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Updated: 27 min 56 sec ago

Kiszla: If the Broncos make draft-night trade, make it for O.J. Howard not Christian McCaffrey

1 hour 1 sec ago

Faced with an NFL team on the decline, Broncos general manager John Elway needs all the help he can get in the draft.

What’s the biggest hole on this football team?

“We need a new GM,” Elway quipped. “Other than that, we’re pretty good.”

And the media gathered Monday at Dove Valley headquarters laughed, because: A) The joke was genuinely funny, and B) Elway owns Denver, so we are all Andy Richter to his Conan O’Brien.

This year, however, might be the toughest for Elway since Dan Reeves tried to run him out of town. With no proven quarterback and a wicked-hard schedule, Elway is in danger of suffering his first losing season since taking over management of the franchise in 2011.

So, all joking aside, what is the biggest hole on this football team?

“Just ask Mark,” replied Elway, looking directly at me.

Glad he asked.

I’m not here to take Elway’s job, although in exchange for one of those $50,000 pick-up trucks sitting on the lot at his Chevy dealership, I would be happy to hunker down in the war room and serve as a draft consultant.

What the Broncos need most is a playmaker, a touchdown machine who can take pressure off new coach Vance Joseph, Denver’s young quarterbacks and an overworked defense. Elway is probably going to have to trade up in the draft to get a bona fide playmaker. That’s never an easy task, but Elway has pulled off draft-day deals in each of the last two years to acquire linebacker Shane Ray and quarterback Paxton Lynch.

His target this year for a trade?

Christian McCaffrey would be the people’s choice. As the son of a local football hero and a threat to score whether taking a handoff, catching a pass or returning a punt, I get the appeal and would welcome McCaffrey’s addition to the team.

But my draft-night dream is Alabama tight end O.J. Howard. If trading for him becomes a realistic possibility, it’s a deal Elway needs to make.

Let’s count the reasons why: 1) Howard is the shiny toy that has become all the rage in the NFL, as witnessed by how much New England loves Rob Gronkowski; 2) As a “Y” tight end, Howard not only would create mismatches in the secondary, but his in-line presence alongside a tackle could also help cover for the obvious weakness in Denver’ offensive line, and 3) An offense that has struggled in the red zone needs a legitimate pass-catching tight end to offer an easy target for either Trevor Siemian or Lynch.

How much is all that worth to the Broncos? Now there’s the real question, because trading up in the draft is never cheap. If Howard is among the top nine players selected in the opening round, obtaining him would prove cost-prohibitive. But Buffalo is scheduled to select 10th, and the Bills have only six choices in this draft. Climbing to No. 10 might well force Denver to swap its first-round selection, as well as its pick at No. 51 in the second round.

Too much to pay? Maybe, unless you believe Howard could be a Pro Bowler as a rookie and for years to come.

Other potential trade partners ahead of Denver in the draft order include Indianapolis (No. 15), Baltimore (No. 16) and Tennessee (No. 18). If a run on quarterbacks or a reach for an offensive lineman causes Howard to slip to the middle of the first round, then Denver can probably get him in return for a first and a third-round pick. There are always surprises on draft night, and in the unlikely event Howard or McCaffrey is available in trade at that price, making a deal seems like a no-brainer for Elway.

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The Broncos, of course, could stand pat at No. 20, and fill a need an obvious need by drafting the best offensive lineman available, whether it’s Garett Bolles of Utah, Ryan Ramczyk of Wisconsin or Forrest Lamp of Western Kentucky.

Although there are far more lies uttered than promises kept in the days before the NFL draft, I believe Elway when he said: “My philosophy has always been when we go into the draft, we want to go in picking the best football players. … My belief is that we fix needs in free agency.”

Settling for the best offensive lineman from a weak pool of talent with his first-round choice would run counter to Elway’s philosophy.

Playing it safe has never been Elway’s nature. Once a gunslinger, always a gunslinger. So I expect Elway to take a shot at scoring big in the draft. It’s impossible to predict whether a trade will happen, but it’s safe to assume the phones will be buzzing with trade talk in Denver’s draft room.

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Rockies set to start RHP German Marquez. The youngest rotation in the NL West is getting younger.

1 hour 47 sec ago

The Rockies long ago settled on the idea of a youthful rotation, anchored by 25-year-old Jon Gray, but that rotation will soon become even younger. Colorado on Tuesday will activate 22-year-old German Marquez to start against Washington at Coors Field, manager Bud Black said Monday.

“Isn’t that great? I’m pumped about that,” Black said. “I am, I’m serious. I love it. I’m excited for him. I like young pitchers.”

The youngest rotation in the National League West will get even greener when Marquez takes the spot vacated by Gray, who broke his foot in a game April 13 at San Francisco.

The average age of the Rockies rotation — with Tyler Chatwood and Tyler Anderson, both 27, with Kyle Freeland, 23, Antonio Senzatela, 22, and Marquez — is now 24.2, nearly five years younger on average than the rest of the NL West. The average age of the Dodgers rotation is 31.6, followed by the Padres (30.4). Giants (30.0) and Diamondbacks (27.0).

Marquez, who debuted last season as a September call-up, broke camp on the Rockies’ roster earlier this month in the bullpen, but never appeared in a game before being sent down. In three outings for Triple-A Albuquerque, Marquez had 18 strikeouts and no walks over 10 innings.

“I’m very excited,” Marquez said.

He got a phone call Sunday night to catch a flight to Denver. “My time down there was really good because I got the time to get better and get my pitches up,” he said.

The Rockies are not holding Marquez back. They acquired the then-20 year old in January of 2016 in a trade with Tampa Bay that sent left fielder Corey Dickerson and minor-league infielder Kevin Padlo to the Rays in return for reliever Jake McGee and Marquez. He was 21 when he made his debut, becoming the second-youngest player to debut for Colorado. (Jamey Wright was six days younger in 1996.)

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“His time up here last year was invaluable,” Black said. “He got the initial awe of being in the big leagues out of him. That’s always a big thing to feel comfortable. Even making the team this year, as excited as he was, he was confident in his ability at this level. We knew at some point he was coming back to pitch for us.”

In his last Triple-A start, against Reno on Thursday, Marquez struck out nine and gave up two runs in just 4 2/3 innings. He was pulled at a 75-pitch limit. When the Rockies put him in the bullpen to start the season, his innings workload diminished and he has since been building it back.

But Black said Marquez is ready to throw in the 90-pitch range Tuesday. To get here, Marquez beat out 24-year-old Jeff Hoffman, among others, for the open rotation spot.

“He knows what’s going on around him,” Black said. “His challenge is to pitch his game. As simple as it sounds, it’s one pitch at a time. He needs to make his pitches, do what he does to get outs.”

