A presidential visit

Readers Nicki Leniton and Brett Nelson, schoolteachers who live in Carbondale, Colo., came by the High Country News office in mid-July driving a Ford Crown Victoria and towing a 12-foot-tall effigy of George W. Bush.

The two are part of a nationwide effort by the nonprofit True Majority (founded by Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream) to draw attention to what they describe as Bush’s less-than-stellar adherence to the truth during his three years in office. The "pants on fire" mobile started in Vermont, and is being passed from driver to driver. Leniton and Nelson picked it up in Boulder, and stopped in Paonia on their way to Salt Lake City, Yellowstone National Park, Helena, Mont., and finally Spokane, Wash., where they hope to meet up with the president during a campaign visit to the city.

Brett says the float never fails to draw attention. But whether people are cheering or booing, he says, the pair likes to think people are showing their support. "We either assume they’re cheering for us, or booing at Bush," he says.

High Country Newsers loose in the world

Thanks to former HCN board member John McBride, a slew of pundits, politicians and thinkers gathered in Aspen, Colo., July 9-11, to talk about the Iraq war, population, the environment, and the sins of the mass media. Former HCN publisher Ed Marston, who moderated one panel, tells us the gathering was probably the most exciting of the five previously hosted by the McBride clan, who are creators of the Sopris Foundation, which includes daughter Kate McBride Puckett, organizer of this year’s State of the World Conference, and son Peter, a former HCN intern who now works as a photographer for National Geographic.

Over three days, the gathering of 450 or so people from around the country heard talks by Richard Clarke, terrorism advisor to several presidents and author of Against All Enemies; former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm; Tim Wirth, the former Colorado senator who heads Ted Turner’s United Nations Foundation; Joe Wilson, former U.S. ambassador whose wife, Valerie Plame, was allegedly "outed" as a CIA spy by the Bush administration; Amy Goodman, host of Pacifica Radio’s "Democracy Now;" Jim Hightower, radio commentator and former Texas Agriculture Commissioner; and Randy Udall, a sustainable energy expert from Carbondale, Colo., among others.

Fans of the now-defunct Radio High Country News may have recognized one of the voices on National Public Radio’s "Morning Edition" in recent weeks. Former Radio HCN producer Adam Burke has been reporting on the Tour de France — "chasing wheel-bound men in tights," in his words. He’s en route to the Summer Olympics in Athens from Switzerland, where he was working on another radio project, this one "super-secret."

We also heard recently from former HCN intern Lisa Lombardi, who is living in Queensland, Australia. "Oz is lots like the U.S. West," she writes, "wide-open, not many people, and heart-stoppingly beautiful. And lots of sheep, cows, disenfranchised native inhabitants, and not much water."

Finally, congratulations to Ellen and Auden Schendler of Basalt, Colo., on the birth of Willa Echo, 7 pounds 11 ounces, on July 9. Auden is a former intern who now heads the environmental affairs department for the Aspen Skiing Company. Ellen runs the Aspen Valley Community Foundation.