Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Mike Fellows dies while campaigning for U.S. House

Posted By on Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 7:04 PM

Mike Fellows’ absence from breakfast on Monday was noticed by members of Missoula’s American Legion Post 27, according to Commander John Angwin, even if it wasn’t particularly surprising. Fellows, a first vice commander, wasn’t known for missing events, but the 59-year-old had been ailing lately, admitted to Providence St. Patrick Hospital twice in recent months as his kidneys failed. And yet at 5:30 that same Monday evening, Fellows hobbled with the help of a walker into the Seeley Lake community hall, 45 miles away, to talk about his latest race for U.S. House as the Libertarian candidate. He was the only House candidate to attend the town forum.

Fellows’ remarks to the audience of around 30 people were his last. After giving his closing statement, he began driving home, alone, in his old Lexus sedan that had a few campaign stickers affixed to the rear bumper. Around 9 p.m., according to the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, Fellows crossed the center line near Potomac, colliding head-on with an oncoming car. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Fellows was the face of the Montana Libertarian Party for 20 years, running in every statewide election while serving as its chairman. “The Montana Libertarian Party was Mike’s life,” says Andrew Forcier, state director for the Gary Johnson campaign. He typically polled in the single digits, but did garner over 40 percent of the vote—a national Libertarian party record—in the 2014 race for clerk of the Supreme Court when Republicans didn’t field a candidate. Political observers credit Fellows’ efforts for ensuring the Libertarian Party has kept a foothold in the state.

Still, campaigning on the political fringe could be a lonely endeavor, and Fellows’ idiosyncrasies seemed to match his outsider status. He mumbled from the podium in a voice Seeley Lake Community Council Chair Klaus von Stutterheim says was difficult to understand. Longtime state politics reporter Chuck Johnson recalls that Fellows refused to disclose personal details, including his exact age, because he considered the information private.
Fellows was killed during a head-on collision on Highway 200 near Potomac while driving his Lexus sedan. - PHOTO COURTESY MONTANA LIBERTARIAN PARTY FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Photo Courtesy Montana Libertarian Party Facebook page
  • Fellows was killed during a head-on collision on Highway 200 near Potomac while driving his Lexus sedan.

Even his colleagues at Missoula Community Access Television, where he worked as a producer for 24 years and served as treasurer, found Fellows inscrutable. “I really enjoyed Mike’s personality, his sense of humor,” says General Manager Joel Baird, who worked with Fellows since he started a pair of local programs in the ’90s. “In the conventional sense of, ‘Who is his family? What friends does he hang out with? Does he have any romantic interests ever?,’ nobody here could tell you.”

They did notice, however, as Fellows’ health deteriorated. Baird says Fellows appeared “incredibly frail” in recent weeks, having only begun dialysis after months of resistance.

“Part of his Libertarian principle seemed to be that he didn’t want medical help, he didn’t want to release to medical authorities the information,” Baird says.

Fellows was first admitted to St. Pat’s this spring after another MCAT producer convinced Fellows to go to the emergency room, then again in August just before a pair of scheduled debates. Fellows explained his absence to the Billings Gazette by saying he didn’t think it was safe to drive long distances in his current health.

Less than three weeks later, Fellows was back on the trail.

“He continued to campaign because he was that committed to it,” Forcier says. “He acknowledged at different points in time that he was putting his health behind his candidacy.”

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Rockies Today, September 19

Posted By on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 12:09 PM

Mountain West News is a service of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West — a regional studies and public education program at the University of Montana. The Center’s purpose is to serve as an important and credible resource for people in the state and region in understanding the region’s past, present, and future. For more, visit mountainwestnews.org.

Colorado finds success in restoration projects

Razorback sucker fish thrived in the Colorado River before falling victim to dams, development and nonnative predators that ate them nearly to extinction. But a 25-year, $360 million government-run rescue has the razorbacks making a comeback.

Meanwhile, a three-decade, $62 million Superfund cleanup has Clear Creek, in the historic mining town of Idaho Springs, living up to its name.

For pipeline protesters, the fight’s nothing new

But might the outcome be different?

Indigenous people have a long history opposing energy development and infrastructure projects they say threaten their environment. Those fights, including the one today, raise questions about sovereignty. About tribes’ rights to have a say in managing their land.
“Just about every tribe has horror stories about the government allowing companies and corporations at will to destroy these sacred sites.,” said Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.
From environmental problems in Alaska after the Exxon Valdez oil spill to coal mining on ancestral land, these stories are shared widely at the camps here in North Dakota.

Market shifts make CPP fight a matter of principle

Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah are among the 27 states challenging the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, even though those Western states are among the 21 plaintiffs on track to meet the plan’s 2030 emissions targets.

