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PHOTOS: Zsa Zsa, the English bulldog, wins 2018 World’s Ugliest Dog title

8 hours 8 min ago

PETALUMA, Calif. — A 9-year-old English bulldog was named the winner of the 2018 World’s Ugliest Dog contest in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Zsa Zsa won the title Saturday night at the Sonoma-Marin Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in Petaluma.

The dog’s owner Megan Brainard of Anoka, Minnesota, will receive $1,500 for Zsa Zsa’s win. Brainard found Zsa Zsa on a pet-finding site, according to the contest bio.

Dogs in the annual competition flaunt their imperfections – some have hairless bodies, others have lolling tongues. The dogs and their handlers walk down a red carpet. The dogs are evaluated by a panel of judges.

The contestants included a blackhead-covered Chinese Crested-Dachshund mutt, a bulldog mix with excess wrinkly skin and a Pekingese named Wild Thang.

Last year’s winner was a 125-pound (57-kilogram) gentle giant named Martha — a Neopolitan Mastiff with gas and a droopy face.

The contest is in its 30th year. It is usually held on Friday nights, but organizers moved the competition to Saturday in an effort to draw a bigger audience.

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Journal: CarGo says Rockies need to start rolling if they want to stay in NL West hunt

June 24, 2018 - 8:45pm

There is a belief within the Rockies’ clubhouse that the National League West is winnable this season. Several players have told me exactly that.

But there also is growing concern that the chance will slip away if the club doesn’t turn its season around over the next three weeks. Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, always one of the most honest and candid of players, said so after the Rockies lost 8-5 to the Marlins on Sunday.

“We obviously need to make a run before the all-star break,” CarGo said. “We need to finish the first half strong, just the way we started the season. We have a good group, but it just seems like we are going through a rough time.”

The conundrum, Gonzalez explained, is that when the Rockies are hitting, they aren’t pitching well. Earlier in the season, the Rockies were pitching well, but the bats were in hibernation. Now the opposite is true. Since May 17, the Rockies have posted a 6.06 ERA — the worst in the majors.

“Sometimes we have shown that we can do both at the same time, but we have to be more consistent,” he said. “That’s exactly what we need to do before we go on the break.”

The Rockies are 38-40 and in fourth place in the NL West, trailing Arizona by 6½ games. The Dodgers, winners of the division for five seasons running, are 2½ games behind the D-backs.

Since a high-water mark of 30-25 on May 29 when it was in first place in the division, Colorado has gone 8-15 and is now closer to the cellar than the penthouse.

The Rockies, 15-22 at Coors Field, finally had a winning homestand, but it was dampened by consecutive losses to Miami. Third baseman Nolan Arenado couldn’t hide his frustration Sunday.

“It’s not a good homestand — winning homestand or not,” he said. “The last couple of days have been bad. It’s not good.”

Shaw to DL. Following a 6-2 loss to the Marlins on Saturday night, Black said the club would “take a step back” regarding struggling right-handed reliever Bryan Shaw.

That step back arrived Sunday when the Rockies placed Shaw on the 10-day disabled list with what the club is calling a strained right calf. It is the first time in his career that Shaw has been put on the DL.

Replacing Shaw in the bullpen is right-hander Yency Almonte, 24, who was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday. Almonte was originally recalled Thursday for his first stint on the major-league roster, and he made his debut that night, pitching a hitless inning of relief while allowing a sacrifice fly.

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Shaw, who signed a three-year, $27 million contract to come to Colorado, has been arguably the club’s biggest disappointment. He has made a major league-most 41 appearances but is 3-5 with a 7.57 ERA. It’s only June 24, but he has already tied his career high by giving up eight home runs.

Shaw’s frustration peaked Saturday when served up a grand slam to Miami’s J.T. Realmuto in the seventh inning of the Marlins’ 6-2 victory. It was the first grand slam given up by Shaw in his career.

Black said he hopes the time on the DL will allow Shaw to take a mental break and work on some mechanics.

Specifically, when asked if Shaw has enough movement on his pitches, Black replied: “Yes. Sometimes too big. What he’s not getting is the consistent movement in the right spot. The consistent movement pitch to pitch is what he desires. Is it too big of movement out of the strike zone? Yes. The inconsistency of the movement is part of the issue, as well as the location.”

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Prosecutors cancel Stormy Daniels meeting in Michael Cohen investigation

June 24, 2018 - 7:34pm

Stormy Daniels’ lawyer says the porn actress’s meeting with federal prosecutors in New York who are investigating President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer has been canceled.

Michael Avenatti says he received a call late Sunday night from two prosecutors who said they were concerned about media interest in the interview and canceled the meeting.

A person familiar with the matter had told The Associated Press that the meeting planned for Monday was in anticipation of a possible grand jury appearance. They are investigating the business interests of Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

The person wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had sex with Trump in 2006 when he was married. Trump has denied it.

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Separated migrant children are all over the country

June 24, 2018 - 7:23pm

Their mothers are missing, their fathers far away. They get pizza, maybe cold cuts. They are exhausted; they cannot sleep. There are other children around, but they had never seen those kids before, and those kids are crying or screaming or rocking or spreading the feeling that everything is not OK.

The children who were forcibly separated from their parents at the border by the United States government are all over the country now, in Michigan and Maryland, in foster homes in California and shelters in Virginia, in cold, institutional settings with adults who are not permitted to touch them or with foster parents who do not speak Spanish but who hug them when they cry.

The separations have stopped and the Trump administration has said that it is executing a plan to reunify the children with their parents before deporting them. Still, more than 2,000 children remain spread around the United States, far from their parents – many of whom have no idea where their sons and daughters have been taken.

The children have been through hell. They are babies who were carried across rivers and toddlers who rode for hours in trucks and buses and older kids who were told that a better place was just beyond the horizon.

And now they live and wait in unfamiliar places: big American suburban houses where no one speaks their language; a locked shelter on a dusty road where they spend little time outside; a converted Walmart where each morning, they are required to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, in English, to the country that holds them apart from their parents.

Why must they say those words, some of the children ask at the shelter in Brownsville, on the Mexican border in Texas?

“We tell them, ‘It’s out of respect,’ ” said one employee of the facility, known as Casa Padre, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their job.

U.S. authorities are compiling mug shots of the children in detention. Immigration lawyers who have seen the pictures say some of them show children in tears.

At a facility in Crofton, Maryland, run by Bethany Christian Services, 10 children separated from their parents arrived in recent days. Half were younger than 5, according to Tawnya Brown, a regional director of the organization. Most appeared to be from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Each child got a drawstring “arrival bag” containing a change of clothes and other necessities. The little ones got a teddy bear, too. They got to leave the shelter promptly, sent to a new home with foster parents who speak to the children in “love language,” Brown said.

In Bristow, Virginia, about 15 boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 17 arrived in recent weeks after being separated from their parents. Now they stay in some of the 10 modern, $600,000 single-family houses on the sprawling green campus of Youth for Tomorrow, a residential facility for at-risk kids.

At some facilities, there are so many children that the staff conduct prison-style head counts. In Brownsville, Texas, where the wings of the sprawling building are named for U.S. presidents, that can take hours. A few days ago, a frantic search ensued when one child appeared to be missing from the Reagan wing. He was later found in the Truman wing.

These are the places where the children wait. All around them, and all around the country, people are doing things for them. Caseworkers, lawyers and volunteers work the phones, searching for parents and other relatives.

At first, the kids believe they will soon be back with their families.

“One of them said, ‘I’m not crying anymore. Tomorrow, I’ll be with my dad,’ recalled an employee at the Brownsville shelter. But as it became clear that their release was not imminent, the children continued their routines – karaoke on Monday, cake for those celebrating a birthday, occasional group discussions about their future.

“Some say, ‘I’m going to be the most famous singer’ and others say ‘I’m going to be a soccer star,’ ” the employee said. Others share a different expectation: “Remember that we don’t have papers,” an older child said. “We’ll probably work in construction.”

The people who devote their work lives to helping immigrant children at shelters are mostly low-level employees, working 12-hour shifts at $12 an hour. They are accustomed to young people arriving unaccompanied, mostly teens who knew that they would be on their own and came at least somewhat prepared. They might have had crucial bits of information pinned to their clothing or in their pockets or backpacks – birth certificates, names and phone numbers of relatives in the United States.

The forcibly separated children, in contrast, usually arrive with nothing. And the younger ones often know nothing.

“It was never anticipated that they were going to be totally on their own,” said Nithya Nathan-Pineau, director of the children’s program at the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition.

