8]
- A group of Blackfoot School District 55 parents isn’t happy about with a member of the school board. The group is looking to get a recall election for Peter Lipovac after he allegedly violated district policy. According to the group, Lipovac traveled to an Indian Education conference in October without pre-approval from the school board, then charged the district $1,075 in reimbursement. While that does seem to violate school board policy, another section specifies the difference between “employees” and “trustees” that excludes the approval language. Furthermore, some Lipovac supporters think the recall action is motivated by his support of a new school on the Fort Hall reservation. Still, the group has enough signatures to petition for the recall. [LN8]
- The Idaho House Revenue and Taxation Committee voted 11-5 against a hike in the state’s cigarette tax Monday. The bill would have hiked Idaho’s cigarette tax by $1.25, to $1.83 per pack. The state’s current tax of 57 cents per pack is one of the lowest in the nation. Supporters of the bill said it would mean $400 million in savings in long-term health care for smokers, and would net the state a cool $50 million in taxes. Opponents, however, called the bill “social engineering,” accusing the bill’s backers of hiding their true intentions. [IDR]
You would think it isn’t too hard to tell the difference between carbon monoxide inhalation and gunshot wounds to the head, but for one Pocatello doctor, it’s apparently not so easy.
The Idaho Board of Medicine cited that as one of 10 incidents of botched autopsies performed by Pocatello’s Dr. Steve M. Skoumal. The shooting/carbon monoxide inhalation case was from the 2006 Rexburg house fire in which Marc and Amanda Bell, as well as their 3-year-old son Dylan, were found dead. It wasn’t the only high-profile case he botched.
The Idaho Statesmen revealed that another big case is included in the allegation: the 2006 murder of Pocatello High School student Cassie Jo Stoddart.
The Cassie Jo Stoddart case is an especially big deal. She was only 16 when she was stabbed to death, apparently by Brian Draper and Torey Adamcik, who are currently serving life sentences for the murder.
Adamcik unsuccessfully appealed the case to the Idaho Supreme Court, where lawyers argued that the state failed to prove which of the wounds were fatal, as Skoumal testified that only 12 were “potentially fatal.” The state board said he was unable to identify the length or size of knives that made stab wounds, and couldn’t interpret wound patterns.
They also took issue with Skoumal’s claim he was a board-certified forensic pathologist. As it turns out, he isn’t one.
Skoumal is of course denying much of this. His lawyer is saying that the complaint is a result of confusion over what exactly Skoumal does. In other words, this is all out of the doctor’s control. Still, people aren’t going to be too happy about this, especially the families of the victims of the crimes.
Pocatello Police are looking for two suspects after they robbed a man at knife point in Pocatello early Saturday morning.
According to police, two white men robbed another man at South Union Pacific Avenue and Center Street just after 3 a.m. One is described as about 5 feet 8 inches tall with brown eyes, blonde hair and a goatee, wearing a plain green hoodie and jeans. The other is six feet 2 inches tall with brown hair, wearing a black hoodie with white writing on the front.
One man held a knife to the victim’s neck and took cash from him, said police. The two were last seen heading westbound on Center Street toward Main Street and Arthur Avenue.
Police are asking anyone with any information to call them at 234.6100.