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Updated: 25 min 17 sec ago

Denver weather: Calmer, cool temperatures Saturday

1 hour 52 min ago

Friday’s ferocious wind gusts that blew snow and caused road closures in the high country — and made life unpleasant on the plains — gave way Saturday morning to much calmer conditions.

The National Weather Service says the Denver area’s forecast calls for light winds and temperatures in the low- to mid-40s Saturday, with partly cloudy skies in the morning turning cloudier in the afternoon. Conditions are expected to stay dry into Sunday, when high temperatures are forecast to reach the low 50s.

Much calmer for today with partly to mostly cloudy skies, light winds and cool temperatures. West winds will persist over the higher mountains along with areas of blowing snow near the higher ridges and passes. Continued cool and dry for tonight with light winds. #COwx pic.twitter.com/dWyMKXbQ1B

— NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) January 18, 2020

The Denver Womxn’s March was set to step off at 10 a.m. Saturday in Civic Center.

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Interstate 70 in the mountains was fully open Saturday after a closure near Vail Friday night, though the Colorado Department of Transportation said roads were still icy and snow-packed, slowing the heavy morning ski traffic.

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Denver Womxn’s March 2020: Live updates from downtown

2 hours 10 min ago

The 2020 Womxn’s March on Denver is set to begin assembling at 9:30 a.m. at Civic Center Park in downtown Denver.

RELATED: Here’s what you need to know about the 2020 Denver Womxn’s March
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Aurora, Denver police investigate separate shootings that injured 3

2 hours 14 min ago

Denver and Aurora police are investigating shootings Friday night and early Saturday morning that injured three people, the departments said.

In the Aurora shooting, police said a man awoke to strangers inside his apartment in the 2100 block of South Rifle Way. During a struggle, a man suffered “multiple gunshot wounds,” according to a news release. The shooting happened about 2:30 a.m.

The man was hospitalized, and information about his condition was not immediately available. The Aurora Police Department said it was still investigating the incident and asked that anyone with information about it call investigators at (303) 739-6090, or Crime Stoppers at (720) 913-STOP (7867).

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The Denver shooting occurred Friday evening in the 1400 block of Yosemite Street.

Police said two injured victims were located, but provided scant details and said they still were working to identify a suspect.

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Nuggets Journal: Michael Porter Jr. is forcing Michael Malone’s hand

2 hours 25 min ago

Draymond Green may have unintentionally gifted Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. a doctorate course in NBA pick-and-roll defense.

Late in the third quarter of Denver’s comeback win over the Warriors on Thursday, Porter got hung up on a screen, and Green exploited him for a downhill, two-on-one advantage. Green charged into the lane, and Nikola Jokic was forced to help just enough that it left him vulnerable on a backside alley-oop.

The sequence was triggered all because Porter didn’t clear the screener – one miniscule chapter in the encyclopedia of NBA defense. When Nuggets coach Michael Malone and Porter sit down to examine the film, it’s one lesson to take away from Thursday’s win. There were other lapses, like when he momentarily lost contact with his man in transition or when he failed to switch on a baseline handoff, leaving an open window to the hoop.

Draymond Green Lobs to Marquese Chriss .. For a Slam Dunk!!! pic.twitter.com/w2itSs2Ibr

— Kevin Chow (@Kevin__Chow) January 17, 2020

But those are the costs of developing Porter, who is undeniably an essential ingredient to the Nuggets’ multi-pronged offense. On Thursday, he had 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Since Christmas, he’s averaging almost 11 points per game on a team-high 65.4% from the field, including 48.3% from 3-point range.

“Obviously for me at this stage, with this many talented guys in the room, to put up those numbers, is a special night for me, being a rookie and everything,” he said in the aftermath of the Nuggets’ overtime win.

After the game, Malone committed to playing Porter more forcefully than he has all season. He said he intends to play him in every game moving forward. Naturally, that means living with his defensive shortcomings.

It’s not as if he’s incapable. At 6-foot-10, he’s a vacuum on the glass, and with his wingspan, he’s bound to luck into at least one or two steals a game. Wednesday’s win over Charlotte was a good example. He showed real progress in terms of his defensive awareness, spacing and anticipation.

“I think the game is slowing down on both ends, but especially defensively,” Malone said. “… I think (defense) is the greatest area where he’s really focused, committed to and is getting better. You see the improvement, understanding what our game plan is, what our rules are. It’s not perfect, but he’s not the only one. Michael has definitely shown tremendous growth on that end of the floor.”

Told of Malone’s budding trust, Porter broke into a big grin.

“I think it’s starting to come along just knowing where to be and everything,” Porter said. “I’m happy he said that.”

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Porter desperately needs to build Malone’s trust if he’s going to be a contributor in the playoffs. If defense was the reason he only saw the court for three minutes in the loss to Cleveland, then the Nuggets need to ensure he grows beyond those mistakes. It’s a lot easier for Malone to tolerate those errors when he’s terrorizing his matchup on the other end.

As this most recent string of games has shown, it would be negligent not to take advantage of everything he can do on the court. Three-point shooting, cutting, offensive rebounding, spacing — all of that is in Porter’s bag, even if he can be overzealous at times. At least twice on Thursday he nearly ran into Malik Beasley and Jokic.

But those are the things you live with as he develops into a foundational piece for Denver’s future.

“He’s a player, man,” Mason Plumlee said. “He does so much more than scoring. He’s really fun to play with. He was attacking the basket really strong, and it caused problems for them. He can rise up and knock down shots, he made some tough ones. His defense is getting better game-by-game. He’s going to be a big part of what we do.”

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Rodeo 101: Traditions, superstitions and essential lingo to make you sound like a pro

5 hours 9 min ago

Like many rodeo participants, saddle bronc driver Chet Johnson grew up around the arena. The Wyoming native began riding competitively in high school before turning pro at age 19.

Now a veteran of the sport, Johnson has shaken off all the superstitions that followed him as a young gun. Well, almost.

“Growing up, I never wanted to eat chicken before I rode,” the 39-year-old said, “because you are what you eat.”

