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March Madness 2019: A beginner’s guide to your NCAA Tournament bracket pool

8 hours 47 min ago

March Madness begins this week, and for non-basketball fans building a bracket can be somewhat intimidating. Don’t worry, we have you covered. Here are 10 simple tips to help you pick a strong NCAA Tournament bracket for your pool.

Don’t stress too much over the first and second rounds

You are three quadrillion (a three followed by 15 zeros) times more likely to be struck by lightning in your lifetime than you are picking a perfect bracket, so don’t sweat the early rounds. According to research done by the NCAA using data from their Bracket Challenge Game, winners of those pools get, on average, just 25 of 32 first round games correct (78 percent). None of those were perfect through the first 48 hours of the tournament.

The success rate of those eventual winners in the second round even drops slightly: They get an average of 12 out of 16 winners (75 percent) correct. That equates to 11 incorrect picks through the first weekend of the tournament.

RELATED: March Madness 2019: Printable bracket for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Discount teams that exit early from their conference tournaments

There was a time when winning your conference tournament meant March Madness success. From 1999 to 2010, eight out of 12 national champions emerged from their conference tournament as champions. Since then the results are less encouraging: 3 for 8. However, all national championship teams over the past two decades have lasted at least to the semifinal round in their conference tournament, so make sure to avoid any teams that were subject to an early exit.

Here are a list of tournament teams that failed to advance to the semifinal round of their conference tournament: No. 3 LSU, No. 3 Purdue, No. 3 Texas Tech, No. 4 Virginia Tech, No. 5 Mississippi State, No. 6 Maryland, No. 7 Louisville, No. 8 Mississippi, No. 8 Syracuse, No. 8 VCU, No. 9 Baylor, No. 9 Central Florida, No. 9 Oklahoma, No. 10 Iowa, No. 11 Ohio State and No. 11 St. John’s.

Be conservative picking upsets

Part of what makes March Madness so entertaining are the upsets, yet since 2011, the first year the field expanded to 68 teams, the higher-seeded team has won 71 percent of the first- and second-round games. If you participated in bracket pools from 2014 to 2018 and simply picked the better-seeded team you would have placed in the 72nd percentile on average — not bad for little-to-no analysis.

According to data from the NCAA Bracket Challenge Game, there are between 12 and 13 upsets (defined as the winning team seeded at least two seed lines worse than the losing team) in the tournament per year in all rounds, with the first round providing half of those surprising finishes.

To find those upsets, you have a few options.

You could go with our DAViD metric, the Data-Assisted Victory Detector for the NCAA Tournament, which highlights first-round upsets. You could also flip a coin, choose a mascot, pick the team in blue or, if you are comfortable with sports betting, check out the point spreads for each individual first-round game.

Joe Osborne from OddsShark found that teams favored by five or more points won 85 percent of their matchups in the tournament since 1996 while those favored by fewer than five won just 53 percent. Upset candidates by this method, using the consensus point spreads found at Vegas Insider, include No. 12 Oregon over No. 5 Wisconsin, No. 13 UC Irvine over No. 4 Kansas State, No. 10 Iowa over No. 7 Cincinnati, No. 12 Murray State over No. 5 Marquette, No. 10 Florida over No. 7 Nevada and No. 10 Seton Hall over No. 7 Wofford.

Look for 11 seeds to upset, not 12 seeds and definitely not 16 seeds

The Post’s Matt Bonesteel notes that from 2012 to 2014 No. 12 seeds went 8-4 against No. 5 seeds; from 2015 to 2018 they are just 3-13. No. 11 seeds, by comparison, have a 9-7 record against No. 6 seeds over the past four years.

Strong choices on this seed line include No. 11 Ohio State over No. 6 Iowa State (32 percent chance of an upset) and No. 11 Saint Mary’s over No. 6 Villanova (49 percent chance), last year’s champion.

RELATED: March Madness 2019: Most likely upsets for NCAA Tournament’s first round

Forget about picking a No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed: since 2011, the first year for the current 68-team field, the No. 1 seeds have outscored the No. 16 seeds by 20 or more points in 18 out of 32 contests. Last year’s surprise, No. 16 UMBC, at least had a 1.2 percent chance at upsetting No. 1 Virginia, which is more than double the chances of any No. 16 seed in this year’s tournament.

One of the First Four teams is going to surprise you

A 68-team field means some teams have to play their way into the tournament via the First Four games, featuring the four lowest-seeded automatic qualifiers and the four lowest-seeded at-large teams. In all eight years using this format, at least one First Four team has survived until the Round of 32. Three First Four teams even managed to make it to the Sweet 16. One, VCU in 2011, made it to the Final Four.

Again, don’t focus on the No. 16 seeds, because they’re not advancing. Instead key in on No. 11 Belmont. The Bruins offense — ranked 19th in the country per Pomeroy’s ratings, which adjust for strength of schedule — could surprise No. 6 Maryland. Plus, the Terrapins offense turns the ball over 20 percent of the time — only No. 9 Baylor, No. 8 VCU and No. 16 North Carolina Central are worse among this year’s tournament teams.

Be bold. Pick a Cinderella team (or two) to make the Sweet 16

Seeing a dark horse make it past the first weekend is always exciting. It’s even more gratifying when you correctly penciled them in on your bracket. The seeds that provide the best value historically are the No. 10, No. 11 and No. 12 seeds — they have reached the Sweet 16 more often than those gifted a No. 8 or No. 9 seed.

No. 11 Saint Mary’s has the best chance out of all this year’s double-digit seeds at reaching the Sweet 16 (15 percent) and comes with the added benefit of not being on many brackets — only eight percent of entrants in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge have them going that far. No. 10 Iowa is another team whose chances to make the Sweet 16 (10 percent) are higher than the public’s perception (5 percent).

Use analytics to separate teams in the Elite Eight

The most frequent matchups in the Elite Eight over the past eight years have been a No. 1 seed vs. a No. 2 seed (10 times; no other matchup has been seen more than three times), a difficult choice when trying to find the winner. For these close calls go with the consensus ranking curated by Kenneth Massey. He compiles the rankings of 62 different systems into a consensus ranking. The higher-rated team in that ranking wins 70 percent of the time.

No. 1 seeds have staying power

Top seeds are the top seeds for a reason: they are the best teams. And as such, they tend to go farthest in the tournament. On average, a No. 1 seed wins 3.4 games in the tournament each year and they account for almost two-thirds of all national title game participants (62 percent).

Over the past eight tournaments, No. 1 seeds have a 56-7 overall record through the round of 32. That’s an 89 percent success rate. They are 480-114 in the tournament since 1985 against all other seeds, an 81 percent win rate.

Just don’t go too crazy with the No. 1 seeds in the Final Four. Only once, in 2008, has the Final Four been comprised solely of No. 1 seeds. In fact, it is over 11 times more likely for a Final Four to contain zero No. 1 seeds than it is to contain four No. 1 seeds.

A perfect Final Four is nice, but not essential

Over the past eight years only a fraction of people (0.25 percent) have gone 4-for-4 and that dropped to 0.1 percent in 2018. You do, however, need to get two right, the same two teams that will face one another in the championship game.

If you are in a large pool (100 or more people) it pays to be bold here — that’s the only way you can differentiate your pick from dozens of others. A No. 3 seed, historically, is underplayed (on 6 percent of brackets since 2011) relative to how often they appear in the Final Four (11 percent).

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No. 3 Texas Tech is a good choice here. The Red Raiders have an efficient scorer in Davide Moretti (76 percent effective field goal rate, fifth highest among players with at least 200 field goal attempts in 2018-19) and one of the best rim defenders in the country in Tariq Owens (opponents are 3 for 21 against him around the basket this season).

When picking a national champion, stick with the top teams

Your championship game matchup should involve no seed worse than No. 5, as 14 of the last 16 championship games have involved teams seeded No. 1 through No. 5. Even more specific, 91 percent of tournament winners since 1996 have been a top-three seed, with No. 1 seeds winning 14 times.

Over the past eight years, every national champion except one, Connecticut, a No. 7 seed in 2014, was a No. 1, 2 or 3 seed. Since 1985, the first year the field was expanded to 64 teams, all but four of the 34 winners were one of the top three seeds in the tournament; 21 of the 34 (62 percent) were No. 1 seeds.

