Thursday, December 1, 2016

Engstrom resigns, Stearns named interim UM president

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 1:19 PM

After six years of falling enrollment and cutbacks, with further budgetary and academic uncertainty roiling campus this fall, University of Montana President Royce Engstrom will resign effective Dec. 31, the state's Commissioner of Higher Education said Thursday.

Commissioner Clayton Christian announced Engstrom's departure in a morning email to campus, stating that he asked Engstrom "to consider this transition at this time based on my belief that a change in leadership direction is the right step for UM going forward." An hour later, the state announced in a follow-up email that Christian's predecessor as higher education commissioner, Sheila Stearns, would take over as interim president while a national search is conducted. Engstrom's annual contract was scheduled to expire June 30.

Engstrom, part-way through his seventh academic year, has presided over some of the most tumultuous times in UM's history. Enrollment was at an all-time high when he assumed the duty as president in October 2010, but soon entered a state of free-fall that has yet to relent and counts as one the steepest drops at any public university this decade. This fall's numbers marked the worst decline yet, with student retention slipping as well. The loss of 3,250 students in six years, in excess of 20 percent of the student body, has prompted budgetary bloodletting, layoffs and institutional soul-searching that will continue well beyond his departure.
University of Montana President Royce Engstrom will step down Dec. 31, at the request of the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education. - PHOTO BY CHAD HARDER
  • photo by Chad Harder
  • University of Montana President Royce Engstrom will step down Dec. 31, at the request of the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education.
Engstrom leaves with the university mid-way through a rewrite of its strategic plan and during the initial stages of a sweeping, high-stakes exercise in "prioritizing" university offerings that will winnow academic programs. UM and the rest of the Montana University System also are preparing to lobby the Montana Legislature when it convenes in January. The changes on campus are being led by a slew of new and interim administrators hired by Engstrom, including four cabinet-level officials in the past year alone. It was the largest shake-up at Main Hall since UM's sexual assault scandal exploded during the second year of the president's tenure.

UM's public turmoil contrasted with Engstrom's own understated, non-confrontational style. He receded from the spotlight in recent months, instead putting forward members of his cabinet to speak on behalf of the university. Last year, after overseeing the reduction of 192 positions on campus, Engstrom donated his annual raise to student scholarships—a move he was said to have performed quietly in prior years, but which rising tension on campus pushed him to disclose publicly.

Christian, in his email, credited Engstrom for strengthening the university "in many respects." In particular, he pointed to increases in research spending and fundraising, the construction of a new Missoula College building, and reforms enacted around sexual assault response.

The commissioner's office, however, began sending mixed signals last week, first speaking critically of UM's budget situation before saying that university leaders had a good plan in place and were moving to make changes at an appropriate pace.

Asked to elaborate on the commissioner's desire for a "change in leadership direction," spokesman Kevin McRae says, "it is as plain and clear as that."

"He believes a change in leadership at the president level is best for UM at this time and going forward," McRae says. "There is no other reason."

Stearns, selected to oversee the transition in the coming months, has one of the deepest higher-education resumes in Montana, including longstanding ties to UM. She received bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from the university before serving as director of alumni relations and vice president for university relations in the 1980s. After being a finalist for the president position ultimately awarded to George Dennison, Stearns was hired as provost and chancellor at UM Western, then became president of Wayne State University in Nebraska. She returned to lead the Montana University System from 2003 through 2012, serving as the longest-tenured Commissioner of Higher Education in state history. Stearns is currently a senior consultant for the national Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

Christian approached Stearns about stepping in "in the last day or two," she tells the Indy. "I was very surprised to hear about a transition this major. I said I would like a little time to think about it."

Stearns says her "longtime familiarity with and affection for the university" prompted her to take the job. Her priority is to make those on campus feel valued while making changes as necessary. "I'm not going to just be a caretaker," she says.

Stearns says she spoke with Engstrom over the phone.

"He's an extremely gracious, dignified man," she says.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Your future, a little early

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 2:00 PM

Find Rob Brezsny's "Free Will Astrology" online, every week, one day before it hits the Indy's printed pages.

