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Panorama: Mile-High Headlines for Tuesday, July 15

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The “Smackdown” for Senate

Over the course of an hour yesterday, Mark Udall and Bob Schaffer agreed on nothing except that something needs to be done to address those rising gas prices, which now hover around $4.15 a gallon in Colorado. The respective Democrat and Republican, who seek to fill the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Senator Wayne Allard, blamed each other for the situation during a debate yesterday. Schaffer accused Udall of backing a “constant delay” in the development of natural resources, such as oil shale, that could lower energy costs (via the Rocky Mountain News). Udall, a backer of increased renewable energy and more cautious oil development, said he wasn’t surprised that Schaffer, an oil executive who has been dubbed “Big Oil Bob” by liberal groups, aims to “move fast with technology that hasn’t yet been proven.” As for the ongoing war in Iraq, Schaffer echoed the perspective of presumed Republican presidential nominee John McCain, saying that the troops won’t be coming home soon. “It’s not going to be in the next two or three years most likely,” Schaffer was quoted in the Denver Post. Udall’s position: “My proposal–a proposal I share with many Republicans and many Democrats–is that we make a responsible and honorable exit from Iraq. No timelines; missions-based.” ColoradoPols blogged about the “smackdown,” and the Colorado Independent wrote that the candidates “punch wildly.”

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Banking on Bad News

As banking stocks weathered some of their worst losses in a generation yesterday, investors lost more confidence in the U.S. financial system. This despite a “dramatic initiative by the federal government Sunday evening to bolster” ailing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to the Washington Post. The dollar, Bloomberg News notes, dropped to a record low against the euro as investors speculated that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke would admit that credit-market losses are slowing economic growth. The problems quickly flowed into Colorado as several regional banks that operate here–including Washington Mutual, Zions Bancorp, KeyCorp, and U.S. Bancorp–were dealt “severe” stock-price declines, according to the Denver Post. The Post notes that five Colorado-based banks–Colorado Federal Savings Bank, Premier Bank, Pueblo Bank and Trust, Armed Forces Bank, and Colorado Mountain Bank–reported six percent or more of their loans seriously behind at the end of the year’s first quarter. Job growth, meanwhile, remains on track, according to Patty Silverstein, chief economist for the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation (via the Denver Business Journal).

How to Protest the DNC

Doug Linkhart, the chairman of Denver’s City Council, paints a fetid picture of next month’s Democratic National Convention, one in which angry protesters might hurl “buckets of urine and feces on police,” according to the Rocky Mountain News. A proposed law would ban “any noxious” substances, according to the City Council, which is concerned with that brand of protesting insiders call “direct action.” That’s when demonstrators attempt to shut down business as usual by doing things such as handcuffing themselves together and to complex contraptions that take police hours to break apart. The law would also make it illegal to carry any “tool, object, instrument or other article” that can be used to obstruct streets, sidewalks, and entries or exits from buildings. Glen Spagnuolo of Recreate ’68, a group that predicts massive demonstrations and espouses peaceful protest, was not quoted in the Rocky’s article but happens to be in a Denver Post story today, fretting that police will “overmilitarize our community” during the DNC and make “people scared to come out and exercise their right to free speech.” The Post notes that Denver police will receive help from an array of agencies, including Aurora police, which will send more than 300 officers–half that city’s force–to assist with crowd control. The Aurora police union, meanwhile, is concerned that its officers lack training and want Denver to provide gas masks, groin protectors, and goggles.

An Exercise in Stagecraft

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Moving the Democratic National Convention finale from the indoor Pepsi Center to Invesco Field at Mile High just might be a stroke of brilliance. With a bigger crowd and more “real” people, Barack Obama will be in a position to suggest a “new, more democratic spirit,” according to the Boston Globe. The “whole scene could inspire commentators to point out that only once before has a nominee accepted his prize in a stadium–John F. Kennedy.” Obama’s website now features a stadium logo and the message “Open Convention,” welcoming all to attend, although pleas for $5 contributions tend to cheapen the message. “The stadium show might also remind voters that many of Obama’s appearances during the primary season were carefully stage-managed, though in a less obvious way.”

Numbers Crunch

Although Governor Bill Ritter’s office says everything appears just dandy, Frank McNulty, a legislator on the state’s audit committee, thinks “something is dead wrong at the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, and we need to figure out what it is.” That’s according to a 9News story on the grilling of state health executives during a hearing that inquired into $8 million in accounting “mistakes” and the firing of accountant-turned-whistleblower Annemarie Maynard. At an April meeting, department officials Adel Soliman, Josh Block, and others discussed ways to conceal information so as to make it more difficult for the federal government to determine how much money Colorado owes it.

A Long Way from the Savanna: Maybe It’s a Liondog?

A grainy picture of a wild-looking, long-tailed beast with what might be a mane sparked a fruitless, daylong search on the dusty rural plains east of Colorado Springs. Early Monday morning, the first call came — a resident reporting that an African lion was chasing down a dog, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. Then came a second report, at Log Road and Falcon Highway, prompting the sheriff’s office to employ an automated, emergency calling system to alert residents that an African lion just might be on the loose. But six agencies and a helicopter were unable to find the animal, and in the end it was unclear to officials just what they were hunting. “We’ve got some experts saying it’s a dog and some experts are saying it’s a lion,” said Lt. Lari Sevene, spokeswoman for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. The region’s zoo and big-cat sanctuary were not missing animals, according to authorities. And of course the search made for good news fodder across the board, including KKTV in Colorado Springs, the Denver Post, and KWGN in Denver, among others. Meanwhile, in other Un-Indigenous Animal News, a veteran staffer at the Denver Zoo was bitten on the hand by a hippopotamus in an “accidental” incident (via The Denver Post).

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Cheapest Gallon of Gas ‘Round Here: $3.84, an Everyday convenience store at 10610 Longs Way in Parker (via www.gasbuddy.com)

Weather Today: Thunderstorms and 94 high/66 low

Weather Tomorrow: Fair and 98 high/62 low

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