Biochemist Sonja Best discusses Zika virus studies with fellow researcher Clayton Winkler at Hamilton’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories. While an international public health emergency notice about Zika infections was just issued Monday, the staff at the lab has been working on tools to diagnose and defend against the virus since it was identified in Brazil in November. (Ravalli Republic)


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

Feb. 5, 2016


IN A recent story that noted how critics had raised questions about whether University of Montana administrators had showed favoritism by hiring so many Mormons to high-profile positions, the Missoulian made the eye-opening assertion that the Mormon church planned to buy Utah State University.

The Missoulian's story began by quoting critics who claimed that, since Perry Brown, a Mormon Church leader, was hired as UM's provost in 2010, several other top UM slots had gone to Mormons or fellow Utah State University graduates.

​In providing background, the original version of the story noted that Mormons are 2 percent of the nation's population and up to 5 percent in Montana. The paper added: "In Utah, 60 percent of the population is Mormon, and the LDS church announced in 2013 it planned to buy Utah State University."

It is unclear where the Missoulian got its information, but it may have come from this internet April Fool's Day joke.

The Missoulian has since scrubbed the line about the LDS church buying USU from its story, but the correction probably won't satisfy many. The updated version of its story simply says there was an error in the original version: "Utah State University is a public institution."​

In a comment at the end of the story, Kevin McRae, chief human resource officer for the Montana University System, said he'd asked Missoulian editors to explain the source for their report that the LDS church was buying USU, and evidence to back the Missoulian's "proposition that faculty or staff or professional or administrative employees in the Montana University System might be employed on the basis of religion." 

Likewise, UM President Royce Engstrom accused the Missoulian of "irresponsible journalism" in a letter to the editor. He added that he was asking his attorney to see if there was any legal action UM could take against the paper, but added "I doubt that there is..."

Stay tuned. 

THERE are millionaires among us. Many of them, it seems.

More specifically, Montana has 20,899 households with over $1 million in investable assets, according to New York marketing research firm Phoenix Research International. 

That number is 2,005 households higher than the previous year -- putting Montana at 33rd in the national rankings, and six spots higher than it was in 2014.

That was the largest leap of any state. It also puts almost 5 percent of Montana's households in the "millionaire" category.

So what accounts for Montana's growth in wealth? Representatives of the firm cite the state's favorable tax climate for entrepreneurs. They also point to our growing workforce, low unemployment rates and rising wages. 

INSTEAD of packing up and moving to Los Angeles, the St. Louis Rams ought to re-locate to Billings, Montana. That's the tongue-in-cheek suggestion of a Newsweek writer who claims his idea has a lot going for it.

"What if the Rams had moved to a state named after a four-time Super Bowl–winning quarterback?" said Newsweek writer John Walters. "What if the team now fleeing St. Louis, the origin point of the Lewis and Clark expedition, had relocated to the town where Captain William Clark once etched his name (on a slab at Pompeys Pillar)? Who wouldn’t root for the Billings Bighorns?" 

Walters said fans could tailgate on the Yellowstone River, wearing T-shirts that say, "Talk is sheep." Younger fans would call themselves Little Bighorns. 

Walters, who has been through Montana, told the Billings Gazette he wrote the column "to have a little fun, but honestly I think it’s a smart idea. If only I had a billion dollars, I’d do it myself.”


CRITICS are calling 'The Revenant' one of the most beautiful films ever made. It also was reportedly one of the most grueling to make.

In one of the most gripping scenes, frontiersman Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo DeCaprio, dives into a raging river to escape a band of Indians who want to kill him. Already badly mauled in a grizzly bear attack, Glass is bludgeoned even more by the rocks as he's swept down a series of rapids. 

The filming of the scene, which was done last summer at Kootenai Falls near Troy, is described in this New York Times interview with director Alejandro González Iñárritu. "It was very dangerous," he said, indicating that DeCaprio was in some of the shots while a stunt double took his place in others.

Although one is struck by the harsh winter scenes throughout the movie, observant moviegoers will notice that, for the short part portion of the movie when Glass is swept down the waterfalls, there are green mountainsides in the background. That's because the film crew needed a river warm enough for their actors, the director indicated.



