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Denver DA seeks dismissal of sexual assault charges against son of former Mayor Wellington Webb

June 22, 2018 - 10:45am
Denver District Attorney's Office, suppliedAllen Webb

Denver District Attorney Beth McCann’s office filed a motion Friday asking a judge to dismiss sexual assault charges against the son of former Mayor Wellington Webb after the alleged victim declined to testify.

Allen Webb, 55, was charged in April with seven counts of sexual assault on a child, including three counts of sexual assault while in a position of trust for alleged abuse that happened in May of 2002.

The victim in this case, who is now an adult, “does not wish to proceed with prosecuting the case and therefore the charges in this case could no longer be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” McCann’s spokesman Ken Lane said in a news release.

McCann’s office filed a motion Friday requesting that the sexual assault case against Webb be dismissed.

Prosecutors have an ethical duty to dismiss charges if they determine there is no longer sufficient evidence to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, the news release says.

An affidavit recounting the allegations were sealed on April 6. Allen Webb was arrested three weeks later in Las Vegas, Nev.

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Allen Webb’s criminal history dates to 1986, when he was convicted of assault. He has also been charged with drug possession, drunken driving, domestic violence and shoplifting. He was arrested on a charge of third degree sexual assault in 1995. On Sept. 20, 1999 he was charged with robbery and sentenced to probation.

On Aug. 12, 2010, Allen Webb was charged with attempted sexual assault, committing a violent crime causing serious bodily injury in Sheridan. He was sentenced to two years in prison on a reduced charge of menacing.

In 2014, he was charged with menacing and possession of dangerous drugs. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of driving with a revoked license and was sentenced to one year of probation.

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Family trying to heal from Westminster road rage shooting seeks donations

June 22, 2018 - 9:44am

An online journal documenting the medical progress of the Colorado mother and her 8-year-old son who were shot outside a Westminster dentist office last week is the testimony of a resilient family trying to heal after tragedy.

Meghan Bigelow, 41, lost her 13-year-old son Vaughn Bigelow in the shooting. She and her 8-year-old son, Asa, remain in critical condition after the road-rage fueled shooting.

On Thursday, the online journal Caring Bridge operated by family members said Meghan was moved from the intensive care unit to the progressive care unit.

“This means that she has made good progress,” the journal entry read.

Asa was also moved from the intensive care unit to another specialty care unit.

“He is currently still resting when allowed and getting ready for the real work of starting to use some of his muscles again as he prepares for rehabilitation,” the post read.

As Meghan and Asa were being treated, 23-year-old Jeremy Webster was in court being formally charged with first-degree murder and 19 other charges linked to the road-rage shooting spree. Meghan’s middle son was able to run away during the shooting.

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The last journal entry on Thursday reflected on Vaughn.

“Today, I have been thinking about my handsome nephew Vaughn,” the post read. “It has been one week that my heart has hurt and my chest feels tight. He brought me joy for over 13 years and I am so grateful for him. Anyone who knew him, I am sure would be quick to agree.”

Previous entries describe Asa as becoming more alert and communicating by nodding his head since his speech is hindered by a tracheotomy.

“Both Meg and Asa are working hard at healing and resting,” the post read. “They are fighters.”

Anyone who would like to donate to the family’s GoFundMe page can do so at gofundme.com/official-bigelow-family. As of Friday morning, more than 2,200 people had donated nearly $180,000 toward the family’s $200,000 goal.

 

 

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Bike To Work Day dining discounts, cinema savings and more Denver-area deals starting June 22

June 22, 2018 - 9:04am

Biker’s gang

Bikers can pedal their way to two tasty deals on Bike To Work Day, June 27. Chipotle Mexican Grill is peddling a buy-one-get-one free burrito, bowl, salad or order of tacos from 10:45 a.m. to 8 p.m. To get the deal, just show up with your bike helmet in hand or show a Bike To Work flyer at the register. If burritos aren’t your dish, bike over to Larkburger. On the same day, anyone who bikes to the burger joint gets 50 percent off their meal from 5 to 7:30 p.m. The local chain serves all-natural burgers, chili, salads, truffle or parmesan fries and more. Hungry bargain bikers might just pedal to Chipotle for lunch, then head to Larkburger for dinner. If you get a flat tire, use the money you saved on the meals to fix it. chipotle.comlarkburger.com

Cinema savings

AMC Theatres is adding a third tier to its loyalty program, Stubs, and it promises blockbuster savings for frugal film fanatics. Going to the movies can quickly become an expensive night out when you add up the cost of tickets and concessions. However, the movie theater chain is changing the game for its customers. With the new Stubs A-List level, see up to three movies every week (including Dolby Cinema, IMAX, RealD 3-D, digital and more) for a monthly fee of $19.95. That’s basically 12 movies a month for under $20, making the price of admission just $1.66 per flick. Members could see their own custom triple-feature in one day or watch movies throughout the week. Given the program includes all screening formats, the monthly fee easily pays for itself in one or two visits. Benefits reset every Friday morning, so members can check out the latest flicks every weekend. (There are no blackout dates.) In addition, A-List members receive all the same benefits as the Stubs Premiere status, including popcorn refills, concession upgrades and rewards. The new program launches June 26. amctheatres.com/amcstubs/alist

River ways

The Greenway Foundation has spent more than four decades working to reclaim, restore and revitalize the South Platte River. To support their efforts, organizers dreamed up the Coors Light South Platte RiverFest on June 23 at Confluence Park (2250 15th St.) in Denver. The free event includes stand-up paddleboard lessons and demos, kayaking and tubing lessons, fitness classes, music, pro races and more. Enjoy live music, visit the Kids Zone and make a pit stop for snacks at the food truck court. Kids Activity Bands are $5 per child or $12 per family and grant unlimited access to all of the festival’s activities. The event is cash only. Festivities get rippling at 11 a.m. and run until 8 p.m. thegreenwayfoundation.org/south-platte-riverfest.html

Jump for joy!

Why should only kids have all the fun? This is the rare chance for people of all ages to jump for joy on a large-scale inflatable sculpture in downtown Denver. “JUMP (bring us together)” is a participatory artwork by British artist Stuart Semple that invites the public to jump within a large-scale inflatable sculpture. Through the act of jumping, the unconventional art installation invites everyone to enter the present moment, together in public space, release inhibitions and explore the inherent joy readily available in communal movement. The installation is free and open to all ages of the public. Get jumpin’ on June 23 and 24 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day on 17th St. — between Wynkoop St. and Wazee St. Organizers anticipate large numbers of people both days, so there may be a wait to bounce around. happycitydenver.com

Every Saturday, Laura Daily and Bryan K. Chavez at MileHighOnTheCheap.com compile “Cheap Checklist” to help smart shoppers find freebies, discounts and deals. Send tips to info@milehighonthecheap.com 10 to 14 days in advance. Get more freebies, discounts and deals at MileHighOnTheCheap.com.

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Screenings, concerts and celebrities: 5 events you can’t miss at Denver’s TV-pilot festival, SeriesFest

June 22, 2018 - 9:04am

How do you outdo all the attention-getting events at a festival designed to grab you at every turn?

SeriesFest: Season 4, which returns for its (surprise, surprise) fourth annual outing June 22-27 in Denver, has an idea, and it involves Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a multiplatinum country band, and thousands of people watching a new, big-budget Kevin Costner project.

SeriesFest has long been described by organizers as “the Sundance for TV,” and that certainly gets at the industry-focused programming, which is designed to encourage deal-making among creatives and television executives who travel to Denver from Los Angeles and elsewhere.

From the digital revolution to diversity issues, sci-fi to comedy and drama, there are plenty of shows and topics on the docket this year. There are also still tickets available to the public for the mix of panels, parties, competitive screenings, workshops, premieres, virtual reality demos and sneak-peeks, which are centered around the Sie FilmCenter at 2510 E. Colfax Ave.

We rounded up five of them in advance of the festival, which begins Friday and runs through next week. See more at seriesfest.org.

Opening Night: NBC’s “New Amsterdam”
NBC has high hopes for its new hour-long primtime drama “New Amsterdam,” and its marketing strategy includes a screening (it doesn’t premiere publicly until Sept. 25) and a cast/production Q&A featuring executive producers David Schulner and Peter Horton, as well as actors Ryan Eggold, Janet Montgomery and Jocko Sims in Denver. If you’ve got a thing for earnest, feel-good (but harrowing — at times!) medical dramas and attractive, charismatic people, this might be the ticket for you — provided you’re a passholder (and those aren’t cheap). 8 p.m. June 22 at the Denver Art Museum. Full-festival passes: $200, seriesfest.com

Centerpiece with Lady Antebellum and “Yellowstone”
This is the big one, although bigger doesn’t automatically mean better. Last year’s event went off the rails (musically) with an awkward set from headliner Lauryn Hill, according to our music critic at the time. But we have a feeling this year will go a bit more smoothly with pop-country star Lady Antebellum making its Red Rocks debut alongside the screening of the new series “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Coster and produced by Taylor Sheridan. The series also features actor Wes Bentley (“The Hunger Games”), who will be in attendance in Denver. 6:30 p.m. June 25. Tickets: $42-$120, axs.com

“SuperMansion: Summer Vacation Special”
“Robot Chicken” veteran Zeb Wells launched his “SuperMansion” series in 2015 with voice work from celebs such as Bryan Cranston, Chris Pine and others. He’ll attend SeriesFest to screen his new stop-motion animation “SuperMansion: Summer Vacation Special” from Sony Crackle, with voice actor and “Saturday Night Live” cast member Heidi Gardner (who plays Cooch), voice actor/production manager Tucker Gilmore (Black Saturn), director Alex Kamer, and an audience Q&A afterward. (Full disclosure: I have been asked to moderate the panel, as I have occasionally in the past at SeriesFest.) 4 p.m. June 23 at the Fries Theater (Sie FilmCenter). Tickets: $15, denverfilm.org

Digital Shorts Competition
If you’ve got the stamina, the Digital Shorts Competition — divided into four 75-minute blocks on June 26 — is one of the most exciting places to cram for the next wave of TV-making talent. Each block has four or five pilots, spanning comedy, drama and unscripted series, plus short Q&As with the creators. Given the volume and rotating format, you’re bound to find something you like. Screening blocks run at 10 a.m., noon, 2:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. June 26 at the Maglione Theater (Sie FilmCenter). Tickets: $15 per screening, denverfilm.org

Diversity and Showrunner Panels
Practical workshops on “The Art of the Pitch” and “Worldbuilding” will no doubt be useful to upstart attendees inside the industry. But for a more general-audience (and hyper-relevant) experience we recommend checking out the Sunday afternoon lineup at the Sie FilmCenter, which offers the panels “The Diversity Pendulum: What’s Happening in TV and Media” (11 a.m.) and “Who Runs the Show? Women” (1:30 p.m.). The former is designed to address the lack of racial and cultural diversity in entertainment, which “continues to dictate character casting, storytelling and overall long-term media success” of countless shows, according to the program. The latter collects high-profile female show-runners from “Grace and Frankie,” “True Blood,” “House of Lies” and others to talk about how more women can follow them through the holes they punched in the glass ceiling. Fries Theater (Sie FilmCenter). Tickets: $15 per panel, denverfilm.org

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Brazil scores in stoppage time to beat Costa Rica at FIFA World Cup 2018

June 22, 2018 - 8:59am

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — After more than 90 minutes of aggravation and exasperation, Neymar and Brazil finally broke through Costa Rica’s smothering defense.