Johnson isn’t alone. Many of the cowboys and cowgirls participating in Denver’s National Western Stock Show and Rodeo have superstitions. Up and coming bull rider Brody Yeary, for example, is also adverse to eating white meat before a competition.

“You eat chicken, you ride like a chicken,” said Yeary, 22.

Sabra O’Quinn, 52, specializes in barrel racing and said she doesn’t have any superstitions. But she does have a good luck charm: her dependable horse, Bring It On Guys.

The stock show runs through Jan. 26 with rodeo performances every night, concluding with the Pro Rodeo Finals on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 26, at the Denver Coliseum. Before you saddle up for a good time, get to know the basic rules and lingo of the sport.

AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver PostJosh Frost does jumping jacks before his ride during PBR Denver Chute Out at the National Western Stock Show on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. Rodeo basics

According to the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, roots of the modern day rodeo trace back to 1800s California, where the Spanish settled and became cattle ranchers. Vaqueros eventually passed down their traditions to American cowboys, who took Wild West-style shows cross-country to entertain audiences.

Today, the rodeo is comprised of seven events that are either timed or scored for style and technique:

  • Steer wrestling, which requires a rider to slide off horseback onto a steer, grab it by the horns and wrestle it to the ground;
  • Tie-down roping, in which a rider lassos a calf and ties its feet together;
  • Team roping, the only multi-rider event that requires a choreographed effort to lasso different parts of a steer;
  • Barrel racing, which times riders as they drive their horses in a pattern around three barrels;
  • Bareback riding, in which an athlete rides a bucking horse sans saddle for eight seconds with one hand on the animal and one hand in the air;
  • Saddle bronc riding, which is like bareback riding, but with a modified saddle; and
  • Bull riding, which is like bronc riding, except on a bucking bull.

Rodeo horses, bulls and steers are bred for sport, and they might have the best jobs on the ranch — these animals spend less than two minutes performing in the arena per year, said Susan Kanode, media coordinator for national rodeos.

“The amount of care those animals get, they get spoiled,” said Johnson. “They don’t have to work that hard throughout the year, they get fed well. Their biggest chore is the travel.”

  • Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

    Tyler Waguespack, of Gonzales, LA, takes down a steer during the Steer Wrestling event at the U.S. Bank Pro Rodeo Finals on Jan. 21, 2018 in Denver.

  • Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

    John Douch, of Huntsville, Texas, grasps his rope in his mouth as he jumps off his horse during the Tie-down Roping event at the U.S. Bank Pro Rodeo Finals on Jan. 21, 2018 in Denver. This was the last day of the National Western Stock Show.

  • Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

    Jeff Flenniken, of Caldwell, Idaho, left, and Jake Minor, of Ellensburg, Wash., get a fast start during the Team Roping event in the Pro Rodeo Finals inside the Denver Coliseum at the National Western Stock Show on Jan. 27, 2019, in Denver. Clay Smith, of Broken Bow, Okla. and Jake Long, of Coffeyville, Kan., won the event. Sunday was the final day of the 2019 National Western Stock Show.

  • Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

    Rainy Pratt competes in the Barrel Racing competition during the Greeley Stampede at Island Grove Regional Park on June 29, 2019.

  • Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

    Clayton Biglow, of Clements, Calif., hangs on to his horse as he competes in the bareback riding competition during the National Western Stock Show on Jan. 27, 2019, in Denver. Clint Laye, of Cadogan, Alberta, won the event.

  • RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

    Kobyn William, of De Berry, Tx., scored 82.50 in the first round of the Saddle Bronc Riding at the PRCA Rodeo during the Colorado State Fair on Aug. 23, 2019, in Pueblo.

  • AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

    Kache Moosman rides during PBR Denver Chute Out at the National Western Stock Show on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020.

Show Caption of

Expand Related Articles Talk the talk

Strap on your spurs and learn these five rodeo terms so you can sound like a pro.

Bulldogger: Another, admittedly cooler, name for a steer wrestler.

Drop: The way a rodeo animal maneuvers against the rider. For example, in timed events, the way a calf lowers its head to avoid being roped. In roughstock events, the way a bucking horse or bull lowers its front end while kicking out in back.

Piggin’ string: The small rope used to tie a calf’s legs together in a tie-down roping event.

Rank: An adjective used to commend an animal on its difficulty to ride.

Roughstock: Refers to the bucking horses and bulls used in the bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding events.

Learn more rodeo terms here, courtesy of the Pro Rodeo.

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The state of Rockies fandom: Nolan Arenado trade talk, lack of free-agent moves stirs frustration

5 hours 9 min ago

Rockies fans are fed up.

One reason is 27 seasons without a divisional title. Another is the 91-loss dud of 2019, followed up by no money spent in free agency this winter. And the flame to the discontent was lit with news that superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado, who signed an eight-year, $260 million contract last spring, is on the trading block.

Those factors have combined to create a disillusioned fanbase at a time when optimism usually runs high prior to spring training.

“Nolan is the most talented player they’ve ever had, a generational talent, possibly the greatest third baseman of all time,” said Kyle Farner, a 40-year-old diehard fan from Brighton. “They just signed him last spring and it gave everyone a breath of relief. The front office told everyone they were serious about winning and taking care of their own guys. A year later, here we are — and it makes me question their commitment to winning, their logic, their intelligence.”

Farner, who has attended every home opening game in the 27-year history of the Rockies, said he won’t be at this year’s opener April 3 if Arenado is traded by then. He added he’d “take a long break” from going to games.

And he’s not alone among a fanbase that appears to have lost faith in the front office, if interviews with a dozen season-ticket holders this past week are an accurate gauge.

Tim Rogers, 43, of Arvada, has been a season-ticket holder since 1999 and has only missed one opening day in team history. He explained that while Colorado has traded big-name players before — most notably Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Holliday — trading Arenado “would be like pulling your heart out.”

“To trade Nolan would show the fans that the front office isn’t very concerned with putting a product on the field that the fans want to watch,” Rogers said. “He’s the main draw every game at Coors. A trade would say they’re more concerned about saving money and trying to rebuild, which wouldn’t necessarily work. Whatever they’re getting back for Nolan, there’s no guarantees.”