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Retailers are going bankrupt at a record pace, analysis says

1 hour 40 min ago

Retailers are filing for bankruptcy at a record rate as they try to cope with the rapid acceleration of online shopping.

In a little over three months, 14 chains have announced they will seek court protection, according to an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence, almost surpassing all of 2016. Few retail segments have proven immune as discount shoe-sellers, outdoor goods shops, and consumer electronics retailers have all found themselves headed for reorganization.

Meanwhile, America’s retailers are closing stores faster than ever as they try to eliminate a glut of space and shift more business to the web. S&P blamed retailer financial struggles on their inability to adapt to rising pressure from e-commerce.

Urban Outfitters Chief Executive Officer Richard Hayne said as much on a conference call with analysts last month. There are just too many stores, especially those that sell clothing, he said.

“This created a bubble, and like housing, that bubble has now burst,” said Hayne. “We are seeing the results: Doors shuttering and rents retreating. This trend will continue for the foreseeable future and may even accelerate.”

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Jim Elder, S&P Global Market Intelligence’s director of risk services, wrote that first quarter results suggest there’s no quick recovery in sight. Sears Holdings Corp., Bon-Ton Stores Inc., and Perfumania Holdings Inc. are among the most vulnerable in the coming year, according to an S&P analysis of public retail companies. Sears acknowledged in a March filing that there is “substantial doubt” about its future. Fitch named retail chains including Nine West Holdings, Claire’s Stores, and children’s clothing outlet Gymboree Corp. in a study late last year.

Department stores, electronics retail, and apparel shops are at highest risk, according to S&P. The food and home improvement segments are safest.

Apparel retail has been particularly hard hit, with The Limited, Wet Seal, BCBG Max Azria, and Vanity Shop of Grand Forks each seeking court protection in 2017. The latest victim was Payless Inc., which filed for bankruptcy April 4 and said it would shutter 400 stores.

Rue21 may be next. The embattled teen apparel chain is said to be filing for bankruptcy as soon as this month, according to people familiar with the matter. Or perhaps it will be Gymboree, which Bloomberg News reported is preparing to file for bankruptcy as a June 1 debt payment looms.

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Electronic records bill gets Colorado House hearing

1 hour 43 min ago

DENVER — A bill to modernize Colorado’s Open Records Act gets its first hearing in the Democrat-led House Monday, with Democrats pushing for a measure that presumes the public is entitled to access government records in ways that can be analyzed by computer.

The bill , sponsored by Rep. Dan Pabon and Sen. John Kefalas, would require government entities to provide public records in computer-readable formats such as spreadsheets that are more user-friendly to citizens. That’s not always the case now with paper records on budget items or crime statistics that are difficult to sort through.

The House Finance Committee considers testimony Monday.

The Republican-controlled Senate added an amendment that Democrats say is tangential to the bill’s purpose. The amendment calls for the judicial branch to be subject to the records act — even though Colorado courts have ruled the judiciary isn’t covered by the act. They have their own public records rules.

Backers of the electronic records bill say the amendment won’t pass muster with Democrats who killed a Republican bill on the judiciary issue earlier this session. They say it also could add costs to taxpayers if the judiciary has to change its disclosure rules.

Republicans long have complained about judicial secrecy. They cite the secret costs to taxpayers to prosecute and defend Aurora theater shooter James Holmes, who was sentenced to life in prison for killing 12 people and wounding 70 others in a 2012 attack at a suburban Denver movie theater.

More than 15 states and the federal government allow citizens to obtain computerized data.

Some Colorado jurisdictions and agencies already do so.

The bill allows some exceptions, such as when a government agency doesn’t have the technical know-how to comply with a request.

It’s inspired by an investigation into gender pay equity at Colorado State University by The Coloradoan newspaper. CSU refused to provide a computerized database of salaries, forcing journalists to create their own after inspecting nearly 5,000 employee salaries the university offered on paper.

Other state-funded educational institutions such as the University of Colorado and the Colorado School of Mines have sought guarantees that the bill wouldn’t trigger the accidental release of confidential data such as student Social Security numbers.

The secretary of state’s office, which has led a working group to fashion the bill, has insisted that confidential data can be kept that way.

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Younger Colorado Legislature? Change wins preliminary OK

1 hour 46 min ago

DENVER — Colorado may ask voters again whether 21-year-olds should be able to serve in the state Legislature.

The state Senate gave tentative approval Monday to a measure to lower the age of eligibility from 25 to 21. Supporters say the change could get more young people engaged in the political process.

But the measure faces an uphill battle.

The state constitution would have to amended, which means the change needs more than a simple majority to clear the Legislature. A preliminary vote Monday was short of the needed threshold, so the measure needs additional support before clearing the Senate.

The measure would also have to pass the House and be approved by the governor before heading to voters. Colorado voters rejected lowering the age from 25 to 21 in 2008.

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Trump administration sanctions 271 in Syrian chemical attack

1 hour 49 min ago

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration issued sanctions Monday on 271 people linked to the Syrian agency responsible for producing non-conventional weapons, part of an ongoing U.S. crackdown on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

The sanctions target employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, which the U.S. says partly enables the use of chemical weapons. The U.S. has blamed Assad for an attack earlier this month that killed more than 80 civilians in rebel-held northern Idlib.

“The United States is sending a strong message with this action: That we will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons by any actor,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters at the White House Monday. He said it was one of the largest such sanctions actions in U.S. history.

President Donald Trump has called Assad “evil” and said his use of chemical weapons “crossed a lot of lines.”

Assad has strongly denied he was behind the attack, in which sarin gas was allegedly used.

As a result of Monday’s action, any property or interest in property of the individuals’ sanctioned must be blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.

As Trump dined this month with China’s President Xi Jinping during their highly anticipated summit at Trump’s Florida resort, word emerged that Trump took action against Assad by launching missiles against a Syrian airfield. The retaliation was seen as somewhat unexpected for a president that vowed to stay out of lingering wars and conflicts overseas.

This month, Russia vetoed a Western-backed U.N. resolution that would have condemned the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria and demanded a speedy investigation into the attack. China abstained for the first time, a move the White House billed a win for their efforts to isolate Russia.

“On Syria, the Council failed again this month to respond to Syria’s use of chemical weapons,” Trump said Monday at a White House meeting of U.N. ambassadors from countries on the Security Council. “A great disappointment. I was very disappointed by that.”

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The U.S. has gradually been expanding its sanctions program against Syria since 2004, when it issued sanctions targeting Syria for a range of offenses, including its support of terrorism, as well as its occupation of Lebanon, efforts to undermine stability in Iraq and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

More recently, sanctions were expanded in connection with its civil war, now in its sixth year, to target offenses linked to the ongoing violence and human rights abuses.