No. 2 Michigan State is a solid, and contrarian, choice to be this year’s national champion. The Spartans are the fifth-best team in the nation per Massey’s consensus rankings with offensive rankings in the 93rd percentile around the basket (1.3 points per possession) and in the 89th percentile on shots beyond the 3-point line (1.1 points per possession, 37 percent shooting). Plus, they fit Mike Hume’s Winner’s Total Efficiency (WTEff) metric, a statistical bar that measures the combined offensive and defensive efficiencies of championship-caliber teams.

Whatever you do, don’t pick Duke to win it all. As of Wednesday morning, a tournament-high 38 percent of ESPN brackets have the Blue Devils as their pick despite their chances to win it all ranging from 15 to 30 percent. Even if you did believe Duke was the best team in the tournament, and they very well might be, this is about winning your pool, and seeing Duke exit early clears almost half the field from competition. Remember, getting the national champion pick right is worth 32 points in most formats, the same as going 32 for 32 in the first round.

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Denver drivers urged to “slow the funk down”

9 hours 27 min ago

Advocates for change and safer roads in Denver have turned to colorful and eye-catching lawn signs and a new mural urging drivers to “Slow the Funk Down.”

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“We heard from the community, and one of their biggest concerns around traffic safety is speeding of vehicles through neighborhoods,” said Jill Locantore of WalkDenver.

More than 700 lawn signs have been distributed since the fall, and a mural was recently painted on the side of a restaurant on West Colfax. The message is a strong one, but according to those behind the community art project, it’s important enough to be a bit shocking.

“Part of the problem with traffic fatalities is that we’ve just become numb and used to them happening,” said Locantore. “So it takes a bit of a jolt to get people out of that rut an think about ’wait a minute, this isn’t acceptable for people to be dying on our streets every week.'”

Read the full story at thedenverchannel.com.

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Broncos podcast: How free agency haul will impact NFL draft strategy

9 hours 34 min ago

In the latest First-and-Orange podcast episode, Broncos beat writers Ryan O’Halloran and Kyle Fredrickson explain how the offseason additions of quarterback Joe Flacco, defensive back Kareem Jackson, offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James and cornerback Bryce Callahan will impact Denver’s approach in the NFL draft.

Subscribe to the podcast
SoundCloud | iTunes | Stitcher | RSS

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Former Denver Broncos QB Chad Kelly pleads guilty for trespassing in Englewood couple’s home

10 hours 21 min ago

Former Broncos backup quarterback Chad Kelly pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to misdemeanor second-degree criminal trespassing in Arapahoe County District Court.

Kelly was sentenced to one year of supervised probation and 50 hours of community service during a brief hearing with little fanfare. The judge allowed for probation to be transferred to Kelly’s home state of New York or in another state where he lives, as approved by the probation department.

The first-degree felony first-degree criminal trespassing charge was dropped as part of the plea agreement.

The 24-year-old was released from the Broncos after his arrest on Oct. 23 and has not found another NFL job.

Kelly was attending an annual Halloween party at the Gothic Theatre hosted by the Broncos’ Von Miller on the night of his arrest. He entered a couple’s Englewood home after 1 a.m., sat on their couch and mumbled incoherently, according to arrest documents. The man in the home attacked Kelly with an aluminum vacuum-cleaner tube.

Police later found Kelly two blocks from the Halloween party, according to the documents. The couple provided surveillance footage to police.

Former @Broncos backup QB Chad Kelly and his attorney just arrived to the courthouse for an Arapahoe District Court heading on an October trespassing case. @denverpost pic.twitter.com/Z1ABvd1NjL

— Saja Hindi (@BySajaHindi) March 20, 2019

Kelly’s defense attorney Harvey Steinberg said in the hearing that the decision to accept the plea and not take the case to trial was a difficult one.

The former player has friends in the neighborhood of the home he entered, Steinberg said, and he thought he was at one of their houses. Kelly knocked on the back door of the home and thought he heard someone say “come in,” so he entered, Steinberg said. He sat on the couch, and though he didn’t recognize the woman already sitting there, he thought she was a guest of the tenants, Steinberg said.

Ultimately, they decided the plea agreement was the best way to proceed, he said.

Kelly will also be subject to drug and alcohol testing and treatment, as defined by probation, and will have to pay fines and fees as well as any restitution accepted by the court.

In the 2017 NFL draft, the Broncos selected Kelly as the final pick. He made one play for the Broncos, a kneel-down snap ending the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Rams. Since being released by the Broncos, no other team has shown interest in hiring the younger Kelly.

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Though this is the first time Kelly has been in trouble off the field since joining the Broncos, he was kicked off the Clemson team in 2014 for an argument with coaches during a game, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for a bar fight in 2014, and in October 2016, was involved in a brawl at his brother’s high school football game, according to the Associated Press.

The AP reported that Kelly attended the Senior Bowl during his final season at Ole Miss, despite injuries, to talk to NFL teams and explain that he’d learned from his off-field mistakes and “won’t make the same mistake twice.”

Kelly is the nephew of Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly.

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Federal judge casts doubt on Trump’s drilling plans across the US because they ignore climate change

10 hours 24 min ago

WASHINGTON — A federal judge ruled late Tuesday that the Interior Department violated federal law by failing to take into account the climate impact of its oil and gas leasing out west.

The decision by U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Rudolph Contreras marks the first time the Trump administration has been held to account for the climate impact of its energy dominance agenda, and it could have sweeping implications for the president’s plan to boost fossil fuel production across the country. Contreras concluded that Interior’s Bureau of Land Management “did not sufficiently consider climate change” when making decisions to auction off federal land in Wyoming to oil and gas drilling. The judge temporarily blocked drilling on roughly 300,000 acres of land in the state.

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The initial ruling in the case brought by two advocacy groups, WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility, has implications for oil and gas drilling on federal land throughout the West. In the decision, Contreras faulted the agency’s environmental assessments as inadequate because they did not detail how individual drilling projects contributed to the nation’s overall carbon output. Since greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change, the judge wrote, these analyses did not provide policymakers and the public with a sufficient understanding of drilling’s impact, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“Given the national, cumulative nature of climate change, considering each individual drilling project in a vacuum deprives the agency and the public of the context necessary to evaluate oil and gas drilling on federal land before irretrievably committing to that drilling,” he wrote.

While the Interior Department began to take into account the climate impacts of federal oil, gas and coal leasing toward the end of President Barack Obama’s second term, Trump officials jettisoned those plans right after President Trump took office. Trump and several of his top deputies have dismissed recent federal findings that the United States and other countries must curb their carbon output in the next decade or face potentially disastrous consequences from climate change.

The Bureau of Land Management could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.

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Every bite of these classic Mexican chiles rellenos makes the time you put into them worth it

10 hours 53 min ago

Is there a dish you always order, no matter what else is on the menu? For me, it’s chile relleno. I started ordering the stuffed-, battered- and fried-pepper dish in my West Texas childhood, and haven’t stopped during a lifetime of eating at Mexican restaurants here and in Mexico. I’ve made them at home, too, sometimes battering and frying them the traditional way and sometimes baking. The latter can be perfectly satisfying with the right sauce and filling, but it’s the former I truly crave.

The whole shebang takes some time, but I love the dish so much and think you will, too (if you don’t already), that I’m breaking my easy-enough-for-a-weeknight rule to walk you through a stellar version. It comes from chef Gabriela Camara’s beautiful new book, which showcases the kind of contemporary Mexican cooking she serves in her Mexico City and San Francisco restaurants, Contramar and Cala, respectively.

I said stellar, not simple. This recipe would be just the thing to make on a weekend, or perhaps spread out: On one day, make the sauce and the refried beans, and roast and peel — or even stuff — the poblano chiles. On another, batter and fry the chiles, and finish cooking them in the sauce.

Camara suggests another shortcut: stuffing dried ancho chiles instead of fresh poblanos. (They’re the same pepper in different forms.) It’s easier because you don’t have to roast and peel the anchos; you just soak them until they’re soft. They even hold together a little better after you stuff them. You still have to try to get those pesky seeds out without ripping the pepper to pieces, but that, too, goes a little more quickly than with the poblanos, because the seeds don’t stick as much.

I tested it both ways, stuffing poblanos with refried beans and mozzarella, and anchos with beans and goat cheese. The combination of eggy batter, sharp tomato sauce, earthy beans and rich cheese took me right back to Mexico City. I like the fresh, herbaceous bite of the poblanos a little better than the deeper ancho, but it’s really like picking between your two favorite children. They’re both wonderful.

