Friday, June 14, 2013

Sen. Tester's on a roll with MSNBC

Posted By on Fri, Jun 14, 2013 at 12:17 PM

Sen. Jon Tester has all but said "I told you so" through the national media in the wake of a damning Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court leak earlier this month. The revelation that government officials secured massive amounts of data on calls made by Verizon customers has renewed the debate about sacrificing liberties to chase down potential terrorists. Last week, Tester told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that "to have a FISA court basically give a perpetual court order to get telephone records not only of foreign calls but also domestic calls I think goes against what this country's founded upon." It challenges our civil liberties, he said, and marks a serious overreach by the federal government. And it's all thanks to a section of the Patriot Act, which Tester explained was one of the very reasons he first ran for office back in 2006. Here's the full interview:

Indeed, our government's response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were at the center of a particularly heated exchange between Tester and then-Sen. Conrad Burns during the 2006 campaign. Even then Tester voiced his concerns with the Patriot Act without hesitation. When Burns shot back, accusing Tester of wanting to "weaken" the law, Tester's reply said it all. "I don't want to weaken the Patriot Act. I want to repeal it ... What it does is this: It takes away your freedoms."

It's nice to see that six and a half years in Washington D.C.—and a seat on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs—hasn't put out that fire. Tester recently sent an email to his constituents asking them to support a full repeal of the Patriot Act in light of the FISA/National Security Agency leaks. In another MSNBC interview yesterday with The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd, Tester acknowledged that he's still "very skeptical" of certain provisions in the Patriot Act. "This country is really founded upon freedom and liberty, and we need to be very careful to maintain that," Tester said, adding that an earnest conversation about how to keep the country safe without sacrificing those freedoms is key in making sure that the "pendulum stays in the middle and doesn't swing too far to the side of government overreach." Again, here's the full interview:

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Todd's chat with Tester took a more light-hearted near the end, with a question about Brian Schweitzer's potential Senate bid in 2014. Tester was confident enough to say he'd "bet the farm" that the branding-iron-wielding former governor will run, and if there's anything Tester takes as seriously as the Patriot Act, it's his family's farm spread just west of Big Sandy. "My crystal ball is still a little cloudy," he told Todd. "But I anticipate he's going to get in to this thing."

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Rockies Today, June 14

Posted By on Fri, Jun 14, 2013 at 11:22 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Appeals court orders BLM to study range of grazing options in Montana
Western Watersheds Project, which filed the lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management over its grazing plan for the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument and, in particular, the Woodhawk allotment, claimed victory in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision rendered that said the BLM must study a range of options for grazing permits, but the BLM said the decision upheld its general grazing plan for the Montana monument and only found fault with its plan for the Woodhawk allotment.
Great Falls Tribune; June 14

Grocer group accuses potato-grower association of price fixing
In a lawsuit that is now in federal court of Idaho, Associated Wholesale Grocers has accused United Potato Growers of America, which represents growers in 15 states, including Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, as well as 24 other defendants, of intentionally limiting planting and destroying harvested potatoes to keep prices of the popular tuber high.
Idaho Statesman (AP); June 14

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Our favorite wildfire and weather apps

Posted By on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 at 4:33 PM

It's springtime in the West, that time of year when brooks babble abundantly with snowmelt, cute baby wildlife prance around verdant meadows, blossoms cover tree branches like virgin snow, and it all goes up in flames. Hoping to keep as close an eye on the burning West as I do on my runs and bike rides, I scoured the Intertubes for the appropriate apps. Zillions of these things saturate the cyber world, and a lot of them are downright duds. But after many a download, I came up with a select few that I can recommend.

1. Weather Underground (FREE): This is my go-to weather app, for sure. The home screen has just about all the relevant information you could want: current conditions, forecast for the next several days, radar map, "Find Your Love" ad, and a weather watch/warning icon that displays the entire warning at a touch. The app also has an hourly forecast, which has proven to be fairly accurate. The map screen includes radar, but also a huge network of web cams that allow one to see the weather, just about anywhere, at any given moment, allowing you to track storms across the landscape.

2. Dark Sky ($3.99): Okay, I'm a cheapskate, and usually just stick with the free apps. But a lot of folks out there in the tech world rave about Dark Sky, so I figured I'd check it out. The interface is nice and uncluttered. The home page simply tells you the current temperature and weather, and what it's likely to do in the next hour, and that's it. The forecast only goes out 24 hours, which is not enough for me. Since the weather hasn't varied from hot and "clear" since I got the app, and may never do so in the future, I can't really speak to the accuracy of the forecasts. The reason I forked out $4 for this was to play around with the crowdsourcing — it allows you to submit your own weather report, with a photo — a concept with which I'm interested. There's no way, as far as I can tell, however, to look at the crowdsourced reports or photos from other users. They apparently just integrate your report into their report.