“We don’t have anything against clean air,” Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman told Reuters. “That really doesn’t factor into my decision to say the federal government has gone beyond its legal authority.”

Eight-second attention spans and two-billion-year-old landscapes

“Young people,” Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, told me, “are more separated from the natural world than perhaps any generation before them.”

Canada to impose carbon price

The central government will soon levy a minimum national carbon price on any province that lacks adequate plans to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions. “It’s mandatory that everyone will have to have a price on carbon. If provinces don’t do that, the federal government will provide a backstop,” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Sunday.

Canada’s provinces will be able to choose either to tax greenhouse-gas emissions, as British Columbia and Alberta have already done and the Trudeau government favors, or adopt the cap-and-trade approach Ontario and Quebec have put in place. The federal mandate would likely involve some form of higher taxes on fuels. McKenna says that the price will have to be high enough to encourage energy conservation or switch to cleaner renewable sources, and that it will have to rise over time.

More grizzlies wander into Montana’s open plains

On Friday morning a man was outside doing chores at his home near Dutton, 35 miles northwest of Great Falls, when he thought he saw four-wheelers in a field. They were grizzlies — a sow grizzly and three cubs.

As winter approaches, grizzly bears are searching up and down the Rocky Mountain Front for food to fatten up before hibernation, said Mike Madel, a grizzly bear management specialist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
That’s brought them into open areas in farm and ranch country such as the grain field where Pilgeram spotted the four bears Friday.
“I think there will be an increase in observations of bears crossing these open farmland and ranch land areas looking for grain,” Madel said.

Abandoned mines complicate Snowbird expansion

As Snowbird ski resort in Utah moves to expand, some worry that dozens of disturbed mine sites will send toxic sediments down the canyon and pollute water.

For the past 60 years, heavy metals from mines in Mary Ellen Gulch and Mineral Basin have settled in the sediments behind Tibble Fork Dam, several miles downstream, without doing much harm to the environment. That changed on Aug. 20, when the North Utah County Water Conservancy District drew down the reservoir — releasing up to 8,700 cubic yards of sediments into the American Fork River, wiping out all fish for a two-mile stretch and contaminating the river bed.

Canadian energy firms can’t find buyers

The unwanted companies in the oilpatch.

There’s a “gulf” between what buyers are willing to pay and what sellers are willing to accept, Hansen said, especially for assets offering marginal returns at today’s low oil and gas prices.

Montana watershed project lands federal funds

The Whitefish Lake Watershed Project “is the culmination of years of work by land managers and environmental groups who recognized the development pressure that could bear down on the prized landscape surrounding Whitefish Lake, which is…laced with creeks and tributaries that provide critical habitat to grizzly bear, lynx, bull trout, cutthroat trout, elk, wolves, and white-tail deer in the state.”

It marks one of the most complex land swaps in state history, according to public land managers, and protects a block of land that sees among the heaviest concentrations of multiple-use in Montana — it is a working forest, a recreational haven, and the source of the lion’s share of Whitefish’s municipal water supply.

Coal companies seek ‘new equilibrium’

“Reorganization, bankruptcy and also just market turmoil, it’s kind of like you’re going through a storm. It’s a tough transition to a new equilibrium,” explained Rob Godby, director of the Energy Economics and Policies Center at the University of Wyoming. “But, most observers believe that the new market equilibrium — the reality of lower prices — is something that most (coal) companies are going to be able to deal with.”

Road crews upset Iceland's elves (and more News of the Weird)

Posted By on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 9:00 AM

What Goes Around, Comes Around
One of the Islamic State's first reforms in captured territory has been to require adult women to
 dress devoutly – including the face-covering burka robe, which, in Western democracies famously presents security dilemmas because it hinders identification. Now, after two years of Islamic State occupation in Mosul, Iraq, the security problem has come full circle on ISIS itself. Dispatches from the town reported in September that ISIS has likely banned the burka because it hinders identification of anti-ISIS insurgents who (female and male) wear burkas to sneak up on Islamic State officers.

Recurring Themes
Barbara Murphy, 64, of Roy, Utah, is the most recent "dead" person battling the federal government to prove she is still alive (but seemingly getting nowhere). She said Social Security Administration bureaucrats, citing protocols, have been tight-lipped about her problem and remedies even though her bank account was frozen; Social Security was dunning her for two years worth of Medicare premiums (since her 2014 "death"); and warning letters had been sent to banks and credit agencies. Nonetheless, Murphy told the Deseret News in August that, all in all, she feels pretty good despite being dead.
Political connections in some Latin American countries have allowed convicted drug dealers and crime bosses to serve their sentences comfortably, and the most recent instance to make the news, from Agence France-Presse, was the presidential-suite-type "cell" occupied by Brazilian drug lord Jarvis Chimenes Pavao in Paraguay. When police (apparently not "politically connected") raided the cell in July, they found a well-appointed apartment with semi-luxurious furniture settings (including a conference table for Pavao to conduct "business"), embellished wallpaper designs with built-in bookcases, a huge TV among the latest electronics – and even a handsome shoe rack holding Pavao's footwear selection. Pavao also rented out part of the suite to other inmates for the equivalent of $5,000 plus $600 weekly rent.