The U.S. has also issued sanctions for foreign individuals or companies that support Assad’s government. A number of Iranian entities have been penalized for supporting the Syrian government or fighters working to undermine peace in Syria.

While Moscow and Washington are continuously at odds over Syria, the U.S. has not imposed any Syria-related sanctions on Russia.

Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

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Trump to issue new order calling into question two decades of national monument designations

2 hours 5 min ago

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Wednesday instructing the Interior Department to review national monument designations his three predecessors have made over the past 21 years, according to administration officials and GOP lawmakers, a move that could upend protections that previous presidents have put in place in Utah and elsewhere across the country.

Presidents of both parties have invoked their executive authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to provide safeguards for federal lands and waters. But some of these moves — including Barack Obama’s designation of the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in December and Bill Clinton’s 1996 declaration of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, both in Utah — have sparked fierce criticism from Republicans.

Members of Utah’s congressional delegation started lobbying Trump shortly after his November win to take unilateral action to undo the designation for Bear Ears, which they said should have been protected instead through legislation. While the White House has not yet indicated whether it would remove protections for the new monument, a White House official said in an email Monday that Trump was seeking to ensure the Antiquities Act has not been abused at times.

“Past administrations have overused this power and designated large swaths of land well beyond the areas in need of protection,” said the official, who asked for anonymity in advance of the formal announcement. “The Antiquities Act Executive Order directs the Department of the Interior to review prior monument designations and suggest legislative changes or modifications to the monument proclamations.”

The Salt Lake City Tribune first reported details of the executive order on Sunday.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who traveled to Bears Ears last week to call yet again for a reversal of Obama’s designation, said in a statement that he was “grateful that the President has demonstrated his commitment to work with me on this vitally important issue and deliver real results for the Utahns most affected by these massive federal land grabs.”

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“For years, I have fought every step of the way to ensure that our lands are managed by the Utahns that know them best and cherish them deeply,” Hatch said. “That’s why I’m committed to rolling back the egregious abuse of the Antiquities Act to serve far-left special interests. As part of this commitment, I have leveraged all of my influence – from private meetings in the Oval Office in the President’s first week in office to my latest trip to Bears Ears this week – to ensure that this issue is a priority on the president’s agenda.”

A coalition of five tribes as well as environmentalists, archaeologists and outdoor industry groups lobbied Obama to put a large area in Utah’s San Juan County off-limits to development on the grounds that it boasted some of the nation’s best-preserved rock art and artifacts from ancient Pueblo civilization, which were being looted at times and damaged by motorized vehicle use and vandalism. At the time of last year’s announcement, Navajo Nation president Russell Begaye told reporters, “We have always looked to Bears Ears as a place of refuge, as a place where we can gather herbs and medicinal plants, and a place of prayer and sacredness. These places – the rocks, the wind, the land – they are living, breathing things that deserve timely and lasting protection.”

Unlike the Bears Ears designation, which was done after then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell held a lengthy public hearing and a GOP bill that would have protected part of the area stalled in the House, Clinton’s move to declare Grand Staircase-Escalante a national monument took most people by surprise. That sparked an outcry at the time, though tourism in the area has increased as a result.

Any move by Trump to abolish a national monument designation could spark a serious legal battle. While Congress has wide latitude to change national monument designations, presidents rarely alter ones that are in place. In a few instances, presidents have modified the size of monuments established by their predecessors: Woodrow Wilson cut nearly half the acreage of Mount Olympus National Monument, which Theodore Roosevelt had established. But in 1938, the U.S. Attorney General wrote a formal opinion saying the Antiquities Act authorized a president to establish a monument but did not grant a president the right to abolish one.

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Former Wheat Ridge elementary school takes on new purpose in training law enforcement agencies

2 hours 22 min ago

There is a new school in town, but it’s not full of children with backpacks and pencils. It’s a school for law enforcement officers with guns, learning how to stop school shootings.

Nearly two decades after the tragic shootings at Columbine High School and an alarming number of other deadly attacks in schools across the country, the Frank DeAngelis Center for Community Safety, once known as Martensen Elementary School, was unveiled in Wheat Ridge last week. The site now offers a one-of-a-kind authentic environment for first responders to train with active school-shooter simulations — like the one Wheat Ridge Police Officer Tyler Fashempour encountered on Friday.

Fashempour is in a dark, empty classroom. He has a gun trained on a man straight ahead of him, who has one arm in the air and the other by his side, his hand obscured by items on a table next to him.

“Show us both of your hands, sir,” demands Fashempour. The suspect disregards the order. His obscured hand twitches furtively, and without warning he whips it into view, pointing something silver and shiny at the officer.

Fashempour fires a shot and the suspect hits the ground.

The lights in the room come on, and the table and suspect fade to black as the simulation comes to an end. Fashempour lowers his fake gun and turns to his trainer, Darrel Smith, patrol commander with Security and Emergency Management for the Jefferson County Public School District, who sits at a desk in the corner of the room during this training session. He rewinds the simulation footage and shows Fashempour that the item in the suspect’s hand was a staple gun.

Once part of the Jefferson County Public School District, Martensen closed in 2011 because of budget cuts and sat empty for two years. In 2013, the school came back to life under the direction of John McDonald, executive director of security and emergency management, and has been visited by police departments and other first-responder agencies from across the nation.

Last Wednesday, Martensen was officially dedicated as a training facility at an open house ceremony. The building’s new name honors former Columbine High School principal, Frank DeAngelis, who led the high school through the 1999 shooting there.

For four years McDonald worked to remodel the abandoned school, including covering the building’s forest green exterior with a coat of police blue.

“This building is a reminder of all those lives that were lost and all those lives that we will save in the future,” McDonald said at the center’s open house. “This will continue to be a place of education. The students are just different — now they are first-responders.”

The center has welcomed a variety of agencies, including SWAT and the Navy SEALs, to use the classrooms, still crowded with desks, for training authenticity.

“One of the biggest challenges we have in law enforcement is that it’s hard for us to find locations to do tactical training,” Wheat Ridge police chief Dan Brennan said. “It’s a pretty dynamic exercise, cops have real guns, they go through tactics to approach, search, assess victims for medical attention and try to neutralize the suspect.”

In 2013, law enforcement throughout Jefferson County requested the use of a school building for training purposes 42 times, but it wasn’t easy getting into one.

“It was tough to get a school because they’re always in use,” McDonald said. “So you go to an empty warehouse and they’d be like, ‘pretend this wall’s there, and pretend that’s not there,’ and it’s difficult to get a realistic training out of that.”

A donation from Ti Training Corp., which specializes in law enforcement training simulations, allowed McDonald to add an interactive use-of-force simulator.

But the simulator isn’t just shooting practice — in some of the available scenarios, trainees are able to de-escalate the situation verbally. It’s all about exposing inexperienced responders to complex interactions and teaching them to handle dangerous situations in the best manner possible.

