The Billings Outpost

Ebola blocks missionary’s work

By SHARIE PYKE - For The Outpost

Cindy Watkins Bye, in blue shirt, works a pump in Liberia.Cindy Watkins Bye, an environmental engineer, has worked as a Lutheran missionary since December 2009 in a remote part of Liberia, among a people called the Kuwaa.

She often works alone to help install wells and bring large, portable  filters to provide safe drinking water. She’s returned every year to the small, West African country during the dry season, but the deadly Ebola virus has canceled her plans for 2015.

While her Kuwaa people are, so far, protected by their isolation, it’s too dangerous to fly into Monrovia, the capital city. As of Dec. 8, there were 7,690 Ebola cases with 3,161 deaths.

But the plight of the citizens resulted in little response in the United States. “Nobody really cared until the Ebola was here in America,” said Ms. Watkins Bye.

It took the death of a Liberian national, Thomas Eric Duncan, an African with a totally American name, to get national attention and concern. When he showed up at a hospital emergency department in Dallas, he was just another poor black man with flu-like symptoms and no insurance. His American name points to the strong ties between his homeland and the U.S.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 December 2014 12:15

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Saving Hailstone

By SUZI TAYLOR - MSU News Service
MSU microbiologist Amaya Garcia Costas takes samples from Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge in central Montana. Photo courtesy of Amaya Garcia Costas

BOZEMAN –Few Montanans have heard of – let alone visited – Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge, a 3,000-acre site located off a dirt road near the central Montana town of Rapelje.

A century ago, the natural wetland was a pristine sanctuary for migrating birds and northern plains game, but in 1938, a well-meaning public works project inadvertently transformed the site into an ecological disaster. The Work Projects Administration built an earthen dam designed to increase habitat for migratory fowl. Instead, the dam ended up channeling runoff from saline seeps into the new reservoir, which also became a repository for naturally occurring selenium deposits.

Meanwhile, developments in nearby dryland agriculture practices meant more highly saline water was flowing horizontally across the area, generating dangerously high concentrations of salts and selenium.

By July 2002, the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service released cringe-worthy photos of birds coated in white crust, reporting that “the Reservoir reached high enough selenium concentrations to cause salt encrustation on ducks landing on the reservoir, making them flightless, and eventually causing them to succumb to sodium toxicosis.” That report led the national conservation organization Defenders of Wildlife to label Hailstone as one of America’s 10 Most Endangered National Wildlife Refuges in 2007.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 December 2014 12:04

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Beware of cyber-shopping scams

By SHARIE PYKE - For The Outpost

It’s Buyer Beware as the holidays hit like an avalanche, especially if you shop on the Internet.

From Turkey Day to Cyber Monday and after, crooks abound, anxious to bilk stressed and unwary shoppers of their dollars.

Internet purchases last year totaled $616.9 billion and are expected to increase by 8 percent to 11 percent this year. Buying via the net is convenient and includes shipping, but scams abound.

The hardest scam to detect involves an internet sale from an e-commerce site that looks legit. While browsing websites, you find the perfect item, often an electronic gadget, for a very tempting price. Everything looks great, including a sophisticated web design.

But here’s the tip-off: When you go to pay for your purchase, the site only takes money orders or wire transfers, rather than a secure payment method.  This year’s first phony websites have been based in Australia, end with, and may have an stolen Australia business number as well. If you go ahead with the purchase, you will never receive the product, nor see your money again.

Rose Blush (Not her real name. Many of us feel shame when we’ve been bilked, and Rose is no exception.) ordered an introductory book for $1.99, typed in her debit card number, and then found out too late that shipping on her free book cost over $82. After a long wait on hold via phone, she finally reached a representative.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 November 2014 12:47

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Bottles of Uberbrew hit grocery shelves


Uberbrew recently became the second Billings brewery to put six packs of its beer on retail shelves.

The Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co. has been doing so for years with a bottling operation attached to its brewery at 2123 First Ave. N.

Uberbrew owners Mark Hastings and Jason Shroyer are going a bit different route — having their popular White Noise hefeweizen bottled at the Fort Collins Brewery in Colorado.

“I know these guys so well now,” Shroyer said. “They’re amazing.”

He has gained that knowledge by driving down to Fort Collins every two weeks for the past four months. In fact, his pickup was in the shop last week, after Shroyer, headed home from Colorado, ran into a couple of deer on the icy highway outside Sheridan, Wyo.

Six packs of White Noise went on sale late last month, starting out with some local stores that included Albertsons, Good Earth Market and Lucky’s Market. The list has been gradually expanding, thanks to Intermountain Distributing.

“They’ve really opened some doors for us,” Shroyer said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 November 2014 12:45

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