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DURING his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama said women "still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns." This week, after Obama signed two executive orders aimed at addressing the alleged pay gap, reporters began asking questions about a recent study that showed female White House staffers earn only 88 cents compared to each dollar their male counterparts earn.
White House officials responded that the 88-cent number was misleading because it put together all workers, including those at lower levels, where women tend to outnumber men. But that, critics said, is one of the problems with the 77 cents figure: It is based on an aggregation of all workers, including women who want to work fewer hours so they have more time to spend with their families.
When Montana Gov. Steve Bullock created an Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force last year, he cited the 77-cents figure, claiming it represented what women nationally were being paid to do the same work as men. In Montana, he said, the situation is even worse: Women earn 67 cents for each dollar men get for doing the same work.
The task force met last week in Bozeman, and experts there acknowledged that most of the pay gap is due to choices women make. These choices include taking time off to raise families, or working part-time, and choosing professions that are safer and less physically demanding.
YOU might want to steer clear of Yellowstone Park. Why's that? Because the recent 4.8 magnitude earthquake that rattled the park has triggered speculation among bloggers a supervolcano under the park will blow any day now.
As proof, they're citing photos showing bison and other animals leaving the park for allegedly safer ground elsewhere. Of course, they don't mention that bison leave the park most every winter seeking lower elevations and less snow to find food.
One blogger posted a video showing bison migrating from the park along a highway and said "..whatever the case may be, ...their running away from Yellowstone is an alert of some sort."
These "alerts" might actually be good news for Montanans who have wanted to visit Yellowstone for years but have avoided doing so because of the swarms of tourists. If they go this summer, all they might have to deal with is fleeing critters. Though by then they should be fleeing back into the park.
IF YOU'RE a Montanan who frets about the possibility of a zombie apocalypse, you can now breathe a little easier. That is, you can if you believe the rankings put out by the web site Estately.com,
The web site, which specializes in real-estate matters, had some fun by ranking the states on how prepared they were to deal with a zombie apocalypse. States with such things as a lot of gun owners and many people with survival skills and active military personnel scored the best.
Also, states with low levels of obesity -- a category where Montana ranks first -- is a big plus. Gotta outrun those zombies.
Montana finished 6th in the rankings, behind Alaska, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho and New Mexico. Fortunately, except for Alaska, Montana is a little more out of the way than those other states.
MOST Montana histories focus on the western part of the state, so it's good to see one that explains a bit about how eastern Montana came to be. In blunt, folksy fashion, "A Hard-Won Life" by H. Norman Hyatt tells what life was like in the late 1800s in the Glendive area. Early on we learn that Dawson County, which then ran all the way from the Canadian border to just south of Glendive, was the last place in the USA settled by whites.
Among the first white settlers were Levi and Sarah Van Blaricom and their nine children. This book is based on the memoirs of the fifth child, Fred, who was born in 1875. Just a few months after the family arrived in early 1882 at Glendive, Sarah died from typhoid fever. Since Levi was disabled, the older children had to fare for themselves while younger siblings were shuffled off to friends or relatives. Freddie and his sister Alice were sent to live with a cousin near Forsyth.
The cousin's husband, a man Freddie dubbed "Coyote-breath," was abusive. In the winter of 1883, Freddie realized he and his sister could die if he didn't escape. He crossed the frozen Yellowstone River and fled along the railroad tracks with his grubstake of just "two slices of bread, two pieces of beefsteak, no water, no houses for miles, and no one that gave a damn whether I made it or not...and me 7 years old."
Freddie made it to Glendive and got help for his sister. It was just one of many tight squeezes he negotiated on the frontier where -- since he and school didn't see eye to eye -- he mostly worked as a cowboy. Along the way he befriended many characters, including rancher and future president Teddy Roosevelt and artist C.M. Russell, who offered Fred several sketches.
"A Hard-Won Life" is as compelling as a novel, as van Blaricom chronicles not only the many hardships he and other settlers endured, but also the acts of kindness that kept them going.