But mostly, from the children’s perspective, people do things to them. At Bethany Christian Services in Maryland, for example, the children get vaccinations and treatment for their physical ailments – “Stomach issues, skin issues, things of that nature,” Brown said. Vigilant for lice, Bethany dispenses shampoo and combs. It also has teachers who instruct the kids in English, colors, letters, numbers. There’s “playtime, nap time, snack, recess,” Brown said.

Antar Davidson, who worked at Southwest Key’s Estrella del Norte shelter in Tucson, Arizona, from February until he quit in early June, described a tense environment that grew worse as the number of separated kids soared.

“People were yelling at the kids all the time” in Spanish, said Davidson, 32. He said supplies were rationed so tightly that kids were given hair gel one spoonful at a time.

“It really wears on these kids, the level of institutionalization,” he said.

Youth-care workers were told to discourage children from speaking their indigenous Central American languages, he said, before the policy was reversed. And when the number of separated kids rose from a handful to more than 50 in the 300-person shelter, employees were given a “refresher” course in how to use physical holds on kids, Davidson said.

Lawyers show up at the centers, sometimes bringing toys or stress balls for the children to play with. Some lawyers try to teach the kids about their predicament, offering “Know Your Rights” presentations, explaining the U.S. legal system to older kids, drawing stick-figure sketches of courtrooms for younger ones.

“You draw someone and say, ‘OK, this is going to be the government attorney,” explained one lawyer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of some of her cases.

Some kids engage. Some remain silent. Some have not spoken for weeks.

Jahi Chikwendiu, The Washington PostBCFS International Children’s Shelter in Harlingen, Texas, is a facility that houses immigrant children who have been separated from their families, on Friday.

The children clung to their parents through the terrifying journey north. They rode flimsy rafts across the rain-swollen Rio Grande. They hiked sun-bleached paths under the broiling sun. They were transported in “trucks, on top of railroad trains, in buses,” and on foot, said Gary Jones, chief executive of Youth for Tomorrow.

They crossed the border and were picked up by federal agents and placed in cavernous holding centers. In many cases, that’s where the separation happened. Parents were put in one cell, children in another.

At Customs and Border Protection stations, such as the massive Central Processing Center on Ursula Avenue in McAllen, Texas, some families were divided immediately, especially fathers and daughters, because girls can’t be detained with men. Children were often sorted by country, gender and age, to keep older and younger ones apart.

For some, the separation did not come until the morning they were brought to court on big silver buses. Border officials told parents they’d see their children when they got back from court.

But when they returned, their children were gone, taken to federal shelters. Some parents were told that their children were being taken for a bath, but then the kids did not come back.

At a shelter in McAllen, Texas as word spread that children were being pulled from their parents, some mothers and fathers took to sleeping with their legs wrapped around their children so they couldn’t be snatched.

Sometimes, it fell to lawyers from the Texas Civil Rights Project to break the news, said Efrén Olivares, a lawyer with the organization, which has interviewed 381 immigrant parents who were separated from more than 400 children.

The parents who did know the separations were coming had to tell their kids something. A father from El Salvador said goodbye to his daughter before she was taken to a shelter by telling her that she was going to summer camp.

The scenes of trauma take a toll on everyone – parents and children, but also guards and advocates. Olivares came to the United States legally from Mexico at age 13. He knew no English. His mother stayed at home and his father drove a school bus. Olivares became valedictorian of his high school class and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and Yale Law School. Now, he’s 36, running on coffee and adrenaline to meet parents and try to reunite families.

“I’m going to crash sooner or later,” he said.

Last week, he had his own taste of the trauma of separation. His wife took their toddler to summer camp. There were tears. After an hour, she had to return because the child couldn’t be without her.

“An hour they lasted without one another,” Olivares said. He had tears in his eyes.

At a shelter for the tender-aged near Los Angeles, one little child, overwhelmed, panicked. The hysteria set off the rest of the group, unleashing a contagion of crying that left the staff at a loss.

“The trauma for these children is significant,” said Brown, of Bethany Christian Services in Maryland. “You don’t always see the trauma. You don’t always see it in their faces. But you can see it in their physical reactions.”

At some facilities, there are mental health counselors who try to talk to the kids. But some immigration lawyers caution the children against disclosing too much to the therapists, worried that information might get passed on to the government, possibly affecting the child’s asylum claim.

At the cavernous Central Processing Center in McAllen, known as the “dog kennel” for its rooms made of chain-link fencing, children slept on mats on the concrete ground. With no parents around, some children suddenly found themselves changing the diapers of strangers.

The children sometimes don’t know their parents’ names or don’t know their own birth dates or how to spell their names.

“There’s just a lot of disconnect,” said Nathan-Pineau of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, which has two centers in Maryland and four in Virginia serving as shelters for migrant children. Some kids can’t communicate the “basic information that the staff would need to even start looking for their parents.”

Meanwhile, outside the shelter network, along the country’s southern border, lawyers working on behalf of bereft parents struggle to locate their clients’ children.

Rochelle Garza, an immigration lawyer in Brownsville, tried a toll-free phone number for the Office of Refugee Resettlement on Friday afternoon.

“We are experiencing high call volume,” said a recorded message. “Please stay on the line for the next available case manager.”

The man who finally answered told Garza that he could offer nothing more than an email address, the same generic one listed on the flier distributed to some parents.

“Right now,” the man said, “with the high volume of minors entering the United States, it’s a little complicated for them.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Saturday that it is doing what it can, “bringing to bear all the relevant resources of the department in order to assist in the reunification or placement of unaccompanied alien children and teenagers with a parent or appropriate sponsor.”

Michelle Ortiz, a lawyer with Americans for Immigrant Justice in Miami, represents a 3-year-old girl who was separated from her father at the New Mexico border. The father was deported, but the details of the case are not clear, Ortiz said, because “she’s 3. She can’t tell us exactly what happened. She can hold up her fingers to tell us how old she is, but not much more.” The girl is living with extended family in south Florida, her future uncertain.

The kids have come mainly from Central America. In the past year, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, based in Baltimore, has found temporary places for 148 children who had been separated from their parents. Half of the children were younger than 5, the youngest 18 months, according to spokeswoman Danielle Bernard. About two-thirds were from Guatemala, a quarter were from Honduras, and the rest came from El Salvador or Mexico.

In a residential section of Harlingen, Texas, a man in a gold pickup truck guarded the front gate of a shelter for young children run under a federal contract by Southwest Key. The shelter is a white frame house with a spacious yard covered with a thick layer of grass.

A worker leaving the shelter in her truck is asked how the kids inside are faring.

“They’re eating better than you,” she said Friday. “For lunch, they had fish, carrots, broccoli, a dinner roll. They’re being treated very well.”

A colorful jungle gym and a volleyball net sit in the front yard, which is shaded by tall trees. Neighbors said the facility has an indoor pool. One neighbor recently saw several little girls dressed in pink tops and shorts playing on the swings in the front yard. There are small basketball courts and two red tricycles for little kids.

Several neighbors expressed concern that the children are rarely outside. Neighbors said the children at Southwest Key can watch television and are taught arts and crafts, such as creating paper flowers.

“As a mother, I don’t like it,” said neighbor Liliana Barajas, 36. “They don’t bring them out enough. They’re kids. The last thing you want is for them to feel what they are in. It’s like a home prison to them. It’s heartbreaking.”

Sacchetti and Sieff reported from Texas; Fisher from Washington. Michael Miller in Arizona; Nick Anderson, Theresa Vargas, Abigail Hauslohner and Nick Miroff in Washington; Trevor Bach in Detroit; Marissa Lang in Bristow, Virginia; Jahi Chikwendiu in Harlingen, Texas; Rob Kuznia in Temecula, California; and Lori Rozsa in Homestead, Florida, contributed to this report.

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Radamel Falcao scores, Colombia beats Poland at FIFA World Cup 2018

June 24, 2018 - 6:37pm

KAZAN, Russia — Four years after Radamel Falcao was supposed to lead Colombia at the World Cup, he’s doing just that.

Falcao missed the tournament in Brazil with a knee injury and had to wait until arriving in Russia to score his first World Cup goal. It came in Colombia’s 3-0 victory over Poland on Sunday.

“It’s a dream goal,” Falcao said. “I’m happy for the victory, for the team’s performance and the goal that I scored, which I’ve been waiting for for many years.”

The victory kept Colombia in the running for a spot in the round of 16 and knocked out Poland, the first European country to be eliminated.

Falcao, Colombia’s all-time leading scorer with 30 goals, made sure he would stay healthy for this year’s World Cup by sitting out several matches with his Monaco club this season.

So far, so good.

“We always hope that he can score and hope that he can be fit as he was today, and we want to help him,” Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said. “I think the fact that he scored was very important, not just for today but for the matches to come.

“He is a symbol of the national team. He is a symbol of Colombian football.”

