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Hickenlooper’s plea: Broncos need to start winning for business’ sake

November 22, 2017 - 4:56pm

These bad Broncos aren’t just bad for fans — they’re bad for business. Bar and restaurant employees working game days can attest to that.

But don’t take their word for it. The team’s losing ways — six straight defeats — have become such a problem in 2017, they’ve prompted criticism from the governor.

“As a former restaurateur, I can tell you it’s an economic issue as well. When the Broncos won, our sales would be up 6 to 7 percent for the first couple days, (and) for the week, it would average 4 to 5 percent. And when they lose, you’re down 3 to 4 percent,” Gov. John Hickenlooper told reporters this week. “I think I can speak for the retail business community that the Broncos better start winning.”

Management at Wynkoop Brewing Company, which is the Lower Downtown brewpub in which Hickenlooper sold his stake in 1996, agreed with its former boss.

“We do see a slump,” Wynkoop manager Aaron Halbmaier said. “It’s not as pronounced as at some of the other more sports-oriented places. There is just less energy and fewer people on the streets after a Denver loss.”

A few blocks away on Blake Street, longtime Colorado sports-fan heaven the Sports Column is feeling the down-year drag. Manager Kyle Hesseltine said the bar has seen about a 10 percent decrease in people coming in to watch games in each of the past three weeks. In 2016, when the Broncos were competitive but narrowly missed the playoffs, fans were engaged. In 2017, not so much.

“Last year, we didn’t have an open seat in the house,” Hesseltine said. “Now we’re half, three-quarters full, maybe.”

It’s not what’s happened so far that worries Hesseltine — it’s what’s to come. As long as there is hope of a playoff spot, Broncos fans will come out, support their team and spend some money. With the team at 3-7 and that hope all but extinguished, why not go skiing or, heck, fit in a round of golf on a Sunday in sunny Colorado?

“Are people going to go out and cheer on the Broncos or are they going to save up money to buy their family presents?” Hesseltine said. “(Our) staff is making less money. This is their livelihood. Luckily we have a good college football crowd. That helps.”

Quantifying just how big a drain the bad Broncos season can be on the local economy is tricky. The Downtown Denver Partnership doesn’t track statistics on business after losses. Visit Denver, the city’s tourism and convention bureau, has no such data, either.

One business that isn’t struggling amid the team’s malaise is Sports Authority Field at Mile High, where the Broncos play. ESPN’s attendance tracker has the Broncos sixth in the league, averaging 76,566 paying customers per home game, ahead of likely playoff teams such as the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs. 

Stadium district businesses such as the Denver Field House — an event venue and, on game days, bar at 1600 Federal Blvd. — seem to be doing just fine, packing in Broncomaniacs before, during and after games. But the energy is different.

“We used to have more of a celebratory crowd in there, and now I think they are drowning their sorrows instead of celebrating,” owner Lisa Vedovelli said of the 3-year-old Field House. “Especially that first season, (in 2015, when the Broncos went on to win the Super Bowl in 2015), everyone was just riding such a high. Coming in and doing shots. Now they are coming in to have a beer or two, then taking off after they wait out the traffic.”

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostMerchandise is for sale at the Sportsfan at 405 16th Street on Nov. 22, 2017 in Denver. Related Articles

Retail is weathering this season better than hospitality businesses, according to Derek Friedman. Friedman owns Sportsfan, a family-fun group of four sports apparel and merchandise stores, with two locations on the 16th Street Mall and one by the stadium. He said his shops have not seen a significant sales dip this season. Nostalgia has been a driver. Strong sellers include jerseys for Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis, honored on the field before Sunday’s game, and anything with the team’s classic “D” logo on it.

“We’re not unhappy with our sales results to this point this year. We’re actually pretty happy,” Friedman said.

“There’s been a little bit less movement on the (Trevor) Siemian jerseys than we saw earlier on in the season,” he said of the Broncos’ former starting quarterback who was benched several weeks ago.

Retailers can also sell the future. Friedman said if the Broncos season totally bottoms out and the teams gets a high pick in next year’s NFL draft, that presents an opportunity to sell merchandise around a new, possibly marketable player. At one of the Sportsfan locations on the 16th Street Mall, a Paxton Lynch jersey was hung in the window Wednesday morning, the same day the former first-round pick was officially named the Broncos’ starting quarterback for Sunday’s game at Oakland.

Count the Blake Street Tavern, a nearly block-long sports bar at 2301 Blake St., among the businesses feeling a pinch this year. Assistant general manager Tyler Ziskin said the bar, which can hold more than 1,000 people, has seen crowds as small as 200 for some games this season. Ziskin said that’s life for a sports bar. When teams are bad, fans spend less money. He thinks the groans from the business community this year come, in part, from the fact the Broncos have mostly been competitive for the past 30 years.

“I grew up in Cleveland,” Ziskin said. “Believe me, it could be worse.”

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Man struck trying to outrun A-Line train, triggering first of several rail delays Wednesday

November 22, 2017 - 4:38pm

Wednesday morning wasn’t a great time to catch the train to the plane, and even using the trains that carry passengers between the Denver International Airport terminal and its concourses turned a bit dicey.

A man ran in front of the University of Colorado A-Line train as it pulled into a station at 7:15 a.m., was struck, but survived the collision.

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That accident led to delays for passengers who had to get off the train and travel by bus for part of the trip to or from the airport.

About 30 minutes later, a sensor failed on track that carries airport passengers between the terminal and gates. Human drivers had to take over the trains, which typically run on autopilot, to control them as they traveled across the malfunctioning section.

Technicians made a temporary fix to the sensor, but it failed again later in the morning, leading to further delays, airport spokesman Heath Montgomery said.

The day could have been a lot worse for at least one commuter.

“That is one very lucky person,” Regional Transportation District spokesman Scott Reed said of the man hit by an eastbound A-train at the East 40th Avenue and Airport Boulevard stop.

Reed said the man left the RTD parking lot to cross the tracks on a pedestrian walkway just as the train was pulling in. Lights that warn passengers to stay off the tracks were flashing but the man told police that he tried to outrun the train, Reed said.

“All the flashing lights were activated and the train was blowing its horn loudly,” Reed said.

The man complained of shoulder pain after the accident and was treated on scene. He then was taken to a hospital to be checked out.

RTD closed the station and shuttled travelers on buses between the East 61st Avenue and Peña Boulevard station and Peoria Station. The A-Line was back on schedule by 9:30 a.m.

When the sensor failed the first time on DIA’s underground trains, cars were briefly routed around the track section until drivers could be brought aboard to control them.

“For about 30 minutes we saw some delays,” Montgomery said.

A team of technicians made a temporary fix and trains went back into automatic mode. Later in the morning the problem arose again, Montgomery said.

Travelers arriving at Denver International Airport reported massive lines on the platforms. Some got off the train on the A concourse and walked over the skybridge to baggage claim in order to avoid the crowds exiting the trains in Jeppesen terminal.

Montgomery said technicians quickly made a second temporary fix to the problem and the trains began running normally on automatic.

During the malfunctions, trains that normally arrive at a station every 2 minutes, averaged about 4 minutes between stops.

The delays occurred on one of the airport’s busiest travel days. More than 1.5 million travelers are expected to pass through DIA during the Thanksgiving holiday.

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Broncos changed coordinators to reduce turnovers. Raiders made a change to produce them.

November 22, 2017 - 4:37pm

Broncos coach Vance Joseph changed offensive coordinators this week in pursuit of a “cleaner brand of football” that has eluded Denver for the past two months.

Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, meanwhile, changed defensive coordinators on Tuesday because he wants to muddy the game up in a way Oakland rarely has this season. Del Rio fired Ken Norton Jr. and replaced him with John Pagano, who attended Fairview High School in Boulder and was the defensive coordinator of the Chargers the previous four seasons. He had been a defensive assistant for Del Rio this season before this week’s promotion.

“I just felt that we needed a change,” Del Rio told reporters on a conference call Wednesday. “It wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was very difficult to do. At the end of the day, I felt like I had to do it to give us a spark, give us a chance. I had to shake things up. We can’t just continue to operate the way we’re operating defensively.”

At the heart of the Raiders’ defensive issues are two major problems. First, the Raiders have forced a league-low six turnovers this season, and none of those have been interceptions. Every other team in the NFL has picked off at least three passes.

Oakland is also tied for last in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert on 46 percent of their attempts.

“The net effect of being minus-nine this year, when last year at this point last year we were plus-10 in turnover ration, that’s a big one,” Del Rio said. “Turnovers and third down, obviously, are the keys to playing good defense. We’ve got to be much, much better there.”

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Del Rio said he doesn’t expect the Broncos to make wholesale changes on offense under interim coordinator Bill Musgrave, who ran the offense in Oakland last season. Broncos coach Vance Joseph largely echoed those sentiments when asked about preparing for Pagano, saying, “There are going to be some things he calls different than Ken Norton, but as far as the overall scheme of things, that won’t change much.”

For his part, Musgrave said he expects Pagano’s defense to be “aggressive and, at times, exotic.”

“We’ll have our hands full with the unknown and the unscouted looks on Sunday,” he said.

The turnover at coordinator this week speaks to seasons neither the 3-7 Broncos or the 4-6 Raiders saw coming. The teams were a combined 21-11 last season and entered the season with playoff expectations.

“I’m surprised by both of our seasons, really,” Del Rio said. “I really think the AFC West is a really strong division, and I think it’s a little bit surprising that both of us have had struggles this year.”

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CU Buffs Mike MacIntyre went from national coach of the year to possibly missing a bowl in tumultuous 2017

November 22, 2017 - 4:16pm

BOULDER — It was 48 hours before Thanksgiving Day when Mike MacIntyre opened his final weekly news conference of the Colorado football regular season with some holiday perspective: “This is always a time you can reflect, but it’s also a time you definitely should be thankful.”

At no point during MacIntyre’s nearly eight full seasons between San Jose State and CU has he encountered a personal roller coaster similar to what has taken place over the past 12 months. CU travels to Utah for an 8 p.m. Saturday kickoff in what will be MacIntyre’s 100th career game as a head college coach. The Buffs need a win to make a bowl game.

MacIntyre won eight National Coach of the Year honors after a historic 10-win season a year ago. He was later reprimanded by his bosses and ordered to donate $100,000 to a domestic violence cause for mishandling allegations made against former assistant coach Joe Tumpkin, received a five-year, $16.25 million contract extension, was named a defendant in a lawsuit against the university on behalf of Tumpkin’s accuser, led CU to a 3-0 start and then stumbled to the current 5-6 mark.

Got all that?

“You just take it day-by-day, wake up, thank God you’re alive, and you have an opportunity to keep trying to affect people and affect the situation,” MacIntyre said. “All I’ve been really thinking about is how we get these guys to play well against Utah.”

There is truth in MacIntyre’s coachspeak. If his sole focus isn’t the Utah game, then the Buffaloes are in trouble. And even if he were willing to open up about the challenges of the past year, notably his role in the Tumpkin saga, MacIntyre is unable to due to the ongoing legal matter. Those conversations are likely limited to coaches’ offices and the family dinner table, where MacIntyre’s son, CU senior receiver Jay MacIntyre, has a better appreciation for what goes into being a head coach after the events of the past year.

“It’s a tough job, and I’ve always had respect for my dad,” Jay MacIntyre said, “but you gain more respect from him by the way he handles different situations.”

And if the strain is having any impact on MacIntyre’s coaching, the Buffaloes can’t tell.

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“He’s just trying to be there and he’s been real focused on the team, especially during the season with the highs and lows of winning games and losing them at the end,” said team captain and starting middle linebacker Rick Gamboa. “We just have to keep fighting.”

Said sophomore cornerback Dante Wigley: “I really respect coach Mac. He hasn’t changed. He’s always demanded greatness.”

MacIntyre’s future at CU won’t hinge on the outcome of Saturday’s regular-season finale, but a victory will go a long way in helping ease the disappointments this fall. With all that outside noise, it would appear MacIntyre is most interested in the evaluation of one group in particular: his players.

“I’m not perfect everyday by any stretch,” MacIntyre said. “But I think they know that I’m real.”

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How long will Uber customers be willing to forgive and forget scandals?

November 22, 2017 - 3:49pm

Uber has managed to hold the title of world’s largest ride-hailing service despite its seemingly endless string of scandals.

Its latest misbehavior involving a data breach cover-up revealed this week could be the impetus for people to ride elsewhere — or keep looking the other way.

Hackers were able to steal data for 57 million riders and drivers, and Uber concealed it for a year after paying $100,000 in ransom for the stolen information to be destroyed.

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Riders and business experts say that while Uber’s problems such as workplace sexual harassment, drivers with criminal records and other past infractions are serious, stolen data hits people directly and could make them mad enough to delete the app. Then again, riders have fled from the service before, but enough have stayed because of the Uber’s convenience so the latest scandal-of-the-week may not make much of a difference. The brand is so well-known for quickly responding to ride requests that it’s often used as a verb for such trips, no matter which service is summoned.

Michael Pachter, a technology analyst based in Los Angeles, said he uses Uber five to 10 times a month.

“I don’t blame the drivers for the company transgressions, and view Uber as the glue that facilitates drivers willing to drive me around,” he said.

But for Vermont resident Jay Furr, the breach was the “final straw.” He had stuck with Uber despite recent problems because of the service. But now he’ll use Lyft, Uber’s main competitor, when he goes to the airport for frequent business trips.

“Why reward crooked behavior?” he asked. “The only way they will learn is if they lose business.”

For much of the past year, Uber has been mired in well-publicized problems. A female former engineer blogged that her boss had propositioned her for sex, exposing widespread sexual harassment. A federal judge urged prosecutors to investigate allegations that Uber stole technology from Waymo, Google’s autonomous vehicle unit. The Justice Department is investigating whether Uber used a bogus app to deceive inspectors in several cities, and in London, authorities decided not to renew Uber’s operating license in part for failing to report crimes.

Earlier this week the state of Colorado fined Uber $8.9 million for allowing employees with serious criminal or motor vehicle offenses to drive for the company. Then came the stolen data, which has touched off more government inquiries.

The scandals have damaged Uber’s brand reputation over time, said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys Inc., a New York-based customer research firm. The company’s polling has found that in 2015 Lyft passed Uber as the most trusted of ride-hailing brands, and trust in Uber has been eroding ever since. Consumers will give technology companies the benefit of the doubt for a long time. But with Uber, “that well of forgiveness isn’t bottomless,” Passikoff said.

Passikoff doesn’t measure the impact on ridership and Uber won’t discuss it. But Lyft says its share of the U.S. market has risen 3 percentage points since August to 33 percent. It’s up from 12 percent two years ago as Lyft has expanded with more drivers in major U.S. cities.

In the data breach, Uber has said that for riders, hackers got only names, email addresses and telephone numbers. They did not get personal information such as trip details or credit card and Social Security numbers. For about 600,000 drivers in the U.S., hackers got driver’s license numbers, and the company has offered them free credit monitoring services.

While Uber drivers lost personal data and face uncertainty over identity theft, it appears they’ll stick with Uber. Many drive for Lyft as well.

Nate Tepp, who drives Uber in Seattle, said he doesn’t plan to leave, nor does he think other drivers will.

