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Next Monday is the biggest online shopping day of the year, and that makes it ripe for scams and identity theft. Credit card information, bank accounts and other personal information is more accessible to scammers through insecure websites.

Wyoming Senior Assistant Attorney General Melissa Theriault says keeping a close eye on bank accounts can help prevent thefts.

Wyoming Highway Patrol Association

Deaths on Wyoming highways have risen sharply this year. While there were 87 fatalities in 2013, there have been 136 in 2014. 61 percent of the people who died on Wyoming highways this year were not wearing seatbelts.

Sergeant David Wagener with the Wyoming Highway Patrol says that while seatbelts are mandatory in the state, seatbelt laws are only enforceable after a driver has been pulled over for another offense like speeding. He also says people still choose to break that law.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol issues quotas for the number of stops and citations its troopers need to make in a given year.

An internal document obtained by the Wyoming Tribune Eagle newspaper shows troopers in Southeast Wyoming’s District One need to make at least 732 traffic stops and issue at least 55 seat belt violations per year to be considered “competent.”

Those ratings directly affect troopers, as they play a role in determining state worker’s salaries.

Wikimedia Commons

The Wyoming Farm Bureau is looking to the January legislative session as an entry-point to address issues surrounding trespassing, liability, and transportation.

Courtesy of Kate Christman Nagel

Local business and one school were evacuated today after an explosion and fire at a propane distribution station in Jackson.

Safety officials reported an explosion just after 1 p.m. at an AmeriGas facility two miles from downtown Jackson.  A nearby high school, grocery store, and gym were evacuated but students in other area schools were told to stay in place.  Teton County Public Information Officer Charlotte Reynolds said in the afternoon that the fire activity has diminished but asks that the public stay away.

Associated Press

Wyoming’s only death row inmate had his death sentence overturned in Federal Court Thursday. Dale Wayne Eaton was convicted of kidnap, assault and murder Lisa Marie Kimmel of Billings in 1988. 

Federal Judge Alan Johnson overturned Eaton’s death penalty due to lack of proper representation during Eaton’s trial. Eaton will remain in prison, but it is unclear if Wyoming’s attorney general will appeal the ruling.  

Michael Blonigen is the Natrona County District Attorney and the person who originally prosecuted Eaton. He says the victim’s family is distraught over the ruling.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department says that Sage grouse chick production was unusually high this year.

The agency has discovered that grouse hens had more chicks this year than usual, over two per hen.  That’s over double from last year.

Chief Game Warden Brian Nesnik says hunters submit wings of grouse they harvest to the department for analysis.  That’s how they determine what is happening with the bird.

Wyoming Department of Health

Diabetes in Wyoming has spiked in recent years. The Wyoming Department of Health says almost 9% of adults in Wyoming now have the disease, up from 4.5% in 2001.

Joe Grandpre is an epidemiologist with the Department of Health and says while that rate is already high, some areas of the population have been affected even more.

“So we have about 7.9 percent in white non-Hispanics in Wyoming," says Grandpre. "But in our American Indian population it’s 19.5, so almost one on five of our American Indian adults has been told they have diabetes. And with Hispanics it’s 13.7.”

A federal judge has overturned the death penalty for Dale Wayne Eaton, Wyoming's lone death row inmate.

U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson of Cheyenne on Thursday stated Wyoming has a choice of either granting a new sentencing proceeding for Eaton within 120 days in Natrona County or keeping him locked up for life without parole.

The 69-year-old Eaton was sentenced to death in 2004 in state court for the 1988 rape and murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell of Billings, Montana.

Large numbers of Elk have been seen migrating near Jackson and across major roadways last weekend. The National Elk Refuge is urging drivers around the Jackson area to be especially careful in the coming week as hundreds of elk make their way across the area.

The refuge says a winter storm that brought colder temperatures and more than a foot of snow likely kicked off the migration. Elk mainly move at dawn and dusk which makes sighting them more difficult. Refuge spokesperson Lori Iverson says migrations, wintery conditions and drivers take a toll on animals in the area.

Former World Chess Champion and Russian political activist Garry Kasparov was in Cheyenne and Laramie last Friday to discuss global politics and American leadership. Kasparov says under President Vladimir Putin, Russia presents the greatest threat to global security.

“It seems that he believes, and his cronies keep repeating it, that Putin is Russia and Russia is Putin, which means his personal failure he may consider as a signal to bring the entire country down with him.”

Jordan Cooper via Flickr

Construction of new affordable housing units in Riverton, Casper, and the Wind River Reservation will begin in next few months: courtesy of 2.8 million dollars in new funding for affordable housing recently allocated by the Wyoming Community Development Authority. The federal funds are distributed to developers as an incentive to build units that rent for less than two thirds of market price in the respective counties. Community Development Authority Director Gayle Brownlee says all kinds of people need housing help.

Wyoming now has four major political parties. That’s according to the Secretary of State’s office. The Libertarian and Constitution parties received more than ten percent of the vote in the Secretary of State race during the 2014 midterms, which means they are now considered major parties by the Wyoming Government.

The open enrollment period to sign up for health insurance starts November 15 and runs through February 15. That gives customers a short three-month window to sign up. There will not be another chance to enroll again until next November. Wyoming Insurance Commissioner Tom Hirsig says a wide range of Wyoming residents qualify for government aid to help pay for the health insurance.