Philippe Coutinho scored in the first minute of stoppage time, and Neymar followed six minutes later to give Brazil a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica on Friday at the World Cup.

Unlike Argentina and Lionel Messi, Brazil is still in a good position to advance to the round of 16. Costa Rica has been eliminated.

“The responsibility is huge when you are playing for the national team,” Coutinho said through a translator. “You have to be mentally strong from the beginning until the end. We fought until the end and we were rewarded.”

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Neymar dropped to his knees after the final whistle, sobbing in his hands as his teammates surrounded him and then lifted him off the ground.

“We know he had a difficult injury, he went through a very bad patch,” Coutinho said, referring to Neymar breaking a bone in his right foot four months ago. “But his joy at being on the pitch is contagious.”

A few minutes before the end, Neymar flopped backward to initially earn a penalty, but the contact was so exaggerated that the referee reversed the call after using video review. Neymar then angrily punched the ball a short time later as Costa Rica’s players tried to waste time. It earned Brazil’s biggest star a yellow card.

“The joy, the satisfaction and the pride of representing the national team is a lot,” Brazil coach Tite said, defending Neymar. “He has the responsibility, the pressure. Everyone shows it in their own way.”

Neymar seemed panicked for most of the second half as his shots sailed over the bar or simply missed the mark, and he complained over nearly every call. In danger of ending in a draw, Brazil seemed nervous but composed itself through the seven minutes of injury time.

Coutinho was first to get the ball past goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Rising superbly to meet a header from Marcelo’s cross, Roberto Firmino nodded the ball down to striker Gabriel Jesus, who then flicked it to a sprinting Coutinho in the penalty area.

In the seventh minute of injury time, Douglas Costa whipped in a cross from the right and Neymar deftly tapped it into the net.

Both Firmino and Costa had come on as substitutes in the second half.

“I think Brazil’s changes made an impact,” Costa Rica coach Oscar Ramirez said. “It became very difficult for us.”

Brazil has four points in Group E and plays Serbia in its final match in Moscow on Wednesday. Costa Rica has zero points and cannot advance.

After a drab and scrappy first half at St. Petersburg Stadium, Brazil came out energized and the chances piled up. Jesus put a header onto the crossbar, and Neymar’s hurried shot curled wide.

In Brazil’s opening 1-1 draw against Switzerland, Neymar had been fouled 10 times, sometimes harshly. But he was also in theatrical mode against Costa Rica, tumbling over dramatically when touched.

“We never tried to hurt him,” Ramirez said. “We tried to play fairly but stop him fairly as well.”

Referee Bjorn Kuipers twice waved away Neymar’s claims for fouls in the first half. He also ignored a Brazilian claim for a penalty after midfielder Paulinho bounced off defender Oscar Duarte contesting a high ball.

Several players, including Neymar and Marcelo, complained to Kuipers at the end of the first half. Once again, he just waved them away.

“We don’t need referees decisions to win a game,” Tite said. “Brazil doesn’t need any help.”

GROUP DYNAMICS

The match between Brazil and Serbia in Moscow on Wednesday could yet determine which teams finish in first and second place in Group E.

Costa Rica will play Switzerland on Wednesday in Nizhny Novgorod in its final group match.

KEY TO SUCCESS

With Neymar still short of his best following the foot injury, Brazil once again turned to Coutinho for inspiration.

He was at the heart of Brazil’s best moves and kept the tempo going with his crisp passing and darting runs.

Although left back Marcelo had an average game in defense, his constant runs down the flanks ultimately helped when his dangerous cross led to the opening goal.

SERIOUS STATS

With his 56th international goal, Neymar is now one ahead of Romario — which could be a useful omen for Brazil. Romario was the team’s top striker when Brazil won the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

Neymar is third on Brazil’s all-time scorers’ list, behind Pele (77) and Ronaldo (62).

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When will RTD’s noisy A-Line train horns fall silent? The answer just got a lot clearer.

June 22, 2018 - 8:35am

Train horn noise that for more than two years has been the bane of thousands of people living in homes and doing business along the University of Colorado A-Line commuter rail corridor could go silent in as little as six weeks.

That’s according to a timeline laid out by Regional Transportation District officials at a sometimes heated and contentious community meeting Thursday night in Park Hill, as neighbors insisted on a certain date for when the horns that blow 21 hours a day at the A-Line’s 11 crossings will end.

“I just want to know when the horns are going to stop,” a frustrated man at the back of the room shouted out, interrupting two RTD officials who were in the middle of giving a presentation.

While a specific date for the cessation of horn use was not identified at the meeting, final approvals now working their way through the Colorado Public Utilities Commission coupled with a 21-day decision period from federal railroad officials charged with establishing quiet zones at rail crossings likely means the first day of horn-free train travel along the airport line will come in the first week of August.

“We believe we have done everything to qualify for quiet zones,” Henry Stopplecamp, assistant general manager of capital programs for RTD, said at the meeting.

  • Joe Amon, Denver Post file

    A crossing guard stops traffic as an RTD train travels along the A-Line in Aurora on March 17. RTD has struggled to implement its automated crossing system on the A-Line, and similar issues are partly to blame for holding up the opening of the G-Line.

  • RJ Sangosti, Denver Post file

    The University of Colorado A-Line train crosses Holly Street along Smith Road on its way the airport, May 10, 2016.

  • Joe Amon, The Denver Post

    A view of the B-Line in Westminster on July 25, 2016.

  • Hyoung Chang, Denver Post file

    In this August 2011 file photo, Devin Jamroz, Jesse Johnson, and Kevin Leonard break ground for what was then called the "Gold Line" in gold miners outfit at Olde Town Arvada. Now known as the G-Line, the line has been delayed yet again over concerns about crossing problems on the A-Line that opened last year.

  • Andy Cross, The Denver Post

    Construction continues on July 13, 2016, on RTD's Westminster Station, which will run the B-line commuter rail line from Westminster to Union Station. The official opening of the 6.2 mile line is scheduled for July 25, 2016, which will connect riders to the new University of Colorado A-line, several light rail connections and local and regional buses.

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    Riders wait to get on the University of Colorado A-Line from Union Station to Denver International Airport, April 22, 2016. The line is 23 miles with 8 stations along the way.

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That came as relief to many people wondering when they will again be able to open their windows without having to endure the four-blast pattern — from 100 feet in front of a train, it’s as noisy as a motorcycle a few feet away — that happens as often as eight times an hour. Federal rules required the horns be sounded during the months RTD and its contracting partner, Denver Transit Partners, tried to figure out how to get crossing arms to open and close at precisely the right intervals.

“We’re a contentious lot because we’re not getting sleep,” Merrilee Saathoff, who lives near the Holly Street crossing, told the three dozen people gathered at the Park Hill Village club house Thursday.

Paul Lindgren, whose home is next to where the trains roll past Quebec Street, said blocking out the horn noise has become an unwelcome nightly ritual.

“I sleep with ear plugs every night because if I didn’t have ear plugs, I don’t sleep,” he said.

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Barring any unforeseen complications and delays going forward, RTD hopes the rest of the regulatory approvals roll out in a more predictable and procedural fashion at this point. The transit agency hit a major milestone this week when it announced that state and federal regulators had signed off on a plan to begin dismissing flaggers who have been directing traffic at the crossings, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, since the A-Line started rolling in April 2016.

Flaggers will be removed from four crossings — at Clayton, Steele, Holly and Dahlia streets — at 6 p.m. Friday while flaggers at Havana and Chambers will be relieved for good Monday evening. The PUC on Wednesday pegged Monaco Parkway and Sable Boulevard for flagger removal next, and the agency is expected to do the same for the crossings at Ulster and York/Josephine streets next week.

That leaves Quebec Street, expected to get its hearing before the PUC on July 11, as the final crossing seeking regulatory clearance. When it does, Stopplecamp said, Denver and Aurora will immediately submit so-called quiet-zone applications to the Federal Railroad Administration for review, starting a 21-day clock that should bring silence to the corridor as calendars flip over to August.

Much of Thursday’s meeting consisted of RTD officials explaining how it took so long to get to this point. Stopplecamp said RTD and Denver Transit Partners ran into big challenges trying to get the A-Line’s gate signaling system to integrate wirelessly with positive train control, a safety system for railroads. Until the issue was resolved, the line could only operate if flaggers were in place as a safety backstop and trains blew their horns as they approached and moved through crossings.

“Our goal was to have quiet zones on day one — we missed it,” Stopplecamp said. “I realize it has impacted a lot of people, and I’m sorry about that.”

But now that the storm before the calm appears to be subsiding, so is the fear that the coming year will be filled with sleepless nights along the A-Line corridor.

“I know your’e looking forward to the day when at 2 a.m. it’s silent,” said RTD board director Natalie Menten.