Playing some scintillating soccer in Kazan, Falcao scored with the outside of his foot in the 70th minute after a superb pass from playmaker Juan Quintero in the back of the defense.

Yerry Mina scored the first goal in the 40th and Juan Cuadrado completed the win in the 75th.

Both teams lost their Group H openers and knew another loss would end their hopes of advancing. Colombia will next face Senegal on Thursday in Samara with a chance to win the group, while Poland will play Japan in Volgograd.

Senegal and Japan drew 2-2 earlier Sunday and lead the group with four points each.

Mina out-jumped the Poland defense to head in the opening goal from James Rodriguez’s cross, rewarding a spell of domination by the Colombians.

Rodriguez’s through ball after Poland lost possession in midfield led to the final goal. Cuadrado collected the pass and rushed toward the box, timing his shot perfectly to beat goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Poland got off to an aggressive start in the hot and humid Tatarstan capital, pressing high and winning most of the duels in the opening minutes.

Colombia gradually settled in, though, with Quintero providing attacking width and Cuadrado proving dangerous with his subtle moves on the edge of the box.

Colombia slowed the pace in the second half, showing good counterattacking qualities. Quintero came close in the 56th minute on the break, but his goal-bound shot took a deflection.

Cut off from the rest of his teammates, Robert Lewandowski had a few attempts but could not convert his rare chances.

GROUP DYNAMICS

Colombia is still alive ahead of its final match against Senegal and can still win the group, while Poland can only hurt Japan’s chances of advancement.

KEY TO SUCCESSES

Given his first start after fully recovering from a calf injury, Rodriguez lived up to expectations. He pressed relentlessly, tracked back and delivered an assist for Mina.

Rodriguez has now been directly involved in nine goals in seven World Cup appearances for Colombia, scoring six and assisting on three. He formed an excellent partnership with Quintero to create some beautiful play for Colombia.

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Besides scoring, Mina was also excellent in containing Lewandowski throughout the match.

POOR POLAND

Poland played well for 15 minutes but then faded.

The team was overwhelmed in midfield and looked clueless in attack in another error-ridden display that resulted in an early exit.

Poland has now failed to keep a clean sheet in its last 10 World Cup matches, since beating Portugal 1-0 in 1986.

“The Colombian team was a much better team,” Poland coach Adam Nawalka said.

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Reunification prospects unclear for freed immigrant parents

June 24, 2018 - 6:20pm

A Texas charitable organization says about 30 immigrant parents separated from their children after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border were freed into its care Sunday, but they don’t know where their kids are or when they might see them again despite government assurances that family reunification would be well organized.

The release is believed to be the first, large one of its kind since President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that preserved a “zero-tolerance” policy for entering the country illegally but ended the practice of separating immigrant parents and children. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offered no immediate comment.

Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House in El Paso, says the parents arrived to his group after federal authorities withdrew criminal charges for illegal entry. He didn’t release names or personal details to protect the parents’ privacy, and Homeland Security officials said they needed more specifics in order to check out their cases.

A Saturday night fact sheet by the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies said authorities know the location of all children in custody after separating them from their families at the border and are working to reunite them. It called the reunification process “well coordinated.”

It also said parents must request that their child be deported with them. In the past, the fact sheet says, many parents elected to be deported without their children. That may be a reflection of violence or persecution they face in their home countries.

It doesn’t state how long it might take to reunite families. Texas’ Port Isabel Service Processing Center has been set up as the staging ground for the families to be reunited prior to deportation.

How the government would reunite families has been unclear because they are first stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, with children taken into custody by the Department of Health and Human Services and adults detained through ICE, which is under the Department of Homeland Security. Children have been sent to far-flung shelters around the country, raising alarm that parents might never know where their children can be found.

At least 2,053 minors who were separated at the border were being cared for in HHS-funded facilities, the fact sheet said.

The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee hedged Sunday when pressed on whether he was confident the Trump administration knows where all the children are and will be able to reunite them with their parents.

“That is what they’re claiming,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The fact sheet states that ICE has implemented an identification mechanism to ensure ongoing tracking of linked family members throughout the detention and removal process; designated detention locations for separated parents and will enhance current processes to ensure communication with children in HHS custody; worked closely with foreign consulates to ensure that travel documents are issued for both the parent and child at time of removal; and coordinated with HHS for the reuniting of the child prior to the parents’ departure from the U.S.

As part of the effort, ICE officials have posted notices in all its facilities advising detained parents who are trying to find or communicate with their children to call a hotline staffed 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

A parent or guardian trying to determine if a child is in the custody of HHS should contact the Office of Refugee Resettlement National Call Center at 1-800-203-7001, or via email at information@ORRNCC.com. Information will be collected and sent to an HHS-funded facility where a minor is located.

But it’s unclear whether detained parents have access to computers to send an email, or how their phone systems work to call out. Attorneys at the border have said they have been frantically trying to locate information about the children on behalf of their clients.

Garcia, the Annunciation House director, said his experience has been that telephone contact doesn’t provide any information.

“If we bring in 30 cellphones, they’re going to call that number, they’re not going to reach 30 children,” said Garcia, whose organization has been working with federal authorities to assist immigrants for 40 years. “Actually (they’re) not going to be able to give them any information on what to expect.”

Customs and Border Patrol said it had reunited 522 children and that some were never taken into custody by Health and Human Services because their parents’ criminal cases were processed too quickly. Officials have said as many as 2,300 children had been separated from the time the policy began until June 9. It’s not clear if any of the 2,000 remaining children were taken into custody after June 9.

The “zero-tolerance policy” of criminally prosecuting anyone caught illegally crossing the border remains in effect, officials have said, despite confusion on the ground on how to carry out Trump’s order. Justice Department officials asked a federal judge to amend a class-action settlement that governs how children are treated in immigration custody. Right now, children can only be detained with their families for 20 days; Trump officials are seeking to detain them together indefinitely as their cases progress. Advocates say family detention does not solve the problem.

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Washington Capitals re-sign John Carlson to $64M, 8-year deal

June 24, 2018 - 5:41pm

The Washington Capitals have re-signed John Carlson to a $64 million, eight-year contract that allows the Stanley Cup champions to keep the do-it-all defenseman.

Carlson will count $8 million against the salary cap through the 2026-27 season. General manager Brian MacLellan announced the deal Sunday.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” MacLellan said. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime. As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams. We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement.”

That’s not necessary for the 28-year-old who has made the Washington area his home and wanted to stay if there was a fit. The Capitals got the cap space necessary to re-sign Carlson by trading veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik and backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night at the NHL draft.

Carlson outperformed his last deal that paid him just under $4 million a season and was at his best in a contract year. He led all defensemen with 68 points in the regular season and 20 in the playoffs to help Washington win the Metropolitan Division and then the Stanley Cup.

The contract makes Carlson the second-highest-paid player on the Capitals behind Alex Ovechkin.

Carlson averaged about 25 minutes a game all season, stepping up early when top-pairing defenseman Matt Niskanen missed time with injury and playing an important role on the power play and penalty kill on the Cup run.

“His value is immense,” goaltender Braden Holtby said. “You can see that, how much he meant to our team in this run. As far as growth, I think he’s grown steadily but I think he’s been pretty good for a long time. He’s been really good for a long time. I think this year it just showed through a bit more because we just forced him to play more.”

Carlson has been a mainstay on the Capitals’ blue line since 2010-11. The 2008 first-round pick has 333 points in 608 regular-season games and 55 points in 100 playoff games.

“I’ve always thought he was one of the better defensemen that I’ve ever played with,” winger T.J. Oshie said. “This year, he elevated that quite a bit. In my eyes, he’s got to be a top-three or top-five defenseman in the league. You see what he does- he doesn’t do a lot of things that are really flashy, so maybe he doesn’t get the highlight-reel things that other guys do, but defensively, he rarely ever gets beat.”

Re-signing Carlson was just the first move on MacLellan’s summer checklist. He’s attempting to re-sign trade-deadline pickup Michal Kempny before Carlson’s defense partner can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, and he needs to negotiate new contracts for restricted free agent forwards Tom Wilson and Devante Smith-Pelly.

“We’re trying to sign Kempny,” MacLellan said Friday. “We’re trying to sign Wilson as an RFA and then make some decisions after that.”

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There’s also the matter of replacing Barry Trotz as coach after he resigned and joined the New York Islanders. Associate coach Todd Reirden, who was a finalist for the Flames’ head job two years ago, is the heavy front-runner, though MacLellan wanted to sit down and formally interview him this week first.

“I think you still need to go through an interview process and ask the right questions,” MacLellan said. “I just want to clarify on what he’s thinking system-wise and how he’s going to handle certain players.”

