Friday, January 18, 2013

Happiest Hour: Best Bet Casino

Posted By on Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 3:15 PM

It's Friday, and we're feeling lucky.

Ambiance: Three Dog Night’s “One is the Loneliest Number” plays on the radio inside the dimly lit Brooks Street casino. A college football game flickers on two televisions that hang above roughly a dozen blinking poker and keno machines. Pictures of cowboys and their horses hang on the walls.

What you’re doing: Playing poker with a handful of regulars. This game is among the only ones in town where people call in sick when they can’t make it, according to Best Bet owner Sandy Jones. On a recent afternoon, Jones presides over the game from inside a cozy room off to the side of the main casino. It’s a low-stakes game and, Jones says, a wholesome one. “I probably have the only poker game in town that has a cuss jar,” she says. “If they use the F-bomb, it’s a buck.”

Who you’re playing with: Don “the Colonel” Manning, who, at 79 years old, is the old-timer at the table today. He plays alongside a few other men. Manning calls the daily games more of a social event rather than a cut-throat competition. “Even women play,” he adds.

What you’re eating: Not you’re typical casino fare. The Best Bet offers family-style meals that jibe with Jones’ wholesome attitude. This afternoon the menu includes minestrone simmering in a crock pot next to a bowl of miniature candies and a plate of banana bread. Meals are free to gamblers. This evening, they’re having spaghetti for dinner. Saturday night is pizza night.

What you’re drinking: Beverages are also free for gamers. Jones concedes that Best Bet’s alcohol selection, featuring box wine and either Blue Moon, Bud or Miller Light, isn’t the most diverse. But Best Bet isn’t really a hard-drinking bar, she says. “Pepsi is the drink of choice around here.”


How to find it: 3620 Brooks St., at the corner of Dore Lane.

Happiest Hour celebrates western Montana watering holes. To recommend a bar, bartender or beverage for Happiest Hour, email

Rockies Today, Jan. 18

Posted By on Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 11:34 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Developer to try again on Montana wind project near Anaconda
After Congress extended for one year the federal wind-tax production credit, Montana-based Exergy Integrated Systems will again put pencil to paper to make its proposed wind project on the C Hill in Anaconda cost competitive.
Montana Standard; Jan. 18

Real estate brokers plan new ski area in Colorado
Tom Chapman and Ron Curry are expected to announce their plans to develop a new ski area adjacent to the Telluride Ski Area in Colorado on 103 mining claims they own.
Denver Post; Jan. 18

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Everything we know so far about drones strikes

Posted By on Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 9:20 AM


Editor's Note: This week's cover story profiles Brandon Bryant, a former drone operator who lives in Missoula. While the story offers detailed access to Bryant's experience and parts of the U.S. military's drone program, there's a lot more information on this topic. The following is published with permission from ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.

by Cora Currier ProPublica, Jan. 11, 2013, 1:14 p.m.
Jan. 11, 2013: this post has been corrected.
You might have heard about the "kill list." You've certainly heard about drones. But the details of the U.S. campaign against militants in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia — a centerpiece of the Obama administration's national security approach — remain shrouded in secrecy. Here's our guide to what we know — and what we don't know.

Where is the drone war? Who carries it out?
Drones have been the Obama administration's tool of choice for taking out militants outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. Drones aren't the exclusive weapon — traditional airstrikes and other attacks have also been reported. But by one estimate, 95 percent of targeted killings since 9/11 have been conducted by drones.  Among the benefits of drones: they don't put American troops in harm's way.

The first reported drone strike against Al Qaeda happened in Yemen in 2002. The CIA ramped up secret drone strikes in Pakistan under President George W. Bush in 2008. Under Obama, they have expanded drastically there and in Yemen in 2011.

The CIA isn't alone in conducting drone strikes. The military has acknowledged "direct action" in Yemen and Somalia. Strikes in those countries are reportedly carried out by the secretive, elite Joint Special Operations Command. Since 9/11, JSOC has grown more than tenfold, taking on intelligence-gathering as well as combat roles. (For example, JSOC was responsible for the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden.)  

The drone war is carried out remotely, from the U.S.;and a network of secret bases around the world. The Washington Post got a glimpse — through examining construction contracts and showing up uninvited — at the base in the tiny African nation of Djibouti from which many of the strikes on Yemen and Somalia are carried out. Earlier this year, Wired pieced together an account of the war against Somalia's al-Shabaab militant group and the U.S.'s expanded military presence throughout Africa.

The number of strikes in Pakistan has ebbed in recent years, from a peak of more than 100 in 2010, to an estimated 46 last year. Meanwhile, the pace in Yemen picked up, with more than 40 last year. But there have been seven strikes in Pakistan in the first ten days of 2013.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rockies Today, Jan. 17

Posted By on Thu, Jan 17, 2013 at 10:53 AM


Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Company defends paying royalties on domestic price for exported coal
In a document filed in a lawsuit, Ambre Energy admitted that it created an in-house affiliate for the specific purpose of allowing the company to pay royalties on coal produced in Wyoming and Montana based on the domestic price, but then selling the coal for $85 more a ton overseas, a practice Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski are investigating.
Portland Oregonian; Jan. 17

EPA finds toxic releases in the U.S., Utah up
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's latest Toxics Release Inventory found that such releases are on the rise across the United States, including in Utah, where Kennecott Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon mining operations retained its second place ranking in the nation for overall releases.
Salt Lake Tribune; Jan. 17

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Moldy monkeys, brain removal and the best orgy on campus: A fantastic tour of UM's Zoological Museum

Posted By on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 12:55 PM


I first heard about the University of Montana's Zoological Museum from an article by Chad Dundas in the alumni magazine last fall. It's worth a read. But since that article published, the museum has gone high-tech in showing off its vast—and quirky—collection of dead animals.

