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After meeting with Pope Francis, Iraq’s Shiite leader reaffirms coexistence.



After meeting with Pope Francis, Iraq's Shiite leader reaffirms coexistence.


Iraq’s top Shiite cleric said after his historic meeting with Pope Francis on Saturday that religious authorities have a role to play in protecting Iraq’s Christians and that they should live in peace and have the same rights as other Iraqis.

Francis thanked Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the Shiite people, according to the Vatican, for “raising his voice in support of the weakest and most persecuted” during some of Iraq’s most violent periods.

Al-message Sistani’s of reconciliation, he said, reiterated “the sacredness of human life and the value of Iraqi people’s unity.”

According to the Vatican, Francis’ landmark visit was an opportunity for him to highlight the importance of interfaith cooperation and friendship.


In Iraq’s holy city of Najaf, Pope Francis met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of Shiite Islam’s most senior clerics, to deliver a joint message of peaceful coexistence, encouraging Muslims to accept Iraq’s long-beleaguered Christian minority.

The meeting was held behind closed doors to discuss problems affecting Iraq’s Christian minority. Al-Sistani is a respected figure in Shiite-majority Iraq, and Shiites around the world seek his advice on theological and other matters.

A display of solidarity from al-Sistani could help Iraq’s shrinking Christian minority protect their position in the country after years of displacement — and, they hope, reduce harassment from Shiite militiamen.

Every detail of the historic meeting in al-modest Sistani’s home had been painstakingly debated and negotiated between the ayatollah’s office and the Vatican for months.

When the time came, the 84-year-old pontiff’s convoy arrived along Najaf’s narrow and column-lined Rasool Street, which leads to the golden-domed Imam Ali Shrine, one of Shiites’ most revered sites in the world. He then proceeded to walk the few meters (yards) to al-modest Sistani’s home, which the cleric has leased for decades.

Outside, a group of Iraqis dressed in traditional garb greeted him. A few white doves were released as a masked Francis approached the doorway as a sign of peace. He reappeared just under an hour later, still limping heavily from what seemed to be a flare-up of sciatica nerve pain that made walking difficult.

According to a religious official in Najaf who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to brief the media, the “very positive” meeting lasted a total of 40 minutes.

According to the official, al-Sistani, who usually sits for guests, stood to greet Francis at the door of his room, which is a rare honor. Al-Sistani and Francis stood next to each other, hands on their laps, without masks. Between them was a small table with a box of tissues on it.

The fact that the pope had met with so many people the day before caused some alarm, according to the official. The coronavirus vaccine has been given to Francis, but not to al-Sistani.

Residents cheered the meeting of two revered faith leaders, which was broadcast live on Iraqi television.

”We welcome the Pope’s visit to Iraq, especially to Najaf and his meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani,” said Haidar Al-Ilyawi, a Najaf resident. “This is a historic visit, and I hope it will be beneficial to Iraq and its people.”

On the first-ever papal visit to Iraq, Francis arrived on Friday and met with senior government officials to promote his call for greater fraternity among all peoples. It’s also his first foreign trip since the coronavirus outbreak began, and his meeting with the grand ayatollah on Saturday was the first time a pope has met a grand ayatollah.

According to the governor of the province, nearly 25,000 security forces were stationed in Najaf ahead of the pope’s arrival. To make space for the pope’s arrival, Rasool Street was devoid of its normal bustle. A crowd of people rushed to the street as soon as his motorcade departed, filling it up again to see him off.

The famously reclusive al-Sistani has changed the direction of Iraq’s modern history on the few occasions that he has voiced his opinion.

As the Shiite majority was attacked by al-Qaida and other Sunni extremists in the years following the 2003 US-led invasion, he consistently preached calm and restraint. Despite this, the country was engulfed in years of sectarian violence.

His fatwa, or religious edict, issued in 2014, urging able-bodied men to join the security forces in combating the Islamic State, bolstered the ranks of Shiite militias, many of which are closely linked to Iran. In 2019, as the country was gripped by anti-government protests, his sermon prompted Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi to resign.

Iraqis have welcomed the visit, as well as the international attention it has brought to the country as it works to recover from decades of war and unrest. Iraq claimed victory over the Islamic State in 2017, but attacks continue on a sporadic basis.

Recent rocket attacks by Iran-backed militias on US military and diplomatic installations, as well as US airstrikes on militia targets in Iraq and neighboring Syria, have been witnessed. The violence is related to the standoff between the US and Iran that erupted after the US pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions on Iran.

Francis’ journey to Najaf and Ur passes through provinces that have recently experienced unrest. Last month, protest violence in Nasiriyah, where the Plains of Ur are situated, killed at least five people. When Iraqi security forces used live fire to disperse protesters, the majority were killed.

Last year, protest violence was seen in Najaf as well, but it subsided as Iraq’s massive anti-government movement faded.

In Ur, where Francis was to preside over an interfaith meeting later Saturday, a large security presence awaited him. Ur, with its ancient ziggurat, is thought to be the birthplace of Abraham, the prophet revered by Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike.

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Biden pitching partnership after tough stretch with allies



Biden pitching partnership after tough stretch with allies


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden goes before the United Nations this week eager to make the case for the world to act with haste against the coronavirus, climate change and human rights abuses. His pitch for greater global partnership comes at a moment when allies are becoming increasingly skeptical about how much U.S. foreign policy really has changed since Donald Trump left the White House.

Biden plans to limit his time at the U.N. General Assembly due to coronavirus concerns. He is scheduled to meet with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday and address the assembly on Tuesday before shifting the rest of the week’s diplomacy to virtual and Washington settings.

At a virtual COVID-19 summit he is hosting Wednesday, leaders will be urged to step up vaccine-sharing commitments, address oxygen shortages around the globe and deal with other critical pandemic-related issues.

The president also has invited the prime ministers of Australia, India and Japan, part of a Pacific alliance, to Washington and is expected to meet with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the White House.

Through it all, Biden will be the subject of a quiet assessment by allies: Has he lived up to his campaign promise to be a better partner than Trump?

Biden’s chief envoy to the United Nations, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, offered a harmonious answer in advance of all the diplomacy: “We believe our priorities are not just American priorities, they are global priorities,” she said Friday.

But over the past several months, Biden has found himself at odds with allies on a number of high-profile issues.

There have been noted differences over the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the pace of COVID-19 vaccine-sharing and international travel restrictions, and the best way to respond to military and economic moves by China. A fierce French backlash erupted in recent days after the U.S. and Britain announced they would help equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.

Biden opened his presidency by declaring that “America is back” and pledging a more collaborative international approach.

At the same time, he has focused on recalibrating national security priorities after 20 years marked by preoccupation with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and thwarting Islamic terrorists in the Middle East and South Asia. He has tried to make the case that the U.S. and its democratic allies need to put greater focus on countering economic and security threats posed by China and Russia.

Biden has faced resistance — and, at moments, outright anger — from allies when the White House has moved on important global decisions with what some deemed insufficient consultation.

France was livid about the submarine deal, which was designed to bolster Australian efforts to keep tabs on China’s military in the Pacific but undercuts a deal worth at least $66 billion for a fleet of a dozen submarines built by a French contractor.

French President Emmanuel Macron has recalled France’s ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia for consultations in Paris. France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said Australia and the United States had both betrayed France. Biden and Macron are expected to speak by phone in the coming days, a French government spokesman said.

“It was really a stab in the back,” he said. “It looks a lot like what Trump did.”

Biden administration and Australian officials say that France was aware of their plans, and the White House promised to “continue to be engaged in the coming days to resolve our differences.”

But Biden and European allies have also been out of sync on other matters, including how quickly wealthy nations should share their coronavirus vaccine stockpiles with poorer nations.

