By Allen Best
Age, altitude yield fitful sleep
ASPEN, Colo. – Two rooms of the expanded Aspen Valley Hospital will be devoted to sleep studies, in which the blood oxygen levels, brain waves, and breathing rates of sleeping patients will be recorded.
It is, hospital officials tell the Aspen Daily News, another way in which the hospital is trying to accommodate the needs of the Aspen area’s aging population.
Sleep apnea is a problem prevalent among people as they age and those who are overweight. It is also more pronounced at higher elevations. When apnea occurs, people breathe sporadically. The resulting intermittent loss of oxygen cumulatively leads to heart and other problems.
Jesus doesn’t have a prayer
JACKSON, Wyo. – “Jesus doesn’t have a prayer at the Jackson Hole Rodeo,” reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide.
The story began last summer. An operator allowed to use municipal property for the twice-weekly rodeos began them with prayers that often included Biblical verses and other overt mentions of Christian belief. Some of those attending objected, as they felt forced to join.
In response, town officials asked the rodeo promoter to make the prayer nonsectarian, saying the town could not legally endorse a specific religion. The rodeo operator did, but then reverted back to a prayer rooted in the Bible.
All of this comes down to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech…”
What does this mean in practice? The Jackson town government makes the case that the prayer needs to be of the sort that somebody of another religion could live with. But some local Christians said they believe this is an erosion of freedom of speech and expression.
Aspen reconsiders hydro
ASPEN, Colo. – City officials in Aspen are back to the drafting table after voters, in a non-binding election, issued a thumb’s down to plans for a hydroelectric plant that would help the community shrink its dependency upon carbon fuels for electrical production.
By a wide margin, voters in 2007 authorized issuing $5.5 million in bonds to pay for the project. Over the last several years, however, river advocates and homeowners along the creeks argued that the impacts were too great. The vote was a squeaker, but even half the community having doubts is too much for some city council members.
The city has already invested $7 million in the proposition, or $9.5 million, if you include interest costs, reports the Aspen Daily News. City officials recently said they’d go back and review options, including the feasibility of getting renewable energy from other sources – but they already reviewed options before going down the hydroelectirc route, and nothing else – wind, solar, you name it — comes close to what they had proposed, even with more limited electrical production.
Homeowners along the creek dismiss the project as an exercise in nostalgia. Aspen got all of its power from hydroelectric production until 1958, about 12 years after the ski area began operations.
Jim Markalunas, 81, began working at the plant in the 1940s, when he was still in high school. In letters published in the local papers, he argues for the council to stay the course because the power is clean and local and, he says, global warming is real. He also keeps track of temperatures, and Aspen is clearly warmer than it was 50 years ago.
“At the very least, they should analyze the arguments of the opposition, provide answers to the public, and then schedule a binding vote on the issues,” advises Jack Johnson, a columnist in the Aspen Daily News. “Clearly they shouldn’t give up in the face of this one result and waste the money we’ve already spent.”
Hands of justice turn
WHISTLER, B.C. – Finally, there is resolution to the horrible case at Whistler of the dog-sled operator who killed dozens of his dogs, at least some inhumanely, according to a judicial settlement. Now found guilty, the man faces a fine of up to $75,000 and a sentence of up to five years in jail.
The dogs were being culled from the sledding operation after no longer being needed in 2010. Operators are allowed to do so, as the dogs are of the sort that can’t be adopted out.
Exactly how he killed the dogs in ways that were not humane is not exactly clear, although there have been various reports during the last two years. Because of the bungled nature of the killings, other dogs became fearful and traumatized.
All of this came to light when the man filed for worker’s compensation to deal with the mental stress of his deed. Details of his application were leaked to reporters.
Plans for resort take Jumbo step
INVERMERE, B.C. – The Jumbo Glacier Resort is one step closer to reality. The provincial government in British Columbia appointed councilors and a mayor for a new resort municipality of Jumbo.
Development officials commended the announcement but environmental groups and the mayor of the closest town, Invermere, condemned it.
In discussion since the 1980s, Jumbo is to have 5,500 bed units at build-out and the infrastructure to accommodate 2,000 to 3,000 people per day. The resort is described as being one-tenth the size of Whistler Blackcomb.
“They are pushing ahead on something that clearly ignores the local population, First Nations spiritual claims and grizzly bear science. No one wants this,” Robyn Duncan, program manager of Wildsight, an environmental group in the Columbia River Valley, told one newspaper.
The resort is planned for a former sawmill site 30 miles west of Invermere, or 162 miles west of Calgary.
At least one group of First Nations, the 300-member band of Shuswaps, supports the project, having concluded that sufficient environmental precautions are planned. They are also drawn by the 750 jobs that developers say the resort will create.
Bear outwits man … finally
ASPEN, Colo. – Aspen municipal employees thought they had outsmarted the local bears in the design of trash containers. They were wrong.
In mid-November, long after bears were believed to have retired for the winter to various shelters in the forest, a bear plucked a bag from a trash container in front of the Aspen City Hall.
The bear-proof containers had been in place for a decade. “After 10 years, we finally got a bear that was bright — brighter than we are,” said Jeff Woods, director of the city parks department.
The Aspen Daily News reports that 9 bears were killed in Aspen and close-by areas this year, and another 6 were trapped and moved to other areas.
Meanwhile, says the paper, studies continue of bears in and around Aspen. One study resulted in 50 bears being collared and their locations tracked by GPS every half hour. In years in which berries and nuts were plentiful in the forest and meadows, they tended to feed there. When natural food is absent, as has occurred every 2nd or 3rd year, they hit the town itself.