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West Valley grad goes from scared to scholarship
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That old chestnut about bravery — that it’s not lack of fear; it’s being afraid and doing it anyway — is true in Lessley Martinez’ case.

She was plenty scared when she left home in Colima, Mexico, to move in with an aunt and uncle in Yakima. She was 15 and, though she was born in Texas and lived in the United States until she was 4, she barely spoke English at all. But the United States held opportunities Mexico didn’t. Here she could go to college, get a good job and have a better life. She could help her family.

So, while her parents and brothers stayed in Mexico, Martinez moved 2,500 miles away to a place where she didn’t speak the language and enrolled as a sophomore at West Valley High School.

“I was really scared and nervous, because I was leaving my family,” she said. “But my heart was telling me to keep going and make my dream come true and help my family, too.”

Now 18, Martinez graduates this week and is headed to Montana State University on a virtually full scholarship, which will be bolstered by her National Guard scholarship. She’ll study criminology and psychology while serving in the Guard, all with an eye toward a career in police work.

“I want to be a detective,” Martinez said. “Since I was really little I always wanted to be a police officer, helping people.”

She got to this point with plenty of help. Her aunt and uncle, Charles and Elizabeth Dorrell, made her feel at home “from day one,” she said. And her classmates were overwhelmingly supportive. There were some who ridiculed her lack of English but many more who understood, sympathized with and supported Martinez. Her fellow cadets in the West Valley Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps were particularly supportive, she said.

“I had a great high school experience,” Martinez said. “I had so many friends.”

That doesn’t mean it was always easy.

“My first month, honestly I was thinking, ‘What if I don’t graduate? What if I don’t make it?’” she said. “I was lost. But my family and friends just pushed me, and I started to work harder.”

Martinez joined the JROTC and the school forensics club, eventually becoming president of the latter. Her English improved quickly, in part through hard work and in part through the organic process of just spending time around English speakers.

“I knew in my heart I had the potential,” she said. “I just had to trust myself.”

For motivation, all she had to do was think of her family back home. Her parents, Marisol and Jesus Martinez, and her twin brothers could use the sort of financial help a well-paying career in the United States can offer. She hopes to start sending money soon, and ultimately she hopes to bring them all back to the United States to enjoy the same opportunity she has.

“I’m just looking forward to helping my parents, giving them a better life,” Martinez said.

Her mother is in town this week for graduation, but she hasn’t seen her father since leaving home.

“I plan to go visit him as soon as possible,” Martinez said. “They told me they’re proud of me. They believe in me, and now that college is coming they’re even more sure that I can make it.”

US intel report on UFOs: No evidence of aliens, but. ...

WASHINGTON — Whatever or whoever they are, they’re still out there. U.S. intelligence is after them, but its upcoming report won’t deliver any full or final truth about UFOs.

The tantalizing prospect of top government intel finally weighing in — after decades of conspiracy theories, TV shows, movies and winking jokes by presidents — will instead yield a more mundane reality that’s not likely to change many minds on any side of the issue.

Investigators have found no evidence the sightings are linked to aliens — but can’t deny a link either. Two officials briefed on the report due to Congress later this month say the U.S. government cannot give a definitive explanation of aerial phenomena spotted by military pilots.

The report also doesn’t rule out that what pilots have seen may be new technologies developed by other countries. One of the officials said there is no indication the unexplained phenomena are from secret U.S. programs.

The officials were not authorized to discuss the information publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Findings of the report were first published by The New York Times.

The report examines multiple unexplained sightings from recent years that in some cases have been captured on video of pilots exclaiming about objects flying in front of them.

Congress in December required the Director of National Intelligence to summarize and report on the U.S. government’s knowledge of unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAPs — better known to the public as unidentified flying objects or UFOs. The effort has included a Defense Department UAP task force established last year. The expected public release of an unclassified version of the report this month will amount to a status report, not the final word, according to one official.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Sue Gough, declined Friday to comment on news stories about the intelligence report. She said the Pentagon’s UAP task force is “actively working with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on the report, and DNI will provide the findings to Congress.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, when asked about the report, said of the question at first, “It’s always a little wacky on Fridays.” But she added, “I will say that we take reports of incursions into our airspace by any aircraft — identified or unidentified — very seriously and investigate each one.”

The Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency have for decades looked into reports of aircraft or other objects in the sky flying at inexplicable speeds or trajectories.

The U.S. government takes unidentified aerial phenomena seriously given the potential national security risk of an adversary flying novel technology over a military base or another sensitive site, or the prospect of a Russian or Chinese development exceeding current U.S. capabilities. This also is seen by the U.S. military as a security and safety issue, given that in many cases the pilots who reported seeing unexplained aerial phenomena were conducting combat training flights.

The report’s lack of firm conclusions will likely disappoint people anticipating the report, given many Americans’ long-standing fascination with UFOs and the prospect of aliens having reached humankind. A recent story on CBS’ “60 Minutes” further bolstered interest in the government report.

Luis Elizondo, former head of the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, said the one official’s claim that there was no indicated link to secret U.S. programs would be significant. But he called on the government to be fully transparent.

“I think that our tax dollars paid for information and data involving UFOs,” Elizondo said. “And I think it is the U.S. government’s obligation to provide those results to the American people.”

But skeptics caution that the videos and reported sightings have plausible Earth-bound explanations. Mick West, an author, investigator, and longtime skeptic of UFO sightings, said he supported the military looking into any possible incursion of U.S. airspace, especially by an adversary.

“People are conflating this issue with the idea that these UFOs demonstrate amazing physics and possibly even aliens,” West said. “The idea that this is some kind of secret warp drive or it’s defying physics as we know it, there really isn’t any good evidence for that.”

The Pentagon last year announced a task force to investigate the issue, and the Navy in recent years created a protocol for its pilots to report any possible sightings.

Who’s eligible for Washington’s COVID vaccine lottery? Here’s everything you need to know

The great vaccine incentive arms race has hit Washington.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new lottery program Thursday in the state’s latest push to get more people vaccinated to curb the spread of COVID-19. Five lucky Washingtonians will win a cash giveaway for getting vaccinated.

Four residents could win $250,000 while one person could hit the jackpot — $1 million.

Other prizes are up for grabs, including tuition money, airline and game tickets and tech gifts like game consoles and smart speakers.

“Good luck in the lottery. This will be the most important one you’ll ever be in,” Inslee said in a news conference Thursday.

Some details are still in the works but here’s everything you need to know so far. Be sure to check back for more details.

Who is eligible?

All Washington residents, who are 16 or older, regardless of citizenship, are eligible if they have received at least one dose. Proof of Washington residency is required to claim a prize.

If you’re an employee (or family member of an employee) working at the Office of the Governor, Washington State Lottery or Department of Health, you’re out of luck and won’t be eligible for any incentives.

People who are incarcerated in a state, federal, city or county correction facility are also not eligible, according to the Washington Lottery.

Do I need to enter the contest?

The only thing Washingtonians need to do is get vaccinated. The winners will be drawn from the DOH immunization database, which includes those who have been vaccinated previously.

Inslee said the state is trying to use federal databases to fill in any gaps. It is not immediately clear whether those who received vaccines outside of Washington but live within the state will be included in the drawing.

How do I know if I’m in the state’s system?

You can check if you’re in the state database by signing up for MyIRmobile.com, where you can also download and print your vaccine records.

Residents can request an immunization record from the state health department by calling 360-236-3595. When you call, you’ll be asked to provide identifying information, such as name, date of birth, and address. They’ll only be able to tell you whether or not a record exists in the system.

However, residents on Friday reported that they cannot find their vaccine records on My IR, and that the phone number listed by DOH has a full voicemail box.

Some vaccine providers, such as Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and providers outside of Washington do not enter records into the state’s immunization information system.

However, Washington’s Lottery officials said they are currently requesting information from these departments and trying to find alternative methods for people to add their records to the database.

“Unfortunately for this promotion, there is not a single source of data on vaccinations for every single resident of the state,” Washington’s Lottery spokesperson Dan Miller said in a statement.

