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Boston students ride party bus with stripper pole, neon lights amid driver shortage

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Boston students ride party bus with stripper pole, neon lights amid driver shortage

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BOSTON (NEXSTAR) — A group of high school students in Massachusetts had to ride on a party bus complete with a stripper pole and neon lights during a recent field trip — an experience their teacher said highlights problems with the education system.

Jim Mayers, an 11th grade Advanced Placement language and composition teacher at the Brooke Charter School in Boston, said in the since-deleted tweet that the original charter bus had fallen through, Masslive.com reported Monday.

Mayers included a photo of the students on board, adding, “they didn’t really care about the bus, and a lot of great planning by a lot of great people made for a fantastic day.”

“It is a funny story, but there actually is a real bus shortage and it speaks to major flaws in our education system,” he said, encouraging people to reach out to local officials to demand a financial solution to the shortage. He is now using the attention he’s getting because of the original tweet to urge people to better understand educational inequities and other problems facing the nation’s schools.

“I’m worried that there is too much attention being paid to the tweet itself, or simply the fact that it went viral, instead of attending to the many systemic issues that are facing not just my students, but students all across the country,” he wrote in a follow-up tweet.

Districts across the nation are struggling to hire enough drivers to shuttle kids to school, and some states have become creative, including Massachusetts, which is enlisting National Guard members to drive school transport vans.

The original tweet was just meant give his fellow teachers a laugh. “If it’s gotten people to talk about the overall infrastructure of our education system, and the different ways schools are prioritized, then that’s good too,” he wrote. He then urged readers to attend their next local school board meeting or read up on the topic.

As students returned to the classroom at the end of this summer, many for the first time in a year, school districts across the country found they were far short of the necessary number of drivers. “It is one of our serious situations we’re facing right now—right behind COVID,” said Skye Duckett with Atlanta Public Schools in August, when they were down about 30 drivers.

Montgomery County Public Schools need to fill more than 100 vacancies in Maryland, or thousands of students won’t have a ride. Meanwhile, in Delaware, one charter school wants to pay parents to pick up and drop off their kids instead of using the bus. The going rate was $700 per child.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Faces of the Front Range: Scientists Bruce Vaughn and Bradley Markle look to save the world by understanding it

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Faces of the Front Range: Scientists Bruce Vaughn and Bradley Markle look to save the world by understanding it

Most people might think ahead to their lunch break, weekend or the end of the year. Bruce Vaughn and Bradley Markle think hundreds of thousands of years forward and back.

Vaughn, 67, has led the Stable Isotope Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research since 1989, and Markle, 35, joined the lab team about a year ago. By looking at cylindrical shafts of ice (called cores) drilled from the earth’s coldest places, they and their colleagues learn what they can about past climate, apply that knowledge to today’s issues and see the world in the process.

The two are just as comfortable skiing between campsites as they are tinkering with drone parts in Boulder.

Vaughn narrowly escaped death multiple times in multiple places (pulmonary edemas at high altitudes). He also once lost his tracks on the ice during white-out conditions, and shakes his head at the thought of what might have happened if he hadn’t made it back. All in the pursuit of a greater understanding of the world.

“I love it … it’s in my DNA,” Vaughn said. “Some days I’ll get dirty and greasy in the lab, other days I’ll spend crafting a nice paragraph.”

Now he’s looking forward to returning to Greenland after two years away because of the pandemic, though they’ll spend a month clearing snow that accumulated since their last visit.

Markle’s quick to share stories, too. Over lunch, he shows off a slideshow of his summer expedition across Alaska’s Juneau Icefield. It’s a mix of alpine photography, timelapses of fog rolling across the landscape, undergrads collecting snow samples and a faux wedding put on as an excuse to throw a party.

You’ve gotta have fun up there, he said with a shrug and an eyebrow raise — and a likely smile under his face mask.

