Open Government, Media, Psychology, and Genetics

Open Government

He won and appealed. He won again, will he appeal again? No decision yet. Armen Yousoufian, the businessman turned documents diver, last week scored a $380,000 legal payoff from King County for its failure to turn over public records he requested. But he says he's disgusted and thinks the outcome is "a disaster" for future public-disclosure requests. He spent an estimated 4,000 hours of his own time, and his legal fees alone are $330,000, he says–something that may dissuade him from appealing again. (Eight years later, he still doesn't have all the documents he requested about the county's backroom deal to build a voter-approved public football stadium for billionaire Paul Allen. See "The Cost of Secrecy," Aug. 3.) The documents Yousoufian did get led to reports on the stadium deal in Seattle Weekly, and his records battle has been frequently chronicled in these pages. But as Yousoufian noted in an e-mail he sent to supporters this week, the groundbreaking fine got only belated back-page coverage in the daily papers. "I believe the voters were duped," Yousoufian writes, but while mainstream media "have given some coverage" to the documents lawsuit, "they have done virtually nothing to show what was revealed in the documents I did obtain. In my opinion, they have let us down." RICK ANDERSON


One of the city's scrappiest periodicals, Tablet, put out its final issue this week. "It's been a fun, meaningful, exciting, and rewarding five years," music editor Dan Halligan told contributors in an e-mail on Sunday, Aug. 28. The free mag covered area music and other arts with zinelike enthusiasm and humor. Tablet's owners—Halligan, editor in chief De Kwok, director of publication and design Eric Hildebrandt, and managing editor Sarah Taylor Sherman—"have struggled with the decision to continue the magazine or not in these tough economic times for quite a few months," wrote Halligan. "Believe me, stopping the magazine was one of the toughest decisions of our lives—I fucking love and believe in Tablet." Hildebrandt's editorial in the last issue, Tablet's 103rd, sums up the magazine's upstart mission and legacy: "Others may have been glossy and spelling-error-free, but I always felt (and still do) that our magazine was unique in its DIY spirit, its never-ending attempt to provide smarter coverage, and its goal of providing a voice to underrepresented people, communities and cultures." MICHAELANGELO MATOS


Onetime Seattle psychologist Elizabeth Loftus was a hero in the sad, sordid recovered-memory phenomenon. While prosecutors and other psychologists were busy hyping cases of supposed sexual abuse based on childhood memories that individuals realized only later in life, Loftus' innovative experiments proved that there was such a thing as false memories—memories that could be dredged up from nothing more than suggestion. Loftus, who maintains an affiliate professorship at the University of Washington but is primarily affiliated with the University of California at Irvine, must have gotten tired of all that dark, heavy stuff. According to a Los Angeles Times story, she's found an upbeat, one might even think commercial, use for formerly reviled false memories: helping people diet. A study by Loftus and colleagues found they could get people to avoid strawberry ice cream by making them believe it made them sick when they were children. Loftus and colleagues also convinced people that they liked asparagus. You see where this is heading: false memories about smoking and drinking, maybe one of a rapturous childhood experience with housework. Loftus, the queen of truth telling, could be turning into the queen of self-help. NINA SHAPIRO


If you know anything about evolution, you know that humans and chimps are closely related genetically. If you know a little more, you may remember the statistic that the genetic codes of humans and chimps are thought to differ very little, less than 2 percent or so. This week, Nature is publishing the full genetic code of the chimpanzee for the first time. Scientists from round the world contributed to the research, but as it happens, the lead authors on three of the papers are affiliated with the University of Washington: Evan Eichler and a research group at UW's Howard Hughes Institute; Barbara Trask and a group at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; and Robert Waterston, who led a group from the UW School of Medicine. ROGER DOWNEY

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