ARIES (March 21-April 19): “Creative people are at greater risk,” said psychiatrist R. D. Laing, “just as one who climbs a mountain is more at risk than one who walks along a village lane.” I bring this to your attention, Aries, because in the coming weeks you will have the potential to be abundantly creative, as well as extra imaginative, ingenious and innovative. But I should also let you know that if you want to fulfill this potential, you must be willing to work with the extra tests and challenges that life throws your way. For example, you could be asked to drop a pose, renounce lame excuses or reclaim powers that you gave away once upon a time.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Taurus musician Brian Eno has been successful as a composer, producer, singer and visual artist. Among his many collaborators have been David Byrne, David Bowie, U2, Coldplay, Laurie Anderson, Grace Jones and James Blake. Eno’s biographer David Sheppard testified that capturing his essence in a book was “like packing a skyscraper into a suitcase.” I suspect that description may fit you during the next four weeks, Taurus. You’re gearing up for some high-intensity living. But please don’t be nervous about it. Although you may be led into intimate contact with unfamiliar themes and mysterious passions, the story you actualize should feel quite natural.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): You are free! Or almost free! Or let me put it this way: You could become significantly freer if you choose to be—if you exert your willpower to snatch the liberating experiences that are available. For example, you could be free from a slippery obligation that has driven you to say things you don’t mean. You could be free from the temptation to distort your soul in service to your ego. You might even be free to go after what you really want rather than indulging in lazy lust for a gaggle of mediocre thrills. Be brave, Gemini. Define your top three emancipating possibilities, and pursue them with vigor and rigor.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Have you been feeling twinges of perplexity? Do you find yourself immersed in meandering meditations that make you doubt your commitments? Are you entertaining weird fantasies that give you odd little shivers and quivers? I hope so! As an analyzer of cycles, I suspect that now is an excellent time to question everything. You could have a lot of fun playing with riddles and wrestling with enigmas. Please note, however, that I’m not advising you to abandon what you’ve been working on and run away. Now is a time for fertile inquiry, not for rash actions. It’s healthy to contemplate adjustments, but not to initiate massive overhauls.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): “Everybody is dealing with how much of their own aliveness they can bear and how much they need to anesthetize themselves,” writes psychoanalytic writer Adam Phillips. Where do you fit on this scale, Leo? Whatever your usual place might be, I’m guessing that in the coming weeks you will approach record-breaking levels in your ability to handle your own aliveness. You may even summon and celebrate massive amounts of aliveness that you had previously suppressed. In fact, I’ll recklessly speculate that your need to numb yourself will be closer to zero than it has been since you were five years old. (I could be exaggerating a bit; but maybe not!)

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Do you periodically turn the volume down on your mind’s endless chatter and tune into the still, small voice within you? Have you developed reliable techniques for escaping the daily frenzy so as to make yourself available for the Wild Silence that restores and revitalizes? If so, now would be a good time to make aggressive use of those capacities. And if you haven’t attended well to these rituals of self-care, please remedy the situation. Claim more power to commune with your depths. In the coming weeks, most of your best information will flow from the sweet darkness.

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The flip-flop clad Wyoming woman who drove a forklift drunk (and more News of the Weird)

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 11:58 AM

Democracy in Action
While “democracy” in most of America means electing representatives to run government, on Nov. 8 in San Francisco it also expected voters to decide 43 often vague, densely worded “issues” that, according to critics, could better be handled by the professionals who are, after all, elected by those very same voters. Except for hot-button issues like tax increases or hardened legislative gridlock, solutions on these “propositions” (e.g., how certain contractors’ fees should be structured, which obscure official has primary responsibility for which obscure job, or the notorious proposition asking whether actors in the tax-paying porno industry must use condoms) would be, in other states, left to elected officials, lessening voter need for a deep dive into civics.

Police Report

Inexplicable: (1) The police chief of Bath Township, Ohio, acknowledged the overnight break-in on Oct. 10 or 11 at the University Hospitals Ghent Family Practice, but said nothing was missing. It appeared that an intruder (or intruders) had performed some medical procedure in a clinical office (probably on an ear) because instruments were left in bowls and a surgical glove and medication wrappings tossed into a trash can (and a gown left on a table). (2) A 35-year-old man was detained by police in Vancouver, British Columbia, in October after a home break-in in which the intruder took off his clothes, grabbed some eggs and began preparing a meal. The homeowner, elsewhere in the house, noticed the commotion and the intruder fled (still naked).