Do I have a chance if I got vaccinated out of state?

At the moment, no.

Those records are not in the state’s system. But Miller said the state is in contact with federal agencies about creating a secure way to share vaccination records.

“If such a system is created, we also may be able to receive records from other states, as well, but we are still exploring this option at this time,” he said.

When are the drawings?

Every Tuesday starting June 8. The Washington State Lottery will start with a weekly drawing for $250,000 for four weeks, before drawing for the $1 million grand prize on July 13.

The cash prizes will be for residents 18 and up. Separate drawings will be done every week for tech prizes as well as tuition money for those ages 12 to 17.

How are winners picked and how will I find out if I won?

Every eligible resident will be assigned a number by the health department. Lottery officials will draw numbers using its random number generating system.

That number will be shared with the health department to match with the name of the individual, who will then be contacted by Washington’s Lottery on how to collect their prize. Cash prize winners will be contacted the day after the drawing.

Only names of winners will be shared with the Washington’s Lottery.

Winners will have 72 hours to respond. Otherwise the prize will be forfeited to an alternate winner. No one may win more than one cash prize, but could be eligible for a non-cash prize.

According to Miller, winners will primarily be reached by phone. Or they will be reached by what information is listed in the state’s immunization system. If you miss the call, the official will leave a voicemail identifying themselves and include a detailed message on what day and time the winner must call back.

If anyone has concerns about the call or email, they can reach Washington’s Lottery at 360-810-2888.

What other prizes are there?

There will be 30 prizes of one year of free tuition to 12- to 17-year-olds. The tuition credits will be given to families through the Guaranteed Education Tuition program.

Besides that, weekly drawings include:

  • 2 free Alaska Airlines tickets.
  • 4 tickets to a Seattle Mariners game and one full suite prize.
  • 4 tickets to a Seattle Sounders game in August, plus two autographed jerseys.
  • 10 tickets to a Seattle Storm game.
  • 4 club level seats at a Seattle Seahawks game, plus parking passes.
  • 4 OL Reign 2021 season tickets, plus team-signed jersey.
  • 300 Xboxes, Nintendo Switches, 100 Echo Dots and 25 Google Nests.

The state is also giving $1 million to Washington’s four-year universities and two-year community and technical colleges to run their own drawings for tuition and book assistance.

Is the prize money taxed?

Yes. The Washington State Lottery reports to the Internal Revenue Service any prize valued at $600 or more, according to Lottery Director Marcus Glasper.

Winners will need to claim their winnings when filing their 2021 federal taxes. Washington’s Lottery is required to withhold 24% for taxes for any prize valued at $5,000 or more, before providing a check to the winner.

State officials are taking a slightly different approach with the college tuition prizes being awarded to minors. In those cases, the state will pay the 24% withholding taxes. The recipients will still have to file a 2021 tax return, however, and would be liable for any additional taxes owed.

How is this being funded?

The lottery is being funded by the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund that was appropriated by the Legislature. Merchandise and ticket prizes were donated by Washington companies and sports teams.

Toddler hospitalized after firefighters pull him from duplex blaze Friday morning
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A toddler rescued from a burning duplex early Friday morning was left home alone and zipped up in a crib, according to Yakima Police Capt. Jay Seely.

Police were first on scene, with firefighters arriving shortly afterward and quickly knocking down flames, he said.

Firefighters then found the toddler inside and zipped up in a crib without any way to escape, Seely said

The toddler, believed to be about 2 years old, was taken to Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital and immediately transferred in critical condition to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, he said.

Firefighters responded to the blaze in the 1200 block of South 41st Avenue about 4:50 a.m. and performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the boy until paramedics arrived, according to a Yakima Fire Department news release.

The child was stabilized at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital before being transferred to Harborview, the release said.

There were no other injuries, the release said.

Both units of the duplex suffered extensive damage and both garages were destroyed — a loss of about $400,000, the release said.

The fire’s cause is under investigation. About 19 firefighters responded with mutual aid from the West Valley Fire Department, the release said.

This story was updated to provide the correct location of the fire.