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Nikki Haley: “It is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America”

June 22, 2018 - 8:06am

A United Nations report condemning entrenched poverty in the United States is a “misleading and politically motivated” document about “the wealthiest and freest country in the world,” the Trump administration’s top U.N. official said.

U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley criticized the report for critiquing the United States’ treatment of its poor, arguing that the United Nations should instead focus on poverty in developing countries such as Burundi and Congo Republic. The U.N. report also faulted the Trump administration for pursuing policies it said would exacerbate U.S. poverty.

“It is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America,” Haley wrote in a letter to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Thursday. “In our country, the President, Members of Congress, Governors, Mayors, and City Council members actively engage on poverty issues every day. Compare that to the many countries around the world, whose governments knowingly abuse human rights and cause pain and suffering.”

The rebuke comes two days after Haley announced the United States’ resignation from the U.N. Human Rights Council over that body’s perceived bias against Israel and toleration of human rights abusers.

In May, U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston released a report saying the United States has the highest rates of youth poverty, infant mortality, incarceration, income inequality and obesity among all countries in the developed world, as well as 40 million people living in poverty. Alston accused President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress of deepening poverty and inequality in the country, citing the Republican tax law passed last fall.

“The policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege,” Alston wrote in the report.

Haley pushed back in Thursday’s letter, arguing that the administration had created a strong economy that would lift people out of poverty and that Alston’s report was premised on misleading statistics. Haley said the U.N. special rapporteur had “categorically misstated” the progress America had made reducing poverty, but she gave no examples.

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“I am deeply disappointed that the Special Rapporteur used his platform to make misleading and politically motivated statements about American domestic policy issues,” Haley said. “Regrettably, his report is an all too common example of the misplaced priorities [of the U.N.].”

Sanders, who initially asked Haley for comment on the U.N. report, asked Haley to respond to statistics showing more than 30 million Americans lack health insurance, more than half of older workers have no retirements savings and 140 million Americans struggle to meet basic living expenses.

“You are certainly right in suggesting that poverty in many countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi is far worse than it is in the United States,” Sanders said. “But … as it happens, I personally believe that it is totally appropriate for the U.N. Special Rapporteur to focus on poverty in the United States.”

Alston did not immediately return a request for comment.

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Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and intellectual provocateur, dies at 68

June 22, 2018 - 8:02am

Charles Krauthammer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist and intellectual provocateur who championed the muscular foreign policy of neoconservatism that helped lay the ideological groundwork for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, died June 21 at 68.

The cause was cancer of the small intestine, said his son, Daniel Krauthammer. He declined to provide further information.

“I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking,” he wrote in a June 8 farewell note. “I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny. I leave this life with no regrets.”

A star of page and screen, Dr. Krauthammer (pronounced KRAUT-hammer) was one of the highest-profile commentators of his generation. In addition to his syndicated weekly column in The Washington Post, which garnered him a Pulitzer in 1987, he was a marquee essayist for magazines across the political spectrum, including Time, the New Republic, the Weekly Standard and the National Interest foreign policy journal. He also was a near-ubiquitous presence on cable news, particularly Fox.

By any measure, Krauthammer cut a singular profile in Washington’s journalistic and policymaking circles. He graduated in 1975 from Harvard Medical School – on time, despite a diving accident that left him a quadriplegic – and practiced psychiatry before a restless curiosity led him to switch paths. Instead of diagnosing patients, he would analyze the body politic.

Jacob Heilbrunn, author of “They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons” and editor of the National Interest, said in an interview that Krauthammer “crystallized conservative thought and exerted influence by setting the terms of public debate at key moments in the nation’s political life.”

Known for acerbic, unsparing prose and hawkishness on U.S. and Israeli security matters, Krauthammer long directed his moral indignation at the “liberal monopoly” on the news cycle. He was festooned with honors by right-leaning groups and sought after by Republican policymakers. Vice President Dick Cheney once praised him for his “superior intellect.”

To the left, Krauthammer was a boogeyman, most notably on the matter of President George W. Bush’s “war on terror” and the ultimately catastrophic efforts to democratize the Middle East.

On Israeli-Palestinian relations, he acknowledged suffering on both sides but firmly defended the Jewish state in what he saw as its existential battle for survival. “Israel’s crime is not its policies but its insistence on living,” he wrote in a 2008 Post column. He declared international law worthless and quipped that Islamist militants are seldom “impressed by U.N. resolutions.”

His prolific work extended far beyond politics and foreign affairs to touch on complex social problems that he had first encountered in his medical practice. He wrote poignantly – and at times caustically – about societal treatment of the mentally ill. Many patients, released from psychiatric facilities at the urging of civil libertarians, were set adrift on the “very mean streets” because of a fantasy of “a Rockwellian community ready to welcome its eccentrics,” he wrote in Time in 1985.

“In the name of a liberty that illness does not allow them to enjoy,” he concluded, “we have condemned the homeless mentally ill to die with their rights on.”

After mass shootings, Krauthammer argued, Democratic leaders made “totally sincere, totally knee-jerk and totally pointless” calls for stricter gun laws instead of addressing what he regarded as the more relevant underlying issue: the failure of families and the state to ensure effective psychiatric intervention for those who need it.

“In the liberal remake of ‘Casablanca,’ ” he wrote in The Post in 2013 after the Washington Navy Yard killings, “the police captain comes upon the scene of the shooting and orders his men to ’round up the usual weapons.’ ”

The essayist and critic John Gross, writing in the New York Times, once called Krauthammer a skilled “controversialist” and “master of the crisp and compact formulation” whose greatest strength was his “ability to seize on the giveaway quotation or the exquisitely revealing chink in his opponent’s armor.”

Krauthammer said his politics were shaped by growing up in the post-Holocaust years with Jewish parents who had escaped the Nazis in Europe. He grew up attuned to the “tragic element in history,” he once told a C-SPAN interviewer. “It tempers your optimism and your idealism. And it gives you a vision of the world which I think is more restrained, conservative, if you like. You don’t expect that much out of human nature. And you are prepared for the worst.”

He initially defined himself as a liberal Cold Warrior, a Democrat who embraced anti-communist as well as New Deal and Great Society programs that aided the most vulnerable. His support for the robust use of American military power gradually left him alienated from the Democratic Party, however, and he found ideological succor in neoconservatism, identifying with writer Irving Kristol’s definition of its adherents as onetime liberals who have been “mugged by reality.”

In the 1980s, Krauthammer coined the term “Reagan doctrine” to describe “overt and unashamed American support for anti-Communist revolution” in the form of proxy wars from Nicaragua to Angola. After the fall of the Soviet Union, he was credited with popularizing the phrase “unipolar moment” in commentaries that advocated solidifying American hegemony in an era when no other power came close to matching the United States in might.

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His arguments found favor with the growing tide of neoconservatives in the GOP and saw their most intense expression during the first term of the Bush administration, when the president sought not only to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Sept 11. 2001, terrorist attacks but also more broadly to foster American-style democracy in the Middle East by toppling Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

In the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, the Bush White House tried to gain international support by accusing Hussein of hiding weapons of mass destruction. Despite shaky evidence for the claim, Krauthammer was foremost among pundits who took up the president’s cause, excoriating anyone who opposed it or hesitated, from the Swedish weapons inspector Hans Blix to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The U.S.-led invasion, which Krauthammer billed at the outset as a “Three Week War,” has dragged on ever since, caused more than 4,000 U.S. deaths and more than 100,000 Iraqi casualties amid a grinding insurgency, and left the United States mired in a failed state with hostile neighbors. No nuclear weapons were found.

Harold Meyerson, then a Post columnist writing in the liberal American Prospect magazine in 2005, dubbed Krauthammer “the most insistent and hectoring” of the public intellectuals who sold the war to the public by subordinating “the facts on the ground to their own ideological preferences and those of their allies within the administration.”

Krauthammer later downplayed the American abuse and torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as an aberration in “the most humane occupation in history.” He favored torture of terrorism suspects, assailing the “moral preening and the phony arguments” of those – including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who endured torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam – supporting a 2005 bill that prohibited under all circumstances the inhumane treatment of prisoners.

The noted political scientist and author Francis Fukuyama, a longtime admirer, began to accuse Krauthammer of blind triumphalism. They exchanged long, blistering, sometimes personal critiques in the pages of the National Interest that, in part, led Fukuyama to distance himself from the neocon movement.

Krauthammer at times took a corrosive tone toward Bush’s Democratic successor. He called President Barack Obama “a man of first-class intellect and first-class temperament” but took jabs at his “highly suspect” character, citing his friendships with his “race-baiting” pastor Jeremiah Wright and the “unrepentant terrorist” Bill Ayers.

Krauthammer, who sounded the clarion call of an existential struggle with “Arab-Islamic totalitarianism,” said Obama’s “passion” was for “protecting Islam from any possible association with ‘violent extremism’ ” and painted him as a welfare-state expanding extremist “given to apologies and appeasement” on the world stage.

Yet Krauthammer, who was named by Bush to the President’s Council on Bioethics, was never completely a partisan warrior. He differed from many cultural conservatives by favoring legalized abortion and stem-cell research and abhorred the idea of “intelligent design,” calling it “a fraud,” “today’s tarted-up version of creationism.”

He scolded the tea party, a loud minority within the GOP that tried to force its way legislatively with government shutdowns, as the “suicide caucus.” It was one thing to be a “blocking element” in the minority, he said, but their tactics were no way to govern.

Krauthammer was apoplectic about the rise and election of President Donald Trump, calling him a “moral disgrace” for his initial refusal to fully condemn a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a walking “systemic stress test.”

“He had great lucidity of thought and was an extremely pungent polemicist,” Heilbrunn said of Krauthammer. “Those traits manifested themselves once more in his searing denunciations of Donald Trump as a phony. They showed that Krauthammer wasn’t simply a reflexive, unthinking conservative who was peddling the party line. He had real discernment and independence. At bottom, he was an intellectual, not just a journalist, with real literary flair and style and insight.”

Irving Charles Krauthammer was born in Manhattan on March 13, 1950, and at 5 settled in Montreal with his father and mother, Jewish refugees from Europe.