His smile is famous in the lab, the “biggest smile ever,” colleague Chloe Brashear said. Markle’s the magnetic one, she said, and Vaughn’s the funny one, a jokester.

They all enjoy their work in and out of the lab, Brashear said. Science for the sake of science.

Nobody’s in it for the money, Vaughn quips — not that there’s much of it.

And nothing happens without the most crucial element: caffeine.

“The one instrument in the lab without which the others will not work,” Vaughn said while standing next to the espresso machine.

A photo of Captain Jean-Luc Picard pokes its head around one corner. A poster of explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated Endurance expedition hangs in the freezer with the ice cores. A stuffed Kiwi bird watches over the station where scientists melt and analyze ice core sections.

Those stations are where the lab work gets more than a little technical, but the possibilities are nearly limitless. Vaughn said their laser spectrometers can decipher many of the world’s mysteries just by analyzing fluids.

Elements always have the same number of protons in their nucleus, but the number of neutrons can vary — and that’s what you call isotopes. Often the scientists can trace isotopic elements to specific sources or causes.

“If you try to sell me Florida orange juice and it’s actually California orange juice, we could tell,” Vaughn said.

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Bruce Vaughn, a Fellow at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado, Boulder holds a large piece of an ice core sample that was taken from glaciers in Greenland that is around 2,000 years old on Oct. 6, 2021, in Boulder.

But the lab largely focuses on hydrogen and oxygen molecules found in the ice, Markle said.

Each core contains thousands of layers of ice deposited and compressed by millennia of snowfall. The team can count those layers like rings on a tree, analyze their chemical composition and form an idea of both the temperatures at which the snow fell and how much carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere at the time.

The scientists can tell that carbon dioxide hasn’t been as concentrated in the earth’s atmosphere as it is now for at least a million years, Markle said, and it’s clear humans are the cause.

“We know more than enough,” Markle said.

Even so, the scientists all still hear the questions on airplanes, in social settings or interviews: “Is climate change real?” It is.

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Surge in Colorado home prices both record-setting and widespread

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Surge in Colorado home prices both record-setting and widespread

The pandemic put a torch to U.S. home price appreciation, resulting in gains surpassing those seen even during the headiest years of the housing bubble. And in that hot national market, Colorado stands out for how many areas are seeing double-digit gains in home values.

The state is one of eight where half or more of the ZIP codes have measured double-digit gains in the 12 months through July on the Zillow Home Value Index, according to a study from Headwaters Economics, a research firm based in Montana.

“The housing bubble pales in comparison to the price increases we are seeing now. Hopefully, it slows down,” said Megan Lawson, an economist with Headwaters who conducted the study.

If not, more households will be prevented from attaining what has long been the major source of wealth creation in the country, and the gap between those who own a home and those who don’t will only widen.

Lawson looked at how home prices in every U.S. ZIP code performed on the index going back to 1996. The period from July 2020, when the housing market was gearing up again, to July 2021 was unrivaled for the size of gains.

What Lawson said stands out in the current surge in home prices compared to earlier ones is how widespread it is and how deeply it has reached remote and rural areas long considered affordable and once insulated from the housing frenzy seen in more populated areas.

The home price gain leader in Colorado is tiny Jaroso in Costilla County, an unincorporated area where home values are up nearly 33%, followed by Phippsburg in Routt County, up 28.5%.

With the exception of some foothill enclaves, the strongest gains in home prices aren’t coming in metro Denver, but rather resort areas like Summit and Routt counties, in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, and out in Mesa County on the Western Slope.

“Our biggest driving factor in Colorado Springs is we have a complete lack of inventory. Every single month we seem to be breaking records from months before and years before,” said Patrick Muldoon, managing broker of Muldoon & Associates in Colorado Springs.

Of the 20 ZIP codes with the highest home price appreciation rates out of the 494 studied in Colorado, five are in Colorado Springs. They include 80915, 80917 and 80907, where the typical home value has risen by a quarter or more in just 12 months, and 80918 and 80903, where home values are up around 23%.