Early on, Biden resisted calls to immediately begin donating 4% to 5% of stockpiles to developing nations. In June, the White House instead announced it was buying 500 million doses to be distributed by a World Health Organization-backed initiative to share vaccine with low- and middle-income countries around the globe. Biden is soon expected to announce additional steps to help vaccinate the world.

Allies among the Group of Seven major industrial nations have shown differing levels of comfort with Biden’s calls to persuade fellow democratic leaders to present a more unified front to compete economically with Beijing. When the leaders met this year in England, they agreed to work toward competing against China. But there was less unity on how adversarial a public position the group should take.

Canada, the United Kingdom and France largely endorsed Biden’s position, while Germany, Italy and the European Union showed more hesitancy.

Germany, which has strong trade ties with China, has been keen to avoid a situation in which Germany, or the European Union, might be forced to choose sides between China and the United States.

Biden clashed with European leaders over his decision to stick to an Aug. 31 deadline to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan, which resulted in the U.S. and Western allies leaving before all their citizens could be evacuated from Taliban rule.

Britain and other allies, many of whose troops followed American forces into Afghanistan after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on the United States, had urged Biden to keep the American military at the Kabul airport longer but were ultimately rebuffed by the president.

Administration officials see this week’s engagements as an important moment for the president to spell out his priorities and rally support to take on multiple crises with greater coordination.

It’s also a time of political transition for some allies. Longtime German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to leave office after Germany holds elections later this month and France’s Macron is to face his voters in April at a moment when his political star has dimmed.

J. Stephen Morrison, a global health policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, expressed concern that the rift in U.S.-France relations has occurred at time when global leaders are far behind their goals for vaccinating the globe and need to step up their efforts.

“We need these countries to be in a position to come forward around the type of agenda … that the U.S. has put together,” Morrison said of Biden’s planned vaccination push. “So the French being absent or not terribly engaged is a setback.”

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Democrats push to retool health care programs for millions



Democrats push to retool health care programs for millions


WASHINGTON (AP) — Dental work for seniors on Medicare. An end to sky’s-the-limit pricing on prescription drugs. New options for long-term care at home. Coverage for low-income people locked out of Medicaid by ideological battles.

Those are just some of the changes to health care that Democrats want to achieve with President Joe Biden’s massive “Build Back Better” plan. The $3.5 trillion domestic agenda bill touches almost all aspects of American life, from taxes to climate change, but the health care components are a cornerstone for Democrats, amplified during the COVID-19 crisis.

For the nearly 145 million Americans covered by government health programs, along with their families and communities, the investment in the nation’s services could make a difference in the quality of life for decades.

“It’s a holistic look at how health care can be not just expanded, but better directed to the needs that people actually have,” Kathleen Sebelius, federal health secretary under President Barack Obama, said of the Biden bill. “You’ve got a plan that’s really aimed at the serious gaps in health care that are still causing people to either go totally uninsured, or run out of money in the course of their treatments.”

But Democrats can only succeed if they bridge divisions among themselves. Don’t look for Republicans to help.

With Medicare’s long-term finances under a cloud, Republicans say now is not the time to add new benefits. They are planning to oppose not just the health care provisions, but the entire Biden package, voting lockstep against it as too big, costly and a slide toward “socialism.”

Mindful of the politics ahead, Democrats are assembling the package with their slim hold on Congress. Instead of launching new experiments that many progressives prefer, they have chosen to plow more resources into existing programs, from Medicare and Medicaid enacted during the Great Society to the Obama-era Affordable Care Act.

It’s a compromise, of sorts, led by Biden’s approach, paid for by taxes on corporations and the wealthy, those earning more than $400,000, as well as savings on prescription drug prices paid by the government to the pharmaceutical companies.

“I’ve said many times before: I believe we’re at an inflection point in this country — one of those moments where the decisions we’re about to make can change — literally change — the trajectory of our nation for years and possibly decades to come,” Biden said in remarks last week at the White House.

Polling has shown that core health care provisions appeal to voters across political lines. Many Republican voters, for example, generally approve of Medicare negotiating prescription drug prices, even if GOP lawmakers do not. While the Obama health law focused mainly on helping uninsured working-age people and their families, Biden’s coda puts a big emphasis on older people, who also happen to be reliable midterm election voters.

Major health care provisions in the mix include:

—Authorizing Medicare to negotiate prices for the costliest drugs, including insulin. Private insurers and employer plans could then access those lower prices. Annual price increases for established drugs would be limited. Seniors’ out-of-pocket costs would be capped.

A RAND Corporation study finds such an approach could cut U.S. spending on top drugs by half.

Sharp opposition from the big pharmaceutical companies and key business industry groups have left Democrats divided over the structure of the program.

Four House Democrats opposed the measure during committee votes this past week, enough to tank the entire bill. In the past, they had supported giving Medicare authority to negotiate, but they are expressing a range of concerns about the scope of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan. The Senate could take a somewhat different approach.

Medicare negotiating authority is the linchpin of the health care package because expected savings would be used to provide new benefits.

—Expanding Medicare to cover dental care, vision, and hearing aids for seniors. This provision, championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has been a long time coming. Vision care would begin the latter part of next year and hearing aids in 2023, but in an apparent concession to costs, dental coverage would not start until 2028.

—Building on Obama health law. The idea is to provide health insurance to more than 2 million low-income people in GOP-led states that have rejected the Medicaid expansion of “Obamacare.” The workaround is a top health equity demand for Black lawmakers because many of those caught in the coverage gap are minorities in Southern states.

Biden’s plan also calls for making health insurance more affordable for people who buy their own policies by extending a subsidy boost for Obama’s health law. The richer subsidies are being temporarily provided in Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill to people who lack employer coverage, and the White House wants to make the subsidies permanent. Lawmakers may only be able to meet the president part way.

—Promoting a shift to long-term care in the patient’s own home as opposed to nursing facilities, which turned into incubators for the coronavirus as the pandemic spread. Biden had wanted $400 billion for this initiative under Medicaid, but it looks like Congress will give him about half that.

—Permanently funding the politically popular Children’s Health Insurance Program so it’s not subject to recurring votes in Congress that could disrupt services.

—Improving maternal health by providing postpartum coverage for 12 months through Medicaid.

With key centrist Democrats, including Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, saying the overall $3.5 trillion price tag is too high, Democrats are looking for ways to cut costs, either by eliminating some programs or, more likely, shaving some costs or duration off what has been proposed.

Other Democrats, though, warned that a slimmer package might disappoint voters who sent them to Washington on their promises to make big changes.

“My constituents are expecting me to deliver, and I’m committed to doing it,” said Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., whose professional background is in health care policy.

Biden’s approval rating has taken a dive following the chaotic and violent consequences of the U.S. exit from Afghanistan and the resurgence of coronavirus at home after he proclaimed the pandemic was waning, and as Democrats in Congress look ahead to next year’s midterm elections.

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said the health care provisions in the budget bill appeal to lawmakers’ own instincts for self-preservation. The proposals resonate with older voters and women, two key groups in the 2022 contests, with Democrats battling to hold on to the House.

“If you want to protect yourself in your district, you ought to double down on the health care provisions,” she said.

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Denver’s closed Civic Center Park has host of problems — but crime’s not on the rise, data shows



Denver’s closed Civic Center Park has host of problems — but crime’s not on the rise, data shows

Civic Center Park is officially closed. Anyone who bypasses the barricades and fencing around the national landmark between the Colorado Capitol and the Denver City and County Building risks being ticketed. It’s for the public’s own good, Denver leaders say.