Sounds Familiar
Chris Atkins in Denver is among the most recent judicially ruled "fathers" to owe child support even though DNA tests have proven that another man's semen produced the child. Atkins is in the middle of a contentious divorce/child custody battle in which his estranged wife wants both custody and support payments, and since Atkins did not contest his fatherhood until the child reached age 11, he has lost legal standing. (2) A high school girl and her parents told the Tallahassee (Florida) Democrat in July that they were on the verge of filing a lawsuit demanding that the school district order the Leon High School cheerleader squad to select her (even though she had fallen twice during tryouts).

Least Competent Criminals
Boyd Wiley, 47, was arrested in August when he walked into the Putnam County (Florida) Sheriff's Office and, apparently in all seriousness, demanded that deputies return the 91 marijuana plants they had unearthed from a vacant lot in the town of Interlachen several days earlier. (Until that moment, deputies did not know whose plants they were.) Wiley was told that growing marijuana is illegal in Florida and was arrested.
Not a Techie: The most recent perp to realize that cops use Facebook is Mack Yearwood, 42, who ignored a relative's advice and uploaded his Citrus County, Florida, wanted poster for his Facebook profile picture, thus energizing deputies who, until then, had no leads on his whereabouts. He was caught a day later and faces a battery complaint and several open arrest warrants.

Continue reading »

Friday, September 16, 2016

Rockies Today, September 16

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 1:23 PM

Mountain West News is a service of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West — a regional studies and public education program at the University of Montana. The Center’s purpose is to serve as an important and credible resource for people in the state and region in understanding the region’s past, present, and future. For more, visit mountainwestnews.org.

Montana fastest-growing state in household income

While the New York Times reported earlier this week that the Census Bureau’s good economic news comes as a surprise to some rural areas, including Wyoming communities hard-hit by coal industry layoffs, the Census Bureau reported Thursday that in 2015 Montana was the fastest-growing state in median household income.

Using the 2015 American Community Survey, Census Bureau analysts estimated Montana’s median household income had grown 6.8 percent to $49,509, more than $3,000 over the 2014 median.

The new amount is still below the $55,775 national average. And the analysts also noted that their statistics are subject to sampling error. The 6.8 percent growth in Montana could be plus or minus 4.1 percent.

Meanwhile, in Colorado…

Coloradans earned more money last year and the poverty rate declined, but since 2007, the median monthly rent in Colorado has jumped 41 percent.

And in Utah…

Utah continues to gain economic strength, with incomes rising and poverty decreasing, though more than a quarter of the state’s young adults, ages 18 to 34, live with their parents.

Senate passes new coal ash regulations

The U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan measure that authorizes states to develop permitting programs for dealing with coal ash. Environmental advocates said in a letter that the bill is too ambiguous. In Montana, an estimated 200 million gallons of contaminated water has been seeping each year for 30 years from ash ponds at the Colstrip coal plant, rendering the groundwater undrinkable.


…environmental groups worry the provision will undermine EPA’s new coal ash disposal standards and limit citizens’ ability to bring enforcement action. The legislation requires states’ ash disposal plans to be “at least as protective” as EPA’s federal rule, language that green groups fear is too vague and could allow states to set easier disposal standards. In addition, another section of the coal ash provision would allow states to include technical standards for individual permits or conditions for approval that are different from EPA’s rule as long as they are “as protective.”
More broadly, critics of the WRDA provision fear states and industry representatives could interpret the bill to take away citizens’ right to sue over ash disposal.

Wyoming stream quality decision changes little

After public outcry over the 2014 decision by the Wyoming DEQ to downgrade the status of 75 percent of the state’s streams, allowing for the presence of more bacteria like e. coli, the agency has revised its decision—barely.

The original controversial 2014 stream quality decision downgraded the status of about 76 percent of the surface water in the state. The new version now only downgrades 72 percent. [Wyoming Outdoor Council’s Dan] Heilig says that’s not a big enough change since the downgrade allows five times as much e. coli in the state’s streams and assumes they aren’t deep enough for recreational swimming. He says the revised decision still doesn’t truly consider the public comments.