Some of the strongest gains in El Paso County have come in the pockets once considered relatively affordable, areas hit hard with foreclosures during the Great Recession, Muldoon said. But prices are rising across the board in El Paso County, including in Fountain and Cascade, which both registered gains of 23%.

Colorado Springs for years has seen a conveyor belt delivering metro Denver residents searching for more affordable housing options, especially on the north end, Muldoon said. The shift to remote work arrangements and record-low mortgage rates appears to have sped up that flow, and priced-out Denver buyers were also increasingly joined by deep-pocketed investors looking to lock down rental properties.

As home prices rise in Colorado Springs, more residents on the south end are searching down in more affordable Pueblo, which saw a 22.4% gain in its home price index in the 81003 ZIP.

Pueblo has struggled more than any other Colorado metro to recover from the economic blow dealt by the pandemic. In July, it nursed an 8.9% unemployment rate, one of the highest in the country. And yet home prices rose 20% plus, which doesn’t line up with an economy struggling like that.


“Flying by the seat of our pants”

The Zillow Home Value Index tries to get at the value of a typical home in a given geography, making it different than measures that track the price of properties sold in a given month, which are influenced by the mix of homes selling at a given point in time.

As of August, the statewide rate of home price appreciation on the Zillow index was running 20% in Colorado, said Jeff Tucker, senior economist at Zillow. Going back to 2000, a period that includes the housing boom, annual home price appreciation has averaged 3.9% in the state.

Effectively, Colorado’s housing market has found a way to pack five years’ worth of already elevated gains into one 12-month period.

“Our market has changed and there is no road map for this. We are flying by the seat of our pants,” said Dana Cottrell, a Realtor at Summit Resort Group in Dillon.

Silverthorne has seen price gains in the 23% range, while gains in Frisco and Dillon are approaching 22%, and Breckenridge is in the 21% range, according to the Zillow Home Value Index for those areas.

Historically, the market in Summit County was about a third local buyers, a third Front Range buyers and a third out-of-state. Since the pandemic, it has swung to 40% Front Range buyers, including more remote workers and people pooling their resources to buy a vacation home.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of Front Range people who are buying in Summit County,” Cottrell said. “If you can be at home and looking at Baldy Mountain or Lake Dillon while you work, it is pretty sweet.”

It also appears that some Front Range buyers who can’t afford to go high up in the mountains are trying to satisfy their ambitions closer in.

Metro Denver’s leaders for home price appreciation are all up in the Jefferson County foothills, places like Idledale, up 26.5%; Indian Hills, up 23.5%, and Kittredge, up 22.8%. Likewise, Boulder County’s biggest gainers are on its western periphery, with Ward up 22.5%; Nederland up 20.9%, and Jamestown up 20.2%.

Still more demand than supply

Phyllis Resnick, executive director of the Colorado Futures Center at Colorado State University, said the shift to more rural and remote areas is definitely a trend, but she questions whether it will have staying power long-term.

More isolated areas tend to lack active new home construction. When more buyers show up, prices can surge and gains off smaller values can look huge, even if they are still manageable. The more fundamental problem, one that was an issue before the pandemic, and one that will remain so after it passes, is an inadequate supply of homes.

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Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day? Tensions persist between explorer’s legacy, native people

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Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day? Tensions persist between explorer’s legacy, native people

Monday’s federal holiday dedicated to Christopher Columbus is highlighting the ongoing divide between those who view the explorer as a representative of Italian American history and others horrified by an annual tribute that ignores native people whose lives and culture were forever changed by colonialism.

Spurred by national calls for racial equity, communities across the U.S. took a deeper look at Columbus’ legacy in recent years — pairing or replacing it with Indigenous Peoples Day.

On Friday, President Joe Biden issued the first presidential proclamation of “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” the most significant boost yet to efforts to refocus the federal holiday celebrating Columbus.

