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By now any reader on this site has surely seen the news about the "hit piece" against Hillary Clinton, published by right wing author Peter Schweitzer - "Clinton Cash".

And I'm sure most everyone here has seen how the NY Times and other major publications have entered into an agreement with the author to investigate, while publishing extremely uncritical articles based on the book. And of course we have a lot of evidence that Schweitzer has a long history of lying in support of his cause. And of course, it didn't take long to find lies in "Clinton Cash", even before it has been published.

But even so, the furor continues in the news media, and the Clintons are responding. But is it enough? Let's explore a bit below the Symbol Of Interwoven Threads.

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I just popped over to Google News to read the trending headlines and caught this gem on the 'Recent' sidebar...

FOX News: ATF Shelves Controversial Bullet Ban Proposal

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is shelving a controversial proposal to ban a popular type of bullet, amid opposition from hundreds of congressional lawmakers.

The ATF said in a statement on Tuesday it would not seek to issue the final guidelines "at this time."

Ah, say the FOX viewers - my Republican Congressman is doing their job and fighting the terrible ATF.

What's the reality,  though? Follow below the Squiggly of Truth to find out.

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In 1996, President Clinton made a bold and controversial move, declaring 1.9 million acres of land in southern Utah a National Monument.  The designation turned almost the entire southern portion of the state - already heavy with National Parks - into Federal land.  The monument was to be bordered on the East by Capitol Reef National Park and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (aka Lake Powell), on the North by the Dixie National Forest, on the South by the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument and Paria - Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area, and on the West (at least halfway) by Bryce Canyon.  Some gaps remained for population centers, but at a pen stroke Clinton created the country's largest National Monument - and made the locals and Utah state officials furious.  The locals fought with (continue to fight with?) the Federal government for control of the area, including claiming ownership of roads within the monument and challenging the President's authority to designate such a large area of land as a monument.

GSENM-small-map (courtesy US BLM)
Or you can use the very large PDF map

Because the land had some development within it, and in part because they were already familiar with the land, Clinton assigned management of the monument to the BLM - the first monument to be managed under their care.  If you visit, you'll likely notice some differences between management of this monument and others you may have been to; the BLM is slowly learning the ropes, but it's been a bit of an uphill climb.  Many of the locals seem to be adapting to the designation these days; the increase in tourism, especially in the towns of Boulder and Escalante, has helped to ease the sting somewhat.

Follow along below the squiggle for a more in-depth tour of this crown jewel in the rough of our National Monument system - Grand Staircase - Escalante.

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Thu Oct 20, 2011 at 08:30 AM PDT

Park Avenue: Call for Writers

by Phoenix Rising

The weekly Park Avenue National Parks diary is being delayed until tomorrow, as I do not have a diary ready.

When the series stopped in spring, there were a decent number of writers who had signed up to write diaries.  However, due to our going away for the summer, I do not currently have any diarists queued up for diaries, and my schedule doesn't always leave time for me to write something up.

Do you have a story to tell about your national parks, monuments, seashores, or historic sites?  If so, we'd love to include your story in our national parks series that normally runs in this time slot.  Send a message to Phoenix Rising or to the Park Avenue group with the name of the park or parks that you want to write about and we will get right back to you to begin talking about scheduling your diary for inclusion in the series.  BTW - your diary does not have to be photography heavy - it doesn't really need any photos at all - but if feel you need to include photos and don't have any to contribute, Flickr offers a search for Creative Commons licensed photos which you can use to illustrate your diary.

This week's diary will be posted tomorrow in lieu of the normal Park Avenue Open Thread, and will be on the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument.

Thank you for your patience, and I hope to see some contributors step forward to make this once again a vibrant ongoing series!

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This week marks the return of the Park Avenue National Parks series, with a piece on Assateague Island National Seashore.  If you missed it yesterday, go take a look!  Next week we'll return to the red rocks of Utah; I'm not sure if the diary will be on Bryce Canyon or Grand Staircase - Escalante, but I guarantee it will be about beautifully sculpted rocks...

Each Friday, people are encouraged to join us in sharing their pictures of the national parks, state parks and other public lands, and to have an open discussion on the nature and direction of the Park Avenue group.

I'll contribute some fall photos this week, since it's been a nice fall season here lately in Colorado.

A Popular Place
"A Popular Place", Arapahoe National Forest, CO
Do I have your attention yet?
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Just south of Ocean City, Maryland lies the 37 mile long barrier island of Assateague - a narrow, ever-changing landscape of dunes and marshes that protects the shoreline of southern Maryland and northern Virginia from the worst of the Atlantic Ocean's ravages.

Assateague and its nearby island of Chincoteague are probably best known around the world for the wild ponies that have lived there since the earliest colonial days of the 1600's.  Immortalized by Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague, they remain perhaps the most enduring symbol of the islands to visitors today.  Chincoteague Island is now heavily populated, but Assateague remains in large part a wild place, protected by several different agencies including the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Maryland State Parks.