Earlier this year I tried out Weathermob, which is entirely crowdsourced: The only reports they have are from the "mob" out there, which would be you and me. Great idea, not a great execution, in my opinion. It's really more like a weather-oriented social media app than a weather information app, and as much about how you feel than about an accurate accounting of the current weather.

3. Dust Storm (FREE): Wanna know when the next Haboob is going to hit? This app, developed by Northern Arizona University, will tell you, as well as give you helpful tips about what to do once the wall of dust envelopes you. I had hoped that it would allow me to track dust storms as they moved across the Arizona desert or something. But this thing's way more bare bones than that, doing little more than sending you current weather alerts for your area. And that's about it. It could be helpful if you're actually in the path of a dust storm, but not so great for the generally weather-obsessed.


1. Wildfire Pro ($4.99), Wildfire Home ($1.99), Wildfire Info (FREE): One needn't search far to find a bevy of apps relating to wildfires. Finding one that's useful is a bit harder, especially if you don't want to pay for it. But Wildfire Info costs nothing and delivers what most of us want: A map and list showing all the active, and some inactive, fires in the U.S., along with details and a perimeter map for each fire. I forked out for the Pro version, which also includes a fire weather overlay map, weather/fire danger calculators, and other stuff that a fire fighter might need, even if I don't. It appears that the info is not updated quite as often as the Inciweb site for some fires, but it's never more than 24 hours old for active fires.

2. Wildfire from American Red Cross (FREE): If you live in the wildland urban interface, this might be the app for you. It allows you to monitor as many areas as you choose, and sends alerts when there are fires in those areas, along with a detailed description of the fire. It gives a check list of what to do as the fire approaches, a "toolkit" that can instantly turn your phone into a flashlight or strobe light, an immediate link to the Twitter feed for particular fires and to various social media to do a quick notification letting friends know you're safe.

I also tried out Burnt Planet because, well, who could resist a name like that? Relying on data from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometers aboard NASA satellites, it pinpoints "hotspots" — which could be wildfires or someone burning their field — around the world. It's good for a broad, global overview, but that's about it. There are no data about individual fires.

Now, I know what you may be thinking: These apps are just another waste of time thrown at us by the Internet, like our "friends" telling us on Facebook what they had for breakfast; a high-tech form of voyeurism — worse, disaster voyeurism — that draws us into our electronic devices and sucks us away from the real world. After all, I can figure out the weather simply by stepping outside. And if a fire's approaching, I'll see the plume of smoke long before my gadget sends me a warning—if I bother to look up from my phone's glowing, beckoning little screen, that is.

Jonathan Thompson is a senior editor at High Country News, This is cross-posted from the site. The author is solely responsible for the content.

Rockies Today, June 13

Posted By on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 at 10:52 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Arkansas company begins drilling for rare-earth minerals in Montana
U.S. Rare Earths began exploratory drilling for rare earth minerals along a 60-mile stretch of Lemhi Pass on the Montana side of the border with Idaho, and the Arkansas company has also applied for permits from Idaho for such drilling.
Billings Gazette; June 13

Black Forest fire burns its way into Colorado record books with 360 homes lost
The El Paso County Sheriff expanded the evacuation zone for the Black Forest Fire in Colorado as high winds and high temperatures were forecast for today, and on Thursday morning, the sheriff confirmed that 360 homes had been destroyed by the fire so far, breaking the record of 347 homes burned in the state set by the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire.
Denver Post; June 13

Wildfire in Colorado's Royal Gorge destroys tram car, buildings
The Royal Gorge Fire, which has destroyed structures at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, was reported to be 3,000 acres in size on Wednesday afternoon, and due to limited firefighting resources, the Fremont County Commission voted to immediately impose Stage 1 Fire Restrictions in the Colorado county.
Denver Post (Canon City Daily Record); June 13

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 9:00 AM

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

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Irish poet Richard Brinsley Sheridan didn't confine his lyrical wit to well-crafted poems on the printed page. He used it to say things that would advance his practical ambitions. For example, when he first met the woman who would eventually become his wife, he said to her, "Why don't you come into my garden? I would like my roses to see you." That's the kind of persuasive power I hope you will summon in the coming days, Aries. According to my analysis of the omens, you should have it in abundance. So what's the best use of this mojo? Is there anything you would really like to sell? What new resources do you want to bring into your sphere? Who do you want to convince?