In a news release announcing the temporary closure of the park and two adjacent properties, city officials said the areas “have become a hotspot for violence, crime, drug sales and substance misuse.” Scott Gilmore, deputy director of the city’s parks department, emphasized to CBS Denver that recent violent incidents were a driver of the shutdown.

But Denver police data doesn’t show an uptick in reported crime in Civic Center. Instead, crime levels have remained relatively stable in recent years, according to data analyzed by The Denver Post.

Denver police Chief Paul Pazen, in an interview, emphasized that the closure call was not made by his department.

“We’re not going to pretend we don’t have challenges over there,” he said of the downtown park. “Our focus is addressing the drug dealers and trying to hold them accountable for the harm they’re creating in the community.”

Crome statistics aside, city leaders have provided a laundry list of environmental and public health risks they say made a shutdown the only option. At a time when downtown Denver is struggling to rebound from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and there is an effort to rebrand and reinvigorate the eastern end of downtown near Civic Center, the closure is a period of short-term pain that will lead to a long-term improvement to civic life, leaders insist.

“There is a great deal of human waste and trash that is in the park. A lot of needles. A lot of discarded food,” Denver parks department spokeswoman Cynthia Karvaski said, adding that the food and trash are attracting rats. “We needed to come up with an operational plan that was sustainable and we weren’t able to do that with the park open.”

Civic Center long has had a reputation for being a hotbed for drug dealing and drug use. The refrain from city leaders ahead of the park shutdown had been that things were different this summer.

People openly shooting up and other things like aggressive — but not outright violent — behavior might not show up in crime reports but it impacts life in the park, said Eric Lazzari, executive director of the nonprofit Civic Center Conservancy.

For Lazzari, sitting at a table for lunch during a Civic Center Eats food truck event this summer and having another man sit at the same table and inject himself with an unknown substance hammered home how dire things had become.

“We are absolutely supportive of what the city did,” he said. “It was a necessary step. It had gotten to that point.”

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Denver police officers detain two men from a homeless encampment at Civic Center Park in Denver on Sept. 7, 2021. The city of Denver has temporarily shut down Civic Center Park, citing health and safety issues.

Civic Center Park crime data

In its analysis, The Post looked at all crimes reported in the park, around the Pioneer Monument Fountain, the Wellington Webb Municipal Office Building and the major intersections that surround the park between Jan. 1, 2016, and Aug. 31, 2021. The area around the fountain and a strip of park space on the east side of the Webb building also have been shut down during the Civic Center cleanup.

There were 222 total crimes reported in that area in the first eight months of 2021, the data shows. That’s more than the 204 reported in that same time period in 2020 but fewer than the 284 reported in 2019. Between 2016 and 2020, the police department received an average of 323 crime reports in the first eight months of each year.

Violent crimes like assaults, robberies and homicides also have not changed substantially. Denver police recorded 20 such crimes through August of this year. That’s the same as the average count for the previous five years in that time period.

There had not been a homicide recorded in the park in the previous five years, but 2021 brought an end to that.

Jalen Adams, 28, was killed and two others injured in an Aug. 6 shooting at the park. That came after another man was shot and killed in the park on March 8.

Property crimes like theft and burglary have fallen, the data shows, though reports of drug sales and use have increased in the last three years.

Narcotics are the primary driver of crime and violence in the park, Pazen said.

Police previously had identified the area around the intersection of Colfax Avenue and Broadway as one of the five crime hotspots in the city in 2020.

But Pazen told City Council members at an Aug. 9 meeting of the council’s Public Safety Working Group that the department and others had successfully quelled the violence in that area after efforts like increased bike patrols and cleanups.

“The downtown hotspot, we see a shift. We primarily saw hotspot activity around the Colfax and Broadway location in 2020 and as you can see from the density map of 2021 that shift is primarily around the Ballpark neighborhood and the LoDo area,” he said.

Pazen said that the Civic Center closure will disperse drug dealers who sell in the park. The crime will return when the park reopens, but he said that temporarily dispersing them could reduce the intensity of the problem.

“Displacement is an issue we have to monitor,” he said. “You can be making positive change in certain areas, but you have to ensure that you’re not blind to moving this to another location.”

1632055139 626 Denvers closed Civic Center Park has host of problems —

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Abher Miranda, front left, and Joel Meyering, front right, from Denver’s Parks and Recreation Department, tie fences together with steel wire at Civic Center Park in Denver on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.


Denver parks crews got to work at 4 a.m. Wednesday putting up the remaining fencing now surrounding Civic Center. The city temporarily closed the park in the spring of 2020 to support social distancing at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Karvaski said. She couldn’t remember another time the public had been barred from the park before that.

The decision wasn’t made by the parks department alone. The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, Denver police and Mayor Michael Hancock’s office all contributed, according to Karvaski.

“Parks personnel — rangers and clean-up staff — were having a hard time performing their jobs because of everything that was occurring in the park. They were being harassed, etc.,” she said of what led to the decision.

Gilmore initially said the park would be closed for at least two months, time enough to accommodate turf restoration, tree trimming, lighting improvements, camera upgrades and other work. Karvaski said some areas could reopen sooner than that depending on progress.

1632055139 999 Denvers closed Civic Center Park has host of problems —

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Scott Gilmore, deputy director of the city’s parks department, collects trash at Civic Center Park on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.

She feels there is a misconception that the shutdown is an excuse to run off people who sleep in the park. City parks already are closed between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., she said. Tents and other temporary structures aren’t allowed, even they have been a common sight in Civic Center at times during the summer.

“We don’t have encampments in the parks, particularly in our downtown parks,” Karvaski said.

Leaders of several organizations that serve the people who spend their days in the park, many of whom are unhoused, said they support the closure. But they also worry the closure will scatter people who need and use their services.

“We have been in this position before. All it does is force the individuals in the park deeper into the community,” said Ean Thomas Tafoya, founder of mutual aid organization Headwaters Protectors, which picks up trash and delivers water to the unhoused community in Civic Center and elsewhere around town.

Jennifer Kloeppel, CEO of Showers for All, said her organization, which provides showers and laundry services, supports the closure even though it has disrupted their twice-weekly Civic Center Park service days. They plan to start providing nearby services in the next few weeks.

Kloeppel said the atmosphere in the park changed toward the end of August.

“I’ve never felt unsafe being around the unsheltered community,” she said. “It was when I saw an influx of people coming in that were inciting violence that weren’t part of the regular unhoused community there.”

The discussions around the park closure could lead to some positive changes, in Tafoya’s view. For one, it has brought charitable groups together to talk about the work they do in the park. Tafoya wants to focus on how the services they provide can be updated to reduce negative side effects.

“We have a lot of people coming in to do feedings but they’re not thinking about harm reduction,” he said. “They are dropping off way more food than could be consumed without refrigeration and that ultimately ends up being used against these individuals.”

1632055139 658 Denvers closed Civic Center Park has host of problems —

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

People are asked to leave a homeless camp site near Civic Center Park in Denver on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.

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Denver lands in top 3 spot for hottest summer on record



Denver lands in top 3 spot for hottest summer on record

In a normal year, Denver will see an average of 46 days of 90-degree heat. That number has been ever-increasing as our summers have been getting warmer and warmer over the years.

When we talk about heat in Denver, it’s usually customary to reference the number of 90- and 100-degree heat days to give an idea of where we stand in terms of how hot a season has been.

This year, much like recent years, has provided the Front Range with a huge surplus of days with intense heat. So far, through mid-September, Denver has felt 90-degree heat on 57 days, well above the normal 46 days. Nine out of the top 10 years with the most days of 90-degree heat have happened since 2000.