But activists, including members of Native American tribes, said ending the formal holiday in Columbus’ name has been stymied by politicians and organizations focusing on Italian American heritage.

“The opposition has tried to paint Columbus as a benevolent man, similar to how white supremacists have painted Robert E. Lee,” Les Begay, Diné Nation member and co-founder of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Coalition of Illinois, said, referring to the Civil War general who led the Confederate Army.

Columbus’ arrival began centuries of exploration and colonization by European nations, bringing violence, disease and other suffering to native people already living in the Western Hemisphere.

“Not honoring Indigenous peoples on this day just continues to erase our history, our contributions and the fact that we were the first inhabitants of this country,” Begay said.

Across the country tension, over the two holidays has been playing out since the early 1990s. Debates over monuments and statues of the Italian explorer tread similar ground, as in Philadelphia where the city placed a box over a Columbus statue last year in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer. Protesters opposing racial injustice and police brutality against people of color rallied for months in summer 2020.

Philadelphia lawyer George Bochetto, who has been fighting Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration to uncover the statue, said Saturday many felt efforts to remove it were an attack on Italian-American heritage.

Kenney previously signed an executive order changing the city’s annual Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day. Monday will be the first city holiday under the new name.

“We have a mayor that’s doing everything he can to attack the Italian American community, including canceling its parade, removing statues, changing the Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day by fiat,” Bochetto said.

Kenney spokesperson Kevin Lessard said the statue should remain boxed up “in the best interest and public safety of all Philadelphians.”

In 2016, Lincoln, Nebraska, joined other cities adding Indigenous Peoples’ Day to the calendar on the same date as Columbus Day. Events on Monday will focus on the newer addition, including unveiling a statue honoring the first Native American physician, Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte.

Some feel a split day causes further harm. Activists plan a small protest outside the Robert V. Denney Federal Building, calling for an outright end to the holiday in Columbus’ name at all levels of government.

“It’s patently absurd to honor Indigenous people and the man who tortured and murdered their ancestors,” said Jackson Meredith, an organizer. “As far as we’re concerned, we’re going to keep protesting it until Columbus Day is abolished.”

In New York City, the annual Columbus Day Parade returns after a one-year, in-person absence attributed to the coronavirus pandemic. The parade is touted by some as the world’s largest Columbus Day celebration.

In May, Italian American activists complained after the Board of Education erased Christopher Columbus Day from the New York City school calendar, replacing it with “Indigenous People’s Day.” Following the outcry, the schools changed the designation to: “Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous People’s Day.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he supported the compromise.

“We have to honor that day as a day to recognize the contributions of all Italian Americans, so of course the day should not have been changed arbitrarily,” de Blasio said.

Chicago’s annual Columbus Day parade also returns Monday after the pandemic forced 2020’s cancellation of the event that draws 20,000 people. It’s a vivid reminder of the ongoing fight over three statues of Columbus, still warehoused by the city after protesters targeted them in summer 2020.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot in July 2020 ordered the statues removed and said demonstrations were endangering protesters and police.

She later created a committee to review monuments in the city, including the fate of Columbus monuments. No plans have been announced publicly, but the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans that plans the Columbus Day parade this summer sued the city’s park district, demanding that one be restored.

Ron Onesti, the organization’s president, said the parade usually draws protesters and expects that on Monday too. He sees the holiday, parade and statues as a celebration of Italian Americans’ contributions to the U.S., not just Columbus.

“The outcome I’m looking for is (for) our traditions to be respected and conversations to continue,” Onesti said Saturday. “Every plaque that goes along with a statue says it recognizes the Italian community’s contributions. So people need to understand that’s why it’s there, and then let’s sit down and figure out where to go from here.”

Illinois in 2017 designated the last Monday in September as Indigenous Peoples Day but kept Columbus Day on the second Monday of October. A proposal to replace Columbus Day filed this year hasn’t received any action.

