Mile-High Headlines for Monday, December 1

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Spending Up
All those sales the day after Thanksgiving helped lure customers. In other words, Black Friday wasn’t a bust, as some retailers feared. Rather, their overall sales were up by 3 percent compared to one year ago, according to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., writes MarketWatch. The preliminary report, which was issued before the weekend concluded, represented a “surprisingly solid start” to the weekend, The Denver Post notes. Heather Drake, a marketing manager at FlatIron Crossing in Broomfield, says “every retailer” she spoke with reported an increase over last year. There was some shopping craziness over the weekend, too. The Northern Colorado Bomb Squad deployed a robot to “disrupt” a suspicious package in Fort Collins, according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan. And in Long Island, New York, a temporary Wal-Mart worker was trampled to death after unlocking the doors at 5 a.m. on Friday, according to CNN.

Snow, Glorious Snow
What a difference snow makes–especially if you’re in the ski biz. Real Vail reports a foot and half of new snow in the Vail Valley, kicking the ski season “into high gear.” Beaver Creek got socked, too, as did several other slopes, according to Colorado Ski Country’s daily snow report. But the storm, which luckily didn’t put much snow on Denver’s streets, created problems for travelers around the state. About 130 people were stranded at a shelter in Silverthorne last night when officials closed an ice-laden stretch of eastbound I-70, according to The Denver Post. Other parcels of highway were closed on Sunday, too, including I-25 between Fort Collins and Cheyenne, following a series of accidents, according to the Rocky Mountain News. Though roads this morning remained tough in places, such as Monument Hill, north of Colorado Springs, the ice should melt, according to 9News. Today’s high temperature in Denver is expected to hit 54 degrees.

Craigslist: Watch What You Write
J.P. Weichel, a 40-year-old man from Loveland, was “just venting,” he tells police, when he anonymously wrote about his ex-lover on Craigslist last year: She traded sex for legal services from her attorney, he claimed. Child services checked in on her because of an injury to her child, he added. Several months later, detectives visited Weichel, who allegedly confessed. He’s now facing criminal libel charges under a 19th-century state law that could land him in jail for up to 18 months, according to The Associated Press (via the Greeley Tribune). Steve Zansberg, a Denver attorney whose clients include 5280, says the case could have a”chilling” effect on freedom of speech in Colorado Internet cases, claiming the law is outdated and poorly written; it could even apply to dead people. Prosecutors stand by the case, which continues in court next month, according to 9News.

Ernie Joins Bob
First 9News anchorman Bob Kendrick got the heave-ho. Now another familiar face in Denver television–Ernie Bjorkman–is slated to sign off for the last time, according to The New York Times. In October, Bjorkman had signed a new annual contract worth close to $250,000 but was later told he’d be dropped after KWGN consolidated with Fox 31. Bjorkman, who has worked 36 years in television, tells the Times, “I don’t think we’re going to see the anchor people grow old with the audience anymore.” The Times calls local anchors a “dying breed” and says their hefty salaries are tempting places for cost cuts during the economic slump and “severe advertising downturn.” The Television Bureau of Advertising forecasts a 7.1 percent decrease this year. 9News recently declined to renew Kendrick’s contract. He leaves on December 5, and Bjorkman leaves on December 31. The 9News newsroom is also offering an undisclosed number of buyouts to employees older than 55 who have been with the station more than a decade, according to the Rocky Mountain News.

See Johnny Run
Moms like Donna Campiglia, a Boulder resident, can now find out before their kids turn three whether they’ll be any good at soccer, according to The New York Times, thanks to genetic testing that determines if a person is more apt to be good at sprinting or football or long-distance running. The tests com at a time when parents are more determined than ever to help their children score university scholarships, and in “health-conscious, sports-oriented Boulder” a company called Atlas Sports Genetics “is playing into the obsessions of parents by offering a $149 test that aims to predict a child’s natural athletic strengths.” The process, a simple swabbing inside the child’s mouth, looks at the ACTN3 gene. Some scientists, who hail such tests as a way to determine predisposition to diseases, aren’t too keen on using the technology to find a child’s sports niche. Others aren’t convinced the test is reliable. But Campiglia sees it differently: “I think it would prevent a lot of parental frustration,” she says.

Nuggets’ Martin: Thanks, Billups
The Denver Nuggets are 12-6–tied for first place in the Northwest Division–following a 104-94 Pepsi Center win against the Houston Rockets yesterday. Eleven of those 12 victories featured Chauncey Billups, who was acquired in the trade deal that sent Allen Iverson to Detroit, according to The Denver Post. Moreover, 11 wins is the most the team has logged in a November since the 1984-85 season. As Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin told Billups after the game, “I appreciate you being here.”

Broncos Coming to Life
The Denver Broncos snapped back to life while visiting the New York Jets, snatching a 34-17 victory in heavy rain yesterday. Quarterback Jay Cutler threw for two touchdowns and 357 yards, according to Reuters, ending the Jets’ five-game winning streak. The 7-5 Broncos are in the playoff picture with a three-game lead over the San Diego Chargers in the American Football Conference’s West Division. The 8-4 Jets remain at the top of the AFC East.

Vonn Finishes Fourth
Lindsey Vonn of Vail finished fourth during a wind-whipped Aspen Winternational ski competition on Sunday, as Sarka Zahrobska of the Czech Republic earned her first World Cup victory ever, according to The Sports Network. Nonetheless, Vonn was “psyched” about her performance. During training in the days leading up to the cup, she had bruised her left knee and needed crutches to get around. She admits to holding back during her first run because her knee “wasn’t feeling that hot after the warm up.”

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