Emily Graslie, the museum's volunteer curatorial assistant, put together a video tour. Scientific America calls it "hilarious" and they're dead-on (pardon the pun). It starts simple enough, but gradually allows Graslie to revel in her own enthusiasm for the facility and many of its odd nooks. She shows off the cold room and casually mentions an incident with moldy monkeys. She shows off the sink where brains are removed. She explains how a tank of flesh-eating beetles take part in the biggest sex orgy on campus. She shows off her favorite room filled with hundreds of birds — and a one-eared rabbit, and a raccoon she just found behind some cabinets and ... You know, just watch it. It's worth five minutes of your time.

Also, subscribe to her "Brain Scoop" channel. She's going to make more of these videos.

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Rockies Today, Jan. 16

Posted By on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 10:39 AM


Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Crow Tribe, Cloud Peak reach deal on development of Montana coal
The Crow Legislature on Tuesday voted 13-1 to approve a deal with Cloud Peak Energy to develop the estimated 1.2 billion tons of coal on the tribe's Montana reservation.
Billings Gazette; Jan. 16

Salazar to leave Interior post in March
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he wants to spend more time with his family, and has told President Barack Obama that he will end his tenure as Interior secretary by the end of March.
Denver Post; Jan. 16

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Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 9:00 AM

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): "If you would hit the mark, you must aim a little above it," wrote 19th-century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. "Every arrow that flies feels the attraction of the earth." This is good counsel for you to keep in mind during the coming weeks, Aries. I suspect you will have a good, clear shot at a target you've been trying to get close to for a long time. Make sure you adjust your trajectory to account for the attraction of the earth.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Megaload companies eye Stimson mill

Posted By on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 at 5:18 PM

Highway 200 could get a lot busier in the years to come. Last October, the BitterRoot Economic Development District applied for a $17,934 state grant to complete a transport plan for oversized loads between Bonner and the Port of Sweetgrass. Now the study is underway, marking the first potential step toward Bonner becoming a manufacturing hub for Canadian oil fields.

A megaload belonging to ConocoPhillips sits on the side of a Montana highway in 2011 while en route to Billings.
  • Chad Harder
  • A megaload belonging to ConocoPhillips sits on the side of a Montana highway in 2011 while en route to Billings.

“If you look at both the Bakken and the oil sands and you draw a 500-mile circle around them, you see that we are in the area that makes a lot of sense to provide some of the manufacturing,” says Jean Curtiss, Missoula County commissioner and president of BREDD.

Several industrial manufacturers have already voiced interest in opening up shop at the former Stimson mill site. But with no clear idea of the longterm transport potential along Highway 200 and other routes, those companies still consider Bonner a considerable risk. In response, Missoula-based Poteet Construction is heading the effort to identify the best route from Bonner to Canada and determine what work needs to be done to accommodate regular megaload traffic.

The total estimated cost of the transport plan is $35,014. The plan’s scope includes traffic control studies and environmental consultation, as well as identification of any obstacles to oversized shipments. So far, Curtiss says, it looks like the only obstacles will be utility lines.

Protesters in spring 2011 block a megaload on Reserve Street.

BREDD’s grant application cites “the ever rising price of oil and the political will to establish energy independence” as the key economic motivations for Missoula courting manufacturers with ties to Canadian oil. The document states that an unnamed company is currently considering occupying nearly half the available space at the former Stimson mill site, and could bring as many as 300 jobs and as much as $20 million in private investment to the area.

Of course, Curtiss acknowledges that there are those in Missoula who would prefer the county oppose any tar sands-related business. Megaload manufacturers aren’t exactly tourist brochure fodder, she says. And oversized transport proposals from major oil players have sparked sizable opposition in the region in recent years. But for Curtiss, interest in Missoula as a gateway to nearby development projects is “kind of a fact of life right now.”

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Rockies Today, Jan. 15

Posted By on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 at 10:38 AM


Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Decision on wolf trapping in Montana near Yellowstone NP in judge's hands
After the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission suspended trapping in two zones near Yellowstone National Park over concerns that too many wolves used in research were being killed, state Rep. Alan Redfield, Citizens for Balanced Use, Big Game Forever and Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife challenged the decision, and the ban was temporarily lifted, and at a hearing on Monday, state District Judge Brenda Gilbert heard from both sides on whether the ban should be implemented or permanently lifted.
Billings Gazette (AP); Jan. 15

Groups urge Montana to hold hearings in cities affected by coal train traffic
The Montana Departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources and Conservation are holding three meetings this week in Eastern Montana on the proposed Otter Creek Mine, but 17 environmental groups are urging that, since the coal will be exported, that hearings also be held in Helena, Bozeman, Billings and Missoula, through which coal trains will pass.
Billings Gazette (AP); Jan. 15

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Rockies Today, Jan. 14

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 10:37 AM


Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Tar-sands mine on Utah SITLA lands gets final approval
On Friday, the Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining gave Alberta-based U.S. Oil Sands the green light to proceed with a pilot project that will use a citrus-based method in the nation's first tar sands project, although a representative of Moab-based Living Rivers, which opposes the project, said it will appeal the decision.
Salt Lake Tribune; Jan. 13

Oil-spill expert warns against allowing tankers along B.C.'s North Coast
Alberta oil producers want to either pipe or ship bitumen across British Columbia and ship their products to overseas markets, but a marine consultant who was worked on oil spills for nearly 25 years, said an oil spill along British Columbia's North Coast would be calamitous, given the serpentine nature of the coast and the storms that batter the area.
Calgary Herald (Vancouver Sun); Jan. 14

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