[Morning Briefs] ISU Women Win Big Sky Tourney

12 Mar

The Idaho State women's basketball team won the Big Sky Tournament over the weekend, claiming the conference title and earning them a spot in the NCAA Division I tournament.

Great news for Idaho State University fans! The women’s basketball team won big over the weekend, and will now represent Pocatello in the NCAA Division I tournament. Let’s hope they can get past the first round this time. In more dour news, authorities have recovered the body of a missing Idaho Falls man in the Snake River. Another man is dead after a car accident in Jerome, as are 16 civilians in Afghanistan after a U.S. soldier went crazy Sunday morning. No, it’s probably not good for U.S.-Afghanistan relations.

  • The body of an Idaho Falls man who disappeared back in December while walking his dogs has finally been found. Bonneville County deputies recovered the body of 46-year-old David Finnegan from the Snake River near the 65th South bridge Sunday afternoon. Authorities had already suspected Finnegan had drowned after his wife found his abandoned car and his two dogs, both soaking wet, at his usual parking spot at the Gem Lake Marina along the river. Police believe the dogs might have fallen through the ice, leading Finnegan out to their rescue, where he succumbed to the icy water. Foul play is not suspected. [LN8]
  • One person is dead after a rollover on 600 North in Jerome County. According to Idaho State Police, Daniel Acuna-Cosio was driving a Chrysler PT Cruiser near the intersection of 300 East and 600 North when, for unknown reasons, he lost control of the car. His car hit the guardrail of a bridge and rolled. Acuna-Cosio was transported to St. Alphonsus in Boise, but was later pronounced dead. Police do not know whether or not alcohol was a factor in the accident. Acuna-Cosio was not wearing a seatbelt.
  • The Idaho State University’s women’s basketball team won the Big Sky conference this weekend, with a 49-46 victory over Northern Colorado. The Bengals claimed their second ever tournament title at home in Pocatello, and will now go on to the NCAA Division I tournament. The women’s team last played in the tournament in 2007, when they were knocked out in the first round by Stanford. This year’s bracket will be released tonight at 7 p.m. [KPVI]
  • There’s no sign of violence yet, but the Taliban has vowed revenge for the Sunday killing of at least 16 Afghan civilians by a rogue U.S. solider, with the country’s parliament saying they have run out of patience with foreign forces. The incident happened just after dawn Sunday, when the soldier walked off the base in a remote southern Afghanistan base and opened fire on civilians inside their homes. He turned himself in upon returning to the base. The Taliban has since called the killings a “blood-soaked and inhumane crime” by the “sick-minded American savages” and has vowed to “take revenge from the invaders and the savage murderers for every single martyr.” [WP]

Human Rights Campaign targets Frank VanderSloot

9 Mar

The Human Rights Campaign is looking to pressure Mitt Romney into firing Frank VanderSloot, who they accuse of being severely anti-gay. (Photo from the Human Rights Campaign)

Idaho’s own Frank VanderSloot is Mitt Romney’s National Finance Chair, and has allegedly bullied some news organizations into not saying anything bad about him. Long story short, a lot of people don’t like him.

Now, he has another enemy in the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights group that fights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. The HRC has launched a new campaign called Fire Frank, that aims to do just what it says.

The campaign calls VanderSloot “one of the most ruthlessly anti-gay businessmen in the nation.” Ouch. So where did this accusation come from? From the HRC:

VanderSloot helped bankroll the Prop 8 campaign, and has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to anti-LGBT causes. He spearheaded a heinous billboard campaign against Idaho Public Television for airing content that “promote[s] the homosexual lifestyle.”

VanderSloot even outed a reporter who covered a scandal in the local Boy Scouts troop proving his ruthless tactics have no boundaries.

Double Ouch. That reporter they’re referring to is supposedly an Idaho Falls reporter that alleged VanderSloot tried to out him. For his part, the controversial businessman responded to these anti-gay claims saying “It was public knowledge that [he] was gay,” and “I have many gay friends who I love and respect.”

The Prop 8 claim stems from his wife’s $100,000 donation to California’s Prop 8 campaign, and the use of his of company’s call center to call California voters in support of the measure.

