Friday, September 28, 2012

Independent announces changes

Posted on Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 4:15 PM

Last week’s issue marked the 21st anniversary of the Missoula Independent, and the stories therein noted more than a few changes at the paper over the years. Keeping with that theme, we have a few recent changes to announce.

Skylar Browning has been named executive editor for Independent Publishing. He takes over as editor for the Indy following the departure of Robert Meyerowitz, who recently resigned to focus on his own writing projects.

Skylar first joined the Independent as arts editor in 2005 before becoming editor-in-chief in 2008. He’s spent the last two years as a contributing editor for the paper and, more recently, as editor of Montana Headwall. In his new role as executive editor, Skylar will work on both the Indy and Headwall, and both associated websites.

Photo editor Chad Harder has also rejoined the paper and Montana Headwall. Harder started with the Indy in 1999.

“Missoula and the Indy are fortunate to have such an experienced newsroom covering the community,” says publisher Lynne Foland. “We're thrilled to have Skylar back in the newsroom working with award-winning journalists like Jessica Mayrer, Matthew Frank, Erika Fredrickson, Alex Sakariassen and Chad.”

The Independent is also proud to announce one other major change that you may have already noticed: a complete redesign of Our new site will continue to deliver the same great content, but with a dynamic new look. Features include a revamped Events Calendar with streamlined search capabilities, daily Spotlight suggestions and the ability for local promoters and nonprofits to upload their event information—and photos—directly to our site. It’s also easier to find our ongoing promotions, free classifieds listings and special issues. The redesign launch works in conjunction with the Indy’s new-look mobile site, which has quick links to daily blog posts, restaurant listings, movie times and other vital content.

Lynne Foland,
Skylar Browning,
(406) 543-6609

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The Rockies Today, Sept. 28

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 10:42 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Biofuels study assesses NW Montana towns for new biomass plant
The Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance was formed in 2011 to conduct a five-year study of the feasibility of developing an industry to turn waste wood in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon into jet fuel, and the progress report issued after the first year indicated that Kalispell, Columbia Falls and Whitefish in northwest Montana were ranked high as a possible site for the plant, given their bountiful slash assets and their existing infrastructure.
Flathead Beacon; Sept. 28

Lawsuit challenges USFS's use of concessionaires on recreation sites
Colorado resident David Wimert is one of several individuals who have filed a federal lawsuit in Washington D.C. against the U.S. Forest Service over its policy of allowing private concessionaires to charge fees at Forest Service recreation sites.
Denver Post; Sept. 28

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

"West Wing" explains why you should vote for state Supreme Court

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2012 at 11:05 AM


If you haven't seen this viral video starring almost the entire cast of "West Wing," you should check it out (see below). It's not every day the stars of a beloved television show band together for a 4-minute commercial/mini-episode about a single state political race.

Technically, the race they're concerned about — "It's an apocalypse!" — is for Michigan Supreme Court. (Cast member Mary McCormack's sister is running.) But the ad addresses a larger problem that, at least a little bit, includes Montana: Voters often ignore nonpartisan races, either skipping them because they don't include the words "Democrat" or "Republican" or "Libertarian" next to a candidate, or because they're buried at the end of the ballot.

The video takes particular exception to "straight-ticket voting," which occurs in 14 states and allows one-stop voting for all candidates of a certain party; the issue, of course, being that important nonpartisan races get skipped altogether. Montana doesn't offer a straight-ticket vote, but that doesn't mean nonpartisan races aren't neglected. Tallying the results from this year's primary elections on the Secretary of State's website shows 197,266 people voted for Supreme Court Justice #5 — roughly 40,000 less than the total ballots cast.

For the record, Ed Sheehy and Laurie McKinnon square off in the general election for the aforementioned Justice #5. Assuming there's no "West Wing" video planned for either candidate, you may want to read more about them here and here.

