Idaho mother of standoff kids is allowed a visit

SPOKANE — JoAnn McGuckin had a brief meeting with her children, two weeks after she was arrested on a child neglect charge.

Talks are still under way in Sandpoint, Idaho, that could allow the family to live together in the future, McGuckin’s lawyer said Wednesday.

Because of that, a custody hearing planned for Thursday has been postponed.

"We’re certainly hoping for the dismissal of the criminal charge and the reunification of the family as soon as possible," lawyer Bryce Powell of Sandpoint said in a telephone interview.

McGuckin’s children visited their mother Tuesday in the Bonner County Jail in Sandpoint, Powell said. It was the first time she had seen them since her arrest on May 29, an event that prompted her children to begin a five-day standoff with law enforcement officers.

McGuckin, 46, is free to leave jail, but has refused to accept a judge’s restrictions on seeing her children and has demanded the charge against her be dropped and that prosecutors apologize.

Powell also acknowledged that McGuckin has no place to go if she leaves jail, since the family’s longtime home was sold last year by the county to satisfy back taxes.

Mount Baker climbers rescued: A ground rescue team reached two climbers Wednesday who were suffering from frostbite and hypothermia after becoming lost on Mount Baker for several days. Clouds had prevented a helicopter from the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station from reaching the California men, ages 25 and 39. They were not immediately identified. The two were located four miles from the nearest road at the 5,500-foot level on the south side of the 10,775-foot mountain. The men were lost for a couple of days but on Tuesday night found the camp of another group of climbers, who notified Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies.

Locke wants Tacoma Narrows Bridge financing: Gov. Gary Locke sided with House Co-Speaker Frank Chopp on Wednesday in a dispute over a second Tacoma Narrows Bridge, but the governor hasn’t yet brokered a deal with the company that holds a contract to build the structure. The existing contract calls for United Infrastructure of Washington to finance, build and operate a $700 million span. The company would repay its financing with tolls of about $3 per vehicle, increasing to $5 in later years. But Chopp wants the project built with public financing, and he’s blocked the repeal of a 40-year-old law that soured the deal last year. The plan Locke floated was billed as a compromise, but it’s essentially a wholesale rewrite of the contract to address Chopp’s concerns. "What this does is call for public financing of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge that would reduce the amount of the tolls and have the tolls in place for a shorter period of time," Locke said.

Decline noted in gray whale calves: The number of new gray whale calves migrating north seems to be down again this year, although none have been found dead along the British Columbia shoreline. Low birth rates, high mortality and strandings in recent years have been noted by researchers who monitor the seasonal migration. Gray whales pass by Vancouver Island on their annual migration north from Baja, Mexico, to the Bering and Chukchi seas. Last year, 300 dead whales were found along the coast, including 15 boxcar-sized corpses of starving whales in British Columbia. The population remains healthy at about 26,000 animals, but counters have spotted 87 new calves, the lowest number in eight years of surveys.

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