But the VanderSloot drama really flared up when MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow challenged his record in a long rant. It looks like the attention caught the eye of the HRC, and their Fire Frank campaign is likely to gain traction.

The idea behind the campaign is to send messages to Mitt Romney to pressure him into firing VanderSloot. People fill out a form on the website which will then be sent to the Republican presidential candidate. Just looking at the number of cars around town with HRC stickers, I’m guessing this might be popular.

[Morning Briefs] Avalanche Claims Two Jackson Hole Skiers

9 Mar

Steve Romeo and Chris Onufer are pictured in an old photograph. The two Jackson skiers were killed in an avalanche Thursday. (screen grab via Local News 8)

So close, but so far away, that’s the theme this morning. Two local skiers had their lives cut short after an avalanche buried them in Wyoming. A Pocatello woman died just before her 112th birthday. Police ALMOST had a fugitive, but now he’s on the run. In the state House, legislators returned money cut from Medicaid, but it’s nowhere near the amount they initially cut.

  • Jackson Hole is grieving after the deaths of two local skiers in an avalanche Thursday. Steve Romeo and Chris Onufer were found Buried in Waterfalls Canyon in the northern end of the Teton range. According to friends, the two were on a backcountry skiing trip to Ranger Peak. The two, both in their early 40s, were reported missing Wednesday night. Teton County Search and Rescue did a search by helicopter Thursday morning, when they found the avalanche and the two bodies. Friends remember the two as good, solid guys. [LN8]
  • Police are looking for a fugitive and want the public’s help finding him. The fugitive is 30-year-old Chris Hudson, who is wanted on a $250,000 felony drug warrant. Officers already tried to catch Hudson at his Idaho Falls home on Eve Drive on Thursday afternoon, breaking in through the window when people inside barricaded the door, but Hudson had already fled on foot. This isn’t the fugitive’s first run-in with police. He also ran from authorities back in July 2010 in Ammon. That time, he hid in the garage of a nearby home, but it happened to be the garage of a section supervisor with the Idaho Department of Correction. [LN8]
  • Legislators in the Idaho House have backtracked on some of last year’s severe cuts to Medicaid funding. The House voted 65-0 Thursday to restore three cuts amounting to $1.5 million of the $35 million cut from Medicaid programming. The restored funding all goes to patients with developmental disabilities. One cut previously forced patients with both developmental disabilities and mental illness to choose which they wanted treated. Another took away funding for preventative dental care for developmentally disabled adults, while the third imposed a “tiered” budget on such patients that forced big cuts in some people’s care. The bill to remove all those cuts now goes to the Senate. [SR]
  • A mere nine days from her 112th birthday, a Pocatello woman passed away Thursday afternoon. Mersene Zohos was a fresh 111, making her the oldest woman in Idaho at the time of her death, which officials say was due to natural casues. Zohos was fewer than four years shy of the oldest living woman in the world, Georgia’s Besse Cooper, who is 115 years old. [ISJ]

Pocatello Zoo sets up auction to name cougar cub

8 Mar

This adorable cougar cub at the Pocatello Zoo doesn't have a name yet, but YOU can name it–for a price. (Photo via eBay)

You might be sitting there, thinking “Pssh, I bet only the elite 1% get to name cougar cubs.” Well, you’re kind of right. While the richest person interested ultimately gets to name this cub, even YOU can give it a try!

The Pocatello Zoo has set up an auction on eBay, where the top bidder gets naming rights for their adorable orphaned male mountain lion cub. The bidding will end on March 15, and all the proceeds will go toward enlarging the cougar exhibit and completing the grizzly bear exhibit.

It seems like the bidding is pretty popular. It already has 13 bids between four bidders and the price is up to $520. If you win, you also get a color photo of the cub, a Pocatello Zoo Society family membership for a year and two guest passes to the zoo.

But most importantly, you get to NAME A LION. How cool is that? I’ll answer that for you, it’s very cool.

[Morning Briefs] Fire, Gas and a Solar Eruption!

