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Rep. Frank Garner, R-Kalispell, wants to increase Montana's gas tax by 8 cents a gallon, which would make it one of the nation's highest. (Helena IR)
A daily digest of Montana news
Feb. 19, 2017
FIFTEEN YEARS ago, Helena banned smoking in its workplaces, restaurants, bars and casinos. In the ban's first six months, the city's rate of heart attacks plunged by almost 60 percent. Then, when a judge lifted the ban, the rate of heart attacks climbed back to where it had been.
Three anti-smoking advocates -- Helena physicians Richard Sargent and Robert Shepard as well as UC-San Francisco researcher Stanton Glantz -- produced a study that declared the 60 percent drop in heart attacks showed that a smoking ban "not only makes life more pleasant; it immediately starts saving lives."
The study was widely reported by the media -- usually with lack of any skepticism -- and hailed by health officials and others. Soon, governments everywhere, even overseas, were enacting smoking bans, often citing the Helena study as a prime reason.
But the funny thing is, as Jacob Grier reports in a fascinating article in Slate magazine, all those smoking bans created the opportunity for much broader -- and more accurate studies -- of the impact of secondhand smoke on heart health. And they've basically found there are little if any.
"And now that the evidence has had time to accumulate, it’s ... become clear that the extravagant promises made by anti-smoking groups—that implementing bans would bring about extraordinary improvements in cardiac health—never materialized," Grier says. ''Newer, better studies with much larger sample sizes have found little to no correlation between smoking bans and short-term incidence of heart attacks, and certainly nothing remotely close to the 60 percent reduction that was claimed in Helena. The updated science debunks the alarmist fantasies that were used to sell smoking bans to the public, allowing for a more sober analysis suggesting that current restrictions on smoking are extreme from a risk-reduction standpoint."
Grier says recent studies also suggest that there's no clear link between passive smoking and lung cancer. He acknowledges secondhand smoke can be a real annoyance, but that shouldn't spur society to make laws that are based on bad science.
HELENA CAPITAL High School graduate Wesley Edens is a whole lot wealthier with the sale of the Fortress Investment Group to Japan-based SoftBank. His stake in the bank is reportedly worth $511 million.
The New York Times reports that the deal will allow Edens to focus on his strength -- working as a fund manager -- without having to deal with the headaches of running a publicly traded company.
Edens, who co-chairs Fortress and who purchased the Milwaukee Bucks with Marc Lasry three years ago, graduated from Capital High in 1979.
A few years ago, Cassandra Liska, who oversees a scholarship program that Edens set up at Capital High School, described him as is "a self-made man who came from a ranch and built an empire."
SO DID Tom Brady take his family to Disney World, as Super Bowl MVPs usually do? Nope. Brady's celebrating his fifth Super Bowl victory with a ski vacation at Big Sky.
Sports Illustrated's Peter King tipped off the world to Brady's whereabouts with a recent interview in which the quarterback dissected the big game. King didn't actually spell out exactly where he interviewed Brady -- the piece carried the ambiguous dateline "SOMEWHERE IN MONTANA" -- but previous stories have noted that Brady owns a home at the Yellowstone Club at Big Sky. And King talked about flying into Bozeman for the interview.
King starts his piece this way: "This was the most amazing thing about the two hours I spent with 39-year-old Tom Brady on Sunday afternoon in a cabin (well, it’s called a cabin, but the getaway area for the Brady clan is pretty darned well-appointed) in the shadow of one of the most beautiful mountains in the world:
“I have zero pain,” Brady said, almost one week to the hour after he took the field for Super Bowl 51. “I feel great. I feel 100 percent.”
In part 2 of King's interview, Brady explains how he keeps in such great shape at age 39. He also explains that he tries not to "give my power away" by getting upset with the criticism that comes his way. Montana helps maintain his balance by giving him a place when he can just be himself.
THE MOST dangerous job in Montana? Maybe it is pizza delivery driver.
Consider the Kalispell pizza person who recently ran off the road and got stuck in a snowbank. In order to get help, the driver walked to a nearby home. Big mistake.
The driver reported he was bitten by three dogs at the residence. The Flathead County sheriff's office is investigating.
THE HEADLINE on the Dec. 21 letter to the editor of the Helena IR said: "Trump's pick for EPA a puppet for polluters." The writer, Caitlin McWilliams, said in her last sentence: "Our country deserves a champion for public health, not a puppet for polluters."
The same day the Missoulian ran a letter that had this headline "EPA nominee a puppet for polluters." And it was worded almost the same, including the same last sentence. So did McWilliams send her letter to the Missoulian? No, authors of the Missoulian letter were Todd and Andrea Onken.
So how did that happen? Did the Onkens copy McWilliams' letter, or vice versa?
No, what most likely happened is that McWilliams and the Onkens are members of an environmental group that asked members to submit the letter to their local papers. The letter has shown up in at least one other paper across the country.