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“A lot of people look at it and think it’s a shoot, don’t shoot type thing … but it’s so much more than that,” Smith said. “If you take it deeper than that, we’re not so worried about did they use OC (pepper spray)? But, how did they de-escalate the person on the screen in the scenario?”

The simulator’s scenarios, which are filmed with live actors, also include domestic violence situations and confrontations with mentally ill individuals. Some of the reenactments featured are based on actual school shootings.

“It’s really realistic once you get into it,” Fashempour said. “Once you go through it a few times you start to see it as a real-life scenario. It’s a great training tool. For me, my heart rate goes up a little bit.”

Written on a wall inside one of the center’s training rooms is a list of eight Colorado school shootings. Below it reads, “19 deceased and 29 wounded in Colorado School shootings … We will never forget so we prepare to respond today for tomorrow.”

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Ask Amy: Tech co-workers wage Nerf wars in the office

2 hours 26 min ago

Dear Amy: I’m a woman working for a software startup. We are all millennials. I really enjoy my job, except for this: Picture a group of (mostly male) software developers shooting Nerf guns at each other, with Nerf darts whistling past you, hitting windows, office equipment and other employees.

There is nowhere to physically “hide” from these battles. Only a few higher-ups have offices.

I’m caught in the crossfire on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis and have gotten hit by darts multiple times. If it’s somewhere below my neck, it doesn’t bother me as much. But recently I was hit in the back of the head. I just think this goes beyond normal workplace fun, and is a huge distraction.

A few months back another employee got hit in the eye and had to seek medical attention for a scratched cornea.

Am I overreacting here, or do I have valid concerns? Is this an HR issue, or should I accept this as a normal office activity that management knows about?

I don’t want to voice my concerns for fear of being labeled difficult to work with. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s too much to ask not to have to worry about getting injured at work in an office.

I’m pretty sure there are quite a few other co-workers who quietly feel the same way but I suspect they are also afraid of voicing a concern and being labeled as a bad apple.

— Battle Scarred

Dear Battle Scarred: I don’t have much personal insight into the crazy world of Silicon Valley, so I asked my friend, Axios tech journalist Ina Fried, for some advice. Here’s her response:

“While it’s great that your colleagues have so much, um, enthusiasm, you certainly have the right to do your work without having to constantly worry about friendly fire. That said, no one wants to be known as the office killjoy, so some diplomacy makes sense, too.

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“I recommend talking to HR privately. Say that while you want your co-workers to have fun, it’s starting to get out of hand and you are concerned for your own safety and productivity — as well as for the company. (Really, if someone already has a scratched cornea they should understand they have a problem.) You can also mention that you value having fun at work and have tried to think of some alternatives.

“Maybe the company can designate a ‘game time’ — that way everyone that likes turning the office into a Nerf firing range can do so. Or perhaps there is one part of the office (away from the desks) that could be used for such activities.

And, if they aren’t open to that, you might want to consider a strategic retreat.”

I would add that this is yet another way that tech companies are earning their reputation as hostile work environments to women and other people who don’t like to behave like they’re at a frat house. Please, stand up for your own rights.

Dear Amy: I have a childhood friend I have reconnected with.

Her house is filthy. She has birds whose cages she never cleans. I got so sick the last time I was there, I cannot ever go back. I’m talking a bacterial infection, and vomiting.

How can she stand it?

Her birds need to be removed from the house so that they can be properly cared for. In the meantime, I am running out of excuses to not go to her house.

Should I just tell her I am allergic to her birds and avoid her? I really enjoy her company, but cannot stand the filth!

— Recovered

Dear Recovered: Your friend might have slowly acclimated to the filth from her bird cages. I can only imagine the impact on the birds. Bird droppings can carry may different diseases; at this point the environment might actually be safer because the droppings are undisturbed.

You should tell your friend a version of the truth: “I love seeing you, but I can’t go into your house because of the birds. I worry about them — and you. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before, but I feel like you need to know.”

Dear Amy: “Grieving Friend” was upset about a photo posted on Facebook of a friend in his casket. In some cultures people routinely take pictures of people after they have passed.

— Informed

Dear Informed: This photo was posted by a distant cousin of the deceased. This is a violation, unless directed to do so by next of kin.

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Broncos GM John Elway’s stance on “character concerns” looms large with Joe Mixon, Reuben Foster, Jabrill Peppers

2 hours 28 min ago

The excitement and unpredictability of the NFL draft usually comes at the quarterback position. That makes sense because how a quarterback plays can shape the trajectory of a franchise unlike any other position in professional sports.

The draft “fallers” — those players whose draft stock plummets, often because of character issues — are less of an exact science.

Broncos general manager John Elway has a reputation of being more forgiving to draft “fallers” with minor off-field concerns. He selected Shane Ray (marijuana possession) and Bradley Roby (physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol) in the first round in two of the past three drafts. Elway said making such a call is a case-by-case scenario with multiple people in their front office involved.

There are several potential “fallers” in this year’s draft, including running back Joe Mixon, linebacker Reuben Foster, safety Jabrill Peppers, receiver Dede Westbrook and defensive lineman Caleb Brantley and Malik McDowell, among others.

“It starts opening discussions. They’re falling for a reason,” Elway said. “If he falls to us, number one, is it somebody we want? And number two, why is he falling? If it’s something we can put up with then we’ll discuss that. That always happens with some people.”

Drug arrests or positive drug tests are troublesome, but are given more leeway to forgiveness than other off-field issues. Foster and Peppers had diluted drug tests at the NFL combine, which will automatically place them in the NFL drug program. Both have been regarded as potential first-round picks and now may fall, but neither is expected to drop more than a round.

“We try to dig in and find out exactly what it is. If there’s more of a history there, we find out,” Elway said. “I’m not the authority on drug tests so I go to (director of sports medicine Steve Antonopulos) ‘Greek.’ Greek and the doctors let us know if there’s an issue there. Usually, if it shows up there, it’s showing up somewhere else.”

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The Broncos have a strong locker room and public relations staff to handle a troubled player if they feel he can overcome his mistakes and the reward makes it worth the risk.

“These are young guys. We have to help them down the walk of life,” Elway said. “Ray Jackson, who is our player development guy, does a tremendous job. What have they done? No. 1, and No. 2, can Ray get them going and help them out? We get them in a situation where we support them and get them going down the right path where we feel like we can put those mistakes in the past and go in the right direction.”

Foster, in particular, is intriguing because he’s regarded as a top-10 talent who would fit well as a Broncos 3-4 linebacker if he’s available when the Broncos pick at No. 20. Peppers, a first- or second-round prospect, is a versatile player who could fill a role as a playmaker at returner, safety and/or offensive weapon.