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The Rockies Today, Sept. 27

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2012 at 10:55 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

USPS to close W. Montana mail processing center by March
The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that it will close its Kalispell mail-processing center and move those operations to Missoula, resulting in a net loss of eight jobs in western Montana.
Kalispell Daily InterLake; Sept. 27

Wyoming producers optimistic about uranium market
After the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan, uranium prices went on a wild ride, but the price is now holding steady at around $50 a pound, and with more nuclear reactors under construction globally, Wyoming producers are optimistic about future prices.
Casper Star-Tribune; Sept. 27

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

9 Pieces of Peace: the story of Missoula's peace sign, a Vietnam vet and a peace activist

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2012 at 11:29 AM

From 1983 to 2001, there was a large peace sign that overlooked Missoula from Water Works Hill. The sign was rebelliously painted onto a 30-foot-high telecommunications reflector panel owned by US West. It was taken down, and people put it back up—until it was taken down for good and divided into nine pieces, which are fondly housed by people all over town.

Many Missoulians loved the peace sign and some hated it. An upcoming documentary titled 9 Pieces of Peace isn’t just about a symbol or about a bunch of peaceniks who wax nostalgia about a sign. Director Jan Selby, who has won regional Emmys with films made through her Quiet Island Films company, also documents a story about a Vietnam veteran named Dan Gallagher and the executive director of the the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center, who both had very different feelings about the peace sign—and each other—until they started talking.

Selby is almost done with her film. From the looks of the trailer (see below), it’s a heart-wrenching story about finding common ground in Missoula, and about two people who decided that they’d listen to one another. In doing so, the two have become amazing role models.

Selby hopes to raise the rest of her money on Kickstarter to finish post-production on the film, and you can check out her campaign here. (It ends on Sept. 30, so if you want to invest in the project, do it soon. She still, as of this blog post, has $10,000 more to raise.)

Her film is an important historical piece about the peace sign, but it’s also a reminder—in times when we probably need some reminding—that Missoula has great people who do step up to the plate and make good things happen. Plus, you’ll recognizes some famous Missoulians in the interviews, including Bruce Micklus of Rockin Rudy’s and former Missoula mayor Dan Kemmis.

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The Rockies Today, Sept. 26

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2012 at 11:15 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Evacuation notice issued as Montana wildfire nears homes
The Condon Mountain Fire grew to nearly 4,500 acres in size on Tuesday, and is now burning within a mile and a half of homes on the east side of Highway 83 in Montana's Swan Valley, and residents in the area were warned to be ready to leave.
Flathead Beacon (AP); Sept. 25

Coal mine challenge may be first test for Colorado's roadless rule
Colorado's Roadless Rule, which was approved by the federal government in July, creates different tiers of management levels for the state's 4.2 million acres of federal roadless forest lands, and exempts several areas from the ban on road building, including the Sunset Roadless Area, where the U.S. Forest Service has approved the expansion of a coal mine, prompting a challenge from environmental groups.
Summit County Citizens Voice; Sept. 26

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Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2012 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): Here’s the curious message I derived from the current astrological configurations: It’s one of those rare times when a wall may actually help bring people together. How? Why? The omens don’t reveal that specific information. They only tell me that what seems like a barrier might end up serving as a connector. An influence that in other situations would tend to cause separation will in this case be likely to promote unity. Capitalize on this anomaly, Aries!

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Montana U.S. Attorney: Marijuana prosecution threshold increased

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 12:59 PM

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montana is focusing its prosecution of marijuana growers on those in possession of more than 500 plants, according to a memorandum written by Montana U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter in July and recently obtained by the Independent.

The memo, titled “Increased Thresholds for Marijuana Prosecutions,” dated July 21, is the first communication from Montana’s U.S. attorney that provides some clarity on how many marijuana plants the feds will tolerate. The memo says cases involving less than 500 plants or 100 kilograms will be “disfavored for prosecution in federal court.” Cotter wrote that he alone will "approve prosecutions of so-called 'medical marijuana' providers."

Click to enlarge
  • Cotter memo
  • Click to enlarge

Beginning in March 2011, federal agents raided a couple dozen state-licensed medical marijuana facilities around the state. That despite the Obama administration, in October 2009, saying that the feds wouldn’t prosecute medical marijuana providers in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state laws. Montana’s Medical Marijuana Act was vaguely written, giving the feds considerable leeway in determining who was in compliance.

