UPDATE: District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena today tossed out the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act that prohibits corporations from making independent political expenditures. The judge deemed it unconstitutional. Let the appeals process begin.
This week, a Helena judge is expected to decide on a challenge to Montana’s nearly century-old ban on corporate spending in support or opposition to political parties and candidates. The plaintiffs brought the challenge in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, which overturned a federal ban on corporate spending in political campaigns, essentially granting corporations personhood.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court's January decision, many states concluded that their own restrictions on electioneering were doomed as well. But not Montana.
And that resistance makes many a Montanan proud. Count local authors Bill Kittredge and David James Duncan among them.
In this picture, you can see some dude standing on the roof of our office building, ready to install solar panels. They're not fully operational yet, but the work is expected to be done
this week tomorrow.
According to president Matt Gibson, the panels will help offset about 10 percent of the company's energy demand.
"I think we wanted to make a statement both internally to ourselves and to the community that we're committed to conservation," says Gibson.
Gibson adds that the building's roof has enough room to double the size of the installation, something he hopes to do in the future.
"I'm hoping to hold out until new, high-efficient technology becomes available," he says.
The Independent has a history of taking measures to reduce its carbon footprint, such as publishing a carbon-neutral issue in 2008. The solar panels, though, are the most substantial step.
In this week's installment: The Vegas "death ray," zero gravity beer and why mayonnaise is more dangerous than snow.
Curses, Foiled Again
Police investigating a convenience store robbery in Ferndale, Mich., by a man wearing a plastic Darth Vader mask identified Jamie C. Hernandez, 41, as their suspect after the store’s surveillance camera clearly showed him putting on the mask before pulling a butcher knife on the clerk.
Albanian authorities arrested two men trying to drill a passageway into a bank vault from a store they had rented above it. The noise from the drilling alerted authorities, Tirana police chief Tonin Vocaj said, noting, “We moved in when they were in the last stages of finishing the tunnel.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a bold statement this week accusing ExxonMobil of attempting to establish a permanent high-and-wide corridor through Idaho and Montana to service its tar sands mining operation in Alberta, Canada. According to its release, the NRDC has translated press reports and documents from Sung Jin Geotech—the South Korean manufacturer contracted to build ExxonMobil's mining equipment—indicating the much-protested Kearl Module Transportation Project (KMTP) is merely the beginning of a much larger exploitation of western highways.
The NRDC references a number of releases from Sung Jin Geotech dating back to Oct. 3, 2009. The most damning of these translations, which U.S. media have yet to independently verify, is a press statement from March 3, 2010. The NRDC translation states that the proposed KMTP, worth an estimated $250 million, is only the first phase in a long-term project worth close to $1.5 billion. Below the fold is the NRDC's only complete quotation for its translated Sung Jin Geotech material:
Tonight marks the beginning of the Society of Environmental Journalists' 20th annual conference here in Missoula—a noteworthy fact, given that SEJ hasn't hosted the event in the mountain west in 16 years. More than 600 journalists, environmentalists and government officials will descend on the Garden City for five days of dinners, tours, panels and workshops, and this year's conference boasts some pretty high-profile characters (no, we're not talking about Sen. Jon Tester and former Montana Congressman Pat Williams, the keynote speakers at tonight's opening banquet). Visitors will be thicker in town than conservatives at a wolf debate, so keep your eyes open.
Some of the folks you might see around town this weekend include National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, acclaimed documentary filmmaker and writer Dayton Duncan, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Director Jane Lubchenco and Center for Biological Diversity Director Kierán Suckling. Montana's representing itself well, though, with the likes of author Richard Manning, Wilderness Watch Executive Director George Nickas and resident U.S. Fish and Wildlife bear expert Chris Servheen joining an already top-notch list of speakers.
Sadly, the University of Montana-hosted SEJ event ain't cheap—non-member registration is $1,100. But we'll keep you apprised of any interesting developments from the inside, and there's bound to be plenty of action when the official business of plenary sessions and meet-and-greets wraps. It's a good bet these folks will get thirsty, and if Missoula's known for anything, it's known for excellent watering holes.