Denver has felt 100-degree heat for 5 days this year which ties the city for third place for the most number of 100-degree days behind 2012 (13 days) and 2005 (7 days). Interestingly, prior to 2000, it was pretty rare to feel 100-degree heat in the city. From 1872 (when weather records began to be collected in Denver) to 2000, Denver averaged zero days of 100-degree heat. It just wasn’t the norm. From 2000 to now, Denver has averaged 3 days of 100-degree heat per year. A notable upward trend.

Data from ClimateCentral shows that Denver’s average summer temperatures have warmed by 2.6-degrees since 1970 and we experience 17 more days of 95-degree heat per year than the 1970s. This trend of hotter weather is a factor that should be realized when planning for the future. There is simply more hot weather expected now than there was before.

On a national level, the United States just experienced a hotter summer (June-August) than the Dust Bowl of 1936. California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho and Utah all had their hottest summer on record this year. Colorado as a whole had its fourth warmest summer on record and Denver ranked third for hottest summers ever with an average temperature of 74.6-degrees.

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From Western Slope to Eastern Plains, Colorado agriculture under pressure to adapt to warming world



From Western Slope to Eastern Plains, Colorado agriculture under pressure to adapt to warming world

Not long after Paul Bruchez’s family bought a ranch along the Colorado River near Kremmling, his father became ill amid a crippling drought in 2002 that left them without irrigation water.

“The family conversation was we either need to be involved and create some positive change or we need to go,” Bruchez recalled. “Dad said we’re going to fight for what we have. I’ve been doing it ever since then.”

The 40-year-old Bruchez is a fifth-generation Colorado farmer and rancher and is vice chairman of the Colorado Basin Roundtable. He works with area ranchers, environmentalists, scientists and local and state officials on conserving water and restoring stretches of the Colorado River for irrigators and wildlife.

“From my perspective, if we don’t fight for it, no one will,” said Bruchez.

Bruchez acknowledges the fight farmers and ranchers are in could determine not just the future of his family’s ranch, but the future of agriculture in Colorado and beyond. Whether it’s called climate change or long-term drought, the hotter, drier weather is threatening water supplies and crop yields, and is driving ranchers to cut herd sizes or find greener pastures elsewhere for the animals.

Agriculture is one of Colorado’s major industries, contributing $47 billion annually and supporting nearly 200,000 jobs, according to state data.  A state task force projects that drought could cost the state an additional $830 million in annual damages by 2050, with $511 million of that occurring agriculture alone.

An analysis by The Washington Post highlights the climate change challenge facing the region. Based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data between 1895 and 2019, the analysis found that a group of counties in northwest Colorado and eastern Utah warmed more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s double the global average.

According to the Colorado Climate Center, this summer has been the second-warmest on record for western Colorado.

“We’ve seen some of the most significant warming in the country showing up over parts of western Colorado. That’s really consistent with what climate change reports were predicting,” said Becky Bolinger, assistant state climatologist.

But the rest of Colorado has not been spared. Statewide, this August was the 14th-warmest August in 127 years. In 2020, all of Colorado was declared in drought or abnormally dry for the first time in eight years.

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

John Stulp inspects a wheat field after harvesting at Stulp Farms in Lamar on Friday, July 30, 2021.

Lamar farmer and rancher John Stulp said a former state climatologist told him that Colorado is so large, there’s rarely a part of the state that isn’t in drought.

“But it just seems like they’re getting bigger and lasting longer. And they’re also getting shorter, closer together,” said Stulp, a former state agriculture commissioner. He was a special water policy adviser to former Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Southeast Colorado, where his family has farmed dryland wheat for about 50 years, is always on the edge of a drought, Stulp said. This year, the fields started turning brown when the moisture didn’t come in March and April.

“It was starting to die and then in the first of May we started getting some rains. We had over 4 inches of rain here in three, four, five significant rains in May,” Stulp said.

And while he ended up with a good crop, Stulp called the warming trend “a slow moving train coming down the track,” straining water supplies and producing less snowpack in the mountains to feed the rivers. Agriculture will face pressure to use less.

“We’re already seeing the cutbacks,” said Stulp.

The first-ever declared shortages on the Colorado River have prompted voluntary and mandatory cutbacks. In Arizona, one of seven states that divvy up the water under a 1922 compact, farmers are expected to bear the brunt.

The Colorado River compact will be renegotiated by 2026. The states covered by the agreement are Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California.

More efficient irrigation methods return more water to the system, Stulp said. “It’s estimated that some water is used and reused six or seven times before it leaves the state.”

Stulp said the move toward not plowing a field after harvest, leaving the stubble of plants as cover to retain moisture and nutrients and prevent soil from blowing away, has increased farmers’ yields.

1632054251 598 From Western Slope to Eastern Plains Colorado agriculture under pressure

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Stulp Farms in Lamar is pictured from above on Friday, July 30, 2021.

Growing food for the world

As in other Western states, the lion’s share of the water in Colorado goes to agriculture. The Colorado Department of Natural Resources figures put the percentage at 85.2%, while 6.6% goes to commercial and municipal uses.

Bruchez was on a panel discussion three years ago when a reporter asked if there are problems with water quality and supply and if agriculture uses most of the water, why not just cut the flows to farmers and ranchers? He said he asked the reporter if he enjoyed his lunch that day. The reporter did.

“And I’m like, ‘When you say ag water, that’s what we do, grow food to feed the world,’”  Bruchez recounted.

The Colorado River, which runs through the family’s ranch, is key to being able to keep producing food, Bruchez said. The lifelong fly fisherman who oversees the family’s fishing guide business worked with the conservation group Trout Unlimited and area ranchers to raise money and obtain grants to build riffles in the river. The structures mimic natural features where rocks break the water surface, improving fish habitat by increasing oxygen and the presence of insects that feed fish.

Riffles also help to raise the water table, which greatly aided Bruchez’s neighbors, Bill and Wendy Thompson. The structures raised the water levels at their irrigation intakes on the river.

“The water was so low I couldn’t get my water out of the river. The intakes were sticking out in the air,” said Bill Thompson, a former area water commissioner for the state.

1632054252 685 From Western Slope to Eastern Plains Colorado agriculture under pressure

Photos by Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

LEFT: Long time rancher and former Grand County water commissioner Bill Thompson leans against his trailer next to his wife Wendy on their ranch in Kremmling, Colo., on Aug. 31, 2021. Thompson has been a rancher his entire life in the valley but the struggles of maintaining that life get harder every year with climate change, drought and people selling off their land. “We are in debt up to our eyeballs,” he said. RIGHT: Rancher Paul Bruchez walks along the banks of the Colorado River where he helped build a man-made riffle, seen in the river behind him, for Thompson.

Bruchez has rallied area ranchers to participate in a study to figure out how much water hay grown at high altitudes consumes and how long it takes a field to recover after a period of no irrigation. Results will provide information the Colorado Water Conservation Board needs as it determines the feasibility of voluntary reductions in irrigation.

Access to water looms large for Harrison Topp. He raises peaches, cherries, apples and “sundry other fruit” in a family-owned business in Hotchkiss and Paonia. He said the last year has been a roller coaster:  drought, a fruit-killing freeze in 2020, the closures of Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon because of mudslides from heavy rains on slopes left bare by last year’s wildfires.

The I-70 closures have cost farmers time and money, according to a report by the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and the Colorado State University Extension. At the time of the closures, one farmer estimated he would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if reliable transportation wasn’t restored.

“We do our own deliveries to the Front Range, so the cost associated with it was time and mileage,” Topp said.

What is really wearing on Topp is the existential threat of a warming climate.

“In the darkest moments, I’m on the verge of panic about the state of water and climatic volatility and climate change overall,” the 35-year-old Topp said.

Topp said everyone has a stake in figuring out if agriculture is sustainable in certain parts of the state. He said farmers and ranchers can stay in business with access to adequate water and support from state and federal governments to recover from extreme weather and natural disasters.

