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Evans man convicted on multiple counts in child sex assault case, coerced juvenile girls into sending him nude photos

4 hours 56 min ago
Weld County District AttorneyZachary Myers

A 23-year-old Evans man was convicted Tuesday on multiple charges of sexually assaulting a Weld County girl and exploiting several other victims, according to prosecutors.

Zachary Myers, 23, was arrested in March 2016 after police found child pornography on his cellphone, according to a district attorney’s office news release. Investigators also found manipulative phone conversations between Myers and multiple underage girls from several states.

 

Myers coerced juvenile girls into sending him nude photos. If they refused, he’d threaten them and threaten to kill himself, according to the DA’s office.

On Tuesday, after a week-long trial, a jury deliberated for about 90 minutes and returned with convictions on 19 charges including: Sexual assault on a child, false imprisonment, assault, internet sexual exploitation of a child and sexual exploitation of a child. He was convicted of multiple counts of the same charges.

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Myers is scheduled to be sentenced June 29.

In December, he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Jefferson County. He was sentenced in January to 18 years to life in that case.

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Kyle Freeland’s seven shutout innings, Trevor Story’s slam, lift Rockies over Padres

5 hours 4 min ago

Youth served the Rockies quite well Tuesday night at frosty Coors Field.

Left-hander Kyle Freeland, 24, pitched one of the best games of his budding career, tossing seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball. He struck out eight, walked just two and needed only 90 pitches to get the job done. It was the third time in Freeland’s career that he pitched at least seven shutout innings.

Boxscore

Shortstop Trevor Story, 25, blasted a grand slam in Colorado’s five-run second inning. Left fielder David Dahl, 24, hit a stand-up triple and came into score in the fifth on Ian Desmond’s single.

The end result was a stress-free, 8-0 victory over San Diego. For a Rockies team that entered the night just 3-7 at home, it was a much-needed breakout performance. Colorado improved to 13-12 with its second shutout of the season.

“I felt like I was filling up the zone really well and me and (catcher Chris) Iannetta were on the same page,” Freeland said. “I knew that the bullpen was taxed the past few days, and it was really nice that I was able to give them solid rest and go deep into the game.”

Pitching with precision, especially early in the game, Freeland won his first game since July 30, a span of 16 outings (12 starts, four relief appearances). He worked both sides of the plate and mixed in all off his pitches. He worked out of a bit of a jam in the fifth when he walked Austin Hedges and gave up a two-out double to Manuel Margot, but escaped by striking out Franchy Cordero for the third time, using a nasty slider.

“He’s a big boy and he can put a charge into a baseball if you let him,” Freeland said of Cordero. “So our game plan was to stay away from him with fastballs and sliders. I fed him quite a few sliders there and he had trouble laying off.”

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Rockies manager Bud Black liked Freeland’s aggressiveness, especially early in the game.

“He attacked with the fastball and attacked with the slider,” Black said. “He pitched in well with righties, and pitched away well with lefties, so the glove-side command was great.   He set the tone … he mowed them down. It was a great game.”

Padres lefty Eric Lauer made his big-league debut, and the Rockies put heat on him immediately, scoring two runs in the first, aided by a throwing error by Padres second baseman Jose Pirela.

Story’s 428-foot shot in the second, as it turned out, salted the game away. Colorado jammed the bases with back-to-back singles by DJ LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon and a walk by Nolan Arenado. Then Story picked out Lauer’s 1-1, 92 mph fastball and drove it to left at 107 mph. It was Colorado’s first grand slam of the season and the second of Story’s career.

“We talked about Trevor looking better the last four or five games,” Black said. “Trev’s at-bats have been better. There’s solid contact, he took another walk tonight, he’s doing fine.”

Story’s first career slam came on April 21, 2017 vs. the Giants and right-hander Johnny Cueto. The shortstop leads Colorado with 18 RBIs, and he’s in the midst of a red-hot streak. Over the past eight games, he’s hitting .423 (11-for-16), with two doubles, one triple, three homers and 12 RBIs.

“It’s about just being ready to hit and not trying to do too much,” Story said. “That helps me a lot. Less is more for me, in a lot of ways. I’m just trying to put my best swing on it.”

The Rockies will attempt to win the three-game series Wednesday afternoon. It would be their first series victory at Coors Field this season.

Looking ahead

Padres RHP Tyson Ross (2-1, 2.81) vs. Rockies RHP Jon Gray (1-4, 6.75), 1:10 p.m. Wednesday; no TV, 850 AM

The Rockies need Gray to snap out of his funk. Over his last three games, he’s 0-3 with a 10.34 ERA, the worst stretch of his big-league career. He gave up seven runs (five earned) on eight hits, struck out one and walked three in Colorado’s 16-5 loss to the Cubs last Friday. Gray said he had lacked any real command of his slider. Ross has been one of the best pitchers in baseball in the early going, thanks to a slider that has been especially biting. Last Friday against Arizona, the 31-year-old right-hander came four outs shy of tossing the first no-hitter in Padres’ franchise history. Ross is giving up fewer than seven hits per nine innings, the lowest mark of his career.  — Patrick Saunders, The Denver Post 

Thursday: Off day

Friday: Rockies LHP Tyler Anderson (1-0, 4.32) vs. Marlins RHP Jose Urena (0-3, 5.88), 5:10 p.m., ATTRM

Saturday: Rockies RHP German Marquez (1-2, 6.14) vs. Marlins TBA, 5:10 p.m., ATTRM

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In Denver, the trend toward Mexican-inspired craft beer comes with a message

April 24, 2018 - 8:38pm

The owners of Denver Beer Co. are launching a new Mexican-inspired brewery and it comes with a political message: #BridgesNotWalls.

“What we stand for is supporting the community and what we don’t stand for is this divide that we feel is occurring between different cultures,” said co-founder Patrick Crawford. “The political climate right now is not OK with us. So we are going to use our business and our voice to promote a more inclusive way to go about life.”

Cervecería Colorado opens May 5 — Cinco de Mayo — in the former Barrel Room next to the brewery’s flagship Platte Street location in Denver. The 10 taps will embrace the ingredients and flavors of Mexico.

Think a wheat beer made with nopal cactus, which offers a pepper aroma with tartness. Or a churro sweet stout made in collaboration with Casa Cerveza Cru Cru in Mexico City.

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“I think people here are always starving for new ideas and new things,” said Jason Buehler, the head brewer for both operations.

His frequent travels in Mexico and connections with local brewers in the country led to the new concept. “As American craft brewers, we are always trying to push the envelope and find something new,” he added.

The brewery is the second in the Denver area to celebrate Mexican culture and flavors after Cheluna Brewing opened in Stanley Marketplace in December 2017.

Customers enjoy lunch at Cheluna Brewing Co. at the Stanley Marketplace on December 20, 2016 in Aurora (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)
And it builds on a growing trend to feature the nation’s southern neighbor in craft beer, further evidenced by major brewers embrace of Mexican lagers in recent years.

“All things Mexican are pretty popular,” said Javier Pérez, Cheluna’s co-owner and brewer. “People are finding more sort of creative ways to make beer with this whole new palate of flavors.”

In Mexico, independent craft beer is starting to grow — thanks in part to local breweries with Colorado ties — but it still represents a fraction of a market dominated by international companies and light lagers, such as Corona and Dos Equis.

The two most popular beers at Cheluna straddle the same divide — a Mexican lager called Lowrider and IPA variations.

Pérez, a Chicano who grew up in Los Angeles, said most of Cheluna’s beers are Mexican-styled but not all of them. The brewery’s name is a combination of Chela, a slang word for cold beer, and the Spanish word for moon, which he says is a reference to the balance in the logo.

Where the inspiration shines is the taproom. The colorful decor, lively music and laid-back vibe, not unlike an open-air Mexican bar, offers “a cool, different way to hang out,” Pérez said.

The new Cervecería Colorado hopes to do the same with bold murals inside and outside by well-known artists Jaime Molina and Pedro Barrios.