8 Mar

The Franklin County Grain Growers building in Preston is engulfed in flames Wednesday night, after an overheated bearing ignited grain dust. (screen grab via Local News 8)

It’s all about combustion in southeast Idaho today. Last night, a fire burned through the Franklin County Grain Growers building in Preston, which will probably completely destroy the place. In Pocatello, fire fighters cleaned up 25 gallons of spilled gasoline at a gas station. In outer space, the sun erupted, sending radiation to rain down on the world. Try not to explode, OK?

  • Fire fighters worked all night Wednesday to put out a fire at the Franklin County Grain Growers building in Preston. The building caught fire when an overheated bearing on a conveyor belt ignited some grain dust and quickly engulfed the entire building. Fortunately, the Franklin County Fire Battalion has had a fire plan in place for the building for at least 30 years, according to chief Scott Martin. But even with the plan in place, the fire was simply too big, and the building will likely collapse.The loss is big for people in Preston. Martin said it has been a place of gathering for local ranchers and farmers, and, of course, there are always the employees that worked there. [LN8]
  • About 25 gallons of gasoline spilled at a Pocatello gas station Wednesday night, forcing police to block off the station while fire fighters could clean up the mess. According to police, a customer was filling four 50-gallon barrels in the back of his pickup at the Maverick station on Alameda Road. While filling one up, he discovered it had a leak, but he had already filled it about halfway. Firefighters used oil stop, a sand mixture, to clean up the mess before securing the barrel to stop any remaining leakage. [ISJ]
  • A giant solar flare is engulfing the planet! In fact, the sun erupted Tuesday with two of the largest solar flares of the 11-year solar cycle. The first flare traveled toward the planet at about 1,300 miles per second, while the second flare traveled at about 1,100 miles per second. When the flares finally reached some NASA satellite equipment, the geomagnetic storm that resulted was rated relatively low, rated a G1 on a scale that goes up to G5. You also have to worry about those pesky radiation storms that are capable of disrupting satellite operations and high-frequency radio transmissions. It doesn’t look like anything will really be affected, but it produced some pretty cool video. [NASA]

[Morning Briefs] Bad News, Idaho

7 Mar

Mitt Romney riles up a crowd in Idaho Falls last week. On Tuesday, he easily won Idaho's Republican caucus. (TBA file photo)

Mitt Romney won lat night’s Idaho Republican caucus, which is great news for all your Mittheads out there. But as the state moves on from the temporary political moment in the sun, we all have to face the harsh reality of some not-so-great news. For example: A burglar got away with some cash at a Pocatello business, and police couldn’t catch him—even with the dogs! Idaho Power is looking to hike their residential rates, despite touting rate decreases last month. And state legislators might have to stay in Boise longer, as they can’t agree on the federally-mandated health insurance exchange. Reality can be harsh, folks.

  • Police are investigating a burglary at Intermountain Beverage in Pocatello, but the suspect has already eluded officers once in the case. Pocatello Police officers responded to an alarm activation at the beverage distributor on Garrett Way Tuesday night. When they got there, they saw a person dressed all in black leaving the building. That shadowy figure ran and officers gave chase, but they just just couldn’t keep up. They later dispatched a K-9 unit to find the suspect, but the trail of footprints ended at a set of tire tracks. Upon inspection of the crime scene, it looks like a bank bag may be missing from an unlocked drawer, said police. The investigation is still under way.
  • How’s this for a kick in the teeth? Idaho Power is looking to hike residential customers’ rates by $3.56 a month, just a few weeks after they announced they wanted to lower bills by 67 cents a month. What gives? The hike would pay for a new natural gas power plant that’s almost complete. Idaho Power filed the request with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday, and the request will have to endure some public hearings before it’s approved or denied. That plant is the $391 million Langley Gulch power plant in southwestern Idaho. Idaho Power has also filed for a revenue-sharing deal, which would help offset the hike somewhat. [LN8]
  • After months of controversy, Idaho legislators are now saying a bill establishing state health care exchange probably won’t happen. The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, requires states to set up exchanges by January 2013, or else the federal government will make one for them. The exchanges allow individuals and small businesses to compare insurance policies. But Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill and House Speaker Lawrence Denney said Tuesday that the bill is hopeless. Denney said the issue isn’t with the bill itself, but with the idea of passing legislation to build a system for which the rules are still being written. In other words, a lot of Idaho legislators are banking on the health care act being struck down legally or overturned. If they don’t pass legislation, however, they could stay in Boise longer than planned. [TN]
  • Mitt Romney walked away with a win at Idaho’s Republican Presidential caucus last night, making his haul for the night a total of six states and about 224 delegates. Rick Santorum won three states while Newt Gingrich won one, meaning Romney still hasn’t entirely secured the nomination. Still, those couple hundred delegates won’t hurt his chances; many pollsters are once again predicting an inevitable Romney nomination.