Chicago Public Schools in 2020 voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, provoking outrage from several alderman and Italian American groups. The city’s holiday calendar still lists Columbus Day.

Begay, the Indigenous Peoples Day advocate, said the organization decided to focus on changing Columbus Day first in Cook County, hoping it would be an easier path than convincing state or Chicago officials. But so far, members of the county’s board haven’t lined up behind the proposal.

“Why are 500 plus years still forgotten?” Begay said. “Why don’t we have this single day to recognize these horrible atrocities committed against native people?”

___

Associated Press Reporter Lawrence Neumeister in New York contributed to this report.

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$7.4M Greenwood Village mansion tops September home sales

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$7.4M Greenwood Village mansion tops September home sales

Surrounded by 2.1 acres, a 19,020-square-foot Greenwood Village mansion sold for $7.4 million last month, earning the No. 1 spot on BusinessDen’s monthly top home sale list.

The seven-bedroom, 10-bathroom home at 4030 E. Forbes Court was originally listed for $7.95 million in June. The sellers, Tim and Janice Laney, purchased the property for $4.625 million in 2012, later transferring it to a trust, according to property records.

Tim is the CEO of National Bank Holdings, which operates a network of more than 80 banking centers located in Colorado, Kansas City, New Mexico, Texas and Utah, according to his LinkedIn.

The couple sold the property to the entity 4030 Forbes LLC, managed by John Albright Jr., on Sept. 8.

The Greenwood Village mansion was built in 2007 and features a marble-floored foyer, the central hallway accented by wainscoted limestone, cathedral beamed ceilings and detailed woodwork and paneling, according to the listing.

The home also features a two-story living room, a gourmet kitchen with two islands, a 6,394-square-foot finished basement with a rec room, wine cellar, theater, gym, massage room and storage. Outside, there’s a pool, hot tub and multiple patios with grills and fireplaces.

Gina Lorenzen with Kentwood Real Estate DTC represented the sellers, and Cliff Manley with BSW Real Estate represented the buyer.

Here are the next four priciest local home sales from September, according to MLS data:

902 White Hawk Ranch Drive, Boulder: $5.75 million

Photo provided by WK Real Estate

This six-bedroom, eight-bathroom Boulder mansion sold for $5.75 million in September.

Listing agent:  Barry Remington WK Real Estate

Buyer’s agent: Dena Schultz with Estate Professionals

Description: This home is one of 56 custom residences within Boulder’s White Hawk Ranch community. It sits at the end of a cul-de-sac on 1.2 acres, according to the listing.

The 11,545-square-foot mansion features six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a chef’s kitchen with cherrywood details, huge accordion glass doors, a six-car garage, an outdoor patio with a water feature and fire pit, and a finished basement with two wine cellars, a wet bar, home theater and game room.

6917 Timbers Drive, Evergreen: $5.05 million

This Evergreen estate was originally listed for $7 million in 2019 and sold for $5.05 million in September.

Provided by LIV Sotheby’s International Realty

This Evergreen estate was originally listed for $7 million in 2019 and sold for $5.05 million in September.

Listing agent: Corinna Bandemer and Douglas D. Kerbs with LIV Sotheby’s International Realty

Buyer’s agent: John Simmons with C3 Real Estate Solutions

Description: Sitting on 32 acres in Evergreen, this estate consists of three separate buildings: the main residence, a guest house with an equestrian center and a full exercise facility. The 12,768-square-foot main residence features four bedrooms, six bathrooms, eight fireplaces, a four-car oversized garage with additional recreational vehicle garage space, three decks and plenty of patios, according to the listing.

The guest house offers two bedrooms and one bathroom, and the equestrian facility has six paddocks and outdoor stalls, a heated tack room, a large horse corral and an RV garage.

The 2,098-square-foot gym includes a 30-foot ceiling and a half-size basketball court.