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For both breweries, the bigger question is whether they can offer a gateway to introduce craft beer to a more diverse audience. A 2015 survey found about one in five Latinos are craft beer drinkers.

Artist Jaime Molina works on a mural at Cervecita on Thursday, April 19, 2018. Denver Beer Co. is opening a new brewery soon focused on Mexican-inspired craft beers. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)
Based on his experiences at the brewery, Pérez said money and deeper economic disparity are obstacles to more growth. He’s working on creating a $3 beer to help make craft offerings more approachable to all income levels.

“I think there is a lot of interest in the Latino community, but there is an economic divide,” he said. “If we can make beer a little more affordable, and create spaces that are warm and welcoming and familiar, hopefully we will be able to get them to come around and enjoy.”

From there, he added, we can have “a bit of a cultural commingling over beers.”

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Trump, Macron make a show as best buds but tussle over Iran

April 24, 2018 - 8:33pm

WASHINGTON — With exaggerated handshakes and a pair of kisses, President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron professed a sunny, best-friends relationship Tuesday, even as the two allies strained to bridge differences over the Iran nuclear agreement, Syria and more.

Hosting Macron for the first state visit of his administration, culminating in a lavish dinner Tuesday night, Trump remained firm in his criticism of past and enduring American undertakings in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East. But he appeared open to the French president’s pleas to maintain U.S. involvement in Syria — and expressed openness to negotiating a new agreement with Iran.

As Trump weighs withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear accord, he issued a warning to Iran against restarting its nuclear program, saying, “They will have bigger problems than they’ve ever had before.”

At a joint White House news conference, he appeared to be more in line with Macron’s push for a longer-term U.S. presence in Syria. Trump, who announced weeks ago that he would withdraw American troops, said Macron reinforced the idea of a potential Iranian takeover of territory liberated from the Islamic State group.

“We’ll be coming home,” Trump said, “but we want to leave a strong and lasting footprint.”

Macron told Trump that together the U.S. and France would defeat terrorism, curtail weapons of mass destruction in North Korea and Iran, and act together on behalf of the planet. That last point was a reference to Macron’s work to revive the U.S. role in the Paris climate accord to fight global warming, another international agreement Trump has spurned.

Differences aside, Trump and Macron lavished praise — and even a pair of kisses — on each other Tuesday.

“It’s an honor to call you my friend,” Trump said, after predicting Macron would be a historic leader of France.

In one light moment, Trump sought to demonstrate some of the personal chemistry he claimed. The U.S. president brushed something off Macron’s suit jacket, saying, “We have a very special relationship; in fact, I’ll get that little piece of dandruff off. We have to make him perfect — he is perfect.”

The meetings followed a pomp-filled welcome ceremony on the South Lawn. Highlights included a 21-gun salute and Melania Trump’s wide-brim white hat, which drew more comments than all the rest of the pageantry.

Trump said before an audience of U.S. soldiers and members of his Cabinet that the relationship he forged with Macron at the start of his presidency was a testament to the “enduring friendship that binds our two nations.” He thanked the French leader for his “steadfast partnership” in the recent missile strike in response to the chemical attack in Syria.

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Macron said, “History is calling us. It is urging our people to find the fortitude that has guided us in the most difficult of times. France and with it, Europe, and the United States have an appointment with history.” Later he placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.

The social highlight of Macron’s visit was Tuesday night’s formal state dinner at the White House. More than 130 guests dined on rack of lamb and nectarine tart and enjoyed an after-dinner performance by the Washington National Opera. The previous evening, the leaders and their wives took a helicopter tour of Washington landmarks and had dinner at the Potomac River home of George Washington in Mount Vernon, Virginia.

As he gave a toast at the dinner, Trump hailed the bonds between the U.S. and France, saying, “May our friendship grow even deeper, may our kinship grow even stronger and may our sacred liberty never die.”

As for substantive issues, one of Macron’s main objectives during his three-day visit to Washington was to persuade Trump to stay in the Iran accord, which is aimed at restricting Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. Trump is skeptical of the pact’s effectiveness — “it’s insane, it’s ridiculous,” he said Tuesday — but he declined to say whether he would withdraw the U.S. by the May 12 deadline he has set.

He reminded his French counterpart of what he sees as flaws in the agreement, which he said fails to address ballistic missiles or Iran’s activities in Yemen or Syria.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that pulling out would undermine America’s upcoming nuclear talks with North Korea by proving the U.S. reneges on its promises.

He told The Associated Press in an interview in New York that if Trump withdraws, Iran would “most likely” abandon the deal as well and would no longer be bound by its international obligations. That would free Iran to resume enrichment activity beyond the limits imposed by the 2015 accord.

Macron told reporters that he and Trump would look at the Iran deal “in a wider regional context,” taking into account the situation in Syria. “We have a common objective, we want to make sure there’s no escalation and no nuclear proliferation in the region. We now need to find the right path forward,” Macron said.

Trump suggested he was open to “doing something” beyond the current Iran agreement as long as it was done “strongly.”

On North Korea, Trump told Macron that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wanted to meet “as soon as possible.” The president, who once derided Kim as “Little Rocket Man,” said he has been “very open” and “very honorable” so far.

Macron, who calls Trump often, has emerged as something of a “Trump whisperer” at a time when the American president’s relationships with other European leaders are more strained. Trump, who attaches great importance to the optics of pageantry and ceremony, chose to honor Macron with the first state visit of his administration as he woos the French president.

Trump ended his first year in office without receiving a foreign leader on a state visit, the first president in nearly 100 years to fail to do so. He was Macron’s guest last July at the annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris. Macron and his wife, Brigitte, also took Trump and his wife on a tour of Napoleon’s tomb and whisked them up in the Eiffel Tower for dinner overlooking the City of Light.

Associated Press writers Ken Thomas and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

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Government: Wild red wolf population could soon be wiped out

April 24, 2018 - 8:04pm

RALEIGH, N.C. — The only wild population of endangered red wolves is unsustainable and could be wiped out within a decade after dwindling to a few dozen, government officials said in a report Tuesday.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service review of the species’ status estimates that only about 40 wolves remain in the wild in eastern North Carolina, down from a peak of about 120 a decade ago.

“The population cannot recover from their losses and overcome mortality resulting in a steadily declining population,” the review states, predicting these wild wolves could vanish in as little as a decade.

Another 230 wolves live in zoos and wildlife facilities in what’s considered a more stable captive population.

Gerry Broome, Associated Press fileIn this Jan. 13, 2015 file photo, a female red wolf is shown in it’s habitat at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, N.C. Federal wildlife officials say the only wild population of endangered red wolves is unsustainable and could be wiped out within years. The prediction comes in a five-year review of the status of the species released Tuesday, April 24, 2018, by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The report says only about 40 wolves remain in the wild in North Carolina, down from a peak of about 120 a decade ago. Another 230 wolves live in captivity.

Conservationists contend the wild decline is due to neglect by federal officials who have halted releases of captive-born wolves and other efforts to bolster their numbers, such as sterilizing coyotes that compete for territory. Last month, conservation groups asked a federal judge to order those efforts to resume, saying it’s not too late to save the wild wolves.

Leopoldo Miranda, an assistant regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said the review draws on research showing the habitat won’t support the wild population without heavy human intervention. Miranda said the agency spends about $1 million each year on the wolves, more than any other endangered species in the Southeast.

“The conditions conducive to self-sustainability are not present at this time in eastern North Carolina,” he said in a phone interview.

Still, a chart released in a related federal report shows the leading causes of death for the wolves are man-made, with more than 80 dying from gunshot wounds over an approximately 25-year period ending in 2013. Vehicle collisions caused about 70 deaths during the period. The leading natural cause, health-related problems, accounted for nearly 60 deaths.

The main purpose of the five-year review was to evaluate the wolves’ endangered species status, which it says should be maintained. It noted scientists have disagreed in recent decades about whether the red wolf represents a species unto itself, a subspecies or a more recent hybrid. The wildlife service said it will continue to recognize the species even as Congress has called for further study into its genetics.