Chiles Rellenos

6 servings

This dish of stuffed poblano chiles, lightly fried and then finished in tomato sauce, is a Mexican classic for a reason. While there aren’t many ingredients, it’s a little involved to make start to finish on a weeknight.

You can roast and peel the chiles and make the refried beans and/or tomato sauce in advance; all those elements can refrigerate for up to 1 week. You can even go so far as to stuff the poblanos up to 3 days in advance, leaving just the frying and brief simmering for dinnertime.

These make excellent leftovers, eaten cold or warm in a taco or on a sandwich. (You can make these using dried ancho chiles instead of fresh poblanos.)

An instant-read thermometer is helpful for monitoring the frying oil.

Adapted from “My Mexico City Kitchen,” by Gabriela Camara (Lorena Jones Books, 2019).

Ingredients

  • 6 large poblano peppers (may substitute 6 large dried ancho chiles)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • One 15-ounce can no-salt-added black beans, with their liquid
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes or diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 ounces (about 1 cup) shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese (may substitute soft goat cheese)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups safflower oil, sunflower oil or any other high-smoke-point vegetable oil

Steps

Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat to broil.

Place the poblanos on a baking sheet; broil until they brown in spots and blister without charring, watching them carefully and turning them with tongs until they are blistered all over. (If they char all over, they may become too soft to work with easily.) Transfer them to a heatproof bowl and cover with a plate or pan lid to let them steam and cool enough to be handled, at least 10 minutes.

While the peppers are steaming, make the refried beans and tomato sauce: Pour 1 tablespoon of the extra-virgin olive oil into a large Dutch oven or large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the beans and their liquid, plus 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Use a fork or potato masher to mash the beans, and stir until they bubble and thicken. Turn off the heat, taste, and add more salt as needed. Transfer to a bowl, then rinse out the pot and return it to the stove.

Combine the onion, garlic, tomatoes, the water and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a blender; puree until smooth.

Put the now-clean pot you used for the beans over medium-high heat, and pour in the remaining 1 tablespoon of the extra-virgin olive oil. When it shimmers, pour in the pureed tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the liquid is barely bubbling. Taste, and add more salt as needed. Let the sauce cook while you stuff and fry the peppers.

When the poblanos are cool enough to handle, use your fingers to carefully remove and discard their skins. Make a vertical slit from the stem end to the tip of each pepper and pull out the seeds, being as gentle as possible so as to not tear the peppers any more than is necessary.

Place the roasted chiles on a platter, slit sides up. Stuff each chile with 2 to 3 tablespoons (depending on the size of the chiles) of the cheese and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the refried beans. Don’t overstuff; better to have leftover filling than to not be able to close the chiles, or to have them burst during frying. Pinch the chiles closed; their flesh should stick to the filling, but if you need, you can thread toothpicks through the opening to help keep them closed.

Crack the eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the balloon-whisk attachment, or use a handheld electric mixer and a medium bowl. Whip the eggs until they expand, become super-thick and foamy, and form very soft, temporary peaks when you lift out the whisk, 3 to 5 minutes.

Pour the 2 cups of oil into a deep skillet over medium-high heat. When it reaches 375 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, fry the chiles. Use your hands to gently dip each stuffed pepper into the whipped eggs, carefully flipping it over so both sides get coated and using a spatula, as needed, to help coat them evenly.

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Carefully lower each coated pepper into the hot oil; fry until the coating puffs and turns golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Repeat, frying 2 or 3 chiles at a time. As they are done, lift them with a slotted spoon, letting any excess oil drip back into the pot, and carefully transfer them to the pot of hot tomato sauce. Repeat until all the poblanos are in the sauce. Don’t worry about crowding them; once they are fried, they can withstanding some jostling.

Increase the heat to bring the tomato sauce back to a boil, then reduce the heat so the liquid is barely bubbling. Cook the chiles for 5 minutes, until they are heated through. (Feel free to leave them cooking in the sauce for longer if you’re finishing other parts of the dinner or waiting for guests; you really can’t overcook them.)

Serve the chiles hot, with the sauce spooned over.

VARIATION: To use dried ancho chiles instead of fresh, soak them in very hot water for about 1 hour, until softened. Pat them dry, then slit, stuff and fry them according to the directions above, substituting the goat cheese for the mozzarella.

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Disney closes $71B deal for Fox entertainment assets

11 hours 24 min ago

Disney has closed its $71 billion acquisition of Fox’s entertainment business, putting “Cinderella,” “The Simpsons,” “Star Wars” and “Dr. Strange” under one corporate roof.

The deal is likely to shake up the media landscape. Among other things, it paves the way for Disney to launch its streaming service, Disney Plus, due out later this year. It will also likely lead to layoffs in the thousands, thanks to duplication in Fox and Disney film-production staff.

By buying the studios behind “The Simpsons” and X-Men, Disney aims to better compete with technology companies such as Amazon and Netflix for viewers’ attention – and dollars.

Disney needs compelling TV shows and movies to persuade viewers to sign up and pay for yet another streaming service. It already has classic Disney cartoons, “Star Wars,” Pixar, the Muppets and some of the Marvel characters. With Fox, Disney could add Marvel’s X-Men and Deadpool, along with programs shown on such Fox channels as FX Networks and National Geographic. Fox’s productions also include “The Americans,” ”This Is Us” and “Modern Family.”

The deal helps Disney further control TV shows and movies from start to finish – from creating the programs to distributing them though television channels, movie theaters, streaming services and other ways people watch entertainment. Disney would get valuable data on customers and their entertainment-viewing habits, which it can then use to sell advertising.

Disney CEO Bob Iger said in an earnings call in February that Disney Plus and other direct-to-consumer businesses are Disney’s “No. 1 priority.”

Cable and telecom companies have been buying the companies that make TV shows and movies to compete in a changing media landscape. Although internet providers like AT&T and Comcast directly control their customers’ access to the internet in a way that Amazon, YouTube and Netflix do not, they still face threats as those streaming services gain in popularity.

AT&T bought Time Warner last year for $81 billion and has already launched its own streaming service, Watch TV, with Time Warner channels such as TBS and TNT, among other networks, for $15 a month.

In addition to boosting the Disney streaming service, expected to debut next year, the deal paves the way for Marvel’s X-Men and the Avengers to reunite in future movies. Though Disney owns Marvel Studios, some characters including the X-Men had already been licensed to Fox.

Disney also gets a controlling stake in the existing streaming service Hulu, which it plans to keep operating as a home for more general programming. Family-friendly shows and movies will head to Disney Plus.

No pricing has been disclosed for Disney Plus. The streaming service will feature five categories of material: Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. Disney charges $5 a month for ESPN Plus, a service that offers programming distinct from the ESPN cable channel.

Meanwhile, Fox Corp. — the parts of 21st Century Fox that are not part of the deal, including Fox News, Fox Sports and Fox Broadcasting — started trading on the Nasdaq under the “FOX” and “FOXA” tickers on Tuesday.

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Christian Pulisic wants opponents to fear U.S. soccer team, knows it will take time

11 hours 29 min ago

DAVENPORT, Fla. — Christian Pulisic has a vision of a transformed U.S. soccer team, a red-white-and-blue power that gives opponents sleepless nights similar the nightmares that plague players on the eve of facing Brazil or Germany.

“I want them to fear them like a big team,” he said Tuesday, quickly acknowledging “obviously, we still feel we have a long way to.”

The midfielder from Hershey, Pennsylvania, is with the national team this week for the first time since he became the most expensive American player. Chelsea agreed in January to buy Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund for 64 million euros (then $73 million), then loaned him back to the German club for the rest of the season.

In their first training camp with new coach Gregg Berhalter, a trio of emerging 20-year-olds could start together for the first time: Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams.

“There’s a lot of things that we talk about, that we need to be leaders, we need to show everybody what we’re about,” Adams said. “A lot of times I feel that in the U.S. we talk about how many good young players we have and stuff like that, and there’s a lot of players that end up falling off or not being heard about again. And you don’t want to be one of those players.”

Pulisic was 17 when he made his Bundesliga debut in 2016 and became a regular with the national team. When the U.S. lost at Trinidad and Tobago in October 2017, failing to qualify for the World Cup, he was the image of defeat. Pulisic crouched on the field, steadied his body with his right hand and covered his face with his left. The emotional pain was intense.

“Ever since that happened, it makes you want to be in a World Cup that much more,” he said. “So, yeah, definitely it motivates me.”