Fans are well aware of the opt-out in Arenado’s contract that would allow him to walk away from the Rockies following the 2021 season, a clause general manager Jeff Bridich insisted be included. They’re also aware of the negative effect that opt-out is having on potential trade negotiations.

“The three-year opt-out is sort of ruining the value they could get for him, as well as the fact it’s a dangling sword over our heads that he’s going to leave after next year,” said Bill Stahl, 61, an original Rockies season-ticket holder from Wheat Ridge.

But Stahl and others aren’t just frustrated with the potential of the team’s franchise player being dealt. Stahl lamented there are “woes everywhere” with the Rockies, and serious fans are not convinced that Colorado can compete in a National League West where the Dodgers rule and competitors have gotten better this winter via free agency.

Plus, those same fans don’t blame Arenado if he wants out after seeing the writing on the wall last year. Hindering Colorado’s ability to add pieces this offseason are the huge contracts Bridich handed out to outfielders Ian Desmond and Charlie Blackmon as well as relievers Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee. That quintet is due a combined $71.83 million in salary this year, 48.5% of the team’s 2020 payroll.

“Bridich and (owner Dick) Monfort sat on their back and said, ‘We’re happy with what we have,’ after losing 91 games,” said Harry Simon, 71, an original Rockies season-ticket holder from Greenwood Village. “Nolan is not an idiot; he sees that, and he’s driven to win. He wants to be on a winning team and the front office is not giving him the support they promised him when he committed to this city for eight years.

“They knew they had money issues before they entered into the Nolan contract. Why have they done nothing creative to trim some of the fat that they have? If they have to eat some of the dollars, they eat them. If they have to make a package with some of these young prospects to trade these relievers (like Davis and Shaw), then do it. Don’t sit back and just hope.”

With frustration running high, another season-ticket holder predicts the Rockies will feel it at the ticket office should Arenado be traded.

“It would’ve been like trading Todd Helton in the middle of his career — you’re talking about a move that’s devastating to the team and to the fan base,” said Deborah Furney, 61, a six-year season-ticket holder from Longmont. “It’s going to hurt the business end, because I think a lot of people will quit coming. Coors Field won’t be empty by any means, but people are going to want to send a message to the Monforts.”

The final bit of Furney’s sentiment is where the trap lies for Rockies fans, Simon said. Despite a lack of a consistent winning tradition, Colorado’s never had an issue drawing fans. The Rockies lost 91 games last year and were sixth in baseball in attendance.

“They know no matter who they put on the field, they’re going to get 42,000 people on Saturday night,” Simon said. “So they’re going through the motions, they’re making it look like they’re doing something this offseason (with minor-league contracts). It’s getting old. It’s always, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll be good next year.'”

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Amid all the doom-and-gloom, there still is some reason for optimism.

Maybe hope won’t be such a bad plan after all, and maybe the Rockies pitching staff will do a 180 in 2020. Maybe Arenado doesn’t get traded, and the Rockies are in the hunt for another Rocktober. And maybe, even if 2020 doesn’t go well, Arenado sticks around and the team’s 2021 prospects will be wide open.

Maybe.

“In 2021, they’re going to have all kind of possibilities for getting rid of some of these bad contracts and getting the money from the new TV deal that kicks in,” said Jerry Arca, 77, a 20-year season-ticket holder who lives in LoDo. “At worse, they’re two years away, and if Nolan sees 2021 as the beginning of the next window, I think there’s a chance he doesn’t opt out. There still is some hope yet for him to stay, and help Colorado contend.

“But there is no hope if he’s traded.”

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Supreme Court to consider allowing more employers to deny insurance coverage for birth control

5 hours 10 min ago

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will consider allowing the Trump administration to enforce rules that allow more employers to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives to women.

The justices agreed Friday to yet another case stemming from President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, this time about cost-free birth control. The court probably will hear arguments in April.

The high court will review an appeals court ruling that blocked the Trump administration rules because it did not follow proper procedures. The new policy on contraception, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, would allow more categories of employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women by claiming religious objections.

The policy also would allow some employers, though not publicly traded companies, to raise moral objections to covering contraceptives.

Employers also would be able to cover some birth control methods, and not others. Some employers have objected to covering modern, long-acting implantable contraceptives, such as IUDs, which are more expensive and considered highly effective in preventing pregnancies.

The share of female employees paying their own money for birth control pills has plunged to under 4 percent, from 21 percent, since contraception became a covered preventive health benefit under the Obama-era health law, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Even though the Trump rules remain blocked, a ruling by a federal judge in Texas in June already allows most people who object to covering contraception to avoid doing so.

The issue in all the cases is the method originally adopted by the Obama administration to allow religiously affiliated organizations to opt out of paying for contraception while making sure that women under their plans would not be left with the bill.

Some groups complained that the opt-out process violated their religious beliefs and wanted to be relieved of even signaling their religious objection.

The Trump administration issued new rules in 2018. New Jersey and Pennsylvania challenged them in federal court, and the appeals court in Philadelphia decided the rules should be blocked nationwide. The states said the administration rules would result in fewer women receiving cost-free birth control through employer health plans and said states would have to spend more money in their programs that provide contraceptives to women who want them.

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The justices said they will hear the administration’s appeal together with one filed by the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns. The Little Sisters have argued that the Trump rules would protect them from having to provide some birth control, although Obama administration lawyers had argued that they probably were exempt from the rules.

“There are plenty of ways to provide people with contraceptives without forcing Catholic nuns to participate,” said Mark Rienzi, a lawyer for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the nuns.

Several other lawsuits are pending around the country. Katie Keith, a health policy expert in Washington, said the high court’s consideration of the issue has the potential to resolve all the pending legal fights.

“Religious groups want the court to weigh in once and for all, and they’re not going to be happy until we have a clear answer,” Keith said.

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Lift revenue is flat across Vail Resorts, even with fewer skier visits

5 hours 10 min ago

Season-to-date lift-ticket revenue at Vail Resorts’ North American properties stayed relatively the same this season compared to the same period last season despite skier visits dropping 7.8%, according to the company.