The review said government officials are continuing to develop their plan for the red wolves and would release more details later. The federal agency plans to take public comments this summer.

Once common across the Southeast, the red wolf had been considered extinct in the wild as of 1980. Releases of captive-bred wolves started in 1987.

Sierra Weaver, a lawyer for the Southern Environmental Law Center, disagreed with Miranda’s contention that the environmental conditions aren’t right for the wolves, noting they numbered 100 or more for a decade at the peak of the recovery effort.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service is not taking the action that is required to recover the species, and indeed these documents indicate that they’re going to continue down that path,” she said in a phone interview.

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Weaver is one of the lawyers leading the lawsuit seeking to improve recovery efforts. Weaver argued in the March legal filing that the Fish and Wildlife Service shifted away from successful management strategies in the past five years because of pressure from a small but vocal group of landowners.

Some landowners argue the wolves are nuisance animals that frequently wander onto their property.

Ron Sutherland, a scientist with the Wildlands Network conservation group, said he’s disappointed that Tuesday’s review describes the wolf population as unsustainable without acknowledging detrimental steps by the government.

“They stopped releasing new wolves from captivity, they stopped managing coyotes, and they’ve sat back and watched as gunshot mortality shredded the red wolf population,” he said in an email.

 

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Online post suggests suspect in deadly Toronto van attack may have resented women

April 24, 2018 - 8:04pm

TORONTO — The suspect in the deadly van attack in Toronto posted a chilling Facebook message just minutes before plowing into a crowded city sidewalk, authorities said Tuesday, raising the possibility that he may have nursed grudges against women — a possible echo of a 1989 massacre of 14 women that remains one of Canada’s most traumatic acts of violence.

The 25-year-old suspect, Alek Minassian, was charged Tuesday with first degree murder in the deaths of 10 pedestrians he mowed down in the rented van he sent careening along the busy walkway. Fourteen others were injured.

Toronto Police Services Det. Sgt. Graham Gibson told a news conference that those killed and injured were “predominantly” women, though he declined to discuss a possible motive.

“All the lanes are open with this investigation,” said Police Chief Mark Saunders.

Authorities have not yet released a list of victims. Those known to have been killed include a 30-year-old woman from Toronto, Anne Marie D’Amico, who was active in volunteer work, as well as a female student at Seneca College, which Minassian also attended. A Jordanian citizen and two South Koreans were also among those killed.

The gender issue arose because of what police called a “cryptic” Facebook message posted by Minassian just before the incident that suggested he was part of an online community angry over their inability to form relationships with women.

The now-deleted post saluted Elliot Rodger, a community college student who killed six people and wounded 13 in shooting and stabbing attacks near the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2014.

Calling Rodger “the Supreme Gentleman,” the Facebook post declared: “The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys!”

Rodger had used the term “incel” — for involuntarily celibate — in online posts raging at women for rejecting him romantically. Like-minded people in internet forums sometimes use “Chad” and “Stacy” as dismissive slang for men and women with more robust sex lives.

The anti-women sentiment recalled the 1989 massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique, an engineering college in Montreal, when 25-year-old Marc Lepine entered a classroom, separated the men from the women, told the men to leave and opened fire, killing 14 women before killing himself. In a suicide note, he blamed feminists for ruining his life.

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Since then, there have been sporadic mass shootings in Canada, but none with a higher death toll — reinforcing the view among many Canadians that their country is less violent than the United States.

“Canadians don’t know who they are, but they know who they are not — they’re not Americans,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto. “They perceive that Canada, relative to the U.S., is a peaceable kingdom.”

“This isn’t to say everything’s hunky dory in Canada,” Wiseman added. “But we don’t have this constant string of mass shootings that keep happening, and then nothing changes.”

Wendy Cukier, a professor of justice studies at Toronto’s Ryerson University and president of Canada’s Coalition for Gun Control, said Canada may avoid some types of violence because its social programs are stronger than those in many U.S. states and it has less income inequality. But the main difference, she contends, is tighter gun regulations in Canada.

“If you take guns out of the mix, Canada and the U.S. are identical,” she said, citing statistics indicating the two countries have similar rates of non-firearm homicides.

Although police say Monday’s rampage does not appear linked to international terrorism, the use of a vehicle to kill mirrored tactics used by terrorists in France, Germany, Spain, New York City and elsewhere.

Since 2014, there have been at least two terror-related cases in Canada of vehicles being used as weapons — they caused several injuries and one death. But overall, Canada has been spared high-casualty terror attacks; its most striking incidents of violence over the past 50 years have varied widely in nature.

In 2014 a Muslim-Canadian gunman killed a member of the honor guard at Ottawa’s national war memorial, then stormed Parliament, where he was shot dead by a sergeant-at arms. Last year, a French-Canadian man shot dead six Muslim men during evening prayers at a mosque in Quebec City. Back in 1972, 37 people died in a Montreal cafe deliberately set on fire by three men who had been refused entry.

In Toronto, Canadian rapper Maestro Fresh Wes returned Tuesday to the scene of the rampage, pausing by a newly erected memorial. Wes, who lives nearby, was strolling down Yonge Street, heading to his barber to get a haircut when he saw a body bag on the ground.

“Yesterday was the most beautiful day of the year and then look what happened,” he said. “Toronto is a safe city but things could happen anywhere. When these things happen, you have to reflect.”

Also revisiting the site was Saman Tabasinejad, a New Democrat Party politician who was canvassing in the area when the attack occurred.

“I saw shattered glass everywhere, a fire hydrant knocked over and then five body bags,” she said. “People were holding others and I saw solidarity all over, people trying to help others.”

“When something like this happens, you think people are going to run away from the tragedy but people didn’t, they ran towards it to try to help others,” she added. “It shows that something like this could happen at the hands of one person, but so many more stand against it and show their humanity.”

Crary reported from New York. Associated Press writer Ben Fox in Miami contributed to this report.

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Pruitt unveils controversial “transparency” rule Tuesday limiting what research EPA can use

April 24, 2018 - 8:02pm

WASHINGTON – Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt proposed a rule Tuesday that would establish new standards for what science could be used in writing agency regulations, according to individuals briefed on the plan. The sweeping change, long sought by conservatives, could have significant implications for decisions on everything from the toxicity of household products to the level of soot that power plants can emit.

The rule would only allow EPA to consider studies for which the underlying data are made available publicly. Advocates describe this approach as an advance for transparency, but critics say it would effectively block the agency from relying on long-standing, landmark studies linking air pollution and pesticide exposure to harmful health effects.

“Today is a red-letter day. It’s a banner day,” Pruitt told a group of supporters at agency headquarters. “The science that we use is going to be transparent. It’s going to be reproducible.”

The move reflects a broader effort already underway to change how the agency conducts and uses science to guide its work. Pruitt has already changed the standards for who can serve on EPA’s advisory committees, barring scientists who received EPA grants for their research while still allowing those funded by industry.

The rule will be subject to a 30-day comment period, EPA officials said. Pruitt, who had described the change during interviews with select media over the past month, said it will “enhance confidence in our decision-making” and prove “durable” because it will be issued as a regulation.

“This is not a policy,” he said. “This is not a memo.”

Many scientists argue that applying a standard to public health and environmental studies that is not currently required by peer-reviewed journals would limit the information the EPA could take into account.

Some researchers collect personal data from subjects but pledge to keep it confidential – as was the case in a major 1993 study by Harvard University that established the link between fine-particle air pollution and premature deaths, as well as more recent research that tapped a Medicare database available to any scientific group guaranteeing confidentiality of the personal information. That practice would not be allowed under the new rule.

In an interview Tuesday, former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said that requiring the kind of disclosure Pruitt envisions would have disqualified the federal government from tapping groundbreaking research, such as studies linking exposure to lead gasoline to neurological damage. Scientists will have trouble recruiting study participants if the rule is enacted, she predicted, even if they pledge to redact private information before handing it over to the government.