It was once owned by former NFL player Paul Kruger, who played for the New Orleans Saints and sold it in 2019.

3962 S. Chase Way, Denver: $5 million

The contemporary southwest Denver home features traditional Japanese finishes throughout.

Provided by Kentwood Real Estate

The contemporary southwest Denver home features traditional Japanese finishes throughout.

Listing agent:  Ann Kerr with Kentwood Real Estate DTC

Buyer’s agent: Patty Anton and Greg Card with Kentwood Real Estate Cherry Creek

Description: This 15,987-square-foot contemporary home sits on nearly one acre next to Denver’s Pinehurst Country Club and was once eyed by Elvis Presley. The original owners, John and Elinor Campbell, built the house in 1972, and dubbed it “Utopia” or “Pagoda House” after its extensive oriental gardens.

The 50-year-old mansion has sensational views through walls of windows of the pool, the sixth fairway of Pinehurst Country Club and the Rockies. Visitors entering the home are greeted by an open foyer with 30-foot indoor trees, floor-to-ceiling windows, spiral staircases and numerous terraces overlooking the lot.

3433 E. Kentucky Ave., Denver: $5 million

This mid-century modern Denver home sold for $5 million last month.

Provided by Colorado Realty Source

This mid-century modern Denver home sold for $5 million last month.

Listing agent:  Darren Fogel with MB Denver Colorado Realty Source

Buyer’s agent: Anna Centron with LIV Sotheby’s International Realty

Description: Located in the Belcaro neighborhood on an oversized lot, this five-bedroom, five-bathroom home features a sleek mid-century modern design. There’s vaulted ceilings, four oversized pocketed nano walls with access to multiple private courtyards and the backyard, and walnut hardwood, designer tile and stone floors throughout the main level.

The main suite includes a walk-in closet with a center island and spa-like bathroom. There’s also a mother-in-law living quarters on its own separate wing of the home with exterior access. Downstairs, the finished basement features a game room, wet bar, wine fridge, media room and a workout room or extra bedroom.

 

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Fauci says it’s safe to trick-or-treat this year

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Fauci says it's safe to trick-or-treat this year

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government’s top infectious diseases expert says families can feel safe trick-or-treating outdoors this year for Halloween as COVID-19 cases in the U.S. decline, especially for those who are vaccinated.

Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that it’s an important time of year for children, so “go out there” and “enjoy it.”

He added that people wanting to enjoy Halloween on Oct. 31 should consider getting the shots for that “extra degree of protection” if they are not yet vaccinated.

COVID-19 vaccines so far have been approved for people 12 years and older. The Food and Drug Administration plans a meeting in late October to consider Pfizer’s request for emergency use authorization of its vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

Nationwide, there are about 95,000 new COVID-19 cases a day. Fauci called the downward trend “good news” but cautioned against declaring a premature victory since cases have bounced back in the past.

He said he’d like to see cases drop to less than 10,000 a day before dropping COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, such as shedding masks indoors in public places.

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Gabby Petito’s family visits Florida memorial for first time

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Gabby Petito's family visits Florida memorial for first time

NORTH PORT, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — Fatigue from the weekslong investigation into the death of Gabby Petito is being felt, but a recent visit from her family to Florida could rejuvenate search efforts.  

On Sunday, Gabby’s mom Nichole Schmidt tweeted out a photo of a heart shaped cloud in the sky with the caption “Goodbye Florida … thanks for showing so much LOVE.” #justiceforgabby #justiceforgabbypetito #americasdaughter

While in Florida, the family visited a makeshift memorial for Gabby at North Port City Hall. They were able to take some of the items at the memorial, which city officials will be taking down Tuesday.

City officials they’re working on a permanent memorial after some of the items left at the makeshift space were damaged due to the hot and wet weather in southwest Florida.

Meanwhile, the search for Brian Laundire continues, with police saying they wouldn’t be surprised if he was dead or alive at this point in the search. Laundrie has been missing for more than three weeks.