On Friday, Vail Resorts released interim data for its North American ski resorts and areas from the beginning of the season through Jan. 5.

This year’s lift-ticket revenue, which was up 0.4%, includes an allocated portion of season pass revenue, which increased this ski season compared to last.

Other points of interest:

  • Season-to-date ski school revenue was up 2% compared to the same period last season
  • Season-to-date dining revenue was down 3.6% compared to the same period last season
  • Retail and rental revenue was down 1.8% compared to the same period last season

In a media statement, CEO Rob Katz said this season got off to a slower start compared to last year because of weaker snow conditions, which led to fewer skier visits in the pre-holiday period through Dec. 19. But visits picked up at its properties during the holiday period from Dec. 20 to Jan. 5, with the exception of Whistler Blackcomb in Canada and Stevens Pass in Washington state.

Vail Resorts operates 37 mountain resorts and regional ski areas, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte.

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Dog stick libraries make a fetching project for Aurora teens, seniors with dementia

5 hours 10 min ago

When 14 high school girls were put in a room with 53 seniors with dementia, they came out with five wooden boxes to fill with dog toys.

Students from Regis Jesuit High School and residents of Chelsea Place memory care built dog stick libraries, wooden crates filled with dog sticks, tennis balls and other toys to distribute to dog parks throughout Aurora. The community service project taught the students how to treat people with dementia, and it gave the senior citizens an activity.

“I’ve really liked this project because it’s just really cool to see how all of the elders got really into it,” said Olivia Baptiste, a junior at Regis Jesuit. “One of the people I was working with, John, we were sanding down one of the crates, and at first he was just sitting down and just doing a little bit, but then by the end he was standing up and doing the whole box.”

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostRylie Ward, 17, second from left, and Samantha Dreiling, 16, right, help resident Ruth Junker, left, sand the sides of a stick library they are making for dogs at Chelsea Place in Aurora on Jan. 15, 2020. The project is part of a service and community outreach project through the high school. The girls helped the seniors build 2 by 3-foot boxes in the community’s woodworking shop.

For the past two weeks, the girls worked side by side with the residents to build the libraries. Everything from shopping for the wood at Walmart to sawing it down was done by the cross-generational teams. In their makeshift woodworking shop, the students paired themselves with one or two of the residents and chatted while they worked. While one person held a piece of wood in place, the partner moved the saw back and forth.

Some of the seniors have worked with wood before, but few of the students have. By the end of the two weeks, though, they could handle a hammer or chop saw as if they’d been woodworking all their lives. Junior Juliette Bruner said she’s begun fixing things around the house, like her bed frame.

The girls have also learned a bigger lesson at Chelsea Place: how to befriend someone with dementia.

“One of the things the girls learn is wherever someone’s at in their reality, you just join them,” said Jenni Dill, the Life Management Director at Chelsea Place. “If he thinks he lives on the moon, then, hey, we’re getting on the rocket ship. That’s just the way it goes.”

Dill said she strives to teach the students that quality memory care is not what it once was. Where memory care used to be reality-driven, it’s now about acceptance. Dill said it’s pointless to argue with someone who has dementia because all it does is make them feel stupid or hurt.

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostRylie Ward, 17, holds hands resident Connie Fisk as they take a break from wood working at Chelsea Place in Aurora on Jan. 15, 2020.

The residents have gotten a kick out of collaborating with the students. Dennis Evans, a resident at the community, said he’s enjoyed being a sidekick to the girls, and he’s excited about the dog stick libraries because he likes to play fetch with his dogs.

“If I’m being honest, the first day I had to remember these people have dementia, but now, I can honestly say I forget about it half the time,” Juliette said. “I’ll be laughing with Dennis and I’ll just act normally like I do with my friends. And you just totally forget that they have dementia because they’re still who they are.”

 

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Colorado K-12 education news in brief: Graduation rates rise, poll finds half think education underfunded, and more

5 hours 10 min ago
Graduation rates going up

About 81.1% of students who were supposed to graduate last spring got their diplomas, which was the highest four-year graduation rate in nine years, according to the Colorado Department of Education.

The four-year graduation rate improved by 0.4 percentage points compared to 2018, and 8.7 percentage points since 2010.

About 2% of Colorado middle and high school students dropped out during the 2018-2019 school year, down from 2.2% in the previous school year.

Graduation rates improved for white, Hispanic and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students. The rate was unchanged for black students, and dropped for American Indian, Asian and multiracial students.

Girls were more likely to graduate than boys, though both groups saw improvements compared to the previous school year.

Denver Public Schools also showed an increase in its graduation rate. About 70.9% of DPS students graduated on time in 2019, up from 70.2% last year and 62.8% in 2014. Black and Hispanic students were still less likely to graduate on time than white students, but substantially more likely to do so than they were in 2014.

Poll finds more than half think education underfunded

About 56% of polled voters think that education is underfunded in Colorado, according to a poll commissioned by Ready Colorado, a right-leaning organization.

The margin of error was about 4%, meaning anywhere from 52% to 60% of people think education is underfunded.

About 67% also said they thought teacher salaries were too low, and substantial majorities supported bonuses for “highly effective” teachers.

Those polled generally didn’t support raising taxes to fund education, though, with about 70% saying the state should focus on better using existing funding rather than raising taxes.

Schools to host open houses

Warren Tech will host a night to learn about vocational programs at its Central and North campuses on Thursday.

Prospective students and parents can drop in from 5 to 8 p.m. to talk to instructors and current students.

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Global Village Academy’s Douglas County and Northglenn campuses will both hold an information night starting at 6 p.m. Jan. 29, so parents can learn more about the school’s language immersion model.

Denver Academy, a private school that focuses on students with learning differences, will host open houses from 8:30 a.m. to noon Jan. 18, Feb. 29 and April 4.

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Ask Amy: Homeowners go nuts over squirrels

6 hours 40 min ago

Dear Amy: We have just moved into a new semi-detached home and have not yet met the neighbor in the adjoining house.