“The best studies follow individuals over time, so that you can control all the factors except for the ones you’re measuring,” said McCarthy, who now directs the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard’s public health school. “But it means following people’s personal history, their medical history. And nobody would want somebody to expose all of their private information.”

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House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, sought to establish a requirement similar to the one Pruitt has proposed, but his legislation, titled the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act, failed to pass both chambers.

Pruitt and Smith met at EPA headquarters on Jan. 9, according to Pruitt’s public calendar, and an email obtained under the Freedom of Information Act indicates that the lawmaker pressed the administrator to adopt the legislation’s goal as his own.

Smith made “his pitch that EPA internally implement the HONEST Act [so that] no regulation can go into effect unless the scientific data is publicly available for review,” Aaron Ringel, deputy associate administrator for congressional affairs at the EPA, wrote other agency staffers. His email was obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a scientific advocacy organization.

Conservatives, such as Trump EPA transition team member Steve Milloy, have long tried to discredit independent research the agency used to justify limiting air pollution from burning coal and other fossil fuels. A series of studies has shown that fine particulate matter, often referred to as soot, enters the lungs and bloodstream and can cause illnesses such as asthma as well as premature death.

“During the Obama administration, the EPA wantonly destroyed 94 percent of the market value of the coal industry, killed thousands of coal mining jobs and wreaked havoc on coal mining families and communities,” Milloy said in a statement, “all based on data the EPA and its taxpayer-funded university researchers have been hiding from the public and Congress for more than 20 years.”

While the administration presses ahead, legal experts warn that the rule may be vulnerable to a court challenge. In unanimous decisions in 2002 and 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the EPA is not legally obligated to obtain and publicize the data underlying the research it considers in crafting regulations.

In the 2002 case, brought by the American Trucking Associations, Inc., two judges appointed by Ronald Reagan and one named by Bill Clinton wrote that they agreed with the agency that such a requirement “would be impractical and unnecessary.” The government’s defense had noted that “EPA’s reliance on published scientific studies without obtaining and reviewing the underlying data is not only reasonable, it is the only workable approach.”

A range of scientific organizations are already campaigning to block the rule from being finalized. On Monday, 985 scientists signed a letter organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists, urging Pruitt not to forge ahead with the policy change.

“There are ways to improve transparency in the decision-making process, but restricting the use of science would improve neither transparency nor the quality of EPA decision-making,” they wrote. “If fully implemented, this proposal would greatly weaken EPA’s ability to comprehensively consider the scientific evidence across the full array of health studies.”

Under the proposed rule, third parties would be able to test and try to replicate the findings of studies submitted to EPA. But, the scientists wrote, “many public health studies cannot be replicated, as doing so would require intentionally and unethically exposing people and the environment to harmful contaminants or recreating one-time events.”

Gretchen Goldman, an expert on air pollution and research director for the organization’s Center for Science and Democracy, said the rule could put some scientists in a quandary: Keeping personal health data or propriety information private would mean having their work ignored by the EPA.

“We have this incredible science-based process that works, and it has worked, by and large, even in the face of tremendous political pressures to not go with a science-based decision,” Goldman said.

The Environmental Protection Network, a group of former EPA employees, issued a report Tuesday stating that many older studies – in which the original data sets were either not maintained or stored in outdated formats – would be eliminated under the proposed rule.

And while there is no estimate yet for how much it would cost EPA to obtain and disseminate studies’ underlying data, the Congressional Budget Office has projected that Smith’s measure, if enacted, would cost the agency $250 million for initial compliance and then between $1 million and $100 million annually. A 2015 CBO analysis estimated that EPA would cut the number of studies it relies on by half because of the bill’s requirements.

Geophysicist Marcia McNutt, who is president of the National Academy of Sciences, said Tuesday that she is concerned the rule would prevent the EPA from relying on the best available scientific evidence.

“This decision seems hasty,” she wrote in an email. “I would be fearful that the very foundations of clean air and clean water could be undermined.”

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Man who disarmed Waffle House shooter hailed by lawmakers

April 24, 2018 - 7:57pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The man who snatched an AR-15 rifle away from a gunman at a Nashville restaurant told Tennessee lawmakers Tuesday he faced “the true test of a man,” drawing a standing ovation during his brief address.

As the House hailed him as a hero, James Shaw Jr. said he acted to save his own life early Sunday at a Waffle House, and saved others in the process.

“I never thought I’d be in a room with all the eyes on me, but you know, I’m very grateful to be here,” Shaw told House members. The 29-year-old said he has since gone to see some of the shooting victims in the hospital and they all remembered him. He apologized to the people whose loved ones died in the attack.

The Senate also honored Shaw on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the co-owner of a Colorado crane company where Travis Reinking once worked says she urged federal officials to keep Reinking in custody after he was arrested at the White House last July.

Darlene Sustrich said: “We told them, ‘Hang onto him if you can. Help him if you can.'”

Federal officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said Tuesday that Reinking, 29, has been “compliant” and “cooperative” since he was transferred to the jail late Monday after he was captured near the apartment where he lived. Reinking is wearing a vest known informally as a “suicide smock” and will remain under close observation at a maximum-security facility in Nashville.

Also on Tuesday, a Nashville judge revoked the shooting suspect’s bond.

Court records show that a judge struck Reinking’s $2 million bond until a hearing can be held in May.

An attorney listed as Reinking’s lawyer did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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Reinking has been charged with four counts of criminal homicide. And a tweet from the Metro Nashville Police Department said he also faces four counts of attempted murder and one count of unlawful possession in the commission of a violent felony.

Police say he opened fire outside the Waffle House with an AR-15 rifle and then stormed the restaurant, wearing only a green jacket. Four other people were wounded in the shooting.

Reinking escaped on foot from the restaurant and shed his only item of clothing. By the time he was captured in the woods nearby, police had searched his apartment, and found the key fob to a stolen BMW they had recovered in the parking lot days earlier. The BMW theft had not initially been tied to Reinking.

Police seized multiple items from his apartment including: a Remington rifle with a magazine, cartridges for different calibers of guns, two rifle scopes and gun cleaning equipment. Police also found three books on patents in the apartment, along with a sketchbook, two iPhones and a number of pieces of computer equipment, court records show.

Nashville Police Department Lt. Carlos Lara told reporters Reinking was arrested Monday after detectives were tipped to the suspect’s presence by some construction workers. He carried a black backpack with a silver semi-automatic weapon and .45-caliber ammunition.

The arrest ended a 24-hour manhunt involving more than 160 law enforcement officers, but it left troubling unanswered questions about official responses to months of bizarre behavior before the restaurant attack, including encounters with police in Illinois and Colorado and an arrest at the White House that raised red flags.

Darlene Sustrich, Reinking’s former boss, described him as appearing paranoid and delusional at times. A former co-worker told a Salida, Colorado, police detective Reinking was infatuated with Taylor Swift and claimed to be a sovereign citizen.

Last July, Reinking was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service after he entered a restricted area near the White House and refused to leave, saying he wanted to meet President Donald Trump.

The suspect told Washington, D.C., police he was a sovereign citizen and had a right to inspect the grounds, according to an incident report.

Reinking was not armed at the time, but at the FBI’s request, Illinois police revoked his state firearms card. Four guns, including the AR-15 used in the shootings, were transferred to his father, a procedure allowed under Illinois law.

Tazewell County Sheriff Robert Huston said Jeffrey Reinking pledged he would “keep the weapons secure and out of the possession of Travis.” Don Aaron, a Nashville Police spokesman, said Reinking’s father “has now acknowledged giving them back” to his son.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special Agent Marcus Watson said Monday that his father’s action is “potentially a violation of federal law.”

Phone calls to a number listed for the father went unanswered.

Associated Press writers John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia; Ed White in Detroit; Michael Kunzelman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Kathleen Foody in Denver, Colorado; and Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Categories: All Denver News.

