A MAD AN N T N Bruin girls advance / 1B

■ Townsend woman shares ADDY award / 3C

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FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2007

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HELENA, MONTANA

VOL 63, NO. 80

SEVENTY-FIVE CENTS

INSIDE TODAY

Mercer to meet with Senate panel
Montana U.S. Attorney will answer questions about Justice Dept. firings
By NOELLE STRAUB IR Washington Bureau WASHINGTON — Montana U.S. Attorney William Mercer, who also is acting associate attorney general, is expected to be among top Justice Department officials who will be interviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. After meeting with Judiciary Committee senators Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales agreed to let five of his top aides involved in the firings talk with committee members, the Associated Press reported. Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats wanted Mercer and other Justice Department officials to talk voluntarily, but they also threatMercer ened to subpoena them. Mercer’s name surfaced earlier this week in a congressional hearing on whether the U.S. attorneys were fired for political reasons. Two of the dismissed U.S. attorneys said Mercer told them they were not fired for performance problems. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., had the subpoenas listed as an item on the agenda for a More MERCER, page 10A

Life
Turning your meals upside down — say, having roast chicken for breakfast and oatmeal for dinner— is the quirky premise of The Reverse Diet. LIFE quizzed its author, Tricia Cunningham, and health and culture experts about the practicality of the diet and about the larger meanings we attach to breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Tester schedules Sat. tour of Fort Harrison
Local VA facility gets high marks from vets
By MARTIN J. KIDSTON IR Staff Writer FORT HARRISON — Sen. Jon Tester will visit the regional VA hospital in Helena on Saturday, and take his findings back to Washington, where a political firestorm has erupted over conditions revealed at Walter Reed Hospital. Like Rep. Denny Rehberg, who also plans to tour the Fort Rehberg in Harrison Regional town for tour Medical Center next week, next week Tester hopes to use Montana’s largest VA hospital as an example of what other VA centers can do to improve quality of care. “I have serious quesRehberg tions about the VA sysU.S. Rep Denny tem,” Tester Rehberg will visit said ThursFort Harrison next day. “We week. promise good health care to Rehberg has all folks who called the situation put their lives at Walter Reed on the line, appalling and but year after expressed disapyear, too pointment with many of our Army officials, who vets have to claimed they were beg for it.” unaware of the Tester said hospital’s condiveterans tions. across MonRehberg said tana have the visit will help called Fort him gain insight Harrison a into how Congress good example can best address of how a VA the problem. hospital should work. However, he expressed concern with a growing backlog of patients waiting for service at VA hospitals, including those in Montana. “We made a promise to all these More TESTER, page 10A

COMING SATURDAY
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Rise & shine!
Grizzly bears stirring in park
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — Grizzly bears have begun emerging from their dens and rangers say it’s a good idea for visitors to keep their eyes and ears open. Biologists reported seeing grizzly tracks as early as Feb. 28. They confirmed an aerial sighting of a grizzly in the Indian Creek area on Tuesday. That’s about the same time as years past. Last year, bears began emerging in Yellowstone on March 10. In 2005, bears began emerging March 7. Park spokesman Al Nash said people in Yellowstone should be cautious. ‘‘The challenge with bears and visitors is that early activity tends to be lower elevation, and lower elevation can be around roadways or developed areas,’’ he said. ‘‘You are talking about animals that have been hibernating. You know how you wake up after a deep sleep — I don’t know that I’d say grumpy, but what I have heard from our bear experts is that it is not quite like an animal waking up completely alert.’’ He said bears eventually begin looking for food. This time of year, that often means eating the carcasses of animals that didn’t survive the winter. ‘‘It would probably be good advice for those out in the woods this time of year to be especially cautious if they happen upon a carcass,’’ he said.

Special section
Home Gallery: IR’s biweekly real-estate guide

COMING SUNDAY

Last year, bears began emerging in Yellowstone on March 10. In 2005, bears began emerging March 7.

1A
Meet two HHS seniors who have put together a fundraiser for the Carroll College Parish Nursing Program, which travels to Swaziland every two years to care for people with AIDS.
INDEPENDENT RECORD

Eliza Wiley IR Staff Photographer

Zac Kaulfield, with Swank Construction, finishes up a storage space in the new 20,000-square-foot clinical care facility at Fort Harrison’s VA Hospital. The new space is slated for completion at the end of April with tours being given to Senator Jon Tester this Saturday followed by Rep. Denny Rehberg next Friday.

Inside
City/Obituaries 1C/2C Classified 4C Comics/TV/Puzzles 6B/5B Montana 10A Movies 3B Markets 8A IR Insider 2A Opinion 4A Sports 1B Legislature 6A http://www.helenair.com

Meeting with VA secretary productive, Tester says
istration’s handling of veterans’ health benefits at a press conference in early February, met with WASHINGTON — Sen. Jon Nicholson in his office and then Tester, who has sharply criticized lunched with him. the Bush administration’s handling The Montana Democrat said he of veterans’ issues, met with Veterspoke to Nicholson mostly about ans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson access issues. Once veterans enter on Thursday and pledged to work the system they get great health with him to ease veterans’ entry into care, Tester said, but getting in the the VA health system. Tester and Sen. Bernie Sanders, IMore MEETING, page 10A Vt., who had both blasted the adminBy NOELLE STRAUB IR Washington Bureau

Pleasant with periods of sunshine

Today
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Air quality: 447 - 1644

MDC Developmental Disabilities Program Director Jeff Sturm fielded questions from Boulder residents Wednesday night.

Community airs fears at MDC meeting
By MARGA LINCOLN IR Staff Writer BOULDER — Public safety questions were the central issue at a Montana Developmental Center public meeting Wednesday night. Some who attended said they got their questions answered. Others said they did not. Nearly two-thirds of the crowd of about 50 in attendance were MDC employees. A number of questions regarded the change in clientele at MDC over the years, concerns apparently spurred by some recent media coverage. “Why are there no signs to keep people out?” questioned high school student Layne Forbes, regarding MDC’s open campus. Boulder resident Mark Kelly asked why there is no gate at MDC and said that young children are drawn to biking down the paved streets of the MDC campus. Kathleen Zeeck, MDC superintendent, cautioned that children should not be on MDC grounds unsupervised. “It’s a treatment facility, not a corrections facility,” replied Jeff Sturm, Developmental Disabilities Program director. MDC provides treatment, so clients can return to their community, he said. “It (a fence) will send a More MDC, page 10A