“All they are doing is cutting out 60 to 65 percent of their income,” Tepp said of drivers who might consider leaving. That estimate is based on his own split between Uber and Lyft fares.

Tepp also thinks the last three to four months at Uber have been different and things have “started to go in drivers’ favor.” This includes adding an option for riders to tip.

He is also somewhat forgiving about the hacking — and the subsequent cover-up. After all, companies are hacked often, he said.

“Does it make me happy? No. Does it (make me angry) to the point that I am going to stop making money through that company? No,” he said.

New Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi could do little but admit the problem and promise ethical behavior in the future. “We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers,” he wrote in a blog post.

Marlene Towns, a professor at Georgetown University’s business school who studies brand values, said Uber is testing the boundaries of how many scandals people will endure. While data breaches are personal to people, she still thinks Uber will get through this scandal as well.

“We have a short memory as consumers,” she said. “We tend to be if not forgiving, forgetful.”

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Car from “It’s a Wonderful Life” rolling to Rose Parade from its garage in Johnstown

November 22, 2017 - 3:38pm

The old black car that George Bailey ran into a tree in “It’s a Wonderful Life” will roll through the streets of Pasadena, Calif., during the Rose Parade on Jan. 1 with its owner, a Johnstown resident, behind the wheel.

“We’re quite honored to have been invited — more like the car has been invited,” said Keith Smith, a collector who bought the 1919 Dodge Brothers Touring Car seven years ago. “The Rose Bowl parade, as far as we’re concerned, is a high, high honor.”

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Parade grand marshal Gary Sinise and his wife, actress Moira Harris, will travel the 5.5-mile parade route in the car. Smith will be behind the wheel.

Smith said the theme of this year’s parade is “making a difference,” and the producers of the event wanted the car from the 1946 movie that has been voted the most inspirational film of all time.

“It’s in the Library of Congress that way,” Smith said. “That movie has made a difference in a lot of people’s lives.”

Smith and his wife helped restore the old car more than 20 years ago so jumped at the chance to buy it in 2010. They use money they earn from the car through photo shoots and fundraisers to help struggling veterans.

“The reason we bought that car is that we all have had a wonderful life because of what our veterans and their families have gone through,” Smith said.

To read more of this story go to

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DIA one of only three U.S. airports on the CDC’s smoky list

November 22, 2017 - 3:27pm

Denver International Airport is one of just three major airports in the United States that has yet to completely ban smoking, landing itself on a worldwide smoky list.

DIA made the list from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because it still has one smoking lounge, a club scheduled to close in February when its lease expires.

The study released Wednesday, typically the busiest air travel day of the year in the United States, called out Denver, Las Vegas and Atlanta as the only major airports in the country that still have smoking areas.

About half of the 50 busiest airports in the world have banned smoking entirely, the CDC said. While 23 airports are smoke-free, “the other 27 busiest airports allow smoking in designated or ventilated indoor areas,” the report says.

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North American airports are more often smoke-free compared to European and Asian airports, the CDC said. Just four out of 22 major Asian airports are smoke-free, and all four are in China.

Contained smoking rooms are a health risk to travelers and airport employees because even “brief exposure” to secondhand smoke has health consequences, said Corinne Graffunder, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. A previous CDC study found that secondhand smoke can transfer from designated smoking areas into other parts of airports.

The Denver airport previously had four smoking lounges but closed three in 2012. The remaining indoor smoking area  — The Smokin’ Bear Lodge in Terminal C — is closing Feb. 28, said airport spokesman Heath Montgomery.

The lounge has an air ventilation system designed to expel smoke outside and cycle in fresh air, Montgomery said. The smoking area is kept at negative pressure, meaning it sucks air from the airport concourse, not the other way around, he said.

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Movie review: “God’s Own Country” a sweet, if improbable, tale of love on an English farm

November 22, 2017 - 3:23pm

Two and one-half stars. Unrated. 104 minutes.

The sometimes impenetrable Yorkshire accents in the English drama “God’s Own Country” are still less thick than its central character, Johnny Saxby. Played by the young actor Josh O’Connor of the British TV series “The Durrells of Corfu,” Johnny is something of a blockhead: a gay 20-something who, when he meets — and falls for — the Romanian dreamboat (Alec Secareanu) who has taken a temporary job on his father’s sheep farm, proceeds to do everything possible to wreck the relationship.

Secareanu’s Gheorge would be a catch even if he didn’t look like a rock star in feces-stained coveralls. He speaks in a sexy accent and is a jack-of-all trades around the farmhouse, delivering baby lambs, mending fences, making cheese, charming Johnny’s parents (Gemma Jones and Ian Hart) and teaching his host family’s stubbornly ungrateful son to see the beauty in his own back yard.

That isn’t the only lesson Gheorge offers Johnny, who, before the arrival of the slightly older – but vastly more mature – migrant worker had been stuck in an endless cycle of work dodging, binge drinking, anonymous sex in men’s rooms and vomiting. In a handful of scenes that alternate between raw passion and tenderness, Gheorge teaches Johnny how to make love — in the true sense of the word. (For Johnny, sex has always been transactional, not emotional. As a term of endearment, he calls Gheorge an “expletive.”)

The film by writer-director Francis Lee, who grew up on a Yorkshire farm before turning to acting – and, later, filmmaking — is sweet, even if Johnny is not. “You can be a right pain in the (expletive), John Saxby, and not in a good way,” says one of Johnny’s friends while home from college. It’s not a particularly sharp observation. Johnny’s shortcomings are all the more apparent in contrast to Gheorge’s good qualities.

Perhaps surprisingly, “God’s Own Country” isn’t a coming-out tale. Johnny may not know what to do with his sexuality, but he isn’t exactly closeted. Refreshingly, there is no scene of gay bashing, just Johnny’s own brutish, slightly feebleminded approach to physical connection.

After Johnny has nearly blown things with Gheorge by reverting to his bad habits, Lee, who won a directing prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, finds a way to end the film on a hopeful, if somewhat implausible, note. It’s easy to understand why Johnny would go running after Gheorge to try to win him back. What Gheorge sees in Johnny, on the other hand, remains something of a mystery.

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Movie review: In “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” Denzel Washington plays a knight in tarnished armor

November 22, 2017 - 3:12pm

Three stars. Rated PG-13. 122 minutes.

Denzel Washington delivers a performance for the ages in “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” an appealing if ultimately frustrating urban thriller by Dan Gilroy.

Three years ago, Gilroy made an impressive directorial debut with “Nightcrawler,” a moody evisceration of Los Angeles’ parasitic tabloid media culture. Here, he once again dives into unfamiliar regions of his city – in this case, its rapidly gentrifying downtown —  to create a backdrop for his indelible title character, a progressive criminal defense attorney at war with his most cherished ideals.

That battle is already well underway in “Roman J. Israel, Esq.’s” opening sequence, during which we see type appear on a blank computer screen, with Israel’s voice repeating what we’re reading: a legal brief against himself, for breaking the laws not only of the state of California but also of humanity in general. The movie then shifts to three weeks earlier, when the seeds of Israel’s discontent are sown and his personal slide into the dark side begins.

That journey is full of incident, digression and sometimes surprising reversals, as Israel is forced to deal with a world he’s held at bay for 40 years. With his shapeless Afro, aviator glasses and frumpy suits, Israel is a throwback, as his electric typewriter and posters of Bayard Rustin and Angela Davis attest.

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Portrayed by Washington in a physical performance that transforms his face and body into an unrecognizable collection of ungainly gestures and nerdy, antisocial tics, Israel is clearly on the autism spectrum, a “savant,” as one colleague calls him, best suited to researching and filing briefs rather than arguing in court. He’s analog in a digital world, a social-justice warrior whose lifelong wish for mass action and revolutionary change feels retrograde but also, when he ventures into present-day life, oddly of the moment.