After a death, how much can “broken heart” hurt survivors?

April 24, 2018 - 7:37pm

You hear it whenever someone gets sick or dies soon after losing a spouse: Was it because of a broken heart? Stress might not be to blame for former President George H.W. Bush’s hospitalization a day after his wife’s funeral, but it does the body no favors, and one partner’s health clearly affects the other’s.

A sudden shock can trigger a heart attack or something like it called broken heart syndrome . Some studies also have found that people are more likely to die soon after losing a longtime spouse.

But often the timing is mere coincidence, and “broken heart” speculation just fuels a neat narrative when the problem is unsurprising in an older person with underlying health issues.

In any case, the death of a loved one is a dangerous time for the surviving spouse, said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association spokeswoman.

“It’s really important to have a lot of other support around you,” she said. “When people are depressed after something like this happens, they may not be eating, they may ignore symptoms and want to be stoic. They’re certainly stressing and may not be getting enough rest. All of these things can set the stage for life-threatening conditions.”

ABOUT BUSH

Bush, who will turn 94 in June, has been hospitalized since Sunday with an infection that’s spread to his blood.

Stress weakens the immune system and can make infections harder to fend off, said several doctors not involved in his care. But Bush needs a wheelchair because of a form of Parkinson’s disease and has been hospitalized before for pneumonia and other infections.

It’s possible he ignored early signs of infection during the flurry of preparations for Barbara Bush’s funeral, said James Giordano, a Georgetown University neurologist and expert on stress’s effects on the body.

“It could be something as simple as that; inattention led to an escalation of signs and symptoms,” he said. “He’s old, there’s no good way to put it,” so medical problems and risks are magnified by stress.

Stress has three stages, Giordano said: alarm, when the body releases “fight or flight” chemicals that can do damage; a resistance stage, like “calling out all the troops” to deal with the stress; and then fatigue or a letdown stage, when some of the body’s defenses may crash from the strain.

Even if a partner’s death is anticipated — as Barbara Bush’s was after she decided to focus on comfort care — “facing and going through the reality of the event” is stressful, he said.

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JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS

Stress and a broken heart sometimes may get too much blame, though, when people are grieving.

Country music star Johnny Cash died four months after his wife, June Carter Cash, did in 2003. She was 73 and died of complications following heart valve surgery. He was 71 when he died of problems related to diabetes and had a neurological disease for years before that.

“Broken heart” was widely speculated when Debbie Reynolds died a day after her actress-daughter, Carrie Fisher, did in 2016. An autopsy later showed that Reynolds, 84, died of a blood vessel that ruptured and caused bleeding in her brain — a kind of stroke. She also had high blood pressure and other serious medical problems for several years before that.

 

This Associated Press series was produced in partnership with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Pueblo West couple arrested on suspicion of illegal marijuana grow in residence

April 24, 2018 - 7:04pm

A husband and wife were arrested in Pueblo County after a “citizen’s tip” led to an illegal marijuana grow, according to the sheriff’s office.

Acting on the tip, deputies on Tuesday morning went to a home in the 1100 block of Lilac Court in Pueblo West, where more than 70 marijuana plants, worth an estimated $216,000, were found in a residence, according to a news release.

Arian Baez, 29, told deputies he “had a license” to grow and the plants were for his “personal use.” Colorado law, however, limits the number of plants to 12 per household.

Arian Baez & Yuremi Alarcon-Figueroa arrested for illegal marijuana grow after deputies found 72 marijuana plants in their Pueblo West home. Marijuana worth an estimated $216,000. More at https://t.co/x1VW0xUgCw pic.twitter.com/RN9AJcPwu9

— PuebloCounty Sheriff (@PuebloCountySO) April 25, 2018

Baez and his 27-year-old wife, Yuremi Alarcon-Figueroa, were arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to distribute more than 50 pounds of marijuana and possession of more than 30 marijuana plants, both felonies. Deputies seized all but 12 of the plants. The couple were booked at the Pueblo County Jail.

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Facebook finally explains why it bans some content, in 27 pages

April 24, 2018 - 6:53pm

SAN FRANCISCO – Among the most challenging issues for Facebook is its role as the policeman for the free expression of its 2 billion users.

Now the social network is opening up about its decision-making over which posts it decides to take down – and why. On Tuesday the company for the first time published the 27-page guidelines, called Community Standards, that it gives to its workforce of thousands of human censors. The set of guidelines encompasses dozens of topics including hate speech, violent imagery, misrepresentation, terrorist propaganda and disinformation. Facebook said it would offer users the opportunity to appeal Facebook’s decisions.

The move adds a new degree of transparency to a process that users, the public and advocates have criticized as arbitrary and opaque. The newly released guidelines offer suggestions on topics including how to determine the difference between humor, sarcasm and hate speech. They explain that images of female nipples are generally prohibited, but exceptions are made for images that promote breast-feeding or address breast cancer.

“We want people to know our standards, and we want to give people clarity,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, said in an interview. She added that she hoped publishing the guidelines would spark dialogue. “We are trying to strike the line between safety and giving people the ability to really express themselves.”

The company’s censors, called content moderators, have been chastised by civil rights groups for mistakenly removing posts by minorities who had shared stories of being the victims of racial slurs. Moderators have struggled to tell the difference between someone posting a slur as an attack and someone who was using the slur to tell the story of their own victimization.

In another instance, moderators removed an iconic Vietnam War photo of a child fleeing a napalm attack, claiming the girl’s nudity violated its policies. (The photo was restored after protests from news organizations.) Moderators have deleted posts from activists and journalists in Burma and in disputed areas such as the Palestinian territories and Kashmir and have told pro-Trump activists Diamond and Silk they were “unsafe to the community.”

The release of the guidelines is part of a wave of transparency that Facebook hopes will quell its many critics. It has also published political ads and streamlined its privacy controls after coming under fire for its lax approach to protecting consumer data.

The company is being investigated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over the misuse of data by a Trump-connected consultancy known as Cambridge Analytica, and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg recently testified before Congress about the issue. Bickert said discussions about sharing the guidelines started last fall and were not related to the Cambridge controversy.

The company’s content policies, which began in earnest in 2005, addressed nudity and Holocaust denial in the early years. They have ballooned from a single page in 2008 to 27 pages today.

As Facebook has come to reach nearly a third of the world’s population, Bickert’s team has expanded significantly and is expected to grow even more in the coming year. A team of 7,500 reviewers, in places like Austin, Dublin and the Philippines, assesses posts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in more than 40 languages. Moderators are sometimes temporary contract workers without much cultural familiarity with the content they are judging, and they make complex decisions in applying Facebook’s rules.

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Bickert also employs high-level experts including a human rights lawyer, a rape counselor, a counterterrorism expert from West Point and a PhD researcher with expertise in European extremist organizations as part of her content review team.

Activists and users have been particularly frustrated by the absence of an appeals process when their posts are taken down. (Facebook users are allowed to appeal the shutdown of an entire account but not individual posts.) The Washington Post previously documented how people have likened this predicament to being put into “Facebook jail” – without being given a reason why they were locked up.

Malkia Cyril, a Black Lives Matter activist in Oakland, Calif., who is also the executive director for the Center for Media Justice, was among a coalition of more than 70 civil rights groups that pressured Facebook in 2017 to fix its “racially-biased” content moderation system. Among the changes the coalition sought was an appeals process for posts that are taken down.

“At the time they told us they could not do it, they would not do it, and actually stopped engaging at that point,” Cyril said. “They told us they would get back to us when they had something new to say.”

Cyril said that Facebook’s actions Tuesday, while well-intentioned, do not go far enough in terms of addressing the white supremacist groups allowed on the platform.

“This is just a drop in the bucket,” she said. “What’s needed now is an independent audit to ensure that the basic civil rights of users are protected, especially vulnerable users being targeted on the street by hate that’s being fomented online.”

Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ office for the San Francisco Bay area, said adding an appeals process and opening up guidelines would be a “positive development” but said the social network still has a ways to go if it wants to stay a relevant and safe space.

Billoo said that at least a dozen pages representing white supremacists are still up on the platform, even though the policies forbid hate speech and Zuckerberg testified before Congress this month that Facebook does not allow hate groups.

“An ongoing question many of the Muslim community have been asking is how to get Facebook to be better at protecting users from hate speech and not to be hijacked by white supremacists, right-wing activists, Republicans or the Russians as a means of organizing against Muslim, LGBT and undocumented individuals,” she said.

Billoo herself was censored by Facebook two weeks after Donald Trump’s election, when she posted an image of a handwritten letter mailed to a San Jose mosque and quoted from it: “He’s going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews.”

Bickert’s team has been working for years to develop a software system that can classify the reasons a post was taken down so that users could receive clearer information – and so Facebook could track how many hate speech posts were put up in a given year, for example, or whether certain groups are having their posts taken down more frequently than others.

Currently, people who have their posts taken down receive a generic message that says that they have violated Facebook’s community standards. After Tuesday’s announcement, people will be told whether their posts violated guidelines on nudity, hate speech and graphic violence. A Facebook executive said the teams were working on building more tools. “We do want to provide more details and information for why content has been removed,” said Ellen Silver, Facebook’s vice president of operations. “We have more work to do there, and we are committed to making those improvements.”

Though Facebook’s content moderation is still very much driven by humans, the company does use technology to assist in its work. The company currently uses software to identify duplicate reports, a timesaving technique for reviewers that helps them avoid reviewing the same piece of content over and over because it was flagged by many people at once. Software also can identity the language of a post and some of the themes, helping the post get to the reviewer with the most expertise.

The company can recognize images that have been posted before but cannot recognize new images. For example, if a terrorist organization reposts a beheading video that Facebook already took down, Facebook’s systems will notice it almost immediately, said Silver, but it cannot identify new beheading videos. The majority of items flagged by the community get reviewed within 24 hours, she said.

Every two weeks, employees and senior executives who make decisions about the most challenging issues around the world meet. They debate the pros and cons of potential policies. Teams who present are required to come up with research showing each side, a list of possible solutions, and a recommendation. They are required to list the organizations outside Facebook with which they consulted.

 

Categories: All Denver News.

Poll: Privacy debacle prompts social-media changes

April 24, 2018 - 6:50pm

NEW YORK — If you’ve made changes to how you use social media since Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica privacy debacle, you’re not alone.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 7 out of 10 of online adults who’ve heard of the scandal — revelations that a data mining firm may have accessed the private information of some 87 million Facebook users to influence elections — have unfollowed accounts, deleted their profiles or made other changes in how they use social media.

And since 9 in 10 Americans have heard at least a little bit about Cambridge Analytica, this means the scandal has led to widespread changes in the use of social media among Americans. What’s less clear is whether these changes are permanent, and whether they will affect business at Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies.

Facebook has said that it hasn’t noticed a meaningful decline in usage since the scandal broke and it doesn’t seem to have experienced much of an advertiser exodus, either. But that doesn’t mean the social media giant is in the clear. Some high-profile tech luminaries such as Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak have disavowed Facebook, and a “DeleteFacebook” online campaign — even if it didn’t lead to mass defections — has bruised the company’s already-battered image.

Cole Bearden, 26, a musician and liquor store employee in Nashville, said he soured on Facebook a while ago, after his parents friended him and turned his app into “a perpetual recipe video-sharing machine.” That, along with his concerns about surveillance and advertisements, convinced him to drop the app from his phone a year ago. He said in an interview last month that he checks his profile only occasionally.

Still, Bearden says deleting his profile won’t mean a lot unless many other Facebook users do the same. And even that, he says, may come too late.

“The real damage has been done. Our concept of open democracy has been undermined, subverted and potentially irreparably damaged,” he said.

Some people, though, were cautious long before Cambridge Analytica. Jessica Garcia, who lives in Homewood, Illinois, said she was already “pretty strict” with all her settings and she uses social media (Facebook, mostly) only minimally. She doesn’t post much and stays out of politics.

Asked who bears the responsibility to protect people’s online privacy, the poll found that vast majorities of Americans think both social media companies (84 percent) and individual users (72 percent) have a large share. Just short of half — 46 percent — see that as a large responsibility of the federal government.

Garcia agrees with the majority and said it’s a combination of individual and company responsibility.

“I don’t feel like the government needs to step in and start controlling that,” she said. “If we can’t make good decisions and people and they don’t make good decisions as companies, it’ll fall apart on its own.”

Americans who have taken some action after hearing about Facebook’s recent privacy crisis include 29 percent who have deleted certain social media accounts — the most drastic step. A larger number, 38 percent, uninstalled apps on their phone, while 42 percent said they used certain platforms less often. Nearly half, 47 percent, unfollowed or unfriended certain people, and 41 percent unfollowed groups or organizations.

Forty-five percent reviewed or changed their privacy settings — something Facebook encouraged recently by sending a notice to users through their Facebook pages. First, it notified the 87 million people whose information may have been leaked to Cambridge Analytica. This week, it began sending all 2.2 billion Facebook users a more generic notice to review their settings that show what apps have access to their data.

According to the poll, women were more likely than men to have made at least one change, and younger people were more likely to say they have reviewed their privacy settings or uninstalled apps from their phones. Older Americans were more likely to say they have followed news of the scandal.

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The Cambridge Analytica fiasco was not Facebook’s first privacy scandal, though it may have been its worst. The poll also found that Americans have broader concerns about how their data is used by companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google. Sixty percent said they were very or extremely concerned that such companies may not keep their personal information secure, and more than half said they were concerned that the companies might track their data even after they have tried to delete it.

African Americans were more likely to express concern about privacy than whites. For example, 72 percent of blacks and 57 percent of whites are worried about companies securing their personal information, while 62 percent of blacks and 44 percent of whites are concerned about companies tracking their location.

The AP-NORC poll of 1,140 adults was conducted April 11-16 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4 percentage points

AP Polling Editor Emily Swanson in Washington and AP Business Writer Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit contributed to this story.

 

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Rockies’ bullpen faltering big time; right-hander Scott Oberg sent down to Triple-A

April 24, 2018 - 6:08pm

The Rockies’ big, bad bullpen, counted on to be a team strength, has been simply bad early in the season.

Heading into Tuesday night’s weather-delayed game vs. San Diego, its 5.40 ERA was the third highest in the National League and the .249 batting average against was fourth highest.

Not everyone in the bullpen is a culprit. Closer Wade Davis has nine saves in 10 attempts and sports an impressive 1.93 ERA. Right-handed setup man Adam Ottavino has been almost untouchable, allowing just two hits and one run over 12 ⅔ innings, with 24 strikeouts vs. two walks.

But the rest of the bullpen has a cumulative ERA of 6.85, and that includes a 7.59 ERA from right-hander Bryan Shaw, who has served up three homers in 10 ⅔ innings, carries a 7.59 ERA and has a .362 batting average against. The Rockies signed Shaw to a three-year, $27 million contract during the offseason.

Rockies starters have only pitched past the seventh inning three times this season, twice by Chad Bettis and once by Jon Gray. That has put a lot of weight on the relievers’ shoulders and the burden is beginning to show. Monday, the club had to call up reinforcements. Hard-throwing right-hander Scott Oberg was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque, and right-hander Brooks Pounder was called up to the big club.

The most egregious example of this season’s mid-bullpen meltdown came Monday night in a 13-5 loss to San Diego at Coors Field in which the Padres scored nine runs, walked four times and sent 15 batters to the plate in the seventh inning. That tied a Rockies franchise record for the most plate appearances in an inning by an opponent.

Oberg was at the core of Monday’s meltdown. He gave up five runs on three hits, with two walks, and he needed 30 pitches to record a single out. He understood why he was demoted.