Utah senators seek exemption from Antiquities Act

U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee introduced legislation Thursday to exempt Utah from the Antiquities Act, extending a loophole that now covers Wyoming, as part of an effort to keep President Obama from creating national monuments, as the law allows. Critics dismissed the move as a desperate attempt to halt protection of Utah’s Bears Ears region.

Glacier workshop draws visitors from 70 countries

Representatives of nearly 30 international projects across 70 countries and indigenous territories are taking part in a three-day workshop hosted by Glacier National Park.

Private immigration detention persists

While recent decisions by federal agencies represent a turning point in the government’s relationship with private detention, they leave intact much of the private immigration detention apparatus, which has come under increasing scrutiny for poor conditions and opaque operations.

Although much of the scrutiny is centered on the private companies that operate detention facilities, local governments often profit from detaining immigrants too, by agreeing to house detainees on behalf of the federal government. For cash-strapped rural towns and counties, these deals, known as Intergovernmental Service Agreements, are especially appealing.

Alberta OKs projects under oilsands emissions cap

The provincial government’s approvals are the first projects to get green-lighted since it established a 100 megatonne greenhouse gas cap on oilsands emissions.

U.S. Senate backs Blackfeet Water Compact

The Blackfeet Water Compact was first passed by the Montana Legislature in 2009, but it has languished in Congress until now.

Negotiations between the Blackfeet Tribe, local communities and state and federal governments began more than 30 years ago to establish water rights in and around the reservation. The compact will also help rehabilitate the Four Horns Dam and Blackfeet Irrigation Project; give the tribe the ability to use, lease or exchange water on tribal land; and protect the rights of non-Indian water users and members of the Fort Belknap Indian Community.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Rockies Today, September 14

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 4:18 PM

Mountain West News is a service of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West — a regional studies and public education program at the University of Montana. The Center’s purpose is to serve as an important and credible resource for people in the state and region in understanding the region’s past, present, and future. For more, visit mountainwestnews.org. 

On the challenges facing national parks

National parks face myriad challenges, ranging from climate change, funding woes and even a lack of diversity in park visitation. In this episode of West Obsessed, the writers and editors of High Country News discuss those challenges and possible solutions. (Don’t miss the magazine’s recent edition focused on the troubles facing the National Park Service as we mark the agency’s centennial.)

Cleaning up ‘a blemish on a proud landscape’

Columbia Falls Mayor Don Barnhart is unfazed by the EPA’s decision last week to list Northwest Montana’s Columbia Falls Aluminum Company property as a federal Superfund site, even as some balk at the designation, calling the federal environmental cleanup program ineffective, improvident and stigmatizing. “We are going to clean it up and move on, and that’s all that matters,” Barnhart says.

…while the listing is designed to ensure a thorough cleanup, it is something of a scarlet letter for the once-thrumming aluminum plant along the Flathead River near Glacier National Park, a critical piece of Columbia Falls’ industrial backbone and blue-collar identity, which for years stood out as the region’s largest employer.
But the deserted manufacturing site is also a blemish on a proud landscape and the source of unresolved environmental and public health concerns, leading the federal government to trigger its foremost hazardous waste cleanup program.

Utah reminds us that water’s for fighting

A draft plan for managing Utah’s water shortages may draw controversy not only for its recommendations, but also because it’s unclear whether officials will release it to the public.

[The draft document] urges state leaders to emphasize water conservation for homes, businesses and industry, and to maintain sufficient water supplies for natural systems, such as the Great Salt Lake. But it also calls for the construction of regional water projects, including the Lake Powell Pipeline and the Bear River Project, and recommends that the state develop a financing plan to pay for future water development.

Americans stingy when it comes to climate change

While 71 percent of Americans want the federal government to do something about global warming, only 57 percent are willing to pay an additional $1 a month in higher electric bills, according to a new poll. As that fee goes up, support for action plummets.

That a majority is willing to pay more is a new phenomenon, said Tom Dietz, professor of sociology and environmental science and policy at Michigan State University.
“While the amounts may seem small, the willingness to take action, even if there are some out-of-pocket costs, is encouraging,” Dietz said.

Need medical pot? In Alberta, there’s an app for that.

Alberta-based pot producer Aurora Cannabis has launched a mobile app to make it easier for patients with a prescription to purchase federally-regulated medicinal marijuana.

Cam Battley, of Aurora Cannabis, said the idea was to give customers the same service as giant online retailers such as Amazon.
“As far as we know, it is the first legal app for Android and Apple for federally-approved legal medical cannabis,” Battley said.
“The fact is that people live on their phones and tablets. They use them to shop for everything from consumer products and health products to medicine. It is an acknowledgment of the reality of how people operate today.”

Turning climate science into music

Social scientist Nik Sawe liberated the raw numbers from a study about how a temperate forest is impacted by climate change and transformed them into music, using a discipline-bending process called data sonification.