A regular with Dortmund the past two seasons, he struggled with a torn calf muscle last fall and a thigh injury this winter. He lost his starting job to 18-year-old English winger Jadon Sancho.

Pulisic’s start against Hertha Berlin on Saturday was just his sixth in the league this season, but he scored as a sub against Stuttgart on March 9, his second league goal this season and first since September. He played in both Champions League round of 16 matches against Tottenham, though he struggled to be effective in the first leg.

“I feel very confident right now,” he said. “I’m feeling very good. I feel like I’m at the top of my game. So I want to play as much as I can over there over in Dortmund. I’m not there to just finish out my time. I want to fight and they know that.”

Chelsea wanted to acquire Pulisic during the January transfer window because it anticipated discipline from FIFA, which in February banned the club from signing players for the next two transfer windows. FIFA concluded the team violated regulations on the registration of young players, a penalty the Chelsea has appealed.

Pulisic long dreamed of playing in the Premier League, the most watched soccer league on U.S. television. Chelsea needs a playmaking midfielder in case Eden Hazard leaves this summer.

Knowing his time at Dortmund will end in two months does not make Pulisic feel awkward.

“My teammates are all professionals,” he said. “They understand how this business works. I wanted to move and they’re all very happy for me and the club is, as well.”

After starting the season with 12 wins and three draws in its first 15 matches, Dortmund has two losses and three ties in its last nine games. After opening a seven-point lead in early February, it is tied with Bayern Munich atop the Bundesliga at 60 points with eight matches left, in second place on goal difference.

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Dortmund last won the title in 2012 and is seeking to end Bayern’s streak of six straight championships.

“We started off so strong, and unfortunately I’ve had some injuries kind of on and off throughout the season, which has been a low point for me,” Pulisic said. “I’ve been working on that and trying to keep myself healthy for the rest of season. … Obviously I’m super-excited to be there the rest the season and fight for the title.”

While Dortmund uses Pulisic as a wide player, Berhalter envisions him as an attacking central midfielder, paired with McKennie.

“I don’t mind where I play on the field,” Pulisic said. “I just like to be in an attacking area where I can create and help the team score goals because that’s where I feel I am at my best. And so I’m happy. I like the style that he has, and I like that position a lot.”

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WATCH: “Stranger Things” season 3 trailer

11 hours 50 min ago

Get ready for a return to the Upside Down.

Netflix on Wednesday released the trailer for the third season of “Stranger Things.”

Kicking off with Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home,” the trailer provides a glimpse into the Emmy-nominated supernatural series’ latest installment, which takes place in the summer of 1985. New to the cast this year include actors Cary Elwes and Jake Busey.

The new season premieres July 4.

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Denver weather: First week of spring brings warmer, average temperatures to metro area

12 hours 18 min ago

The warmer temperatures at the beginning of the week are expected to continue in Denver on Wednesday, the first day of spring, bringing a chance of rain showers Friday and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service of Boulder.

Forecasters predict sunny skies with a high near 57 degrees on Wednesday, with some light winds, similar to Thursday’s high temperatures. Those on Spring Break will be able to enjoy the reprieve from the winter cold throughout the week. The weather service said the temperatures are near average across the Front Range.

Wednesday evening is expected to be cooler with a low near 28 degrees.

An upper ridge will bring a pleasant First Day of Spring to Northeastern and North Central Colorado today. #cowx pic.twitter.com/UJ5ZwFYWg4

— NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) March 20, 2019

On Friday, precipitation is expected, though nothing like last week’s bomb cyclone. The weather service expects a 30 percent chance of rain showers and thunderstorms after noon on Thursday, but the high will remain in the 50s, around 55 degrees. Saturday’s high is expected to go up to 59 degrees and Sunday’s day temperatures will remain warm.

A chance of rain showers is expected Sunday after noon and into the evening.

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Categories: All Denver News.

The smallest and farthest worlds ever explored by NASA are really, really weird

12 hours 49 min ago

HOUSTON — In recent months, NASA has explored the smallest object ever orbited and the most distant body ever encountered — and found that both worlds are weirder than anyone could have imagined.

NASA/Goddard-University of ArizonaA view across Bennu’s southern hemisphere and into space, showing the number and distribution of boulders across the asteroid’s surface.

The 800-foot-wide asteroid Bennu, which is currently being studied by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, produces strange plumes of dust particles. Principal investigator Dante Lauretta, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, called the discovery “one of the biggest surprises of my scientific career.”

Meanwhile, data collected during the New Horizons spacecraft’s New Year’s Day flight past a far-flung icy object called MU69 suggests that the body is weirdly flat. Planetary scientist William McKinnon, a co-investigator on the mission, compared the two-part body to “a meatball attached to a pancake.”

The strange findings from both missions were presented this week at the annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference outside Houston, raising questions and offering clues about how the solar system works.

Though the dust plumes seen streaming off Bennu don’t pose any threat to the spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx has revealed other, less pleasant, surprises in its four months at the asteroid. Researchers said Tuesday that the surface of Bennu is far more rugged than expected; some of the boulders that comprise this cosmic “rubble pile” may be as large as 150 feet across — bigger than a baseball diamond.

The finding could pose problems for plans to scoop up a sample of the asteroid’s surface material and bring it back to Earth, researchers said. Because they had believed that Bennu would be dusty, OSIRIS-REx doesn’t have a mechanism for breaking up big rocks. The mission team instead plans to give Bennu something like an air kiss, using a puff of gas to raise a cloud of dusty material and gather it into a capsule that will eventually be sent back home.

The team will need to spend the next year or so carefully seeking a site that contains the right kind of material for this sample collection process. And when the time comes to actually grab the sample, in 2020, spacecraft operators will have a tough time navigating Bennu’s rough terrain. But NASA assured reporters Tuesday that it is up to the challenge.

“The first three months of OSIRIS-REx’s up-close investigation of Bennu have reminded us what discovery is all about — surprises, quick thinking and flexibility,” said Lori Glaze, acting director of NASA’s planetary science division.

The New Horizons spacecraft is already speeding away from MU69, an inhabitant of a dark and distant region called the Kuiper belt that surrounds the solar system beyond Neptune. The probe is now so far from Earth it takes more than six hours for signals from the spacecraft to reach scientists on the ground.

But as data trickled down to Earth in the months since New Horizon’s historic flyby, scientists have slowly built a picture of the most distant body ever explored.

Its oddball shape suggests it was formed from two smaller bodies that danced around one another in a shared orbit, getting closer and closer until they gently fused together. The entire collision would have been about as forceful as a human briskly walking into a wall, McKinnon said.

In a solar system where many objects were born out of catastrophic cataclysms, this gentle formation process is intriguing, he added. It lends support for a theory in which the building blocks of planets slowly coalesce out of rotating clouds of pebbles, McKinnon said. This would also explain the orientation of MU69′s two lobes, which appear to have been placed beside each other, rather than haphazardly smushed together.

It will take many more months to retrieve all the data collected during New Horizons’ brief encounter at MU69, and years to understand what it all means. Scientists still aren’t sure what made the larger of the body’s two lobes so flat; it looks as though a giant alien sat on it.

“It’s quite a spectacular object,” said the mission’s principal investigator Alan Stern. “It caught us by surprise.”

Categories: All Denver News.

Amazon’s gamble on finding 1,500 worker for robotic warehouse in Thornton may not have been a gamble after all

12 hours 57 min ago

After turning the heads of countless drivers on Interstate 25 while its massive walls went up, Amazon’s four-story, 855,000-square-foot Thornton fulfillment center finally opened last summer, shipping its first order in August.

While it surely delighted Thornton officials, Amazon’s call for more than 1,500 workers to staff the robot-aided distribution warehouse likely also raised a few skeptical eyebrows around the Denver area. After all, Colorado’s unemployment rate hasn’t been above 4 percent since 2015 and with entry-level jobs at the Thornton center offering starting pay of $12.50 last summer, Amazon wasn’t exactly blowing the market away on wages.

Eight months on, the big fulfillment center at East 144th Avenue and I-25 known among Amazon workers as DEN3 is humming along, sorting, packing and shipping hundreds of thousands of orders daily. The company reached full staffing there during its “peak season” of November and December (a timeline that coincided with the establishment of an across-the-company $15-per-hour minimum wage) and could be looking to grow the labor force further as order volume there grows, officials said.

