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Mile-High Headlines for Tuesday, December 16

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Salazar’s Environmental Test
On the brink of being named Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar will join what
The Associated Press describes as President-elect Barack Obama’s “green team”–a “dream team” for environmentalists critical of Bush administration policy. Salazar, a first-term U.S. Senator, brings a farming and environmental-law background to the table. He’s also been a vocal opponent of federal efforts to open land in Colorado and surrounding states to oil-shale developers, as Grist notes.

And, it seems, he’s got some cleaning up to do. “Political meddling at the Department of Interior into the designation of imperiled species and habitats was more widespread than previously thought,” The Washington Post writes, citing a report that highlights 20 questionable decisions by federal officials. Seven of the rulings have already been revised, including restoration of the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse in Colorado and Wyoming to “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act.

Homeless for the Holidays
A recent survey of 25 U.S. cities, including Denver, documented a rise in homelessness this year, a problem linked to the recession and the mortgage crisis. In Denver, homelessness is up 1 percent, which could be seen as good news, considering the average increase for cities is 12 percent, as the Denver Business Journal reported last week.

Now, Denver’s Road Home, part of Mayor John Hickenlooper’s efforts to end homelessness in our city by 2015, has launched a campaign to challenge common stereotypes that most homeless people are bearded panhandlers wearing Army jackets.

As The Denver Egotist notes, “recent studies estimate that people in Denver give more than $4 million each year to panhandlers,” although the truth is that most panhandlers aren’t homeless and most homeless people don’t beg on the streets. There are better ways to give, according to Denver’s Road Home.

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Meanwhile, in the sad irony category, all those expensive, weatherproof vinyl tarps that boasted political candidates during the election are at least being recycled as quilts and distributed to homeless people via the St. Francis Center, according to TreeHugger.

The homeless will appreciate the helping hands. “For the first time in 20 years, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is laying off employees,” according to the Rocky Mountain News.

Going Downhill: Climate Change and Skiing
The future of Western ski resorts is somewhat bleak and will require quite a few more snowmaking machines, according to a study on global warming, co-authored by Mark Williams, a geography professor at the University of Colorado.

The Rocky Mountain News notes that in the years to come, ski areas will have to carve runs higher up in the mountains and triple their snowmaking capabilities–all at a time when water is becoming more scarce. Not only that, ski seasons will be shorter. Aspen Mountain will be better off than Park City, Utah, which faces the prospect of no snowpack at its base in about 90 years.

As the report was released, President-elect Barack Obama coincidentally introduced a team to carry out his efforts to reduce global warming. However, political, diplomatic, scientific, and economic challenges “could impede his plans,” according to The New York Times.

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Meanwhile, global warming still has its naysayers, including the editorial department of the Colorado Springs Gazette, which remains steadfastly unsure man is to blame for the problem. Thus the newspaper hesitates to support “onerous restrictions on the use of fossil fuels.”

‘Tis the Season for Spirits
“Christmas cheer may be downgraded to Christmas cheap,” The Denver Post writes, as more people decide to play Scrooge with booze. The economic downturn has finally trickled its way into Colorado’s liquor stores, where bargain bottles of St. Remy are moving faster than fancy top-shelf Armagnac. Forget spiking the eggnog with Grey Goose when Smirnoff will do. As for that cheery wine, it might be flowing from the plastic spout at the bottom of a box.

Although Jim Smith, president of Republic National Distributing Co., says sales appear as robust as ever, he’s “never seen an environment like this.” Argonaut Wine & Liquor co-owner Ron Vaughn sums it up elegantly: “People are going quantity rather than quality.”

And with that, keep in mind after the holiday party that the police have just started their annual crackdown on drunk drivers, according to News2. That’s why bars like the Cherry Cricket in Cherry Creek North won’t be cutting back. They’ll be offering free cab vouchers worth $5 to the tipsy in need.

The Deep Freeze: Day 3
Things, like car engines, make strange sounds, if any noise at all, in the Arctic wilderness that Denver has become this week. The record cold temperatures that struck over the weekend continued on Monday, and another record low might have been set this morning before a new storm system generates a bit more snow, according to 9News.

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Kids across the Front Range, it seemed, got a case of freezy-fingers-and-toes syndrome when the school buses that were supposed to pick them up refused to start, according to The Denver Post, which reports a record low of minus-19 early Monday morning. Denver and Jefferson County were not immune, and in Cherry Creek about 100 of the nearly 300 buses wouldn’t start. Some kids waited up to an hour before their buses trudged in.

Prior to Monday, the coldest temperature on record for December 15 was minus-6 degrees, set in 1951, according to 9News.

Crush Sidelined
The Arena Football League, to which the Colorado Crush belongs, has officially suspended its 2009 season, as has been rumored for about a week. According to Ed Policy, the league’s acting commissioner, “as a business enterprise, [the league] needs to be restructured if it is to continue to provide its unique brand of this affordable, fan-friendly sport,” writes the Denver Business Journal.

John Elway, CEO of the Crush, expressed disappointment but said the decision was “essential to reevaluate the current business model to ensure the livelihood of the AFL in the future.”

Another Win For the Nuggets
Reserve guard J.R. Smith scored a team high 25 points to help the Denver Nuggets in its 98-88 win at Dallas, according to the Rocky Mountain News. Though the team had an early lead, the Mavericks tied the score at 65-65 midway through the third quarter. But it was Smith, a favorite passing target of Chauncey Billups last night, who clinched the game. “Just took some open shots,” Smith said.

Audiodose: Coloradans are tightening their belts for the holidays, even when giving to charities. Yet as KUNC reports, at least seven nonprofits recently got a nice stocking stuffer–more cash.