Mitt Romney CRUSHES Idaho’s Republican caucus

6 Mar

A crowd of about 1,000 cheers Mitt Romney during a rally at Skyline High School in Idaho Falls last week. (TBA file photo)

by Jamie Hale

It wasn’t even close, folks. Despite Ron Paul’s best, last-minute rallies (and Rick Santorum’s best sweater vests), Idaho Republicans overwhelmingly voted for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in Tuesday night’s Super Tuesday caucus.

So just how big was Romney’s win? About 70 percent big. He won huge in southeast Idaho, overwhelmingly taking every county in the region. In Boise’s Ada County, he secured nearly 52 percent of the vote. As of this post, caucus results are not in from Canyon and Kootenai Counties, two of the state’s most populated.

Not that they’ll make a difference. Romney is still the undisputed winner of the night. The remaining Idaho support was split between Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. Paul managed to win a few sparsely-populated counties, like Camas, Latah and Boundary, while Santorum picked up a couple counties in places like Lewis and Washington.

Romney, a national front-runner had a decent night overall, cleaning up in Virginia, Vermont and his home state of Massachusetts. Rick Santorum, his biggest competitor, didn’t do too shabby either, winning Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota.

Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich reminded the country of his existence with a big win in Georgia, but most pollsters have been predicting that victory for a while now. Ron Paul scored some delegates his own self with a couple runner-up victories.

Still, some Super Tuesday states are up grabs. Romney and Santorum basically split the popular vote in Ohio. As of this post, Romney is up by about one percent, which is too close to officially call. In Wyoming, Romney is ahead, but counties there have split their caucuses between Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, meaning a winner won’t emerge until the end of the week. Alaska’s winner is still up in the air as well, because they’re in some sort of horrible far-West time zone.

In accordance with Idaho’s caucus rules, Romney will get all 32 state delegates as his prize for winning over 50 percent of the overall vote. That total is good news for Mitt fans, as it puts him that much closer to securing the Republican nomination.

Really, this isn’t that unusual for Idaho. In 2008, the Gem State went overwhelmingly for front-runner John McCain. He also won nearly 70 percent of the vote when all was said and done, soundly defeating runner-up (and only challenger) Ron Paul, who still managed to secure about 24 percent himself.

As much as some Idaho Republicans like to play the radical wild card, the state seems to typically vote in lock-step with the national party establishment. This year, as Romney earned endorsements from just about every important establishment Republican ever, the story was the same.

Contact Jamie at JHaleTBA@gmail.com.

Pickup truck crashes into Rexburg church

6 Mar

A pickup truck crashed into an LDS church on Summerwood Drive in Rexburg Tuesday morning, in what appears to be a drunk-driving crash-and-run.

Police found a 1990 Ford F-150 at 2 a.m. Tuesday, crashed into the side of the building. The truck was unoccupied, but they found several containers of alcohol. The truck appeared to have been driving west on Second North when it veered off the road, jumped the curb and hit the chapel, said police.

The truck was totaled, but police have not said exactly what kind of damage was done to the church. It was registered to a Tyson J. Moore, who police have not been able to get in touch with so far. However, they also believe there could have been a passenger.

[via LN8]

Hoku to lay off 20 at Pocatello plant

6 Mar

Officials at Hoku Materials announced Tuesday plans to lay off 20 employees at their Pocatello Plant. It’s not the best news for the plant that has yet to fully open.