Regardless of what a baseline unemployment number might say, there is evidence the Denver market will continue to produce the workers Amazon and other warehouse-based businesses need to keep growing their operations.

“The whole name of the game is getting the product to the customer in the quickest, most cost-effective way based on shipping costs,” Clint Autry, general manager of the Thornton fulfillment center, said on a tour Tuesday.

RELATED: Symbia Logistics in Aurora offers alternative for retailers who don’t fit the Amazon box

Since August, his facility has shipped orders all over the continental U.S. including New York and Florida. Most of the deliveries though go to closer-by locations like Las Vegas and California — if they’re not staying in Colorado, that is.

Autry has worked for Amazon for seven years opening a handful of facilities and working at the company’s first robotics-aided warehouse in Tampa Bay, Fla. He even helped test the radio-wave emitting vests workers wear when they have to step out among the highway network of “drive unit” robots that transports big tubs of merchandise around the cavernous facility at up to 17 mph.

Far from taking jobs from human workers, Autry believes the drive units and other robotic systems in use in Thornton will help create jobs.

“Efficiency goes up, orders go up,” he said. “As the customer demand comes, we’re gonna be hiring.”

Once employees cross the threshold into the noisy warehouse, Amazon has a variety of mechanisms aimed at keeping them in the company long-term if they want to stay. They include benefits that start on Day 1 and a “career choice” program that will pay 95 percent of an employee’s tuition for select educational pursuits. In the next few months, the Thornton facility will start offering employees commercial driver’s license and information technology classes.

“That’s the Amazon approach,” Autry said. “We want to hire people and grow them from within.”

The Thornton facility on Tuesday was stocked with workers who came from other markets pursuing advancement within the company. There was Connie McAllister, the training associate who moved from Kentucky; Zak Kupfer, the merchandise sorter and stower from Milwaukee; and Mike May, the California native who came to the facility to take a higher-level role in the “picking” department tasked with grabbing items from the building’s inventory to fill orders.

“There is a lot of opportunity at Amazon,” Mays said.

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Amazon officials did not have a firm number on how many of the Thornton center’s employees came from other markets, but data suggests the company should have no problem continuing to grow in the north metro area.

A study put together last year by real estate services firm CBRE tabbed Denver as the fourth fastest growing “tier 2” market for transportation and warehouse workers in the country. The study found Denver’s population of workers in those logistics fields grew by 20.6 percent — or about 9,550 workers — between 2013-17. With Denver continuing to draw new residents from elsewhere, and CBRE projecting the north metro area will bear the brunt of that growth, there is reason to believe Thornton and points around it will be a hotbed for warehouse and logistics expansion in the coming years.

“Increasingly, development of e-commerce warehouses is contingent not only on close proximity to large customer populations but also on finding increasingly scarce labor,” David Egan, CBRE’s global head of industrial and logistics research, said in a news release last year. “Several markets, especially those with strong population growth, offer ideal conditions for staffing up distribution centers.”

Categories: All Denver News.

Denver weather: Metro area likely having its coldest March in decades

12 hours 57 min ago

March in Denver is known for big snow storms, rapidly changing weather and, usually, an early taste of spring-like warmth.

But it’s usually not known for the persistent, bitter cold that’s enveloped the region all month long.

With an average temperature of 29.7 degrees through Monday, Denver was running more than nine degrees below average for the month, according to the National Weather Service in Boulder. Fourteen of 18 days this month have featured below average temperatures, including seven days at least 11 degrees below average.

If March were only 18 days long, the average monthly temperature of 29.7 degrees would tie Denver’s fourth-coldest March on record (1906). The coldest March on record in Denver was 26.4 degrees set in 1912. But since March runs 31 days, there are another 13 days for the mercury to recover, and we’ll see some non-winter jacket weather — finally — later this week.

RELATED: “Oh it was bad.” Denver digs out after bomb cyclone blizzard

A big warm-up is in store for the area later this week, and that’ll help bump up the average March temperature. Temperatures are forecast to rocket into the upper 50s by Thursday, a tick above seasonable levels. The rest of the month looks fairly mild, though a possible pattern change early next week may bring another shot of colder air.

Even with the warm-up, though, this month may well end up being the city’s coldest March in several decades. No March in the last 50 years has finished with an average monthly temperature below 33.5 degrees, a figure that looks in jeopardy considering just how cold the first half of the month has been.

An Arctic blast of cold air that moved through the first week of the month, coupled with the cold temperatures from last week’s bomb cyclone, have combined to keep Denver bitterly cold this March.

Chris Bianchi is a meteorologist for WeatherNation TV.

Denver’s average high for Tuesday, the final full day of winter, is 56 degrees.

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Categories: All Denver News.

Death penalty repeal bill divides Colorado district attorneys — the very people who choose whether to pursue execution

12 hours 57 min ago

The 22 Coloradans who decide whether a person should face the possibility of execution are divided on nearly every aspect of the death penalty and whether state lawmakers should end the practice.

District attorneys across the state disagree on whether the death penalty is effective, how it should be used — if at all — and how the state should decide whether to repeal it. At least three elected prosecutors support a bill to end execution in the state, enough of a shift from a decade ago that the statewide district attorneys’ council no longer takes a stance on the issue.

The district attorneys’ debate comes as the state legislature considers a bill that would repeal the death penalty in Colorado. The Senate will vote as soon as Wednesday on the bill; the House has not yet considered it.

At the crux of the divide, district attorneys disagree on whether the possibility of the death penalty is necessary to facilitate plea deals on potential capital cases and avoid lengthy, costly murder trials. Without the death penalty, more defendants will be able to plead to second-degree murder, district attorneys who oppose repeal warned, though they clarified that they wouldn’t seek death in a case that didn’t merit it simply to obtain a plea.

“Without this tool that we have at our disposal right now, reserved for the worst of the worst, those pleas simply don’t happen,” said Republican Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke, citing the recent case of a Frederick man who pleaded guilty to murdering his family to avoid the death penalty. “Chris Watts doesn’t have an incentive at that point.”

RELATED: John Hickenlooper: “I made the hardest decision” on execution

RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostMichael J. Rourke, District Attorney for Weld County, listens to the judge during Christopher Watts’ arraignment hearing at the Weld County Courthouse on Aug. 21, 2018 in Greeley.

The vast majority of all criminal cases are resolved by plea deals, including murder cases, said District Attorney Dave Young, a Democrat who represents Adams and Broomfield counties and opposes the repeal. He is pursuing the death penalty against a man charged with killing Adams County sheriff’s Deputy Heath Gumm.

“We would not be able to do that without leverage,” he said. “The whole legal system is based on leverage — not just criminal cases.”

Denver District Attorney Beth McCann disputed that analysis and said convictions shouldn’t rely on the prospect of the death penalty, but instead on the strength of the evidence in the case. McCann has said publicly that she will not seek the death penalty in any case because she morally opposes it, and she has said the decision has not affected her ability to convict.

“I really don’t view it as a bargaining chip, if you will,” McCann said in an interview.

Research on the effect the death penalty has on plea bargains is relatively sparse.

One 1995 study of cases in New York found that the threat of execution did not increase defendants’ likelihood of pleading guilty but did convince them to agree to harsher punishments. A 2013 study of cases in Georgia found that the death penalty slightly decreases the probability that a case will go to trial but did not save the state money.

Ten years ago, the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council lobbied against an attempt to end the death penalty. For the last decade, however, the council representing the state’s 22 district attorneys has not taken a position on attempts to end the death penalty because there is no longer a super majority who agree, said Tom Raynes, the council’s executive director.

“We have not had that level of agreement on the death penalty since I have been here,” said Raynes, who started at the council in 2010.

Three Democratic district attorneys — McCann, Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty, and Bruce Brown, who represents Summit, Lake, Eagle and Clear Creek counties — told The Denver Post or have publicly stated that they oppose the death penalty. Eight have said they support the death penalty, and the remaining did not respond before deadline for a request for comment on the issue. About 60 percent of the district attorneys are Republicans.

Nationally, district attorneys often are split along rural and urban lines about the future of the death penalty, said David LaBahn, president and CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. Those who represent suburban areas with little crime tend to support the death penalty because murders there often garner more attention and deeply disturb the community’s sense of safety.

“Most everyone who has touched death penalty cases don’t do it with a zest and a zeal,” he said. “It’s an incredible amount of reluctance. Everything else we do is to protect people and restore life.”

