Monthly Archive September 2018

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Service calls increase but budget shrinks for Greater Eagle Fire Protection District

EAGLE — Statistics compiled by the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District reflect a number of upward trends.
For instance, three years ago, the average amount of time firefighters spent on a call was 42 minutes. In 2018, the average number has jumped to 166 minutes. Back in 2016, only 13.2 percent of the time were firefighters called out to multiple emergencies at the same time. This year, that happened 34.2 percent of the time.
Coming off one of the busiest wildfire seasons in recent years, just about every department statistic has seen significant growth. But one department measure has actually dropped — the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District’s annual budget.

Back in 2010, the district’s annual budget was $2.9 million. In 2018, the budget is $2.2 million. The reason why can be traced to Colorado’s complicated Gallagher Amendment.
Approved by Colorado voters in 1982, the Gallagher Amendment governs the way homes are appraised for property tax purposes. It mandates that the amount of property taxes collected on residential properties must be lower than the amount of property taxes collected on nonresidential property. Specifically, Gallagher stipulates that residential property taxes reflect 45 percent of the state’s total property tax revenue. Nonresidential property taxes comprise the other 55 percent.
Read the full story on vaildaily.com.

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CU Boulder to host international human rights hearings at law school

Cliff Grassmick, Daily CameraStudents walk from the Hill to campus at the University of Colorado in Boulder in September.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is set to hold hearings at the University of Colorado this week, the first time the hearings have been held in the U.S. outside of Washington, D.C.
The University of Colorado Law School will host the hearings, which will cover a broad range of issues and human rights cases. The hearings will address the use of fracking in the Americas; reports of killings, disappearances and multiple forms of discrimination against indigenous communities and indigenous women in Alaska; the identification of remains of migrants who disappeared along the U.S. border; and voting rights for Puerto Ricans — as well as a host of issues in other countries in the hemisphere.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Boulder community more generally,” law school Dean S. James Anaya said. “It’s extraordinary to have hearings of this type outside of not just the headquarters of the Inter-American Commission, but outside of the major population centers of any country in the world.”
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The commission, headquartered in Washington, D.C., “holds several sessions a year, an opportunity that brings together hundreds of human rights defenders from the region, as well as state delegations constituted by high-level human rights officials, academics, among others,” according to a commission news release.
Anaya said that in recent years, commission officials have begun scheduling sessions outside the U.S., and now in Boulder, as a broader effort of outreach and education about the work they do and the issues they address. After discussions, he formally invited them to hold the hearings in Boulder.
Read the full story on dailycamera.com.

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With NL West hanging in balance on final day, DJ LeMahieu exudes Rockies’ confidence: “This is a group of winners.”

Prior to Game No. 162 on Sunday at Coors Field, with the NL West title up for grabs and the Rockies’ postseason seeding still murky, Colorado second baseman DJ LeMahieu stood in the home clubhouse and exuded a quiet wisdom for the final time this regular season.
Throughout the roller-coaster that has led to Colorado to this point — tied at 90-71 with the Dodgers atop the division — the Rockies have demonstrated a remarkable trend of resiliency that the two-time all-star expects to translate to crunch time.
“We’ve played really well this year, and we’ve played hard to be where we’re at,” LeMahieu said. “I think in our mind, there’s a lot to do yet. Hopefully we can finish strong.”
Sunday’s affair against Washington could very well be LeMahieu’s last regular season game at Coors Field as a Colorado player, considering his contract is up at the end of the year and there have been no discussions between he and the front office on a new deal.
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But the second baseman isn’t thinking at all about the bittersweetness of a playoff season that will likely be the last of his eight-year career in LoDo. Instead, he and his teammates’ focus is on “taking the situation of (Sunday’s) game away, and playing like we’ve been playing for a couple weeks now.”
“It seems like we’ll have a tough series or whatever, a tough stretch, and we’ll always come back stronger,” LeMahieu said. “That’s how it’s been all year. This is a group of winners, honestly, it’s a group of winners that keeps coming back. When our back’s against the wall, we play our best. I don’t expect that to change.”

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Crash closes U.S. 24 northeast of Colorado Springs

A crash on U.S. 24 northeast of Colorado Springs has closed the highway in both directions, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
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The crash between Brookings Drive and Garrett Road is causing traffic delays for traffic traveling between Colorado Springs and Falcon.
The department did not have an estimated time when the highway would reopen.