In Canada, the elder Krauthammer prospered as a real estate executive. Charles, the younger of two sons, graduated first in his class at Montreal’s McGill University in 1970 with a degree in political science and economics. He then spent a year studying political theory at the University of Oxford.

Amid the ferment of student revolution on college campuses, he grew disillusioned with politics and abruptly switched course to pursue medicine. That discipline, he later wrote, “promised not only moral certainty, but intellectual certainty, a hardness to truth, something not to be found in the universe of politics.”

Physically robust in his youth, Krauthammer was a gifted sailor, skier and swimmer. The summer after his first year at medical school, he was diving from a springboard into an outdoor swimming pool in Boston when he struck his head on the concrete bottom and his spinal cord snapped. He had been studying neurology that week and said he “knew exactly what happened the second it happened.”

He spent 14 months in intensive physical therapy while also being tutored so he could complete medical school with his class. What pained him most, he told The Post, was the fear that people might evaluate him by different standards because he was in a wheelchair, with limited use of his hands.

“If I can just muddle through life, they’ll say it was a great achievement,” he said. “That would be the greatest defeat in my life – if I allowed that. I decided if I could make people judge me by the old standard, that would be a triumph and that’s what I try to do. It seemed to me the only way to live.”

The Post reported that he reached a settlement with the pool builders for about $1 million. He became chief resident of the psychiatric consultation service at Massachusetts General Hospital and an official at the federal Health and Human Services Department in Washington.

After a brief stint as a speechwriter for Vice President Walter Mondale, he joined the staff of the New Republic in 1981, received a National Magazine Award in 1984 and joined The Post the next year. His books included two essay collections, “Cutting Edges: Making Sense of the Eighties” (1985) and “Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics” (2013). He spent decades as a panelist on the syndicated public affairs talk show “Inside Washington.”

Outside of his political thinking, he was chairman of Pro Musica Hebraica, a group that revives largely forgotten Jewish classical music on the concert stage.

In 1974, he married the former Robyn Trethewey, an artist, whom he met at Oxford. In addition to his wife, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, and their son, of San Francisco, survivors include his mother, of Rockville, Maryland.

“History is shaped by its battle of ideas, and I wanted to be in the arena,” Krauthammer once said, “not because I want to fight, but because some things need to be said. And some things need to be defended.”

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The Morning After: Tim Connelly re-emphasizes importance of keeping Nikola Jokic with Denver Nuggets for “as long as possible”

June 22, 2018 - 7:59am

Welcome to the triumphant return of the Nuggets’ version of The Morning After, with extra tidbits that did not fit into our main coverage from Denver’s 2018 draft night.

Of course, the biggest story was Michael Porter Jr. slipping to Denver at No. 14 overall. If the he returns to full health following back surgery, his selection could be the steal of the draft. If his health concerns linger, the risk will backfire. But president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said the potential reward was worth taking Porter with the final lottery pick.

Here are some non-Porter notes from draft night.

1. Plan for Jokic. Connelly echoed his comments made at the end of the season, heavily implying that Denver will decline its $1.6 million team option for next season to make Jokic a restricted free agent and eligible to sign a max contract with the Nuggets.

“Nikola’s going to be here for a long, long time,” Connelly said. “I think whatever we do, we’re going to ensure he’s here as long as possible. When that moment happens, we’re going to talk to Nikola and his brothers and his representation. He’ll be in Denver for a long, long time. He’ll be buying (a home) here.”

2. Wing help? Connelly also remained bullish on Denver’s quest to re-sign versatile swingman Will Barton during free agency, saying he’s “looking forward to aggressively trying to keep Will here.” The reality, though, is that Denver could lose two guys who started games at small forward last season, as Wilson Chandler has until next Friday to exercise or decline his $12.8 million player option for next season. Connelly acknowledged that uncertainty entering the draft but said it “didn’t guide much of our thinking” in selecting Porter. That makes sense, given Porter’s health questions.

“We’re pretty specific — it’s our best player available, best guy to add to the core long-term,” Connelly said. “ … Where we are in this curve, if you too much shoot for tomorrow, you can miss some really good opportunities. We’ve made that mistake in the past.”

3. Crashing the boards. Denver traded up two spots in the second round to draft Jarred Vanderbilt, a forward from Kentucky whose left foot injury limited him to 14 games last season. In those 14 games, he averaged 17 minutes. And in those 17 minutes, he averaged 7.9 rebounds. That’s an eye-popping stat. Connelly also likes Vanderbilt’s ability to defend three positions and push the ball after crashing the boards. Before the injury, Denver pegged Vanderbilt as top-20 overall pick. Now, he’ll be a developmental project once he fully recovers from injury. Connelly said he does not anticipate Vanderbilt being ready to play during summer league, but that “his health long-term is not an issue.”

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“He’s a bulldog,” Connelly said. “He plays with a chip and a toughness that I think can kind of accent a lot of our skill guys. He’s very different than what we presently have. We had circled him in the second round as one of the biggest upside guys, and if we could get him, we were going to be aggressive to get him.”

4. Well, that’s awkward. Connelly said the Nuggets were looking for “awkward skillsets” with their second-round picks. For Vanderbilt, it’s supreme rebounding. For Thomas Welsh, the No. 58 overall selection, it’s elite shooting as a 7-foot-1 center. The UCLA product and former McDonald’s All-American impressed with his on-court tools and intelligence during his workout in Denver last week.

“They’re not fastball pitchers,” Connelly said of the second-round picks. “They’re different … (Welsh was) one of the last guys we had on the board, so we were very excited about him and we think his unique style can eventually translate to the NBA court.”

5. Nice to meet you. Porter, Vanderbilt and Welsh will be introduced at a press conference Friday afternoon. My colleague Kyle Fredrickson be on-site with coverage.

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Trump says Republicans are “wasting their time” trying to pass immigration bills before November elections

June 22, 2018 - 7:59am

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Friday that Republicans should stop “wasting their time” on immigration, suggesting they put off efforts to pass legislation until after the November elections, when he predicted more GOP members of Congress will be elected.

Trump’s comments, in a morning tweet, came after Republican House leaders abruptly postponed a vote Thursday on a broad immigration bill intended to unite GOP moderates and conservatives, acknowledging they lack the votes to pass the measure despite a growing uproar over separating migrant families at the border.

Trump’s tweet, GOP aides said, could make the task of corralling votes for the bill significantly more difficult heading into the weekend.

“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November,” Trump wrote. “Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solves this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!”

In a later tweet, Trump also accused Democrats of telling “phony stories of sadness and grief” to help gain the upper hand in this year’s elections.

Democrats are optimistic that they will pick up seats in both chambers of Congress in November and are eyeing a takeover of the House and possibly the Senate. Party leaders have also said they are eager to craft a bipartisan immigration bill but have been frustrated by the Republican efforts to write legislation without their input.

GOP House leaders said Thursday that they would delay until next week a vote on a bill that would provide $25 billion for Trump’s long-sought border wall, offer a pathway to citizenship to young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers” and keep migrant families together in detention centers.

Earlier in the day, the House rejected a hard-line measure that would have significantly limited legal immigration and given dreamers only an uncertain reprieve. Trump had said he supported both bills, frustrating some GOP lawmakers who wanted clearer direction and more vocal leadership from the president.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he believes negotiations will continue among House Republicans regardless of Friday’s tweet by the president.

“I believe we work on something that Democrats must vote on,” Meadows said, adding that that is a better alternative than allowing the minority party to object only in the news media. “Make the objections be followed with difficult votes.”

But Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., said Friday that with Trump’s latest tweet, it is “game over” for producing a comprehensive immigration bill before the elections.

“It takes the wind out of the sails in what might have been a fairly productive week in terms of looking for compromise,” Sanford said during an interview on CNN. “I don’t know how it happens, because if you look at how contentious this issue is, how much emotion there is, without the president being out front – without the president having legislators’ backs – there’s no way they’re going to take the risks that would be inherent in a major reform bill.”

GOP aides were more cautious in their assessment. The chances of a bill passing are “not good, and worse with the POTUS tweets,” said one aide who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the sensitive issue. Another said Trump would be to blame if legislation fails.

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Friday was the second day in a row that Trump’s tweets served to undermine House GOP efforts. On Thursday, he sent a morning tweet questioning the purpose of passing a Republican-backed bill in the House that Democrats could kill in the Senate, using the chamber’s filibuster rule.

But, as of 4 p.m. on Thursday, Trump was still making calls to Capitol Hill and demanding that the House pass a bill. Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., relayed that message to House Republicans, which factored into their decision to continue negotiations on legislation into next week.

The president seemed to counsel a far different course on Friday morning, suggesting immigration would be a defining issue in the midterm elections.

“Elect more Republicans in November and we will pass the finest, fairest and most comprehensive Immigration Bills anywhere in the world,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday. “Right now we have the dumbest and the worst. Dems are doing nothing but Obstructing. Remember their motto, RESIST! Ours is PRODUCE!”

Democrats fired back later Friday morning, saying Trump was standing in the way of immigration reform.

“Democrats have offered multiple bipartisan proposals to #ProtectDREAMers,” House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said in a tweet. “You’ve rejected every single one. You can’t take yes for an answer.”

In another tweet, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, said “the President does NOT want to solve this problem. He is INTENTIONALLY trying to divide us…we cannot let it happen. We need to be united!”

Last year, after meeting with Trump, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said they had reached a deal to protect dreamers in exchange for funding Trump’s border wall. But the deal fell apart later when the White House insisted on including other Trump priorities on immigration in the package.

Last month, Republican moderates moved to force votes on several immigration bills – including bipartisan measures that would easily pass with mostly Democratic support. But GOP leaders, who feared a conservative political backlash if a Republican House advanced such legislation, undertook a furious push to stymie the moderates.

The two immigration bills under consideration in the House this week sought to respond to a pair of brewing crises precipitated by Trump: his decision to separate migrant children from their families at the southwest border, and his cancellation of a program protecting young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Trump has repeatedly claimed falsely that the crisis at the border – which stemmed from his administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy – was the fault of Democrats.

In a bid to keep a focus on his immigration agenda, Trump is scheduled Friday afternoon to address a group of families at the White House whose loved ones have been killed or harmed by undocumented immigrants.