Marsh Pony
Wild Pony in a Marsh
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It's been a long time since the Park Avenue group has been active here.  I guess when you're writing about our wonderful outdoor parks, vacation season can find you pretty far away from writing blogs!

We'll be starting off slowly, just as we first began, with regular Thursday posts on our National Parks, and the Photo Friday Open Thread.  We'll see where we go from there...

Each Friday, people are encouraged to join us in sharing their pictures of the national parks, state parks and other major parks.  Because we've been away for a while, I'm going to tease with an opening picture above the fold.

Deep Blue Maroon
Deep Blue Maroon - Maroon Bells (a special protected area of the USFS)
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Snowblown
"In years to come when I am asleep beneath the pines, thousands of families will find rest and hope in this park." -- Enos Mills

In the years before 1915, when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Rocky Mountain National Park our nation's tenth park, the area had already been witness to several changes in human history.  The area of the park, sometimes called RMNP by locals, had been occupied by Native tribes as far back as the Clovis culture around 10,000BC.  The ancestors of the modern Ute, Apache, and Arapaho tribes all roamed the mountain passes of the region, hunting the abundant Elk population that remains a signature of the park today.  As European settlers moved in to the area in search of gold and homesteading, they found something of greater value - the waters of the Colorado River, which they diverted in part back to the plains cities developing on Colorado's eastern Plains, setting up a struggle for control of water that also continues to this day.

And so it was that in 1909 Enos Mills, now legendary local guide and naturalist, began a tireless campaign to lobby for the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park, to protect it from the seemingly inevitable development that was encroaching on the area.

Now a World Biosphere Reserve, the park showcases the changing face of our parks while serving as a natural laboratory for biodiversity due to its range of climate zones.

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Adams FallsWelcome to the second in the "Our State Parks" series, profiling our state park systems and individual parks within them.  This is a collaborative series - park of the Park Avenue group - and we are looking for volunteers to write future diaries.  If you would like to write about your state park system - or one that you're familiar with - please send me a message and I will add you to the schedule.

Last week, for the first diary in the series I profiled Colorado's Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

This week we're heading out east to the park system currently recognized as Best In The Nation - Pennsylvania, and the gorges of Ricketts Glen.  

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Square Tower HouseMesa Verde.  America's first National Park dedicated to preserving historic culture and the works of Man; a jewel among jewels in the park system, protecting some 600 cliff dwellings and more than 4000 total archaeological sites.  Initially dedicated in 1906 by Teddy Roosevelt, Mesa Verde is now a recognized World Heritage site and perhaps our best source of clues to the lives and practices of the Ancestral Puebloan people (sometimes called the Anasazi).

As this is a "Things To Know Before You Come..." diary, I will primarily focus on what to do and what to know about in the area.  For a more in-depth look at the park's past, I would like to redirect you to two excellent Ojibwa diaries - the first on a history of the Ancestral Puebloans within Mesa Verde, and the second on the history of exploration and protection of the park and its resources.

Please continue below the fold to begin your tour...

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Panorama Sunrise IIThis is the first in a planned series of diaries on our state park systems, published under the Park Avenue group banner.  Each diary will focus on a particular park, much like the group's Thursday in-depth national park series and its Tuesday "Things To Know Before You Come To..." series.  In addition, we hope to profile each state's park system in a bit more detail to inform readers about the benefits - and the fragility - of these important protectors of our wild lands.

If you would like to help bring this series to life, please send me a message within the Daily Kos messaging system including the state and park name you want to profile and a timeline for when you can contribute the diary.  I will get in touch with each volunteer to schedule the diary.  For as long as we can manage it, I'd like to profile a park in a different state each week.

And with that, please continue below the squiggle to learn about my "home" park, Colorado's second state park, Golden Gate Canyon.

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A weird, lovely, fantastic object out of nature like Delicate Arch has the curious ability to remind us - like rock and sunlight and wind and wilderness - that out there is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world which surrounds and sustains the little world of men as sea and sky surround and sustain a ship. The shock of the real. For a little while we are again able to see, as a child sees, a world of marvels. For a few moments we discover that nothing can be taken for granted, for if this ring of stone is marvelous then all which shaped it is marvelous, and our journey here on earth, able to see and touch and hear in the midst of tangible and mysterious things-in-themselves, is the most strange and daring of all adventures.
 -- Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

In 1957, Edward Abbey took a job as a seasonal ranger at Arches National Monument.  He was assigned as the on-site ranger, staying in a prefab home in what is now the middle of the park.  Access to the park was via an unpaved road, and total visitation for the year was 28,000 people.  Today, Arches National Park - now easily accessible via a paved road - receives more than a million visitors per year, and the nearby town of Moab has become a world class destination for desert adventure seekers.

Within its 73,000 acres is the densest collection of natural arches on the Earth - more than 2,000 by the Park Service's count!  But, as Abbey so astutely notes in his account, the arches themselves are but a minor part of the park - it's the desert as a whole that makes Arches special.

Arches Panorama
Arches Panorama, near the Courthouse Towers
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