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Updated: 25 min 16 sec ago

Michelle Obama talks marriage, kids and politics of being first lady at Pepsi Center

6 hours 55 min ago

Michelle Obama told the crowd gathered at the Pepsi Center Thursday evening that on the night her husband became president one of the couple’s daughters was worried.

Police had shut down the streets of downtown Chicago as a security precaution for the president-elect, and “it’s just us in the motorcade and Malia is like, ‘No one is coming to your party, Dad.'”

The crowd laughed as Obama explained how her daughter didn’t realize that empty streets, bodyguards and motorcades were about to become part of their new normal.

“The minute the announcement happened, the world changed for us,” Obama said.

Obama was in town as part of a book tour for her recently released memoir “Becoming.” The former first lady signed books at Tattered Cover in Denver, visited Children’s Hospital Colorado and spoke candidly with Reese Witherspoon at the Pepsi Center for more than an hour about her career, her marriage and adjusting to life as the president’s wife.

“That’s what happens to spouses,” Obama said. “You get immersed in the shadow of the political figure.”

And feel this pressure to tread carefully when it comes to pushing public policy, Obama said, noting how Hillary Clinton was vilified when she advocated for health care reform in the 1990’s.

“I decided I’m going to try this soft power notion,” Obama said. “I started with a garden. … It’s just carrots. Nothing too dangerous.”

The White House vegetable garden become a symbol for the importance of local food and the administration’s push to promote healthy eating. Obama helped add information to nutrition labels, lobby companies to cut back on the sodium in their products and convince schools to keep gym classes and provide healthier lunch options.

“The garden was that nice little front for all that hard work,” Obama said.

She pushed back when people suggested she appear on the cable news networks’ Sunday shows though, saying “normal people don’t watch ‘Face The Nation.'”

Obama instead chose to promote her healthy eating campaign on shows like “Ellen,” “The Tonight Show” or even children’s cartoons like “Doc McStuffins.”

“You go where the people are,” Obama said.

While she navigated the politics of being first lady, Obama also raised two daughters in the White House.

The Pepsi Center crowd laughed as she recalled her worries about whether the girls would smile, touch something they shouldn’t or become unglued because of a lack of snacks or sleep.

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“Kids don’t do political face,” Obama said.

Her daughters even asked for one final sleepover the night before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, which meant the Obamas found themselves scrambling to round up eight girls and get them fed and out the door mere moments before the new first couple arrived.

“You’re a mom through and through,” Obama said. “Even when it’s your last day at the White House.”

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Man who struck and killed Loveland teen with truck pleads guilty to vehicular homicide

8 hours 14 min ago

Richard Swanson pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of vehicular homicide in the death of 13-year-old Gavin Myers and was sentenced to nine years in prison with five years’ mandatory parole to follow.

Richard Roy Swanson.

Swanson, 47, who struck and killed Gavin around 9:30 p.m. June 8 after veering off road with his truck in the 4000 block of North Wilson Avenue in Loveland, appeared before 8th Judicial District Judge Carroll Michelle Brinegar. He pleaded to the Class 3 felony and will pay $6,000 in restitution in addition to his nine years in the Department of Corrections. The sentence was agreed upon by defense and prosecution attorneys, and Brinegar adopted it. Swanson faced a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison, Brinegar said.

Brinegar delivered the sentence after several people spoke about Swanson’s character, as well as about Gavin, who attended Lucille Erwin Middle School. Gavin’s mother Melissa Myers was among those who took the stand.

“I have to pass the collision site every day,” Melissa Myers said, noting the place where a memorial now stands in honor of Gavin. “It’s not far from my home. … He was struck and dragged like a rag doll for several yards. He was so severely injured that the coroner asked us not to see him in that state, but instead remember him as he left the house that day.”

Swanson had been charged with third-degree felony vehicular homicide, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, DUI per se and careless driving causing death.

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Read more at reporterherald.com.

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Philip Rivers leads Chargers to last-second comeback win over KC

December 13, 2018 - 9:53pm

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Arrowhead Stadium was already emptying by the time Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers jogged to the locker room, triumphantly waving his hand as a satisfying cascade of boos washed over him.

He had finally beaten the Kansas City Chiefs.

It sounded perfect.

Rivers led Los Angeles on a feverish fourth-quarter comeback Thursday night, capped by a debatable pass-interference call, a tense video review of the last touchdown and the gutsy decision to try a 2-point conversion. And for the first time in years against Kansas City, everything turned out perfectly for Rivers and the Chargers in a 29-28 victory that clinched their playoff spot.

“This was big. Here or at home, whatever,” Rivers said, “we needed to beat these guys.”

The Chargers (11-3) trailed 28-14 when Justin Jackson’s touchdown run with 3:49 to go gave them a chance. They quickly got the ball back from Patrick Mahomes and the NFL’s highest-scoring offense, and Rivers led a tense final drive that included a fourth-down dart to Travis Benjamin to keep it alive.

That crucial penalty on Kendall Fuller in the back of the end zone gave the Chargers the ball at the 1, and Rivers found Mike Williams along the sideline on the next play. And when his TD catch with 4 seconds left was confirmed, coach Anthony Lynn sent his offense back onto the field.

Williams hauled in the conversion to end five years’ worth of frustration.

“We didn’t come here to tie. We came here to win. So to me it was a no-brainer,” said Lynn, whose team became the first since Minnesota in Week 15 of the 2002 season to win with a 2-point conversion in the final 10 seconds of regulation.

The comeback allowed Los Angeles to forge a first-place tie in the AFC West, though the Chiefs (11-3) hold the tiebreaker with a better division record. More satisfying was the simple fact that Rivers and the Chargers had finally snapped their nine-game losing streak against Kansas City.

They hadn’t beaten the Chiefs since 2013, the last year they made the playoffs.

“Oh, it’s satisfying,” Benjamin said. “We talked about it. We knew it had been a couple years and we wanted to go into this game and change that and we did.”

Rivers threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions, and Williams had seven catches for 76 yards and two scores while adding another on the ground. Jackson ran for 58 yards and a touchdown in place of the injured Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler.

Mahomes was held to just 243 yards and two touchdowns for Kansas City, and his inability to pick up a first down in the closing minutes proved costly. The Chiefs forced the Chargers to burn two timeouts on their last drive, but Mahomes was sacked by Isaac Rochell and Kansas City had to punt.

The Chiefs never got the ball back on offense.

“They found a way to win and we didn’t,” Mahomes said. “You have to find a way in this league.”