The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan and Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.

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Rolled cement truck crash involving SUV injures one, ties up traffic in Highlands Ranch

June 22, 2018 - 7:31am

A cement truck rollover crash in Highlands Ranch injured one person and is tying up traffic Friday morning, officials said.

Littleton Fire Rescue warned commuters to expect delays on Wildcat Reserve Parkway at Spearwood Drive as clean-up of spilled cement and the tipped truck get underway. An SUV was also involved in the crash, authorities said.

One injured person was taken to a local hospital.

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South Metro Fire Rescue and Littleton Fire Rescue are responding to the crash.

Pictures of the crash scene show fire crews tending to the tipped cement truck, which has cement spilling out the back of it onto the roadway.

 

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Advisory: Two kids in danger, believed to be with mom wanted for child abuse

June 22, 2018 - 6:51am
Loki and Sirena Wade

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has issued an endangered missing children advisory for two young children believed to be with their mother, who is wanted on a child abuse warrant.

One-year-old Sirena Wade and 3-year-old Loki Wade were last seen with their mother, Felicia Jennique Mooneyham (Banks), at 9 a.m. on Monday.

“The children are believed to be in danger,” according to the state-wide alert. “Felicia has a warrant for her arrest for child abuse.”

Mooneyham drives a white 1998 Subaru wagon. The license plate is 692ZRY.

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Mooneyham has brown hair and eyes, is 5-feet-10 and weights about 137 pounds, according to the alert.

Both children have blond hair and blue eyes. Sirena weighs about 25 pounds. Loki weighs about 92 pounds, the alert says.

Anyone who sees the children is asked to contact CBI at 303-239-4211.

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As other theology schools struggle, Denver’s Iliff uses social justice roots to stay resilient

June 22, 2018 - 6:00am

At a time when theology schools and seminaries are downsizing, merging or closing, Denver’s Iliff School of Theology is holding steady.

The United Methodist-related school, tucked next to the University of Denver on South University Boulevard and East Iliff Avenue, is little known around the metro but has garnered a national reputation as a progressive theology school rooted in social justice causes. And that reputation might be what’s saving them.

Fewer students have been attending theological schools; enrollment dropped 9 percent in the U.S. and Canada from 2007 to 2017, when there were 72,896 students. That drop comes as Pew Research studies find that fewer Americans identify as religious, a change largely attributed to the growing number of millennials who aren’t members of any organized religion.

But despite the grim picture, the United Methodist seminary has been able to buck the downward trend, surviving in part because of its liberal theology instead of rigid doctrine that is more typical of many religious seminaries, administrators say.

“That is not Iliff’s future,” school President Tom Wolfe said of seminaries closing. “That is not even in our thinking. We are turning this exactly in the opposite direction.”

Students seek social justice AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver PostUniversity of Denver theology graduate of the year Mina Nau on Tuesday, May 29, 2018.

While Mina Nau pursued a career in fashion in Los Angeles, she stayed with a family friend whose son was in San Quentin State Prison.

She answered the phone once when he called. Nau could tell he needed advice, so she dropped a Bible verse. The two began writing and talking about faith. After the fifth letter, they began dating. They’ve been together for six years.

Nau’s boyfriend repeatedly urged her to study theology. He wasn’t the first to make that suggestion. Nau’s family is from Tonga, a Polynesian kingdom of South Pacific islands, and Christianity is one of the biggest tenets of Tongan culture. Eventually, Nau, 35, decided her boyfriend might be right.

“I really don’t know how I ended up (at Iliff) but I was spiritually led to be here and it totally makes sense,” said Nau. “It’s a social justice-oriented institution. It’s the perfect place for me because they care for people who are rejected and not accepted in society.”

Between 35 and 40 faiths are represented in the school’s roughly 300-person student body. Around 30 percent openly identify as LGBTQ.

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The student body trends older as more people embark on second or third careers. Plenty of graduates are still going into parishes, including Nau, who will be heading to Hope United Methodist Church in Greenwood Village. But a growing number are entering nonprofits or creating non-traditional worship, such as holding services in parks or bars.

“If you talk to many of our students, they will say we bring social justice into our education and then train them to be better spiritual leaders who are equipped to lead these critical issues of our time,” Iliff’s Dean Buyong Lee said.

She said too few traditional churches fight racism and homophobia. They’re also not talking about inter-religious relationships, science, gender equality or climate justice.

“To a lot of these young, intelligent, committed people, these are not exclusive things,” Lee said. “It’s part of who they are, it’s part of our life’s journey and it’s part of core elements of our daily life.”

Faculty of activists AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver PostUniversity of Denver retired professor Tink Tinker on Tuesday, May 29, 2018.

In the early 2000s, the Denver Police Department kept files on more than 200 activist groups and more than 3,200 individuals. George “Tink” Tinker, an Iliff professor and leader in the American Indian Movement, had the third largest file.

The school had one, too.

But when the school’s former president told faculty members they didn’t need to worry because the school’s file also was filled with information about Tinker, many were disappointed. “You could see crestfallen faces around the table,” Tinker said.

Iliff has been rooted in progressivism since its founding in 1892, Wolfe said. (It helped that its founder was an avid astronomer who believed in evolution.) But in the 1980s, Iliff shifted from being progressive to putting social justice at the forefront.

The transition came when Tinker and Vincent Harding, a civil rights activist who wrote Martin Luther King Jr.’s Vietnam speech, were hired. Other faculty and alumni helped secure the school’s social justice reputation.

Former professor Charles Milligan was the chairman of the Colorado ACLU and started the Colorado Council to Abolish Capital Punishment. In 2006, the schools’ interim president J. Philip Wogaman wrote an op-ed giving a theological analysis in favor of gay marriage (Colorado voted to ban same-sex marriage that year). New York Times best-selling author Nadia Bolz-Weber founded the House for All Sinners & Saints, a local Lutheran church, while in seminary at Iliff.

Even so, the school has had some egregious missteps.

In the mid-1970s, the school displayed a book bound in the tanned skin of an American Indian. A Methodist minister gave the school the book in 1892. The school eventually worked with the American Indian Movement to dispose of the book and give the person a proper burial.

Iliff was the center of controversy again when its first Latino president David Maldonado was forced to resign in 2004. A United Methodist Church probe found institutional racism and white privilege played a role in his exit, and Iliff took steps to improve its culture.

Tinker, who retired in April, said if he had the chance for a reset, he’d still work at Iliff.

“People still have issues to work on,” he said. “Unlike some schools, Iliff was willing to work on those issues”

Driving the conversation AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver PostUniversity of Denver Iliff School of Theology Dean Boyung Lee on Tuesday, May 29, 2018.

When Boyung Lee was a student, she was stopped by South Korean police who rifled through her backpack, looking for banned books.

Her country was in turmoil. In 1979, President Park Chung-hee was assassinated by his security chief. The next year, a military coup extended martial law and banned political activities.

When Lee got to college, she was recruited by underground activists. At the time, secret police pretended to be university students to arrest activists. After a photo of Lee at a demonstration was sent to either her father or his supervisor, she took her activism behind the scenes.

Lee recalled her student activism while sitting in her Iliff office. She’s the first Asian woman to be the dean of a theological school (“I didn’t want to be another first but…,” she sighed).

When she searched for an administrative job, Lee knew she wasn’t looking for just any school. She wanted to work in a place where the school drives the discussion rather than react in crisis mode. She was hired in 2017.

Wolfe, Iliff’s president, said the school is trying to rethink theological education. That means finding new funding, trying new programs, such as one exploring artificial intelligence, and forging new partnerships, including the addition of a co-working space.

The new initiatives are driven by the bumpy state of higher education but Wolfe takes care to describe the school’s current state.

“It’s not that anything’s failing,” he said. “It’s that a lot of things are changing so institutions have got to change also.”

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Federal report on toxic chemicals, contamination in Boulder County raises new concerns

June 22, 2018 - 6:00am

SECURITY — Colorado residents worried by a federal health agency’s new proposed limits for perfluorinated chemicals and the detection of contaminated water west of Boulder are demanding that state officials to do more to protect people.

A federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry study, which White House officials tried to suppress due to concerns about “a potential public relations nightmare,” proposes minimum risk levels of PFCs that may require water concentration limits tougher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s current health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has relied on that EPA limit as the basis for its own limit after public water utility tests showed that the Fountain Creek watershed south of Colorado Springs is contaminated.

Thousands of people who for years relied on municipal well water in Fountain, Security and Widefield remain frustrated and fearful, said Susan Gordon, leader of the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition.

“This  amplifies our concerns. The standard the CDPHE set is not good enough. We want to see a lower standard, consistent with what the ATSDR is recommending,” Gordon said.

On Thursday, she and other residents gathered at a Security fire station and pressed ATSDR environmental health scientist David Dorian for details.

Security resident Liz Rosenbaum, who started the coalition, said she hoped ATSDR’s more protective posture, compared with the EPA, would spur CDPHE to adopt a 10 ppt water limit for PFCs. “And we want more blood tests,” Rosenbaum said. “We hate being here in the dark.”

Dorian told residents that “hopefully, we can come to some place that is satisfying to the citizenry … where your health is protected.”

Some residents say it is probably too late. “It’s not going to do me any good. It would be for future generations. I already drank the water here for four years. If it is going to do me harm, it is going to do me harm,” said Kallene Casias, a former school principal.

PFCs can cause low birth weight, earlier puberty, diabetes and obesity. Exposure to PFCs also has been linked to cholesterol and liver enzyme problems leading to heart disease. Some research shows PFCs may be linked to kidney and testicular cancer.

CDPHE officials on Thursday declined to discuss the issue. “We are evaluating the information and will modify our approach if it is in the best interest of Colorado,” a statement from the agency said.

Earlier this week, officials with the Sugarloaf Fire Protection District in Boulder County met with residents after water tests around fire stations detected PFCs contamination at levels above the 70 ppt EPA health limit.

This was the first detection of elevated PFCs in the state beyond the area south of Colorado Springs.

PFC contamination of well water around fire stations has been measured at levels as high as 1,200 ppt, Boulder County public health spokeswoman Chana Goussepis said. Sugarloaf fire officials conducted more than a dozen tests in the area, home to about 500 people.

