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What better time than the first weekend of the new year to test your recall on some of Montana's biggest news stories of 2003? And who knows - trying to come up with the answers to these questions might help recharge some of those brain cells that have been dulled during the holiday season.

So it's in a spirit of public service that we present this news quiz, a look back at the top stories of the year.

Here's how the quiz works: It's divided into 11 parts; the first 10 ask questions about the stories that were ranked as the biggest in Montana by the Associated Press. In each of those 10 sections, the questions are ranged from (relatively) easy to fairly difficult, so the points at stake in each question rise accordingly. The last question in each of these sections is the "genius" level and offers genius-level points.

While the first 10 sections lean toward hard news, the final section is meant to be a little lighter - the feature section, if you will, of the quiz.

Some of the questions that ask for specific numbers (for example, the size of the deficit that the Legislature wrangled with) will give you a bit of leeway; in those cases, you'll be told what the correct range is.

Because of various bonus options, a perfect score is 1,355 points. Chances are pretty good that you won't do that well. A perfect score is 1,100 points. We test-drove a slightly different version of the quiz this week at a meeting of a Missoula service club - smart people all - and found that the best score they posted was in the 500-point range. A score in that area would be an excellent performance.

You'll find the answers at the end of the quiz.

Ready? Here we go:

Businesses file for bankruptcy

1. Which of these companies with substantial Montana ties is NOT either defunct or under bankruptcy? (10 points)

- Montana Power

- NorthWestern Energy

- PP&L Montana

- Touch America

2. What is the name of the company that ended up buying Touch America's assets? (20 points)

3. How many years old was Montana Power when it announced in March 2000 that it was giving up its electricity business to focus on Touch America? (30 points)

4. Genius level: With Montana Power defunct, name the largest Montana company in terms of employers in which you can purchase shares on the New York Stock Exchange or the Nasdaq. (40 points)

Wildfires rage in Montana

1. Within 100,000 acres, how many acres in Montana burned during the 2003 wildfire season? (10 points)

2. About how many homes burned because of Montana wildfires in 2003? (20 points)

3. Where was the picture at right taken? (Photo of yard filled with angel statues.) (30 points)

4. Genius level: Within $3 million, how much money did the state spend fighting fires in 2003? (40 points)

Governor rules out a second term

1. In the wake of Gov. Judy Martz's decision not to seek re-election, five men have announced that they're running for governor. Give yourself five points for each candidate you can name.

2. Why did Gov. Martz decide against seeking a second term? (20 points)

3. In the most recent statewide poll, what percentage of Montanans believed she was doing either an excellent or good job in office? (30 points)

4. Was that level up or down from her poll numbers in May? (30 points)

5. Genius level: What is the significance of this work of art (a mural of dancing women)? (40 points) For a 20-point bonus, name the location of this mural. And for an extra 20 points, name the artist.

Drought still stalks Montana

1. Who is the chairman of Montana's Drought Advisory Committee? (10 points)

2. As of August, how many of Montana's 56 counties were listed as experiencing "severe drought?" (20 points)

3. True or false: Missoula is included in that list of counties suffering from severe drought. (30 points)

4. Genius level: Drought was one of the reasons given given for the fact that in 2002, Montana farmers and ranchers posted the lowest profits in a decade. Within $25 million, what were the profits produced by farmers and ranchers in 2002? (40 points) For a bonus of 50 points, and again, estimating within $25 million, how much money was paid in federal subsidies to Montana farmers and ranchers in 2002?

Legislature battles budgets

1. Within $25 million, give the size of the projected budget deficit that the Legislature had to deal with when it convened in January. (10 points)

2. As the Legislature came up with a variety of solutions to create a balanced budget, some lawmakers worried that it was relying too much on one-time sources of money. Within $25 million, how much of the money identified by the Legislature to balance the budget comes from sources that won't be available after 2005? (20 points)

3. The Legislature often threatens to call itself into special session for a variety of reasons. Which of these was NOT given as a reason for a potential special session in 2003? (30 points)

- To fund the Public Service Commission's legal bills regarding the NorthWestern Corp. bankruptcy.

- To deal with financial issues involving CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program.

- To decide how best to spend an unexpected windfall of money from the federal government.

4. Genius level: Montana's 1972 constitution gives both the Legislature and the governor the power to call for special sessions. Since then, the state has had 17 special sessions. How many have been called by lawmakers? (40 points)

Mad cow disease hits in Canada, Washington

1. Which of these states or territories was NOT a destination for meat that might have been infected with mad cow disease from Washington state? (10 points)

- Montana

- Utah

- Guam

- Nevada

2. What is the name of the human variant of mad cow disease? (20 points)

3. After a cow was found to be infected with mad cow disease in Alberta, the premier of that province publicly regretted that an unorthodox solution to the problem had not been taken. What was the tongue-in-cheek solution suggested by the premier? (30 points)

4. Genius level: What is the name of the premier of Alberta? He spoke in 2003 in Missoula. (40 points)

Crime Lab director

1. Controversy surrounded the Montana Crime Lab in the wake of allegations that a former director had done crime investigation work that was rated as incompetent. Name the former director. (10 points)

2. For how many years was he head of the Montana Crime Lab? (20 points)

3. In what state was the former director working when allegations against him surfaced? (30 points)

4. Genius level: In the wake of the allegations, 100 of the cases that the director had worked on were selected for further review. The review found problems in how many of those cases, give or take five? (40 points)

Milltown Dam

1. Who owns Milltown Dam? (10 points)

2. Identify the federal agency that in 2003 announced its preferred plan for the Milltown Superfund cleanup was removal of the dam and the most contaminated sediments in Milltown Reservoir. (20 points)