Hyped by the return of star safety Eric Berry, it looked for a while as if the Chiefs would simply resume their vexation of Rivers at Arrowhead. Steven Nelson leaped to snag a jump ball for a pick on the second play of the game, and Rivers tossed another just before halftime.

Mahomes and Co. took advantage of their early momentum.

Kansas City breezed downfield after Nelson’s interception, and the young MVP candidate threw a dart to Demarcus Robinson — while in the grasp of Chargers safety Adrian Phillips — for a 7-0 lead.

Then after a punt, Darrel Williams took a screen pass for his first career touchdown.

The Chargers finally reached the end zone in the second quarter, when Mike Williams caught a short TD pass. But it came moments after wide receiver Keenan Allen hurt his hip while trying to make a leaping grab in the corner of the end zone — he briefly returned before sitting out the rest of the game.

Mike Williams continued to pick up the slack the rest of the game.

After the Chiefs pushed their lead to 21-7 on Damien Williams’ touchdown run, the Chargers’ big, rangy wide receiver answered with a 19-yard end-around for a score. And when then Chiefs went on another methodical scoring drive to take a 28-14 lead with just over 8 minutes left in the game, Mike Williams helped to lead the Chargers to an answering touchdown to stay in the game.

He made two more big catches in the final seconds to put them over the top.

“Everybody needed to come together and make plays,” Mike Williams said, “and that’s what we did.

TONY G’S AWARD

The Chiefs added TE Tony Gonzalez to their Hall of Fame at halftime. The six-time All-Pro played his first 12 seasons with the Chiefs before finishing his career in Atlanta. His name was unveiled next to that of WR Carlos Carson on the ring of honor inside Arrowhead Stadium.

INACTIVE STARS

Gordon (knee) tried to warmup before telling Lynn he couldn’t play, joining Ekeler (concussion) on their inactive list. The Chiefs were missing RB Spencer Ware (hamstring) and WR Sammy Watkins (foot).

INJURIES

Chargers: Allen received treatment on the sideline after nearly making his spectacular TD catch, and he returned briefly before slowly walking off. He left for the locker room and did not return.

UP NEXT

Chargers: Return home for a prime-time game against the Ravens on Dec. 22.

Chiefs: Visit the Seahawks for another prime-time game Dec. 23.

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Nets, Spencer Dinwiddie agree to contract extension worth about $34 million

December 13, 2018 - 9:33pm

NEW YORK — The Brooklyn Nets gave Spencer Dinwiddie a contract extension Thursday, a day after the best game of his career.

The three-year extension will be worth about $34 million for the guard who was playing in the NBA G League before he signed with the Nets on Dec. 8, 2016.

He has gone on to become one of their top players and scored a career-high 39 points, the most by any player off the bench in the NBA this season, in a victory at Philadelphia on Wednesday.

“The journey is just beginning,” Dinwiddie wrote on Twitter. “I’m thankful that @brooklynnets believe in me enough to give me a home.”

Not to mention a nice raise from the $1.7 million he’s making this season.

Dinwiddie was third in voting for the Most Improved Player last season and could find himself in the race for the Sixth Man of the Year award this season. He is averaging 16.9 points, helping the Nets overcome the loss of scoring leader Caris LeVert to injury.

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“It’s just so evident, you can’t take him out and he’s playing great basketball,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said after Wednesday’s win. “Obviously, he’s our engine right now, especially in the second half. All the work he’s done, he’s come a long way. He deserves it.”

Dinwiddie became eligible to sign an extension last week but it was unclear if the Nets would offer one, which would cut into the cap space that will be available to them this summer. But Dinwiddie has played well enough on the court and been one of the team’s leaders off it, so they decided it was worth it to pay now.

The third year of the deal is a player option and all three years are guaranteed.

Dinwiddie was originally a second-round pick of Detroit in 2014 but spent his first couple seasons with the Pistons and Chicago Bulls going back and forth from the G League. His big opportunity came last season when the Nets lost point guards Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell to injuries and he went on to average 12.6 points.

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Nurse pleads guilty to stealing drugs from Denver VA

December 13, 2018 - 9:33pm

DENVER — A registered nurse accused of stealing drugs from the Denver Veterans Affairs Hospital has pleaded guilty.

KMGH-TV reports 46-year-old Erick Lee Tombre pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges of acquiring and trying to obtain controlled substances by deception and subterfuge.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a February 2017 audit showed unusual and unaccounted for drug withdrawals from the hospital’s automated dispensing system, which requires staff to enter login information to take out drugs.

The system documented an instance where Tombre withdrew hydromorphone for the same patient three times in one hour.

Tombre told authorities he had diverted drugs over a few years and used the hydromorphone and fentanyl he stole.

He is scheduled to be sentenced in April.

___

Information from: KMGH-TV, http://www.thedenverchannel.com

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Court: Trump can’t let companies deny birth control coverage

December 13, 2018 - 9:19pm

SAN FRANCISCO — A divided U.S. appeals court Thursday blocked rules by the Trump administration that allowed more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control.

The ruling, however, may be short lived because the administration has adopted new rules on contraceptive coverage that are set to take effect next month and will likely prompt renewed legal challenges.

Thursday’s ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concerned changes to birth control coverage requirements under President Barack Obama’s health care law that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued in October 2017.

States were likely to succeed on their claim that those changes were made without required notice and public comment, the appeals court panel said in a 2-1 decision.

The majority upheld a preliminary injunction against the rules issued by U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam last year. It, however, limited the scope of the injunction, applying it only to the five states in the lawsuit and not the entire country.

Another federal judge also blocked the rules, and her nationwide injunction remains in place.

An email to the Justice Department seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Obama’s health care law required most companies to cover birth control at no additional cost, though it included exemptions for religious organizations. The new policy allowed more categories of employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing free contraception to women by claiming religious objections. It also allowed any company that is not publicly traded to deny coverage on moral grounds.

The Department of Justice said in court documents that the rules were about protecting a small group of “sincere religious and moral objectors” from having to violate their beliefs. The changes were favored by social conservatives who are staunch supporters of President Donald Trump.

California filed a lawsuit to block the changes that was joined by Delaware, Maryland, New York and Virginia.

“Today’s decision is an important step to protect a woman’s right to access cost-free birth control and make independent decisions about her own reproductive health care,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

The states argued that the changes could result in millions of women losing free birth control services, forcing them to seek contraceptive care through state-run programs or programs that the states had to reimburse.