We’ve noticed that there is a trio of plump and happy squirrels who spend most of their time on a small tree just outside of our window. Our yard and flower beds are constantly littered with hundreds of store-bought peanut shells. It is s a disgusting mess.

Amy, there is not a single moment that I’ve looked out the window and not seen a squirrel on our roof, tree, or lawn, and they almost always have a peanut in their mouth. They are also digging our lawn to bits.

It seems that our wall-sharing neighbor is buying peanuts to feed the squirrels, and by the looks of it, she buys in bulk!

Not only is this making a mess of our lawn, but I am worried about our children picking these up (we have two toddlers).

We were also looking forward to having a large garden in the summer, and although any garden can have its fair share of pests, this is over the top.

I think the neighbor should have to clean up the atrocious mess on our lawn and stop feeding these pests, but having that be our first-ever communication doesn’t make for a friendly start.

Should we make a show of if by going out with gloves and garbage bags, trying to cover the tree, and leave squirrel repellent bottles outside? Or do we knock on the door and ask them to stop?! The squirrels are living and feasting exclusively on our side of the lawn!

— Going Nuts in Niagara Falls

Dear Going Nuts: You should introduce yourselves to your neighbors. Ask them about the neighborhood, about trash and recycling pickup, etc.

In the course of your conversation, you should also ask them what they are doing about the squirrel infestation. Ask if these rodents have been scampering across their roof, gnawing on the woodwork, and chewing through their wiring (squirrels love the rubber coating on wiring, by the way).

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Depending on how your neighbors respond, you can simply make it very clear that you are going to do everything you can to eradicate or relocate this trio. Say, “If you are feeding them, we hope you will stop.” Then, you can take all of the steps you mention. You should also consider trapping these pals (the squirrels, not the neighbors) and relocating them (again, the squirrels, not the neighbors) to a far-off habitat.

Even though they are contributing to it, I don’t agree that the neighbors should have to clean up the mess these squirrels leave on your lawn.

Dear Amy: I have three adult children. I raised them to thank people for gifts. Their friends, however, do not.

I have given generously to these young people, for wedding registries, baby showers, etc. A few have thanked me, verbally or in a written note, but from the rest, nothing. This includes gifts that were on a registry, which the recipient clearly indicated they wanted.

A very sweet, kind, well-educated young man told me once that he just didn’t acknowledge gifts, even if he likes it. He didn’t give me a reason.

My question is: Why?

Email/texting is easy, free, and instantaneous, unlike writing a note and having to pay postage and put it in a mailbox. It seems to be beneath them.

Any ideas?

— The Giver

Dear Giver: I agree with you that thanking people is easier than ever. Simply taking a picture of the item and sending the picture with a texted message of “Thank you!” to the giver is sufficient, in my book.

If someone declares to you that he never thanks people for anything, then I think you should interpret this as a statement that he no longer wants to receive gifts.

I’m not sure if this is a trend; I can assert that this is a perennial frustration for many.

Dear Amy: I appreciate your annual column devoted to charities, but yet again you failed to suggest any charities benefitting animals! I find this lack of awareness and concern very upsetting.

— Disappointed AGAIN

Dear Disappointed: As stewards to our animals, we have a duty to do everything we can to protect them. Throughout the year, I advocate for the needs of our animal friends and companions.

I don’t have a lack of awareness (and personally donate to my local shelter), but my “giving” column each year focuses on nonprofits that help humans.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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Two immigrants, pastor, Army sergeant guilty of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud

January 17, 2020 - 9:26pm

Two immigrants, a pastor and an Army sergeant have been convicted of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud as part of an illegal immigration scheme, according to federal prosecutors.

Rajesh Ramcharan, 45; Diann Ramcharan, 37; Sgt. Galima Murry, 31; and the Rev. Ken Harvell, 60, were found guilty Thursday after a nine-day jury trial, according to a news release from the  U.S. attorney’s office in Colorado.

The conspiracy involved obtaining immigration benefits for Rajesh Ramcharan, Diann Ramcharan, and one of their minor children, the release said. A married couple in 2007 came to the U.S. from Trinidad and Tobago on visitor visas. They overstayed the visas and settled in Colorado.

In 2010 the couple was married by Harvell, who signed a marriage certificate, the release said. The couple then filed for divorce. Five days after the divorce was finalized, Harvell signed a new marriage certificate for Diann Ramcharan and Sgt. Murry, a U.S. citizen and Fort Carson soldier at the time.

“Diann Ramcharan and Sergeant Murry entered into this marriage for the purpose of evading immigration laws and enabling Diann Ramcharan to stay in the United States,” the release said. Murry obtained military benefits through the marriage.

In 2015 Rajesh Ramcharan married Angelica Guevara, also a U.S. citizen. Harvell signed their marriage certificate as well.

“During the time of both the Ramcharans’ fraudulent marriages to Murry and Guevara, the Ramcharans lived with each other and otherwise presented themselves to the world as a married couple,” the release said.

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Harvell is senior pastor with Southeast Baptist Church of Colorado Springs, according to the church’s website.

“As the defendants in this case learned, marriage fraud to gain citizenship is a crime,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn.

Each defendant was also convicted of making at least one false statement to U.S. immigration authorities, according to the release. Guevara earlier pleaded guilty to the conspiracy. She testified at the four co-defendants’ trial before Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Judge David M. Ebel.

A federal jury in Denver deliberated for three hours before returning the guilty verdicts. A sentencing date has not been set.

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Brighton man sentenced to 20 months for Social Security fraud, failing to file tax returns

January 17, 2020 - 9:04pm

A Brighton man has been sentenced to 20 months in federal prison for failure to file tax returns and for fraud relating to Social Security disability payments.

Robert Eugene Hybertson, 61, agreed to pay the Social Security Administration $146,484 restitution, to file accurate tax statements for all years applicable and pay all taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service, according to news release from the U.S. attorney’s Colorado office.

Hybertson received a gross income of $887,000 in 2012 but willfully failed to file the required income tax statements for that year, according to the stipulated facts in a plea agreement. Hybertson also failed to file income tax statements for 2010, 2011 and 2013, when he had approximate gross incomes of $241,000, $566,000 and $117,000, respectively.