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock hasn't been cowed by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to allow corporate electioneering.
This week The Wall Street Journal takes notice of Bullock's belief that Montana's decades-old law that bans corporate contributions to political candidates could stand up to the controversial Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling.
Find Rob Brezsny's Free Will Astrology online, every Wednesday, one day before it hits the Indy's printed pages.
ARIES (March 21-April 19): Until recently, no cricket had ever been observed pollinating a flower. All the evidence showed, in fact, that crickets don't help flowers—they devour them. Then one night last January on the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, researchers discovered that the species known as the raspy cricket was responsible for pollinating wild orchids. They even caught the magic act on film. I regard this turn of events as akin to an upcoming development in your life: Someone or something that you've never thought of as a fertilizing force for you will become one.
Local bee researcher Jerry Bromenshenk made front-page news at home and across the country last week when his new study purported to discover the possible cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, which is threatening the world's honeybee population. But according to Fortune contributor Katherine Eban in an Oct. 8 story, titled "What a scientist didn't tell The New York Times about his study on bee deaths," Bromenshenk failed to disclose one of his main funding sources.
The long list of possible suspects has included pests, viruses, fungi, and also pesticides, particularly so-called neonicotinoids, a class of neurotoxins that kills insects by attacking their nervous systems. For years, their leading manufacturer, Bayer Crop Science, a subsidiary of the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG (BAYRY), has tangled with regulators and fended off lawsuits from angry beekeepers who allege that the pesticides have disoriented and ultimately killed their bees. The company has countered that, when used correctly, the pesticides pose little risk.
A cheer must have gone up at Bayer on Thursday when a front-page New York Times article, under the headline "Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery," described how a newly released study pinpoints a different cause for the die-off: "a fungus tag-teaming with a virus." The study, written in collaboration with Army scientists at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center outside Baltimore, analyzed the proteins of afflicted bees using a new Army software system. The Bayer pesticides, however, go unmentioned.
What the Times article did not explore — nor did the study disclose — was the relationship between the study's lead author, Montana bee researcher Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk, and Bayer Crop Science. In recent years Bromenshenk has received a significant research grant from Bayer to study bee pollination. Indeed, before receiving the Bayer funding, Bromenshenk was lined up on the opposite side: He had signed on to serve as an expert witness for beekeepers who brought a class-action lawsuit against Bayer in 2003. He then dropped out and received the grant.
In this week's installment: Crash taxes, faulty sirens and a terrible place for a shooting range.
Curses, Foiled Again
Army prosecutors said Pvt. Jonne T. Wegley, 19, wanted out of basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., so bad that he offered a fellow recruit $5,000 and a job to shoot him in the left leg so he could get out of the Army with a medical disability. He figured he’d still be able to use his right leg to drive. Instead of barely wounding Wegley, however, the bullet from the M-16 rifle mutilated his left leg. He needed 25 surgeries, a total reconstruction of his knee and multiple skin grafts, and he suffered nerve damage so severe that he has no control of his left foot. On top of that, a court martial sentenced him to four months’ confinement and a dishonorable discharge. Wegley’s attorney, Maj. John Calcagni, admitted his client’s scheme was unnecessary, explaining all he had to do to get kicked out of the Army was to tell his sergeant that he refused to train.
During one of his frequent visits to his ex-wife’s son in Washington County, Ore., Donald Wayne George, 64, shared some digital family photos with the man to copy to his own computer. He forgot they included images of the son’s 5-year-old daughter in sexual poses and having various sex acts with George. When the pornographic photos appeared on the screen, George shouted, “No, no, no,” according to Deputy District Attorney Paul Maloney, adding that the father erupted in anger, to which George responded flippantly, “Call the police, I’m going to jail.” George received 25 years in prison.
Local skiers, snowboarders and beer drinkers face an epic decision tonight as the Fourth Annual Burning Dog Pray for Snow party kicks off at Big Sky Brewery at 6 p.m., and the sick ski porn flick The Way I See It makes its local premiere at 8 p.m.
Let's break down the two events in hopes of planning your gnarly pre-winter festivities:
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