​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​              A daily digest of Montana news

Feb. 18, 2018


Heavy snow fell on Missoula Saturday, and more was forecast for the region on Sunday. Storms across the state were making driving conditions hazardous. (Missoulian)



Travel conditions terrible as winter storm barrels through Montana

Huge winter storm hammers northwestern Montana

Flu cases continue to climb in state

Plan to delist lynx continues to generate controversy

Congressional delegation uses several techniques to stay in touch

Strong gas odor in Billings probably came from refinery

Trump budget could cut conservation fund, but Zinke vows to protect it

Montana could be smothered by up to a foot of snow this weekend

NorthWestern Energy doesn't want to take on the Hardin power plant

Developer of East Glacier hotel drops plans for Bigfoot museum

Inmate sues Gallatin County officials over incarceration in jail

Man missing since Jan. 28 found dead at Butte mine

Walls of Glacier's Sperry Chalet stable despite winter storms

Fort Belknap sees an 81-degree temperature swing in recent days

Controversial GTF candidate switches from Democrat to GOP ballot

Trout Creek couple pays fines after admitting hunting violations

Billings native Rodney Ostermiller to be next US marshal for Montana

Politicians see need for mental health reform, less sure on gun control

Augusta school bus loaded with athletes skids off snowy road

State won't hold hunt this year for Yellowstone grizzlies

Montana to offer one disability services contract for entire state

Russ Fagg meets with White House officials as Senate effort ramps up

MSU students want more say in naming of buildings

MSU faculty starts debate on accepting Koch funds for research center

Blizzard blasts Montana, shutting down roads, closing classes

Driving conditions terrible on many Montana highways

Semis slide off interstate in Billings area; roads in bad shape in region

Snow, cold to plague state throughout the weekend

Former Rocky Boy health official sentenced to prison for wire fraud

Bozeman man who robbed casino twice gets 50 years in prison

Crow Tribe wants to join in on Yellowstone bison hunts

Zinke wants to push ahead with overhaul of agency despite criticism

GOP Senate candidate Downing faces May trial on fish, game charges

200 homes lose water on Rocky Boy Reservation after pipes break

Future uncertain for Youth Transition Center in Great Falls

MSU sees record 10th straight years of spring semester enrollments

Controversial speaker challenges UM liberals to back free speech

7-foot tall snowdrifts in parts of central Montana complicate travel

Havre battles most snow it has seen in 138 years, with more on way


State, federal agencies turn to seasonal workers for summer season

New Butte airport terminal pays tribute to city's mining history

Exxon denies negligence in death of eastern MT oil field worker

BNSF to make improvements to 7-mile long Flathead Tunnel

Interior wants to replace Obama rule on methane emissions

Choteau, other communities look for answers to economic development

Railroad accidents in Montana drop dramatically in last decade


Griz lose on last-second tip-in at Idaho in overtime

Lady Griz stumble against Idaho, 67-56

With loss to Eastern Washington, Bobcats drop 9 of last 11

Lady Cats slip by Eastern Washington, 77-74

Whitefish skier Voisin finishes 4th in Olympic slopestyle

Griz suffer 1st conference loss of season at Eastern Washington

Lady Cats lose 4th straight as they fall to Idaho

Idaho dominates on glass, beating Cats 88-78

Lady Griz lose to Eastern Washington, 75-72



Number of steps needed to subdue gun violence

Judge's ruling won't stop robocalls, lawmakers need to jump in

Black sheriff David Clarke tells Gazette editors to 'take the hood off'

GOP shouldn't invite hyperbolic conservative sheriff David Clarke

Feds owe wronged Montana meat processors more than apology

Land preservation groups shouldn't hold secret meetings with officials

FEMA official: Maybe Whitefish Energy did a good job after all


Sundance honors film based on MT book about conversion therapy

'Dark Money' documentary on MT elections showing in Missoula

A look at Montana music concerts slated for this year

UM alum lost her husband to war but never abandoned her love

Former MT track star writes of her recovery from devastating accident

Bozeman author takes fresh look at African doctor: Villain or saint?

At Whitefish rail yard, a stray dog finally comes in from the cold



Rod Stewart doing his 1st Montana concert in Billings April 14

Chris Stapleton to play in Billings Aug. 2, Missoula on Aug. 3

Decemberists schedule Aug. 4-5 dates for Missoula music festival

Pearl Jam plans concert at Missoula's UM stadium Aug. 13

Send tips to editor@montanabuzz.com



JIM MESSINA, the University of Montana graduate and 2012 manager of Barack Obama's presidential re-election campaign, raised eyebrows the other day when he appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and knocked the relevance of public polls so early in an election campaign.