US 24: Crash between Brookings Dr and Garrett Rd (Colorado Springs). Full closure. No estimated time of reopening. Use caution and expect delays
— CDOT (@ColoradoDOT) September 30, 2018

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Texas couple climbed 12,923-foot Colorado mountain. He proposed. Then they got lost.

Joshua Mason wanted to find a scenic, remote location to propose to his girlfriend. He wanted a place where they could be alone.
He may have been too successful.
Mason and his girlfriend, Katie Davis, flew from Denton, Texas, to Denver on Friday for a mountain escape. The couple set out about noon Saturday from the 4th of July trailhead northwest of Nederland on Saturday to summit Jasper Peak, a 12,923-foot mountain on the Continental Divide west of Boulder, according to a news release from the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office.
Along the hike, Mason found the perfect spot and popped the question. Davis accepted.
Then the happy couple embarked on the first ordeal in their hours-old engagement.
The sun set and the couple soon became lost — there is no well-marked trail to Jasper Peak, according to the release. Mason and Davis were disoriented and did not have enough water or equipment to stay warm as temperatures fell. Altitude sickness and severe dehydration started to set in.
Luckily, a lone hiker found the wandering couple and took them back to Diamond Lake, where he and some friends were camping. The campers gave them food and water and let them stay in a tent to warm up.
One of the campers hiked the two miles in the dark back to her car at the trailhead. She then drove to Nederland and, at 2:08 a.m. Sunday, called 911.
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Boulder County Sheriff’s Deputies, the Nederland Fire Protection District and the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group responded to the call. A Nederland Fire paramedic found the Diamond Lake camp at 4:30 a.m. and escorted the couple back to the trailhead with the help of the rescue group. Both Mason and Davis were uninjured, though a bit shaken.
Mason acknowledged to the rescue team that he didn’t allow enough time to complete the hike and didn’t carry enough food or water.
But did the engagement survive the misadventure?
“Deputies determined that the couple’s engagement was still on, despite the memorable ordeal,” the news release states.

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Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 letters: teen accountability, tax cuts, leftism

Don’t hold mistakes against teens (within reason)
Re: “The perils of politicizing adolescence,” Sept. 28 column
Now we know Krista Kafer will never be nominated for the Supreme Court. But to her point, I do think there can be some dangers to thinking that stupid actions and poor choices as teenagers should be held against individuals into adulthood — poor choices is how one becomes a better adult.
But, there are some things to consider with this situation.
First, the complaint against Kavanaugh is assault … not a minor issue. Then there are the substantial background issues — first the obvious fact of a stolen Supreme Court seat by the Republicans last year — denying a vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee.
And of course there is the man who nominated Kavanaugh. Trump has created a poisoned atmosphere of abuse of power, abuse of women, abuse of opposition … this is the foundation that this nomination is built upon.
In this Era of President DonaldTrump, it’s no wonder that this nomination has gotten ugly. If it had not been Kavanaugh’s teenage years, it likely would have been something else.
Dallas Cox, Lakewood

Krista Kafer’s column in Friday’s Denver Post on politicizing adolescence merely confirms my belief that she is your best opinion writer. She is consistently insightful, intelligent and sensible without ever resorting to hyperbole.
William C. Rense, Estes Park

Krista Kafer is right to point out that we should and do treat teenagers differently under the law than adults due to teens’ underdeveloped capacities. But that doesn’t mean they are completely absolved either. In the case of Brett Kavanuagh, if the accusations against him are true, we can still judge him with consideration of his age at the time of his behavior. More importantly, if the accusations are true, we can also judge him as a fifty-three-year-old supreme court nominee who has lied to us.
Valerie Klemme, Louisville

Not a tax cut for everyone
Re: “GOP stunned by tax cut response,” Sept. 25 commentary
Paul Waldman’s essay “GOP stunned by tax cut response” is entirely misleading. He argues that the tax cuts enacted for 2018 benefit the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.
As a wealthy retiree, I can tell you that taxes on people such as myself are significantly higher for 2018 vs. 2017, about 50 percent in my case. However, if you are a person of moderate income that is renting, you benefit by having the standard deduction raised and your tax rate decreased, resulting in a lower tax bill.
Corporations certainly benefit as their tax rates were substantially lowered. The stated purpose of this lowering was to eliminate the incentive for corporations to relocate operations outside of the USA and to make it less costly for them to bring back to the USA large amounts of cash held off-shore. It’s too early to pass judgement on this action.
If your goal is to heap scorn on the Republican congress, then direct the scorn at the misleading nature of calling the 2018 tax changes a “tax cut”. It has not been a tax cut for everybody.
John Norsworthy, Colorado Springs