Amy Burks-Stewart, marketing and public relations coordinator for Hoku Materials, said 20 employees from various departments have been let go. She said each employee was offered a severance package based on their tenure with the company. Hoku is also working with the Department of Labor to help their former employees with outplacement opportunities.

According to Burks-Stewart, the cuts were necessary for the plant to maintain its viability going forward, until the facility can reach desired production levels.

It’s another in a line of bad news for Hoku, who most recently sparred with Idaho Power over unpaid power bills. While the company eventually reached a compromise, the controversy revealed Hoku’s money problems. The lay offs, while small, don’t do the company any favors in that department.

[via KPVI]

Ron Paul rallies 2,000 for ‘liberty’ in Idaho Falls

6 Mar

Ron Paul speaks to nearly 2,000 people at the Civic Auditorium in Idaho Falls on Monday evening. (Jamie Hale/The Bannock Alternative)

by Jamie Hale

Republican Presidential hopeful Ron Paul rallied the troops in Idaho Falls Monday night, through chants of “end the fed” and “Obama sucks.”

Paul spoke for 50 minutes to nearly 2,000 people in Idaho Falls’ Civic Auditorium, giving a speech that was more ideological than it was political. Among his main priorities were ending the federal reserve, reducing international military presence and, the crowd’s favorite, returning personal liberty to the people.

“What we need is less government and more liberty and we will solve our problems,” said Paul, to thunderous applause. “Today our personal liberty is under threat and if there’s just one thing you need to protect it’s personal liberty.”

Standing in the way of that liberty is the government intervention in Americans’ daily lives, he said. “People think if the government doesn’t do it it won’t happen. That’s not the case,” said Paul. “If the government doesn’t do it, we’ll do it for ourselves and maybe we’ll do it much better.”

The crowd gave loud cheers to lines like that, and weren’t afraid to show their support for Paul’s ideas. In fact, the crowd was more raucous than one might expect from a typical political rally. Before Paul took to the podium, supporters started chants while volunteers on stage hyped their candidate and even the rally’s after-party. “This isn’t an AARP convention” shouted a volunteer. “Let’s get rowdy!”

Ron Paul signs and U.S. flags lined the street in front of the Civic Auditorium in Idaho Falls. (Jamie Hale/The Bannock Alternative)

Dustin Ashment is one of those fervent Paul supporters. “[Ron Paul] is the only candidate that really offers anything that’s real change,” he said. Ashment, an Idaho Falls resident, got in line nearly three hours before Paul was scheduled to take the stage.

To him, Paul is the only option. “We’re tired of choosing between the lesser of two evils,” he said.

The rally came one day before Super Tuesday, when 10 states, including Idaho, will have to choose one of the Republican candidates to represent the party in the Presidential race in the fall. Idaho, which overwhelmingly voted for Paul in the unofficial January straw poll, has 32 delegates to give in the Tuesday night caucus.

Despite his fervent supporters, Paul has come in third and fourth place in the primaries so far, relegating him to a position of influential libertarian guru, rather than a serious Presidential candidate.

Paul has excited a sizable support base with his primarily libertarian positions that focus on individual liberties, U.S. isolationism and low tax rates. His politics put him squarely on the outskirts of the Republican party, making him unique, but unappealing to many in the party.

One thing he has going for him is the age of his supporters. Ashment, 28, came to the rally with his 21-year-old brother. They weren’t the only youth in attendance. Several hand-painted signs read “Youth for Ron Paul” and many young kids held signs in the audience.

“A lot of the older generation doesn’t listen to what we, the younger generation, has to say,” said Ashment. While older voters get their news from traditional TV and print media, the young Paul fans use the internet–and that makes a difference, he said.

Voters in Idaho will get a chance to show their solidarity for Paul on Tuesday. It would be a huge upset for Mitt Romney, who toured the Gem State last week to rally support, and would mark the first statewide victory for Paul in the primary race.

Both Ashment and his brother voted for President Barack Obama in 2008, but said they’re voting for Paul this year, even if he isn’t the Republican nominee. “I think most Ron Paul supporters will only vote for Ron Paul,” he said, even if they have to write his name in on election day.

Contact Jamie at JHaleTBA@gmail.com.