When circumstances conspire to put Israel front and center, he begins a period of soul-searching that will introduce him to an idealistic civil rights activist named Maya (Carmen Ejogo) and a slick criminal lawyer named George (Colin Farrell). One of the great strengths of “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” is that no one is any one thing: Farrell’s George is a particularly fascinating foil for Israel’s awkward but incisive brilliance (“You’re a low-flying bee,” Israel says to George, whose admittedly stinging, sharp-eyed ambition eventually gives way to more complex motivations and inner drives.)

At one point, a client asks Israel what the “Esq.” stands for; he tells her it’s something “slightly above gentleman, but below knight.” As he pursues his chivalric quest for justice, he becomes a poignant, enormously sympathetic figure, even when he completely blows a meeting with young activists at Maya’s nonprofit group. (When he chastises men in the audience for not giving up their seats to women, he is accused of using language that’s “gendered and patronizing.”) Thanks to Gilroy’s rich, densely layered writing and Washington’s masterful characterization, this is a figure we’ll gladly follow anywhere — even when his story doglegs into side trips and subplots that feel forced, overworked and dangerously close to patronizing territory.

Part character study, part legal thriller and part morality tale about means manifesting their own ends, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” winds up being just as eccentric and unpredictable as its doggedly honorable, and far from perfect, leading man. Gilroy sets up such a convincing atmosphere (the movie features a terrific score by James Newton Howard, which meshes nicely with one of the tastiest soundtracks of the season), and builds such solidarity with a character imbued with the kind of political conscience we rarely see on-screen, that viewers can’t help but be disappointed with where he takes them.

The conclusion of “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” may be foregone in terms of philosophical consistency, but in no way can it be described as satisfying. Still, viewers will be glad to spend time with one of Washington’s finest screen creations, if only to imagine what a modern-day knight in slightly tarnished armor might look like.

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Forest Service is rethinking protection plans for sage grouse in Colorado, five other Western states

November 22, 2017 - 3:05pm

BOISE, Idaho — The U.S. Forest Service is rethinking protection plans for sage grouse in six Western states after a U.S. court agreed with mining companies and others that the agency illegally created some safeguards in Nevada.

The agency announced Tuesday that it’s working with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which also is reviewing its plans for the struggling bird following an order by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Forest Service spokesman John Shivik said the coordinated review makes sense two years after federal officials decided the chicken-sized bird shouldn’t receive endangered-species protections.

“Now is a good time to say, ‘How well is this working,'” he said Wednesday.

The agency is taking public comments in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming through Jan. 5. It says it will review the input before deciding if changes are needed. It’s not clear when the agency will make a decision.

The government in 2015 didn’t list sage grouse but imposed restrictions on land use that were based on multiple plans put forward by the Forest Service and BLM. Many of those plans include sagebrush focal areas that created additional restrictions in places considered key sage grouse habitat.

The federal court in Nevada in March ruled that the Forest Service’s creation of the focal areas in a part of that state violated federal environmental laws because the agency failed to give the public enough information to participate in a meaningful way before creating them.

The focal areas added late in the process in 2015 are found in many states and generally considered one of the reasons sage grouse didn’t receive federal protection.

Focal areas were “a last-minute surprise to a lot of people, and that created a lot of ill will,” said John Freemuth, a Boise State University environmental policy professor and public lands expert. “Whether not doing them would have avoided a sage grouse listing is pure speculation.”

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has complained bitterly about the focal areas and filed a lawsuit shortly after the 2015 federal plan came out, contending the Obama administration acted illegally by imposing federal land-use restrictions. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in January, but Otter in March appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

That case remains active.

Because the focal areas are in multiple states, Shivik said, the Forest Service decided to also review its plans outside of Nevada and look at more than just focal areas. Other topics the agency is taking public comments on include grazing guidelines, modifying habitat boundaries and land-use exemptions.

Millions of sage grouse once roamed the West, but development, livestock grazing and an invasive grass that encourages wildfires have reduced the bird’s population to fewer than 500,000.

Most of the bird’s habitat — sagebrush steppe — is on land administered by the BLM. Shivik said the Forest Service manages about 8 percent of sage grouse habitat.

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Judge rips Colorado AG’s case against foreclosure giant as “groundless and frivolous,” orders state to pay attorneys’ fees

November 22, 2017 - 3:01pm

The Colorado attorney general’s office was so haphazard and reckless in its failed pursuit to prove former foreclosure king Larry Castle and his law firm had defrauded thousands of consumers that a judge has ordered it to pay his attorneys’ tab – an amount that easily could toll into the millions of dollars.

Denver District Judge Morris Hoffman on Tuesday said Attorney General Cynthia Coffman “was wrong to bring and pursue most of this case” against Castle, his former law firm, The Castle Law Group, and two other associated businesses caught up in the investigation. He said the civil lawsuit the state filed was “substantially groundless and substantially frivolous” enough to merit the award of the defendants’ attorneys’ fees.

“The evidence, or lack of evidence, at trial was nothing short of breathtaking, especially compared to the investigative build-up and the serious and pervasive allegations in the complaint,” Hoffman wrote in a far-ranging, 20-page opinion. “The case (the state) put on wasn’t even a sick relative of the robust allegations they made. … Their 40-page, 217-paragraph complaint reads more like a press release than a complaint.”

Denver PostForeclosure lawyer Larry Castle in 2011.

Coffman’s office did not comment on Hoffman’s ruling, saying the state is still pursuing appeals.

A hearing to determine the amount the state must pay is to be held in February. It could reach into the millions of dollars since it includes several attorneys – some of them high-dollar counsel – over several years.

“It appears that all (of the) defendants made a substantial amount of money providing their services, and have since gone out of business and lost a substantial part, if not all, of their investments,” Hoffman wrote.

The AG’s office was so intent on taking the case to trial – a process that took five years from the beginning of its investigation under former AG John Suthers to the first day of trial – it turned down a $698,000 settlement offer Castle made just before testimony began. A $200,000 settlement offer from Absolute Posting & Process Services, one of the other two businesses named in the lawsuit, also was rejected, Hoffman’s opinion notes.

Hoffman in April ruled against the state following a three-week trial, saying it had not proved its case that Castle and his law-partner wife, Caren, headed a money-hungry outfit that for years preyed on a foreclosure system gone wild.

Though AG attorneys proved the Castles failed to tell federal mortgage insurers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about their indirect financial interest in a summons-posting company — a win that netted a $119,500 penalty — they lost on other allegations.

Hoffman called the government’s case amateurish, despite the “massive undertaking” of a two-year investigation that culled through more than 95,000 Colorado foreclosures, more than a million pages of documents and dozens of depositions.

Despite “the feeble trial they put on, and despite the minimal results they achieved, I do not believe (the state) acted in bad faith,” Hoffman wrote. “These were gross errors of judgment, not vindictiveness.”

Hoffman said the state blindly pressed on probably because the lawyers “subjectively thought this was a righteous case; they probably still do.”

“Being blinded by whatever blinded them – regulatory hubris, confirmation bias, group-think, ideology, guilt-by-association or even just cockeyed optimism – is not the same as bad faith,” Hoffman wrote.

He said a remark by the state’s lead lawyer on the case, Assistant Attorney General Erik Neusch, proved the state’s recklessness. Neusch once told Castle that Absolute owner Kathleen Benton was not “good-looking enough or educated enough” to be working without Castle’s help, according to Hoffman.