How To Tell If You’ve Had Too Much To Drink: Ashley Basich, 49, was arrested in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in October and charged with DUI after police found her, late at night, using an industrial forklift to pick up and move a van that she explained was blocking her driveway. Problems: She works for the state forestry department and had commandeered a state-owned vehicle, she had a cooler of beer in the forklift and was operating it while wearing flip-flops (OSHA violation!), and the van “blocking” her driveway was her own.

Though most Chicago Police Department officers get no more than five civilian complaints in their entire careers (according to one defense attorney), CPD internal records released in October reveal that some had more than 100, and, of 13,000 complaints over 47 years in which police wrongdoing was conceded, only 68 cases resulted in the officer actually being fired (although the worst police offender, Jerome Finnigan, with 157 complaints over two decades, is now in federal prison).

Compelling Explanations: Two men in rural Coffee County, Georgia, told sheriff’s deputies in November that they had planned to soon attack a science-research center in Alaska because peoples’ “souls” were trapped there and needed to be released (or at least that is what God told Michael Mancil, 30, and James Dryden Jr., 22, causing them to amass a small but “something out of a movie” arsenal, according to the sheriff). The High Frequency Active Aural Research Facility, run by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has long been a target of conspiracists, in that “the study of the Earth’s atmosphere” obviously, they say, facilitates “mind control,” snatching souls.

Well, Of Course! (1) Motorist Luke Campbell, 28, was arrested near Minneapolis in September and charged with firing his gun at several passing cars, wounding one man (a bus passenger)—explaining to a bystander that shooting at other vehicles “relieves stress.” (2) Briton Mark Wright, 45, caught with illegal drugs taped to his penis following his arrest for burglary, told Newcastle Crown Court in September that he had “hidden” them there to keep them secret from his wife (perhaps identifying one place that she no longer visits).

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 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): There is a 97 percent chance that you will NOT engage in the following activities within the next 30 days: naked skydiving, tight-rope walking between two skyscrapers, getting drunk on a mountaintop, taking ayahuasca with Peruvian shamans in a remote rural hut, or dancing ecstatically in a muddy pit of snakes. However, I suspect that you will be involved in almost equally exotic exploits—although less risky ones—that will require you to summon more pluck and improvisational skill than you knew you had.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): The Onion, my favorite news source, reported that, “It’s perfectly natural for people to fantasize about sandwiches other than the one currently in their hands.” You shouldn’t feel shame, the article said, if you’re enjoying a hoagie but suddenly feel an inexplicable yearning for a BLT or pastrami on rye. While I appreciate this reassuring counsel, I don’t think it applies to you in the coming weeks. In my opinion, you have a sacred duty to be unwaveringly faithful, both in your imagination and your actual behavior—as much for your own sake as for others’. I advise you to cultivate an up-to-date affection for and commitment to what you actually have, and not indulge in obsessive fantasies about “what ifs.”

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): I hesitate to deliver the contents of this horoscope without a disclaimer. Unless you are an extremely ethical person with a vivid streak of empathy, you might be prone to abuse the information I’m about to present. So please ignore it unless you can responsibly employ the concepts of benevolent mischief and tricky blessings and cathartic shenanigans. Ready? Here’s your oracle: Now is a favorable time for grayer truths, wilder leaps of the imagination, more useful bullshit, funnier enigmas, and more outlandish stories seasoned with crazy wisdom.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Kavachi is an underwater volcano in the Southwest Pacific Ocean. It erupts periodically, and in general makes the surrounding water so hot and acidic that human divers must avoid it. And yet some hardy species live there, including crabs, jellyfish, stingrays and sharks. What adaptations and strategies enable them to thrive in such an extreme environment? Scientists don’t know. I’m going to draw a comparison between you and the resourceful creatures living near Kavachi. In the coming weeks, I bet you’ll flourish in circumstances that normal people might find daunting.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Seventeenth-century British people used the now-obsolete word “firktytoodle.” It meant “cuddling and snuggling accompanied by leisurely experiments in smooching, fondling, licking and sweet dirty talk.” The coming weeks will be prime time for you to carry out extensive experiments in this activity. But here’s an interesting question: Will the near future also be a favorable phase for record levels of orgasmic release? The answer: maybe, but IF AND ONLY IF you pursue firkytoodle as an end in itself; IF AND ONLY IF you relish the teasing and playing as if they were ultimate rewards, and don’t relegate them to being merely preliminary acts for pleasures that are supposedly bigger and better. P.S. These same principles apply not just to your intimate connections, but to everything else in your life, as well. Enjoying the journey is as important as reaching a destination.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Here’s an experiment worth trying: Reach back into the past to find a remedy for what’s bugging you now. In other words, seek out on an old, perhaps even partially forgotten influence to resolve a current dilemma that has resisted your efforts to master it. This is one time when it may make good sense to temporarily resurrect a lost dream. You could energize your future by drawing inspiration from possibilities that might have been but never were.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