Residents are concerned “about what the level is in their wells. What is the risk to their families?” Goussepis said.

More water testing is planned. “It hasn’t  moved very far, but we haven’t tested all the homes yet,” she said.

The contamination “appears limited to a small area near two fire stations in the mountains seven miles west of Boulder,” a CDPHE statement said. “Our immediate concern is helping the fire district and Boulder County to assist local residents.”

Southern El Paso County has emerged as one of the most populated areas around the nation where utility water tests have detected PFCs at levels higher than the EPA’s limit. Most of those areas are near U.S. Air Force bases where crews use foam containing PFCs to fight fuel fires.

Municipal fire departments nationwide carry foams containing PFCs designed to help douse fuel fires. PFCs also are used in consumer products, including fast-food wrappers. They have emerged as one family in a widening array of synthetic chemicals detected in water that cannot be removed easily due to molecular structures.

EPA and ATSDR officials declined to discuss the new, 852-page  federal “toxic profile” study released this week. An initial draft was done in 2009 and it was updated in 2015. This latest version proposes “minimum risk levels” — the amount a person can ingest each day without problems — for two types of perfluorinated chemicals and toughens the levels for two other types. Congress has charged ATSDR with studying chemicals found at the nation’s environmental disaster sites.

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EPA officials have refused to make agency experts available to discuss PFCs and whether the ATSDR proposals require a stricter water concentration limit. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt recently staged a summit where agency spokespeople said the EPA would “initiate steps to evaluate the need for” setting a limit for some PFCs and begin “the necessary steps to propose designating” two PFCs as official “hazardous substances.” Pruitt could not be reached.

Trump administration officials tried to suppress the ATSDR study, according to news reports based on an email released to the Union of Concerned Scientists, because they feared a “public relations nightmare.”

Public health advocates question whether the EPA is trying to help people or companies that could be held responsible for PFC contamination.

Agency officials are working with state, county and Sugarloaf fire officials to deal with PFCs in wells at levels exceeding the EPA’s limit, agency spokeswoman Lisa McClain-Vanderpool said. This includes guidance on where PFCs may be spreading underground and “in developing a sampling plan,” she said. “We will evaluate any specific requests for additional assistance from CDPHE and local partners.”

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Suspected drug-intoxicated car thieves drive into drainage ditch

June 22, 2018 - 5:42am

The sight of a police car triggers different emotions depending on who you are and what you are doing.

For some, the sight of a Colorado Springs squad car is instant reassurance that someone is looking after their safety and wellbeing.

But others, like Desmond Svendsen and Jacob Williamson, who were parking at 12:59 a.m. Friday in the 400 block of West Garden of the Gods Road in Colorado Springs sitting in a stolen car while allegedly using illegal drugs, have a different reaction.

Suddenly, Falcon Division police officers – tipped off about two guys loitering in a stolen car – drive into view.

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Immediately the driver threw the stolen car into gear and drove directly over a curb and into a “drainage easement, rendering the vehicle immobile,” the police report says.

Police officers – “without further incident” – arrested Svendsen and Williamson for investigation of “a myriad of charges, to include aggravated motor vehicle theft, criminal mischief, and driving under the influence of drugs.”

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Longmont residents petitioning to exempt food bought at grocery stores from city sales tax

June 22, 2018 - 5:31am
(Jeremy Papasso, The Times-CallAlysa Dudrey and her five-year-old daughter Evalyn shop for groceries on Thursday at the King Soopers in Longmont. A petition seeking support for exempting food bought at grocery stores for at-home consumption from Longmont municipal sales taxes was approved by the city clerk’s office for circulation Thursday.

A petition seeking support for exempting food bought at grocery stores for at-home consumption from Longmont municipal sales taxes was approved by the city clerk’s office for circulation Thursday.

Former city council member Sarah Levison and resident Paul Tiger submitted the petition language to the city clerk and now need to gather 5,657 signatures from registered Longmont voters in order to send the tax repeal question to the November municipal ballot.

Neither the state nor Boulder County taxes food purchased for cooking at home, but Longmont’s 3.53 percent sales tax applies to such grocery items.

Denver exempts food items for domestic use from its city sales tax.

“What we’re looking at is compassionate relief for families that are working hard. It should be cheaper to eat at home,” Levison said. “You’re healthy when you eat at home, you’re gathered around the table … and this will promote people having that Sunday dinner together because they can afford to put it on the table.”

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While there is no specific deadline for the petition’s signatures to be returned, none can be given more than 21 days before they are submitted to city clerk Valeria Skitt. She advised petitioners to return their signatures for inspection by the end of July to allow adequate time for her verification process and petitioners to make up for any signatures she deems invalid prior to the November election.

Read the full story on TimesCall.com.

 

 

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Jailed for charging a phone: Under Boulder law, theft of electricity can land citizens in court

June 22, 2018 - 5:30am
Paul Aiken, Daily CameraIsabel Manriquez, of McDevitt Taco Supply, plugs into a city power outlet in the 1300 block of the Pearl Street Mall as she sets up her food cart on Wednesday morning. Manriquez, an authorized mall vendor, says that when other people plug into the same outlet as her food cart it can sometimes overload the circuit.

Gaya Jenkins missed her bus.

She was headed to Denver, to receive treatment for cancer, but now she would have to catch a later ride. While she waited, she decided to charge her phone through one of the outlets in front of the old courthouse on the Pearl Street Mall.

It was a decision that would, nearly a year later, land her in jail.

Jenkins was one of nine people in the past two years to receive a ticket from the Boulder Police Department for using city outlets to charge their phones or other devices. The charge: theft of a public utility.

Cops say those tickets are rare, and officers issue them only if offenders don’t heed warnings. Critics allege police were twisting city and state laws in order to penalize the homeless.

“Charging a phone represents a fraction of a penny in electricity use,” said Darren O’Connor, of Boulder Rights Watch. “To call that stealing is a stretch.”

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Read the full story on DailyCamera.com.

Categories: All Denver News.

Vanishing Rio Grande puts pressure on San Luis Valley farmers during extreme drought

June 22, 2018 - 5:00am

MONTE VISTA — Seldom has the Rio Grande, the nation’s fourth-longest river and the one that nourishes the most drought-prone terrain, flowed so low.

One headwaters tributary curling around the Great Sand Dunes National Park has dried up. The main stem of the Rio Grande probably won’t make it out of Colorado to New Mexico this summer, state water authorities calculate, let alone Texas and Mexico.

The federal government has designated the San Luis Valley, like most of the land along the Rio Grande’s route to the Gulf of Mexico, as in “extreme drought.” And years of gains by farmers ordered to replenish a depleted underground aquifer, the water equivalent of a savings account, may be lost if farmers with wells turn back to pumping to survive.

RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostCleave Simpson at his farm on June 10, 2018 in Alamosa. Smoke from a near by wildfire turns the sky dark over his farm.

“It’s getting scary. We’re a way over-appropriated system,” said alfalfa grower Greg Higel as he stood at the edge of his 9,000 acres by a paltry, ankle-deep flow, shaking his head. He doesn’t have the option of drawing from a well. “We’re going to be out of water in 10 days.”

The pressure hitting food growers along the Rio Grande headwaters in southern Colorado reflects a widening water squeeze that has revealed the precariousness of life across the southwestern United States, where prolonged dry times and climate change increasingly force adaptation.

Exceptionally low snow in the Rocky Mountain region this year, at 37 percent of “normal” atop the Rio Grande River Basin, is playing out in water volumes less than 20 percent of the 120-year average.

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San Luis Valley agricultural leaders warn that the low flows may accelerate a projected loss of 100,000 acres of irrigated land, a fifth of the food production in an area dependent on farming. The low water also is hurting ecosystems, hastening the slide toward extinction of endangered species, including the southwestern willow flycatcher, western yellow-billed cuckoo and Rio Grande silvery minnow.

Another troubled river

These troubles add to the intensifying and more publicized problems in the adjacent Colorado River Basin, where an 18-year trend toward less water strains the growing population of 40 million people who use more each year than what the river provides. Tensions flared this year when Arizona officials planned to siphon more water faster from the Lake Mead reservoir.

The North American Atmospheric Administration this week issued a forecast estimating that upper Colorado River Basin flows into Lake Powell reservoir will be 39 percent of average, compelling completion of drought-response plans in seven states. Federal restrictions on recreational fishing have been imposed in some areas to help species survive. The Colorado River Research Group of scientists recently concluded that increasing temperatures from climate change are converting a vast western area to “likely permanent aridity.”

“The overall point is that river flows are being affected by climate change. We can expect lower flows than the historical average going forward. We need to prepare for that,” said former U.S. interior secretary for water and science Anne Castle, a senior fellow at the University of Colorado.

Southern Colorado, including the San Luis Valley, stands out — with water flows in the Gunnison, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel rivers all less than half of average this year — among the fastest-changing areas.

“Our farming economy, the agricultural heritage of Colorado, is something we want to maintain. We don’t want to lose our agriculture. It is part of what our state is, our way of life. We will need to be more creative in how we use and share water,” Castle said. “When flows go low, the sectors most at risk are farmers, the tribes and ecosystems. We cannot just let these sectors take a hit. We have to get out ahead of this.”

RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostThe Rio Grande River snakes along the valley near Alamosa, Colorado on June 12, 2018. Flight for aerial photos was provided by Eco Flight.

A struggle to survive on less water increasingly grips farmers here.

Colorado Department of Natural Resources water engineer Craig Cotton, based in Alamosa, recently looked over San Luis Valley irrigation ditches during a Water Education Foundation forum and said farmers “are pretty much going to take all the flow of the Conejos River and the Rio Grande this year.” (The Conejos flows into the Rio Grande.)

Water that Colorado owes to downriver New Mexico and Texas — set under the Rio Grande Compact that allocates shares, which are reduced during dry years — already was delivered during winter when farmers weren’t irrigating, Cotton said. “And from an administrative standpoint, Colorado is entitled to take pretty much all of the river system this year.”

Yet the water flows within Colorado are sinking so low that even this ability to drain the river brings little comfort.