A spokesperson from North Port Police addressed questions this week about how Laundrie was able to get away, saying they had surveillance on him to the extent that it was legal to do so but he was still able to slip through the cracks.

Police have been searching the Carlton Reserve since Laundrie was reported missing after his family said they last saw him wearing a hiking bag with a waist strap heading into the reserve. Authorities say conditions have improved there so they can reach some areas that were previously inaccessible.

Laundrie was declared a person of interest in Gabby Petito’s death after he refused to talk with authorities and his subsequent disappearance. Petito’s body was found at a camping area in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming in September, days after a nationwide search was launched.

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At this plant-filled Denver tattoo shop, every artist is either a woman or non-binary

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At this plant-filled Denver tattoo shop, every artist is either a woman or non-binary

Editor’s note: Each week in Staff Favorites, we offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also let you in on some hidden gems).

It’s not easy to stand out as a tattoo shop on Colfax Avenue.

But step inside The Wolf Den and you’ll find a shop unlike any other in town. Visitors are greeted with warm jewel tones, comfortable furniture and the winding vines of house plants that give the space a serene, verdant vibe. And then your eyes are inevitably drawn to a neon sign on the back wall: “All female studio,” it reads, and suddenly it becomes apparent why this tattoo shop feels so different from its neighbors.

Lead artist Ryane Urie — who is non-binary and uses the pronouns they/them — first opened The Wolf Den in RiNo in 2017 after years of working in shops largely staffed by male artists. The studio moved to Colfax last year and is currently undergoing a renovation that will add a community art gallery.

Provided by Hailey Wheeler

A small monstera leaf tattoo inked onto Denver Post entertainment editor Beth Rankin by Hailey Wheeler at The Wolf Den Custom Tattoo Studio on East Colfax.

“I wanted it to be where it kind of, like, transports you into like a different world essentially, where you kind of feel like you’re walking into a forest, and you feel safe because your community is in it,” they said of the shop’s colorful and comforting design.

But Urie’s design choices aren’t just about looking cool. Their goal was to create a safe space for women, non-binary and LGBTQIA+ people who may not feel as comfortable getting tattooed in a traditionally male-dominated space. But they also wanted to make tattooing more comfortable for male customers, who make up much of Urie’s own client base.

“(Men) get a safe space to hurt and not feel judged or have a bravado about it,” they said of the tattoo process, which — let’s be honest — is not always the comfiest experience. “I never really thought about that aspect until this space was created.”

The shop also uses only vegan products and is low-plastic, another aspect that makes it stand out.

“Almost all of our products are a compressed wheat stock or corn starch to create the plastic,” Urie said. “We’re trying to have the (smallest) footprint we can.”

The Wolf Den Custom Tattoo Studio, 6640 E. Colfax Ave., 720-917-9406. thewolfdentattoo.com

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Birds of a flipper: As visitors crowd Denver Zoo, African Penguins are living their best life

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Birds of a flipper: As visitors crowd Denver Zoo, African Penguins are living their best life

Seventeen African penguins shimmied and twisted, as if part of a single organism, out of the 65-degree water at their new Denver Zoo enclosure and onto the warm deck above it last week.

Impressively, they never lost their tight formation, pressed shoulder-to-shoulder as they were like an elevator full of stiff-armed and tuxedo-clad (if incredibly cute) commuters.

“They’ll start to spread out and use more of the main area as they get more acclimated,” said John Azua, Denver Zoo’s bird curator, as he watched the Zoo’s tiny human visitors squish their cheeks against a clear acrylic divider to get eye-to-eye with the compact creatures. “For now they’re still clumping together.”

You can’t blame them: at the time of this visit, the African penguins had barely been in the public eye for 24 hours, following zoo workers’ removal of the wall separating their exhibit from the rest of the 84-acre campus, just north of City Park, which hosts another 3,000 or so animals.

