By on October 13, 2015

Lodge Leasing Not OK

A federal report into the use of Brinkerhoff Lodge in Grand Teton National Park found that the Park Service was improperly leasing the cozy cabin to government officials on vacation. The lodge is designated for official government business only but enforcement in recent years has been lax.

Some politicians, including Vice President Joe Biden, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, have stayed at Brinkerhoff for next to nothing in charges. Allegations of improper use of the 1947 cabin began last year when word got out that Biden bunked there while on vacation.

“From 2011 to 2014, more than 500 different people have visited the lodge,” a report by the Department of Interior said. “These visitors include state officials, friends of the prior superintendent, host speakers, foundation officials, and family and friends of official visitors.”

The Casper Star-Tribune carried the story.

Winning Shot

Kelsey Dayton provided a nice wrap-up of the BLM’s photo contest in her latest WyoFile story. More than 40 BLM employees entered about 180 images, according to Cynthia Wertz, a public affairs officer with the BLM.

Images were judged in three categories: living in Wyoming, playing in Wyoming and working in Wyoming. Sam Cox scored top honors in the playing in Wyoming category.

Flu Ferocity

Last year’s flu was particularly viral. Wyoming reported 29 influenza-related deaths for the 2014-15 season. With the Centers for Disease Control predicting another nasty strain headed our way this winter, Wyoming Department of Health officials are urging residents to get their vaccines early.

Reggie McClinton, a WDH epidemiologist, told the Casper Journal not to take influenza lightly. “Sadly, we saw 29 influenza-associated deaths reported in Wyoming,” she said. “This represents the highest number our state has seen in many, many years. We also had a high number of reported cases overall compared to usual.”

Last season’s flu shot missed the mark somewhat. The strain the vaccine targeted managed to mutate enough to cause some who received it to contract the flu anyway. Still, health officials say, a flu shot is the best method of slowing down the spread of the virus.

Walmart Dishes Out

The Walmart Foundation awarded $157,500 to various Wyoming nonprofits last week. Through the company’s Wyoming State Giving Program, Walmart leaders forked over money to four nonprofits including CLIMB Wyoming ($46,500) and the Wyoming Food for Thought Project ($26,000).

“We’re honored to partner with organizations that make a significant philanthropic impact and help Wyoming residents live better,” said Kal Patel, Walmart vice president and regional general manager.

The story ran in the Casper Journal.

Hate Crime in 2016?

State Democratic lawmakers could introduce a hate crime bill for the 2016 session. The Billings Gazette reported Rep. Jim Byrd is especially interested in seeing something on the books. The Democrat from Cheyenne sent an email to party colleagues last week asking for ideas. Wyoming is one of five states lacking a hate crime bill.

Horse Racing Slots Still Parked

Horse racing terminals in Wyoming remain shut down after the Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission declined to lift its suspension of the machines. The terminals were iced after an attorney general’s opinion that the terminals, which offer betting on historic horse races, do not conform to state laws prohibiting slot machine gambling.

“We understand the situation where shutting you down causes economic hardship for a lot of people,” Commission President Randy Leinen is quoted as saying by Bob Moen of the Star-Tribune. “However, being in violation of the law per the attorney general’s opinion, I could not in good conscience allow this to continue.”

Wyo. Soldiers Sue

Five Wyoming military veterans are suing Houston-based KBR for improperly burning toxic waste in Iraq. The Star-Tribune reported the men are contending KBR failed to take necessary safety precautions when incinerating waste that included chemicals in burn pits.

Fox25 from Oklahoma City also aired the story on its nightly news. PJH

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