“Although this one heat-of-battle comment by Mr. Neusch was immature and unnecessary, I am not convinced it is the tip of a nefarious motivational iceberg,” Hoffman wrote. “The Attorney General was wrong to bring and pursue most of this case, but I am not convinced her assistants’ poor judgment masks an evil intent.”

The trial’s outcome was unexpected in light of a $10 million settlement state prosecutors made in July 2014 with Castle’s biggest competitor, Aronowitz & Mecklenburg, who they sued at the same time for similar alleged infractions. The Aronowitz firm closed and later agreed to pay about $2.5 million more to affected homeowners who sued in a separate class-action case.

It also ran against several other settlements the AG’s office made with six other foreclosure law firms, though not as pricey, with each accused of padding billings and profiteering from a foreclosure system that logged unprecedented volume.

The crux of the state’s case hinged on a theory that Castle intentionally manipulated and beefed-up the side costs associated with foreclosures, from the posting of notices about court hearings at homeowners’ doors, to the real estate title work and insurance needed to complete the process. Because the firm handled thousands of foreclosures a month at the height of the nation’s foreclosure calamity, the Castles made millions of extra dollars that state prosecutors claimed were unjustly earned.

The state sued the Castles, their firm, Absolute Posting, its owners Benton and Ryan O’Connell, Colorado American Title and RE Real Estate Records and Research.

The Castle Law Group represented up to 100 mortgage clients, but their biggest were Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo.

Hoffman tore at how the state presented its case, from parading “a series of largely inexperienced, unsophisticated” witnesses to prove a flawed argument, to not offering “a single witness from any of the allegedly deceived industries.”

And rather than have an accountant bolster kick-back allegations that Hoffman said the state “may well have been able to prove,” the AG lawyers instead “were busy talking about million-dollar houses, condos in Costa Rica, and prices some government officials in their wisdom think were just too high,” he wrote.

“This may have been perfect PR, but it was lousy litigation,” Hoffman wrote.

Categories: All Denver News.

This teacher’s passion is fresh produce, and his greenhouse program is getting students into the business of feeding Coloradans

November 22, 2017 - 3:00pm

Sam Shroyer couldn’t help shedding a few tears when discussing greenhouses.

“I get emotional when I talk about plants, but I’ve always thought of greenhouses as sanctuaries,” said Shroyer, who is breathing new life into the urban horticulture program he took over this past fall at Pickens Technical College in Aurora.

“It’s in my blood. I was born on a farm in Iowa, and there’s something very therapeutic about being around plants. Maybe it’s all the fresh oxygen they’re pumping out.”

A transplant from 20-plus years in the horticultural business world, he’s now cultivating students, teaching them to grow plants and profits — with a focus on growing more food in Colorado.

Demand for fresh produce is increasing along with Denver’s population. With growing awareness of nutrition and sustainability, and locavore “know your farmer” movements, the time for harvesting food from greenhouses may be ripe.

“Getting fresh produce is the largest challenge chefs have in Colorado,” said Thomas Wright, executive chef at Racines, a Denver restaurant that sold 1,175 salads last week. “We have a relatively short growing season, only around four months, so we rely on lettuce from California, Florida, Mexico. But lettuce is so tender that the quality and freshness is always an issue.”

Wright noted that it can be tough for small producers to keep up with restaurants’ needs. “During summertime, we buy green leaf lettuce, romaine and romaine hearts from a farm in Brighton,” Wright said. “We also were buying microgreens from a greenhouse in Larkspur, and their quality was fantastic. Unfortunately, they’re a small business and couldn’t keep up with demand.”

It’s just one reason why Shroyer sees a growing future in food grown in controlled greenhouse environments. He even sells greenhouses on the side.

“This is my passion, and it can be very profitable — that’s what I want to teach these students: that there’s a growing market for local farmers growing fresh produce. It’s snowballing,” he said.

Shroyer even urges existing commercial greenhouses to grow food during otherwise dormant seasons.

“We can feed people,” he said as he walked through one of four greenhouses on the Pickens campus. “And the profit margin on a petunia is not nearly what it would be on fresh produce. Think about that good head of living lettuce you pay six bucks for at Whole Foods. We take a seed and grow it hydroponically for six weeks to get that lettuce. It’s really fast, so it’s almost instant gratification for the students.”

One new student in the program, Dave McConnell, is a 21-year veteran of the Army attending Pickens on the GI Bill. “My goal is to own a greenhouse to grow food in metro Denver where people don’t have access to fresh produce,” McConnell said.

“Nothing would be better than to sell grown-in-Colorado strawberries in January so we don’t have to wait until May for California strawberries that ripen on a truck on I-70.”

After growing West Indies gherkins from seeds shipped accidentally in his order, McConnell hopes to add more exotic produce to the local mix. Related Articles

“I want to grow vegetables that people born and raised in Colorado have never heard of or seen or tasted,” he said. “I’d like to have customers say, ‘We ate this plant as a kid in Africa or back home in Europe, can you grow it?’ ”

Much like chefs looking for the best-tasting produce, McConnell is motivated by freshness and flavor. “I didn’t like zucchini or squash or tomatoes until I started growing my own. When you don’t use pesticides, when you use natural fertilizers, when you get vegetables locally instead of from anywhere and everywhere, food tastes better. There’s no comparison.”

Meanwhile, Shroyer is looking beyond produce. He wants the urban horticulture program to branch out — into supplying fresh fish (“One of my fortes is aquaponic systems with fish and plants living in harmony,” he said) and rooftop and vertical gardening.

Shroyer’s passion for plants has already helped him create partnerships around town. In addition to providing lettuces from the greenhouse to chef Carlos Gallegos in the Pickens campus cafeteria, he’s working with nearby Launch Pad Brewery to brew beer using the variegated lemons in the campus Exploratorium. The mini-botanical garden also grows oranges, grapefruits and bananas on a small scale.) He wants to provide lettuce for Aurora Public Schools, he said.

He also hopes to grow the program at Pickens. “The curriculum is diverse, and we’re changing up classes to include houseplants, herbaceous perennials, greenhouse management, landscape designing and landscape irrigation, which is a big money-maker. We want people employable and job-ready when they finish.”

“We’re learning by doing,” Shroyer said. “If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, this program may not be for you. It’s not too physically demanding, but there’s some work to do.”

Pickens Technical College’s annual plant sale will offer poinsettias, pine and cedar wreaths made by students and volunteers and fresh lettuces and culinary herbs to grow indoors over the winter, including three types of basil, lemon balm, chives, dill, parsley, oregano, cilantro and sage. Dec. 1 and 2 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., 500 Airport Blvd., Building C, Aurora. Proceeds from plant sales fund student field trips and trade show admissions.


Categories: All Denver News.

New backcountry skiing book from Colorado mountaineers offers guide to lines of all kinds

November 22, 2017 - 2:26pm

Few can beat Frank and Brittany Walker Konsella when it comes to qualifications for writing a backcountry skiing guidebook.

The Crested Butte couple is among the elite few who have climbed and skied all the state’s fourteeners. But their new book — “Backcountry Ski & Snowboard Routes Colorado,” by Mountaineers Books — isn’t a boasting ode to peak bagging and the burliest lines in the state as much as a manual, offering a geographically diverse array of easy to demanding lines that can be skied from December through May.

Frank and Brittany KonsellaBrittany and Frank Konsella atop Mount Wilson in 2010.

“We tried to make a guide that would accommodate all levels of backcountry skiers, from beginners to experts, with extra-credit ideas that might entice people with a little more knowledge to take it to the next level,” said Brittany, a former schoolteacher who in 2011 joined Aspen’s Christy Mahon as one of only two women to climb and ski all 54 of the state’s fourteeners.

It’s the kind of guidebook that will land in backpacks and on coffee tables. And just in time.