The fist-fighting nerds of the Bronx High School of Science (and more News of the Weird)

Posted By on Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 9:00 AM

The Nanny State
New York City officially began licensing professional fire eaters earlier this year, and classes have sprung up to teach the art so that the city’s Fire Department Explosives Unit can test for competence (if not “judgment”) and issue the “E29” certificates. In the “bad old (license-less) days,” a veteran fire eater told The New York Times in October, a “bunch of us” performed regularly for $50 a throw, largely oblivious of the dangers (though some admit that almost everyone eventually gets “badly burned”). For authenticity, the Times writer, a fire eater who dubbed herself Lady Aye, completed the licensing process herself (“as sexy as applying for a mortgage”), but declined to say whether she is awaiting bookings.

Bright Ideas

A major streetlight in the town of Pebmarsh Close, England, went out of service when a truck hit it a year ago, and despite pleas to fix it from townspeople—and Essex county councillor Dave Harris—no action has been taken. In October, Harris staged a “birthday party” on the site, formally inviting numerous guests, and furnishing a birthday cake—to “celebrate” the “age” of the broken streetlight. (The shamed county highway office quickly promised action.)

Prominent British radio host Dame Jenni Murray suggested in October that the U.K. scrap traditional “sex education” courses in school and instead show pornographic videos for classes to “analyze it in exactly the same way as (they analyze Jane Austen)” in order to encourage discussion of the role of sex. Younger students might explore why a boy should not look up a girl’s skirt, but older students would view hard-core material to confront, for example, whether normal women should “shave” or make the typical screeching moans that porno “actresses” make. Dame Jenni said simply condemning pornography is naive because too much money is at stake.

At a World Cup qualifier match in October in Quito, Ecuador, police arrived during the game to question star player Enner Valencia about an unpaid alimony complaint, and he saw them waiting on the sideline. Local media reported that Valencia then faked an on-field injury near the end of the match to “necessitate” being taken away by ambulance, thus outmaneuvering the police. (He settled the complaint in time for the next match.)

Are We Safe?
The security firm Trend Micro disclosed in October its “surprise” to find, in the course of a routine investigation, that firms in several crucial sectors (nuclear power, electric utilities, defense contractors, computer chip makers) send critical alert messages via old-style wireless pagers wholly unsecured against hacking. In fact, Trend Micro said the enormously popular WhatsApp message-exchange app has better security than the alert systems of nuclear power plants. (Infrastructure engineers defended the outdated technology as useful where internet access was unavailable.)

Life Imitates Art: Security experts hired by the investment firm Muddy Waters (which is being sued for defamation by St. Jude Medical Inc. over claims that St. Jude’s cardiac implant device can be hacked) disclosed in an October court filing that they agree the devices are anonymously and maliciously hackable. They found that a popular control device (Merlin@Home) could be remotely turned off, or jiggered to carry a dangerous electrical charge from up to 100 feet away. (A similar incident was part of a plot in Season 2 of the “Homeland” TV series, as the means by which the ailing U.S. vice president was assassinated.)

