Fascinating conundrums



That wistful Iowa farm boy in the ads for a language-learning software called Rosetta Stone — “He was a hardworking farm boy. She was an Italian supermodel. He knew he would have just one chance to impress her” — now has an opportunity to learn Navajo, too, reports the Daily Times of Farmington, N.M. The company recently released its Navajo language-training program, the result of thousands of hours of work and hundreds of volunteers who provided expertise. More than 100,000 people speak Navajo, but the language is on the decline, with only about 50 percent of young Navajos able to speak it, according to the 2000 census. Traditionally an oral language, Navajo has an unusual syntax. For example, the translation of “The bird is sitting on a tree” is “the bird, the tree, on it, it sits.” A nonprofit called Navajo Language Renaissance spurred the Rosetta Stone software for Navajo speakers.


Ernie Atencio, who heads the Taos Land Trust, loves to visit the stunning, high-rise ruins at Chaco Canyon National Historical Park. The park is in a remote part of northwestern New Mexico at the end of a washboard road, and to most of its visitors, the rock-walled city that 5,000 people fled after prospering there for some 800 years is a fascinating conundrum. Atencio has collected some of the more perplexing questions visitors have posed over the years, but he has three favorites: “Why did the Indians always live in ruins?” “Why did they build so far from the road?” And the truly unanswerable, “How many undiscovered ruins are there?”


Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart has self-published a book claiming that the income tax is unconstitutional. He is also a known thief, reports the Spokane Spokesman-Review. He stole timber from state school trust land nine years ago to build himself a log home, claiming a loophole in the law allowed him to do so. And although state courts have called his protest against paying for the timber “frivolous,” he’s fought the case three times over five years, and he insists he’s not paying court costs that have mounted to $15,500. Nevertheless, Hart is probably a shoo-in for a fourth term this November; his opponent is a write-in candidate.

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