Part science, part art, data sonification transmutes metrics into soundscapes using a combination of a composer’s aesthetic sensibilities and special modeling software.
The goal? To reveal nuances of scientific phenomena not easily seen. In the case of Oakes’ sonified study, which eerily resembles phrases from piano sonatas by the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin, the music conveys the meaning — and pathos — of her findings in about three minutes.

More on Sawe’s data sonification from Michelle Nijhuis:

Conflict over the fate of wild horses resurfaces

At its current level, the wild horse population is 40,000 more than what the BLM calls an “appropriate management level.” The management agency is tasked with finding the best way to keep the population in check but is caught in the difficulties of navigating between the challenges of administering birth control to large, intelligent, and powerful animals and litigation from animal rights advocacy groups.

Shell reaches carbon-capture milestone in oilsands

Shell Canada says the first carbon-capture project in Alberta’s oilsands has successfully stored one million metric tons of carbon dioxide deep underground after a year of operation.

The Quest project is designed to capture about a third of the emissions from Shell’s Scotford Upgrader near Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., turn that into a near-liquid, and then pump it over two kilometres underground into porous rock formations.

Feds say American pika’s plight not so bad

Federal officials have rejected greater protections for the American pika, which researchers warn is disappearing from areas in the West as climate change alters its mountain habitat.

…the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in documents released Tuesday that pika adapt to warmer temperatures by seeking refuge beneath rock fields in the summer. As a result, surface temperatures may not be the best predictor of population declines, the agency said.
The agency also said the most severe effects of climate change are felt at elevations below 8,200 feet (2,499 meters), which is near the lower limit of the pika’s range in the West. That suggests pika habitat “has not experienced the more substantial changes” of reduced snowpack due to climate change, the wildlife service said.

Toward “the last wild”

A new study by researchers in Canada and Australia finds “alarming losses…of global wilderness areas over the last two decades.”

“There has been a broad assumption that [wilderness areas] are fairly stable because they are so isolated, but our study is really showing that [all] wilderness is susceptible to development pressure and as wilderness declines a large amount of very unique values disappear.”

State officials clamp down on UM enrollment messaging

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 11:18 AM

As enrollment drops continue to squeeze budgets at some Montana universities, and particularly at the University of Montana, state officials are exerting new control over how the information is released to the public.

Citing “credibility” concerns, representatives with the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education this summer directed UM officials and other campus leaders to rebuff requests for fall enrollment estimates, emails provided to the Indy show. Instead, OCHE arranged to provide a snapshot before the Board of Regents on Sept. 14. The presentation was to be the first public glimpse of UM’s budget outlook for the current year, but rather than provide campus-by-campus estimates, regents were told only that the university system as a whole is roughly on track. UM budgeted for a 6.6 percent enrollment drop (in total student full-time equivalents) from last year.

The change underscores the sensitive nature of enrollment figures and helps explain why UM officials have refused to offer even the slightest hint of whether fall 2016 numbers are on target.

The Missoulian reported on UM’s tight-lipped approach on Aug. 12, prompting a note of encouragement from OCHE Deputy Commissioner Kevin McRae to Engstrom and other university presidents.

“Good work here, team,” McRae emailed. “I can remember times when campuses that had increasing enrollment were hyper with their August press releases over merely projected enrollment numbers, while campuses that had declining enrollment barely uttered a public peep about enrollment before (or even after) the November [Board of Regents] enrollment report. It seems to me we have shifted toward more of an even keel in our approach.”

A year ago, UM issued a press release in September stating preliminary enrollment figures were in line with budgeted levels. The final figures were posted quietly online a couple weeks later, showing a much more severe drop that ultimately prompted millions of dollars of midyear budget cuts.
The University of Montana budgeted for another overall enrollment drop of 6.6 percent this year. Upon the directive of state officials, UM leadership has been mum on whether actual student count is on track with budget targets before the official fall count on the 15th day of classes. - P­HOTO BY CATHRINE L. WALTERS
  • p­hoto by Cathrine L. Walters
  • The University of Montana budgeted for another overall enrollment drop of 6.6 percent this year. Upon the directive of state officials, UM leadership has been mum on whether actual student count is on track with budget targets before the official fall count on the 15th day of classes.
McRae, while not citing UM’s situation specifically, says the "sport" of enrollment estimation can hurt the system’s credibility when they prove inaccurate.

“That’s why it makes no sense for having various iterations of enrollment estimates before we can actually count students,” he says.

Yet Wednesday’s regents presentation was based on similarly preliminary data. McRae says the coordinated release was organized due to public interest and for regents' use in planning and decision-making. The OCHE directive was not intended to “put a chill effect” on university officials from discussing enrollment estimates as they relate to the budget, he adds.