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Nov 9, 2016 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): Now and then you display an excessive egotism that pushes people away. But during the next six weeks you will have an excellent chance to shed some of that tendency, even as you build more of the healthy pride that attracts help and support. So be alert for a steady flow of intuitions that will instruct you on how to elude overconfidence and instead cultivate more of the warm, radiant charisma that is your birthright. You came here to planet Earth not just to show off your bright beauty, but also to wield it as a source of inspiration and motivation for those whose lives you touch.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): “How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else,” said inventor Buckminster Fuller. I don’t fully endorse that perspective. For example, when I said goodbye to North Carolina with the intention to make Northern California my new home, Northern California is exactly where I ended up and stayed. Having said that, however, I suspect that the coming months could be one of those times when Fuller’s formula applies to you. Your ultimate destination may turn out to be different from your original plan. But here’s the tricky part: If you do want to eventually be led to the situation that’s right for you, you have to be specific about setting a goal that seems right for now.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): If you were an obscenely rich plutocrat, you might have a pool table on your super yacht. And to ensure that you and your buddies could play pool even in a storm that rocked your boat, you would have a special gyroscopic instrument installed to keep your pool table steady and stable. But I doubt you have such luxury at your disposal. You’re just not that wealthy or decadent. You could have something even better, however: metaphorical gyroscopes that will keep you steady and stable as you navigate your way through unusual weather. Do you know what I’m referring to? If not, meditate on the three people or influences that might best help you stay grounded. Then make sure you snuggle up close to those people and influences during the next two weeks.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): The coming weeks will be a good time to fill your bed with rose petals and sleep with their aroma caressing your dreams. You should also consider the following acts of intimate revolution: listening to sexy spiritual flute music while carrying on scintillating conversations with interesting allies . . . sharing gourmet meals in which you and your sensual companions use your fingers to slowly devour your delectable food . . . dancing naked in semi-darkness as you imagine your happiest possible future. Do you catch my drift, Cancerian? You’re due for a series of appointments with savvy bliss and wild splendor.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): “I have always wanted . . . my mouth full of strange sunlight,” writes Leo poet Michael Dickman in his poem “My Honeybee.” In another piece, while describing an outdoor scene from childhood, he innocently asks, “What kind of light is that?” Elsewhere he confesses, “What I want more than anything is to get down on paper what the shining looks like.” In accordance with the astrological omens, Leo, I suggest you follow Dickman’s lead in the coming weeks. You will receive soulful teachings if you pay special attention to both the qualities of the light you see with your eyes and the inner light that wells up in your heart.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): The Passage du Gois is a 2.8-mile causeway that runs between the western French town of Beauvoir-sur-Mer and the island of Noirmoutier in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s only usable twice a day when the tide goes out, and even then for just an hour or two. The rest of the time it’s under water. If you hope to walk or bike or drive across, you must accommodate yourself to nature’s rhythms. I suspect there’s a metaphorically similar phenomenon in your life, Virgo. To get to where you want to go next, you can’t necessarily travel exactly when you feel like it. The path will be open and available for brief periods. But it will be open and available.

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Monday, November 7, 2016

Rockies Today, November 7

Posted By on Mon, Nov 7, 2016 at 10:51 AM

Next president must confront Colorado River cuts

A University of Colorado team has issued a water warning to the next president: the Colorado River cannot meet the current needs of 35 million westerners, and an order to reduce water siphoned from the river by 333,000 acre feet—equivalent to the water used in 666,0000 homes—will likely be needed come next August.

Feds may order first cuts in water from Colorado River; CU team issues warning to next president
A University of Colorado team led by a former Obama administration water chief has issued a water warning to the next…
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials on Tuesday confirmed the finding. Federal models show a 48 percent chance that, without cuts, lower basin states Arizona, California and Nevada would face shortages starting in 2018.
Anne Castle, President Obama’s former Interior Department Assistant Secretary for Water and Science and now a senior fellow at CU’s Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment, led a team of five researchers. They interviewed 65 western water policy experts and decision-makers in addition to analyzing federal data.
“This really is a critical time. Action is required. We’re closer to the edge than we ever have been,” Castle said.

Wyoming school, filled with toxic gases, still closed

In May, health officials closed down the 120-student K-12 school in Midwest, Wyoming, after detecting dangerous levels of toxic gases inside. Midwest sits in the middle of the Salt Creek oil field, the oldest in Wyoming. Months later, “Other than the skittering of leaves across the cordoned-off parking lot, the only sounds are the clink of the flagpole and the dog barking across the street.”

“There’s so many wells in this area,” says Jennifer Sutherland Bishop, coach of the school volleyball team. “It would take them so long to check it — years to check every single one of these wells — and the one that gives us the most problem is on the school property?”
In September, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department released the results of air quality tests from May. Carbon dioxide levels inside the school were 26 times the recommended limit, which made some areas of the school oxygen-deficient. Levels of benzene, which can have serious short and long-term health effects, were 200 times the amount deemed safe by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a branch of the Centers for Disease Control.