One recent morning, alfalfa hay grower Cleave Simpson, who serves as general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, checked levels at the measuring station near Del Norte used for compact accounting and administration of local priority-based water rights.

Simpson saw a reading of 630 cubic feet per second, only 18 percent of the 3,500 cfs that has been the average flow over 120 years.

“What’s going through my mind?” Simpson said. “I have a junior water right here on the Rio Grande. This time of year, I normally have water available to irrigate my crops. As of two weeks ago, that water supply was cut off. How do I manage?”

Like many people, Simpson has access to wells drilled into Rio Grande headwaters alluvial sediment. But he has avoided tapping this source. “I can pump groundwater, but there are consequences of us continuing to overdraft our aquifers,” he said.

Tapping the aquifer

Decades of overpumping to get through periodic dry times by switching from surface to groundwater connected to the Rio Grande now compounds farmers’ difficulties.

The tapping of groundwater that enabled survival in a harsh environment — only 7 inches of rain fall a year on average in the San Luis Valley, temperatures swing from 90 degrees to minus 20 and wind scours at sparse natural vegetation and sweeps through weak soils — cannot legally continue. New Mexico and Texas cried foul when they found less water in the river, then took legal action. Colorado now is obligated to replenish the aquifer within 20 years, and state lawmakers ordered sustainable use of the aquifer — the only groundwater in Colorado that is regulated this way.

Rather than rely on the state to control pumping, the farmers since 2012 have been setting their own limits. They’ve imposed fees that discourage pumping groundwater. Over the past three years, state records show a stabilization with farmers leaving significantly more water in the ground.

But this year, the low snow and meager surface flows in the Rio Grande are pressuring farmers to draw down the aquifer again.

Simpson urged restraint. “We know we’re not sustainable where we are at, and if we were to continue down that path, … we can pump out water to the bottom of the aquifer and eventually we will lose 300,000 acres of irrigated land instead of 100,000 acres. Or we can manage our water withdrawals,” he said. “The world is not stagnant. You’ve got to accept change. You cannot continue the way it historically was. We will see more effort around tourism, wildlife and recreationalism.”

RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostCleave Simpson at his farm on June 10, 2018 in Alamosa. Simpson is worried about water shortage in the area and was not able to plant alfalfa in all the fields that he normally plants in due to a lack of irrigation water.

Yet many farmers and state officials reckon aquifer depletion this summer is inevitable, forced by the changing climate.

“Usually, this time of year, we see water running at 1,500 cfs to 1,800 cfs in this river,” said alfalfa farmer Nathan Coombs of Manassa, chairman of the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, walking along the Conejos. “We’ve got about 250 cfs, all from snowpack. Rains won’t affect it significantly. We don’t get that kind of precipitation, so when there’s no water from snowpack, water isn’t there. And our dependence on groundwater goes up.”

Coombs and Simpson said the dry times mean they will grow less hay this year, and they hope for rising prices, now at $260 a ton, to ease an economic bludgeoning.

Experimentation is increasing.

At Rockey Farms, north of Center, growers have shifted from planting a cash crop mix of potatoes and barley to leafy legume and grass “cover crops” designed to enrich soil. By doing this, manager Brendon Rockey has cut his irrigation in half and stopped using synthetic chemicals — leading to a more profitable operation. Less water can be used to grow more, he said, pointing out that agriculture in Colorado and the West still consumes 85 percent of the available water.

“Fear creates change. It is going to drive us to make positive changes. Not enough has changed yet,” Rockey said. “I don’t want people to go broke. I don’t want people to leave this community in order for some of us to keep farming. We want to have a community where we all can grow. But that’s going to take some drastic changes.

“When you look at agriculture now, we’re very inefficient in our water use.There’s so much room for improvement. Soil is the first step. If we can improve the soil, we can improve how it functions with water.”

Discontent downriver

Meanwhile, discontent festers downriver, despite the compact that locks in each state’s share of Rio Grande water.

That compact, finalized in 1938, ignores environmental needs. And this year, the low flows along headwaters already have led to a dry-up of the Rio Grande through sensitive stretches south of Albuquerque, hastening the demise of the silvery minnow, one of the nation’s most endangered fish.

“Climate change is exposing the flaws in our system, and these low flows are showing that we cannot continue to allocate water the way we do,” said Jan Pelz, an attorney for WildEarth Guardians, which has filed a lawsuit against Colorado and New Mexico under the Endangered Species Act seeking reduced human use to save species. “Farmers have been given the right to water. But the river does not have any right to water. And when a river does not have water, the trees, the ecosystems, do not receive water. If there’s another dry year, we will have a critical situation on our hands.”

Others, too, suggest adjusting shares of water in the future. Mexico is entitled, under the compact, to 60,000 acre-feet a year that it has not claimed. While the compact remains a binding contract, farmers increasingly sense the changing conditions and brace for challenges, Coombs said. “You’d be crazy not to.”

This year, three unresolved interstate water conflicts, including one between Texas and New Mexico over Rio Grande water, reached the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s unusual, legal experts said, reflecting rising tensions around water as the nation’s population expands.

State Sen. Larry Crowder, who represents counties in southern Colorado, said agricultural communities are all concerned about the dry times.

“Our snowpack is hurting us this year. If we can get back to a normal snowpack, we will be OK. We used to have some tough winters. But winters have become milder. And we have had multiple droughts,” Crowder said.

He added: “Nobody here wants to see that compact opened up. Texas has a lot more money than we do to fight.”

The impact on farmers cut back reverberates from town to town.

“Everybody is just holding their breath. The river flow is coming pretty close to ending. You can see how everything is so brown. It should be green right now. We worry about fires. It is a lot of nervousness. There is a sadness. There’s a lot of unknowns. When there are unknowns, there’s discomfort,” said longtime resident Cindy Medina, who runs a local “water keeper” group that has fought for valley water interests since the 1980s, when American Water Development Inc. pushed a plan to export water to Front Range cities, including creek contamination from a toxic mine that required a federal Superfund cleanup.

At a river conference last year, Medina heard from a colleague in New Mexico how Colorado farmers “are hogging the water” of the Rio Grande. The friend wanted to confront San Luis Valley farmers about “keeping all the water to themselves.”

“I told her, ‘That’s not going to go very well,’ ” Medina said, noting the ferocity of those past water battles. “It all depends on how much snow falls.

“When you grow up in this area, these ranchers and farmers are your neighbors. We may not all get along all the time, but when somebody comes in and tries to take our water, we are instantly together.”

Categories: All Denver News.

Denver Sports Omelette: It’s Vader’s time to enter the WWE Hall of Fame. The case for CU Buff turned pro wrestler to be inducted.

June 22, 2018 - 5:00am

When it comes to Big Van Vader being inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame, let me quote his catchphrase: “It’s time. It’s time! It’s Vader time!”

Born Leon White, the former Colorado Buffaloes star offensive lineman turned legendary pro wrestler died Monday. He was 63.

Billed at 6-foot-5 and 450 pounds, White became one of the biggest monsters in the world of pro wrestling, wreaking havoc throughout his runs with New Japan Pro-Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling.

While White’s run in the WWE was, honestly, forgettable, his body of work extends far beyond that. He became the first non-Japanese wrestler to earn the IWGP Heavyweight Championship — a title he held on three separate occasions. With WCW, he became a three-time World Heavyweight Champion, feuding with storied performers like Sting, Ric Flair and Mick Foley.

In the ring, he had one of the most impressive finishing moves for a man his size: The Vadersault, a back-flip from the top rope onto his opponent. Think about it, a 400-plus-pound man doing that. “Your head is 16 feet in the air looking down into the crowd. … And then you have to do a flip, backward, onto somebody without killing them,” White said in an interview with Kayfabe Commentaries.

The WWE Hall of Fame has become so much more than what performers have done within the company. Hall of famers such as Sting, Diamond Dallas Page and Goldberg all built their names in WCW. The Von Erichs made their names in Texas. Vader was one of the best big men in pro-wrestling history and deserved to have been inducted ahead of performers like Hillbilly Jim, Rikishi and Koko B. Ware.

WWE, make this right: Make Vader the first inductee for the Class of 2019.

Joe Nguyen, The Denver Post

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TV/RADIO: Here’s what sports are airing today

Scoreboard

MLB: Rockies 6, Mets 4
Full story | Box score

World Cup: Denmark 1, Australia 1
Full story

World Cup: France 1, Peru 0
Full story

World Cup: Croatia 3, Argentina 0
Full story

Must-Read Mike Stobe, Getty ImagesMichael Porter Jr. Kiszla: Nuggets get steal of NBA draft in Michael Porter, provided he can bend over to tie his sneakers

The Nuggets got the steal of the NBA draft in Michael Porter Jr. There wasn’t another draft prospect from the entire United States with more game than this 6-foot-10 forward. He’s 20 points per night waiting to happen. Read more…

Mike Stobe, Getty ImagesNBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Michael Porter Jr. Michael Porter Jr. selected by Denver Nuggets with No. 14 overall pick in NBA draft

Michael Porter Jr. took the biggest tumble in the NBA draft. Read more…

David Zalubowski, The Associated PressYenoy Almonte. Journal: Yency Almonte makes flashy major league debut with critical relief appearance in Rockies’ win over Mets

“I was too nervous — real nervous,” Almonte said. “(Manager) Bud Black came to me, handed me the ball and my heart was pounding. He was like, ‘Yency, you all right?’ And I was like,  ‘Yeah, I just need some water.’” Read more…

Quick Hits

+ No. 1 Sun: Phoenix takes Ayton; Trae Young, Doncic swapped

Avalanche enters NHL draft with eight selections, but possibly nine

+ Journal: Yency Almonte makes flashy major league debut with critical relief appearance in Rockies’ win over Mets

Colorado Avalanche 2018-19 regular season schedule announced

Meet the Pueblo Owlz. Minor League Baseball team owner to move club to Colorado.