Leftism vs. liberalism
There is a misconception that the Democratic Party is the home for liberals. Sadly, the Democratic Party is anything but liberal. Liberalism demands freedom of thought and speech. The Democratic Party is controlled by those who support the squelching of free speech. The Democratic Party is the party of identity politics, hate speech, safe spaces, trigger warnings, and sleazy allegations. The Democratic Party puts you into a group and if you don’t think, speak, and vote the “correct” way for your group, you are publicly attacked, lied about, and ostracized. The Democratic Party is the party of leftism, not liberalism, and leftism is destroying liberty in the western world. If you consider yourself a liberal and you disagree with me, do some research for yourself. There are many liberals who have rejected leftism who publish online, and they are routinely attacked for their divergence from the groupthink.
Kurtis Cecil, Lakewood
To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by email or mail.

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Friday, Sept. 28, 2018 letters: SCOTUS voting, red-light cameras, seeking aid, political ads, a worldly view

Increase majority vote for Supreme Court nominees
Lately we have had our attention on the selection of a Supreme Court justice.
Sadly, the U.S. Supreme Court has become politicized. Issues are decided based solely on party affiliation rather than applying the laws of the land and determining what is right and just.
A simple fix to this problem would be to require a two-thirds majority in the Senate for confirmation of the justices, along with term limits rather than lifetime appointments.
John Stiles, Centennial

Voters should give red-light cameras the green light
Automated enforcement saves lives on the roadways. In Colorado, fatalities increased 16 percent from 2015 to 2017, and crashes affect nearly everyone. Enforcing safety laws should be a priority to end this cycle of death. Since law enforcement cannot be at every intersection, technology can help.
With the upcoming Aurora ballot initiative on red light cameras, the National Safety Council strongly supports the continued use of this critical technology. We ask that Aurora voters keep red-light cameras because they make roads safer for drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists. In Aurora the number of violations issued decreased in 12 of 14 intersections with red-light cameras between 2016 and 2017, indicating drivers are more cautious than in the past; this is a very good sign.
Aurora will vote on red-light cameras when they receive their ballots in mid-October. We hope voters will continue to support technology that saves lives.
Deborah A.P. Hersman, Itasca, Il.
Editor’s note: Hersman is president and CEO of the National Safety Council and the former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Aid shouldn’t prevent status
No one should ever have to choose between seeking medical care and staying in this country. But that is exactly the situation many people will find themselves in if proposed changes to U.S. immigration policy are permitted to proceed.
According to the new changes, a person can be denied permanent residency if they have been a recipient of Medicaid, SNAP (formerly food stamps), federal housing assistance, or other anti-poverty programs. This is just plain wrong.
I hope members of Congress will stand up against any policy changes that cut families off from medical care, and nutrition and housing assistance.
Joan Glasser, Boulder

Too much error-time for ads
My, the political TV ads are fast, furious, and nasty. There are claims that are obviously only partly true or outright lies, messages paid for by anonymous donors.
We are starting to demand Facebook, etc. clean up fake news and propaganda. Is it too much to ask TV stations (who are making a bundle) to refuse to run ads that are false and misleading?
Airing those just totally undercuts the fine investigative news reporting most of our Denver stations do.
Richard Q. Opler, Parker

A global approach is better
Centuries of nationalism, sovereignty, and “go-it-aloneness” around the world has had devastating consequences including wars, whole populations without a “home,” widespread inhumanity, disease, and environmental damage.
President Donald Trump’s eyes are apparently blind to this history.
Our world has been a better place and will continue to be by nations joining together to tackle the hard global problems.
Trump’s rhetoric is an insult to our collective memory and intelligence.
We are “Better Together!”
Chris Stock, Denver
To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by email or mail.

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Fog expected to dissipate just in time for a sunny Rockies game

Dense patches of fog settled in across the Front Range Sunday morning, though the fog is expected to dissipate later as the sun begins to peek through the clouds in the early afternoon.