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Why it's always a good idea to use the parking brake (and more from In Other News)

Posted By on Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Curses, Foiled Again
Federal agents tracking a man who claimed he was selling 700,000 stolen identities identified Nathaniel Troy Maye, 44, as their suspect after a witness informed them he received a flash drive containing 50 identities from a man named “Maye” during dinner at a Morton’s steak house. Using data on the flash drive, agents found a profile for “TROYMAYE” on Instagram social media website, where Maye had posted “a photo of a steak and macaroni and cheese meal” at Morton’s at the time the witness said Maye gave him the flash drive. (South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Sheriff’s detectives arrested convicted felons Mario Daniel McDonald, 23, and Joseph Wayne Edwards, 27, in Marion County, Fla., after spotting pictures of them on their gang-related Facebook profile page holding a shotgun. The two reported members of the Crazy White Boys Criminal Street Gang were charged with possession of a firearm by convicted felons. (South Florida Sun Sentinel)

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Missoula river access site delayed

Posted By on Wed, Jun 5, 2013 at 10:45 AM

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks lists on its website 17 river access sites on the Clark Fork between Drummond and St. Regis. There are boat ramps at Schwarz Creek, Kelly Island, Tarkio and Forest Grove. What you will not find on the list is a ramp in the place you might expect it most: Missoula.

That’s about to change.

Toward the end of last summer, Missoula anglers, floaters and boaters got to sample the Silver Park boat ramp, a $30,000 facet of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency’s Silver Park project just west of Ogren-Allegiance Park. The ramp freed up the section of the Clark Fork between East Missoula and downtown to drift boats and large rafts, which once had to be dragged out of the river behind the DoubleTree and Holiday Inn hotels. A full season with an urban take-out was anticipated by many, but this spring boaters once again found the Silver Park ramp closed.

MRA Assistant Director Chris Behan says although the ramp is completed, construction on the rest of the $5.7 million Silver Park project is not. The entire plan calls for replacing a railroad trestle and creating a 173-spot parking lot and new walking paths. His agency did not feel comfortable with boaters using a ramp in an active construction zone.

“We were hoping to open the ramp by June 1, but we’re dealing with 100 years worth of industrial use,” he says, referring to the land between the ballpark and California Street that was once home to a sawmill. “There have been delays.” He says he hopes boaters will be able to use the ramp by the end of June.

Though the new ramp will offer the owners of large watercraft an easy place to take out, Behan says it’s not ideal for other situations and river users. The river downstream of Silver Park is braided and difficult to navigate, making it dangerous as a put-in. Also, since the flow on that side of the Clark Fork is swift and deep, he says it might be hard for tubers and kayakers to exit the river there. At some point, he says the city hopes to have signage directing the users of light watercraft to the shallower north side of the river. MRA hopes to post those signs by mid-July.

Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Jun 5, 2013 at 9:00 AM

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

ARIES (March 21-April 19): The longest natural arch in the world is the Fairy Bridge in Guangxi Province, China. Made of limestone, this 400-foot-wide span crosses over the Buliu River. No one outside of China knew about it until 2009, when an American explorer spied it on Google Earth. Let's make the Fairy Bridge your metaphor of the month, Aries. Judging by the astrological omens, I suspect there's a good chance you will soon find something like a natural, previously hidden bridge. In other words, be alert for a link between things you didn't know were connected.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Rockies Today, June 4

Posted By on Tue, Jun 4, 2013 at 10:47 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Flooding in northcentral Montana prompts calls for assistance
For the third time in four years, flooding has washed out bridges and roads in northcentral Montana, and local governments are seeking assistance to deal with the infrastructure damage.
Great Falls Tribune; June 4

Debate on new national monument in Idaho focuses on size, management
The protection of a portion of the 500,000-acre roadless area in the Boulder and White Cloud mountains in central Idaho has been a goal of U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson for decades, and now that the proposal to designate some of the area as a national monument, the debate has turned to how much of it should be designated as such and who should manage the new national monument.
Idaho Statesman; June 4

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Rockies Today, June 3

Posted By on Mon, Jun 3, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Montana mulls loaning Ambre Energy $10 million for coal development
The Montana Board of Investments is considering a $10-million loan request from Ambre Energy, the Australian company that is seeking to gain control of the Decker coal mine near the Wyoming-Montana border.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); June 3

Dairy, tourism foundation of Idaho valley's economy
The Magic Valley's economy is improving, due in part to the expansion of dairy-related businesses, as well as increased tourism in the Idaho valley, but local officials said there's still much work to be done to build on those industries.
Twin Falls Times-News; June 3

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