Livestock Board plans to change its plan for milk-inspection fee

Mom suing medical providers admits not reading medical brochures

Zinke, Hunter introduce bill requiring women to register for draft

Air ambulance firms, insurers blame each other for high costs at hearing

Helena judge recuses herself from Wittich/Motl case

GOP Sen. Rosendale enters race for auditor

Democrat Jesse Laslovich files for state auditor

Judge hears suit against Revenue Department over liquor-sales system

Bozeman wildlife firm fights revocation of state license

MT ice cream maker may get milk from Idaho due to higher fees

Lake, Koopman seeking re-election to their PSC seats

Former US Sen. John Walsh gets job with federal agency in MT

Environmentalists trash Gianforte idea that industry leader run DEQ

Former Big Timber school worker to admit having sex with student, 15

Butte officials to step up security at courthouse during murder trial

Kalispell man who killed Somers teacher in crash sent back to prison

Feds want settlement with green group in coal mining lawsuit

UM president says he'll give his pay raise to a student

Backers of crime-victims initiative say they expect to be on fall ballot 

Hamilton research lab focuses on Zika virus research

Head of Bozeman civil contracting firm donating $6 million to MSU

Child abuse and neglect cases swamp Montana's courts

Jury clears 2 Yellowstone Co deputies who fatally shot driver

UM president says more budget cuts will be needed

Hardin jail officials recruits inmates from Yellowstone County

Young Montanans, like those elsewhere, show less interest in religion

Butte band teacher changes plea, enters Alford plea in student sex case

US Senate committee approves $420M water settlement with Blackfeet

Red Lodge cops, Carbon County squabble over Bearcreek drug bust

Flathead Co deputies hit with bear spray by man caught peeping

Juneau is first openly gay candidate to run for statewide office

Report: Montana's gun industry one of the strongest in the USA

Judicial panel: State needs 21 more district judges to meet demand

Gardiner mom sues for medical expenses for child with cystic fibrosis

Meth cases overwhelm Montana's public defender office

Skeletal remains found along Smith River, may be ancient burial site

MIssoula principal, teacher disciplined after paper runs topless photos

Millions expected to be spent on Montana governor's race

State, local officials develop new protocol for processing rape kits

State's first female federal judge, Carolyn Ostby, to step down Dec. 1

Bond set at $35K for Flathead student accused of bringing gun to school

Protesters speak out against bringing Syrian refugees to Montana

Critics say opponents of refugee resettlement using 'hateful rhetoric'

Judge presiding over Motl/Wittich case is wife of lieutenant governor

Bigfork man donates kidney to his ailing wife

Putting a face on homelessness in the Browning school district

Billings man admits stealing neighbor's identity to drain off investments

Poplar man stabbed to death, woman taken into custody

State to hire a director of Indian health

Body of MSU student found at Bozeman business

Summit focuses on Montana's suicide rate, one of nation's highest

Fees rise on Montana's hunting and fishing licenses


Flathead Valley sees a building boom last year

Las Vegas firm buys Montana slot machine route operator

Administration slaps 3-year moratorium on new federal coal leases

Great Falls airport to get direct United Airlines flight to Chicago

Fewer Canadians venture south of the border as loonie falls

Union workers ratify 4-year contract with Stillwater Mine


Grizzlies stumble in closing minutes, fall to Sac State 83-79

Bobcats stumble against Portland State, 83-68

Lady Cats paste Portland State 74-64

Lady Griz survive Sac State 'marathon,' 90-83

Columbus abuzz with support for Super Bowl-bound Dwan Edwards

The other Kalispell grad who played in a Super Bowl: Sam McCallum

MSU Choates' 1st recruiting class defined by smarts, character

Griz sign 31 in last year of NCAA sanctions

Columbus pyrotechnics firm to provide Super Bowl fireworks


Political practices commissioner is doing his job well

Motl unfairly targeting ideological opponents

PSC should devote more attention to railroad safety

Whitefish experience shows resort tax can benefit a community

PSC must keep a close eye on utility rates

State can't let quality of emergency medical services in rural areas slip

Wilderness advocates must resist the 'fuzzy Neverland' of collaboration

Collaboration is a key to wilderness preservation in Montana



The Michael Punke book that inspired 'The Revenant' is well-researched

Smith brothers wrap up production on MT-based survival thriller

State's first aviators died young

MT actress wins glowing reviews for role in film premiering at Sundance

Saying goodbye to an endangered species: The lumberjack

Bitterroot man designed Panaflex cameras that helped Hollywood boom



NPR's Garrison Keillor coming to UM March 1

Carrie Underwood to perform in Billings May 12

Ziggy Marley to headline Billings Magic City Blues Festival in August


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