Voters in Colorado county may ban pot businesses

Proponents of getting rid of the recreational marijuana industry in Pueblo County say any benefits are far outweighed by its burdens.

More than anywhere else in Colorado, Pueblo tied its future to the marijuana jobs, tax revenues and other economic benefits touted by legalization advocates around the country. But almost three years after legalization took effect in Colorado, Pueblo is reconsidering that strategy.
On Tuesday, voters will decide whether to ban recreational marijuana businesses. There are two essentially identical measures up for vote — one for the city of Pueblo, the other for outlying Pueblo County, where all of the recreational businesses are currently located.

A researcher maps pipeline water security

International water security and transboundary river post-doctoral researcher, Jennifer Veilleux, saw the protests escalate in North Dakota and scoured the internet for information on the major waterways the Dakota Access pipeline would impact, and where Indigenous people lived in relation to those. She couldn’t find much. So she mapped it herself.

What resulted were two detailed socio-ecological maps of the Missouri River Basin, created by Veilleux and the team she assembled, in total 16 geographers, cartographers, lawyers, and researchers who are all collaborating voluntarily. One outlines major waterways the pipeline would intersect and possibly leak into and the nearby tribal lands. The other shows the percentage of Indigenous people by county living near waterways that could be affected by the pipeline, which crosses four Western states.

Why the pipeline push?

In 2015, crude oil production increased for the seventh consecutive year, reaching 9.42 million barrels per day, the highest level since 1972.

In 2015, production gains were highest in Texas, the Gulf of Mexico, and North Dakota, as these three regions accounted for 77% of the U.S. total increase.

Exploring Old Faithful’s plumbing

The research could offer new insight into Yellowstone’s hydrothermal explosions, which have occurred irregularly throughout the park’s history.

Using a helicopter, researchers will fly a hoop-shaped electromagnetic system over Yellowstone for about a month. The device, which was developed in Denmark to map groundwater supplies, seeks to map Yellowstone’s hydrothermal innards without the need to dig. It works almost like an X-ray for hot water flow, able to distinguish water from rock as deep as 1,500 feet below the surface.

Snake River dam debate revived

After a federal judge criticized the government for failing to consider whether breaching four giant dams on the Snake River would save wild salmon runs, agencies must take a new look at all approaches to managing the the dams in southeast Washington, including breaching them. Public meetings are underway.

“This is an action that (government agencies) have done their utmost to avoid considering for decades,” [the judge] wrote.
His order triggered 15 public meetings in Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon, where the dam removal issue has percolated for two decades.
The first meeting was held last month, and the final one is scheduled for Dec. 8. After that, a plan to save the salmon must be created.
The Snake River, at just over 1,000 miles, is the 13th longest in the United States, flowing from the western border of Wyoming to its confluence with the mighty Columbia River in Washington. For much of its history, the river and its tributaries produced salmon runs in the millions that sustained Native American tribes who lived near its banks. The best salmon spawning grounds were in Idaho, and were hampered by the construction of the four dams.
Environmental groups say restoring the salmon runs is impossible with the four dams in place.

In Idaho, buy into solar without a roof

Idaho Power’s community solar project in southeast Boise allows customers who cannot install their own rooftop solar panels because they live in rental properties or multi-unit dwellings to take advantage of solar power.

Idaho Power in the past has been rough on rooftop solar customers like many utilities who worry they allow these customers to get out of paying for the rest of the the company’s grid. But this pilot project could lead to future, perhaps larger, projects. Small-scale pilot programs, the commission said, “are valuable for learning what works and what does not.” Idaho Power said the pilot will assist the utility in learning the “complexities associated with offering community solar programs including: customer commitment, construction, contracting, interconnection, maintenance and billing.”

Calgary’s unemployment rate hits 23-year high

Calgary’s unemployment rate reached double-digits in October, up to 10.2 per cent, its highest level since November 1993.

Calgary appears to have suffered a big share of the economic pain from a recession triggered by persistently low oil prices.
According to [Economist Trevor] Tombe, it’s because job losses in the resource sector have occurred not so much in energy production, but almost entirely in areas that require new investment in the oilpatch, such as exploration, engineering and geology.
“Those jobs are disproportionately in Calgary than in Edmonton,” Tombe said.
A high unemployment rate has made job-hunting a source of desperation — even helplessness — in a city with a crowded field of candidates.