“That’s kind of the range,” he says. “A single person making $12,000 to, say, a family of four making $100,000. So as you can well imagine that encompasses a vast majority of the population of Wyoming.”

istockphoto.com

The 2014 Wyoming Forum kicked off yesterday with a discussion of Wyoming’s tech scene between Governor Matt Mead and two prominent California entrepreneurs. One big topic was whether the Cheyenne-Laramie area or Jackson was the most promising for growth. 

Miguel Ariel Contreras Drake McLaughlin / Flickr

Journalist Bob Woodward, famous for exposing the Watergate Scandal, was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Wyoming Forum in Cheyenne yesterday.

He talked about the work he did with Carl Bernstein at the Washington Post that contributed to President Nixon’s resignation. He also discussed the presidency of Obama, who he characterized as failing to connect with Congress or convey strength abroad, despite his admirable goals.

Woodward says he’s concerned about growing polarization in American society.

University of Wyoming

The University Of Wyoming Board Of Trustees is considering a variety of proposed tuition raises in order to retain faculty members. On Friday the board is expected to vote on two proposals. The first would increase tuition by five percent for academic year 2016. The second would allow the board to increase tuition by four percent every year for four years.

UW’s Vice President for Administration Bill Mai says the university has lost key members of its faculty in recent years due to financial concerns and has had to move money from other areas to retain current faculty.

State lawmakers this week will hear proposals to add an individual right to privacy to the Wyoming Constitution.

The Digital Information Privacy Task Force is made up of lawmakers and Wyoming citizens. Task Force Chairman Senator Chris Rothfuss says the proposed amendment would limit what information Wyoming could compile about its citizens. The goal is to ensure privacy rights aren’t ignored in service of other state interests.

Bob Beck

Last week, Governor Matt Mead attended a cable cutting for a new biogas-fueled data center in Cheyenne. It’s a zero emissions demonstration project built in collaboration with Microsoft, the governor’s office, the University of Wyoming and the utilities industry. Cheyenne LEADS is an economic development group that helped coordinate the project.

The group’s CEO Randy Bruns says many solid waste plants around the U.S. create biofuel to control the methane build-up they produce and to power their facilities. But no one has ever tried powering a data center with this kind of energy.

UW Photo

The University of Wyoming’s newly renovated planetarium re-opens this week following an extensive renovation.

Almost all of the planetarium’s 1960’s technology has been replaced with state-of-the-art digital equipment. UW astronomer Danny Dale says the old set-up was limited to a two-dimensional view of the stars from Earth.

Flickr Creative Commons

Six of Wyoming’s ten airports have seen declines in traffic this past year, according to a new Wyoming Department of Transportation report. But full flights at Jackson’s airport, by far Wyoming’s biggest, means that the state’s overall air traffic is actually up slightly from 2013.

commons.wikimedia.org

Wednesday is the deadline for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide whether or not to list the Gunnison Sage Grouse, a sub-species that’s struggling in Colorado and Utah, under the Endangered Species Act.

A nation-wide telephone scam aimed at power company customers is beginning to target customers in Wyoming. Rocky Mountain Power which services Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado;  says a small number of its customers have been fraudulently charged by people posing as power company representatives.

Company Spokesperson Margaret Oler says the scam has been going on for several years now, but calls have recently moved towards Wyoming and the Pacific Northwest.

John Hebberger

Grand Teton National Park is joining up with a National Parks initiative that would raise the cost of entrance fees.

The proposal would double the price of a 7-day entrance fee to access both Grand Teton and Yellowstone. The parks would also have separate 7-day entrance fees. The fifty-dollar annual pass to Grand Teton and Yellowstone would also be eliminated, instead offering a sixty-dollar annual pass to Grand Teton alone.

Hugovk / Flickr

Tuesday’s voter turnout in Wyoming was significantly lower than average. Preliminary data from the Secretary of State’s office shows that just 65% of registered voters and 38% of all voting age adults came to the polls.

Peggy Nighswonger, with the Secretary of State’s office, said voters appear to be fed up with the constant conflict between the two dominant parties.

"Some people are a little bit disillusioned with the parties. We do have quite a few more registered voters on our rolls that are unaffiliated than we used to," she said.

A University of Wyoming student is dead after being injured in a fight at a Laramie Halloween party Saturday morning. 21 year old Joseph McGowan from Lander was struck when he attempted to break up a fight between Dalton Williams, a student from Casper, and an unidentified participant.

McGowan was airlifted to a Colorado hospital with difficulty breathing where he was later pronounced dead. 20 year old Williams has been charged with second-degree murder and is facing up to 20 years in prison. 

Wyoming residents say they are not fond of common core, but support for same sex marriage is growing. A University of Wyoming election year survey found that most residents have heard of the Common Core education standards. University of Wyoming Political Scientist Jim King says that 36 percent support common core while 63 percent oppose it. But King says understanding of where common core came from is lacking.

Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck joins Morning Edition Host Caroline Ballard to help analyze the races and issues at stake in tomorrow's elections.

The U.S. Energy Secretary has appointed a University of Wyoming professor to serve on the National Coal Council.

Dr. Maohong Fan is a UW School of Energy Resources professor who focuses his research on coal conversion. The National Coal Council advises the Department of Energy on coal issues.

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