3. Within $5 million, what is the EPA's estimated price tag for removal of the dam and removal of the sediments as proposed in its cleanup plan? (30 points)

4. Genius level: Within 10 acres, how many acres will be needed to store the sediment the EPA wants to remove from behind Milltown Dam? (40 points)

Federal relief

1. State government officials were happy to learn about an unexpected windfall of money from the federal government. Within $5 million, how much money was at stake for Montana? (10 points)

2. For what did Gov. Martz finally decide to spend most of the money? (20 points)

3. Within $1 million, how much of the money was allocated to Montana higher education? (30 points)

4. Genius level: Within $1 billion, how much money did the federal legislation authorizing the windfall make available to all the states? (40 points)

Ennis shootout

1. A shooting outside a bar in Ennis started what was the state's biggest crime story in 2003. A gunman opened fire on a crowd outside the bar, killing one man and injuring six. Name the suspect in the case. (10 points)

2. Hours later, the suspect was spotted and stopped by law enforcement officials - a stop that led to a shootout with law officers and a subsequent chase. In what county was the suspect initially spotted? (20 points)

3. What was the name of the saloon in Ennis where the shooting occurred? (30 points)

4. Genius level: What was the make of the car in which the suspect fled from Ennis? (40 points)

OK, take a break and then tackle these 10 final questions. Give yourself 20 points for each correct answer in this final round:

1. What was the final record for the Montana Grizzly football team this year, counting the playoffs?

2. True or false: This year's batch of football Grizzlies averaged more yards on the ground than through passing.

3. UM's soccer coach - the only one the school has ever had - announced her resignation to spend more time with her family. Name her.

4. Here's a list of musicians with national reputations; which two of these did NOT play a concert in Missoula during 2003?

- Toby Keith

- Jewel

- Steppenwolf

- Ray Charles

- REM

- Wilco

5. This summer, Missoula hosted its sixth annual International Choral Festival. What year was the first one held?

6. Name one of the two prominent downtown clubs that announced in 2003 it was planning to close its doors.

7. Hearts throughout western Montana were warmed this fall by the Lincoln-area story of a father bird who was trying to raise his brood without the help of the mother, who had been electrocuted. Name the type of bird.

8. A Missoula couple attracted national attention when they held their marriage ceremony at a retail establishment. Name the store.

9. In a statewide survey of access to open records, which branch of government was far more likely to deny access to the public?

10. This should be an easy 20 points: 2004 marks the bicentennial of the date when the Lewis and Clark Expedition started working its way up the Missouri River. What year did the expedition begin?

Here are the answers:

Bankruptcy

1. PP&L Montana.

2. 360Networks of Vancouver, British Columbia.

3. 90 years old.

4. Semitool of Kalispell, with about 1,000 employees.

Wildfires

1. 650,000 acres (but correct answers can range from 550,000 acres to 750,000 acres).

2. 10 homes (but correct answers can range from eight homes to 12 homes).

3. Black Mountain.

4. $27 million (but correct answers can range from $24 million to $30 million).

Gov. Martz

1. Democrat Brian Schweitzer and Republicans Bob Brown, Pat Davison, Tom Keating and Ken Miller.

2. To spend more time with her family.

3. 25 percent. (But give yourself the points if your answer was between 20 and 30 percent.)

4. Up; a poll in May reported that 20 percent of Montanans viewed her job performance favorably.

5. Some observers said that they thought one of the dancers was supposed to represent Martz. The work can be viewed at the Great Northern Hotel in Helena; just answering Helena, alas, is not sufficient to score points. The artist is Kristine Vieth.

Drought

1. Lt. Gov. Karl Ohs.

2. 17. (Give yourself the points if your answer was between 14 and 20.)

3. False.

4. The amount of profit reported by Montana farmers and ranchers in 2002 was $215.6 million; give yourself the points if your answer was between $191 million and $241 million. The amount of federal subsidies paid to Montana farmers and ranchers in 2002 was $259.1 million; give yourself the points if your answer was between $234 million and $284 million.

Legislature

1. $240 million, but give yourself the points if your answer is between $215 million and $265 million.

2. $147 million; give yourself the points if your answer is between $122 million and $172 million.

3. The CHIP issue.

4. One.

Mad cow disease

1. Utah.

2. Variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (precise spelling not required to score the points).

3. The premier of Alberta was quoted thusly: "Any self-respecting rancher would have shot, shoveled and shut up."

4. Ralph Klein.

Crime-lab director

1. Arnold Melnikoff.

2. 19 years.

3. Washington.

4. 29, but give yourself the points if your answer ranged between 24 and 34.

Milltown Dam

1. NorthWestern Energy.

2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

3. $95 million, but give yourself the points if your answer is between $90 million and $100 million.

4. 80 acres; give yourself the points if your answer is between 70 and 90.

Federal relief

1. $73 million; correct answers can range between $68 million and $78 million.

2. State firefighting bills.

3. $2.7 million; correct answers will range between $1.7 million and $3.7 million.

4. $10 billion; correct answers will range between $9 billion and $11 billion.

Shootout

1. George H. Davis.

2. Ravalli County.

3. The Silver Dollar Saloon.

4. Ford Taurus.

The final round

1. 9-4.

2. True.

3. Betsy Duerksen

4. Injury forced Ray Charles to cancel his 2003 Missoula concert. Jewel played in Missoula, but that was in 2002.

5. 1987.

6. We're looking for Jay's Upstairs. We'll accept the Blue Heron, although that establishment hopes to reopen for music at some point.

7. Swans.

8. Wal-Mart.

9. Law-enforcement agencies; in particular, sheriff's offices.

10. Um, 1804.

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