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Aggressive, cat-eating lizards

COLORADO

As if the recent local wildfires weren't trouble enough, now Woodland Park, Colo, has to worry about a "strong, aggressive" 6-foot monitor lizard that might find itself tempted to dine on cats and dogs. The "pet," known as Dino, snapped its mesh leash and wandered off in the tourist town northwest of Colorado Springs, reports AP. "If it gets hungry enough, we don't know what it will do," Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensminger remarked helpfully.

Speaking of fires, in a letter to the Colorado Springs Independent, Terri Weber had a heartfelt reminder for area residents who'd weathered a terrible wildfire that destroyed hundreds of homes: "Local resources were not enough to save our city. You, my fellow taxpayers, paid for the C-130s dropping fire retardant, (the) Hot Shots … (and) boots on the ground. This is the big government that some people are wailing about. I am so tickled to have it, and I thank you for it."

MONTANA

Jesus has a friend in Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, or at least the blue-robed Big Mountain Jesus statue does, standing with arms outstretched at the top of Whitefish Mountain Resort's Chair 2. For nearly six decades, the statue has welcomed skiers, "whose irreverence, however unintentional, most recently cost the Jesus statue an outstretched hand," reports the Missoulian. But that's the least of its problems. First, the Forest Service chose not to renew the lease for the 25-by-25-foot parcel of land where the statue stands. But after 95,000 public comments flooded in, the agency decided to let the statue stay "after determining that it was eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places." That's when a Wisconsin-based group of atheists called the Freedom From Religion Foundation went to federal court to attack the legality of allowing a religious symbol on national forest land, calling it "a state endorsement of religion." Rehberg, who is running for the Senate in a closely watched race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, has joined forces with those who want the Jesus statue to stay put. He believes the statue is a "historic monument" inspired by members of the Army's 10th Mountain Division, who had seen similar shrines in the mountains of Italy.

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HCN in the outhouses of the West

From my Alaska trip: I flew into a small town that is not reachable by road, then hopped on a motorboat and drove across lakes and rivers for 2.5 hours to reach the scientists' camp way out in the boondocks -- out there they have a few rough cabins and a generator that makes electricity only in the evening and two outhouses -- and lo and behold, for reading material in the outhouses they have issues of the Economist magazines and HCN -- amazing to discover HCN readers way out there!

Ray Ring, HCN Senior Editor