News graphic by McKayla Fox / NWPB

In this season of holiday shopping, now is about the time when many of us get stuck and don't know what to get for someone on our gift list. There are at least three Pacific Northwest companies who may come to your rescue with ideas for unconventional presents. A hint: they involve used dolls, a precious, exotic spice and a different kind of gift card.

Unsettling Toy Removal and Rehoming

Courtney Flatt/Northwest Public Broadcasting

Just off the highway near Washington’s Tri-Cities, 20 miles southeast of Pasco, Steve Angster steps into a giant trench. In it, the U.S. Geological Survey geologist is hoping to find evidence of a fault line.

He looks out through the morning fog. It’s hard to see the surrounding landscape, but Angster knows it well. 

“On a clear day you could see Rattlesnake Mountain, and then, we have what we call the rattles, which are those little buttes along the way,” Angster says.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

Thursday was supposed to be the day that a Washington state ballot measure to lower car registration fees took effect. But the state Supreme Court has let an injunction stand against what is known as the $30 car tabs initiative. That means hundreds of thousands of drivers will get full price bills in the coming months that they thought they had voted to reduce.

Courtesy Office of Gov. Jay Inslee

In a barrier-breaking appointment, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has selected a Whatcom County judge to serve as the first known Native American justice on the state Supreme Court since its founding in 1889.

Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis, 51, who is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Isleta tribe of New Mexico, will replace Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst when she retires in January.

Courtesy of Grant County Fire District 13

A blazing haystack puts out a ton of heat and light, and smells like a big cigar. 

Early Saturday morning, Nov. 30, in Washington's Tri-Cities region, a haystack was set alight north of Pasco in Franklin County. The fire was called in by an air traffic controller at the Tri-Cities airport in Pasco who could see it from miles away.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

New earthquake research to be presented by Oregon-based geologists next week sounds like a B movie plot -- a great earthquake along the Pacific Northwest's offshore Cascadia fault triggers another great earthquake on the northern San Andreas Fault. In what may be a case where life imitates art -- or more precisely, where science catches up to the fertile imaginations of Hollywood script writers -- attendees at a major earth science meeting in San Francisco will hear evidence that this cascade of disaster happened many times over the past couple of millennia.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Operators at Chief Joseph Dam in eastern Washington will now have to reduce pollution from oil spills that leak into the Columbia River. That’s after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently reached a settlement with Columbia Riverkeeper.

Enrique Pérez de la Rosa/NWPB

Tensions are typically high in the Yakima City Council chambers. That was especially true at a Nov. 5 council meeting. It was a regular Tuesday — one that happened to be election night. 

Even small issues explode into arguments, like when a resident who didn’t fill out a form properly stood up to testify during public comment. 

“We are not having a debate,” Mayor Kathy Coffey yelled in frustration after councilmembers erupted in argument over whether the resident should be allowed to testify. “I’m trying to move on.”

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

In the shadow of Washington’s Capitol dome is a broad boulevard -- called Deschutes Parkway -- with a popular walking and running path that curves along Capitol Lake and links the city of Olympia to the neighboring city of Tumwater.

The parkway, the adjacent lake and nearby Marathon Park are technically part of Washington’s expansive Capitol campus complex.

It’s along this picturesque stretch of road, where parking is not restricted, that in recent months motorhomes, trailers and campers in various states of disrepair have begun to take up residence.

Composite photo by McKayla Fox / NWPB

State officials are worried about a possible mess at Pacific Northwest airports and driver licensing offices. Next October, the Transportation Security Administration will stop accepting regular Washington and Oregon driver licenses to pass through airport screening checkpoints.

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