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The states show with “reasonable probability” that the new rules will lead women to lose employer-sponsored contraceptive coverage, “which will then result in economic harm to the states,” 9th Circuit Judge J. Clifford Wallace, a nominee of Republican President Richard Nixon, wrote for the majority.

In a dissent, 9th Circuit Judge Andrew Kleinfeld said the economic harm to the states was “self-inflicted” because they chose to provide contraceptive coverage to women. The states, therefore, did not have the authority to bring the lawsuit, Kleinfeld, a nominee of Republican President George H.W. Bush, said.

The case became more complicated after the Trump administration last month issued new birth control coverage rules that are set to supersede those at issue in the lawsuit before the 9th Circuit. Under the new rules, large companies whose stock is sold to investors won’t be able to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage.

Wallace said the new rules did not make the case before the 9th Circuit moot because they are not set to take effect until January.

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Strasbourg market attack suspect killed in police shootout

December 13, 2018 - 8:54pm

STRASBOURG, France — The man authorities believe killed three people during a rampage near a Christmas market in Strasbourg died Thursday in a shootout with police at the end of a two-day manhunt, French authorities said.

French Police via AP, FileThis undated file handout photo provided by the French police, shows Cherif Chekatt, the suspect in the shooting in Strasbourg, France.

The Paris prosecutor’s office, which handles terror cases in France, formally identified the man killed in the eastern French city as 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt, a Strasbourg-born man with a long history of convictions for various crimes, including robberies. Chekatt also had been on a watch list of potential extremists.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, speaking earlier from Strasbourg, said police had spotted a man matching the suspect’s description in the city’s Neudorf neighborhood.

“The moment they tried to arrest him, he turned around and opened fire. They replied,” killing the man, Castaner said.

Chekatt was suspected of killing three people and wounding 13 near Strasbourg’s Christmas market on Tuesday night. Castaner said earlier Thursday that three of the injured had been released from hospital and three others were still fighting for their lives.

“Our engagement against terrorism is total,” French President Emmanuel Macron, who was in Brussels for a European Union summit, said in a tweet thanking security forces.

Five people have been arrested in connection with the investigation, including Chekatt’s parents and two of his brothers. The Paris prosecutor’s office said the fifth, who was arrested Thursday, was a member of Chekatt’s “entourage” but not a family member.

Witnesses said the gunman shouted “God is great!” in Arabic and sprayed gunfire from a security zone near the Christmas market on Tuesday. Security forces wounded the man but he managed to escape in a taxi, which dropped him off in the Neudorf neighborhood.

More than 700 officers searched for Chekatt, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told CNews television.

Chekatt was well-known to police but as a common criminal, not a terrorist. He had his first conviction at 13, and had 26 more by the time he died at age 29. He served jail time in France, Germany and Switzerland.

A local police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the man who shot at police Thursday night had been armed with a pistol and a knife.

Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries said police had acted on a tip from a woman.

Residents described hearing shots on the street where Chekatt faced off with police, prompting new jitters after two days marked by tension in and around Strasbourg, which lies on the border with Germany and is considered as symbol of European unity.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity online, said the Islamic State group’s Amaq news agency was claiming the gunman as a “soldier” of the group, although IS claims of responsibility have often been considered opportunistic.

Chekatt’s motives remain vague. Authorities had put him on a watch list three years ago for suspected radicalism, but said they didn’t detect signs he was ready to act on it — a pattern in several past attacks in France.

France raised its three-stage threat index to the highest level after Tuesday’s attack and deployed 1,800 additional soldiers across the country to help patrol streets and secure crowded events.

Security forces, including the elite Raid squad, spent hours Thursday searching in the Neudorf neighborhood where Chekatt had grown up based on “supposition only” he might have been hiding in a building nearby, a French police official said.

Residents of the Neudorf neighborhood expressed relief after Chekatt was killed.

“Everybody’s quite happy that the killer has been finally shot. I think now, the city and life can keep going on in Strasbourg,” resident Pierre Plasse said.

One of the three who died in Tuesday’s attack was a Thai tourist, 45-year-old Anupong Suebsamarn, according to the Thai Foreign Ministry. An Italian journalist was in critical condition, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said. The Europhonica radio consortium said Antonio Megalizzi, 28, was in Strasbourg to follow the session of the European Parliament.

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The leaders of the 28 European Union countries held a moment of silence for the victims at their summit Thursday.

Before Thursday’s shootout, hundreds of people gathered in Strasbourg’s renowned 500-year-old cathedral to mourn and seek comfort.

“Evil does not prevail,” Archbishop Luc Ravel said. “And the message of Christmas has not been contradicted but rather confirmed by Tuesday’s dramatic night: Evil and good are both there, but in the end the good will have last word.”

___

Petrequin and Becatoros reported from Paris. Associated Press writers Jean-Francois Badias in Strasbourg, France, Sylvie Corbet, Deborah Gouffran, and Elaine Ganley in Paris, Colleen Barry in Milan, Italy, Raf Casert and Angela Charlton in Brussels, Belgium, contributed to this report.

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7-year-old immigrant girl dies after Border Patrol arrest

December 13, 2018 - 8:40pm

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A 7-year-old girl who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border with her father last week died after being taken into the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol, federal immigration authorities confirmed Thursday.

The Washington Post reports the girl died of dehydration and shock more than eight hours after she was arrested by agents near Lordsburg, New Mexico. The girl was from Guatemala and was traveling with a group of 163 people who approached agents to turn themselves in on Dec. 6.

It’s unknown what happened to the girl during the eight hours before she started having seizures and was flown to an El Paso hospital.

In a statement, Customs and Border Protection said the girl had not eaten or consumed water in several days.

The agency did not provide The Associated Press with the statement it gave to the Post, despite repeated requests.

Processing 163 immigrants in one night could have posed challenges for the agency, whose detention facilities are meant to be temporary and don’t usually fit that many people.

When a Border Patrol agent arrests someone, that person gets processed at a facility but usually spends no more than 72 hours in custody before they are either transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or, if they’re Mexican, quickly deported home.

The girl’s death raises questions about whether border agents knew she was ill and whether she was fed anything or given anything to drink during the eight-plus hours she was in custody.

Immigrants, attorneys and activists have long raised issues with the conditions of Border Patrol holding cells. In Tucson, an ongoing lawsuit claims holding cells are filthy, extremely cold and lacking basic necessities such as blankets. A judge overseeing that lawsuit has ordered the agency’s Tucson Sector, which patrols much of the Arizona-Mexico border, to provide blankets and mats to sleep on and to continually turn over surveillance footage from inside the cells.