Mixon, Brantley and Westbrook are among those who have had serious domestic violence incidents that make it more likely they will fall farther than Foster or Peppers. The Broncos brought in Mixon for a pre-draft visit last month. Elway wouldn’t comment Monday whether he is considering drafting the former Oklahoma running back.

“We’re still evaluating that,” Elway said of Mixon, who could go as high as the second round.  “Obviously, that’s an issue and something that we’re continuing to look at while getting as much background as we can on Joe to see where he may fall for us. We had a good meeting with him. We didn’t get a chance to spend a lot of time with him, but we had a good meeting.”

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Broncos like Christian McCaffrey “a lot,” draft’s great tight end class, replacing Adam Peters, more

2 hours 52 min ago

There has been no player connected to the Broncos in the 2017 NFL draft process more than former Valor Christian and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.

It’s not just a feel-good story; the interest is real.

The Broncos had a meeting with McCaffrey at the NFL combine, met with him at his pro day and had him in for a pre-draft visit earlier this month. So why all the extra attention for a player who likely won’t be available when the Broncos pick at 20?

“He was close. And it was free,” Broncos general manager John Elway joked Monday. “And we wanted to meet with him. He’s a great kid. We like Christian a lot and we wanted to bring him in. It was one of those (where) he was in the area, so we wanted to take advantage of that to get to see him again. He’s a great kid.”

@NickiJhabvala Maybe they could throw @CMcCaffrey5 a sawbuck? 😊 #gasmoney #dependent

— Lisa McCaffrey (@LisaMcCaffrey6) April 24, 2017

McCaffrey would be a great fit for the Broncos filling needs for “more juice” on offense at running back and slot receiver. He could also be a dangerous returner. But with Carolina (pick eighth), Cincinnati (ninth), Philadelphia (14th), Indianapolis (15th), Washington (17th) and Tampa Bay (19th) all in need of a running back, he may not follow his father Ed’s footsteps to play with the Broncos.

Elway did say he has no concerns about McCaffrey’s local ties to the team and the city being a negative.

“My concern is if he can play football. That’s our concern,” Elway said. “And that, he can do.”

A lot of Fs, not many Ys

There has been a lot of talk about the deep positions in this NFL draft. Elway mentioned cornerback, safety, running back, receiver and tight end, but he spent a good bit of time talking about the latter.

Many are calling this the best tight end class this century. Alabama’s O.J. Howard leads the crop.

“It’s a deep ‘F’ class, guys that are good route runners and can move, not necessarily the strength of being an in-line tight end. There are a couple of good in-line tight ends, but for the most part they are Fs. They are more scheme fits. That is why we say it is a deep class, but what happens is if that is where it falls to us in the third, fourth, fifth round, there may be a real tight end that we can go ahead and get.”

Front office changes

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The Broncos’ draft preparation was dealt a blow the week before Super Bowl LI when top scout Adam Peters took the 49ers vice president of player personnel job.

Denver hasn’t yet replaced Peters with a new director of college scouting, but it plans to do so after the draft.

“He did a tremendous job for us,” Elway said of Peters. “What we’ve done is spread some of the responsibility that Adam had with where we are now. Once we get through the draft and get into May, we’ll make some changes.”

Learned that SF is using Denver’s grading system for this draft. Funny part? Josh McDaniels originally brought it there from New England

— Kevin Jones (@Mr_KevinJones) April 24, 2017

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19-year-old accused of driving vehicle through Berthoud High School, causing $35K in damage

3 hours 3 min ago

A 19-year-old man is accused of driving a vehicle through Berthoud High School in February, causing more than $35,000 damage to the Larimer County building.

Provided by the Larimer County Sheriff's OfficeSkylar Hill

Authorities say Skylar Hill, of Frederick, allegedly drove into the school through a set of glass doors and then exited the building through a second set of glass doors. The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office says the vehicle he used was reported stolen out of Boulder.

The incident happened sometime before the early morning hours of Feb. 14 when the damage to the school — at 850 Spartan Ave. — was discovered.

“No suspect vehicles were located on school property or in the immediate area and deputies searched the building for potential suspects, but none were found,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release Monday. “The Berthoud Fire Department was also called to the scene to check the structural integrity of the building.  The school was not occupied at the time the damage occurred.  The damage to the building was estimated at more than $35,000.”

Felony Criminal Mischief at Berthoud High School

On February 14, 2017, at approximately 5:41 a.m., a Larimer…

— Larimer Sheriff (@LarimerSheriff) April 24, 2017

Hill was identified as a suspect in the case and in late March authorities learned he was being held at the Weld County jail on unrelated charges.

“Investigators interviewed Hill at the jail and established probable cause to pursue charges against Hill for driving a vehicle through the Berthoud High School building,” the release said.

Charges against Hill are also pending in Boulder for his alleged link to the stolen vehicle. The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office says Hill remains jailed in Weld County and is suspected of felony criminal mischief.

Investigators did not say what motivated Hill or if he has any connection to Berthoud High School.

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John Elway is armed with picks and options for the NFL draft. And his plan is simple.

3 hours 4 min ago

John Elway is holding his cards close and has at least 10 very good reasons to do so ahead of the NFL draft, which starts Thursday.

Sure, the Broncos could trade any of those 10 picks to move up from their No. 20 slot in the first round. Or they could move back. They could stand pat, they could draft an offensive lineman or they could spend big to try to get that running back from Stanford everyone is talking about. Heck, they could even draft another pass rusher to ensure Elway’s prized defense continues to be a menace for opposing quarterbacks.

The Broncos’ draft board was completed last Thursday but they “always massage it” in the final days. The names and the order will shift — some a lot, some a little. Everything, Elway said, will be considered and calls be taken and, most likely, outsiders will see the smoke continue to build until it finally clears Thursday evening.

“Everybody is talking about moving up and down,” Elway, the team’s general manager, said Monday. “It’s that time. In the next couple of days it’ll continue and you find out who wants to do what. But until we get to draft day, you never know really how serious anybody is.”

If there’s any certainty to the Broncos’ plans now, it’s this: Elway is on the search for the top talent for the Broncos’ needs. The players with the greatest potential to help get the team back to the playoffs after a year of missing out, as well as be key pieces beyond this year.

“We want to go in picking the best football players,” Elway said. “Free agent-wise, my belief is that we fix needs in free agency. With Ron Leary and Menelik (Watson), and the offensive line and the guys we signed there and defensive line-wise what we did, we’re still going to try to draft the best football players that are going to help us and not get in a situation where we reach for one.”

The draft class appears deep with elite defenders — from corner, to safety, to pass-rushers — and is packed with playmakers. But it is shallow on offensive line talent, where the Broncos have yet to fill their void at left tackle.  The limited options in free agency at tackle and a relatively weak draft class for linemen has created a situation Elway called “not ideal,” but also not final.