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Datageek: How do you measure up? Wages and salaries average $17.92 an hour in the Mountain West, which includes Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, according to the Denver Business Journal.

Cheapest Gallon of Gas ‘Round Here: $1.34, Bradley, 5160 W. 65th Ave. (via www.gasbuddy.com).

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Mile-High Headlines for Thursday, December 4

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Salazar for Ag Post?
U.S. Representative John Salazar is on the “short list” of names under consideration for President-elect Barack Obama’s secretary of agriculture. That’s according to the The Denver Post, which subsequently obtained confirmation from the Third Congressional District Democrat that “may” be the case.

Salazar’s name crops up at a time when Obama is facing criticism for failing to appoint more Latinos to the Cabinet, as National Public Radio reports. So far, Obama has appointed just one–New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who will be secretary of commerce. Salazar’s statement to the Post indicates interest in the job: “I’ve lived agriculture, and I sleep agriculture.” Salazar says he has not been interviewed by Obama’s transition team, but he has spoken to them.

According to The Associated Press, Salazar’s competition includes Dennis Wolff, Pennsylvania’s secretary of agriculture; Tom Buis, president of the National Farmers Union; former Texas Representative Charles Stenholm, South Dakota Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, and former Indiana Representative Jill Long Thompson, all Democrats.

About That Recession

Here’s some more bad and not-so-bad news about Colorado’s economy. First the bad: New research from the University of Denver indicates signs of a recession in the state. There were “sharp” job losses last month, the unemployment rate is rising, and sales taxes are down. As the Denver Business Journal notes, the report puts doubts on late-September analysis by Moody’s Economy.com that listed Colorado as one of just six states where the economy was still expanding.

If you want to talk recession, look no further than the recently divorced David Snyder and Nancy Partridge, who have been forced to live together for months because they can’t sell their house or afford to live on their own, according to The Associated Press, which writes all about the couple’s awkward mess.

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But there’s also some not-so-bad news from the Journal: Denver ranks third among the nation’s top 50 metro areas when it comes to business. Minneapolis-St. Paul and Boston are first and second, respectively.

The Anglican Schism–or Splinter
The Episcopal Church’s ordination of openly gay priests, among other theological disagreements, has led to a revolt by conservatives in the United States and Canada who announced they were breaking away and forming a new organization within the Anglican Communion yesterday. In Colorado, 16 churches have left the state diocese in recent years, according to The Denver Post. Eleven others, which are still part of the diocese, belong to a partnership that drafted the new province’s constitution.

In Colorado Springs, four Anglican churches splintered from the new group, including Grace Church & St. Stephen’s, which left last year, according to The Gazette.

The new church wants to be recognized by the Anglican Communion, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, according to The Wall Street Journal. It is unclear if the Communion will allow competing churches to exist in the same geographical region.

Newspaper Watch
Add the Fort Collins Coloradoan to the growing list of newspapers in Colorado cutting back at a time when the ink-stained daily journalism business ain’t what it used to be. That’s according to NewsChannel 13 in Colorado Springs, which notes that Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper company and owner of the Coloradoan, is slashing its workforce by 10 percent amid declining revenues.

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The Coloradoan has laid off five employees, and two vacant positions were eliminated. Jim Hopkins, a former Gannett editor and reporter who blogs about the company, has tallied 1,786 job losses this week.

The overall prognosis for the industry, via Editor & Publisher, is horrendous. Many newspapers will probably default on their debt and go belly up, leaving “several cities” with no paper at all. Fitch Ratings made the prediction, citing negative advertising revenue growth and rising publication costs. The debts of two major companies, The McClatchy Co. and Tribune Co., are rated as “junk” by Fitch.

Boulder Marine to Return Home
From Camp Pendleton in California, 9News reports that Lance Hering, the 23-year-old Marine from Boulder who went absent without leave after allegedly faking his disappearance, will spend 30 days in military prison. Hering will also receive a “less than honorable” discharge, according to 9News, which doesn’t specify whether Hering was sentenced for desertion, the crime for which the Marines arrested him.

Hering will later be handed over to authorities in Boulder County, where he’s facing charges stemming from his August 30, 2006 disappearance.

At the time, his friend Steve Powers concocted a story that Hering was injured and missing in Eldorado Canyon State Park. After a massive search-and-rescue operation, authorities learned the story was fake, and Powers said Hering feared returning to the Marines because troops in his unit had killed innocent people in Iraq. Earlier this week, an organization that includes Hering’s parents said Hering was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Boulder’s Daily Camera.

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Sakic Iced
It has been a tough couple of years for Joe Sakic, who returned to the Colorado Avalanche and a 20th National Hockey League season this year in the wake of hernia surgery last year that caused him to miss 38 games. The 39-year-old captain considered retirement, seemed to hedge, but then said he was fit enough for another year. It’s been rough since then.

Sakic has had back trouble all season and now is suffering from a herniated disc, according to The Denver Post. Sakic, who has already battled other minor injuries this season, will be out at least six weeks.

Broncos’ Rookie Help
With all the injuries plaguing the Broncos this season, credit for their moderate success has to go as much to a class of newbies as it does to quarterback Jay Cutler.

Take wide receiver Eddie Royal. He’s had a play for 50 yards in four of the last five games and leads all National Football League rookies in receptions, yards receiving, and touchdown catches, according to The Associated Press (via Examiner.com). How about Peyton Hillis? He popped up in Denver’s 34-17 win over the New York Jets, rushing 22 times for 129 yards and a touchdown.

Cheapest Gallon of Gas ‘Round Here: $1.44, Westminster Sunmart, 7170 Pecos 72nd Ave. (via www.gasbuddy.com).

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