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Panorama: It’s Still the Economy

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Mile-High Headlines for Tuesday, September 16

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Market Mess
Investors are quite wary today, notes the Rocky Mountain News, after yesterday’s carnage on Wall Street. As The Wall Street Journal writes, the “U.S. stock market suffered its worst daily point plunge since the first day of trading after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.” Insurance giant American International Group asked the Federal Reserve for help as it struggled with insolvency; Merrill Lynch & Company was sold to Bank of America; Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy and then “scrambled Monday to sell its most-prized businesses before too many employees and customers walk out the door,” according to the Journal. The bad news began to trickle into Colorado months ago, according to the Denver Business Journal, which notes Lehman’s Littleton-based Aurora Loan Services “slashed its residential mortgage origination business” earlier this year and cut 1,300 jobs. “Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch’s roughly 500 Colorado employees, most of whom are financial advisers, are thought to likely weather merger-related cost-cutting.”

Financial Crisis on the Campaign Trail
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin campaigned in Colorado yesterday, speaking, among other things, about the crisis on Wall Street, which saw the Dow Jones industrial average slide 4.4 percent with a record eight billion shares traded. Obama told a supportive crowd in Pueblo (via The Pueblo Chieftain), “The situation with Lehman Brothers and the other financial institutions is the latest in a wave of crises that are generating enormous uncertainty about the future of our financial markets. … For eight years, we’ve had policies that have shredded consumer protections, loosened oversight and regulation and encouraged outsized bonuses to the CEOs while ignoring middle-class Americans. The result is a major threat to our economy.” Palin, speaking before a cheerful crowd at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, said Wall Street is in need of reform. Via the Rocky Mountain News: “Our regulatory system is outdated and needs a complete overhaul. Washington is asleep at the switch and ineffective, and management on Wall Street has not run these institutions properly. It must be the market that the American people and investors everywhere can trust.”

CU and NASA: Mars Mission
Here’s NASA’s theory: Mars once had water on its surface. But at some point over millions of years, there was dramatic climate change, and the Martian atmosphere disappeared. Enter the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN, spacecraft, a $485 million mission that will be led by the University of Colorado and launch in late 2013. Up to $80 million of that cash will go directly to CU-Boulder, according to the Rocky Mountain News, and another $120 million to Lockheed-Martin in Littleton, which is tasked with building the five-foot-high spacecraft with a 14-foot wingspan. CU’s Bruce Jakosky tells the Rocky the aim is to understand why liquid water on Mars “went from warmer and wetter to thin, cold and dry.” The price tag of the project has increased by $10 million as NASA grapples with unspecified conflict of interest issues, according to The Associated Press. Jakosky tells the AP that the conflict is not at CU, and NASA now says the matter has been resolved, although the still unknown issue has delayed launch by two years and means the mission will have to be cut in half, to one year.

CSU to Go Carbon Neutral
In an ambitious plan, Colorado State University President Larry Penley aims to embrace conservation and technology to such a degree that it would dramatically reduce, even possibly eliminate, the pollution emitted by the school by 2020. It’s part of Penley’s goal to display CSU as a national leader in everything “green,” according to The Denver Post. But before you start envisioning Alaskan ice fields firming up for generations of polar bears to come, The Colorado Independent notes that Penley’s administration is growing like knapweeds. The number of vice presidents has doubled to 15–problematic, according to the Independent, as “the sons and daughters of Colorado’s middle-class families, who have long been the university’s main clients, are sitting in larger classes taught by fewer tenured professors.” University officials tell the Independent that the shifts are “part of a larger effort to re-brand CSU” as an environmental trailblazer, but some state lawmakers and professors wonder what happened to the school’s core mission of providing opportunities to families.

Your Bags, Sir, Ma’am
United and Frontier, two of Denver International Airport’s top airlines, seem to be trying to outdo each other. No, they’re not adding more attendants to ensure your trip is a top-flight experience with perks like those tiny neck pillows that seem so hard to get. In these tight economic times, they’re simply looking for ways to make money wherever they can without increasing the cost of tickets. It all began earlier this year, when United, citing high fuel prices, decided to charge $15 to check one bag and $25 to check a second bag. Around the same time, Denver-based Frontier, which is reorganizing under bankruptcy protection, announced an identical second-bag plan. Then last week Frontier said it would charge $15 to check the first bag on tickets purchased for travel starting November 1 and ever after, according to the Rocky Mountain News. Just to add some confusion at the ticket counter, United additionally plans to double the fee for a second bag to $50 on a domestic flight. Yes, that’s each way.

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Cutler Flub May Get Shovel Passed to NFL Dustbin
Go on, Mike Shanahan, heap praise on Sunday’s head referee, Ed Hochuli, and his crew. As you said of Hochuli’s by-the-book performance, “heckuva job” (via The Denver Post). But sorry, coach Shanahan, perhaps next time there won’t be an obscure rule that allows Jay Cutler to bumble-fumble the ball and get a second chance during the final seconds of a close game just because a referee’s whistle accidentally signals the ball is dead. That’s what happened Sunday, just before the Broncos defeated the Chargers, 39-38, when it seemed Chargers linebacker Tim Dobbins had recovered what both Cutler and Hochuli now agree was a fumble, according to the Rocky Mountain News. Chargers coach Norv Turner, who says the result was “unacceptable,” has initiated talks with league officials to see if the rule can be scrapped.

Nuggets Cut Costs
Even when draft pick Sonny Weems finally joins the Denver Nuggets–signing for the minimum, $442,114–the team will be spending about $4 million less than last season, according to the Rocky Mountain News, part of a cost-trimming trend that began when Marcus Camby went to the Los Angeles Clippers. The “big offseason expenditure” was the three-year deal J.R. Smith received, which is worth a cool $16.5 million.

Videodose: Photo slideshows via the Rocky Mountain News of Sarah Palin and Barack Obama as they campaigned in Colorado yesterday.

Cheapest Gallon of Gas ‘Round Here: $3.46, Western Convenience, 10515 South Parker Road (via www.gasbuddy.com).

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