It helps his case that Reirden coached the defenseman and had a hand in the development of Carlson, Niskanen, Kempny and Dmitry Orlov.

“The players all know him, they’re comfortable with him,” MacLellan said. “He’ll have a good feel for personalities, how to motivate people and so forth.”

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2018 World Cup is down to its final group matches. Who will emerge in the round of 16?

June 24, 2018 - 5:35pm

MOSCOW — Three weeks remain in this World Cup, three more weeks of stoppage-time stunners, goalkeeping howlers and video-replay reversals until the billion-people-are-watching final kicks off at Luzhniki Stadium on July 15.

A strong case can be made, though, that some of the most dramatic moments will play out over the next four days, perpetrated in some cases by teams that will head home by the end of the week.

We have reached the last round of the group stage, and unlike the previous set of matches, respective group games will kick off simultaneously.

The purpose is to minimize chicanery; the result, however, is 90 minutes of high anxiety, obsessive smartphone-checking and abrupt turns of fortune at, in some cases, two tense venues hundreds of miles apart.

Take, for example, Mexico, which sits atop Group F with six points and seems certain, on the surface, of advancing to the round of 16.

If El Tri falls behind Sweden on Wednesday in a venue near the boundary between Asia and Europe, Mexican supporters will want to closely monitor the status of the Germany-South Korea match unfolding 600 miles to the west.

Six teams — Russia, Uruguay, France, Croatia, England and Belgium — already have secured passage and are playing to learn their next destination and opponent. One superpower (Argentina) must win. Four titans (Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Germany) are not out of danger. And a fairy tale (Iceland) is on the brink of ending.

Here’s a closer look at the eight groups:

GROUP A

Russia and Uruguay already have clinched at the expense of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Both sit on six points, but the hosts are ahead, thanks to a superior goal difference, and need only a draw against the South Americans on Monday in Samara to win the group.

When the tournament started, Russian fans feared the embarrassment of group elimination. Now, with a victory or draw, the Russians would finish unbeaten and rule the group.

Does first or second place matter? From a competitive standpoint, it probably doesn’t. Either way, Russia’s opponent probably is going to be Spain or Portugal. What’s important is sustaining momentum, retaining form and continuing to galvanize a nation that stands in the world spotlight this summer.

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Russia has not yet been tested in this soft group, and a victory over an established side would do wonders.

GROUP B

Spain and Portugal are even on points (four) and goal difference (plus-one). But heading into Monday’s games, the Spaniards have the advantage because they play a team that has been eliminated (Morocco), while Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. face an opponent (Iran) with three points.

An upset in Saransk would propel Iran into the next round, perhaps win the group and possibly eliminate Portugal. A Spanish victory is far from certain. Despite failing to earn a point, the Moroccans have played quality attacking soccer and deserved better in their first two matches.

With berths unsecured, none of the three contenders are concerned about the potential next foe. That said, what would they prefer: a Russian team with home-field advantage or a side from Uruguay that poses greater danger?

GROUP C

France is through to the round of 16 and, with a victory or draw against second-place Denmark on Tuesday in Moscow, would seal first place. Is Didier Deschamps’s squad a genuine championship contender? We just don’t know yet. His squad has been good but not great. A quality European side provides a good test.

The Danes (four points) are unbeaten and on course to finish second with a draw, but if they fall behind, they will have to remain mindful of the AustraliaPeru match in Sochi. The Aussies (one point) could pull level with Denmark on points (and pull ahead on goal difference) by defeating Peru.

Here’s the thing, though: Although the Peruvians have been eliminated, they are more talented than Australia. By remaining motivated in their first World Cup appearance in 36 years, the Peruvians could end the Aussies’ distant hopes.

GROUP D

There was no reason to project France’s next opponent because the situation in this group remains too unsettled. We know Croatia (six points) is almost certain to finish first. The only team that can catch up is Nigeria, but Croatia’s plus-five goal difference is all but insurmountable.

So even if the Croats were to lose to Iceland on Tuesday in Rostov-on-Don, we’ll figure them for first place.

The rest is a mess. Besides Iceland (one point) facing a must-win situation, Nigeria (three) needs at least a draw against desperate Argentina in St. Petersburg. If that were to occur, the only way Iceland would topple the Nigerians would be to beat Croatia — good luck — by multiple goals.

Messi and Argentina, two-time champions and 2014 finalists, cannot do it by themselves. Beating Nigeria is the first step. While their match transpires, they’ll be rooting for Croatia to defeat or tie Iceland.

GROUP E

Brazil and Switzerland are tied on points (four). The Brazilians have a slight advantage in goal difference in case they finish even but they also have a tougher matchup: Serbia (three points) on Wednesday in Moscow, while the Swiss play Costa Rica (none) in Nizhny Novgorod.

A Swiss victory and Brazil draw is not out of the question, a scenario that would drop the five-time champions into second.

GROUP F

Germany’s dramatic victory over Sweden set the stage for a nail-biting finish to the group. There is a chance three teams could finish with six points, triggering perhaps layers of tiebreakers.

For that to happen, Germany (three points) would have to defeat South Korea on Wednesday in Kazan and Sweden (three) would have to beat Mexico (six) in Ekaterinburg. The tie-breaking order: goal difference, goals scored, head to head and fair-play conduct (yellow cards, red cards). If all else fails, FIFA will draw lots.

Mexico has been in terrific form and could end much of the suspense by winning again. By doing so, it would probably avoid Brazil in the round of 16 and maybe set up a Germany-Brazil showdown.

GROUP G

We know who is moving on: Both England and Belgium have six points, plus-six goal differences and eight goals scored. So naturally they’ll draw Thursday in Kaliningrad, right?

Both could use a good test before the knockout stage begins. Given the situation, though, some key players are likely to rest ahead of the next stage.

Potential matchups won’t provide much motivation because the Group H teams are so diverse. England and Belgium seem likely to enter as favorites, regardless of the pairings.

GROUP H

With their draw Sunday, Japan and Senegal remain the surprise leaders with four points apiece. Now, they’ve got to take the final step by holding their ground against the pre-tournament group favorites.

While Japan gets to play eliminated Poland (no points) in Volgograd, Senegal faces a massive challenge in Samara against Colombia (three), a 2014 quarterfinalist that got back on track Sunday in emphatic fashion by defeating the Poles. Given the attacking attitudes, this promises to be a crackling match.

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Colorado Rockies fall to Miami Marlins in final game of homestand

June 24, 2018 - 5:04pm

First, a sliver of good news: The Rockies just concluded their first winning homestand of the season, going 4-3.

Now for the bad news, mixed in with a harsh dose of reality: They lost 8-5 on Sunday at Coors Field, concluding the homestand with two consecutive losses to the lowly Miami Marlins. Following a familiar script, pitching let the Rockies down and their bats went silent over the last five innings.

“It’s not a good homestand — winning homestand or not,” said Nolan Arenado, whose two-run homer in the first inning was one of the few bright spots for Colorado. “It doesn’t matter. We lost this series here, and to lose like we did today … The last couple of days have been bad. It’s not good. It’s been frustrating, but guys are working hard. That’s all you can ask for.”

The Marlins, at 31-47, have the worst record in the National League, but they managed to win two of three from the Rockies (38-40) at Coors after taking two of three against them at Miami in late April. In fact, Miami has won the season series with the Rockies for the seventh consecutive year, tied for the second-longest such streak in Colorado history. Only the active, eight-year losing streak to St. Louis is worse.

BOX SCORE: Marlins 8, Rockies 5

Miami blasted two Colorado pitchers Sunday — starter German Marquez and reliever Jake McGee. The game was still well within reach when McGee entered the game in the seventh with the Rockies trailing 6-5, but a single by Yadiel Rivera, a run-scoring triple by pinch-hitter Lewis Brinson and an RBI single by Derek Dietrich put Miami ahead 8-5. McGee, who’s ERA is now 5.90, got behind Brinson 3-1 and then threw a meaty fastball across the plate.

“More often than not, Jake is going to live and die with the fastball, and mix in some breaking balls,” manager Bud Black said. “But on 3-1 to Brinson, I assumed it had to be middle or just above the knee. That count is dangerous for all pitchers.”

With the bullpen in a patchwork state, the Rockies needed Marquez to give them a solid, lengthy start. He didn’t, because his two demons — the first inning, and Coors Field — haunted him again. The 23-year-old right-hander lasted just 3⅓ innings, giving up six runs (five earned) on nine hits.

“My pitches were up in the zone, and I didn’t execute,” Marquez said.

Miami tagged him for three runs in the first inning, coming out of the gate with four consecutive hits, including an RBI double by J.T. Realmuto and a two-run single by Justin Boar. Of the 54 runs Marquez has been charged with this season, 20 have come in the first inning, when opponents are hitting .378 (28-for-74) against him. Those 20 first-inning runs are the most in the National League, and Marquez has allowed runs in the first inning in 11 of his 16 starts, including the last four.