No formal state policy prohibits universities from providing budget and enrollment estimates at any time.

UM officials, however, remained mute in recent months on all aspects of enrollment, including housing registration numbers and anticipated budgetary implications. The university’s approach this year was undertaken in accordance with the MUS directive, Communications Director Paula Short tells the Indy.

Montana State University interpreted the directive differently. A few days after McRae reminded campus officials not to engage in enrollment speculation, MSU President Waded Cruzado was quoted as predicting another year of record-high enrollment. Then, at the school’s convocation ceremony, she touted that MSU’s incoming freshman class would also be the largest ever, predicting it would exceed 3,400 students.

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Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 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): What should you do if your allies get bogged down by excess caution or lazy procrastination? Here’s what I advise: Don’t confront them or berate them. Instead, cheerfully do what must be done without their help. And what action should you take if mediocrity begins to creep into collaborative projects? Try this: Figure out how to restore excellence, and cheerfully make it happen. And how should you proceed if the world around you seems to have fallen prey to fear-induced apathy or courage-shrinking numbness? My suggestion: Cheerfully kick the world’s butt—with gentle but firm good humor.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): For the foreseeable future, your main duty is to be in love. Rowdily and innocently in love. Meticulously and shrewdly in love. In love with whom or what? Everyone and everything—or at least with as much of everyone and everything as you can manage. I realize this is a breathtaking assignment that will require you to push beyond some of your limitations and conjure up almost superhuman levels of generosity. But that’s exactly what the cosmic omens suggest is necessary if you want to break through to the next major chapter of your life story.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): What do you hope to be when you are all grown up, Gemini? An irresistible charmer who is beloved by many and owned by none? A master multi-tasker who’s paid well for the art of never being bored? A versatile virtuoso who is skilled at brokering truces and making matches and tinkering with unique blends? The coming weeks will be a favorable time to entertain fantasies like these—to dream about your future success and happiness. You are likely to generate good fortune for yourself as you brainstorm and play with the pleasurable possibilities. I invite you to be as creative as you dare.

CANCER (June 21-July 22): “Dear Soul Doctor: I have been trying my best to body-surf the flood of feelings that swept me away a few weeks ago. So far I haven’t drowned! That’s good news, right? But I don’t know how much longer I can stay afloat. It’s hard to maintain so much concentration. The power and volume of the surge doesn’t seem to be abating. Are there any signs that I won’t have to do this forever? Will I eventually reach dry land? - Careening Crab.” Dear Careening: Five or six more days, at the most: You won’t have to hold out longer than that. During this last stretch, see if you can enjoy the ride more. Re-imagine your journey as a rambunctious adventure rather than a harrowing ordeal. And remember to feel grateful: Not many people have your capacity to feel so deeply.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): If there can be such a thing as a triumphant loss, you will achieve it sometime soon. If anyone can slink in through the back door but make it look like a grand entrance, it’s you. I am in awe of your potential to achieve auspicious reversals and medicinal redefinitions. Plain old simple justice may not be available, but I bet you’ll be able to conjure up some unruly justice that’s just as valuable. To assist you in your cagey maneuvers, I offer this advice: Don’t let your prowess make you overconfident, and always look for ways to use your so-called liabilities to your advantage.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Caution: You may soon be exposed to outbreaks of peace, intelligence, and mutual admiration. Sweet satisfactions might erupt unexpectedly. Rousing connections could become almost routine, and useful revelations may proliferate. Are you prepared to fully accept this surge of grace? Or will you be suspicious of the chance to feel soulfully successful? I hope you can find a way to at least temporarily adopt an almost comically expansive optimism. That might be a good way to ensure you’re not blindsided by delight.

Continue reading »

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Happiest Hour: Soiled Dove Gin

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 5:07 PM


What it is:
A brand new spirit from The Montana Distillery. How new? The release party was  held Sept. 9 and the distillery’s Woody Street tasting room is still developing its gin-specific cocktail menu.

What it tastes like: Much like the distillery’s award-winning vodka, Soiled Dove is a smooth, easy-to-drink gin heavy on the juniper notes. Also like the vodka, it’s distilled from Montana sugar beets.

What’s behind the name: The bottle explains the term was used to describe birds that flew into a bar clean and left dirty after being exposed to wood stove and saloon smoke. Also, the bottle mentions, it’s a term that later referred to retired prostitutes.

How to drink it: The gin menu may be a work in progress, but it’s not lacking options. There are currently six cocktails, ranging from a simple G&T to a refreshing River Run (Soiled Dove mixed with fresh lime juice, fresh mint and fresh cucumber, topped with soda). Both cost $6. For $7, try The Meadow (Soiled Dove mixed with fresh huckleberry puree, sweet-n-sour and fresh mint).

