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ACTRESS Gwyneth Paltrow recently spent some time visiting Montana, and the piece she wrote about her Big Sky experiences no doubt thrilled state tourism officials. She ravved about Montana's attributes on Goop, her popular e-commerce web site where she sounds off on fashion, family and other issues.
"They call if Big Sky Country for a reason: Interrupted solely by the distant peaks of the Rockies, the horizon here goes on forever, holding dominion over horse ranches, National Forest Service lands, and a whole lot of cattle," Paltrow said in an introduction to a guide to western Montana dude ranches.
Now, these aren't exactly the 'roughin' it' kind of dude ranches. Paltrow reviewed -- with a big thumbs up -- her stays at the Paws Up Resort northeast of Missoula, the Ranch at Rock Creek near Phillipsburg, and Triple Creek Ranch near Darby. (If you want to replicate Paltrow's vacation, be prepared to fork over big bucks. They can cost around $2,000 a night, and were recently named among the most expensive luxury resorts in the US.)
Paltrow, who sprinkled her piece with plenty of photos of herself and her kids enjoying Montana activities, also took a trip to Glacier Park and stayed at the handsome but rustic Many Glacier Hotel, which she said is "inarguably one of our favorite hotels in all the world."
"There are few spots in America where the landscape can actually move you -- reminding you not only of your relative insignificance, but of how might and ancient the earth really is," she said. "Glacier is one of those places."
Paltrow, by the way, wasn't the only celeb enjoying Big Sky Country in recent days. Singer Lady Gaga joined her friend, artist Jeff Koons, who came to Big Sky to give a talk on art at the exclusive Yellowstone Club. Lady Gaga sent out a photo of the scenery via Instagram, declaring: "It is so phenomenally beautiful here."
FORMER Gov. Brian Schweitzer's rise as a potential presidential candidate was rapid and hot, in good part because of the media attention he won for attacking Hillary Clinton and, well, spouting off on pretty much anything.
But any thoughts he once had of a presidential run have been dashed, BuzzFeed reporter Ruby Cramer believes, by the former governor's recent controversial statements suggesting House Majority Eric Cantor was gay and comparing California Sen. Dianne Feinstein to a prostitute.
Cramer says "...in the end, Schweitzer's rise amounted to the thing people in Washington call a media narrative. And his burned hot and fast and then just went away. Schweitzer talked and talked and talked until finally he said something stupid. Now he can still talk, but there's no one left to listen."
Schweitzer apologized --- though not personally -- for his remarks. And while he had been a regular guest commentator on MSNBC (he has a little studio in his Georgetown house), network brass have decided not to bring him back on the air since he made his brash remarks, according to Cramer. They told Cramer they'll bring him back when "his insights will add value to a story."
As for Schweitzer, he told Cramer he hasn't decided to "not" run for president. But then he's never decided that he would, either.
The bottom line, he told Cramer, is that nothing has changed.
HERE"S an "award" no politician wants to win: National Journal's Dead Man Walking citation.
In assessing many of the nation's key political races at their midpoint, the online political journal honored Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett with its "dead man walking" award, saying he trails his challenger by 22 points and will have a tough time being re-elected this fall. The journal named Montana Sen. John Walsh as one of three runners-up for the award.
WITH THE Bakken oil boom, fossil fuel production on the nation's federal lands must have risen dramatically in recent years, right?
Not so fast. Actually, fossil fuel production on federal lands has declined considerably in the last decade, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The country got over 20 billion BTUs (British thermal units) of fossil fuels from federal lands in 2003, but that slipped to just under 16 billion BTUs last year -- or a quarter of the country's energy production. Thirty-six percent came from federal lands in 2003.
Interestingly, production rates for coal have remained pretty constant. The big production drops on federal lands have been seen for oil and natural gas. In short, the energy industry has been shifting its focus to private and state lands.
AS ONE of only two states in the country that doesn't ban texting while driving, Montana could prevent a lot of accidents and save a lot of lives with a prohibition. "It's a no-brainer," as state insurance commissioner Monica Lindeen says.
Or is it?
Perhaps surprisingly, studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show texting bans haven't really made the roads safer. "Unfortunately, we have found that there's no evidence that various kinds of cellphone restrictions have reduced crashes," said institute official Russ Rader.
Calling it a "confusing conundrum," Rader notes that texting ban do appear to reduce the amount of texting and cellphone use by drivers, but that doesn't necessarily translate into fewer accidents. In nine out of ten cases, Rader said, vehicle mishaps are simply due to drivers making mistakes.
"There's no question that distracted driving is huge, but it was huge before we had cellphones," he said.