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The estimated tax loss for the years is $828,000, or $1.7 million if penalties and interest are included, according to the Friday release.

In May 2001, Hybertson began receiving Social Security disability insurance benefits, the release said. In 2010, Hybertson concealed from Social Security that he was receiving income — violating an agreement to disclose income — and he made false statements about working, according to the release. Hybertson fraudulently received $146,484 of disability benefits.

“The defendant avoided paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes and at the same time lied to get money he did not deserve from Social Security,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn.

The sentencing hearing was before U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson. The case was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation and the Social Security Office of the Inspector General.

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A former Denver Bronco, a boxer and a “helitack” crew member join Denver Fire Department

January 17, 2020 - 8:16pm

The Denver Fire Department’s newest class of firefighters will go down in history as the most diverse in the department’s history and will chip away at its goal of bringing more women into its fire houses.

The graduates, who received their badges in a Friday ceremony, included a former Denver Broncos tight-end, two female military veterans, a female “helitack” firefighter, who repelled from helicopters to battle blazes, and a professional boxer.

Six of the 23 students were women, making this batch of female firefighters the largest in Denver’s history. The department now has 59 women out of 1,042 firefighters, a 5.6% rate that exceeds the national average, which is typically from 3% to 3.5%, said Capt. Greg Pixley, the department’s officer in charge of recruiting and outreach.

RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostCharmaine Cassie get ready to graduate to the Denver Fire Department at Tivoli Turnalle at Metropolitan State University on Jan. 17, 2020 in Denver.

“It’s very diverse now, and I kind of wanted to tap in and kind of add to that diversity,” said Jessica Schaefer, one of the graduates and a military veteran. “I just wanted to be a figure for young girls growing up and just kind of get them to see that women can do the same thing that men can do.”

Schaefer, a Denver native, grew up athletic and interested in service. The culture of the city and the fire department matched her military beliefs and seemed like the obvious next step after serving as a military police officer, she said.

Pixley said it’s rare to see women in fire departments because the cultural ideals embodied by females may differ from those of traditional firefighters.

“Our goal is to represent the community,” Pixley said. “We certainly would like to make sure [women] know they can be a Denver firefighter.”

Wesley Duke, who played tight-end for the Broncos in 2005, said the day was a long time coming. The new recruits have spent the past 18 weeks in grueling training made up of extremely demanding written and physical work.

“It was a lot of long hours, so it took me away from my family,” Duke said.

RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostWesley Duke signs his oath of office paperwork before graduating to the Denver Fire Department take part in a ceremony at Tivoli Turnalle at Metropolitan State University on January 17, 2020 in Denver, Colorado.

He said that after playing for the Broncos, he became a truck driver, and the reason he quit that was so he could be home more with his family. But the training kept him away from home, too.

“I want to retire from this, I eventually want to get to be an engineer and driving the fire rigs, and just being in the system and helping the city the best way I can,” Duke said.

One graduate, Michael Knecht, missed the ceremony because he is deployed with the military. His wife accepted his badge.

During the ceremony, Capt. Sarah Kamstra played a video of the recruits in training. Friends and families watched as their loved ones scaled multiple-story buildings, deployed ladders and hosed down raging fires onscreen.

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Danny Turney, who was elected by his peers to speak on behalf of the graduates, described the trials of academy training. The two-minute drill will stick out in their minds.

“This was a drill that at random, an instructor would walk into our classroom and say, ‘Two minutes.’ We would have two minutes to run out to the gear shed, don all of our gear in full, and report to the south side of the drill ground with all of our gear on,” Turney said. “I’m convinced the two-minute drill actually takes three minutes to accomplish.”

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Antique store in southwest Colorado selling racist signs launches community debate

January 17, 2020 - 6:59pm

When Nicola Shanks saw a black cast-iron, replica Jim Crow signs for sale in southwest Colorado antique store, she did not let it go.

Shanks thought about it for a few months and then on Tuesday returned to the Antique Corral in Cortez to confront its owner for selling signs that said, “Colored seated in rear,” and “We serve colored — carry out only.”

“She confirmed she ordered them because people like them and they’re popular,” Shanks told The Denver Post. “And then she told me to go back to England if I don’t like it here.”

Still simmering over the racist signs, Shanks shared pictures with friends, and those pictures made their way onto social media — setting off a firestorm in Montezuma County where less than 1 percent of the population is black.

The store owner, Cheryl Dean, did not agree with Shanks and denied she is racist. On Facebook, Dean, who has faced threats over the signs, thanked her critics for bringing publicity to her store.

Fifty-six years after the passage of the Civil Rights Acts, intense arguments continue among Americans over whether Jim Crow-era symbols and icons are historical or racist. While some cities are removing Confederate flags and statues from public grounds, the demand for these relics remain. Historians and black thought leaders say the fact that these signs sit on store shelves in 2020 proves the old Jim Crow may be gone, but racial inequality persists.

In many pockets of America such as Cortez, there’s a startling lack of awareness of black history and experience beyond pop culture, Reiland Rabaka, a professor of African American studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, said.

“I don’t know if the people selling these signs understand the racial trauma we experience when we see and read them,” the professor said, noting the symbolism of this story breaking the day before Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. “Our country claims to be the land of the free, the home of the brave. There’s a real contradiction there.”

Items at the Antique Corral in Cortez, Colorado. January, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Nicola Shanks)

Uproar in Montezuma County

Shanks said that when she spoke with Dean, the owner, it wasn’t to berate her. She simply wanted to ask if Dean would consider removing the racist signs.

“Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing,” Shanks said. “I definitely agreed with her. ‘The law’s on your side. You have the right to sell and say whatever you wish.’ I said, ‘I’m not here to argue law; I’m here to appeal to your humanity.'”

Dean defended her decision to sell the items, said Shanks, who recorded the conversation and shared portions of it with The Denver Post.

“She said plenty of my people were killed, too,” Shanks said.

When Shanks asked Dean if she sold swastikas, the store owner said she did when she had them in her inventory.

