Category Archives: Features

‘Church on the Yard’ – Filthy Rags Shepherds Prisoners on the Journey From the Inside to the Outside

by M. Anthony Davis


When Alphonso Bell and Charles Champion founded Filthy Rags Outreach, a nonprofit dedicated to gang intervention and prevention, their initial goal was to engage fellow inmates in a religious journey towards spiritual growth. The two met at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen where they are both currently incarcerated. 

“I really never seen men that came from a gang background making progress towards spirituality and finding themselves,” Bell says. Bell transferred to Stafford Creek Corrections Center, where he and Champion founded Filthy Rags Outreach, from Walla Walla State Penitentiary. He wanted to help inmates get into an atmosphere of spiritual growth and self-discovery.

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Weekend Reads: Dogs and Parachutes (but Not at the Same Time)

by Kevin Schofield


This weekend’s reads are two scientific research papers, both relatively short.

The first is the latest twist on dogs’ well-documented ability to diagnose certain diseases by detecting unique scents emanating from those afflicted with them — scents that are not detectable by humans. In the past, dogs have been trained to detect chronic conditions such as diabetes or Parkinson’s disease and potentially to predict an impending acute medical event such as a stroke, a heart attack, or an epileptic seizure.  Recently, researchers have had some success in training dogs to detect people infected with COVID — a very different kind of “rapid test” that one could imagine would be very handy in airports and other places where people gather.

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Weekend Reads: Do Animals Laugh?

by Kevin Schofield


This weekend’s read is a fascinating research paper by two UCLA professors looking at the vocalizations animals make when they are at play. It’s been well documented that many species of animals, and especially mammals, play. Play serves an important role: it allows animals to practice skills from basic coordination to chasing and fighting; it also facilitates bonding within members of a family.

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Abortion Pills Are Now Permanently Available by Mail — What That Means for the PNW

by Megan Burbank


On Dec. 16, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permanently lifted a dispensing requirement for mifepristone, one of two medications commonly used in medication abortions, allowing the drug to be dispensed through the mail. At the time, many media outlets framed it as a new broadening of access to medication abortion. But the rule had already been temporarily lifted, and its newly permanent status reflects a longstanding effort on the part of reproductive health providers to make the medication available more widely. But even with the permanent rule change, access to medication abortion remains wildly varied. Here’s what you need to know.

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Seattle’s Heating Oil Tax: A Missed Opportunity for Environmental Justice

by Tushar Khurana


In September 2019, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed a law that would tax home heating oil sold within the city and could eventually require residents to upgrade or decommission their heating oil tanks by 2028. The legislation was introduced to meet the City’s climate goals by hastening the transition to cleaner electric home heating across the city. It was also lauded in a mayoral press release as a “bold and thoughtful approach” to environmental policy that “help[s] our most vulnerable residents move off heating oil.” Revenue from the tax is intended to fund rebates for homeowners and help provide 1,000 fully paid electric heat pump installations for low-income residents.

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Holidays Bring a Diversity of Celebration on the South End

by Alexa Peters


There is no area more diverse in its holiday traditions and celebrations than South Seattle — and with a quick look at the most recent demographic data for the area, it’s no wonder.

South King County is one of the most diverse parts of the United States, with the Rainier Valley 98118 ZIP code home to speakers of approximately 60 different languages. Plus, as opposed to other parts of Seattle that come in at 60% or more, the 2020 census shows that Seattle’s District 2, which includes South Seattle, is majority Asian. South Seattle is also 21.4% Black or African American, 9.3% Hispanic or Latino, 0.6% Alaskan Native and American Indian, 0.8% Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, 0.2% some other race, and 6.1% multiracial.

Here are the stories behind a few of the rich traditions and diverse celebrations South End residents observe during this time of year.

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Here’s What Could Happen in Washington if Roe v. Wade Is Overturned

by Megan Burbank


With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that legalized abortion in 1973, abortion access could be newly restricted as soon as this summer. But abortion won’t be criminalized overnight. Because there’s no national anti-abortion law, reversing Roe would leave the future of abortion access up to the discretion of state legislatures. That means 26 states would likely ban the procedure, but in Washington State, abortion care would continue.

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Cascadia’s Climate Champions Learn They Can Win at the Local Level

by Peter Fairley

(This article was originally published on InvestigateWest and has been reprinted under an agreement.)


Acting on international calls to freeze fossil fuel infrastructure, citizen activists working with environmental justice groups and Indigenous nations are pushing local governments to rewrite the rules for building everything from airports and gas stations to industrial zones. 


“We were here before the airport was. They forget that,” says Rosario-Maria Medina, a community activist in the South Seattle neighborhood of Georgetown, just north of bustling Boeing Field. When Seattle’s first commercial airport opened in 1928, Georgetown had been a vibrant community for more than half a century.

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All Those ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Comparisons Ignore the Reality of Anti-Abortion Laws

by Megan Burbank


On Oct. 2, hundreds of activists gathered in Seattle’s Westlake Park to protest Texas’ six-week abortion ban, Senate Bill 8. Similar rallies took place in every state that day, in what the Women’s March framed as a response to “the most dire threat to abortion access in our lifetime.” Nationwide messaging from the Women’s March had encouraged attendees not to bring weapons, images of wire coat hangers, or Handmaid’s Tale-inspired costumes.

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Weekend Long Reads: The Meaning of Life

by Kevin Schofield


As we share the December holidays, it seems an apt time to ponder the things that bring our lives meaning. This weekend’s “long read” is a recent survey by the Pew Research Center on that very question.

Pew asked individuals in seventeen advanced economies around the globe, “What aspects of your life do you find meaningful, fulfilling or satisfying?” They found both some common themes and some significant diversity. Fourteen of the countries had the same top answer: family. Most countries had either “occupation and career” or “material well-being” in the number-two spot but not the U.S., where “friends” jumped ahead. But after that, things diverge dramatically.

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