MOSCOW, Idaho - The "world's most comprehensive collection" of opium smoking paraphernalia has a new home; it's at the University of Idaho. A writer and collector, originally from San Diego, donated the exquisite antiques.

It's taking weeks to carefully unpack and catalogue all the opium smoking implements and accessories. Collector Steven Martin estimates he donated at least 1,000 pieces... ceramic opium pipe bowls, ornamented heating lamps, traveling kits, scrapers, old photographs and mug shots.

Latinos Barely Represented On Elected Bodies

Sep 24, 2012

WOODBURN, Ore. - Across the Northwest, Latinos make up nearly 12 percent of the population. Yet our research estimates only two percent of the region’s elected officials are Hispanic. It’s a disparity that voters like Jose Ramirez want to change.

“If someone can vote and doesn’t, well, that doesn’t do any good," he says. "You’re allowing others to vote in your place, to make different laws than you might like.”

Methodology: Counting Hispanic Surnames

Sep 24, 2012

So you may be wondering how we reached the conclusion that just 2 percent of the elected officials in the Northwest are Hispanic. Here's how we did it.

First, we collected the names of every elected state official ... every county commissioner, city councilor, mayor and school board member. We added in members of Congress for good measure. We came up with 8, 244 names.

Most City Councils In Northwest Have No Latinos

Sep 24, 2012

YAKIMA, Wash. – According to an estimate from a database of Hispanic officeholders in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, nearly nine out of 10 city councils across the Northwest have no Latino members.

One of the cities with no Latino representations is located in one of the most heavily Hispanic parts of our region, Yakima, Washington. And the ACLU is suing over the issue.

So why does the region's largest minority group have so little clout in the political arena?

Flip through the radio dial in Yakima and you’ll hear lots of Spanish.

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. - According to a database of the Northwest's elected officials, just a handful of Latinos hold state office in the region. But this year, Latino voters have an edge for the first time in one of the Northwest’s major Hispanic hubs.

Redistricting gave them a majority. You might think the Latino candidate there would now be a shoo-in. Not so. Jessica Robinson has our latest story on why the region's largest minority group has so little clout in the political arena.

RICHLAND, Wash. - Latinos are a younger demographic. And younger people -- no matter what their ethnicity -- are much less likely to vote than older people. But one issue that’s energized many young Latinos is the DREAM Act. It would create a path to citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants.

At a "Rock the Vote" event in downtown Richland, Washington, an energetic band in tight-fitting jeans plays short sets between political stump speeches.

Twenty-one-year-old Josh Alano really came here to see his friends’ band, but politely listened to the speeches.

Religion Not A Factor In Latino Politics

Sep 24, 2012

PASCO, Wash. - Religion is one of the most defining characteristics of Latino culture. But pollsters say it plays virtually no role in how they vote. And for two Mexican-American siblings, faith shapes the lives but not their politics.

I learn a lot about Marielena Hernandez just by where she wants to meet for an interview.

Marielena is 21 years old and she greets me while holding her infant daughter Nicole at her childhood home, in Pasco, in Eastern Washington where her parents still live.

The persistent smoke from wildfires has gotten so bad in the Wenatchee and Ellensburg areas that county health departments are telling everyone to stay indoors if possible. Firefighters continue to defend rural homes and subdivisions on the east slopes of the Cascades. Containment of the numerous wildfires there appears a long ways off.

CLE ELUM, Wash. – Cle Elum, Washington is the type of town where people smile and nod in the supermarket parking lot –- even if you’re a stranger. This week the close-knit mountain community has been battling a more than 22-thousand-acre wildfire. The blaze has displaced many residents.

The blaze has had firefighters evacuating people and pets –- sometimes just in time. At least 60 structures, including homes and cabins, have been burned down. Many stock animals have been evacuated to the nearby Ellensburg Rodeo Grounds.

Last month, we brought you the story of former Army Staff Sgt. Jarrid Starks of Salem . He was a decorated combat veteran who lost his medical benefits when he was kicked out of the Army for misconduct. He has PTSD. Since our story aired, Starks has learned he will, in fact, qualify for health care from the Veterans Administration. But, across the country, another soldier with a similar story has died tragically.

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