Pictures of the racist signs, along with shelves stocked with mammy dolls, went viral on Facebook. Commenters slammed the store owner, and people from Maine to California flooded the Internet with negative reviews.

Dean told The Denver Post she’s been selling the anti-black signs for 15 years but it has nothing to do with racism.

“I know black people who collect that stuff,” Dean said. “They think it’s hilarious.”

The two signs remaining in the store sold on Wednesday after pictures were posted online by her critics, Dean said. In an Antique Corral Facebook post, someone wrote that the signs sold because of “all the advertising!!! Thanks. Had a great day at my store.”

Since the pictures appeared on the internet, Dean said she’s received death and arson threats.

Shanks said the vitriolic reaction was not her intention when she exposed the racist signs.

“Meeting hatred with hatred, that’s the same energy she’s giving,” Shanks said. “That’s 100% inappropriate. It’s unproductive and it’s distracting from the point.”

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“We don’t have segregation here”

Molly Cooper, a Montezuma County resident, learned six years ago the difficulty of talking about racism in the rural corner of Colorado.

After Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, Cooper, just out of graduate school, organized a Black Lives Matter demonstration. Wide-eyed and idealistic, Cooper heard “We don’t have segregation here,” she said. White lives matter too, Cooper was told.

“It was a hard realization for me about this community,” Cooper said. “I was just getting out of grad school; I was really open. I thought there could be dialogue. Instead it was more like, ‘Go back where you’re from.'”

It’s not just a Colorado problem.

“It’s a structural problem that needs to be engaged,” Rabaka, the University of Colorado Boulder professor, said. “America has never really acknowledged or atoned or dealt with the enslavement of African people.”

The signs represent the old Jim Crow. But a new Jim Crow has taken its place, a continuation of a tradition that’s “as American a pastime as apple pie, Big Macs and baseball,” Rabaka said.

“These signs were some of the last things people saw before they were beaten, maimed and mauled,” Rabaka said. “These signs are emblematic of what we call in African American studies ‘racial terrorism.'”

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Senate president raises concerns about possible conflict of interest of Jared Polis’ appointee to Public Utilities Commission

January 17, 2020 - 6:51pm

State Senate President Leroy Garcia is raising questions about the governor’s appointment to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission because of the person’s ties to a group opposed to a utility that is regulated by the panel.

Garcia said in a statement Friday that the Office of Legislative Legal Services concluded that a person’s affiliation with “certain organizations could pose a credible legal argument regarding their impartiality when making decisions related to Colorado’s energy corporations.”

In early January, Gov. Jared Polis named Susan Perkins to a four-year term on the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. Perkins has been a member of and pro bono attorney for Pueblo’s Energy Future. The organization supports ending the city of Pueblo’s contract with Black Hills Energy, one of the investor-owned utilities the PUC regulates.

If her appointment is confirmed by the Senate, Perkins would succeed Frances Koncilja, whose four-year term expired this month.

Garcia, a Democrat from Pueblo, said he requested an opinion from the legal services office because he’s concerned the PUC’s work could be undermined if one of the three members had to be recused from cases because of connections to certain organizations. He noted that Black Hills Energy successfully sued in 2018 to bar Koncilja from deciding the utility’s proposed rate increase because of her criticism of the company.

Garcia hasn’t officially asked Polis to reconsider his appointment, said Bella Combest, spokeswoman for the Senate Democrats. She said Garcia is continuing to talk to Polis about the issue.

Black Hills Energy isn’t taking a position on the appointment of the next PUC commissioner, spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez said an email.

The utility has been widely criticized in the Pueblo area because of its rates and complaints about the quality of service.

“With bad actors like Black Hills, we need someone on the commission whose impartiality is unquestioned,” said Garcia.  “This is bigger than Pueblo, this threatens the ability of Colorado to hold corporations accountable and provide the oversight we need them to.”

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As in other administrations, the governor expects that the PUC members will follow the rules and seek legal guidance about whether they should recuse themselves in certain cases, Conor Cahill, the governor’s spokesman said in an email. The legal opinion “seems to focus on a theoretical worst case scenario. Under this opinion, theoretically no person with experience in the industry would be free of potential conflicts,” Cahill said.

Decisions about recusal occur on a case-by-case basis, he added.

“As the appointment process proceeds, our office will continue to engage the Senate President and members of the Senate and address any concerns that they may have,” Cahill said.

Perkins previously was with Perkins Energy Law, where she focused on the development of renewable energy resources in Colorado. She also worked at Randstad North America, Total Petroleum and other law firms.

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17-year-old Denver student arrested on suspicion of gun violation

January 17, 2020 - 6:48pm

A 17-year-old student at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College in Denver was arrested Friday afternoon for investigation of a gun violation, police said.

About 2:15 p.m. officers went to the campus, 19535 E. 46th Ave., on a report of a student with a weapon, said Jay Casillas, a police spokesman.

#Alert: Officers responded to MLK JR. Early College on a report of a student with a weapon. The investigation led to the recovery of a handgun in an unoccupied vehicle off-campus and the arrest of a juvenile for a weapon offense. The investigation is ongoing. pic.twitter.com/1JcUuIIVSG

— Denver Police Dept. (@DenverPolice) January 17, 2020

A handgun was recovered from an unoccupied car off campus, Casillas said. The student, a male, was arrested without incident.

The vehicle the weapon was found in belongs to someone other than the juvenile, Casillas said. The vehicle owner has not been charged with a crime and is cooperating with investigators.

The incident remains under investigation. MLK Jr. Early College has students in grades six through 12.

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Lakewood unveils plan to limit new home-building permits to 156 this year

January 17, 2020 - 6:22pm

Lakewood’s new housing cap law could constrict the number of residential permits available to developers this year to a mere 156 new units across this city of 155,000, if a plan set to go before city leaders later this month is adopted.

That’s because even though the city’s new growth control measure, which allows an increase in residential construction of no more than 1% of Lakewood’s existing housing stock, should theoretically make room for 693 new homes in 2020, the city is proposing to take residential projects already in the approvals process and offset them against the new limit this year and next.