“The ultimate end user of that water is the person who eats that food, whether it’s a steak or a peach or a cantaloupe or an ear of corn,” Topp said.

Mesa County rancher Janie VanWinkle makes the same point by referring to food production rather than agriculture. She believes the public, most of whom live in cities, doesn’t see the connections between her family’s work and the food on their plates.

VanWinkle’s son, Dean, who graduated from college in May and returned to Colorado to work with his parents, was emphatic when asked how viable agriculture is in a warming climate.

“With the most respect, I don’t think that’s a real question because without agriculture, what are people going to eat?” the younger VanWinkle asked.

1632054252 895 From Western Slope to Eastern Plains Colorado agriculture under pressure

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Rancher Roberta Dalton smiles and looks to the sky as a small passing rain storm drops sprinkles of rain in the paddocks at her ranch in Whitewater, Colo., on Sept. 1, 2021. Every bit of rainfall is celebrated by ranchers in this area marked by continued drought.

“A lifestyle we love”

Roberta Dalton worked 31 years for the U.S. Postal Service and seven years in the airline industry. She was in the Army and lived in Kentucky. But she has always returned to the Grand Valley and to the way of life she loves: ranching.

This year, though, Dalton feared her ranch was on the brink. She and her former husband, Pat, who’s still her business partner, took most of their cattle to Wyoming where the forage is better. At their place in Whitewater, just south of Grand Junction, there wasn’t enough water to harvest hay.

“The field is alive, but beyond that there was no production,” Dalton said.

Thirty of her cow-calf pairs are in a nearby pasture at her son-in-law’s place and 70 will stay in Jeffrey City, Wyo., until around the first of November. The Daltons signed a contract after looking around for a while.

“It was tough. We were getting down to the wire where we were going to load them on a truck and take them to a sale,” Dalton said. “That would’ve been the end of our cattle ranching.

“But it’s a lifestyle we love so we’ll hold out while we can,” she said.

Ranchers in other parts of Colorado and in other states are facing the same plight. Extreme drought in parts of North Dakota have dried up feed crops for cattle, leading to earlier-than-planned trips to the auction barns.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture doesn’t track cattle sales driven by drought, spokeswoman Olga Robak said, but the department shared stories from farmers and ranchers during a recent tour of drought-stricken areas. Northwest Coloradans reported drastically reducing their herds, selling their haying equipment because there is no hay, battling insect infestations and getting only 0.35 of an inch of rain in two and half months.

1632054252 956 From Western Slope to Eastern Plains Colorado agriculture under pressure

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

A woman fly fishes in the heavily receding waters of Green Mountain Reservoir in Heeney, Colo., on Aug. 31, 2021. The reservoir was built to replace water to the Colorado River that is diverted to the Front Range through the Big Thompson Project. It is a storage reservoir so the levels will fluctuate as water is called for on the Western Slope. One of the biggest reservoirs in Summit County, it is about 17 billion gallons below normal so far this year.

“The dual challenge in agriculture is struggling to survive at the industry level, but more importantly at the individual level, especially this year when folks are going out of business. We’re doing a lot of work on mental health because of the impacts,” said Kate Greenberg, state agriculture commissioner.

Monsoon rains, absent three of the last four summers, showed up this year, providing relief for the southwest part of the state and pulling the Eastern Plains out of drought. However, Bolinger, assistant state climatologist, said short-term dryness is returning after several hot days and spotty rainfall.

And much of northwest and southwest Colorado remain in exceptional, extreme or severe drought,  according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. 

Colorado experienced three of its largest wildfires on record in 2020. This year, people from the West Slope to the Front Range have struggled with layers of smoke blowing in from huge wildfires on the West Coast.

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As ICU beds fill up, Colorado hospitals beg public to get vaccinated against COVID — and the flu



As ICU beds fill up, Colorado hospitals beg public to get vaccinated against COVID — and the flu

Colorado intensive care units are almost full, and a bad flu season could push them to the edge if coupled with continued spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Stephen Cobb, chief medical officer for Centura Health’s Denver region, said that hospitals are managing by postponing non-emergency surgeries and shifting staff around, but how the winter goes is at least partly up to the public.

It’s important to get vaccinated against both COVID-19 and the flu, to wear masks and maybe to avoid crowds for a while, he said. While most people don’t become seriously ill from the flu, older adults and young children are at higher risk.

“We desperately need the community to get vaccinated,” he said. “We’ve learned how much our behavior affects the kind of respiratory season we’re going to see.”

Last fall and winter, hospitals faced a tsunami of COVID-19, but a drop in other health care needs helped them withstand it. The flu season was almost nonexistent, due to masking and social distancing, and accidents were down as people spent more time at home. Now, people are out and about again, giving each other common viruses and getting injured.

COVID-19 patients are a minority of all patients in Colorado intensive-care units, but there’s little room to spare if the virus continues spreading.

On Sept. 10, the state reported fewer beds were available in intensive-care units than were during the worst days of the winter: 197. Scott Bookman, the state’s COVID-19 incident commander, said hospitals were activating their surge plans and converting general rooms to accept more intensive-care patients. Some also were closing outpatient clinics so they could move staff to higher-need units, he said.

The number of beds available fluctuates from day to day, and that number has risen and fallen since the state’s announcement. On Tuesday, the state reported 238 ICU beds were ready to use, but by Thursday, that dropped to 187. That’s about 11% of total capacity — the lowest level available since the pandemic started.

Those are statewide figures, though, and conditions are worse in some parts of Colorado.

Larimer County late last week alerted residents that ICU capacity in the county’s hospitals had been at or above 100% since Aug. 30 — and was at 107% on Thursday. COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county grew from 10 to 76 in the last two months, and nearly 40% of patients in the ICU in August and September had COVID-19, the county health department said.

“Once again I am pleading with our residents to take this situation seriously,” Tom Gonzales, director of the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment, said in a message to residents. “We can no longer ask our hospitals to carry the burden of this preventable disease.”

“Taking up our ‘just in case’ bed”

Colorado’s relatively fortunate to have more than 10% of beds available statewide, and hospital leaders urged residents not to delay seeking care if they’re experiencing potentially dangerous symptoms, like chest pain. While many facilities are putting off non-emergency surgeries, they still have space to treat heart attacks, strokes and other life-threatening conditions, Cobb said.

That’s not the case in some parts of the country.

In much of the South, at least 95% of ICU beds are full, and reports of patients dying for lack of a bed have started to emerge. An Alabama man died of a heart condition in early September after a full hospital called 43 intensive-care units but still couldn’t find him a bed, and a Texas man died of complications from gallstones, which could have been treated if a hospital had had space for him.

All of Idaho and parts of Alaska recently announced they were moving to “crisis standards of care,” a designation that provides legal cover for doctors and hospitals if they can’t give everyone an acceptable level of medical care. In practice, that may mean that a person who’s less likely to survive doesn’t get an intensive-care bed, to allow limited staff to focus on those who have the best chance.

Still, the situation isn’t exactly rosy in Colorado: about one in five hospitals reporting to the state said they could be short on staff in the next week, and 15% expected a shortage of ICU beds.

Colorado hospitals are managing by postponing elective procedures, discharging patients promptly, adjusting staff and declining to take transfers from other facilities when they don’t have a bed available, said Cara Welch, spokeswoman for the Colorado Hospital Association.

J.P. Valin, chief clinical officer for SCL Health, said about 90% of the people in the ICUs of their Colorado facilities are there for something other than COVID-19: accidents, strokes, emergency surgeries. They also have accepted some patients from neighboring states that have run out of space, he said.