Even among those district attorneys who oppose the death penalty, McCann stands out for her decision to not pursue the penalty in any case, LaBahn said. Many others who don’t believe in the death penalty believe they still must use it when applicable because it is the law.

“She is one of the few to flat-out say, ‘I know this is the law but I won’t do it,’ ” LaBahn said.

John Leyba, The Denver PostBeth McCann is sworn in Jan. 10, 2017 as Denver District Attorney at the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building.

McCann faced criticism for that decision from her peers in Colorado, who said they believe district attorneys have an ethical obligation to pursue the death penalty if it is appropriate because it is state law.

“When I raised my right hand to take an oath to uphold and defend Colorado’s laws, there was no asterisk there,” said Republican District Attorney George Brauchler, who represents Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties and opposes repeal.

McCann said the law grants her broad discretion to make that decision.

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“If my constituents feel that we’re not prosecuting aggressively enough, that’s something they can decide at the voting booth,” she said.

The district attorneys who oppose the bill argued that the decision on the death penalty should not be made by the General Assembly and instead be put to a referendum vote of the entire state, which have been unsuccessful recently in other states.

Categories: All Denver News.

Backpass: The rise of Rapids’ Dillon Serna

12 hours 57 min ago

To watch Dillon Serna is to witness a kind of frenetic precision. His movement is so quick, from his stutter steps to his step-overs and his changes of direction, that it sometimes feels like he’s been put into a turn-of-the-century silent film, moving at 1.5x speed, while everything else is still going at a medium pace.

Supporters of the Colorado Rapids have been telling everyone they could get a hold of “Hey! This Serna kid is good!” since he was signed to a homegrown contract in 2013, just after his freshman year at the University of Akron. Fans love him because of his classic local-boy-makes-good story, since Serna grew up in Brighton and played with the Rapids academy since he was in middle school. For years, fans saw flashes of his talent.

But Serna’s playing career in Colorado could best be characterized as “Dillon, interrupted” from 2014 through 2018, with inconsistent play, benchings and injuries (torn ACL, 2016).

And that brings us to this season. Edgar Castillo is gone after being deemed too pricey to bring back despite being the team’s best player and offensive fulcrum in 2018, leaving the Rapids with a vacancy at left back, a player tasked with bringing the ball up the field, being an offensive outlet, helping in the final third of the attack, and also coming back on defense to lock down his side of the field. Left back requires speed, endurance, precision, acumen, and vision.

RELATED: Rapids settle for a tie after late goal by Johnny Russell

And to start the season the Rapids had zero experienced players to fill the spot, which is why manager Anthony Hudson decided to roll the dice and give Serna the job. And, the preliminary results have been excellent.

Serna has provided above-average defending and fantastic passing, plus he has the ability to support the attack. In the snowy season-opener, he had an assist on the first goal, and it was his shot at the death that got deflected to the waiting instep of Andre Shinyashiki to nab a 3-3 draw. In the second match against Seattle, the team ran a lot of the offense through him as he contributed three key passes and five crosses. And this past Sunday against Sporting Kansas City, Serna was everywhere, doing everything.

The Rise of Dillon Serna, pt1. Serna serves an amazing ball to Mezquida on the half-volley at 12'.#COLvSKC #Rapids96 pic.twitter.com/RxuJori5k5

— Mark Asher Goodman (@soccer_rabbi) March 18, 2019

The Rise of Dillon Serna, pt2. This ball into Diego Rubio is long and direct and on-a-dime. Lotta clubs in this kid's bag – accurate long balls, saucy dribbles, emergency defending, pace, passing-and-moving. #COLvSKC #Rapids96 pic.twitter.com/Ye7flVDy2e

— Mark Asher Goodman (@soccer_rabbi) March 18, 2019

Rise of Serna, pt3. Perfect tackle, recovers the ball immediately. Sharp awareness. #COLvSKC #Rapids96 pic.twitter.com/tj4U37IXTC

— Mark Asher Goodman (@soccer_rabbi) March 18, 2019

Statistically that added up to four tackles, two clearances, and one key pass. Serna’s role now as a fullback means that he will often be “the guy behind the guy,” helping to link up plays or stop the opposition in ways that won’t produce eye-popping league-MVP stats.

But advanced metrics tell us that Serna is a big contributor to the good things Colorado has produced. One such advanced statistic, Expected Buildup or “xB,” measures the degree to which a player that has passed the ball was involved in successful plays that produce high-quality shots. Serna’s xB of 1.6 puts him 10th in MLS amongst all fullbacks, and 2nd on the Rapids overall, indicating that he’s been one of the Rapids most important offensive weapons because of what he can offer in passes, crosses, and shots. The only Rapids player with a higher rating is Keegan Rosenberry, the fullback on the other side of the pitch, and a player with four years of MLS experience at the position.

It can be said that one of the biggest worries the Rapids had coming out of pre-season, the question of whether they had a viable first-rate left-back, has been suitably answered.

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Serna looking like Edgar Castillo lite #Rapids96

— Justin Hein (@justin_hein) March 18, 2019

I know it's still really early in the season, but Serna could play himself into the National Team picture. If he has a really good season, I would not be shocked seeing him get a January camp call. #Rapids96

— RapidsForeignLegion (@CRForeignLegion) March 18, 2019

At last Serna has a clear role with the Rapids and is at full health. He turns 25 years old in a few days, putting him right in the sweet spot of when soccer players are at the peak of both athletic ability and technical skill. The man from Brighton with the perpetually bright future, may have finally become what fans have been waiting for for so long.

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Categories: All Denver News.

Broncos’ Super Bowl LIV odds on the rise — again

12 hours 57 min ago

John Elway’s bold offseason additions have the Broncos rising among Super Bowl LIV contenders in the eyes of Las Vegas odds makers. But let’s not plan the parade through Civic Center Park quite yet.

Yes, the Broncos traded for QB Joe Flacco (Ravens) and signed DB Kareem Jackson (Texans), RT Ja’Wuan James and DB Bryce Callahan (Bears). Then suddenly, Bovada bumped Denver’s chances of winning the big game from 80-to-1, to 60-to-1, and as announced Monday, up to 50-to-1. All significant gains.

But even with improved odds, there are 21 NFL teams considered more likely to reach the Super Bowl, per Bovada, including all three AFC West opponents: Raiders 40-1, Chargers 16-1 and Chiefs 8-1. Proof that simply making the playoffs, where the Broncos haven’t been since 2016, would be an impressive achievement in itself.

So, place your bets if feeling optimistic, Broncos Country. The start of football season in just six months away.

Kyle Fredrickson, The Denver Post

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Larimer Square owner vows not to demolish historic buildings on storied Denver block

12 hours 57 min ago

Less than a month after opening a “community center” on the block to hear people’s hopes and concerns for the future of Larimer Square, the property’s owner has announced none of the historic buildings there will be demolished.

Jeff Hermanson, Larimer Square’s owner for the past 26 years, and his development partners with Denver firm Urban Villages have held fast to the position that new development along the historically protected 1400 block of Larimer Street is essential to keeping the aging buildings there functional and accessible into the future. The birthplace of Denver in the 1850s, the block today is home to posh shops, restaurants and offices.

Though redevelopment plans released by Hermanson’s group last winter called for alterations to some of the 19th-century buildings, on Tuesday the team declared they will not be knocking down anything historic as part of an effort to design and build new structures on the square.

“We’ve always been focused on retaining the block’s historic integrity,” Hermanson said in an emailed statement. “The best avenue forward is to avoid demolition of historic buildings.”

The announcement comes amid an ongoing public outreach effort on the square. After running into vocal opposition to their initial proposal to build two tall buildings in the opposing alleys on the block, Hermanson and Urban Villages last year convened an advisory group of historic preservation advocates, community leaders and neighborhood residents to talk over the block’s condition, maintenance needs and potential plans for the future.

Some of the participants in that group expressed frustration about how the meetings were conducted, but Hermanson and Urban Villages last month opened a new front in their effort to gather input on their ideas: A drop-in community center at 1411 Larimer St. An online forum has also been launched at ProtectLarimerSquare.com and a series of telephone “town hall” sessions allowing people to weigh in is being planned as well.

“From affordable housing, to converting the street to a public park, to school-based education programs, there is no shortage of ideas,” Jon Beurge, chief development officer for Urban Villages, said in a statement. “Our job now is to continue listening to what Denver wants and needs, and ultimately synthesize those ideas into a cohesive plan for the future of the block that poises it for the next 100 years while protecting its history.”
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Talk about changing the square landed the property, protected by a city ordinance since 1971, on the National Trust for Historic Place’s list of most endangered historic places last summer. Local preservation advocates took Tuesday’s announcement as a positive sign Hermanson and Co. are listening to public concerns.