That means counting the 1,075 housing units that are currently at some stage of review with Lakewood planning officials toward the annual cap in both 2020 and 2021. The end result: Just over 300 housing permits will likely be available to builders over the next two years.

The long-awaited allocation plan for Lakewood’s controversial Question 200, passed by voters in July, was posted to the city’s website Friday.

The convoluted permitting system, which will go before the council Jan. 27 in the form of a resolution, is an attempt by city leaders to be fair to developers who submitted applications for building permits before the new law took effect on July 12 — a legal construct known as “authority to continue.”

At the same time, said Mayor Adam Paul, the city wants to take whatever steps it can to keep residential construction as controlled as voters demanded that it be at the ballot box.

“It strikes a balanced approach,” Paul, who strongly opposed Question 200, said of the resolution. “Nobody wants to delay, nobody wants to violate the intent of the initiative — but there are gaps we have to address.”

To the woman who spearheaded the growth control effort in Lakewood, Cathy Kentner, the city is essentially playing a shell game. By setting the allocation for 2020 and 2021 so low, city leaders are trying to sabotage the measure before it even has a chance to get going, she said.

“By pushing the allocations so low, they are trying to find a reason to say that Question 200 is so bad that they have to get rid of it,” she said.

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In addition, Kentner said, the city’s approach means that a number of large projects with more than 40 units, which are required to undergo City Council review under the new law, wouldn’t be subject to that tougher scrutiny. Since they submitted their applications prior to the ordinance taking effect, the city is proposing putting them in the group of permit-seekers considered to already be in the city’s approvals pipeline.

Paul, the mayor, said whatever happens at the Jan. 27 council meeting, Lakewood will have to win back the confidence of builders before it sees healthy investment again in the city’s residential portfolio.

“I think the development community has seen all they need to here — it’s not a predictable environment, it’s not a stable environment,” he said. “The harm’s already been done and now this is our opportunity to do the healing.”

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Matt Lubick replaces Troy Walters as Nebraska’s offensive coordinator

January 17, 2020 - 6:21pm

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska has hired Matt Lubick to replace Troy Walters as offensive coordinator.

The addition of Lubick was announced Friday, hours after coach Scott Frost said Walters was leaving the program by mutual agreement.

Lubick worked as an Oregon assistant with Frost from 2013-16, and he was Washington’s co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach in 2017-18. Lubick left coaching in January 2019 and worked in business in Colorado.

“I have always wanted to work with Matt again since our days at Oregon together,” Frost said. “He is the only person I considered for this position. Matt has an innovative offensive mind, provides a veteran presence on our staff and brings a proven track record of success at the Power Five level.”

Lubick, son of former Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick, began his college coaching career for his father in 1995.

“I am humbled to have the opportunity to be part of Nebraska Football,” Lubick said. “Growing up I was in awe of Tom Osborne and Bob Devaney’s unmatched run of success. It is a special situation for me to be reunited with an elite staff and Coach Frost who is the best in the business. The University of Nebraska is a world-class institution with the best fan base in college football.”

Washington won 20 games and a Pac-12 championship in his two seasons with the Huskies. At Oregon, Lubick and Frost worked with an offense that ranked in the top five nationally in scoring and total offense from 2013 to 2015. Lubick took over as Oregon’s offensive coordinator after Frost left to become head coach at Central Florida.

Walters had worked with Frost for four years, the last two at Nebraska and the previous two at Central Florida. Walters was a finalist for the 2017 Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach.

Though Walters was offensive coordinator, Frost has handled the play-calling. The Huskers were 5-7 last season, a one-win improvement over 2018, but the offensive production declined partly because of injuries to quarterback Adrian Martinez. The Huskers’ receivers also underperformed.

Walters also had coaching stints at Indiana State, Texas A&M, North Carolina State and Colorado. The former Stanford receiver also played for four teams during an eight-year career in the NFL.

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CDOT asks travelers to delay MLK weekend trips as snow, wind pound I-70 mountain corridor

January 17, 2020 - 5:01pm

Wintry conditions on Interstate 70 in the mountains has shut down eastbound lanes of the highway at Vail and the Colorado Department of Transportation is asking people to delay weekend ski trips on what is typically the second busiest ski weekend of the year.

Icy and snow-packed roads, along with blowing snow, are making for adverse driving conditions on the I-70 corridor from Eagle to Silver Plume, including both sides of the Eisenhower Tunnel, CDOT said in a Friday afternoon news release.

“We ask that motorists begin their holiday trip Saturday instead of today due to extreme and rapidly changing conditions,” CDOT said.

The eastbound lanes of the highway are closed at Vail because of safety concerns, with no estimated time to reopen the section.

“We are using some precaution and, at the very least, people should know before they go driving up the corridor because of the adverse weather conditions,” said Bob Wilson, a CDOT spokesman.

Based on current weather conditions and the number of travelers that drive the corridor over the holiday weekend, travelers should be prepared for heavy traffic and potentially hazardous conditions, Wilson said.

The Vail Pass weather forecast calls for periods of snow, with heavy snow at times, and widespread blowing snow this afternoon and tonight, according to the National Weather Service. Wind chill temperatures on the pass will drop as low as minus 31 degrees overnight. Up to 8 inches of snow is expected on Vail Pass overnight.

“They’re getting decent accumulations up there, the other thing is there are really strong winds,” said Evan Direnzo, a meteorologist with the weather service. “Snow and blowing snow is making roads really slick.”

The higher in elevation, the stronger winds are blowing, Direnzo said.

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Winds on mountain passes and above timberline have been gusting between 50 and 70 mph Friday, according to the weather service. A winter weather advisory is posted for the central and northern mountains through 8 p.m. and travel conditions are considered hazardous. The mountains of Summit County,  Mosquito Range, Indian Peaks, Rocky Mountain National Park, Medicine Bow Range and Rabbit Ears Pass.

The wintry weather is expected to move out of the mountains overnight, with weather and driving conditions improving on Saturday.

“It is suppose to be out of here by Saturday,” Wilson said. “Avoid some headaches. Heavy traffic and adverse weather doesn’t make for a good driving combination.”

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