The situation isn’t a “crisis,” but it’s important to reduce the strain on the system, so that beds are available for anyone who needs one, Valin said.

“We think a fair amount of this is still the legacy from delayed and deferred care,” he said. “What COVID patients are doing, they’re taking up our ‘just in case’ bed.”

Other hospitals also have seen a rise in patients. HealthOne reported admissions for COVID-19 had tripled in recent weeks, though they still are a relatively small fraction of all patients. About one-third of those patients need ICU care, which is in line with previous waves, spokeswoman Stephanie Sullivan said.

“There is no question that the current surge has put a strain on staffing across Colorado and the entire region, but we are grateful that our hospitals have been able to meet the needs of our patients,” she said in a statement.

Number of beds dependent on staff

As of 2018, Colorado had about 3.2 ICU beds for every 10,000 people, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s higher than the national average, but still doesn’t leave much room for surges. Hospitals don’t build substantially more space for patients than they expect to need on a regular basis, let alone employ enough nurses to handle unusually high levels of demand for months on end.

The discussion about beds is really about staff to care for the people in them, Valin said. Some ICU nurses have gone to work on less-demanding units, while others have left hospitals altogether or taken higher-paying jobs as travel nurses in the Southern states that are dealing with worse surges, he said.

“We have plenty of beds. We have plenty of ventilators. We have plenty of PPE,” he said, referring to personal protective equipment like masks and gloves.

Dr. Adit Ginde, an emergency medicine physician at UCHealth, said hospitals also are dealing with some vaccinated staff having to stay home because of COVID-19 symptoms. They haven’t become seriously ill, but it’s one more strain on a system that’s at capacity, he said. While severe illness is rare after COVID-19 vaccination, milder breakthrough infections are less so.

“We’re asking the community to do their part” by getting vaccinated and taking precautions, he said.

As of Thursday morning, UCHealth had 265 COVID-19 patients, which is just over the number at the peak of the first wave in April 2020, and some hospitals are following “surge plans” to free up beds, spokesman Dan Weaver said.

Both the UCHealth and SCL hospitals have been postponing some non-emergency care. That’s a category that includes anything that can be scheduled, including removing tumors or performing open-heart surgery, Valin said.

“You can imagine how hard that is for patients and families,” he said.

El Paso County Public Health announced late last week that it was changing its regional hospital capacity designation from level orange to level orange-red as beds continue to fill.

Dr. David Steinbruner, chief medical officer for UCHealth Memorial in Colorado Springs, said the network’s hospitals in the Pikes Peak region were seeing record numbers of patients seeking care for COVID-19 and other health issues. On Thursday, UCHealth’s hospitals in the region were treating 90 patients with COVID-19, a number not seen since the deadly winter wave was subsiding in January.

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Ken Burns on his new “Muhammed Ali” doc, Denver’s guest-starring role



Ken Burns on his new “Muhammed Ali” doc, Denver’s guest-starring role

On June 18, 1963, after besting Henry Cooper in a match in London, 21-year-old Cassius Clay turned his attention to Denver-based boxer Sonny Liston — the only thing standing between Clay and the world heavyweight title.

“Liston will fall in eight (rounds) to prove that I am great,” Clay told the assembled cameras, having referred to Liston as a “tramp,” a “bum” and an “ugly bear.”

Liston responded in kind: “Well, I imagine that if he would come to me, I’d kill him,” he said in a TV interview. “And if he (runs), I’m going to catch him and kill him.”

Clay did come to him, in fact. The psychological game that Clay was so masterful at included driving from Chicago to Denver in an old bus he owned, emblazoned with the “Liston will go in eight” boast, before an event that solidified their high-profile fight. Ever the needler, Clay pulled his bus into Liston’s Denver neighborhood (Liston once said, “I’d rather be a lamppost in Denver than the mayor of Philadelphia”) at 1 a.m. on Nov. 5, 1963, and laid on the horn.

“We woke him up and he came out in the middle of the night in his underclothes, his robe, and he had a big stick …,” Clay later said. “He got mad and we argued for about an hour, and then the (Denver) police came with dogs. … The scene that we had that night, it was a major thing. Martin Luther King was demonstrating (it)” outside of Denver.

The trip culminated in a press conference at Denver’s downtown Hilton in which the boxers committed to a February 1964 fight in Miami Beach, Fla. Clay, who would soon change his name to Muhammad Ali, backed up his boasts in a stunning upset, defeating Liston in a seventh-round technical knockout.

Ed Kolenovsky, The Associated Press

Former heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali smiles as his attorney Hayden Covington talks to newsmen after Ali was arraigned and bond was set at $5,000, May 8, 1967, in Houston. Ali pleaded “not guilty” on a charge of refusing the be drafted into the Armed Forces. They are seen after the bond was posted.

“It’s just classic Ali,” said director Ken Burns, who produced a new, four-part PBS series, “Muhammad Ali,” that recounts these and dozens of other stories. “You don’t need a promoter, really, when you’ve got the greatest promoter on earth. He understood that … and he made the news enough in Denver that almost 60 years after the fact, documentary filmmakers felt it was worthy enough to tell that story.”

The 2½-hour “Round One,” directed by the Emmy-winning Burns, covers Ali’s career from 1942 through 1964. It premieres at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 19, on the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel. The streaming service costs $4 per month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription, via and streaming providers. The rest of the episodes arrive Sept. 20, 21 and 22, respectively.

While the first one follows Cassius Clay’s rise from “boastful amateur boxer to contender for the heavyweight championship,” as the doc puts it, there’s plenty in the ring for the other three rounds.

“We still have an authorship to it, but we’re not going to tell you what you already know,” Burns, 68, said of the oft-covered Ali.

The documentary was written and co-directed by Sarah Burns and David McMahon, whose collaborations with Burns include “The Central Park Five,” “Jackie Robinson” and “East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story.” As with all of Burns’ projects, the series puts Ali into a greater social context while also looking into his revolutionary persona through the lens of social justice.

Ali’s incredible, early-career accomplishments — including a 1960 Olympic gold medal win when he was a teenager — did little to prepare the world for his activism, conscientious objection from the Vietnam War, and conversion to Islam, the latter influenced in part by his discussions with Malcom X.

Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, left center, ...

Associated Press file

Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, left center, talks to the media in Louisville, Ky., after conferring with civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., right center, regarding the boxer’s draft status in this March 29, 1967 file photo. Ali was in his hometown for his court suit to prevent his Army induction April 28 in Houston. Later, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund represented Ali when the high court struck down his conviction for refusing to serve in the military.

“We found hundreds of interviews with him, thousands of hours of archival material, and conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with his friends and family,” Burns said of the series, which he and his editors cut down from more than 400 hours of visual storytelling. “There’s some anxiety about trying to find a new way to do it, because we wanted to do something that was extraordinarily deep.”

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Improving Investor Behavior: How do you measure your wealth?



Improving Investor Behavior: How do you measure your wealth?

How do you measure your wealth? Most people assume there are two typical ways. The first is a simple money calculation that takes everything you own, subtracts everything you owe, and that formula gives you your net worth. Simple. Others say wealth is not a measure of the money one has but of the intangibles such as relationships, time, health, etc.

The trouble with the first approach is that money is simply a scorecard, a measure of available resources quantified in dollar bills. It misses out on everything that the second approach captures: the wealth found in personal connection and freedom of time. But it’s hard to pay your bills with friendship, so the second method misses out on some of the pragmatism found in the first. As a result, I think it’s essential to measure wealth with a combination of the two and with one simple word: value.