Denver Nuggets acquire Jarred Vanderbilt by swapping second-round draft picks with Orlando Magic

+ Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon named to 2017-18 NHL’s second all-star team

Bound to be selected in the NHL draft, Slava Demin headlines DU’s incoming freshman class

+ Rockies farm update: Antonio Senzatela scheduled for Saturday start in Triple-A, Garrett Hampson keeps impressing and more

Colorado Classic announces men’s teams for this summer’s tour

By The Numbers

$18.1 million

Denver Broncos sign rookie Bradley Chubb to four-year contract

Per the NFL’s slotting system, Chubb’s four-year contract is expected to be worth a fully guaranteed $27.5 million, including a $18.1 million signing bonus. Read more…

Parting Shot Rich Schultz, Getty ImagesPhillie Phanatic. Philadelphia Phillies fan injured by flying hot dog launched by Phanatic

It was a flying frankfurter and not a foul ball that left a baseball fan with a black eye in Philadelphia. Read more…

Get in Touch

If you see something that’s cause for question or have a comment, thought or suggestion, email me at dboniface@denverpost.com or tweet me @danielboniface.

Categories: All Denver News.

A Boulder company fighting Chinese knockoffs points to little-known culprit: China can ship packages for $1.42

June 22, 2018 - 5:00am

It all started when a steel ball and magnet became one of the more effective ways to prop up a smartphone back in 2012. The Steelie phone holder was just a newborn from a machine shop in Boulder. The little magnet and ball inspired hundreds, possibly thousands, of similar products — one might call them knockoffs — and created loads of legal work for the Colorado company behind the ball, Nite Ize.

From fending off poorly made copies to battling imitators that ripped off the Steelie brand name and packaging, Nite Ize went into whack-a-mole mode trying to keep up with products online that infringed on its intellectual property. Its latest weapon, a special International Trade Commission order directing U.S. Customs agents to seize offending products at the border, went into effect in late April and has resulted in Amazon taking down 381 items in a few short weeks.

But the ultimate solution will take the world to fix: Changing the nearly 150-year-old Universal Postal Union rule that allows countries like China to ship a small package of up 4.4 pounds to America for approximately $1.42.  Using those cheap rates, Chinese companies are able to put their smartphone holders in consumers’ hands for far less than Nite Ize can.

“It’s easy for people to go to Amazon and feel like they get a relative value for a (competing) product especially if it looks the same. But that (seller) has sideswiped all our intellectual property and research and development,” said Rick Case, who founded Nite Ize in 1989 with a headband flashlight strap. “… And with China Post, they’re shipping direct from China to the consumer for a dollar. That’s not within the bounds of what any viable company is able to do.”

With the Trump administration and its allies accusing China of a litany of unfair trade practices, Nite Ize has joined the chorus of American companies saying the inequities are as basic as the cost of postage.

Nite Ize is doing what it can to promote awareness of the century-old Universal Postal Union, which was established by the Treaty of Bern in 1874 to create a flat rate to send letters between countries. Developing countries received a discount. But according to the National Association of Manufacturers, China is still considered a developing country so letters and packages sent from China to a U.S. address cost the seller $1.42, said Patrick Hedren, the association’s Vice President for Labor, Legal & Regulatory Policy.

“The only possible way to talk to your grandmother in Italy (in the 1800s) was to send a letter. That’s clearly not the same now,” Hedren said. “…It’s unfair and discriminates between operators and domestic shippers. We’re not the only country facing this problem. It’s driving Sweden and Canada nuts.”

Fake or a copy?

Counterfeit and knockoff products have long been part of the American economy. The former is a duplicate that pretends to be a brand; the latter is a copy that doesn’t purport to be the same brand. For the better part of the last century, imitators were more inclined to knock off luxury goods like pricey handbags or designer drugs that made the effort financially worthwhile — think of the caricature of a back-alley vendor hawking “genuine” Rolodex watches.

The rise of online marketplaces like Amazon has made it easier for all items, luxury or not, to find their way into American homes. Of course, online marketplaces have also created a place where small businesses with innovative products can thrive and reach global customers.

Nite Ize itself considers Amazon one of its largest partners that has helped it sell hundreds of products. Not all come from Case’s brain. The company acquired the Steelie patents from creator Frank Vogel, who successfully crowdfunded the product in 2012 and now receives royalties on sales. 

Protecting innovative ideas yet enabling them to inspire others is also a “modern practice,” said George Lewis, a Denver patent and trademark lawyer at Merchant & Gould.

“We call it designing around other people’s patents,” Lewis said. “Above board companies do it all the time. That’s one of the purposes of patents — to innovate around it. I may try to improve the product or change it so that it’s better and then get people to buy mine without infringing on your patent rights. That’s perfectly legal.”

While companies like Amazon take down items that are blatant copyrights or trademark infringements, it’s up to the brand to notify Amazon about violators. For patent violators, Amazon requires a court order, which is not easy to get if the offender is some stranger in a foreign country.

“It’s very hard to serve them (a foreign violator) paperwork. It’s another thing to have them show up in court. Now multiply that by hundreds and hundreds of times,” said Case, whose legal team had submitted 256 items before April and Amazon removed 149. “I think one feels like, ‘What do we do?’ We’re a U.S. company. We follow U.S. patent protocol. Years ago, this worked. This process worked. Our court system upheld this and supported intellectual property.”

Amazon has stepped up its tools to help brands monitor infringement. The company offers a “Brand Registry” portal to make it easier to report violators. It even added a spot to submit offenders of a brand’s International Trade Commission orders. Since April, Amazon updated the number of companies that have joined this effort by 50 percent, to 60,000 brands and those brands “on average are finding and reporting 99 percent fewer suspected infringements than before the launch of Brand Registry,” the company said in an email to The Denver Post.

“Our customers trust that when they make a purchase through Amazon’s store — either directly from Amazon or from one of its millions of third-party sellers — they will receive authentic products, and we take any claims that endanger that trust seriously. We strictly prohibit the sale of counterfeit products and invest heavily — both funds and company energy — to ensure our policy against the sale of such products is followed,” Amazon said.

While offline retailers take responsibility for items sold since they buy them from manufacturers, online marketplaces like Amazon don’t own the third-party products, and so they don’t have the same liability, pointed out Lewis. And an online marketplace doesn’t want to remove an item without a court order because it doesn’t want to be the judge, he said.

“Amazon doesn’t know if you made it or not. They’re not going to be the arbitrator,” he said. “But it’s been discouraging for midsize and small innovators like Nite Ize. …The reason why we’re so innovative is we reward our innovators. They get a patent on it that they know will last for 20 years and they can make money off it. … If you spend the time and money to create a market, China will always be able to outsell. They didn’t have to create the market and pretty soon, you go out of business because you can’t recoup the money. That’s what happens when there is no intellectual property.”

Counterfeit goods and the postal system

The value and amount of counterfeit items seized at U.S. borders has shifted, according to U.S. Homeland Security report for 2017 on seizure statistics. While the value went down slightly in 2017 from the prior year to $1.2 billion, the number of patent and copyright-infringing seizures grew 8 percent to 34,143. The report didn’t include packages mailed to U.S. citizens. But it did mention that e-commerce sales through third-party platforms “resulted in a sharp increase in small packages into the U.S.” and “89 percent of all IPR seizures take place in the international mail and express environments.”

While American consumers may get items mailed cheaply from China, returning a package to a Chinese seller doesn’t get the same rate, making returns much more expensive. The National Association of Manufacturers is pushing for the postal service to share data on the shapes of the packages sent and how many are sent per country. Right now, the U.S. Postal Service only shares data on all inbound international mail.

Last year, that was 658.8 million pieces of international inbound mail, up 6 percent from the prior year, according to U.S. Postal Service. Earlier years were unavailable. Another thing it shares: losses. USPS lost $97.9 million on inbound international mail in 2015. That grew 34 percent the next year to a loss of $134.5 million. In 2017, it lost $170 million, according to the Postal Regulatory Commission’s annual compliance reports.

By eliminating the discount to Chinese sellers, the hope is that U.S. shoppers will skip the pricier shipping and opt for the real thing. Ultimately, that would discourage illegitimate foreign sellers.

“There are many ways you can play whack-a-mole by trying to stop this on a case-by-case basis. But it’s not successful,” said Hedren, with NAM. “That’s why we’ve been focused on this very strange, esoteric postal issue that not only enables this but makes it very profitable (for knockoffs). The U.S. Postal Service is hugely subsidizing Chinese counterfeits and even drugs. It’s a mind-boggling consequence of a system that’s been around for more than 100 years.”

The Postal Service, heavily criticized recently by President Donald Trump for giving Amazon shipping discounts, said this is an issue it can’t control. It has repeatedly recommended a more realistic rate, according to documents filed with the U.S. Government Accountability Office report to Congress last October.

“The characterizations of ‘steep postal discounts’ under a ‘century old treaty’ are incorrect,” the postal agency said in a statement. “…The Postal Service does not set these rates, but is bound by them. The State Department and the other UPU member nations have negotiated stepped annual increases in terminal dues that establish the default terminal dues rates that China and other countries must pay, thereby providing progressively higher rate benchmarks for tracked packages for the coming years.”

Some legislators are also paying attention and are pushing for changes. In April, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy from Louisiana and Texas Congressman Kenny Marchant introduced separate bills to end the Postal Service’s practice to subsidize inbound international shipments.Those are still winding their way through the system.

“If you have ever bought stamps or shipped a package through the mail, you’re also footing part of the bill for inbound packages from China,” Marchant said in a statement. “The United States Postal Service is subsidizing inbound packages from foreign countries and sticking American ratepayers with the tab. To the detriment of small businesses in my district and their customers, it is often cheaper to ship a package from China to anywhere in the United States than to mail a package from one North Texas city to another.”

At Nite Ize, while the International Trade Commission order has helped it more quickly clamp down on infringing online products, Chief Legal Officer Clint Todd said it will continue to be a daily battle of finding offenders online. But he hopes that if postal rates change for Chinese shippers, then consumers will see and respond to the actual  price to ship counterfeit products from China.

“I’m trying to mention it every time we talk to someone who’s interested in our ITC order,” Todd said. “It’s something contributing to the problem overall. Your taxpayer dollars are paying for the subsidy that is helping destroy U.S. companies and U.S. jobs. This needs to be out there. Everyone who hears about it is similarly appalled.”

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Categories: All Denver News.