“It was lack of two-strike execution,” said Oberg, who owns a 6.55 ERA with five walks vs. 10 strikeouts. “I tried to get pitches to a certain spot last night and I didn’t. It hurt me. And the two walks didn’t help me either.”

Last season, Oberg allowed just 6-of-38 inherited runners to score (16 percent). This season, 11-of-13 inherited runners have scored (85 percent). When manager Bud Black sat down with Oberg on Tuesday afternoon, Oberg’s inability to quash rallies was a big part of the discussion.

“They wanted to give me a bit of a blow, but I also know I have not done as well as I would like to with inherited runners,” Oberg said. “That’s been something I have prided myself on and done well with in the past.

“Buddy also told me I have to be more aware about runners on base and guys stealing. Those are things I’ll work on down in (Triple-A).”

Black thinks Oberg can still contribute for the Rockies this season, after he gets a minor-league tuneup.

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“The stuff is there,” Black said. “You look at the velocity and you look at the secondary pitches, they are all of major-league quality. But for any player, that has to show up consistently between the lines. He’s aware of that.”

Pounders’ promotion. Pounders, 27, made seven relief appearances at Triple-A this season, posting a 3.60 ERA with four walks and nine strikeouts.

“I’m in a good spot,” Pounders said. “I feel like I’ve got command of all three pitches (four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball and a slider). I’ve been doing what I need to right now to get the call-up, and hopefully I can continue that success.”

Pounders was originally selected by Pittsburgh in the second round of the 2009 draft and made his big-league debut for Kansas City on July 5, 2016. He was traded to the Angels in December 2016 and appeared in 11 games for them in 2017. In his major-league career, he is 3-1 with a 9.78 ERA, eight walks and 25 strikeouts in 24 relief appearances.

Categories: All Denver News.

Denver-area home prices just won’t stop. Gains accelerate after slowing down last year

April 24, 2018 - 5:48pm

Metro Denver home price gains, after running in the 7 percent range for most of the past year, accelerated back above 8 percent in February, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices.

The Denver home price index measured an 8.4 percent annual gain in February, up from a 7.6 percent increase in January and a 7.4 percent increase in December. The February pace tied with Detroit for fourth highest and was behind only Seattle, Las Vegas and San Francisco, which all saw double-digit gains. Nationally, home prices are up 6.3 percent year-over-year in February.

Denver’s home price appreciation has been below 8 percent since April 2017, when it was 8.2 percent.

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David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in the report that home prices nationally have risen for the past 70 months, with the average annual gain at 6 percent. The record streak went from January 1992 to February 2007 and saw an average annual gain of 6.1 percent a year.

Cheryl Young, an economist with Trulia, said Denver is seeing a pace of hiring that is 2.5 times faster than the country as a whole, which is driving demand for housing. But a lack of homes for sale is causing first-time buyers to hit a brick wall.

“Those starting out in the housing market are facing the greatest frustration,” she said.

The inventory of starter homes is down 26.7 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier. That has pushed prices for the lowest-cost tier of homes in metro Denver up 14.9 percent the past year.

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Restaurant Review: Mizu Izakaya’s menu is vast, but diners will find it tough to make a bad decision

April 24, 2018 - 5:14pm

2.5 stars (out of 4)

Organizing a four-day backpacking trip around the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness? You’ll definitely need to do some pre-planning. Finally ready to ask your boss for that raise? Walk into the meeting with a plan. Getting together with friends for dinner at Mizu Izakaya in LoHi? Yeah, you should have a plan for that, too.

The 1 1/2-year-old restaurant’s menu spans small and large plates, a raw bar, binchotan grilled skewers, ramen, and sushi — and that doesn’t even include the daily specials. To get the most out of a meal here, you’ll want to walk in the front door knowing precisely what you’re craving, or with a group that is open to trying a little of everything. (We recommend the latter.)

Mizu’s dishes are all rooted in the concept of an izakaya, a Japanese drinking house that also serves small plates. But Macau-born owner Hong Jian Lee, who also operates East Moon Asian Bistro & Sushi in Westminster, has taken some liberties, most notably adding a sushi bar, entrées (like an A5 Kobe beef hot stone), and ramen, all of which aren’t common at the gastropubs. The requisite social aspect certainly comes through, though, with a drink list as expansive as the food, a mostly open layout, and a lineup of shareable eats. This is a restaurant you’ll return to often — if only to say you ate your way through the entire menu.

Vibe: During the day, Mizu is awash in natural light, courtesy of floor-to-ceiling windows. At night, though, the lights dim and the wood and rope decor, underlit blue bar, contemporary Edison bulb light fixtures, and graffiti art by Jher Seno imbue the corner restaurant with a spirited, underground feel. It’s warm and boisterous, and the range of dining spaces — cocktail lounge, sushi bar, dining room and patio — makes Mizu accessible for Japanese gastronomists of all ages. (Suggestion: Visit with kids on the earlier side, and let Grandpa know the lighting makes the menus hard to read.)

Hits: The best dishes at Mizu creatively highlight Japanese ingredients and flavors. Every meal should begin with the honey eggplant ($8). The aubergine is covered in an umami glaze of honey and miso, roasted and served with thin strips of sweet bell pepper. You’ll want to scoop up any leftover glaze with a spoon.

Next, turn to the yakitori (grilled items on skewers) section. The unagi ($10), which arrives four to a plate (two per skewer) and smothered in a rich eel sauce, is unctuous and meaty. For actual meat, opt for the 7X Wagyu steak ($15), dry-rubbed with black pepper, sea salt and miso. Both are cooked on a binchotan — a nearly flameless charcoal — grill.

Refresh your palate with some options from the raw bar. Beyond the spectacular sashimi selection, there’s the spicy crispy tuna ($14), which combines the familiar zesty mixture with crunchy fried rice morsels, avocado, jalapeño and daubs of masago, and the velvety jalapeño sashimi with hamachi ($15).

If you still have room, you could opt for the miso black cod ($22), a lush Japanese restaurant standby when cooked correctly — which this is — or a whole grilled fish (market price). The ramen, a newer addition to the menu, is another entrée winner. The classic tonkotsu ($17) is based around a layered, house-made pork and chicken broth. The bowl arrives brimming with tender strips of pork, a perfectly soft-boiled egg, and large leaves of bok choy. Fans of Korean cuisine should enjoy the pork kimchi ramen ($16), a customer favorite.

Misses: You may consider ordering a salad to start what’s sure to be a sizeable meal on a healthy note. We say skip that section of the menu. The seaweed salad ($8) gets a lovely hit of acid from grapefruit slivers but falters under the weight of mixed lettuce instead of just letting the briny flavors of the star ingredient shine.

While a lot of the sushi is praise-worthy, the Tokyo roll ($18) is a miscue. Spicy tuna and avocado are wrapped together and topped with tuna tataki and garlic butter. The textures are one-note (a crunchy element, like cucumber, would help), and the meaty flavor of the tataki overwhelms any of the rich fish flavor in the roll. Diners should instead turn their attention to the nigiri and sashimi menu ($6 to $8). The fish, much of which is flown in daily from the sprawling Tsukiji market in Tokyo, is best enjoyed straight. Similarly, when considering what grilled items to indulge in, bypass the soft-shell crab buns ($15). Mizu makes a standard model — crispy crustacean, pickled vegetables, and spicy mayo (three to an order) — that’s satisfactory, but why settle when there are so many other excellent offerings?

Dessert feels like an afterthought — an unfortunate theme at many otherwise great Denver restaurants. Mizu’s small, regularly changing list skews Japanese (matcha chocolate mousse cake made a recent appearance), but the sweets are typically not made in-house. A triangle of green tea tiramisu cake ($8) was too spongy and lacked the main ingredient’s grassy (in a good way) essence; the layers of frosting were overly thick and unsatisfyingly light on tiramisu flavor.