The Border Patrol has seen an increasing trend of large groups of immigrants, many with young children, walking up to agents and turning themselves in. Most are Central American and say they are fleeing violence. They turn themselves in instead of trying to circumvent authorities, many with plans to apply for asylum.

Agents in Arizona see groups of over 100 people on a regular basis, sometimes including infants and toddlers.

Arresting such groups poses logistical problems for agents who have to wait on transport vans that are equipped with baby seats to take them to processing facilities, some which are at least half hour north of the border.

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The death of the 7-year-old comes after a toddler died in May just after being released from an ICE family detention facility in Texas, and as the administration of Donald Trump attempts to ban people from asking for asylum if they crossed the border illegally. A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked that ban, but the administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate it Tuesday.

Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, said migrant deaths increased last year even as the number of border crossing dropped.

“This tragedy represents the worst possible outcome when people, including children, are held in inhumane conditions. Lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within CBP have exacerbated policies that lead to migrant deaths,” Pompa said.

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Book review: A new hero emerges to save lonely but still determined Harry Bosch

December 13, 2018 - 8:26pm

 

Give crime writer Michael Connelly credit.

He knows that the career and shelf life of his greatest creation — the laconic but always determined Harry Bosch — is spiraling toward a not-too-pretty end. Now, clearly in his 60s, the ex-Los Angles Police detective has hacked off nearly every boss he’s encountered in his nearly 30-year campaign to right all the wrongs in the City of Angels.

Even his current stint as reserve detective for the tiny San Fernando Police Department may be yanked from under him because of a stupid mistake he makes while investigating an unsolved murder in Connelly’s newest book, “Dark Sacred Night.”

But to revive Bosch’s fledgling drive to deliver a measure of justice in this world, and to jolt some youthful energy into the Bosch series, Connelly introduces Harry to Renée Ballard, who we met for the first time last year in Connelly’s “The Late Show.” Ballard is an LAPD detective who is also an outsider. She lives on the beach with her dog and her only family is a grandmother she sees only occasionally.

Ballard refused the sexual advances of a senior detective, filed a harassment complaint against him, and was banished to the late shift when her colleagues refused to back up her allegations. And like Bosch, she hates it when someone gets away with murder, so aligns herself with Bosch to investigate the cold-case murder of 15-year-old prostitute Daisy Clayton.

The first meeting between Bosch and Ballard is low-key but amusing. Ballard returns to her desk at the Hollywood Division and finds an older man with gray hair and “the mustache that seemed to be standard with cops who came on in the seventies and eighties” rifling through some old records. Ballard readies her Glock to use on Bosch but quickly learns about his quest to find Clayton’s murderer.

Clayton’s body was found in a trash bin in Hollywood nine years earlier. Bosch is so invested in the case, he is letting Daisy’s mom stay with him while she is trying to get off drugs.

Ballard asks her superior if he knows Bosch. “Everybody knows Harry Bosch,” he tells her, solidifying his legend in the LAPD. Ballard decides she could learn something from Bosch, while Bosch recognizes a kindred spirit in Ballard, and the two are quickly off probing the death of Clayton.

But Connelly quickly establishes the Clayton case is not the only one each investigator has to work. The novel goes back and forth between Bosch figuring out who ordered the execution-style slaying of a vicious gang leader while Ballard solves — Sherlock Holmes-style — the death in a house high up on Hollywood Boulevard.

Connelly, as usual, delivers a fast-paced story that doesn’t disappoint. Along the way, Bosch briefly reveals to Ballard how deeply lonely he is while Ballard admits to herself how Bosch reminds her of her long-lost father.

The two also learn they can depend on each other in deadly situations. It’s a relationship that might be built to last.

 

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How Nuggets F Torrey Craig became Russell Westbrook’s worst nightmare

December 13, 2018 - 8:07pm

Torrey Craig didn’t ask for weak-side help. But Bruce Bowen was more than happy to offer it anyway.

Craig was introduced to Bowen — a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team with the San Antonio Spurs five times from 2004-08, the godfather of the NBA’s new niche of “3-and-D” wing players — in early October, before Denver’s preseason junket against the Los Angeles Clippers. As the Jedi master spoke, the Nuggets’ young wing forward took careful mental notes, especially when it came to pregame homework. Bowen recalled how he made late-night cramming sessions routine, studying film of his upcoming defensive assignment on the eve of their eventual meeting.

“He’d go on YouTube, watch guys’ tendencies, and all those types of things to prepare to guard somebody,” Craig recalled. “So he was really helpful.”

The pointers stuck. Hard. A third of the way through his second NBA season, Craig ranks fifth among Nuggets players who’ve appeared in at least seven games in terms of Basketball-Reference.com’s Defensive Rating — as in, opponent points allowed per 100 possessions — with a mark of 107. That’s a five-point improvement on his Defensive Rating of 112 as a rookie, which has him tied for the third-best single-season jump on the roster.

“To be a good defensive player, you have to have the tools,” offered Nuggets coach Mike Malone, whose Western Conference-leading squad takes an 18-9 record into a matchup with Oklahoma City (17-9) on Friday at the Pepsi Center. “It’s also desire. It’s also want-to. And Torrey knows that’s how he can leave his mark on this game: ‘I can go out there and guard the other team’s best player and make it really hard for those guys.’”

To wit: With the 6-foot-7 Craig raising Cain on the perimeter, the Nuggets limited Memphis point guard Mike Conley this past Monday to a 5-for-14 shooting night, 2-of-8 from beyond the arc, in a 105-99 win to kick off a four-game, eight-night homestand.

Next up: Russell Westbrook, who — with Craig in his grill — turned in his worst shooting line of the season on Nov. 24, the last time the Nuggets and Thunder locked horns. The All-Star guard misfired on 11 of 12 3-point attempts and 17 of 23 tries from the floor against Denver, a 16-point night that was high on volume but low on results.

“Yeah, I mean, he makes life hell for those guys,” Malone continued. “He might get beat initially, be he’s got the innate ability to get back in the play right away.”

So-called 3-and-D players usually aren’t born so much as cajoled. Craig was gifted with the frame to body up with forwards, the feet to keep up with smaller guards, and the wingspan to smother the snot out of all of them. But he joked that defense didn’t interest him in the slightest until his senior year at South Carolina-Upstate.