The country’s newest scenic trail

While the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail may not be as well known as some of the nation’s other long-distance paths — including the Continental Divide Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Appalachian Trail — a small group of people is working tirelessly to elevate its status.

The trail begins at the Chief Mountain Customs Station on the U.S.-Canadian border in Glacier National Park. From there, it veers west, passing Waterton Lake and crossing the Continental Divide near Chapman Peak. The trail follows Bowman Lake and exits Glacier at Polebridge where it enters Forest Service land. The trail continues west to Eureka, where it briefly follows U.S. Highway 93 and then Montana Highway 37 from Rexford to the Koocanusa Bridge. It then heads into the woods for the remainder of its journey to Idaho and on to Washington.

Australian mayor embarks on mission to make his city porn-free (and more News of the Weird)

Posted By on Mon, Nov 7, 2016 at 9:00 AM

Can’t Possibly Be True
Kids as young as 6 who live on a cliff top in China’s Atule’er village in Sichuan province will no longer have to use flexible vine-based ladders to climb down and up the 2,600-foot descent from their homes to school. Beijing News disclosed in October, in a report carried by CNN, that a sturdy steel ladder was being built to aid the 400 villagers after breathtaking photographs of them making the treacherous commute surfaced on the internet earlier this year [CNN, 10-26-2016].

Round Up The Usual Suspects (“Youth Pastors”)

Sentenced to six years in prison for sex with teenage girls (September): former Youth Pastor David Hayman, 38 (Hackensack, New Jersey). Sentenced to six months in jail for sending inappropriate texts to teenage boys (August): former Youth Pastor Brian Burchfield (Shawnee, Oklahoma). Charged and awaiting trial for impregnating a 15-year-old girl (October): Youth Pastor Wesley Blackburn, 35 (New Paris, Pennsylvania). Sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexual abuse of a 16-year-old girl (September): former Youth Pastor Brian Mitchell, 31 (North Olmsted, Ohio). Charged and awaiting trial for luring teenagers into prostitution (October): Youth Pastor Ron Cooper, 52 (Miami). Sentenced to 90 days in jail as part of a sex assault case involving a 13-year-old girl (September): former Youth Pastor Christopher Hutchinson, 37 (Parker, Colorado).

An “Ant” Version of Hell
Researchers in Poland reported in August the “survival” of a colony of ants that wandered unsuspectingly into an old nuclear weapon bunker and became trapped. When researchers first noticed in 2013, they assumed the ants would soon die, either freezing or starving to death, but, returning in 2015 and 2016, they found the population stable. Their only guess: New ants were falling into the bunker, “replacing” the dead ones. Thus, ants condemned to the bunker slowly starve, freezing, in total darkness, until newly condemned ants arrive and freeze and starve in total darkness—and on and on.

Judicial Activism
Jackson County, Michigan, judge John McBain briefly gained notoriety in October when a Michigan news site released courtroom video of a December 2015 hearing in which McBain felt the need to throw off his robe, leap from the bench and tackle defendant Jacob Larson, who was resisting the one court officer on hand to restrain him. Yelling “Tase his ass right now,” McBain is shown holding on until help arrived—with Larson perhaps undermining his earlier courtroom statements claiming it was his girlfriend, and not he, who was the aggressor in alleged stalking incidents.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2016 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): I am in awe of your headfirst, charge-forward, no-distractions approach. In fact, I aspire to incorporate more of the Aries-style directness into my own repertoire. But I also love it when, on rare occasions, you flirt with a more strategic perspective. It amuses me to see you experimenting with the power of secrets. Your wisdom often grows at an expedited rate when you get caught up in a web of intrigue that exposes you to dark joys and melodramatic lessons. During times like these, you feel fine about not having everything figured out, about not knowing the most straightforward route to your destination. You allow the riddles and enigmas to ferment as you bask in the voluptuous ambiance of the Great Mystery. Now is such a time.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): I am pleased to inform you that at least 30 percent of what you think you know about love and lust is too prosaic. Probably too narrow and constrained, as well. But here’s the good news: As soon as you agree to relinquish the dull certainty of that 30-plus percent, you will open yourself to a surge of fresh teachings. And soon, I expect, dewy throbs and hot flows will awaken in all the erotic parts of your body, including your heart and brain and soul. If you’re brave enough to respond, generous lessons in intimacy will keep you entertained for weeks.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Over the last two decades, well-meaning Westerners have donated a profusion of clothes to low-income folks in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Kind and magnanimous, right? Yes, but their largesse has had an unintended consequence: the demise of the textile industry in those African countries. With this as a cautionary tale, I’m asking you to take inventory of your own acts of benevolence and charity. Are they having effects that you approve of? If not completely, how could you adjust the way you give your gifts and bestow your blessings?