“Everyone talks about left tackle and right tackle. Really, I think that is old-term kind of talk,” Elway said. “You need two good tackles because they can move their pass-rushers around. If you’re weak on the right side, they’ll put them on the right side or the left side or whatever. We want to have two good tackles.

“Now, we’ve got to do a better job of helping protect them, too. I think that (offensive coordinator Mike) McCoy and the staff, looking at all of those different options protection-wise, we’re looking to help those guys, too. No matter how good of a tackle you are, there are too many great pass rushers out there. You’re going to always get beat because there are a lot of great pass rushers out there…..We can find a guy that fits that spot and also the best job of taking care of him over there, too.”

If the Broncos spend their first pick Thursday on an offensive tackle — be it Utah’s Garett Bolles, Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk or maybe Alabama’s Cam Robinson — the expectation is that that player will come in and compete for a job. Just like the other rookies. But the learning curve for young offensive linemen is steep and the Broncos need help now.

“A lot of people don’t think we have a left tackle on our team,” Elway said. “Ty Sambrailo played left tackle for us two years ago and was playing very well and hasn’t been healthy. That’s always an option for us.”

Sambrailo, a second-round pick out of Colorado State in 2015, started three games as a rookie before he was lost to a shoulder injury. An elbow injury in training camp last summer appeared to hinder his play.  He played 10 games, but started only four and allowed a team-high seven sacks.

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“Left tackles are not easy to find,” Elway said. “We thought Ty is a guy who can compete there. (Donald) Stephenson has played a little left, Menelik has played a little left….It may not be ideal, but you never know.”

Passing up one of the many playmakers available to draft a lineman may not be easy.

Denver’s offense over the past two seasons morphed into an inconsistent unit. The Broncos need help on offense, and could find it in the draft at tight end, running back and wide receiver as well as on the line. But success depends on both talent and fit, Elway said.

“Dak (Prescott) was a good fit in Dallas,” he said of the Cowboys’ fourth-round pick, a quarterback who turned into the league’s rookie of the year last season. “You got that offensive line, you got that great running game. That’s going to help take care of a young quarterback, so the pressure wasn’t on him. He’s got people around him that are going to make him a better player.”

As for Denver’s draft plan, Elway isn’t giving away too many details. Not yet. Not as the smoke begins to build.

“It sounds like it’s real easy but until you get going and things start flying around, you never know what price it’ll cost you to go up or if you go back, if there’s a trade partner to go back,” he said. “That’s why there’s going to be a lot of smoke this week until we really get to Thursday.

“The key thing for the draft is to try to select players who can help us be a better football team.”

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Placebos can help mend a broken heart, CU Boulder study says

3 hours 9 min ago

Whether it’s being told the classic, “It’s not you, it’s me” line or having someone vanish without a word, mending a broken heart is painful. But a new study released Monday discovered that when love hurts, a placebo can help.

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder measured the neurological and behavioral effect a placebo had on people who had recently experienced an “unwanted romantic breakup.” Researchers discovered that people who believed they were doing something to help themselves get over an ex decreased their perception of pain.

“We found a placebo can have quite strong effects on reducing the intensity of social pain,” said Leonie Koban, co-author and postdoctoral research associate at the Institute for Cognitive Research at CU Boulder, in a release. “Just the fact that you are doing something for yourself and engaging in something that gives you hope may have an impact.”

Forty participants who experienced a breakup in the last six months were asked to bring a photo of their ex and a photo of a same-gendered friend. The experiment alternated between subjects seeing the photos and receiving physical pain — a hot stimulus on their forearm — and rating how they felt as an MRI tracked their brain activity. The volunteers were given nasal spray afterward. Half were told the truth, that the spray was a saline solution. The other half were told the spray was a powerful painkiller that reduced physical and emotional pain.

“After the placebo treatment, people were more optimistic about seeing their ex,” said Tor Wager, professor of neuroscience and psychology at CU Boulder. “At the same time, it activated pathways that produce opioids and feel-good chemicals that help us cope with physical pain.”

Activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — an area of the brain involved in adjusting emotions — increased as areas associated with rejection diminished in participants who received the placebo. Volunteers also showed more activity in their periaqueductal gray or PAG — a part of the midbrain responsible for creating painkilling chemicals, like opioids and dopamine.

“The pain you feel after unwanted rejection — something people often describe in words like ‘aching’ or ‘crushing,’ ‘I felt sick,’ I felt like I was going to throw up’ — all those words people use to describe these kinds of emotional events have a neurological and neuro-chemical reality,” he said. “It’s not just subjective. There’s something really happening in your brain that matters.”

Wager said he thinks the placebo gave people a sense of hope that their future could be different. But romantic rejection, something almost all people experience at time, could have a number of solutions like physical activity, spending time with friends and family or being open to change, Wager said.

“Different things work for different people,” he said. “We might never be able to work out a solution for an individual person. It’s up to each of us to figure out how to enhance our positive engagement and help us overcome a negative experience.”

Ultimately, Wager said he does not believe his research will change the way people view breakups, but he thinks experiencing negativity is all about perspective.

“We don’t always have a lot of control over what we think, but what we do matters,” he said. “Rejection still hurts and maybe it should and it always will, but I think about my own rejection experiences and I think, ‘This will never end,’ ‘I’ll never find something or somebody better.’ But one helpful thought to remember is ‘No negative future is written in stone.’ “

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Muslim inmates at Sterling prison sue 3 guards claiming religious discrimination

3 hours 32 min ago

Three Muslim inmates at Sterling Correctional Facility have sued three correctional officers claiming they were pepper sprayed during a prayer meeting and later assaulted when one of them filed grievances and contacted an attorney.

The civil lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of Donell Blount, Cecil Mason and Terry Phillips in U.S. District Court in Denver by civil rights attorneys David Lane, Zachary Warren, Michael Fairhurst and Igor Raykin.

The inmates are seeking compensatory and punitive damages against Sterling Correctional officers Ethan Kellogg, David Scherbarth and an officer with the last name of Quinlan.

The inmates claim that on April 15, 2016 when they went to a room for a weekly prayer service, correctional officers were already using it  for another program. The officers angrily ordered the Muslim inmates to go back to their pods.

The three Muslim inmates were later told to return to the classroom for their service and when they entered they were immediately engulfed in a cloud of pepper spray, the lawsuit says. As the inmates gasped for air, the defendants laughed at them, the lawsuit says. “Plaintiffs felt a searing sensation in their noses, throats, eyes, and all over their exposed skin.”

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Kellogg later admitted that he released the spray immediately before the inmates entered the “relatively small room.” The lawsuit accused him of harboring “a discriminatory animus towards them because of their religious beliefs.”