Credit NBA scouts with the assist on that one. And a not-so-gentle prod to the backside.

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“They told me, ‘We know you can score,’” Craig recalled. “‘There are a lot of players that can score. But if you want to make it to the next level, you’re going to need to play defense.’”

The change of mind — and a marked change in effort — first started showing dividends Down Under: Craig was named the top defensive player in Australia’s National Basketball League in 2016-17 while a member of the Brisbane Bullets. During a stint with the Nuggets’ summer league squad in 2017, he led the team in blocks (six) and offensive rating (118.4), the kind of athletic ceiling that led to a two-way contract with the big club in July 2017.

“So that’s kind of what clicked for me, right then and there,” Craig said. “It wasn’t even (that I had to) ‘work on it.’ I was always athletic. I had the foot speed. I had the size and strength. It was all about effort. I put all my effort into offense. And then once I asserted more into defense, I became a pretty solid defender.”

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Colorado BLM sells all the oil, gas leases up for bid after dramatically slashing the offerings

December 13, 2018 - 7:42pm

All the federal oil and gas leases offered at the Colorado Bureau of Land Management’s quarterly sale were bought Thursday. But the 7,847 acres of public land leased were a far cry from the roughly 224,000 acres of minerals originally on the block.

The sale of the leases, mostly in western Colorado, netted a total of $981,143 in rent and fees, which will be split between the federal government and the state of Colorado.

In September, the BLM said it would offer leases on parcels totaling 224,341 acres. The agency then pared the offering a few times in response to requests from Gov. John Hickenlooper, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and local elected officials and residents in the North Fork Valley of southwest Colorado. They raised concerns about the potential impacts of drilling on wildlife habitat, tourism and agriculture and approval of leases before the BLM finished updating its resource management plan for the area including the North Fork Valley.

Another development was a preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge in Idaho in a lawsuit challenging changes the national BLM office made to shorten the time periods for public comment and revise requirements for environmental review to streamline and speed up leasing. The ruling in September by Chief U.S. Magistrate Ronald Bush in Pocatello, Idaho, temporarily replaced part of the Trump administration’s policy on the leasing of public lands in greater sage grouse habitat.

Colorado BLM officials have said the oil and gas leases pulled from Thursday’s auction could be offered at a later sale.

“The parcels that were pulled were pulled for a variety of reasons. There are also a lot of reasons not to put them back up for lease,” said Nada Culver, senior counsel and director of The Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center.

The BLM hasn’t fully addressed questions about whether federal laws requiring public input and sufficient environmental review will be adequately followed going forward, Culver said.

Representatives of 24 outdoor businesses in Colorado wrote a letter Wednesday to Jamie Connell, the state BLM director, objecting to the Trump administration’s policy of increasing drilling on public lands.

“Our businesses contribute to Colorado’s $28 billion outdoor recreation economy, which depends on Colorado’s world class public lands. Yet these lands are under increasing pressure from the current administration’s ‘energy dominance’ policies, which are poised to do irreparable damage to Colorado’s outdoor industry through the prioritization of oil and gas development,” according to the letter.

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However, Kathleen Sgamma, president of the oil and gas trade organization Western Energy Alliance, said federal officials have balanced the uses of public lands, which are supposed to accommodate multiple purposes.

“There are over 200 million acres of public lands completely locked away from any oil and gas development in the form of wilderness areas, national parks and other designations,” said Sgamma. “There are also hundreds of millions of acres of working landscapes that are appropriate for oil and gas development and those are types of lands the BLM is moving forward to lease.”

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Rockies depart winter meetings still searching for an upgrade to offense

December 13, 2018 - 7:27pm

LAS VEGAS — The Rockies’ “Twittersphere” lit up Thursday when baseball’s winter meetings closed without the club making a major move.

The tweets flashed frustration when word broke that the Indians, Mariners and Rays finalized a three-team deal that including sending designated hitter/first baseman Edwin Encarnacion to the Mariners and first baseman Carlos Santana to the Indians. Both Encarnacion and Santana had been possible trade targets for a Colorado team looking to upgrade its offense.

Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich, meanwhile, was quite satisfied with the groundwork the club laid down over four days at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and remained confident he’ll find his man. Bridich has always viewed the winter meetings as part of the process, not the be-all and end-all of the offseason.

“It’s tough to come here, start something and finish something,” he said Thursday morning. “You pick up on conversations that precede these meetings and you hope to advance those conversations down the road. I think we’ve done that in a couple of different areas.”

Asked if the Santana-Encarnacion trade derailed the Rockies’ offseason plan, Bridich replied with a definitive no.

So now what? A major-league source confirmed that Colorado has discussed a possible trade for Toronto switch-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak, who batted .242 with 25 home runs, 77 RBIs and a .808 OPS last season. He’s owed $8 million in 2019 in the final year of his contract.  Bridich said he’s open to acquiring a player for one-year to help jump start the offense.

Colorado could also turn toward the free-agent market.  MLB.com reported Thursday that left-handed-hitting second baseman/first baseman Daniel Murphy and first baseman Logan Morrison are on the Rockies’ radar. So is switch-hitting Neil Walker, a source confirmed.

None of those three players would provide power to the lineup the way Santana or Encarnacion likely would, but Murphy could add pop to the lineup if he had a bounce-back season. Murphy, who turns 34 in April and has been primarily a second baseman, slashed .299/.336/.454 for the Nationals and Cubs last season, though he hit only 12 home runs, down from the 23 he hit in 2017.

Pitching in. Bridich’s focus is not only on offense. While he said that the club is unlikely to add a starting pitcher, he is open to adding a veteran reliever, especially with right-hander Adam Ottavino leaving as a free agent.

“I don’t see us doing anything to the degree that I chose to do last year at this time,” he said, referring to the signing of Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee, all for three years for a combined $106 million. “We need last year’s decisions to pitch better. It’s not a lack of talent or an inability to perform. They need to do a better job, flat out.

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“The bottom line with the bullpen is that if Bryan and Jake and Chris pitch to their abilities, we are most likely a very different sort of a bullpen.”

Catching depth. Catcher Chris Rabago returned to the Rockies organization Thursday in a roundabout way through the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. The Royals selected Rabago from the Yankees, then sent him to the Rockies for cash considerations.

Rabago was on Colorado’s 40-man roster last season, but was claimed off waivers by the Yankees on Aug. 22 when Colorado needed a spot for veteran reserve Matt Holliday. Bridich said they brought Rabago back for catching depth, but he is not on the 40-man roster.

