Axios Seattle

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Today's newsletter is 863 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Peak cherry blossom bloom arrives

The University of Washington Quad in bloom this year. Photo: Courtesy of the University of Washington

That burst of warm weather over the weekend propelled the Yoshino cherry trees at the University of Washington Quad into peak bloom starting today, according to the University of Washington.

Why it matters: The annual bloom of cherry trees across Seattle symbolizes the end of the dark months and the beginning of spring, luring residents from homes and drawing swarms of tourists to the city's most popular viewing places.

What they're saying: The last two weekends of March should provide ideal viewing conditions, said university arborist Sara Shores.

State of play: The Yoshino trees bloom earlier than many of the campus's 100 other cherry trees, which include Higan, Hisakura, Kwanzan, Mt. Fuji and Shirofugen species, according to the university.

  • Peak bloom for other trees will start just as bloom season wanes for the Yoshino trees in early April, said Shores.
  • For cherry tree enthusiasts who can't make the trip, campus webcams are a good option for virtual viewing.

But the university is not the only place to see flowering cherries in the city, per the Seattle Department of Transportation, which has a map of city trees on its website.

A few other well known places to see cherry trees in the region include the Washington Park Arboretum's Azalea Way and Kubota Garden in Seattle, the Washington State Capitol in Olympia and Point Defiance Park's Japanese Garden in Tacoma.

The big picture: While Seattle's blooms are coming within their historical normal range this year, climate trends show that spring is getting warmer and coming earlier in many parts of the U.S. and the world, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Alice Feng report.

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2. New Washington law criminalizes deepfake porn

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

A new Washington state law will make it illegal to share fake pornography that appears to depict real people having sex.

Why it matters: Advancements in artificial intelligence have made it easy to use a single photograph to impose someone's features on realistic-looking "deepfake" porn.

  • Before now, however, state law hasn't explicitly banned these kinds of digitally manipulated images.

Zoom in: The new Washington law, which Gov. Jay Inslee signed last week, will make it a gross misdemeanor to knowingly share fabricated intimate images of people without their consent.

  • People who create and share deepfake pornographic images of minors can be charged with felonies. So can those who share deepfake porn of adults more than once.
  • Victims will also be able to file civil lawsuits seeking damages.

What they're saying: "With this law, survivors of intimate and fabricated image-based violence have a path to justice," said state Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines), who sponsored the legislation, in a news release.

The big picture: At least 10 other states have already passed laws banning exploitative deepfake pornography, USA Today reported earlier this year.

  • In January, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill designed to hold people responsible for "digital forgery." But right now, federal law doesn't regulate these images.

What's next: The new law takes effect June 6.

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3. Morning Buzz: Cupcakes closing

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

🧁 Cupcake Royale is closing its flagship shop in Ballard shop after 20 years, though other locations in Madrona, West Seattle, downtown and Burien will remain open. (KOMO)

⛽ Prices for gasoline and piped gas fell in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area, while prices for electricity rose last month compared to February 2023, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (MyNorthwest)

4. New owners for the Reign

Seattle Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock and Washington Spirit defender Gabby Carle during a game on March 17. Photo: Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Seattle Reign FC is poised to get new owners.

Driving the news: In partnership with the Seattle Sounders, the Carlyle Group, a global investment firm, has agreed to buy the Seattle Reign FC from France's OL Groupe for $58 million.

  • It's Carlyle's first-ever pro sports team purchase.

The big picture: The league is at a turning point, with a new TV contract and a rising interest in U.S. women's sports, writes Axios' Dan Primack.

  • Last year, only a few National Women's Soccer League games were nationally televised. This year the number will be over 100, all with better production quality. But there's still plenty of room for additional commercialization.
  • Now some early owners are seeking to cash out at a profit.

Zoom in: Last year, Megan Rapinoe's final regular-season home game broke the NWSL attendance record — previously set by the San Diego Wave in 2022 — and also set a new streaming record.

  • More than 34,000 people attended the Lumen Field game and 683,000 viewers tuned in, according to CBS Sports, making it the second most watched game in NWSL history, trailing only the 2022 NWSL championship.

What's next: The deal still requires league approval.

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5. Where we were: Arboretum edition

The Woodland Garden in the Washington Park Arboretum. Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios

Lots of you chimed in to guess where Melissa was when she snapped a photo of a serene-looking pond last week.

  • Those of you who guessed the Washington Park Arboretum were correct.
  • Specifically, Melissa was at one of the two ponds at the Woodland Garden, just off Azalea Way.
A wooden deck extends into a small woodland pool of water.
Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios
  • "Here you'll find one of the largest Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) collections in North America," according to the UW Botanic Gardens.

Congratulations to readers Dave A-R and Linnet D-S, two of the readers who guessed the exact location within the Arboretum. You're our winners this week!

🤰🏼 Melissa is not able to fit into any shoes anymore or bend over to put on socks, to the point that her 4-year-old is making fun of her.

🪨 Clarridge loves the smell of clean, fresh dirt.

This newsletter was edited by Rachel La Corte and copy edited by Egan Millard.