Dueling Dinosaurs

FILE - In this Nov.14, 2013, file photo, one of two "dueling dinosaurs" fossils is displayed in New York. In an ongoing court case over the ownership of the fossils, the Montana Supreme Court heard arguments in Helena, Mont., Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, over whether fossils are part of a property's surface estate or mineral estate in the case of split ownership. 

MONTANA

Millions at stake in dinosaur fight: Are fossils minerals?

HELENA — The discovery of two fossilized dinosaur skeletons intertwined in what looks like a final death match could make a Montana ranching couple rich beyond their dreams. Or they may have to share the wealth.

It all comes down to how the state Supreme Court answers a seemingly simple question: Are fossils minerals? The Montana justices heard arguments Nov. 7 but did not rule right away.

The outcome is key to a dispute over ownership of the "dueling dinosaurs," worth more than $5 million, and distribution of millions of dollars in proceeds from the sale of other fossils unearthed from clay and sandstone in a fossil-rich area of central Montana.

While someone can own what's on top of a piece of land, others can own material like oil, gas and coal that's found below the surface. In property sales, an owner can keep some or all of those below-surface mineral rights.

Mary Ann and Lige Murray own the surface rights and one-third of the mineral rights on the ranch near the tiny town of Jordan, while brothers Jerry and Robert Severson own two-thirds of the mineral rights after a 2005 property sale.

A few months later, amateur paleontologist Clayton Phipps discovered a 22-foot-long carnivorous theropod and a 28-foot-long plant-eating ceratopsian believed to have died 66 million years ago. Imprints of the dinosaurs' skin were found in the sediment.

When the Murrays went to sell the "dueling dinosaurs" for what they hoped would be at least $6 million, potential buyers wanted assurances they owned the fossils.

Both sides have seen rulings in their favor as the case has made its way through four courts since 2013.

State law was silent on the issue until earlier this year, when lawmakers unanimously passed a measure that says dinosaur fossils are part of the surface estate unless there's a contract saying otherwise.

NEW MEXICO

George Orwell exhibit bares 'doublespeak' legacy

ALBUQUERQUE — War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.

Those were the slogans of the Party in George Orwell's 1949 novel "1984" that allowed the superstate of Oceania to keep its population under control. The Thought Police thwarted dissent. The Ministry of Truth promoted lies. The Ministry of Love tortured lovers.

Those dystopian warnings about the fake becoming the gospel have shaped the minds of generations since they appeared in print more than a half-century ago. And now an exhibit on Orwell at the University of New Mexico's Zimmerman Library in Albuquerque, New Mexico seeks to remind people about the author's premonitions amid a new — yet very familiar — era.

"George Orwell: His Enduring Legacy" which runs to April, features posters and material related to "1984" and his 1945 allegorical novella, "Animal Farm." It also contains rare Orwell books in different languages to highlight his reach and evolution as a writer.

The British-born Orwell, who died in 1950, was known for "Animal Farm" and "1984," both of which tackled totalitarianism. Orwell's "1984" has become a best-seller in the U.S. again during the Trump administration.

The exhibit was sparked after Russ Davidson, a University of New Mexico professor and curator emeritus, donated his collection of rare Orwell books. For years,, amassed rare Orwell books from around the world.

Those rare works included first editions of "Animal Farm" and "1984" in Icelandic, Ukrainian, Swahili, French, Urdu, German, Hungarian and Spanish. He also obtained first, early and other scarce editions of many of Orwell's other books, essays, and reportage.

NORTH DAKOTA

Military wants more rules for turbines near nuclear missiles

BISMARCK — The military wants North Dakota and four other states with nuclear missile arsenals to consider introducing new rules aimed at preventing conflicts between wind turbines and helicopters that provide security at launch facilities.

Department of Defense and Air Force officials outlined their concerns in a letter before meeting with North Dakota lawmakers and regulatory officials.

The Defense Department in September asked the North Dakota Public Service Commission to consider new rules, including increasing the distance tenfold to more than 2 miles between a wind turbine and missile launch facility. The military also wants special lighting added to wind towers that is compatible with night vision goggles worn by the helicopter pilots who patrol the 8,500-square-mile missile field in northern North Dakota.

The military said it's also "an issue of concern" in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska.

Mark Mahoney, the regional environmental coordinator for the Defense Department, told the AP that the military would ask other states to also consider the changes proposed in North Dakota.

Tom Vinson, vice president of regulatory affairs for the American Wind Energy Association, said wind developers already work with the Defense Department to mitigate any potential risks from wind farms.

He said "one-size-fits-all" state rules would be overly restrictive and could halt projects.

KANSAS

Justices seem OK with car stop over owner's invalid license

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court seems ready to say in a Kansas case that police may pull over a car when they know only that its owner's license is not valid — even if they don't know who's driving.

The issue of traffic stops based on information gleaned from motor vehicle records has become more pressing with the advent of automated license plate readers that can run hundreds of plates a minute.

The justices indicated in arguments Nov. 4 that they would reverse a Kansas high court ruling that found police violated a driver's constitutional rights when they stopped his pickup based only on information that the truck owner's license had been suspended.

Chief Justice John Roberts was among justices who suggested that the common-sense view that the owner would be driving was enough to justify the traffic stop.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled that police face a relatively low burden known as "reasonable suspicion" to stop and question people.

The situation arises when an officer can't easily see into a vehicle to determine, for instance, that a woman is driving the vehicle, though the vehicle's owner is a man.

Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor suggested in their questions that police officers can easily justify a traffic stop based on their experience and training. In this case, the Kansas court said police relied on nothing other than Glover's suspended license, they said.

A decision in the case is expected by late June.

WYOMING

Kanye West wants to build amphitheater on his ranch

CODY — Officials in Wyoming have received a building permit application from Kanye West for a proposed amphitheater on property owned by the rapper.

West recently announced that he plans to move the headquarters of his shoe and clothing company, Adidas Yeezy, to Cody.

He also wants to build a 70,000-square-foot amphitheater on his 4,000-acre ranch.

The Cody Enterprise reports the Park County Planning and Zoning Commission planned to discuss the proposed “West Meditation Space Large Impact Structure.”

West has worked on or recorded his past three albums in Wyoming, including the recently released “Jesus Is King.”

Cody, a town with 10,000 people, was named for wild West showman William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody.

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