The Rockies did not select anyone in the major-league phase of the draft, but lost right-handed reliever Brandon Brennan when he was chosen by the Mariners. Brennan, 27, split last year between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte in the White Sox organization and was recently signed by Colorado to a minor-league contract. He was 4-3 with a 3.10 ERA in 40 outings (one start) with Birmingham and 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in four relief appearances for Charlotte.

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Florida men plead guilty to poaching deer, pronghorn in Colorado

December 13, 2018 - 7:15pm

Two Florida men have pleaded guilty to poaching mule deer and pronghorn in Elbert and Lincoln counties.

Timothy Draper, 31, and Lawrence J. Cowart, 29, both of Bunnell, pleaded guilty after a public tip led to weeks of investigation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said Thursday.

Their poaching claimed at least three mule deer and six pronghorn in the Limon area over a 10-month period dating to May 2017, wildlife officials said. The men were working in energy-industry jobs when the crimes were committed. The men simply decapitated the animals, leaving their torsos, shipping the heads to a taxidermist in Florida for mounting.

Colorado Springs and Limon police, along with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, helped wildlife officials make the arrests in the case.

DNA evidence against Draper was found in his truck after a search warrant was served. Evidence implicating Cowart was found in his apartment and his vehicle, Parks and Wildlife said Thursday.

In October, Draper pleaded guilty to illegal possession of three or more big game animals. Cowart pleaded guilty to willful destruction of wildlife. Both men forfeited firearms and equipment used in their crimes. They still face possible suspension of hunting privileges, ranging from one year to life. Trophy heads of the illegally harvested deer and pronghorn have been surrendered.

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Tamu, oldest giraffe in North America, dies at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

December 13, 2018 - 6:49pm

The oldest giraffe in North America, 32-year-old Tamu, died Thursday at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, officials said.

Since arriving at the zoo in April 2003, Tamu made strong emotional connections with guests and staff members alike, a news release said. Tamu was affectionately known to many as “Grandma” or “Moose.”

Tamu

“She was known for taking care of calves because she was so gentle,” said Amy Schilz, senior giraffe keeper. “I remember when we put up new shade structures in the yard and the calves hadn’t learned to use them as shelters when it rained. Tamu would go out into the rain to stand over the calves to protect them.”

Tamu, easily recognizable because of her dark, bushy eyebrows, would have celebrated her 33rd birthday on Dec. 28.

Tamu gave birth to six calves, leaving a legacy of 29 grandcalves, nine great-grandcalves and one great-great-grandcalf, zoo officials said.

“She will be missed so much,” Schilz said. “She was really, really smart. Just yesterday, she was participating in training for hoof care. She had a great heart.”

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Warriors’ Stephen Curry says he was joking about moon landing

December 13, 2018 - 6:23pm

OAKLAND, Calif. — Warriors star Stephen Curry didn’t mean it.

Curry told ESPN this week he was joking when he questioned on a podcast whether astronauts landed on the moon, comments that sent social media into a tizzy.

He also said he will accept NASA’s invitation to tour the lunar lab at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“Obviously I was joking when I was talking on the podcast,” Curry told ESPN. “(Then) I was silently protesting how stupid it was that people actually took that quote and made it law as, ‘Oh my God, he’s a fake-moon-landing truther,’ whatever you want to call it, yada, yada, yada. So I was silently protesting that part about it, how the story took a life of its own.

“But in terms of the reaction that I’ve gotten, I am definitely going to take (NASA) up on their offer.”

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Feces, cockroaches and mold: Denver venues have some of the worst food-safety violations in pro sports, new report says

December 13, 2018 - 6:16pm

Mouse feces, live cockroaches and black mold were among the critical health violations Denver sports venues racked up in 2016 and 2017, ESPN found in a wide-ranging review of food-safety inspection reports at sports venues across the nation.

The results, shared Thursday by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program, named Broncos Stadium at Mile High, the Pepsi Center and Coors Field among the worst in the U.S. for food-safety violations at professional sports stadiums and arenas.

The home bases of the Colorado Rockies, Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche were included in the study of 16,000 food-safety inspection reports from 111 health departments nationwide, ESPN said. No other Colorado venues were included on the sports network’s list.

While Denver did not have the three worst violation rates — that would be Charlotte, N.C.’s Spectrum Center (with 92 percent), the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich. (86 percent) and Dallas’ American Airlines Center (83 percent) — its largest venues, which serve hundreds of thousands of meals and snacks annually, still managed to rank in the bottom 10.

Broncos Stadium landed at No. 103 of 107 entries, with an 80 percent violation rate. Seventy-four of the 92 inspection reports ESPN examined showed high-level violations, including the discovery of 50 rodent droppings under a pallet of beer in a warehouse area of the main kitchen.

Hyoung Chang, The Denver PostA Spicy Chopped Brisket Sandwich inside Broncos Stadium at Mile High in 2016.

When contacted about the ESPN report, a Broncos Stadium spokesman deferred to the venue’s main concessionaire, Centerplate.

“The health and safety of our guests is always the top priority of Centerplate and our culinary partners,” the company said in a statement. “Centerplate is committed to excellence in its operations, and continues to rigorously train their staff on proper techniques in food handling and food safety procedures. … When potential issues have arisen in our operations, they took immediate corrective action — and worked immediately to rectify accordingly and clear for operation in the presence of an inspector.”

The Pepsi Center also received strikingly low marks, clocking in at 101 of 107 venues with a 76 percent violation rate.

Its infractions included hot foods (in this case, cheesesteaks and bratwursts) being stored at 97 degrees in a warming drawer — far below the recommended temperature of 135 degrees — as well as a safety glove-wearing employee using a dirty towel to wipe counters before serving ready-to-eat waffles. On Oct. 24, 2017, a small amount of “black mold-like substance” was found in an ice machine at the Pepsi Center.

Coors Field ranked No. 99 with a 72 percent violation rate, including widespread problems with mice. In addition to “thousands of accumulated mice feces,” inspectors found “12 to 15 plastic bags of chips and chocolate chips (that) had open chew holes from mice.” An inspection quoted in the ESPN report said, “One deceased mouse was directly next to the hot water heater; one live mouse inside of pest device near the popcorn area; thousands of pest feces throughout the facility; and evidence of nesting observed at facility.”

