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Tuesday notes

Dec 17, 2013 - Staff

Nighttime thaw

One of the great weather oddities of 2013 took place Sunday night in the Riverton Valley. We set the scene: It's seasonally chilly with flat, gray clouds rolling by all day. Then, just at sundown, a not-quite-hurricane rips through. An hour later, well after dark, the wind stops, the skies have cleared, and it's 20 degrees warmer than it was. Temperature at 3:30 p.m? About 34 degrees. Temperature at 7 p.m? About 52. And, get this: In mid-December, in Wyoming, the overnight low Sunday averaged 40 degrees, depending on the thermometer. The average high for the date is just 30.

As for a white Christmas this year? Not looking good.

EPA ruling fallout

Opinions are at least a dime a dozen on the true effect of the Environmental Protection Agency's determination on Dec. 6 that property in a 50-mile zone around the Wind River Indian Reservation is subject to some tribal oversight on air quality issues -- the inference being that perhaps that area might be considered subject to tribal oversight on any number of other matters as well.

Some tribal leaders already are talking about shared law enforcement duties. Others say this EPA decision proves that Riverton is part of the reservation, with all that implies. Others have said it applies to nothing more than air quality. Does it give the tribes regulatory standing or simply an advisory position?

The EPA might well find itself in the middle of a controversy it didn't bargain for, and state lawmakers and others might use this as an opportunity to tighten the rules under which the EPA can operate -- a welcome circumstance in the eyes of many in this state.

Sounds like a maze of questions, interpretations, competing interests and conflict. This will be a job for the courts, and it still could take years to resolve.

Dear Santa

Our thanks to the early Santa letter-writers.The Ranger elves have processed more than 100 so far, with more coming in all the time. Here is a refresher for how to write to Santa and have your letter printed in our Christmas Greetings Edition on Christmas Eve:

- e-mail letters to santaletters@wyoming.com;

- mail letters to Santa Claus, North Pole, P.O. Box 993, zip code 82501;

- or drop them off at our decorated Christmas mailbox in the lobby of The Ranger at 421 E. Main St. in Riverton or at the Lander Journal at 332 W. Main St. in Lander.

If we don't have your letter by noon Monday, Dec. 23, we can't promise that it will be printed in the special Christmas Eve paper.

Five in the 500

There haven't been many cold streaks this year in our hypothetical investment called Five in the 500. On President Barack Obama's second inauguration day, we "invested" an imaginary $500 in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index -- or, more accurately, in an S&P 500 index fund, whose only measure of success is whether the daily S&P 500 index number rises or falls compared to the previous day.

Stocks got kicked around a little bit last week, and only a nice gain Monday kept the S&P from enduring a five-day losing streak. As it was, the index did lose 1.3 percent since our last check, but even at that it still is way up for the year. Had you actually sunk $500 into an S&P index fund on Jan. 21 and done nothing since then, as of Tuesday morning it would have grown to $645.24.

Farewell

We lost some big-name entertainment personalities in the past 48 hours. Announced Monday were the deaths of Academy Award-winning actress Joan Fontaine, iconic British actor Peter O'Toole, star of "Lawrence of Arabia," and country music hall of famer Ray Price. We'll try to give each his or her due this week in The Ranger and this Sunday in Diversions.

The solstice moon

It's a beautiful stroke of luck when the full moon falls on or about the time of the winter solstice. Such is the case this week, when the full moon Tuesday coincides with one of the earliest sunsets of the year. The solstice period, meaning the stretch of days when the solstice is possible -- Dec. 17 to Dec. 23 -- is here, so on clear nights we will see the longest periods of brilliant nighttime moonlight of the year.

If there were snow on the ground it would yield conditions not quite like daylight, but something very different from darkness.

As it is, we get a change-of-season treat in the sky just in time for Christmas.

Here's to a good week.

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MAIL SUBSCRIBERS: Friday's edition of The Ranger was delivered to the Riverton post office by 3:30 p.m., in time to meet the postal deadline for next-day mail delivery.

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