As search-and-rescue groups and land managers grapple with Colorado’s growing population of newcomers eager to explore the state’s wildlands, the Konsellas’ 102-route guidebook provides a field guide for one of the fastest growing segments in the ski industry: backcountry.

Skiing in avalanche terrain is tricky. It requires essential gear, education, good partners and a more attentive mindset than what’s needed for riding chairlifts at the resort. Frank and Brittany emphasize the obligation for education, from avalanche fundamentals to wilderness first-aid to mountain skills.

They also assembled backcountry stepping-stones for first-timers, with a wide selection of introductory routes. They classify the challenge of both the ascent and descent and standardize the challenges with “easy” to “extremely difficult” rankings. Even better, the duo describes the technical skills required for each route, from basic skinning to using ice axes, crampons and ropes.

Particularly useful is the couple’s recommendations for the best months to ski a route on a typical snow year, a variable that poses perennial challenges to backcountry skiers in Colorado because of a notoriously fickle snowpack that can change drastically over the course of a season.

They also roamed well off the beaten track, detailing rarely-skied options in overlooked ranges like Park, Mosquito, Flat Tops and Grand Mesa.

“The best part for us being able to write this book was that we got to ski a lot of lines we had seen on our fourteener project,” said Frank, a Crested Butte real estate broker who in 2008 became the fourth person to ski all 54 of the state’s skiable fourteeners. “You know when you ski one thing, you usually find 10 more lines you’d like to go back for. This book gave us the perfect opportunity to go ski the 12,000-, 13,000-foot peaks that were near the fourteeners.”

The couple’s adventures on some of the state’s most demanding peaks make them grizzled vets able to dole out the best advice. Readers will learn from them. In addition to the detailed approach routes and options for ski lines, they have the intuitive tips earned from hundreds if not thousands of days spent in avalanche terrain, like using radios and always carrying crampons. Perhaps their mountain fluency is most evident with the inclusion of alternative ascents and descents for many routes, allowing for the flexibility required when traveling in dynamic conditions where weather and snowpack force constant evaluation and adjustment to plans.

Several years ago Brittany provided some route conditions and advice to winter climbers planning to climb Humboldt Peak in the Sangre de Cristo Range. One of the climbers took a fall on the descent and suffered injuries that would prove fatal. Brittany still thinks about the accident, wondering if she could have given better beta or warnings.

“I’m constantly stricken by that. We didn’t give them the wrong info, so what happened? We want to give people the very best resources we can … but it’s important that everyone is tapped into their own skill sets,” she said.

Unbound by the elevation parameters of their 14,000-foot ski project, the couple explored Colorado, cataloguing 102 routes in 12 different zones across the state. And they hope their new book sparks that same exploration for others.

“One reason we decided to write the book was because we wanted to inspire people to get out there and enjoy backcountry skiing,” Brittany said. “And a big part of that is because we want people to know about these places so that they can protect them.”

“The public lands we use for backcountry ski touring are being threatened by our current government and sometimes other organizations and entities. On top of that, skiing as a whole is being threatened very much by climate change. We believe that inspiring more people to enjoy the winter backcountry will hopefully foster an incentive for them to preserve our lands, access to those public lands, and take actions to minimize climate change.”

Categories: All Denver News.

Colorado’s first-of-its-kind election audit is complete, with all participating counties passing

November 22, 2017 - 1:59pm

Colorado has completed a first-of-its-kind statewide election audit, which drew attention from outside the state, with all participating counties passing.

That means the so-called risk-limiting audit showed the state’s vote tabulating machines properly counted ballots from the election that ended earlier this month.

The audit involved a manual recount of a sample of ballots from the more than 50 counties that had elections this year and compared them with how they were interpreted by tabulating machines. The exercise, which began late last week and was completed Tuesday, comes amid national concern about election integrity.

“I think it’s fair to say that both state and county election officials were a little anxious because this has never been done before,” Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said in a written statement. “But it turned out to be an amazing success, and that’s because our staff and our county clerks have done a phenomenal job. I am thankful for their hard work and dedication.”

The audit drew observers from Rhode Island, as well as top federal voting-oversight officials.

“Colorado’s risk-limiting audit provided great insights into how to conduct more efficient and effective post-election audits,” said Matt Masterson, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which aids states with their elections. “The EAC is eager to share some of the lessons learned with election officials across America.”

The audit resulted from a bill passed by state lawmakers in 2009. The first audit was supposed to happen in 2014, but training and technological challenges pushed it back until last week’s elections.

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State election officials used to rescan ballots to ensure tabulating machines were working, but now they are using a complex statistical process to double-check that the machines interpreted ballots (chosen at random through a die-roll system) as a human would have.

Our risk-limiting audit so far has turned out well thanks to phenomenal work by my IT and elex staff. #copolitics

— Wayne Williams (@COSecofState) November 20, 2017

Risk-limiting audits will take place from now on after every election in Colorado, including the June primaries for governorattorney general and other races.

Some 1.2 million ballots were cast during the fall election cycle. All but six of the state’s 64 counties had contests.

Some counties still have close races requiring a recount.

“It was an incredibly successful first effort,” said Dwight Shellman, county support manager for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.  “I’m really proud of our team and of all the county clerks. We are already in the process of working with the clerks and interested stakeholders to collect lessons learned to make the process even better in the future.”

Categories: All Denver News.

Did you “like” Russian propaganda? Facebook will clue you in

November 22, 2017 - 1:38pm

NEW YORK — Facebook says it will show users if they followed or ‘liked’ Russia propaganda accounts on its service or on Instagram.

The company said Wednesday it will launch a portal to let people see which accounts of the Internet Research Agency they followed between January 2015 and August 2017. The tool will be available by the end of the year. But it won’t show users if they merely saw — or even “liked” — posts from those pages.

Facebook, Google and Twitter testified before Congress this month, acknowledging that agents tied to the Russian government used their platforms to try to meddle with the U.S. elections. Facebook has said that as many as 150 million Facebook and Instagram users may have seen ads from the Internet Research Agency.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, called the move a “very positive step” in a statement. But emphasized that he’s still looking for more, including a joint report by the companies “on how Russia used these platforms to sow discord and influence the election.”

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The companies were initially dismissive of Russia’s threat, but they all pledged to make improvements amid pressure from lawmakers. Still, Facebook so far hasn’t said it will show people if they were targeted by Russia-paid political advertisements, or even if this is something it is able to do.

Categories: All Denver News.

Airline defendants to pay $95 million in 9/11 settlement

November 22, 2017 - 1:32pm

NEW YORK — Insurers for American Airlines, United Airlines and other aviation defendants have agreed to pay $95 million to settle claims that security lapses led planes to be hijacked in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The settlement was described in papers filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court. Developers of the new World Trade Center buildings had once demanded $3.5 billion from aviation-related companies after hijacked planes destroyed three skyscrapers among five demolished buildings on Sept. 11, 2001.

Lawyers said the agreement signed last week resulted from “extensive, arms-length negotiations” by lawyers “who worked diligently for months.” The agreement also said the parties make no admissions or concessions with respect to liability for the attacks.

“The court’s approval of the settlement agreement will bring to a close this hard-fought 13-year litigation on terms agreeable to the parties,” the lawyers said.

Attorney Desmond T. Barry Jr., who submitted the papers to U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, declined to comment Wednesday.

Developer Larry Silverstein and World Trade Center Properties have collected more than $5 billion from other defendants through lawsuits. The money has aided the reconstruction of buildings on the 16-acre lower Manhattan site.

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Earlier settlements included $135 million paid to a financial services firm that lost two-thirds of its employees.

American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said the company is pleased to have reached a settlement.

“We will never forget that terrible day and its lasting impact including the tragic loss of 23 members of the American Airlines family,” said Miller.