The fog is expected to clear by 11 a.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service in Boulder. Temperatures could reach 69 degrees later in the day an the sky will likely remain partly cloudy — a perfect mixture for the afternoon Rockies game.
Temperatures are expected to creep back into the low 80s Monday through Wednesday before a chance of storms Thursday will bring cooler weather back to Denver again.

Foggy start to the morning in southeast Aurora #cowx @theDenverChannel pic.twitter.com/6FWUwwaQbM
— April Schildmeyer (@Aschildmeyer) September 30, 2018

A look outside from our Viaero Camera near DIA @Viaero @Denverchannel #cowx pic.twitter.com/xz5ajJm5Vp
— Stacey Donaldson (@staceydonaldson) September 30, 2018

Pea soup fog on I-70 near Limon, CO. #cowx pic.twitter.com/5IriazXXP0
— Chris McBee (@McBeeWX) September 30, 2018

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America should do away with the death penalty

Without being aware of it, Vernon Madison might become a footnote in constitutional law because he is barely aware of anything. For more than 30 years, Alabama, with a tenacity that deserves a better cause, has been trying to execute him for the crime he certainly committed, the 1985 murder of a police officer. Twice the state convicted him unconstitutionally (first excluding African-Americans from the jury, then insinuating inadmissible evidence into the record). In a third trial the judge, who during his time on the bench overrode more life sentences (six) than any other Alabama judge, disregarded the jury’s recommended sentence of life imprisonment and imposed the death penalty.
The mills of justice grind especially slowly regarding capital punishment, which courts have enveloped in labyrinthine legal protocols. As the mills have ground on, life has ground Madison, 68, down to wreckage. After multiple serious strokes, he has vascular dementia, an irreversible and progressive degenerative disease. He also is legally blind, his speech is slurred, he has Type 2 diabetes and chronic hypertension, he cannot walk unassisted, he has dead brain tissue and urinary incontinence.
And he no longer remembers the crime that put him on death row for most of his adult life. This is why on Tuesday the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about the constitutionality of executing him.
His counsel of record, Bryan A. Stevenson, head of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., says that it was undisputed in the penalty phase of Madison’s third trial that he already “suffered from a mental illness marked by paranoid delusions.” Stevenson says that Madison, who has been mentally ill since adolescence and who over the years had been prescribed “numerous psychotropic medications,” cannot remember “numerous events” of the past 30 years, including “events from the offense to his arrest or to his trial,” and cannot remember the name of the police officer he shot.
The mere phrasing of the matter at issue — whether Madison is “competent to be executed” — induces moral vertigo. A unanimous three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that Madison lacks the requisite competence because he lacks understanding of the connection between his crime and his execution. The question before the Supreme Court is whether executing Madison would violate the Eighth Amendment’s proscription of “cruel and unusual punishments.”
The court has said that “we may seriously question the retributive value of executing a person who has no comprehension of why he has been singled out and stripped of his fundamental right to life.” For many people, the death penalty for especially heinous crimes satisfies a sense of moral symmetry. Retribution — society’s cathartic expression of a proportional response to attacks on its norms — is not, however, the only justification offered for capital punishment. Deterrence is another. But by now this power is vanishingly small because imposition of the death penalty is so sporadic and glacial. Because the process of getting from sentencing to execution is so protracted, currently averaging 15 years, senescent persons on the nation’s death rows are going to be problems as long as there is capital punishment.
Madison’s case compels us to focus on the death penalty in its granular reality: assisting someone who is non-ambulatory, and bewildered because he is (in Stevenson’s phrase) “memory-disordered,” to be strapped down so an executioner can try to find a vein — often a problem with the elderly — to receive a lethal injection. Capital punishment is withering away because the process of litigating the administration of it is so expensive, and hence disproportionate to any demonstrable enhancement of public safety, but also because of a healthy squeamishness that speaks well of us.
Sixty years ago, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that the Eighth Amendment — particularly the idea of what counts as “cruel” punishments — “must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” Concerning which, two caveats are apposite: “evolving” is not a synonym for “improving,” and a society can become, as America arguably is becoming, infantilized as it “matures.” That said, it certainly is true that standards of decency do evolve, and that America’s have improved astonishingly since 1958: Think about segregated lunch counters, and much else.
Conservatives have their own standards, including this one: The state — government — already is altogether too full of itself, and investing it with the power to inflict death on anyone exacerbates its sense of majesty and delusions of adequacy.
George Will’s email address is georgewill@washpost.com.
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Fort Collins seed vault preserves world collection of plants