Bartender Justin Tavenner talked us into trying the Soiled Dove on the rocks with a splash of fresh grapefruit juice.

“It’s very versatile,” Tavenner says. “I’m finding it can go with almost anything, but it’s smooth enough to sip straight or just with a little bit of juice. You can mix it with whatever you want, but this way you’re getting the full flavor of the gin.”

Where to find it: The Montana Distillery is located at 631 Woody St. The tasting room is open Monday through Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. Sundays include an extensive bloody mary bar from noon to 6 p.m. A bottle of Soiled Dove will set you back $35 for 750 ml or $21.50 for 375 ml.

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

Rockies Today, September 13

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 3:09 PM

Mountain West News is a service of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West — a regional studies and public education program at the University of Montana. The Center’s purpose is to serve as an important and credible resource for people in the state and region in understanding the region’s past, present, and future. For more, visit mountainwestnews.org. 

Oil well leak fills Wyoming school with benzene

Air quality tests performed two days after Midwest School, 40 miles north of Casper, Wyoming, was evacuated in May for a gas leak found benzene at 200 times safe levels, according to health officials.

The Salt Creek Oil Field, which surrounds Midwest, has been drilled since the late 1800s. There are 120 abandoned wells in the 640 acres around Midwest, according to state records. FDL [Energy] identified and plugged the well responsible for the leak and is monitoring other the wells in the area, under the guidance of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

A guide to following the Bundy trial

Ultimately, the trial will likely be a critical touchstone amidst a spate of Sagebrush Rebellion activities throughout the West in the past few years. It will inevitably touch on the issue of federal management of public lands, a talking point in this year’s election, as well as gun ownership and use, a discussion after a string of mass shootings and gun violence has brought gun control to the forefront of national conversation.

Visualizing the warmest August on record

While the seasonal temperature cycle typically peaks in July, August 2016 wound up tying July 2016 as the warmest month ever recorded.

Unpacking the prospects of a Owyhee Canyonlands National Monument.

…Obama has created more than two dozen national monuments, protecting more square miles of land and sea than any predecessor.
If these actions delight some, they alarm others — notably folk who run cattle, mine, log or otherwise exploit nature’s bounty in picturesque bits of America. One such place is the Owyhee basin of eastern Oregon, a remote landscape of wild rivers and vertiginous cliffs, and high desert edged with red and pink rocks. Before Mr Obama steps down, environmentalists, outdoor-leisure companies (including Keen, an Oregon-based shoe-maker) and some Democratic politicians want him to create an Owyhee Canyonlands National Monument covering as much as 2.5m acres.

Utah’s biggest dairy operation goes solar

Mosida Farms has 16,000 cows producing 92,000 gallons of milk every day—about 18 percent of all the milk sold in Utah. Now a solar array almost twice the size of a football field provides about 20 percent of the farm’s electricity.

“Yeah, this is very good-sized for the state of Utah,” said Billy Sorenson of RS Energy, the company that installed the solar panels. “It’s probably the largest one, agricultural one, for the state of Utah.”
The panels are expected to generate 950,000 kilowatt-hours per year. That’s enough juice to power nearly 200 family homes. Instead of powering homes, it will provide about 20 percent of the Bateman farm’s annual electricity demand. The family hopes it will be a hedge against rising electricity costs.

$57 million may not, actually, help pallid sturgeon

A government-commissioned study concludes there’s considerable risk that a $57 million dam and fish bypass proposed on the Yellowstone River, near the Montana-North Dakota border, won’t meet its goal of helping the ancient, endangered pallid sturgeon reach upstream spawning grounds.

“There is no evidence that the behavior of adult fish can be manipulated to attract them to the bypass channel, that they would be motivated to swim upstream through the bypass channel, or that they would navigate upstream through the proposed bypass channel,” panel members said in the 74-page report.

Alberta’s minimum wage will be $15 an hour by 2018

On October 1, Alberta’s current minimum wage of $11.20 per hour will rise to $12.20, then to $13.60 a year later until reaching $15 on Oct. 1, 2018. In the U.S., the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, though several states have higher minimums.

The province estimates that 305,000 employed Albertans earn less than $15 an hour, two-thirds of whom are women.
Of those figures, it estimates one in four are students, one-third are in retail, one quarter in food services, 40 per cent are heads of households, and five per cent are working single parents.

Arch Coal to put up collateral for cleanups

Arch Coal, the second largest U.S. coal miner, has agreed to set aside collateral to cover future mine cleanup costs as part of its bankruptcy reorganization plan.