Joe Amon, The Denver PostFans inside the Pepsi Center watch on as Colorado Avalanche center Alexander Kerfoot #13 (center) is congratulated by his team mates as the crowd goes wild after he scored the 6th goal of the night as the Boston Bruins go down to the Avalanche 6-3 at the Pepsi Center November 15, 2018 in downtown Denver.

Representatives for Aramark, which supplies most of the food at Coors Field and the Pepsi Center, did not respond to requests for comment.

However, the Rockies released a statement on Twitter saying the well-being of all fans is a top priority.

“We take food safety very seriously and work closely with our partners on an ongoing basis to ensure that,” the statement said. “We were made aware of each health inspection report and potential issues, all of which were immediately addressed and corrected.”

That may not be enough to fix the problem, said Denver restaurant consultant John Imbergamo.

“The city certainly should be concerned if we are generally ranked with more violations in city-owned or municipal-owned venues,” he said. “The standard language in contracts between caterers and venues says you have to maintain high levels of sanitation and maintenance to operate.”

Embarrassingly, Lower Downtown’s Coors Field is the lead example in the ESPN report. An anecdote recounts how a health inspector found a live mouse in a commercial-size bag of Cracker Jacks at Coors Field in September 2016, along with five live cockroaches in a trap in a storage room.

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“Two weeks earlier, inspectors had found copious amounts of mouse droppings on a kitchen floor, in food-prep trays, inside a bin of rice and amid bags of cookies that had been chewed,” the article added.

“At least our sports teams rank high in something,” Imbergamo joked.

The ESPN report also compared the average number of high-level violations per inspection to the average for restaurants and other food outlets at the 82 venues for which it had community data, via Hazel Analytics. In that comparison, sports venues generally did better in food-safety inspections than the restaurant industry at large — which was also the case in Denver.

The comparison is an attempt to “compensate for such jurisdictional differences” as the frequency of inspections, the diligence of inspectors and differing laws. The Denver area’s restaurant-industry average of 1.5 high-level violations per inspection was generally higher than the ones at the Pepsi Center (1.27 per inspection), Coors Field (1.14 per inspection) and Mile High (1.05 per inspection).

Denver’s Department of Public Health & Environment, which conducts food safety inspections, visits vendors on a risk-based frequency, judged in part on compliance with regulations, said communications manager Jeremy C. Garland.

“We conduct follow-up visits for re-inspections until violations are corrected,” Garland said. He noted that the city does not hold contracts with food vendors at sports venues; rather, it’s the venue’s owners and operators, such as the Pepsi Center’s Kroenke Sports Entertainment. “Shutting down a vendor would be necessary if they posed an imminent health hazard to the public. This could result from an observation such as no water or no hot water available for hand washing.”

It’s important to note that more than one vendor often provides food at individual venues, Imbergamo said. In the case of the Pepsi Center, Aramark provides general concessions, while Levy Restaurants handles sit-down dining.

“Lumping them all into one is kind of a challenge,” Imbergamo said. “When you’re doing something like this, you want to make sure you’re differentiating.”

The high incidence of violations at sporting venues should not reflect on the cleanliness of Denver’s restaurant scene as a whole, Imbergamo added.

“Nobody compares the food at Broncos Stadium with the food at a high-end Denver restaurant, and I would say the same thing applies to health inspections,” he said.

The National Association of Concessionaires, which described annual food and beverage sales at pro-sports venues as a $2 billion industry, said the trust of its customers is its No. 1 concern.

“Training in safe food preparation and handling, routine surprise inspections from local health officials, and ongoing third-party audits are just a few of the measures in place to safeguard public health,” the association said in a statement provided to The Denver Post. “When there are issues, they are identified and immediately corrected, often in the presence of an inspector.”
Nearly 50 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne disease in the U.S. each year, according to an estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Compare local and national sports-venue results in the “What’s Lurking in Your Stadium Food?” article at espn.com.

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Colorado lawmakers urge fix to A-Line, G-Line problems on eve of deadline

December 13, 2018 - 5:59pm

As the deadline looms for RTD to submit an action plan to federal regulators that addresses long-standing issues with metro Denver’s commuter rail system, both of Colorado’s senators and two of the state’s congressional delegation weighed in Thursday in a letter urging everyone involved to find a fix.

U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, along with U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter, urged officials from the Regional Transportation District, Denver Transit Partners and the Federal Railroad Administration to “fully commit to completing a satisfactory action plan” by the end of this week to resolve the ongoing issues.

Denver Transit Partners is the private sector consortium working on a 34-year contract with RTD to build and operate the three lines that make up the Eagle P3 project — the University of Colorado A-Line, B-Line and G-Line.

“The Eagle Project’s success is critical for our constituents,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “Many stakeholders came together to support the project based on the economic and quality of life benefits it promises. They are counting on all parties to live up to their obligations and provide the service agreed to.”

Denver’s $2.2 billion commuter rail system has been plagued by timing issues with safety gates at crossings that don’t precisely conform to federal rail standards. The FRA last month ordered RTD to submit an action plan by Friday that satisfies the agency’s concerns about exactly when the gates go up and down as trains pass through.

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While the A-Line is operating under a long-term waiver granted by the FRA, with human flaggers stationed at some crossings as a safety net, the G-Line to Arvada and Wheat Ridge won’t be allowed to carry passengers until the crossing gate problems on the airport line are resolved.

The G-Line was supposed to open for service in October 2016.

The FRA last month threatened to revoke the waiver it granted RTD if a solution isn’t identified, which could lead to suspension of service on the 23-mile line connecting downtown Denver to Denver International Airport.

“We cannot afford any further delays or loss of service,” the lawmakers wrote.

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Following criticism, a new civilian unit will investigate complaints against Denver Sheriff Department deputies

December 13, 2018 - 5:28pm

Civilian city employees in a new division will take over investigations of alleged misconduct within the Denver Sheriff Department, the latest reform for the agency after a series of reports criticized its internal affairs bureau.

City leaders announced the creation of the new Public Integrity Division at a news conference Thursday and said it would help make the investigation of misconduct complaints more efficient. But the deputies’ union thinks the division will simply add more bureaucracy to an already slow process.

“For discipline to be effective, it must be timely,” said Troy Riggs, director of Denver’s Department of Public Safety.

The division is expected to be operational by April and first will focus on the current backlog of cases — numbering 229 on Thursday — before tackling new complaints. The division will also find a way to efficiently handle more minor complaints, which have clogged the current system and delayed investigations of serious allegations, Riggs said.

On average, it took about 239 days for the sheriff’s department to complete an internal misconduct investigation, Riggs said. Similar investigations took about 90 days at the Denver Police Department, he said.