Steve Booren

Money is a byproduct of creating value for others. We are paid for the value we provide to others, and we pay others for the value they create for us. For example, I have no idea how the water in my plumbing works, but I know that in exchange for a number of dollars, I can hire someone who has spent their life understanding how it works and what is needed to keep it working. They create value for me with their skillset. Likewise, I create value by helping others understand what’s important about money and guiding them toward a bigger future. I receive money in exchange for that value.

So really, our wealth is not in the money we have, but rather in our ability to make that money. Our wealth does not come from the dollars themselves but from the knowledge and skills that generate those dollars. That’s our value, and that’s where we find the confidence so many are seeking.

In “Total Cash Confidence,” author Dan Sullivan refers to the acronym K.A.S.H. or knowledge, attitude, skills and habit. Taken together, these attributes are what creates confidence. K.A.S.H. confidence comes from understanding that you can provide value to someone when they want something done but don’t want, or know-how, to do it.

Going one step further, I think our wealth is a function of our value. Creating value for others often results in payment for that value. Create more value, receive more money. This recurring loop creates an endless marketplace of wealth for those who can help others. That payment may be monetary, but it also applies to relationships. Think about it: We invest our time and energy in those we choose to have around us. We create value by being there when they need us and receiving value when they do the same. In this way, our measure of wealth captures both the tangible and intangible. Whether the deposits go into our emotional bank or our regular bank, we can improve our wealth through the value we create.

This is why so many people struggle with the traditional idea of retirement. When people strive to achieve a certain portfolio balance and then quit their career, they aren’t retiring to anything. They aren’t going to something; they are moving away. When people are in the creation phase, their futures are more extensive. They receive intellectual, emotional, and resource deposits. When they “arrive” at a number or an age then decide to quit creating value and retire, their future tends to shrink. If the value of their portfolio decreases when they are no longer creating value for others, fear often sets in.

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Sunday Bulletin Board: ‘Are you out of your mind? You can get perfectly good chicken at the grocery store.’



High school football: Ninth-ranked Woodbury rolls past Eagan 48-15

Our poultry, our ‘friends,’ ourselves

DEBK of Rosemount writes: “Chicken-butchering of 2021 has just concluded with Taxman’s stuffing the last of this year’s roosters into the freezer. Thus ends an effort that each August or September consumes a full week of our lives and moves me precipitously — though temporarily — toward vegetarianism. And friendlessness, too, as it happens.

“My women friends are a talented, hard-working, generous bunch, but every year when I mention that Taxman’s hatchet has been sharpened, they abandon me unceremoniously. Those who have experience in chicken-butchery are especially apt to be occupied with unspecified ‘other things’ during my hour of need. Euterpe, however, who is professionally trained in the wielding of knives (for culinary purposes) and whose Christianity ought to impel her to come to my aid, avoids all polite pretense. Her blunt refusal cuts to the quick, an injury aggravated by her calling into question my sanity and reminding me that ‘you can get perfectly good chicken in the grocery store.’

“She’s right on both counts. And every year as I’m elbow-deep in feathers and guts, I swear off raising our own ‘broilers,’ as we chicken people call the roosters we raise for eating. Alas, chicken-butchering is like child-bearing: A woman forgets how awful it is. No matter how ghastly the butchering season, by the time Stromberg’s spring chicken catalog arrives in the mail, I’m eager to place my order for Red Rangers.

“Maybe not in 2022, though. Oh, I’ll order broilers — but perhaps not my long-favored Red Rangers. This year, as we began the grisly harvest, I reported to Taxman that our birds seemed to be taking on traits of the Cornish Cross, the wildly popular breed chosen by real (as opposed to pretend) farmers and commercial chicken producers. Taxman concurred, noting that this year’s crop of Red Rangers had quickly attained the size and contours of young turkeys, eating us into the financial abyss as they did so. Moreover, the remarkable development of their foreparts (‘breasts,’ to us chicken folks) had rendered the young roosters almost immobile, the very trait that causes us to eschew the aforementioned Cornish Cross. Taxman and I like our free-range flock to be capable of ranging freely — or as far as Hamish, the resident border collie, will allow. Anyway, according to Taxman, only one of this year’s entire batch of broilers managed to hop over the fence into the laying hens’ pen, there to inaugurate a new breed, the Red Ranger/Speckled Sussex hybrid.”

Then & Now

And: In memoriam

CHRIS, “formerly of Falcon Heights, now from Beautiful White Bear Lake,” reported, on September 10: “Being a golfer, I love commemorative golf pins. I ordered this one early in September 2001. It arrived a week after the Twin Towers went down on September 11th.

“When I opened the package, I just stared at it in disbelief. It so upset me that from that day, it was in a box in the bottom of my dresser drawer — until today. I have an 8:30 tee time, and for the first time in 20 years, I am wearing it and remembering all the brave souls lost that day.”

And now KATHY S. of St. Paul: “Subject: A phone booth in New York where people talked to those lost on 9/11.

“NPR has a video online called ‘They Lost Loved Ones In 9/11. We Invited Them To Leave A Voicemail In Their Memory.’ It shows people who walked up to a phone booth where they talked to people they lost on 9/11.

“I saw how vivid their life-long pain is. But what I noticed most is guys who were willing to cry and express emotions on camera. I remember when Ed Muskie’s 1972 campaign to be the U.S. President was destroyed when (it was said) he cried while replying to a political dirty trick. A (guy) President was not allowed to show weakness, let alone tears, back then.

“As a fan of counseling and facing problems, I figure we have come a long way since 1972. And since 9/11.”

Live and learn

Or: One for the books

RED’S OFFSPRING, north of St. Paul, writes: “Subject: Lessons learned.

“In talking with my grandson Sam, I learned that biology is one of his sophomore classes. Hearing ‘biology,’ I was reminded of my high-school biology course at Cretin (many years prior to Cretin-Derham Hall).

“The teacher was Christian Brother Anthony. My memory flashed back to two classroom incidents that have stayed with me all these years.

“Incident one: On the first day of class, Brother told us to write our names on a sheet of paper, put ‘JMJ’ (‘Jesus, Mary, Joseph’) beneath our names, and write ‘Biology’ on the top line, in the center of the paper.

“I don’t recall what else we wrote before he collected the papers.

“He stood at the front of the room with our papers in his hand. He proceeded to fold each paper in half from top to bottom. He deposited most of the papers in the basket, while we wondered what he was doing.

“As he stood in front of us, holding just a few papers, he said: ‘I told you to write “Biology” in the “center” of the paper.’

“He didn’t give us a lecture about following directions. He didn’t need to. We got the message.

“Incident two: On the day of our first test, Brother passed out a blue book and a sheet with numerous paragraphs on it. The assignment was to find false information in the paragraphs and write corrections in the blue books. I have no recollection of how much I wrote.

“Lunch followed biology, and as we left, Brother announced: ‘I hope you wrote a lot, because all the information in the paragraphs was incorrect.’

“We could hardly wait to get to the lunchroom to tell our classmates what we’d found out about the test!

“As the next class was leaving Biology, Brother Anthony informed them they should have left the blue books blank, because everything in the paragraphs was true.

“There are some educational experiences you don’t forget.”

Live and learn

BIG EEK of Southeast Minneapolis: “When I was a prospective high-school teacher, the college arranged for each of us to spend two weeks in a nearby small town at the end of spring term, to get some practical experience. Another fellow and I went to W., 80 miles east of the city. As a math major, I shadowed Mr. B., who taught all the math in the school on the outskirts of town. I watched him at his job, and he assigned me lessons to prepare and teach.

“On Thursday, he rushed up to me before his first-period Algebra class. He had given the students all the odd-numbered problems in the new textbook they were using, to do for homework. Number 17 was a monster. It was full of parentheses within square brackets within curlicues. I advised him to start in the middle and work his way out from there.