“Many members of the advisory committee convenes last year made it clear that seeking to demolish buildings in Larimer Square was a non-starter,” Annie Levinsky, executive director of Historic Denver, said in a text message Tuesday night. “They must be hearing similar reactions from neighbors and community members in their outreach.”

Categories: All Denver News.

Debate over ending Colorado’s death penalty part of national conversation

12 hours 57 min ago

The death penalty has been declared all but dead in Colorado, where no one has been executed since 1997 or even been sentenced to death in a decade — including in horrific crimes such as the Aurora theater shooting and Christopher Watts’ murder of his wife and two young daughters.

Still, the visceral debate over capital punishment here — where the state Senate will take a key vote as soon as Wednesday on whether to take it off the table altogether — is part of a larger national conversation. Across the United States, but especially in the West, the death penalty is falling out of favor with prosecutors, juries, courts and state lawmakers from both parties.

Last year, in particular, was a watershed year as not one person was executed and only seven people were sentenced to death west of Texas — a 40-year low, according to an analysis of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit that advocates for reforming the death penalty system.

Abolition or major reforms of the death penalty have recently been debated in Wyoming, Oregon and Utah with mixed results. The Washington State Supreme Court last year ruled capital punishment unconstitutional. And California Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued an executive order pausing all future executions.

A number of factors are contributing to states backing away from capital punishment, including cost and a lack of access to the drug cocktail needed to execute someone by lethal injection.

RELATED: John Hickenlooper: “I made the hardest decision” on execution

In addition, there have been increasing concerns that not everyone convicted of major crimes is actually guilty — the Innocence Project has used DNA evidence to exonerate 20 people on death row — and that it is disproportionately applied to nonwhites. A 2015 University of Denver study found that prosecutors in Colorado were more likely to seek the death penalty against black and Latino defendants than against white defendants.

“We see more and more people favor the death penalty in principle but not in practice,” said Robert Dunham, the executive director of the center. “The death penalty they favor is not in place. That’s been one of the major changes in the legislatures in the West.”

This week’s Senate floor debate and vote are crucial for supporters of repeal. Democrats hold a narrow majority in the Senate, and positions on the death penalty don’t strictly follow party lines.

The last time Colorado Democrats made a serious attempt to abolish capital punishment was in 2013. When then-Gov. John Hickenlooper signaled he’d veto the bill making its way through the legislature, lawmakers spiked it.

Just two months later, after having a change of heart about the death penalty, the governor indefinitely stayed the execution of Nathan Dunlap, who was convicted of murdering four of his former co-workers at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Aurora.

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostConvicted killer Nathan Dunlap arrives back in court after a short recess during the hearing held at the Arapahoe County Court in Centennial on May 1, 2013.

Hickenlooper’s decision was met with extraordinary criticism. His executive order can only be overturned by another governor, something Gov. Jared Polis is not inclined to do. And the two other men on death row — Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray, who were convicted in the 2005 murders of Javad Marshall-Fields and Vivian Wolfe — are in the midst of appeals and their executions have not been scheduled yet.

More recently, juries have declined to sentence even the most heinous criminals to death, including James Holmes, who killed 12 people at an Aurora theater, and Dexter Lewis, who stabbed five people to death at a Denver bar. And last year, Weld County prosecutors made a plea deal to give Watts, who last year killed his wife and two children, life in prison.

Public support for the death penalty also has dropped significantly since it peaked at 80 percent in 1994, according to Gallup. However, a small majority of Americans — 56 percent — still favor it for people convicted of murder.

There is a wide partisan gap. According to Pew Research, 77 percent of Republicans in 2018 supported the death penalty, while only 35 percent of Democrats did. Fifty-two percent of unaffiliated voters support capital punishment.

“There’s a difference between popular opinion and those tasked with carrying out capital punishment,” said Amber Widgery, a senior policy analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures, which monitors policy trends across the states. “With mounting cost and logistical difficulties, lawmakers are taking a hard look and asking themselves if they can sustain this.”

Nebraska is a case study in the split between policymakers and the public. In 2015, state lawmakers voted to repeal capital punishment, but the next year voters restored the death penalty at the ballot box. The rebuke of lawmakers was financed in large part by the state’s wealthy Republican governor and his family.

Robert Blecker, a professor of criminal law and constitutional history at New York Law School, said he worries that abolition of the death penalty is part of a larger problem: the erosion of punishment.

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“Punishment itself is dying,” he said. “The question is, if we abolish the death penalty, do we diminish justice?”

Blecker, who believes the death penalty should be reserved for “the worst of the worst of the worst,” has spent thousands of hours researching and interviewing criminals who live on death row as well as those who have been given life without the chance of parole. His findings suggest that the punishment handed down rarely matches the scope of the crime.

“Some people deserve to die, and we have a moral obligation to execute them,” he said, adding that juries should need to decide capital cases using a much higher threshold than “beyond a reasonable doubt” of guilt.

If the Colorado legislation to repeal the death penalty makes it through the Senate, the state House will take up the bill next. The lower chamber is considered far more liberal than the Senate, and the bill is all but ensured passage there. Polis has also pledged to sign the bill if it makes it to his desk.

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Seven mountains that are great for spring skiing in and near Colorado

16 hours 26 min ago

Spring skiing: when we wear fewer layers, swap goggles for sunglasses and don’t put on enough sunscreen. Strong storms in February and early March this year buried central and southern Colorado in many feet of snow, leading some resorts to extend their seasons and setting spring up for epic conditions.

And with spring skiing about to be sprung, it’s time to make some decisions, starting with, “Where should I go?” Here are a few ideas — some close, some a half-day’s drive; some big, some offbeat. Take your pick and start planning out that silly ski costume, which seems to be expected and encouraged at pretty much any ski area from mid-March until closing. (“Closing dates vary by resort.”)

Purgatory Resort

Deep snow in the southwest

The snow has been dumping down by the feet all winter long in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, where a massive base awaits the few and brave that make it to Purgatory, just north of Durango.

Home to 1,605 skiable acres, eight terrain parks and an adventurous snowcat skiing operation, Purgatory is a gem. After your runs, save time for a visit to the new Nugget Mountain Bar, a D-Log miner’s cabin half a mile south of the entrance to the ski area serving après cocktails paired with a gourmet food truck.

If your timing is right, combine a Purgatory trip with the 25th annual Durango Bluegrass Meltdown, happening April 12-14 in downtown Durango. This year’s lineup includes Junior Sisk & Friends, Larry Keel Experience, Songs From The Road Band, John Reischman & the Jaybirds, Richie and Rosie, and Jeff Scroggins & Colorado. Tickets are on sale now and entry is free for kids 12 years or younger.

More info: Durango-La Plata County Airport has direct daily flights from Denver, Dallas and Phoenix. Book a room at Purgatory Lodge right at the base area (restaurants, shops, pool, spa, fitness center, game room and concierge; rooms from $65) or down in Durango. At Purgatory Resort, look for $39 lift tickets during the month of March; kids ages 10 and under ski for free with the Kids Power Pass. Websites: purgatoryresort.com, thenuggetmountainbar.com and durangomeltdown.com.

Related Articles Powderhorn

Ski with a ski patroller

Located on the western edge of the Grand Mesa, about 45 minutes east of Grand Junction, Powderhorn Ski Resort is offering an “insider” look at the mountain with their “Ski Patrol Ski Along” program. You’ll have an expert local guide to show you what it’s like to manage the safety, transport and care of skiers on the mountain, and receive a completion certificate at the end.

More info: Price is $75 per person for two hours or $95 for four hours, lift tickets not included. Reserve a spot at 970-268-5158 or powderhorn.com.

Ski Cooper

Cat skiing galore

Ski Cooper is a down-home, no-frills, family-friendly resort located 20 miles outside Minturn. They are reporting more than 25 feet of snow this season — a phenomenal base for spring skiing fun.

More info: There’s a “Play and Stay Ski Special” with Silver King Inn and Suites in Leadville.

Copper

Egg hunt

There are many reasons to come to Copper Mountain — it’s only 81 miles from Denver, has a huge variety of slopes for all levels and the ski school program is fantastic. But this spring, here’s one more reason: Copper Mountain’s Easter Egg Hunt is the largest in America, both by acreage and number of eggs.

