Mile-High Headlines for Friday, November 21

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Oil Prices at the Bottom of the Barrel
Seems like old times. Actually, seems more like three years ago. You can find gasoline in the Denver area for less than $2 per gallon, according to GasBuddy. Thank crude oil prices, which plunged below $50 a barrel yesterday–the lowest price in three-and-a-half years, according to CNN. The reasons for that, of course, are a bit bleak. Demand for energy around the globe is weak, as a wave of economic reports bring bad news. Among them, the federal government reports that jobless claims are at a 16-year high and consumer prices have declined the most since 1947. There is a silver lining for Colorado, which is still apparently in a better position than the rest of the nation during this recession. Colorado’s foreclosure rate isn’t as extreme as other states’, and we remain competitive in many areas, such as taxes and labor compensation, according to the Denver Business Journal. But try telling that to unemployed workers, who say they are waiting up to two hours to get answers about unemployment and insurance benefits, according ot 9News.

Obama the “Apocalyptic”
J. Francis Stafford, a former Catholic archbishop in Denver who is now a cardinal at the Vatican, says President-elect Barack Obama is “aggressive, disruptive and even apocalyptic.” That’s according to a fiery lecture Stafford delivered to the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., last week, questioning Obama’s stand on abortion. The Rocky Mountain News writes that the cardinal believes America will be challenged by Obama’s “extremist anti-life platform,” including his support for Roe v. Wade. Reuters touched on an old criticism of Obama this week–“The ‘Is Obama a Christian?’ discussion”– which has refueled the banter in some circles, extending beyond those who still think he’s secretly a Muslim.

Friendly Fire Cover-Up
In 2006, the Army attributed the deaths of Pfc. Albert Nelson and Pfc. Roger Suarez-Gonzalez to enemy action in Ramadi. But an investigation earlier this month by Salon found that wasn’t the case. Armed with battle video and eyewitness testimony, Salon showed that the two soldiers probably died as a result of friendly fire. A follow-up to the story now finds that three Fort Carson soldiers, including two who were present during the incident, were ordered to shred two boxes full of documents about Nelson and Suarez-Gonzalez after Salon’s investigation was published. A U.S. senator’s office has relocated the soldiers for their safety. After the initial story ran, soldiers were told to keep quiet. “Everybody was trying to figure out who released this video and who talked to a reporter,” says Pvt. Charles Kremling. This kind of cover-up has been an issue for the Army in the past. Remember Pat Tillman? The Army at first said the former professional football player was killed by enemy fire but later admitted he was mistakenly gunned down by members of his elite Ranger platoon during an ambush, as this Washington Post story reported.

The Red Thing Under the Bridge
Some kind of glowing lava monster has marked its territory near the 16th Street pedestrian bridge. Actually, no, it’s “National Velvet,” a public sculpture by artist (not tennis great) John McEnroe, who was paid $50,000 by the city to erect the work. See for yourself what everyone is talking about in this 9News slideshow. “National Velvet” is nothing like the Enid Bagnold novel (or later film) of the same title in which a 14-year-old Sussex, England, girl trains and rides her horse to victory in the Grand National steeplechase. “I think it’s disgusting,” Amy Berglund, who lives near the creation, tells 9News. In other words, it’s failing to live up to the promises of a city press that claimed viewers would “delight in the sheer scale and playfulness of the work…” Westword writes that some alternate names for the piece include “Penis Bags” and “Wet Salami.” 
Mayor John Hickenlooper seems “in on the joke, wasting no time in leaping up and caressing the bulging monument,” saying this art is the kind that “begs to be touched.”

Naked Priest Guilty
On June 22, 2007, Father Robert Whipkey, a resident of Frederick, jogged nude on a high school track before dawn. Yesterday, the now-former Catholic priest wore a blue shirt and slacks to court as he was sentenced to five years of probation and 100 hours of community service, according to the Greeley Tribune. Whipkey could also be made to register as a sex offender if an appeal fails. “This conviction has cost me my career and my life,” Whipkey, who is unemployed, said during proceedings. The Boulder Daily Camera reports that nine years ago the Catholic Archdiocese in Denver investigated Whipkey for “inappropriate personal behavior” while he was at St. Anthony’s parish in Sterling. Police there say they fielded reports that young boys saw Whipkey naked at a summer camp, but no charges were ever filed.

“Leatherhead” Suddenly Popular
Rookie Spencer “Leatherhead” Larsen, who played both offense and defense during the Denver Broncos victory over Atlanta earlier this week, is enjoying the spotlight–even if it makes him squint a bit. After starting at middle linebacker and fullback, reporters want to know how it feels to be just the fourth National Football League player since 1990 to accomplish that feat, according to The Associated Press. “It was cool,” he says, adding that he “didn’t think it was going to be this big of a deal, though.” He’s the only Bronco to claim the accomplishment–although in 2000 team cornerback Champ Bailey played cornerback and receiver for Washington. The 6-4 Broncos host Oakland in Denver on Sunday.

Avs Injuries Set Tone for Loss
The Denver Broncos aren’t the only ones hobbling. The Colorado Avalanche has been struggling for weeks. Captain Joe Sakic has missed five of the last six games because of back problems. Add to the injured roster right wing Marek Svatos, who suffered an abdominal injury at the Pepsi Center during the team’s 1-0 loss last night to the Calgary Flames, according to the Rocky Mountain News. Coach Tony Granato hopes the injury isn’t serious. Svatos has scored two of the Avs’ last four goals.

Cheapest Gallon of Gas ‘Round Here: $1.59, Conoco, 19220 E. Main St. @ South Parker Road (via

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