Scherbarth called Blount into his office and ordered him to drop all grievances and not file a lawsuit, the lawsuit says. He threatened Blount that if he didn’t follow his directions “life would be hard,” he would throw Blount in the hole he would be tortured.

Quinlan repeatedly ordered Blount to drop the court case and when Blount refused, Quinlan allegedly struck Blount’s back repeatedly with his fists while the inmate was in handcuffs, causing internal bleeding, the lawsuit says. Blount was also placed in solitary confinement and denied medical attention even though he had blood in his urine, the lawsuit says.

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Denver Pioneers hockey schedule 2017-18: Defending NCAA champs open season at Notre Dame

3 hours 42 min ago

A season-opening series at Notre Dame and two games in Beantown against the Boston University Terriers and Boston College Eagles highlight the University of Denver hockey team’s 2017-18 nonconference schedule.

The Pioneers, who won their eighth national title earlier this month, open their 24-game National Collegiate Hockey Conference slate Nov. 3 at Western Michigan. DU has 18 home games and 16 on the road, with key NCHC series against North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth and in-state rival Colorado College at Magness Arena.

Last season, the Pioneers only had two regular-season games apiece against North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth. They lost to the Fighting Hawks at the NCHA Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis but beat the Bulldogs in the Frozen Four championship game in Chicago. Next season, DU will only have one two-game NCHC series, this time against Western Michigan and Nebraska-Omaha.

DU’s Oct. 13 opener at Notre Dame will be a rematch of the April 6 Frozen Four semifinal, in which the Pioneers breezed to a 6-1 victory. The Pioneers and Fighting Irish — who will switch from Hockey East to the Big Ten Conference next season — will also play Oct. 14 in South Bend, Ind.

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Denver’s home-opener is the following week against Lake Superior State of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. DU then travels to Boston to play the Terriers and Eagles Oct. 27-28. The Pioneers also have nonconference games, each at home, against Dartmouth (Dec. 15-16), Merrimack (Dec. 29) and Air Force (Dec. 30).

The Pioneers play six of their first eight games on the road before beginning a four-game homestand in consecutive series against St. Cloud State and North Dakota.

Denver hockey schedule, 2017-18

Oct. 1                University of Lethbridge  (exhibition)
Oct. 13              at Notre Dame
Oct. 14              at Notre Dame
Oct. 20              Lake Superior State
Oct. 21              Lake Superior State
Oct. 27              at Boston University
Oct. 28              at Boston College
Nov. 3            at Western Michigan
Nov. 4            at Western Michigan
Nov. 10         St. Cloud
Nov. 11         St. Cloud
Nov. 17         North Dakota
Nov. 18         North Dakota
Dec. 1             at Minnesota Duluth
Dec. 2          at Minnesota Duluth
Dec. 8            Colorado College
Dec. 9             at Colorado College
Dec. 15          Dartmouth
Dec. 16          Dartmouth
Dec. 29          Merrimack
Dec. 30          Air Force
Jan. 5                 at Miami
Jan. 6                 at Miami
Jan. 19             Nebraska Omaha
Jan. 20             Nebraska Omaha
Jan. 26               at North Dakota
Jan. 27               at North Dakota
Feb.  2              Minnesota Duluth
Feb. 3             Minnesota Duluth
Feb. 16             at Colorado College
Feb. 17           Colorado College
Feb. 23             at St. Cloud
Feb. 24             at St. Cloud
March 2                  Miami
March 3                  Miami
March 9-11             NCHC first round playoffs
March 16-17           NCHC Frozen Faceoff, Minneapolis
March 23-25           NCAA Regionals (Bridgeport, Conn., Worcester, Mass., Allentown, Pa., Sioux Falls, S.D.)
April 5-7                  NCAA Frozen Four, St. Paul, Minn.


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Coloradans work until April 24 to reach Tax Freedom Day, research firm says

3 hours 59 min ago

Starting Monday, what Colorado taxpayers make will be theirs to keep, according to the Tax Foundation, a tax policy research firm.

The average taxpayer in the state will have made enough to cover federal, state and local tax obligations as of April 24, what the group calls Tax Freedom Day. That’s the same point as in 2016, but down from 2015’s Tax Freedom Day of April 25, and up from April 22 in 2014.

Tax Freedom Day nationally this year came on April 23, so Colorado is only a day behind. But its break-even day is the 37th latest among states.

Connecticut taxpayers on average have to work until May 21 to cover their taxes, while those in New Jersey must work until May 13 and New Yorkers until May 11. At the other extreme, Mississippi residents have the lightest tax burden, which they cover by April 5, followed by Tennessee on April 7 and South Dakota, April 8.

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Colorado’s state and local tax burdens aren’t extreme compared to some of the coastal states, ranking 21st among states, said Morgan Scarboro, a policy analyst at the Tax Foundation.

But tax returns here report higher incomes on average — ranking 13th-highest on a per capita basis. That results in more filers in higher tax brackets paying more in federal taxes.

“The state will pay more in federal taxes due to our progressive federal income tax structure,” Scarboro said.

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The Cannabist honored with journalism awards for health, business coverage

4 hours 5 min ago

There are scores of stories to be told about the evolution of marijuana legalization in America, and cannabis journalism is receiving mainstream recognition.

The Cannabist’s Alicia Wallace, who covers national business and policy matters along with Colorado-based topics, has received multiple honors for her in-depth reporting in the past year. The Denver Post, which oversees The Cannabist, also picked up a number of awards for topical marijuana coverage.

Wallace, who worked on The Denver Post’s business beat before joining The Cannabist in July 2016, earned accolades from the Society of Professional Journalists’ regional chapter, the Colorado Press Association and the Colorado Associated Press Editors and Reporters in the groups’ annual April contest events.

Read the full story at The Cannabist.

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Arkansas prepares for first double execution in U.S. since 2000

4 hours 24 min ago

VARNER, Ark. — Two Arkansas killers set to die Monday in the nation’s first double execution in more than 16 years acknowledge they’re guilty but fear the lethal injections could subject them to excruciating pain due to their various health problems.

Arkansas Department of Corrections, via AP fileDeath-row inmates Jack Jones, left, and Marcel Williams. The two Arkansas inmates scheduled to be put to death Monday, April 24, 2017, in what could be the nation’s first double execution in more than 16 years have asked an appeals court to halt their lethal injections because of poor health.

Jack Jones and Marcel Williams say their medical conditions — which include obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure — could complicate their executions. Jones’ execution is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and Williams’ is slated to begin at 8:15 p.m. in the same execution chamber. They have asked courts to grant them stays, but so far none has. Their appeals are now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Williams’ “morbid obesity makes it likely that either the IV line cannot be placed or that it will be placed in error, thus causing substantial damage (like a collapsed lung),” his attorneys wrote in a court filing asking justices to block the execution.