The division will also oversee complaints against high-ranking law enforcement officers appointed by the mayor in any part of the Department of Public Safety, including police.

Eric Williams, deputy director of the public safety department and a former FBI investigator, will lead the division of about 20 employees. Civilians currently working in the sheriff department’s internal affairs and conduct review offices will have the opportunity to join the division, which is expected to need less staff than the 28 employees working complaints in the sheriff’s department. Sworn members of the offices will transition back to other work inside the city’s two jails as the internal affairs and conduct review offices are phased out.

Riggs on Thursday cited conversations with deputies concerned about the sheriff department’s internal investigations, but the leader of the deputies’ union said the group was not aware of the new division until the president got a vague call from the mayor’s office Wednesday night.

“I don’t know who they talked to but they didn’t talk to the FOP,” said Mike Jackson, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Denver Sheriff’s Lodge #27.

Jackson said the new division would only add more levels of bureaucracy instead of addressing the root of the problem: overcrowding and understaffing at the jails. He noted that two civilian groups — the Office of the Independent Monitor and the Citizen Oversight Board — already review internal investigations.

“We’re just very disappointed in how this is going,” he said.

Establishing civilian oversight of the Denver Sheriff Department’s internal review process was one of eight recommendations made by the Office of the Independent Monitor in a extensive review of how the department handled its investigation into the death of jail inmate Michael Marshall. The city paid $4.6 million to the family of Marshall, who had paranoid schizophrenia and was having a psychotic episode when deputies killed him.

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The internal affairs bureau twice tried to close the investigation into Marshall’s death before it was completed, according to the independent monitor report.

Nick Mitchell, Denver’s independent monitor, said Thursday he was pleased with the creation of the new division.

Mitchell’s report came after another in 2015 by two consulting firms that found the sheriff department’s investigations into use of force incidents “wholly inadequate.” That report followed a series of excessive force cases that cost more than $9 million in settlements and attorney payments.

Denver Sheriff Patrick Fillman in August celebrated reforms the department had completed since the report, including changes made to the internal affairs bureau.

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Legislators, hemp advocates say farm bill is a boon for Colorado’s growing industry

December 13, 2018 - 4:59pm

State legislators joined business owners and advocates of Colorado’s hemp industry Thursday to mark the passing of the new federal farm bill  that legalizes hemp, a move they called long overdue.

The bill, which cleared Congress on Wednesday, is awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature. The bill shifts hemp, which has negligible amounts of the psychoactive ingredient of its cousin cannabis, from classification as a controlled substance to a crop regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, states and tribes.

State Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, said during a news conference that the shift will move Colorado from playing defense to ensure that the state and hemp producers don’t run afoul of the law to being proactive and creative.

“We can look at how we take an industry that’s just sprouting and expand it to more rural communities,” Donovan said.

The federal farm bill approved in 2014 opened the door to the legal growth of hemp, allowing cultivation for research purposes and allowing states to permit “pilot programs.” But hemp remained a Schedule 1 drug along with heroin and ecstasy, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s highest classification.

If the farm bill becomes law, the USDA will approve federal standards during the next year. States and tribes can adopt the federal standards or develop their own, as long as they are at least as strong as the federal regulations.

Members of the hemp industry and advocacy organizations said Colorado is a leader nationally, accounting for about half the country’s hemp production. Nearly 31,000 acres of hemp are registered with the state, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for folks out there looking for a product,” Nick Levendofsky, director of external affairs for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, said Wednesday of the hemp provision.

Much of the hemp in food and other products now sold in the U.S. is imported from other countries, including China and parts of Europe. The legalization of hemp will give U.S. farmers the opportunity to meet the growing demand for products, said Corey Cox, an attorney with the Vicente Sederberg law firm, which specializes in marijuana and hemp issues.

An important area of potential growth is in medicinal products. Cannabidiol, or CBD oil, is extracted from hemp seeds and is used in pills, infused lotions and other over-the-counter products.

“Removing the DEA from the equation will allow for a lot more commercial activity, experiments with new products and a lot more research,” Cox said.

Jesse Claeys, spokesman for  New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, toasted to that prospect with a bottle of the brewery’s Hemperor HPA, a new style of India Pale Ale. He said the brew was born after the company was approached by farmers who thought the aroma and taste of  the hemp they were growing would make a good, new ale. New Belguim couldn’t use the entire plant, but recreated the flavors in the beer.

“Hemp, hemp hooray!” said Claeys, raising a bottle of the beer.

“This really is a historic moment for the hemp industry,” said Shawn Hauser, an attorney with Vicente Sederberg.

Colorado already has robust hemp regulations and during the next year, while the USDA develops its standards, the state will be able to shape the best policies to comply with the federal regulations, Hauser said.

“I think we, as Coloradans, have a significant head start as we look at how to conform our state process to the new federal law,” said state Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, chairman of the House Rural Affairs Committee.

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Hemp has been an agricultural product for several centuries and was one of the first plants to be used for fiber. After passage of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, hemp was no longer officially recognized as distinct from marijuana, according to the Hemp Industries Association.

In Colorado, hemp, a plant in the cannabis family, cannot have more than 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol — THC —  the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The standard was specified in the state constitution, but voters in November approved putting it into a statute so it can be changed by lawmakers.

That was a good move for Colorado’s hemp industry, Cox said, because it will be easier for the state to change its standard if the federal government makes a change.

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Reservation-only camping expanding at Colorado state parks in 2019

December 13, 2018 - 4:39pm

Starting in 2019, 15 state parks will join Colorado’s “reservation only” group, to which five parks already belong.

Under the system, campers can reserve a site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Reservations are available six months in advance up until the day of arrival, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Reservations can be made by logging into cpwshop.com or by calling 800-244-5613.

Parks joining the program Jan. 1 are Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, Boyd Lake, Cherry Creek, Golden Gate Canyon, Highline Lake, Jackson Lake, John Martin Reservoir, Lathrop, Mueller, North Sterling, Pearl Lake, Ridgway, State Forest, Steamboat Lake and Yampa River.

Lake Pueblo State Park and Chatfield State Park will join April 1.

Parks and Wildlife hopes the ability to reserve a same-day site will save campers from gambling on a first-come, first-served spot, only to arrive at the park to find there are no available spots, the release said.

All campers must reserve a campsite prior to occupying the site. Campers who occupy a reservation-only campsite without a reservation will be subject to a citation.

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