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Is it possible that you might flourish as a topdog after all the work you’ve put in as an underdog? Can you wean yourself from the worried fantasy that you’ve got endless dues to pay, and then harness your imagination to expand your confidence and build your clout? I believe you can. And in the coming weeks I will unleash a flood of prayers to the Goddess of Holy Reversals, asking her to assist you. Now please repeat after me: “I am a creative force of nature. I am a strong song of liberation. I am a wise animal with direct access to my primal intelligence.”

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): The next two weeks could be smooth, peaceful and bland. Is that the experience you want? Mild satisfactions, sweet boredom and slow progress? There’s nothing wrong with any of that. Please feel free to loll and loaf as you explore the healing charms of laziness. Grant yourself permission to avoid conflict and cultivate sunny self-protectiveness. This is one of those times when silence and stasis are among the best gifts you can give yourself. Welcome the rejuvenating power of emptiness!

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): It’s time to replace banged-up, dried-out old obsessions with ripe, juicy fascinations. It’s your duty to phase out numbing traditions and deadening habits so as to make room for exciting new rituals, customs and sacraments. Can you summon the electric willpower to shed influences that are technically “correct” but lacking in soulfulness? I think you can. Do you love yourself enough to forswear pretty but meaningless titillations? I think you do. Now get out there and do the hard work necessary to bring more serious fun into your life. Homework: Write an essay titled “What I Can Do to Be More Playful.”

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Monday, October 31, 2016

Oxford fellow wins award for living like an otter, a badger and a fox (and more News of the Weird)

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2016 at 9:00 AM

Religion Adapts to Technology
A network of freelance Buddhist priests in Japan last year began offering in-home, a la carte services (for those adherents who shun temples) through Amazon in Japan, quoting fixed fees and bypassing the usual awkward deliberation over “donations.” And in September, Pastor David Taylor of Joshua Media Ministries International (St. Louis, Missouri) announced, to great fanfare, that he had “resurrected” a diabetic woman, 40 minutes after her death, by sending the lady a text message—through Facebook (though, of course, neither she nor any family member was available for an interview).

Redneck Chronicles

As a dispute escalated between two brothers at their recycling plant in Bow, New Hampshire, in October, Peter Emanuel used his front-end loader to tip over the crane being operated by Stanley Emanuel (who managed to jump out just in time). Peter was arrested.

Thousands flocked to the annual Roadkill Cooking Festival in Marlinton, West Virginia, in September, featuring an array of “tasting” dishes (e.g., black bear, possum, elk, snapping turtle) with a competition in which judges deducted points if the “chef” had not managed to remove all gravel or asphalt.

Fine Points of Canadian Law
Luckily, thought Jamie Richardson of Whitehorse, Yukon, she had medical insurance for her 7-year-old Akita, who had torn a ligament in a hind leg. But it turned out that the policy, written by Canada’s largest pet insurer, Petsecure, did not cover dog injuries from “jumping, running, slipping, tripping or playing”—that is, Richardson concluded, injuries caused by “being a dog.” (After Richardson protested, Petsecure relented but, it said, only because Richardson had been a longtime customer.)

The Way the World Works: Who is the most at fault when (a) a mother provides beer to her underage son, (b) who then, with a pal, gulps down a bottle of vodka and steals a car from a dealer’s lot, and (c) drunkenly crashes, leaving the pal with a catastrophic brain injury? In October, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a jury verdict that parceled out “fault,” but assigned more to the victim of the 2006 car theft (Rankin’s Garage of Paisley, Ontario) than to the mother or the driver (because Rankin’s having left the key in the car overnight made it irresistible to “teenage car thieves”).

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