“These are all, hopefully, growth moments for him, each time he takes the mound, good or bad,” Black said. “He’s got to learn from these games. That first inning, he has to come out making pitches.”

Marquez has been solid on the road (3-3, 3.07 ERA), but Coors Field is chewing him up and spitting him out. He is 2-5 with a 7.93 ERA in the hitters’ park.

“A lot of our starters and a lot of our pitchers have had a tough time so far at home,” Black said. “It’s no secret that, collectively, we are not pitching like we need to pitch.”

Colorado managed only six hits, but Arenado is starting to put together an MVP-type season.

His two-run, 415-foot blast to left, his 18th homer of the season and ninth in the first inning, put the Rockies on the scoreboard and cut Miami’s lead to 3-2. Arenado has launched a home run in five of his last six games and is batting .318.

Colorado scored two more runs in the third inning on a two-out, two-run single up the middle by Trevor Story, who drove in DJ LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon. Gerardo Parra‘s leadoff homer in the fourth cut Miami’s lead to 6-5. It was Parra’s fifth homer and his second in the last two games.

Looking ahead

Monday: Off day

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Tuesday: Rockies RHP Chad Bettis (5-1, 5.23 ERA) at Giants LHP Derek Holland (5-7, 4.48), 8:15 p.m., ATTRM

Wednesday: Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (7-6, 3.55) at Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner (1-2, 3.20), 8:15 p.m., ATTRM

Thursday: Rockies RHP Jon Gray (7-7, 5.52) at Giants RHP Chris Stratton (8-5, 4.14), 1:45 p.m., ATTRM

Friday: Rockies RHP Tyler Anderson (4-3, 4.62) at Dodgers LHP Rich Hill (1-2, 5.30), 8:10 p.m., ATTRM

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Vinnie Paul, hard-hitting drummer for heavy metal band Pantera, dies at 54

June 24, 2018 - 4:26pm

Vinnie Paul, the hard-hitting drummer for Pantera, one of the most popular heavy metal groups of the 1990s, who saw his brother killed onstage by a fan in 2004, died June 22 in Las Vegas. He was 54.

The death was announced on Pantera’s Facebook page and confirmed to news outlets by Jane Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the defunct band. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that he died in Las Vegas. The cause was not immediately known, and an autopsy will be conducted.

Paul, whose full name was Vincent Paul Abbott, founded Pantera in 1981 with his younger brother, guitarist Darrell Abbott — originally nicknamed “Diamond,” then “Dimebag” — bassist Rex Brown and vocalist Terry Glaze. Singer Phil Anselmo replaced Glaze in 1986, but Pantera did not find widespread success until 1990, with the album “Cowboys From Hell,” which became an apt description of the Texas-based rockers.

Pantera skipped the painted makeup, spandex and elaborate stagework of other metal groups to carve out a niche as a loud, groove-driven band highlighted by Anselmo’s screaming vocals, “Dimebag” Darrell’s incendiary guitar work and Paul’s burly, two-fisted pounding on the drums.

Despite four Grammy Award nominations, Pantera was always more of a cult favorite than a critical darling.

“We know that the people who listen to our music are starving for something heavy and honest,” Paul said in 1994, the year the group’s album “Far Beyond Driven” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. “The music by no way, shape, fashion or form, is mainstream or commercialized. If anything, it’s gotten harder and heavier over the years.”

Pantera inspired an exceptional loyalty from its fans, who knew the band’s lyrics and often crashed into one another while dancing.

“We write songs for people who live and die for this music,” Paul said.

Members of the group, particularly Paul and his brother, were approachable and sometimes sent personal letters and memorabilia to their fans.

“I like to do the show and then I like to party,” Paul said in 2014. “I like to drink, I like to have a good time, I like to interact with the fans.”

The band sold tens of millions of recordings, and four albums — “Cowboys From Hell,” “Far Beyond Driven,” “Vulgar Display of Power” (1992), “The Great Southern Trendkill” (1996) — were certified platinum, selling more than 1 million copies each.

Most of the albums were recorded at Dimebag Darrell’s home studio, then adjusted to sound good on a car stereo. In addition to being the drummer, Paul had a strong hand in the studio and in creating the band’s essential sound.

“For me, there’s more to being in a band than just beating on drums,” he told the Dallas Morning News in 1992. “You have to be a musician, and if you care anything about the direction of your career and the sound and the style of the music, then you do more than just hop in and play your drum parts.”

All four band members were credited as songwriters, but Anselmo wrote most of the lyrics — often obscene and angry, sometimes misogynistic, occasionally sensitive and introspective.

The songs were always delivered with a raw edge of energy, like the “grinding metal straight out of an auto assembly plant,” critic Michael D. Clark wrote in the San Jose Mercury News in 1994. “Anselmo rises above the din with croaking, diabolical vocals. The lyrics are indecipherable to everyone except the most devout Pantera-philes.”

Pantera broke up in 2003, in part because of Anselmo’s heroin addiction, and the Abbott brothers formed a new band, Damageplan. That group was performing at a club in Columbus, Ohio, on Dec. 8, 2004, when a disaffected 25-year-old fan barged onstage with a handgun. He shot and killed Dimebag Darrell mid-performance and killed three others — a bodyguard, a club employee and a bystander — before he was fatally shot by a police officer. Acquaintances said the killer had been upset about the breakup of Pantera.

Paul was not injured in the attack, but he stopped performing for more than a year.

“I spent about eight months in a really, really, really dark place, just having no clue where to turn, what to do, what I was supposed to do next,” he told the Morning News in 2006. “I felt like the music in my heart was just gone; it had just went away.”

He said he received a letter from Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, a former member of Nirvana, whose leader, Kurt Cobain, died of suicide in 1994.

“Just stick with it,” Paul said Grohl wrote in his letter, “because music is probably what will end up healing you in the end.”

Soon afterward, Paul joined a new band, Hellyeah, that included several well-known heavy metal musicians, and performed with the group until his death.

Vincent Paul Abbott was born March 11, 1964, in Dallas. His brother was two years younger. Their father, Jerry Abbott, was a country songwriter and producer who owned a recording studio.

Instead of country, the brothers were drawn to the hard-rock music of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Van Halen before forming Pantera when still in their mid-teens.

In 1996, Paul and his brother opened a strip club in Dallas that became popular with athletes and visiting musicians. When the National Hockey League’s Dallas Stars won the 1999 Stanley Cup, many of the team’s players partied afterward at Paul’s house.

One player attempted to throw the Cup into the swimming pool from a balcony, but it fell short and landed on the concrete — leaving a three-inch dent that had to be pounded out.

To the end, Paul was unapologetic about his hard-rocking, hard-drinking life.

“My way’s not the right way for somebody else, and neither could yours be” he told the Indianapolis Star in 2001. “Everybody has their own thing, and that’s what works for them.”

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Recovery from stroke a unique, demanding challenge for Colorado Buffaloes’ Evan Battey

June 24, 2018 - 4:01pm

Throughout the inordinate level of turbulence experienced by Evan Battey in a basketball career that already feels weathered beyond its years, his positive energy and an unflappable demeanor have been as impenetrable as the hulking shoulders sitting atop his sturdy 6-foot-8 frame.

When family drama and the immaturity typical of a young teenager conspired to convince his mother he needed a change of scenery when forced to repeat ninth grade, Battey gamely accepted the challenge and developed, on and off the floor, into one of the top prep post players in southern California.

When that repeating of ninth grade eventually cost him his eligibility as a senior in high school and again as a freshman at the University of Colorado, Battey shook off the respective setbacks, winning a prestigious character award for his off-court role as a senior in high school and dedicating himself to improving his conditioning for the Buffs when the NCAA sat him down for the 2017-18 season.

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Making the best of a bad situation always has been a focal point of Battey’s world view. So in late December, when a groggy Battey turned to his half-paralyzed face to his mother and tearfully lamented, “Why is this happening to me?” Rosalind Lewis knew her son was in trouble.

“I think I’ve heard him say that one other time in his life, and that was when he was first denied to play his senior year,” said Lewis. “There is really no good answer for anything bad that happens to us. My comment to him was there will never be a satisfactory answer for why anything happens to us. The only thing you can say at that point is, ‘What now? What do I do now?'”

Evan Battey, in the best shape of his life, had just suffered a stroke. In response, Battey did what he always has done. He dedicated himself to traversing the long road to once again get back on the floor.

Read the full story at Buffzone.com.