FORT COLLINS — As climate change jeopardizes the world’s doomsday seed vault near the North Pole, a similar Fort Collins facility continues to stock up its collection.
The modern-day Noah’s Ark, located on the campus of Colorado State University, houses more than 850,000 plant seeds and materials, as well as various DNA samples from about 160 breeds of livestock.
Like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway — which needs a $12.7 million upgrade to combat melting permafrost — the Fort Collins vault is meant to preserve plant types in case they are wiped out by natural or man-made disasters.
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The facility, formally known as the National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation, is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“The whole point is we are saving the resources for the world,” said Gayle Volk, a scientist at the Fort Collins seed vault for the past 19 years.
The Fort Collins seed vault was built by the federal government in 1953 — decades before the Svalbard Global Seed Vault opened in 2008 on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. The Choice City was chosen because of the dry climate and adjacent university.
Timonthy Hurst, The Coloradoan via APIn this Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018 photo, seed technician Alison Latona sets newly acquired soap tree seeds for a germination test at the National Lab for Genetic Resources Preservation on Colorado State University’s campus in Fort Collins, Colo.
The building has thick cement walls and is specifically designed to withstand natural disasters like tornadoes or severe flooding if Horsetooth Reservoir were to break.
Backup generators are installed to guarantee complete climate control. An actual vault locks in the country’s largest seed collection every night, and only a handful of the site’s 40 employees know the combination.
“This building has the ability to handle catastrophes, and that’s really important,” said Harvey Blackburn, a scientist at the Fort Collins facility for the past 19 years.
The seeds and animal matter are preserved either in cooler rooms set to minus-18 degrees Celsius or submerged in liquid nitrogen inside of stainless steel tanks. Some plants, like apples, have their twigs saved because those trees grow from grafting and not directly from seeds. Small portions of roots are saved from some plants, like strawberries.
Timonthy Hurst, The Coloradoan via APIn this Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018 photo, animal geneticist Dr. Harvey Blackburn uses a vacuum to pull out the vapor covering the animal genetic samples kept in liquid nitrogen in a cryogenic vault at the National Lab for Genetic Resources Preservation on Colorado State University’s campus in Fort Collins, Colo.
Staff are continually testing the stored seed and plant matter to make sure they are still alive.
“As you go from one species of a plant to another, it requires a different set of technique,” Blackburn said. “And we are constantly refining our technique here.”
Some seeds in the collection are nearly a century old — 90-year-old cotton seeds from the facility were recently grown as part of a research project.
A famous 1940s experiment started in California is now housed at the facility. Test tubes containing those seeds are tested regularly and many have survived.
All new seed patents in the U.S. — like the GMO varieties made by Monsanto — are also required to be stored in the vault.
“We work for scientists of the future but also with scientists of the past,” said research leader Christina Walters, who has worked at the Fort Collins vault for three decades.
The collection in Fort Collins serves as the basis of research for scientists around the world. A third of the requests for seeds come from outside of the U.S.
Rare wild ancestor plant seeds are stored and offer crucial genetic clues to researchers. Some specific plants, like corn, have their entire evolution preserved in Fort Collins.
As humans have domesticated seeds, they have gone from being small and dark to bigger and lighter.
Seeds from the Fort Collins vaults have specifically helped scientists create wheat resistant to a harmful disease called Russian Wheat Aphid, more efficient corn and better harvests of sunflowers, corn and chickpeas.
The animal matter has also been used to reintroduce two Y chromosomes to Holstein cow breeders and helped farmers fight a lethal mutation that was found in Angus cattle.
“We are working collaboratively with breeders to help solve these problems,” Volk said.
About 700 people come tour the Fort Collins vault every year. Many of the visitors are from other countries. A group earlier this month featured people representing 24 different countries.
Scientists from Fort Collins often travel around the world to share insights and collect new items for the vault, preserving history and protecting the future of plants from around the world.
“This takes an international effort,” Walters said.
___
Information from the Fort Collins Coloradoan.