“Sure enough, the captain of the football team asked him how to do Number 17. Mr. B. put the problem on the blackboard and started in on it. Halfway through, he glanced at me at the back of the room, and I gave him a slight nod. His final answer was 32. Answers to the odd numbers were given in the back of the book.

“Mr. B. pointed to the football player and asked him what the answer was in the back of the book. ‘Thirty-two,’ said the football player. ‘See,’ Mr. B said confidently to the class, ‘you just start in the middle and work your way to the outside.’

“At noon, Mr. B thanked me and treated me to lunch at the school cafeteria. After school, I was walking to my room in the middle of town. Three of the 12th-grade girls walked along with me. The only three options for lunch were to bring a bag, or eat at the Chinese restaurant in town (every town had a Chinese restaurant) or the cafeteria.

“One of the girls asked me where I had eaten. ‘At the cafeteria,’ I said. ‘Ugh,’ she said, making a face. ‘You must have a death wish.’ Lunch had been something I had never eaten before, or since. I think it was called Shepherd’s Pie. It was . . . interesting.”

Now & Then

MARY LOUISE OLSON of Hudson, Wis.: “Subject: A classmate reunion.

“The idea of classmates’ from kindergarten through high-school graduation being together once again seemed like just a ‘pipe dream.’ But it could happen, and it did! On July 9, 2021, six of us were at the steps of OUR school (1941-1953). Some family members were there as well, and smiles with greetings were everywhere. A current Spring Valley, Wisconsin, school staff member met and escorted us to the room where it all began. Absent was the fireplace that we as kindergartners thought was very special. Now the building is coming down, and evidence of destruction was the present-day condition of the classroom.

“One classmate brought the report card that was used by our teacher, Miss Henrietta Wessels. It didn’t seem particularly outdated, because our ‘mental habits,’ ‘physical characteristics,’ and ‘social attitudes’ were evaluated by the teacher. We had projects like ‘our pets,’ ‘good manners,’ ‘home and family,’ ‘birds,’ ‘health,’ ‘seeds on plants and trees,’ and ‘gardening.’ Obviously, the school year was filled with real learning. Considering that a war was being fought, with local folks in harm’s way, and a major Spring Valley flood occurred in September of 1941, reality did inflict learning in our class.

“As the remaining six class members, we mentioned the names and recalled memories of classmates no longer with us. A poem that had been taught was recited. We had all learned to play a tonette, and soon we heard one played; a song was sung from memory. We remembered to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, albeit as we learned it in 1941, minus the added line known today.

“What a blessing! The six of us could look back and smile at one another with an appreciation of long lives and positive learning from the start, thanks to our community of Spring Valley. Wisconsin.”

Everyone’s a (restaurant) critic!

THE DORYMAN of Prescott, Wis.: “Subject: Restau-rant review (channeling Andy Rooney).

“I like a good sandwich. I have several favorites. A Reuben with grated horseradish is probably number one, and egg salad is not too far behind. I get Patty Melts when I can, and Philly Cheesesteaks are always welcome. While a delicious sandwich is a first choice ‘lunch-out’ menu choice for me, I am always wary of the physical demands that usually follow that selection. Apparently if it is composed (and shaped) smaller than a properly inflated, regulation, bisected, NFL football, most restaurants think I will be disappointed. The bread, on the other hand (pun intended), is glowingly described in the menu but rather inconsequential when delivered. Any exotic taste, texture or artisan preparation is usually lost on the bottom slice because of the ‘fall-apart’ sauce for my added enjoyment. If you even attempt to pick it up (which I always think is the whole point of the thing), it takes both hands, and if it holds together during elevation, the first bite usually distributes the fillings everywhere but in your mouth. Am I the only one (ahem, BB) who would willingly pay $14 for a sandwich that has the good old-fashioned, sensible, fit-in-your-mouth ingredients ‘sandwiched’ (get it, Chef?) between two slices of good old-fashioned unsoaked bread . . . and not leave $4 worth of groceries on the table and my shirt? Plus, I don’t want to take the other half home; I had it for lunch! A first-world problem, I know, but hey, I loved my mother’s sandwiches, where less was always more.”

This ’n’ that ’n’ the other ’n’ the other ’n’ the other

All from AL B of Hartland: (1) “As a tour leader, I took many group photos. There are the magic words, words with weight, used to make one smile: I’d say ‘Prunes,’ ‘Say cheese,’ ‘Smile,’ ‘Smile, you’re on “Candid Camera,”‘ ‘Whiskey,’ ‘Lottery winners,’ ‘Cabbageheads’ and ‘Duck snort.’ A duck snort is a softly hit ball that goes over the infield and lands in the outfield for a hit. Chicago White Sox announcer Ken ‘Hawk’ Harrelson popularized the term.”

(2) “A bug zapper participates in an indiscriminate slaughter of insects, many of them beneficial. A University of Delaware study found that 0.22 percent of the kills were biting insects. Research showed that your chances of being bitten by a mosquito increase when you are near a bug zapper. The light is attractive, and so are you.”

(3) “My wife and I walked the county fair. We strolled by the onion-rings stand. We knew from experience those rings were tasty. Their aroma was inviting. ‘Those onion rings smell great,’ said my wife. I love my wife, so we walked past the stand again.”

(4) “This is the time of the year when I think of family reunions. I remember when I had a full roster of aunts. We had a pie table at reunions in those years. Woe be to anyone who brought a store-bought pie. Those good women believed in being fruitful and multi-pied.”

(5) “I’ve learned . . . the inventor of the doorbell didn’t own a Chihuahua.”

Band Name of the Day: The Chicken People — or: The Duck Snorts

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Trevor Story on what’s likely his final homestand with Rockies: “I want to relish it”



Trevor Story on what’s likely his final homestand with Rockies: “I want to relish it”

Trevor Story is a trust-the-process, stay-in-the-moment kind of guy. But, he admits, he’s peeking ahead just a bit.

That’s perfectly understandable.

The Rockies’ two-time all-star shortstop is fast approaching a huge decision that will define the rest of his career. Plus, the Rockies open their final homestand of the season beginning Tuesday when they host the Dodgers at Coors Field. Those nine games — three each against the Dodgers, Giants and Nationals — will likely be Story’s final home games in LoDo.

“I just recently thought about that,” Story said. “It’s certainly a reality that those could be my last home games playing there. It’s something where I will just try and relish it and be in the moment. I really want to enjoy the time, enjoy the fans, enjoy the ballpark, all of that. Because you just don’t know what’s to come.”

Story, 28, will become a free agent at the end of the season. While the Rockies will extend him a qualifying offer, they have not approached him about a new contract. All indications are that Story will explore free agency. He’ll be looking for the biggest contract of his career, one that could be worth more than $100 million.

As for the possibility of staying in Colorado, Story doesn’t have much to say. “No teams are off the table,” Story said. “That’s kind of the way we’ve looked at it.”

Rockies interim general manager Bill Schmidt gave a predictable response regarding Story’s future.

“We think the world of Trevor as a player, and more importantly, as a person,” Schmidt said. “We’ll see how things play out this offseason.”

For Story, his decision is not just about money. He also wants to be part of a team that projects as a consistent postseason contender, if not in 2022, then very soon after that. Story remains close with former Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, who forced his way out of Colorado and landed in St. Louis via a trade this past February.

Although Story’s Colorado career appears to be coming to a close after six seasons, he’s proud of the way the Rockies’ have transformed what once looked like a disastrous, 100-loss season. The Rockies, 68-78 entering the weekend series at Washington, had gone 28-27 since the all-star break prior to Friday night.

“The way we played lately is encouraging for sure,” Story said. “We are playing freer and a lot looser than we were in the beginning of the year. It’s good to see.”

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