In Jones’ case, attorneys said he takes a daily dose of two medications to treat chronic pain, and they worry those drugs could desensitize him to the effects of midazolam, which is a sedative and the first drug used in Arkansas’ lethal injection protocol.

They would be the second and third inmates executed by Arkansas this month. A fourth execution is set for Thursday. Arkansas initially wanted to execute eight men before a drug used to sedate the inmates expires Sunday, but four other inmates have won stays.

Before Ledell Lee’s execution last Thursday, Arkansas hadn’t put an inmate to death since 2005. In several of the 31 states where executions are legal, drug shortages have often forced delays as manufacturers prohibit their use in executions. Arkansas believes that secrecy it grants to suppliers can solve that problem, though it still has difficulty obtaining the drugs. Courts have also forced rewrites of Arkansas’ lethal injection protocols, causing further delays. Jones and Williams committed their crimes more than two decades ago.

In recent pleadings before state and federal courts, the inmates say the three drugs Arkansas uses to execute prisoners — midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride — could be ineffective because of their poor health.

Jones, 52, has lost a leg to diabetes and is on insulin. Williams, 46, weighs 400 pounds, is diabetic and has concerns that the execution team might not be able to find a suitable vein to support an intravenous line.

The poor health of both men, their lawyers claim, could make it difficult for them to respond during a consciousness check following a megadose of midazolam. The state shouldn’t risk giving them drugs to stop their lungs and hearts if they aren’t unconscious, they have told courts.

In a response filed with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, lawyers for the state said the inmates had filed an “avalanche” of lawsuits to obtain stays. The men’s attorneys countered that the state forced their hands.

“If there was an ‘avalanche’ of litigation, as the state complains, that’s because the state created an avalanche of execution dates,” Julie Vandiver wrote.

The 8th Circuit rejected Jones’ and Williams’ requests for stays Monday, and the Arkansas Supreme Court said Monday it wouldn’t reopen the men’s cases and refused to issue stays.

The initial eight executions would have been the most by a state in such a short period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The state said the executions needed to be carried out before its supply of the sedative midazolam expires on April 30.

The last state to put more than one inmate to death on the same day was Texas, which executed two killers in August 2000. Arkansas executed four men in an eight-day period in 1960. The only quicker pace included quadruple executions in 1926 and 1930.

Williams was sent to death row for the 1994 rape and killing of 22-year-old Stacy Errickson, whom he kidnapped from a gas station in central Arkansas.

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Authorities said Williams abducted and raped two other women in the days before he was arrested in Errickson’s death. Williams admitted responsibility to the state Parole Board last month.

“I wish I could take it back, but I can’t,” Williams told the board.

Jones was given the death penalty for the 1995 rape and killing of Mary Phillips. He strangled her with the cord to a coffee pot.

In a letter earlier this month, Jones said he was ready to be killed by the state.

“I forgive my executioners; somebody has to do it,” wrote Jones, who had a leg amputated in prison because of diabetes and uses a wheelchair.

The letter, which his attorney read aloud at his clemency hearing, went on to say: “I shall not ask to be forgiven, for I haven’t the right.”

Seven people have been executed in the United States this year, four in Texas and one each in Arkansas, Missouri and Virginia. Last year, 20 people were executed, down from 98 in 1999 and the lowest number since 14 in 1991, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Associated Press writers Jill Bleed contributed to this report from Little Rock.

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Jimmie Johnson grabs rare Bristol win after Larson mishap

4 hours 25 min ago


BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — It was just last month when people were wondering what was wrong with Jimmie Johnson and his slow start to the season.

How silly it was to worry.

Johnson grabbed a rare victory at Bristol Motor Speedway on Monday, giving him consecutive wins for the 11th time in his storied career. It was just the second career win in Thunder Valley for Johnson, who considers it one of his most vexing tracks.

His Hendrick Motorsorts team hit on something during Saturday’s practice for his Chevrolet, and that locked him in for the race postponed a day by rain.

“This track has been really difficult,” admitted Johnson, who last won at Bristol in 2007. But that Saturday find was “honestly, it’s what I’ve been looking for for 16 years. We finally figured it out. So, I’m very very happy.”

Johnson also won on Feb. 9 at Texas Motor Speedway, NASCAR’s last event prior to Monday. It ended any chatter that the seven-time and reigning champion might not be up for a record eighth title.

Johnson now has 82 career victories, and is just one away from tying Cal Yarborough for sixth on the all-time wins list. Two more would put him alongside Darrell Waltrip.

“That’s just mind-blowing,” Johnson said of his place in history.

Johnson doesn’t like Bristol, but it wasn’t evident Monday as he contended with Kyle Larson, the points leader and most dominant driver of the day. A speeding penalty on Larson late in the race allowed Johnson to make it look easy in the end. Clint Bowyer finished second and Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick was third.

Matt Kenseth was the highest finishing Toyota driver with a very quiet fourth. Joey Logano in a Ford was fifth for Team Penske and Larson rallied to sixth. He had been dropped to 29th in the field after the penalty and making it back to the top 10 was a victory in itself for Larson, who led a career-high 202 laps.

“I knew I gave the race away there,” Larson said of the speeding penalty. “I was surprised that I was able to line up with an opportunity there at the end. I think even if I was able to get to the lead, I don’t think I would have won because Jimmie and Clint were way faster than I was.

“They were over a straightaway ahead of us, I think, at the checkered flag. Disappointed in myself. I think I speed on pit road every single time I come to Bristol. So got to clean that up.”

Chase Elliott finished seventh and the top 10 was rounded out by Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Denny Hamlin.


Dale Earnhardt Jr. was running 20th with just under 300 laps remaining when he wrecked during a restart after a mechanical issue. He didn’t return to the track.

NASCAR’s most popular driver was second in this race a year ago, but this year he’s still trying to find his way back into contention. NASCAR’s last race, at Texas, was his first top-five finish of the season.

As he headed to the care center for a medical checkup, a fan tried to take selfie with Earnhardt . Initially denied, Earnhardt was accommodating after he was cleared medically.


Kyle Busch is still seeking his first win of the season after an accident led to a 35th-place finish.

He had been hoping to win his sixth career Cup race at Bristol, and had the speed all weekend to do so.

“I was the fastest one out there those last two runs picking cars off and driving from the back to the front after we lost our track position the first time,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s fundamentally wrong what we’re doing, but it seems like all the rest of our five JGR cars are fine.”


NASCAR travels to Richmond, Virginia, for another short-track showdown. The three-day show will lack defending race winner Carl Edwards, who bumped teammate Joe Gibbs Racing for the victory in 2016. Edwards is not racing this year.


More AP auto racing:

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