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Today's Headlines: June 20, 2024

WSU researchers want to know how viruses move among animals

Researchers at Washington State University will track viruses that could spread between livestock and humans. That includes the avian flu strain that has recently jumped from birds to dairy cattle - and from cattle to two people.

Researchers will look to get a better understanding of virus transmission between people and animals like cows, sheep and goats.

WSU’s Dr. Kevin Snekvik told Oregon Public Broadcasting the team will compare respiratory viruses and see if there’s any similarities between samples from livestock animals and humans.

“And if you do that enough times across enough animals and farms, you can see, start to develop a picture of where that virus came from. And track, you know how it's moving through that population,” he said.

Snekvik said if the team can better detect a virus and where it came from, it can minimize the illness’ spread across the Pacific Northwest.

Dairy cattle herds in ten states have tested positive for the H5N1 bird flu virus, but not in Oregon or Washington.

Feds say Northwest dams have harmed regional tribes

The U.S. government says it's caused harm to tribal communities for more than a century by building and operating dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers -- and that it’s time to use the resources of the federal government to address that harm.

In a historic acknowledgment this week, the Biden administration said Northwest dams devastated salmon runs and drowned tribal villages and burial grounds, and that the dams continue to limit tribes' ability to exercise treaty fishing rights.

The administration said it will support tribal salmon restoration efforts and will work to develop new renewable energy projects to replace dam hydropower.

Environmental groups and tribes praised the announcement and called for urgent action to save salmon from extinction.

Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers criticized the report that contained the harm acknowledgement, decrying it as more evidence that the Biden administration wants to remove four dams along the Lower Snake River. The administration has said more than once that the authority to breach the dams is in congressional, not presidential, hands.

WA voters might be open to making state legislative sessions longer

A poll sponsored by the Northwest Progressive Institute indicates voters are open-minded to the idea of making Washington legislative sessions longer.

Of 615 registered voters, 59 percent said they like the idea of a year-round legislature. Currently, the legislature meets for limited periods near the beginning of each calendar year.

The Institute’s director, Andrew Villaneuve, told SPR News more open-ended sessions might be necessary, given the complexity of problems the state faces.

“We live in a society where the challenges don't pause for any length of time -- like our housing shortage doesn't go away. Education funding gaps don't disappear when the legislature's not in session. Health care doesn't cease to be a problem,” Villanueve said. “So having a legislature that's both proactive and reactive during the year seems like a huge win.”

Changing the length of legislative sessions would require a constitutional amendment. That would have to be approved by the legislature and the voters of the state.

Ten states already have year-round legislative sessions.

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Reporting was contributed by Alejandro Figueroa, Courtney Sherwood, Brandon Hollingsworth, Steve Jackson, and ___.