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For Denver Cherry Blossom Festival goers, Bonsai is a spiritual experience, art form and teacher of patience

June 24, 2018 - 3:54pm

Sunday’s rain and light hail forced the crowd milling about the annual Denver Cherry Blossom Festival downtown to seek cover.

Many scurried into the Denver Buddhist Temple on Lawrence and 20th streets. Once inside, the slightly damp festival goers examined bonsai trees on display, some meandering over to the join the seated crowd listening to two members of the Denver Bonsai Club explain the art.

“It’s like meditation almost,” Gary Matsuda said after the demonstration. “You’re working with the plant and you and the plant are one.”

Matsuda is the past president of the club but he said it’s currently on hiatus. Nowadays, he’s working with the Rocky Mountain Bonsai Club, which is well known across the U.S. with more than a hundred members.

For Matsuda, bonsai is almost a spiritual activity. For others, it’s an art form. For everyone, it’s a lesson in patience.

“You can’t rush to put a plant in a pot and expect it to grow and take off,” he said.

It can take someone 20 years to get a plant the way they want it. Trees need to grow before extensive shaping can happen, he said. Additionally, older trees are better to work with. Different trees can withstand different levels of shaping but none can handle a lot at once. For example, ponderosa trees can only go through one big thing a year, whether it’s repotting or styling. That’s part of why people often work on multiple plants at a time.

Matsuda said he’s been practicing the art for 15 years but he still has only scratched the surface of what there is to know.

Similar to Ikebana, the art of flower arrangement, Bonsai is based around the Buddhist philosophy of the rule of thirds. The tree forms an asymmetrical triangle with three points, the lowest point symbolizing the earth, the middle point symbolizing man and the highest point symbolizing the heavens.

The practice started in China, where it is called penjing, said Andrew Horiuchi with the Denver Bonsai Club. From there, it was taken to Japan. After World War II, American soldiers brought the practice to the U.S. These days, it’s practiced in most of Europe, South Africa, North America, Southeast Asia and Eastern Asia, he said.

Horiuchi said the Japanese and Chinese styles are more dramatic, while the European style resembles nature more closely. America is a mixture of both. Matsuda countered that it’s less to do with the cultures and more to do with the plants available in each region.

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The art practice doesn’t require a specific tree. Horiuchi said in Australia, people use eucalyptus, while people in California can use redwoods.

If you’re looking to start bonsai, Matsuda gave this quick advice:

  • Start simple.
  • An indoor plant, specifically a tropical plant, is easiest to work with. An outdoor plant requires more care.
  • Let the plant grow and start flourishing before you start shaping.
  • When you start manipulating, do it slowly.

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Boulder regulations put brakes on many golf carts on city streets

June 24, 2018 - 3:52pm

You may see them downtown, prowling the back alleys. They have also been spotted on University Hill, brazenly crawling down the streets in full daylight. Some even take to the sidewalks, slipping in and out of the shadows to avoid the sharp gaze of local authorities.

They are the golf carts of Boulder, driven by business owners and elected officials who are admittedly unsure if they are breaking the law — that is, until they find themselves wheels to the curb, cornered by the cops.

City Councilwoman Jill Adler Grano received a dressing-down from an officer for driving her electric golf cart around her neighborhood. The interaction grated on Grano; she had called city officials before purchasing the cart to confirm its street-legality.

“I won’t drive it if it’s not allowed,” she said. “But if it is, I don’t want to be yelled at.”

Grano is far from the only one who is confused. “It takes a bit of a decoder ring to figure out the sweet spot of all the different laws,” said Mike Gardner-Sweeney, director of public works for transportation for Boulder.

Colorado law allows for the use of “low-speed electric vehicles” on public roadways with speed limits under 35 mph. But local ordinances require that such vehicles be equipped with safety features comparable to automobiles, including head lamps, turn signals, horns, mirrors, windshield wipers, tires, safety glazing material, windshield, emergency lighting equipment, fire extinguishers, suspension system and slow moving vehicle identification emblem.

Read the full story at DailyCamera.com.

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England’s end-to-end FIFA World Cup 2018 dismantling of Panama gives hope

June 24, 2018 - 3:39pm

SOCHI, Russia — For a hint that things might really, really be different with England in 2018, check out its 21st-century history in dealing with the minnows, guppies and small carp of Concacaf, all the way up to that 6-1 blistering of Panama on Sunday way up in Nizhny Novgorod, a result that somehow managed to make the U.S failure at World Cup qualification even more macabre.

In 2006, England bested wee Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 in group play in Nuremburg, Germany, and it cheated to do that. Back then Trinidad and Tobago, long before it made the United States its … its … its … victim, stood as the smallest-ever World Cup contestant at the time, having wriggled through Bahrain in a two-leg qualifying scrap that followed the final round of regional qualifying out of North and Central America and the Caribbean. Yet England did not score for the first 82 minutes, and had you watched this in, say, a pub in Soho in London, you would have detected a mixture of tedium, long-rehearsed frustration, mild resignation and drinking.

In the 83rd minute of this occasion of both inspiration (a little country stays level) and dreariness (a “golden generation” of a major soccer country stays level with a little country), the 6-foot-7 English striker Peter Crouch needed a little extra propulsion to rise above the 6-1 Trinidadian defender Brent Sancho. Thus did Crouch yank himself upward by Sancho’s dreadlocks. Besides calling into question whether dreadlocks constitute an unwise gadget to carry around the sport, the moment managed to achieve preposterousness in multiple ways.

By now, the 1.3 million citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, roughly the same population as San Antonio, also can chatter about how last fall, they made the United States their … their … their victim, ousting from Concacaf qualifying the populous behemoth (if not soccer behemoth). From 2006 to 2017, they apparently often spoke of Crouch and dreadlocks.

“It is folklore here in Trinidad,” Sancho told BBC Radio Kent in 2015. “It is one of those things that anywhere I go, people will always remind me.”

A lukewarm England reached the quarterfinals that time, but never appeared worthy.

In 2010, Concacaf-wise, England opened the World Cup in Rustenberg, South Africa, by drawing 1-1 with the United States, a match of which the memory bank blares with one thing: English goalkeeper Robert Green’s blunder in the 40th minute.

Steven Gerrard had scored on four minutes for England, perhaps wreaking English optimism among young viewers who refused to listen to their parents about reality. On 40 minutes, that Texan Clint Dempsey whipped his left leg to propel one from atop the box toward Green, to whom it skittered directly and without any signs of mischief.

It then caromed off his glove and slowly trickled into the net as he slipped slightly and then lunged back for it in the kind of way that turns up in many an REM nightmare of human beings. Manager Fabio Capello, such a careful orchestrator of preparations, took on the kind of expression that shows there are so many things in life for which nobody can prepare.

England did emerge from the largely toothless group after drawing with Algeria and taking the measure of Slovenia, then went out convincingly to Germany immediately thereafter.

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In 2014, England lost to Italy and Uruguay before drawing 0-0 with Concacaf’s Costa Rica in an episode of a deadness that felt deader than dead. Here’s Daniel Taylor in the Guardian (with occasional dialectic spelling changes): “Imagine, for one moment, England’s bland ignominy and just reflect on the moments at the final whistle. Costa Rica — little, patronized Costa Rica — have won Group D and their manager, Jorge Luis Pinto, could be seen punching the air and bellowing to the skies. As one team traipsed away apologetically, the other reflected on the prize of a knockout tie in Recife on Sunday. They have done it from a country of 4.8 million people. Or the equivalent of 10 Bradfords.

“It’s a conundrum,” as England Manager Roy Hodgson said.

That mirthless failure to show even a hint of an EKG of reaching the knockout stage seemed to quash whatever expectations still lurked within England. The famous loss to Iceland at Euro 2016 lent further quashing. Yet maybe it’s true that, as in, oh, the NHL, destroyed expectations might help out somehow. In the days before this World Cup, England Manager Gareth Southgate welcomed the quashed expectations without a trace of bitterness, even as scribes and others spoke of a 2018 team less inchoate and more unified even if not as anticipated.

The England that decimated Panama did business in the manner one would expect of the nation with the world’s most-watched league. If things really are different in 2018, maybe you can measure it partly by using little old CONCACAF.

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Keisuke Honda goal gives Japan a draw with Senegal at FIFA World Cup 2018

June 24, 2018 - 3:24pm

YEKATERINBURG, Russia — Keisuke Honda sat on the bench for 72 minutes, knowing a goal would make him the first Japanese player to score at three World Cups.

Six minutes later, it was a done deal.

The former AC Milan forward scored in the 78th minute, knocking the ball past two defenders standing on the goal line, to give Japan a 2-2 draw with Senegal on Sunday at the World Cup.

The 32-year-old Honda also scored at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. He has 37 international goals in his career.