The plan would end Arch’s use of self-bonding, a controversial federal exemption that the largest U.S. coal companies have used for decades. Its use exempts companies from posting bonds or other securities to cover the cost of returning mined land to its natural state.
Arch had $485.5 million in self-bonds in Wyoming when it filed for bankruptcy protection in January, saddled with $6 billion of debt.

A watershed moment for United Methodist Church

The Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto recently began her tenure as bishop of the Mountain Sky Area of the United Methodist Church, and in doing so became first openly gay pastor in the denomination to hold the leadership post in the second largest denomination in the country. Based in Denver, she’ll work with churches in Montana, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and a part of Idaho. “It was tough breaking that stained-glass ceiling,” Oliveto said in a recent interview in Billings.

The liberal side of the denomination calls her election the culmination of a hard-fought battle to fully include LGBTQ people in the life of the denomination. Conservatives are disappointed in both the action and its timing, saying it violates the UMC’s governing policies.
One thing most agree on is that her election could be one more step toward schism in a denomination that finds it increasingly difficult to call itself the United Methodist Church.

Groups say lesser prairie chicken in imminent danger

Environmental groups have filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service arguing that distinct populations of the lesser prairie chicken, including one in southeast Colorado, warrant emergency protections as climate change exacerbates threats to the species.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Florida boy with a brain-eating amoeba (and more News of the Weird)

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 9:00 AM

These Shoes Weren't Made for Walkin'
The upscale clothier Barneys New York recently introduced $585 "Distressed Superstar  Sneakers" (from the high-end brand Golden Goose) that were purposely designed to look scuffed, well-worn and cobbled-together, as if they were shoes recovered from a Dumpster. The quintessential touch was the generous use of duct tape on the bottom trim. Critics were in abundance, accusing Barneys of mocking poverty.

News That Sounds Like a Joke
The British food artists Bompas & Parr are staging (through Oct. 30) a tribute to the late writer Roald Dahl by brewing batches of beer using yeast swabbed and cultured from a chair Dahl used and which has been on display at the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, England.
(2) A 16-year-old boy made headlines in August for being one of the rare survivors of an amoeba – a brain-eating amoeba –which he acquired diving into a pond on private property in Florida's Broward County. (By popular legend, Floridians are believed to lack sufficient brain matter to satisfy amoebas!)

Government in Action
The Drug Enforcement Administration has schemed for several years to pay airline and Amtrak employees for tips on passengers who might be traveling with large sums of cash, so that the DEA can interview them – with an eye toward seizing the cash under federal law if they merely "suspect" that the money is involved in illegal activity. A USA Today investigation, reported in August, revealed that the agency had seized $209 million in a decade, from 5,200 travelers who, even if no criminal charge results, almost never get all their money back (and, of 87 recent cash seizures, only two actually resulted in charges). One Amtrak employee was secretly paid $854,460 over a decade for snitching passenger information to the DEA.

Update: In August, the Defense Department's inspector general affirmed once again (following on 2013 disclosures) that the agency has little knowledge of where its money goes – this time admitting that the Department of the Army had made $6.5 trillion in accounting "adjustments" that appeared simply to be made up out of thin air, just to get the books balanced for 2015. (In part, the problem was laid to 16,000 financial data files that simply disappeared with no trace.) "As a result," reported Fortune magazine, "there has been no way to know how the Defense Department – far and away the biggest chunk of Congress's annual budget – spends the public's money."

Wait, What?
In August, the banking giant Citigroup and the communications giant AT&T agreed to end their two-month-long legal hostilities over AT&T's right to have a customer service program titled "Thanks." Citigroup had pointed out that it holds trademarks for customer service titles "thankyou," "citi thankyou," "thankyou from citi" and "thankyou your way," and had tried to block the program name "AT&T Thanks."
In July in the African nation of Malawi (on the western border of Mozambique), Eric Aniva was finally arrested — but not before he had been employed by village families more than 100 times to have ritual sex to "cleanse" recent widows – and girls immediately after their first menstruation. Aniva is one of several such sex workers known as "hyenas" (because they operate stealthily, at night), but Malawi president Peter Mutharika took action after reading devastating dispatches (reporting hyenas' underage victims and Aniva's HIV-positive status) in The New York Times and London's The Guardian, among other news services.
The July 2012 Aurora, Colorado, theater shooter, James Holmes, is hardly wealthy enough to be sued, so 41 massacre victims and families instead filed against Cinemark Theater for having an unsafe premises, and by August 2016 Cinemark had offered $150,000 as a total settlement. Thirty-seven of the 41 accepted, but four held out since the scaled payout offered only a maximum of $30,000 for the worst-off victims. Following the settlement, the judge, finding that Cinemark could not have anticipated Holmes's attack, ruled for the theater — making the four holdouts liable under Colorado law for Cinemark's expenses defending against the lawsuit ($699,000).

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