United Airlines declined to comment.

Bud Perrone, a spokesman for Silverstein, said the company is “pleased to have finally reached a resolution to this piece of post-9/11 litigation.”

Categories: All Denver News.

How the Nuggets plan to move on without “go-to guy” Paul Millsap

November 22, 2017 - 1:07pm

HOUSTON — The Denver Nuggets took the floor for Wednesday morning’s shootaround at the Toyota Center without Paul Millsap, who had returned to Denver to seek more medical care on his injured left wrist.

Teammates and coaches acknowledged they already miss Millsap, the Nuggets’ four-time all-star, second-leading scorer and crucial veteran presence. But now they have no choice but to move forward, both immediately in preparing for Wednesday night’s game against the Western Conference-leading Rockets and for the foreseeable future.

“That injury is not going to define us or our season,” coach Michael Malone said. “We’re going to continue to prepare, to work, to fight and to compete. One man goes down, you have to have guys step up.

“The great thing about having a deep roster and a very deep frontcourt is other guys are ready to take advantage of those minutes.”

After originally diagnosing Millsap’s injury — which occurred during Sunday night’s loss at the Los Angeles Lakers — as a sprain, the team officially specified Wednesday that a ligament was affected. Malone said Millsap met with team doctors Tuesday and would “get some other opinions before we make a decision as to what the best course of action is.” A league source confirmed to The Denver Post Tuesday night, however, that Millsap will have surgery and could miss up to three months.

Malone did not reveal who would start at power forward against the Rockets following shootaround, saying that role and the rest of the big-man rotation will be determined from game to game for now.

Kenneth Faried started Monday’s win at Sacramento, though Malone said he’s also been pleased with the play of Trey Lyles, who totaled eight points and six rebounds in 19 minutes against the Kings. Mason Plumlee is also an option when the Nuggets want to deploy a bigger lineup, and Juancho Hernangomez and Wilson Chandler can play that spot when Denver goes small.

Standout center Nikola Jokic said he does not feel an additional offensive burden without Millsap in the lineup, that he will “play the same way” no matter which power forward is on the floor alongside him.

“I’m gonna try to get every guy involved in the game,” said Jokic, who entered Wednesday averaging 15.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. “ … Whoever’s on the floor, I think he’s gonna give something good to the team.”

Millsap was widely viewed internally as the Nuggets’ missing piece to end their four-year playoff drought when signed as a free agent this past offseason. He is averaging 15.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. He was clearly starting to gain rhythm with Jokic inside and with the rest of his teammates on the floor as the Nuggets started the season 10-7. He was consistently praised for his calm demeanor, big-game experience and playmaking ability down the stretch.

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A three-month recovery time would put Millsap’s return around the all-star break in mid-February. That leaves this bigger question: Can Denver remain a postseason contender without Millsap for that extended period of time?

Jokic said his goal to win every game remains the same. He and Malone believe in Denver’s frontcourt depth, which had recently been viewed as a logjam.

But Jokic also acknowledges the Nuggets will feel Millsap’s absence.

“I’m kind of sad, because he’s a big part of our new thing with what we’re trying to do,” Jokic said. “He’s a big part of our future. He’s a great player, an all-star. We’re going to miss him on the court. He’s a go-to guy when we need a bucket.”

Categories: All Denver News.

Good night, night: Light pollution increasing around globe

November 22, 2017 - 1:05pm

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The world’s nights are getting alarmingly brighter — bad news for all sorts of creatures, humans included.

A German-led term reported Wednesday that light pollution is threatening darkness almost everywhere. Satellite observations during five Octobers show Earth’s artificially lit outdoor area grew by 2 percent a year from 2012 to 2016. So did nighttime brightness.

Light pollution is actually worse than that, according to the researchers. Their measurements coincide with the outdoor switch to energy-efficient and cost-saving light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. Because the imaging sensor on the polar-orbiting weather satellite can’t detect the LED-generated color blue, some light is missed.

The observations, for example, indicate stable levels of night light in the United States, Netherlands, Spain and Italy. But light pollution is almost certainly on the rise in those countries given this elusive blue light, said Christopher Kyba of the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences and lead author of the study published in Science Advances .

Also on the rise is the spread of light into the hinterlands and overall increased use. The findings shatter the long-held notion that more energy efficient lighting would decrease usage on the global — or at least a national — scale.

“Honestly, I had thought and assumed and hoped that with LEDs we were turning the corner. There’s also a lot more awareness of light pollution,” he told reporters by phone from Potsdam. “It is quite disappointing.”

The biological impact from surging artificial light is also significant, according to the researchers.

People’s sleep can be marred, which in turn can affect their health. The migration and reproduction of birds, fish, amphibians, insects and bats can be disrupted. Plants can have abnormally extended growing periods. And forget about seeing stars or the Milky Way, if the trend continues.

About the only places with dramatic declines in night light were in areas of conflict like Syria and Yemen, the researchers found. Australia also reported a noticeable drop, but that’s because wildfires were raging early in the study. Researchers were unable to filter out the bright burning light.

Asia, Africa and South America, for the most part, saw a surge in artificial night lighting.

More and more places are installing outdoor lighting given its low cost and the overall growth in communities’ wealth, the scientists noted. Urban sprawl is also moving towns farther out. The outskirts of major cities in developing nations are brightening quite rapidly, in fact, Kyba said.

Other especially bright hot spots: sprawling greenhouses in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Photos taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station also illuminate the growing problem.

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Franz Holker of the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin, a co-author, said things are at the critical point.

“Many people are using light at night without really thinking about the cost,” Holker said. Not just the economic cost, “but also the cost that you have to pay from an ecological, environmental perspective.”

Kyba and his colleagues recommend avoiding glaring lamps whenever possible — choosing amber over so-called white LEDs — and using more efficient ways to illuminate places like parking lots or city streets. For example, dim, closely spaced lights tend to provide better visibility than bright lights that are more spread out.

The International Dark-Sky Association , based in Tucson, Arizona, has been highlighting the hazards of artificial night light for decades.

“We hope that the results further sound the alarm about the many unintended consequences of the unchecked use of artificial light at night,” Director J. Scott Feierabend said in a statement.

An instrument on the 2011-launched U.S. weather satellite, Suomi, provided the observations for this study. A second such instrument — known as the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, or VIIRS — was launched on a new satellite Saturday by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This latest VIIRS will join the continuing night light study.

Categories: All Denver News.

Lunch Special: Denver Nuggets chat with Gina Mizell

November 22, 2017 - 12:36pm

The Denver Post’s Gina Mizell is answering your questions about the Denver Nuggets in a live Lunch Special chat.

Mobile users, if you can’t see the live chat, tap here.