Evidently there was a lower threshold when the raids occurred, but it’s unclear what the threshold was. Federal agents seized fewer than 500 plants in some instances. The raids resulted in at least 25 indictments on federal drug charges, and about half of those accused have been sentenced. Most received jail time.

It’s unclear how the new threshold will affect open cases.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica T. Fehr confirmed the authenticity of the memo. She declined to comment further.

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The Rockies Today, Sept. 25

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 11:15 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Crow Nation kicks off water work in Montana
Some of the $461-million the Crow Nation received under the federal Claims Settlement Act of 2010, which contained $1 billion to settle water rights with a number of tribes, will go to replace the aging 320-mile irrigation system on the Montana reservation, and on Monday, the tribe broke ground on the first phase of project.
Billings Gazette; Sept. 25

Court decision clears way for Credit Suisse to force sale of Idaho resort
After an Idaho judge declined to halt Credit Suisse's foreclosure action against Tamarack Resorts, the Swiss bank can now move forward with the sale of the bankrupt resort.
Denver Post (AP); Sept. 25

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Scott H. Biram at the Palace: Still Drunk, Still Bluesy

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2012 at 12:00 PM

In a bigger city, Saturday night’s events would have posed a problem: do I see the all-ages punk show, or the basement-bar blues show? In, say, Portland, this would require figuring out Google maps, bus, bicycle or car transportation, parking arrangements, designated-driver negotiations, etc.

But because this is Missoula, the venues sit about four blocks apart, so I hopped on my bike and managed to catch most of both. God, I love this town.

Locals Swamp Ritual and the Magpies and touring Seattle punks Slatwall and Ol’ Doris were lined up at Zoo City Apparel, where before the show, several of us pre-gaming degenerates stood around trying yoga poses and sniffing eucalyptus in the parking lot. We party hard in this town.

Swamp Ritual kicked off the show, and made it through the set of excellent heavy two-piece metal despite equipment malfunctions and a broken bass string. They handled it with good cheer.

The Magpies took Zoo City’s fancy new wooden stage next, and why have I never seen this kickass rock ‘n’ roll band before? I need to see them again.

Some of my geek buddies had just about wet their pants talking about gritty pop punkers Slatwall before the show. I was not disappointed, though I did not wet my pants, for the record. Slatwall play with a great earnest melodic drive that people still call the “Midwest” punk sound, but I’d say more rightfully belongs to Northwest punks these days. I hope Slatwall enjoyed their first visit to our fair berg.

Last was Ol' Doris, and I'm told it's even better than when I saw the band at the Dark Horse a couple years ago opening for Tacocat and Smokejumper. I’ll have to take other folks’ word for it, because after Slatwall I strolled over to the Palace, where Warren Jackson Hearne Aran Buzzas, Restavrant and Scott H. Biram were lined up for what was sure to be a trashy, whiskey-soaked evening.


I found my way in just as Biram, the highly esteemed one-man Americana band, was starting his second song, sitting at a kick-set and pounding out bluesy country tunes new and classic, per usual, and a cowboy-booted crowd was dancing around. Several of Biram’s standard fans—the kind of guys in black bandanas whose patched-out hoodies declare love for both Austin Lucas and Los Crudos—stood around in reverence. Biram started around 11 p.m. and went until bar time, playing a lot of songs off his latest record, Bad Ingredients.

I have mixed feelings about Biram. On one hand, he’s a helluva talented musician and sings songs that are earnest and true about tough living and screwy relationships. I played Bad Ingredients all last fall and thought wistful feelings about fellas.

On the other hand, he sings stuff like "whore, you're gonna get what's coming to you."

I cannot resolve my love of drinkin’ songs with my loathing of misogynistic themes in one evening, so I opted to just sing along to “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue” like I wanted to. Thanks for that, Biram.

This story was updated Monday at 12:45 to reflect the correct opening bands on the Biram bill.

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