“I believe I used substitutions very well in looking back,” said Japan coach Akira Nishino, who took over shortly before the tournament started. “Honda was moved from center to the wide side and he was very versatile at adapting to that position.

“We really wanted to win, we wanted to equalize and also take the lead even though there was only a short period of time left.”

The draw keeps both teams at the top of Group H ahead of their final matches. Japan will next face Poland in Volgograd on Thursday while Senegal faces Colombia in Samara.

Sadio Mane gave Senegal the lead in the 11th minute with his first World Cup goal.

The Liverpool forward tapped the ball into the net after goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima was unable to control a shot from Youssouf Sabaly.

“The ball touched my foot and went into the net,” Mane said. “It was really just the foot on the ball.”

Japan struck back in the 34th minute when Takashi Inui scored with Japan’s first shot on goal, but Moussa Wague restored the lead with a shot high into the net in the 71st.

A minute later, Nishino sent on Honda and striker Shinji Okazaki.

Senegal outshot Japan 14-7 and had five shots on target. Japan had only two.

“Frankly speaking, I think we are a bit disappointed,” Mane said. And that’s normal because there was a way to win this match.”

Aliou Cisse, the coach of Senegal and the captain of the 2002 team that reached the quarterfinals, said his team needs to be more aggressive.

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“We need to have more concentration and be more rigorous,” Cisse said. “We didn’t lose today. We didn’t play a great game, but we didn’t lose.”

GROUP DYNAMICS

With four points from their opening two games, both teams remain in contention but will need points from their final group matches to make the round of 16.

KEY TO SUCCESS

Japan used its speed to control the middle of the field and open spaces in Senegal’s defense, but they still couldn’t stop the African team from taking the lead.

KEEP IT CLEAN

After the game was over, the Japanese and Senegalese fans — equipped with blue trash bags — joined forces to clean the stadium.

They did the same after Japan’s victory over Colombia and Senegal’s win over Poland on Tuesday.

“We were very impressed,” Japan defender Maya Yoshida said.

ROYAL VISIT

For the second straight match, Japan had high-profile support in the stands.

Princess Hisako of Takamada is the first member of Japan’s royal family to visit Russia in more than a century.

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Martin Truex Jr. conquers NASCAR Cup Series race in Sonoma

June 24, 2018 - 3:09pm

SONOMA, Calif. — Martin Truex Jr. was running second as the laps dwindled in Sonoma, and crew chief Cole Pearn didn’t think they were as fast as Kevin Harvick.

Pearn told his team to prepare for a pit stop on the 73rd lap, and he told Truex over the radio to bring in the car.

It was all trickery.

Harvick’s crew chief, Rodney Childers, called in his driver for tires and fuel in anticipation of Truex’s stop — but Pearn’s driver actually stayed out for seven more laps. When Truex finally pitted, he got the fresh tires he needed to blow past Harvick for a sweet victory.

“I called him off at the last second,” Pearn said with a sly smile. “As far as he knew, we were pitting. I’d like to say we’re smart enough to use codes, but we’re not. We’d probably mess it up.”

Truex won the NASCAR Cup Series race in Sonoma on Sunday because of that clever pit bluff, cruising to his second career victory on the challenging road course.

Truex easily held off Harvick for his second win in three weeks and his third victory of the season in his Furniture Row Racing Toyota. Truex led 62 laps and won by a whopping 10.513 seconds.

“The last 10 laps of the race were easy,” Truex said. “A little stressful. I was just hoping for no cautions, because I had a big lead. This place is so tricky and so technical, but when you start to take care of your equipment and have time to think, it’s almost harder. You can overshoot a corner easily.”

The defending Cup Series champion didn’t make a mistake after he waited to pit until the 81st lap, a full eight laps later than Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. With fresh tires, Truex passed Harvick for the lead around the final hairpin turn with 19 laps to go.

“That was all Cole,” Truex said. “I’ll do whatever he wants to do. Awesome job by him today. … Honestly, all you’re doing is begging, hoping that the caution doesn’t come out and hope the engine stays together.”

Truex’s victory in his manufacturer’s title race was the 18th of his career. He earned his second career victory at Sonoma in 2013 for Michael Waltrip Racing, making him the only racer to win twice in the past decade at Sonoma.

Cup Series leader Harvick went to the pits shortly after Truex passed him, but never got the caution that would have been necessary for him to catch up. Clint Bowyer finished third and Chase Elliott was fourth.

Truex began his racing career as a kid running go-karts on road courses, and those lifelong skills are showing. After winning at Watkins Glen last year and taking Sonoma this year, his three career road course victories are second among active drivers to the four wins on non-oval tracks by Kyle Busch, who finished fifth in Sonoma.

“I enjoy them,” Truex said. “I think it’s fun to do something different.”

Here are more things to know about the race in wine country:

BIGGER WORRIES: Harvick wasn’t angry about the pit strategy that probably decided the race. “The call was one thing, but I think I was too hard on the car the first couple of stages,” Harvick said. “The brake pedal was long after qualifying and never really came around during the race. It progressively got worse.”

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CANADIAN SCARFACE: Pearn turned heads on pit row even before his strategy decisions thanks to a nasty-looking vertical scar running down his forehead. The crew chief said he needed stitches earlier in the week after he got hit in the face by a large corner post while building a treehouse for his family. The blow cut his forehead down to the skull — but he went home from the hospital and finished the treehouse anyway. “I wish I (had been) fighting a bear or a cougar, or something like that,” he said.

DINGER DINGED: A.J. Allmendinger won the first stage and had dreams of getting a rare victory — until he missed a shift and blew his engine on the 33rd lap. Allmendinger is a standout road course racer, but he made a key mistake. “I haven’t missed a shift on a road course in 10 years,” Allmendinger said. “It was just me. I was trying to be so patient and so smooth. It was unexpected. It’s on me. I let everybody down here.”

POLE SITTER: Kyle Larson finished 14th after starting on the pole for the second consecutive year at his home track in his native Northern California. He lost several positions early when he couldn’t keep his rear end under control, but managed to keep it together for his second-best finish in five Cup Series races on the Sonoma course. He has never finished better than 12th.

RUBBIN AIN’T ALWAYS RACIN: The Sonoma race featured little of the contact and grinding damage that usually characterizes this 11-turn ordeal. Truex’s car had remarkably little damage, and the race’s only caution came after Allmendinger blew up. “I think the entire field is definitely better (at road racing),” the 37-year-old Truex said. “Just in general in stock car racing, you come up with more experience on road courses today than I did. All these kids have more experience at it. … Also here, we didn’t have a lot of cautions, and cautions breed cautions. Restarts are insane here.”

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Marijuana addiction is real, and rising

June 24, 2018 - 2:46pm

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — For as long as most residents can remember, smoking marijuana has been a part of life here. The fact that California legalized the practice in January went practically unnoticed in this quiet town a half-hour’s drive north of San Francisco, where some say the normalization of America’s marijuana culture got its start.

For Quintin Pohl and other teenagers before him, smoking pot was a rite of passage. It was a diversion from the loneliness he felt at home when his parents were splitting up and a salve for middle-school angst. It was his entire social life in seventh and eighth grades, he said, when social life is everything.

Even though nearly all his friends were using marijuana and seeming to enjoy it, Pohl said, at some point his marijuana use took a turn he never saw coming: He became addicted.

Many people are unaware of marijuana addiction. But in the public health and medical communities, it is a well-defined disorder that includes physical withdrawal symptoms, cravings and psychological dependence. Many say it is on the rise, perhaps because of the increasing potency of genetically engineered plants and the use of concentrated products, or because more users are partaking multiple times a day.

“There should be no controversy about the existence of marijuana addiction,” said David Smith, a physician who has been treating addiction since he opened a free clinic in San Francisco’s drug-drenched Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in the 1960s. “We see it every day. The controversy should be why it appears to be affecting more people.”

Although estimates of the number of people who use marijuana vary, the federal government and the marijuana industry tend to agree that total marijuana use has remained relatively constant over the past decade. Increased use in the past three years has been slight, despite increased commercial availability in states that have legalized it.

The percentage of people who become addicted to marijuana — estimated at about 9 percent of all users, and about 17 percent of those who start in adolescence — also has been stable. Some studies report that even higher proportions of marijuana users develop a dependence, which means they experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug.

Yet here in Northern California, some addiction treatment practitioners say they’re seeing a surge in demand for help, particularly among adolescents.

Marijuana’s estimated rate of addiction is lower than that of cocaine and alcohol (15 percent) and heroin (24 percent). Unlike with opioids and stimulants, marijuana dependence tends to develop slowly: Months or years may pass before symptoms begin to affect a dependent user’s life.

There are no known reports of anyone dying of a marijuana overdose or of the drug’s common withdrawal symptoms: chills, sweats, cravings, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, anxiety and irritability.