(function(d, s, id) {var js,ijs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(d.getElementById(id))return;js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="//";ijs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, ijs);}(document, "script", "scrbbl-js"));OK, everybody. That'll wrap things up for today. Appreciate you all jumping in with questions at the last minute after I filed my Millsap reaction story from shootaround (which you can now read!). Now...I'm about to go grab a late lunch myself before heading back to the Toyota Center for tonight's game. Catch ya'll then!I think Rocco brought up a great point earlier--that Jokic (or somebody) needs to step up and be the guy who can take the key shot/make a play when the game is on the line. And that doesn't just mean in the final seconds. That means when the opponent is on a run and the Nuggets need a bucket. Or when the Nuggets need to finish off a team. But I'm also curious to see how this defense functions without Millsap. Several guys are improved defenders compared to last year, but he's just so steady (and elite) on that end of the floor.What do you see as the key -- either player or concept -- for the Nuggets in these first few games without MillsapGot time for one last question if anybody else wants to chime in...Fair enough! It's honestly hard to even judge how good the Nuggets are without Millsap until we see them for a few games at their current state. The fact that they faced a terrible team in the Kings first and then go right to a great team in the Rockets doesn't give a terrific barometer.I was meaning like how good each team is right now, but very interesting to see your playoff projections. I think the Blazers are higher and Thunder are lower, but otherwise i'm about the same as you.That's an underrated area where his absence will leave a void. Whoever starts in his place will obviously need to crash the boards. But the Nuggets could also use more rebounds from Jokic, Chandler and even guys like Gary Harris. It's a cliche, but it'll need to be a collective effort.How do you think Millsap's absence will effect the Nuggets rebounding? And especially on the offensive glassOhhh good question. Like right at this very moment, or how I think things will end up by the playoffs? If I'm going to project, maybe something like this? 
1. Warriors
2. Rockets
3. Spurs
4. Thunder (still think they'll get things figured out) 
5. T-Wolves 
Then things get weird. I think Denver (even with the Millsap injury), Portland, Memphis, New Orleans and Utah (even with how bad things have gone without Gobert) will all be in the mix for those final three spots  How would you rank the Western Conference right now, like power rankings style, considering Millsap is outI've got about 15 more minutes to hang out. Fire away with your questions.Inconsistent is definitely the word for it, haha. Malone talked a lot about shot selection early in the season--that Murray was passing up good shots for bad ones and wasn't being as aggressive and confident as he should be. That's improved over the past couple weeks, even on nights when he struggled. I think it's all just part of figuring things out as a young point guard in this league, and Malone is going to let Murray play through his mistakes. But I agree that his energy has been terrific throughout the season, particularly on defense. Guarding the opposing point guard is rarely an easy task, and he's done a nice job so far. That's where it helps that he's healthy, as moving laterally on defense is particularly painful with two sports hernias.Any idea why Jamal Murray's shooting accuracy has been so wildly inconsistent? One day he's on fire, the next he can't buy a bucket. I do like his energy most nights though.Malone REALLY likes Torrey Craig, who has put up some big numbers in the G-League so far. He impressed in summer league and training camp because of his defensive energy and outside shooting. I think he has a shot to be an NBA player at some point, which is neat because he's taken such a circuitous route to get here.In case of some unforeseen happening, could either of the guys on that 2-way contract, get an extension and see more playing time?That's interesting word choice, because Mike Malone just described the Rockets' offense as "scary" at shootaround. It'll definitely test this Nuggets defense that I do think is improved. This team shoots A LOT of 3s, and the Nuggets have struggled to defend that at times this season. Malone has stressed that guys like Harden and Gordon will take deep 3s, even when they're contested. But Harden is also obviously one of the best in the NBA at getting to the bucket and drawing fouls. So it'll be a huge challenge tonight, particularly without a defensive anchor like Millsap.I'm scared about the Nuggets defense against this high flying Houston offense tonight. Tell me it's all gonna be OK. Please.Nikola Jokic. Or, he should make the play to find the open guy.Who do you think should take the key shot for this team with the game on the line?The fine was rescinded and the NBA admitted that he shouldn't have been ejected. But Malone said even immediately after that game that things had unraveled before the ejections. That second quarter was a killer against the Lakers.Do the Nuggets have an recourse over the ejection of Nikola Jokic the other night? Seemed ridiculous at the time, and killed the Nuggets chances in that game.Obviously hard to know EXACTLY how much time Millsap will miss, because it all depends on how the body heals. For instance, Juancho is back earlier from mono than I expected. I've also been around several injury situations that took (much( longer than expected. So estimates/prognostication is based on traditional recovery time. Multiple people have access to the Nuggets' official social media account, though Iris Rayburn is usually tweeting during games.Two questions: Millsap to miss 3 months... is that worst case sernerio? 2nd question: Who runs the Nuggets social media?Great question. I'd probably go with Will Barton, just because he's already been asked to do so many different things for this team. Be the sixth man. Start at shooting guard. Start at small forward. Play some point guard. Close out games. He can get to the rim, shoot from outside and has improved his defense. His versatility has been incredibly valuable this season...and so far he's playing himself into a big payday.Which player has surprised you the most early this year?Malone said for now, it will depend on the matchup, and I think that makes sense. I'd personally like to see more of what Trey Lyles can do in meaningful game minutes (and against good competition), just because we haven't seen that yet this season. But as I wrote yesterday, this is when the frontcourt logjam suddenly becomes an asset. And there are some different types of players within that group, from an energy guy like Faried to a rim protector and facilitator like Plumlee to a shooter like Lyles. The problem? None of those guys are as good as Paul Millsap.If you were the coach, who do you think should absorb the bulk of Millsap's minutes over the next 3 months?Hey everybody. Been a couple weeks since we've done a chat. And there's plenty to talk about, with the news on Paul Millsap's injured left wrist. Fire away!Hey gang, welcome to another edition of the Lunch Special. Today we're joined by Gina Mizell to chat Nuggets. If you've got a question, submit it now and we'll get under way shortly. Related Articles

Categories: All Denver News.

Avalanche gameday: Sven Andrighetto, Semyon Varlamov out against Dallas Stars

November 22, 2017 - 12:30pm

Sven Andrighetto, who began the season as one of the Avalanche’s top left wings, will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season Wednesday when the Avalanche hosts the Dallas Stars at the Pepsi Center. Andrighetto is without a point in his last three games and seen his ice time decrease. He will be replaced by Gabriel Bourque, who will play in his seventh game of the season.

“‘Bourquey’ has been working real hard,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said the morning skate Wednesday. “He brings an element of grit and sandpaper to our lineup, some heaviness that I think we need against this team. I’ve talked with Andrighetto and I think he can get back to his roots a little bit here and give us a little bit more than what he’s given us lately.”

Andrighetto, 5-foot-10 and 188 pounds, isn’t nearly as physical as the 5-10, 206 Bourque.

Long commute. Goalie Semyon Varlamov skipped Tuesday’s practice because of an illness and isn’t available to back up Jonathan Bernier against the Stars, so the Avalanche made an emergency recall and flew in recently acquired Andrew Hammond from the East Coast.

Hammond, who was acquired from Ottawa on Nov. 4 in the three-team trade that centered around Matt Duchene, boarded a 7:30 a.m. ET flight Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C., where the Belleview Senators — Ottawa’s American Hockey League affiliate — were preparing to play the Charlotte Checkers on Wednesday. Hammond participated in the Avalanche’s morning skate 20 minutes after he arrived at the Pepsi Center.

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Hammond, 29, has continued to play for the Belleview Senators since joining the Avalanche organization because Colorado’s AHL affiliate in San Antonio is back-logged with St. Louis Blues prospects. The Blues, who will take over the San Antonio Rampage next season as the Avalanche make the Loveland-based Colorado Eagles their AHL affiliate, have 22-year-old Ville Husso sharing starts with the Avs’ Spencer Martin in San Antonio.

Bednar is unsure if Hammond will stick with the Avs through Friday, when Colorado plays an afternoon affair at Minnesota. But Varlamov is feeling better, Bednar said.

“He’ll be at the rink tomorrow,” the coach said. “We have Hammond here right now, so if we decide that Varly’s not starting (Friday), then we may leave him back, so he gets rest. And if there’s a possibility he can start Saturday, we’ll look at that.”

Andrew Hammond had 7:30 AM flight out of Charlotte. Joined #Avs for morning skate

— Mike Chambers (@MikeChambers) November 22, 2017

Avalanche lineup: 








Bernier, Hammond

Scratches: F Andrighetto, D Mironov, G Varlamov (illness). Injured: F Kamenev (arm), D Nemeth (lower-body), D Lindholm (jaw)

Categories: All Denver News.