Drinks: This is not the place to order your usual bottle of Sapporo. Not when there are more than 50 sakes available, organized according to tasting notes and curated by local sake expert and master sommelier Sally Mohr; an ever-changing selection of Japanese whiskeys; an array of shochus (a popular Japanese distilled spirit akin to vodka); and a creative cocktail menu with an Asian twist. The pink-hued Chu-Hai ($12), which combines shochu with dragon fruit, lemon and soda water, tastes like grown-up fruit punch, while a strong Vesper ($12) is smoothed out with rose liqueur and lemon oil. If you do prefer beer, try one of the Japanese-brewed selections (like a saison, $12, from Tokyo’s Kiuchi Brewery).

Service: Mizu is a casual neighborhood restaurant and service reflects that. Servers are pleasant and attentive, but they won’t necessarily be able to answer your question about whether the green tea soba is made in-house (it’s not). The one major hiccup is that food delivery is often mistimed: three dishes, from three different sections of the menu, will arrive simultaneously. The kitchen needs to focus on sending out dishes in a more thoughtful and well-timed sequence.

Bottom Line: If you’re debating between ramen, sushi or teriyaki for lunch or dinner, Mizu is your answer. Though its address is in one of the city’s trendiest locales, the restaurant’s convivial vibe and lounge aesthetic make it a reliable option for any occasion.

Price: Small plates ($6 to $14); Raw bar ($14 to $18); Sushi ($5 to $35); Grilled and fried ($6 to $20); Noodles ($14 to $20); Large plates ($20 to $60); Desserts ($8-$10)

Fun Fact: After 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, Mizu’s bar transforms into a high-end cocktail lounge called Bar Ginza. The limited menu (around six drinks) by bar manager TJ Vong is centered around top- shelf booze and house-made ingredients, like lavender bitters smoked with pecan wood and a from-scratch Campari. The results are drinkable works of art. The rum-forward Enchanted, for example, is served in a glass cloche and surrounded by flower petals à la Beauty and the Beast.

 Mizu Izakaya

1560 Boulder St., 720-372-7100, mizudenver.com

Hours: 4 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday; noon to 1 a.m. on Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday

Reservations: Accepted

Parking: Metered street parking and valet

Star Rating Guide: Ratings range from zero to four stars. Zero is poor. One star, satisfactory. Two stars, good. Three stars, very good. Four stars, excellent.

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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski says he’ll play in 2018

April 24, 2018 - 5:13pm

BOSTON — Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski says he is returning for his ninth NFL season.

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Gronkowski made the announcement in a post on Instagram Tuesday . Gronkowski said he met with coach Bill Belichick to inform him of his intention to return, adding he’s “been working out, staying in shape and feel great.”

Gronk previously hinted at considering retirement following New England’s Super Bowl loss to the Eagles in February.

He appeared in 14 games during the 2017 season and led the team in receiving with 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski was knocked out of last season’s AFC championship game with a concussion, but was able to return in time for the Super Bowl. He missed the Patriots’ 2017 Super Bowl win over Atlanta after undergoing back surgery.

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PHOTOS: Rain, snow, flowers and umbrellas on a wet day in Boulder

April 24, 2018 - 5:10pm

A wet rain/snow mix fell across the Front Range on Tuesday, April 24, 2018. The wet weather made for a wintery day, but temperatures are expected to warm through the weekend.

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A Colorado funeral home owner also sold human body parts. A new bill would make that illegal.

April 24, 2018 - 4:36pm

Colorado lawmakers are moving to make the state one of the first in the country to regulate companies that sell human body parts, following an FBI raid at a Montrose funeral home that also housed a body broker.

The state Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to a bill that would require businesses selling human body parts that aren’t intended to be used in transplants to register with the state and maintain records documenting the donation of bodies and their sale. Tissue banks that sell organs for transplant are already regulated. The bill, SB18-234, would also prohibit anyone who owns more than a 10 percent stake in a funeral home or crematory from owning a body broker business.

“I decided that there needs to be some intervention to protect families,” said state Sen. Don Coram, a Republican from Montrose who is one of the bill’s sponsors.

The bill comes in response to allegations of misconduct at Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors, a Montrose funeral home that was raided by the FBI and had its state license suspended earlier this year following multiple complaints.

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An investigation by the Reuters news agency revealed that Sunset Mesa was the only funeral home in the country that shared a building with a body broker — and both were owned by the same woman, Megan Hess. Among the complaints detailed in the state’s investigation of Sunset Mesa was one instance where a family said they asked their loved one to be cremated but said they received cement mix and not cremated human remains in return.

Body brokers typically sell human body parts to academic or medical research facilities, and they can receive over $1,000 for certain parts. Though the practice is legal, it is also weakly regulated. In its investigation last year, Reuters found only four states that regulated the sales.

“I’m not trying to slow down science,” Coram said. “It is a legitimate business. I just want to make sure it stays legitimate.”

The bill now goes over to the House for several more votes before possibly being sent to the governor for his signature.

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St. Louis group for women entrepreneurs expands to 6 cities, including Denver

April 24, 2018 - 3:30pm

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis organization that supports women-led startup companies is expanding to six new cities.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Brazen Global announced Tuesday that it’s creating branches in Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia and Fort Worth, Texas. The organization has hired acting directors in each new market.

Brazen was founded in 2014 by Jennifer Ehlen, who noticed that St. Louis ranked near the bottom of an American Express study on cities that support women entrepreneurs. Brazen has assisted more than 1,000 women entrepreneurs in St. Louis since forming.

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The organization provides resources, sponsors support groups and hosts networking events for female business owners.

Ehlen says the group hopes to help women entrepreneurs realize their growth aspirations.

Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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From online to mall time: Warby Parker to open first Denver store this weekend

April 24, 2018 - 3:30pm

After opening its first Colorado store in Boulder last year, online-born prescription-eyewear retailer Warby Parker is graduating to a second location in the state, this one in Denver.

The new store opens Saturday in the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, 3000 E. First Ave. A third location is headed to Lower Downtown’s Dairy Block later this year, although a date has not been announced.

Warby Parker started in 2010 exclusively as an e-commerce company, relying on in-house designers and direct sales to customers to keep the costs of its stylish frames and prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses lower than its brick-and-mortar competitors. In recent years, Warby Parker has embraced traditional stores, opening more than 60 locations in the U.S. and Canada. Denver had been on the company’s wish list, according to co-founder and co-CEO Neil Blumenthal.

The Denver-specific sunglasses Warby Parker will be selling only at its Cherry Creek Shopping Center store. The frames are Warby’s Downing Large design in Crystal Aqua finish with Flash Mirrored Silver lenses. The store officially opens Saturday, April 28, 2018.“Nearly six years after first stopping in Denver with our Class Trip — a mobile store in the form of a yellow school bus — we’re excited to finally put down roots in such a notable junction of innovation, alongside many like-minded startups and companies we admire,” Blumenthal said in a news release.

The company is hardly the only online-born brand that has expanded in recent years into retail’s physical realm. Amazon, the king of e-commerce, in November opened a pop-up store inside the Whole Foods at Union Station in downtown Denver, bringing tech such as Amazon Echo smart speakers and Kindle e-readers within an arm’s reach of shoppers buying produce and baked goods. It was one of five pop-up shops Amazon opened in Whole Foods stores last fall.

University of Denver business professor Theresa Meier Conley, who has years of experience developing tech-focused products such as video on-demand, notes the human need to see, touch and connect with products and services in person as a force driving companies to seek a more balanced approach to online and brick-and-mortar selling.

“Pop-up stores and these experiences that bring things to life are part of that human connection that is really essential to all of us,” Conley recently said of the future of American shopping. “The pendulum always comes back because of that human piece of it, that human connection and the need to do more than type on a keyboard.”

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Shoppers on Saturday will find a store adorned to look like a library, with glasses displayed on oak shelves and a marble “reference desk” where they can seek help with frame adjustments and order pickups. A team of “advisers” — armed with tablets to check shoppers out and provide them with digital overviews of frames they try on — will be circulating. A special Denver-only set of glasses will be for sale.

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