"I think all public pollsters should be shot," he declared.

Messina, who graduated from UM's journalism school in 1993, has been honored by the university on several occasions. He was named a distinguished alumni in 2013, and also was the university's commencement speaker that same year. 

After graduation, he worked for US Sen. Max Baucus before he became a top official in the Obama Administration, and then ran Obama's re-election campaign manager. He was hailed by the media as the "Fixer" for his work on the Obama campaigns and political promotions.

But in more recent years his political success has been more decidedly mixed. After leaving the Obama Administration, he set up a political consulting firm that has put much of its focus on campaigns in Europe, where he suffered a series of defeats that included the Brexit vote and the Italian reform plan.

THIS IS quite a coup for Montana Tech: The top spot in the rankings of the 50 Best Value Engineering Schools 2018.

The survey said Montana Tech graduates earn an average of over $80,000 a year, while paying tuition of only about 11,000 a year. Montana Tech scored a perfect 100 in the survey and beat out many better known schools.

"Montana Tech’s mining school has over a century of experience preparing professionals to build, fortify, and extract mines from the mining capital of the nation, which makes for a curriculum that is uniquely useful to the local economy," the site said. "It’s no wonder Montana Tech graduates have a 98% placement rate in the mining industry..."

MONTANANS like to think Big Sky Country is friendlier than other places. And now there's empirical evidence that's true. At least, it's certainly true when it comes to online interactions.

A recent study by Wired and Disqus looked at the percentage of hostile online comments coming from each state, as well as well as the number of folks who reported they'd been harassed online.

The study employed software that mapped the "troll topography of the United States” as it scanned in the internet looking for comments that were “rude, disrespectful or unreasonable” and could prompt users to leave discussions.

Montana was ranked the 9th friendliest state, with New Hampshire No. 1, and the two Dakotas Nos. 2 and 3. Nevada was ranked the least friendly state.

Reflecting on the rankings and all the hostility present on the internet, Ed Kemmick at Last Best News tells the story of Megan Phelps-Roper, the grand-daughter of Fred Phelps. Phelps, who founded the Westboro Baptist Church, infamous for its attacks on gays. veterans, and others. Phelps-Roper followed her grandfather's footsteps by taking to Twitter to attack enemies of the church, but over time began to engage her online opponents. A few were patient and kind with her, and she eventually dropped her extreme views and left the church.

The lesson, as far as Kemmick is concerned: Internet trolls thrive on insults, but patience and kindness could prove a lot more effective in changing people's minds.

MISSOULA'S always had a reputation for being, well, a little out-of-step with the rest of Montana.

So when its daily newspaper, the Missoulian, did a feature on a loon that landed on the Clark Fork River in Missoula, Al Acheson of Superior couldn't resist poking a little fun at the Garden City in a letter to the editor. Acheson quoted the lede to the article, which said: "This may sound crazy to the rest of Montana, but Missoula is no place for loons."

Quipped Acheson: "Now, that is funny! Ha ha ha ha."

The "campiest" place on planet Earth? According to the New York Times, it is Great Falls' infamous Sip 'n Dip Lounge, known for having women dressed as mermaids swim in an underwater pool that's visible through a window from the bar. The bar also features "Piano Pat" Spoonheim, who has played her "jazzy" style music since 1963.

Times reporter Brook Barnes describes the Sip 'n Dip as a "kitsch-tastic tiki bar" hidden inside the O'Haire Motor Inn where a dozen women -- three are currently out on maternity leave -- rotate as the bar's mermaids. But Spoonheim, who plays three nights a week, seems to be as much of a hit as the mermaids. 

Barnes says the Sip 'n Dip has become a magnet for travelers around the globe, "a must-visit for fans of Americana run amok — the wacky places where the human spirit gushes to the surface in an unexpected geyser." She quotes one visitor, a teacher from Illinois, who called it a "bucket-list place."

Of course, this being the Times, Barnes couldn't help but take some condescending shots at Great Falls, which she says can be a "soul-deadening place." She started her story this way: "When a study recently found Great Falls the least gay-friendly city in Montana, one man wrote on a local news website, “Let’s keep it that way.” Mermaids are totally tolerable, though." (Nothing like using one idiot's remarks to represent the thinking of an entire city, huh?)

The "recent" study Barnes refers to was done more than four years ago by the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBT rights. Its study gave Great Falls low marks for such things as lacking a human rights commission, policies on bullying, and a non-discrimination laws. The report also marked the city down for having a median household income of only $42,487 (the report doesn't explain how that level hurts the LGBT community more than it hurts other parts of the community.)