On April 20-21, the Sunsation and Red Bull SlopeSoakers event will close out the season with live music and a traditional pond skim, but with floating rails. On Easter Sunday — April 21 — guests will search for 65,000 candy-filled eggs and turn them in for prizes. The eggs come from a family-owned company in Georgia and are filled by veterans and people with disabilities (and after the hunt, the eggs are sent to a nonprofit that re-uses them for another egg hunt). Prizes include Copper season passes and gear from a number of top brands. The day’s hunts are split up by age group and conclude with a massive hunt for everyone at the top of the American Eagle lift.

More info: Book a room, buy your lift tickets and check out the events calendar at coppercolorado.com.

Vail

The ultimate pairing of spring skiing and culinary festival

If you think skiing in spring sunshine is even better when followed by the perfect après wine pairing, then you may want to plan your turns with the 29th annual Taste of Vail food and wine festival on April 3-6. The event will showcase 30 guest chefs, restaurateurs and sommeliers, plus 55 top wineries from around the world.

If you only make one part of the four-day feast, make it to the Mountain Top Tasting on April 5; begin by skiing all morning to work up an appetite (and thirst), then slide into the top of Eagle Bahn for lunch and wine at 10,350 feet above sea level in a hand-built snow arena. Vail’s top chefs will serve up small plates and pairings (just be careful skiing down — or ride the gondola if you need to).

The rest of the four days are filled with tastings, talks with chefs and sommeliers (such as Rajat Parr, Lyle Railsback and Will Costello), seminars, intimate wine pop-ups, a massive Debut of Rosé and an American Lamb Cook-Off. The Grand Tasting will be April 6.

In mid-April, look for the Spring Back to Vail 2019, featuring the 17th annual World Pond Skimming Championship, spring lodging deals and a concert lineup at Ford Park that includes Steel Pulse, Xavier Rudd and Gov’t Mule. The concerts are free to the picnicking public, or you can “enhance” your experience by buying private reserve tickets for access to an area next to the stage, drinks and appetizers included.

More info: For a full schedule and to buy tickets, visit tasteofvail.com. The Mountain Top Tasting is $150 and the full four-day pass is $449. For Spring Back to Vail, visit vail.com/springback.

Beaver Creek

Puttin’ on the Ritz

Glamp it up in your room at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch in Avon. This five-star ski-in/ski-out hotel has a “Ritz Kids” package which includes in-room camping in a tepee and s’mores. The kids will also enjoy the heated outdoor pool, visits from Bachelor — the roaming hotel “canine ambassador” — and a fun game room.

Parents can hire a ski nanny to get the kids to and from ski school, or use the “camp” program of daily supervised children activities. The adults, meanwhile, can sneak away to the on-site, 21,000-square-foot spa and fitness center — or the après champagne and raw bar on the mountain terrace.

Not indulgent enough? Try out the West Wing penthouse, a four-bedroom suite, two-story, luxury penthouse located in the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, and curated by Cuvée, a Denver-based international luxury travel company. The suite comes with a fully-stocked wine cave, Steinway baby grand piano, private chefs, in-chalet spa services and personal concierge to help arrange any number of outdoor activities.

More info: Starting in April, rooms at Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, go from $352 a night, and spa services will be 50 percent off starting April 14 (ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/colorado/bachelor-gulch). The West Wing penthouse starts at a cool $4,500 a night and comes with a personal concierge, although a private chef is extra (cuvee.com/villas/colorado-beaver-creek-the-west-wing/).

Taos Ski Valley, N.M.

An old standby is reborn

This off-the-beaten-path, super-steep ski area located at the end of a box canyon in the southern Rockies was founded 60 years ago. Today, under new ownership, Taos Ski Valley is in the midst of a $300 million investment in the mountain, which, to date, has delivered The Blake Hotel, several high-speed quads, a “gondolita” at the base area, and a new children’s center and ski school facility.

The idea, CEO David Norden told him me at the Bavarian — over a bowl of goulash and monk-brewed beer — is “better, not bigger.” The Bavarian, a classic mid-mountain German restaurant near the bottom of Chair 4, is one of those old, authentic elements that sets Taos apart. His mission, he explained, is to introduce the needed improvements to the resort, while honoring all those elements that make Taos Taos — starting with the mountain itself, the vast surrounding wilderness and national forests, and the unique cultural and historical layers to the region.

Taos Ski Valley is also now the world’s first and only B Corp ski resort, a third-party designation that determines “a company’s role in creating equitable economic development, environmental sustainability, and social justice.” The Taos renaissance is nice for families (especially if they stay at the Blake, with its speedy ski valet a stone’s throw from Chair 1), but the quicker lift flow on the mountain means experts can get even more runs on those famous steeps.

More info: Located in northern New Mexico, about 300 miles south of Denver, Taos Ski Valley requires a longer but vastly more interesting drive than anything on the I-70 corridor. Be sure to watch for the wild horses on Highway 150, just south of San Luis. The Blake Hotel (skitaos.com, rooms start at $189), will be closed from April 7 through Memorial Day.

Updated March 15 at 8:30 a.m. The following corrected information has been added to this article: Because of a reporter’s error, the services included in Beaver Creek’s West Wing penthouse was misreported. It includes a personal concierge. A private chef is extra. 

Updated March 18 at 9:00 a.m. The following corrected information has been added to this article: Because of a reporter’s error, this article suggested Spring activities at Ski Cooper that are no longer available. Those have been removed. The rating of Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, was also incorrect. It is a four-star hotel.

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Categories: All Denver News.

Tyler Bey’s 16th double-double, D’Shawn Schwartz power CU into 2nd round of NIT

19 hours 45 min ago

BOULDER — The Buffaloes’ defense wasn’t in March form. But D’Shawn Schwartz sure as heck was.

Schwartz drained a personal-best five treys — on just eight attempts — and netted 19 points to lead Colorado to a 78-73 win over Dayton in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament late Tuesday night at the CU Events Center.

CU swingman Tyler Bey finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, his 16th double-double of the season, despite suffering what appeared to be a left leg injury midway through the second half. The Las Vegas native ran to the locker room a short while later but returned to the contest with 5:23 left and with the hosts clinging to a 66-63 lead. All-league guard McKinley Wright chipped in 19 points and five assists.

The Buffs (22-12), seeded fourth in its quadrant, will next face the winner of the Wednesday tussle between the top seed Alabama (18-15) and eighth-seeded Norfolk State (21-13) in the NIT’s second round. The better seed in the early rounds of the tourney receives home-court advantage, so CU might have at least one more contest at Regent Drive this month.

Freshman forward Obi Toppin dropped 21 points for the Flyers (21-11), who became the first team to shoot better than 50 percent as a group against the Buffs since Stanford back on Jan. 26. The Cardinal converted 55.1 percent of its attempts at home in a 75-62 CU loss.

The defense that had carried the Buffs through the final kick of the Pac-12 Conference slate and to the semifinals of the league tournament — CU had won 10 of its last 13 going into the NIT — was nowhere to be found early.

The Flyers converted a slew of easy lay-ups behind the Buffaloes’ defense in the game’s first 25 minutes, draining 15 of their first 25 attempts (60 percent) and 20 of their first 32 (62.5) percent. Dayton forward Josh Cunningham’s layup with 14:39 left in the game put the visitors up 50-43 and capped a 15-6 run coming out of the halftime break.

CU had finished the first half strong, despite enforcer Evan Battey sitting the final 10 minutes of the period with two fouls. With CU going from small to smaller, a 3-pointer by Schwartz and a steal and layup by Wright had trimmed the Flyers lead to 23-20. Schwartz drained his second trey of the half from the left wing with 4:26 left in the period to knot the contest at 30-30.

The hosts closed the half on a 14-5 run and took a 37-35 lead into the break, with sophomore forward Alexander Strating accounting for seven of those points. The 6-7 Dutchman drained a free throw at the 3:04 mark gave the Buffs their first lead — 31-30 — since five minutes into the game, and a tip-in off his own miss 40 seconds later pushed the home cushion to three points.

The Buffs seemed to gain some momentum after a see-saw first five minutes as Wright’s trey with 14:46 to go in the first period gave the hosts an 11-9 edge. But the Flyers shifted gears after that, pushing the tempo and stringing together an 11-2 run over the next two-and-a-half minutes.

Categories: All Denver News.