According to Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 2.7 million Americans meet the diagnostic criteria for marijuana dependence, second only to alcohol dependence.

Smith, a visiting physician at Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services, a treatment center for boys where Pohl eventually got help, speculates that the potency of today’s pot is causing a higher prevalence of problematic marijuana use.

“Back in the day when kids were sitting around smoking a joint, the THC levels found in marijuana averaged from 2 to 4 percent,” Smith said. “That’s what most parents think is going on today. And that’s why society thinks marijuana is harmless.”

But selective breeding has resulted in an average potency of 20 percent THC, the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana. Some strains exceed 30 percent.

Marijuana concentrates and extracts, much more commonly used in the past five years, have THC levels that range from 40 percent to more than 80 percent, according to marijuana industry promotional information and Drug Enforcement Administration reports.

Susan Weiss, who directs research on the health effects of marijuana at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told a group of addiction doctors at the annual meeting of the American Society of Addiction Medicine in April that the federal government is trying to get the message out that marijuana can be addictive.

“But believe it or not,” she told the group, “we’re having a hard time convincing people that addiction exists.”

The National Cannabis Industry Association’s chief spokesman, Morgan Fox, said he’s not surprised the federal government is having a hard time convincing the public that marijuana can be addictive.

“It’s their own fault,” he said of the government. “When people find out they’ve been lied to by the federal government about the relative harms of marijuana for decades, they are much less likely to believe anything they have to say going forward, even if that information is accurate.”

Fox said his organization has no disagreement with the finding that about 9 percent of people who use marijuana become addicted, and his organization urges its members to make that clear in their marketing information. But he disagrees that more-potent forms of marijuana may be causing an increase in addiction. “It just means people need to consume less to achieve the desired effect,” he said.

So far, no scientific studies have shown that stronger pot increases the likelihood of addiction, and large swaths of the general public continue to question the existence of marijuana addiction. But for Quintin Pohl, addiction was real.

Pohl said his marijuana addiction took years to develop. His mother, Kimberly Thomas, said that once she realized her son was using marijuana frequently, “it was like a roller coaster chugging uphill, chugging, chugging, chugging. You know something is happening,” she said, “and then just within a couple of days, you reach the peak and zoom downhill. It was awful, awful.”

Scott Sowle, executive director of the Muir Wood rehabilitation center, said he gets the same call from parents nearly every day.

“They call and say, ‘My 16-year-old son was doing really well in school. He was interested in sports and involved in extracurricular activities. But suddenly, he’s just not the same kid anymore.’ ”

Pohl recalled that he drank a little, off and on, but that marijuana was his constant obsession. After middle school, he got involved in rowing for a couple of years and took a break from his group of marijuana friends. But after he decided competitive rowing wasn’t for him, Pohl said he started smoking pot again, this time with new friends who smoked all the time.

And then the roller coaster plunged.

His grades plummeted. He stopped going home most of the time and was couch surfing for a while. Finally, he said, his mom called the police on him for stealing her car. “At that point, I was heartless, emotionless,” he said. “I was just kind of a blob taking up space. I was baked 24/7.”

Pohl’s mother said she saw that he was in trouble and demanded that he stay at home every moment he wasn’t in school. (Pohl’s father was living in San Francisco.)

“She told me to come back home. So I did,” Pohl said. “At the time, I wasn’t sure why she did that. I was still in that whole miserable phase, smoking at least an ounce of weed a week — two ounces on a good week.” (One ounce is enough to smoke four to eight joints every day for a week, depending on their size.)

Then early one morning before school, Pohl recalled, two private investigators his mother had hired appeared and took him to Muir Wood.

Pohl said he went through a week of pure misery at the rehab center: angry, in denial and suffering. “I couldn’t sleep for a week. I was cold, and then I was sweating. I hated everything,” he said. “And then the sun hit my face one morning, and it felt great. Things tasted good, smelled better, everything was just enhanced.”

During his six weeks there, Pohl took intensive classes with about 10 other boys and talked to his therapist frequently. His mother spent eight hours a week there, attending parent classes, sharing meals with her son and working with him and his therapist to address the underlying issues that had led him to self-medicate with marijuana.

Pohl says he hasn’t smoked marijuana since he left Muir Wood last July. For the rest of the summer and after school in the fall, he attended classes at a Muir Wood outpatient clinic in San Rafael.

Wearing black pants, a black sweatshirt and a pink skull cap on a cool but sunny day in late May, Pohl smiles broadly when he talks about his future. After his June graduation, he says, he plans to start working full time at the grocery store where he’s had a part-time job for the last year.

He’s thinks he can start smoking marijuana again some day — socially, when he’s an adult.

Vestal is a reporter for Stateline, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

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Colorado elected officials visit US-Mexico border amid immigrant separation crisis

June 24, 2018 - 2:30pm

By Meghan Lopez, Denver7

DENVER — U.S. Representative Diana DeGette joined a group of lawmakers for a tour of the U.S./Mexico border this past week on a fact-finding mission. More than two dozen lawmakers, mainly from the Democratic Women’s Working Group, took part in the visit.

DeGette visited the Texas cities of McAllen and Brownsville, walked across an international bridge, stopped by an ICE processing center and detention facility and toured a tender-care facility where the children of immigrants are being held. She also spoke with about 45 mothers whose children were separated from them.

Afterward, DeGette told reporters many of those mothers didn’t know where their children were being held, adding some only speak to their children once a week. She also mentioned at least two mothers were still breastfeeding when their babies were taken from them.

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“Most of the people here are fleeing violence in their home countries. When we see this, it’s really un-American that we would treat individuals like this in this way as a country,” DeGette said.

The group of lawmakers also met with border agents and spoke with them about illegal crossings and how they think things should be handled differently.

“We asked them what should be done and they said, ‘We need immigration reform,’ and guess what we do,” DeGette said. “We have a broken, unhinge system where nobody knows where anybody is going and that’s why we have over 2,000 kids that still haven’t been reunited with their families. That’s why we need to pull it together and we need to have a seamless agency that will make this work.”

Read the full story at TheDenverChannel.com.

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1 arrested in killing in Colorado Springs

June 24, 2018 - 2:18pm

COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs police on Sunday arrested a 19-year-old man in connection with the killing of another man the day before.

The shooting happened in the early hours of Saturday near in the west side of Colorado Springs.

When police arrived about 6 a.m. they found a man lying in the street. He was taken to a hospital where he died.

The identity of the victim was not immediately released.

Police were investigating whether the shooting was related to a nearby rollover crash.

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Bryan Shaw, Rockies’ struggling reliever, goes on the DL; Yency Almonte called back up

June 24, 2018 - 11:51am

Following the Rockies’ 6-2 loss to the Marlins on Sunday, Rockies manager Bud Black said the club would “take a step back” regarding struggling right-handed reliever Bryan Shaw.

That step back arrived Sunday when the Rockies placed Shaw on the 10-day disabled list with what the club is calling a strained right calf. It is the first time in his career that Shaw has been put on the DL.

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Replacing Shaw in the bullpen is right-hander Yency  Almonte, 24, who was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday. Almonte was originally recalled on Thursday for his first stint on the major-league roster, and he made his big-league debut that night, pitching a hitless inning of relief while allowing a sacrifice fly. Almonte made his second big-league appearance on Friday night, allowing two unearned runs on one hit and one walk while recording his first big-league strikeout. Almonte made nine starts at Triple-A this season, going 1-4 with a 6.27 ERA.

Shaw, who signed a three-year, $27 million contract to come to Colorado, has been arguably the club’s biggest disappointment. He’s made major-league most 41 appearances, but is 3-5 with a 7.57 ERA. It’s only June 24, but he’s already tied his career high by giving up eight home runs.

Shaw’s frustrating peaked on Saturday when served up a grand slam to Miami’s J.T. Realmuto in the seventh inning of the Marlins’ victory. It was the first grand slam given up by Shaw in his big-league career. The loss ended Colorado’s four-game winning streak and dropped it back under .500 with a 38-39 record.

Prior to the Rockies putting Shaw on the DL, manager Bud Black discussed why Shaw has been so ineffective.

Asked if Shaw has enough movement on his pitches, Black replied: “Yes. Sometimes too big. What he’s not getting is the consistent movement in the right spot. The consistent movement pitch to pitch is what he desires. Is it too big of movement out of the strike zone? Yes. The inconsistency of the movement is part of the issue, as well as the location.”

Asked if Shaw would get time to regroup, Black answered: “He’s not going to pitch today. We’ve tried to do that a little bit, but the nature of our games and our bullpen and what’s happening during the course of our games hasn’t allowed us to do that — with a lot of our guys.”

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