Located in the former Benson Predator Ridge, the $1.75 million African penguin habitat, which opened Sept. 30, beckons visitors from just inside the main entrance. The zoo painted and fixed up the Ridge’s brown faux-rocks (now gray) instead of demolishing them, while closing their perimeter to create this state-of-the-art, 2,400-square-foot home for its endangered penguins, who are native to South Africa.

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Children visit the new African penguin habitat at the Denver Zoo on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.

“Their new pool is about four to five times the size of their swimming space in Bird World,” said Jake Kubié, director of communications for the Denver Zoological Foundation, which operates the nonprofit Denver Zoo.

“The long, linear nature of it also allows them to exhibit some natural behaviors, such as porpoising (i.e. what dolphins do), that they weren’t able to before,” Azua added of the 40-foot-long pool. “Their old exhibit was what we call in the industry a ‘dump-and-fill,’ so no filtration, no circulation and lots of wasted water.”

Pinnacle African Penguin Point, as it’s officially called, solves those problems with technology. The new, 10,000-square-foot water tank is temperature-controlled and filtered every 15 minutes, allowing caretakers to reuse water instead of dumping it once or twice a week to avoid the summertime algae blooms that plagued the Bird World exhibit.

1633951402 94 Birds of a flipper As visitors crowd Denver Zoo African

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

A group of African Penguins stand together at their new habitat at the Denver Zoo on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.

There are also heaters under parts of the deck that will allow the penguins easy access to water, even in freezing temperatures, although once it hits 20 degrees or below they’re herded inside regardless. The multiple burrows and nest boxes, and various hardscape and natural substrates, effectively mimic their Cape of Good Hope origins, Kubié said.

It’s modeled specifically after Boulder Beach in South Africa, where Denver Zoo experts have brought their Colorado knowledge to help rehab and save African penguins for most of the last two decades. Animal care experts also return from these overseas trips with new practices that improve the care of Denver Zoo’s captive animals, Azua said.

Vertix Builders, the company that made the exhibit, has plenty of experience in adaptation, having recently finished a major update for the hugely popular Space Odyssey at Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

“Unlike a traditional commercial building, exhibits are singularly unique and the designers, contractors, and Zoo staff had to work closely to develop a vision and then execute to bring it to life,” said Ted Laszlo, Vice President of Vertix, in a press statement.

1633951402 167 Birds of a flipper As visitors crowd Denver Zoo African

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

From left, Holly Samson, 2, and her sister Juniper, 3, of Denver have their picture taken at the new African penguin habitat of Denver Zoo on its opening day, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.

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Ouray Ice Park will reopen in December after repairing damage from spring rockfall

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Ouray Ice Park will reopen in December after repairing damage from spring rockfall

The Ouray Ice Park, a destination for ice climbers, will reopen this winter after a March rockfall caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in infrastructure damage.

According to Operations Manager Pete Davis, crews have been working since the spring to rebuild a trestle bridge and water distribution system, which were destroyed when 12,000 pounds of rock unexpectedly fell from the walls of the Uncompahgre River Gorge where the park is created each year.

The bridge also held a penstock that funnels water from a dam further up the gorge to the Ouray Hydroelectric Power Plant. Both fell more than hundred feet into the river after being knocked down by rock, Davis said.

The Ouray Ice Park, which boasts 150 routes along a 1.7-mile stretch of river gorge, is free for climbers to use and managed by the nonprofit Ouray Ice Park, Inc. And because the town doesn’t have a ski resort, the park is largely regarded as the backbone of the winter economy, attracting 22,000 climbers last season, according to Peter O’Neil, executive director of Ouray Ice Park, Inc.

Initially, O’Neil worried the park may not open for the 2021-2022 season, but an outpouring of community support quickly eased the uncertainty. In March, the nonprofit launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to rebuild and hit its initial $50,000 fundraising goal in 24 hours. By May, supporters showed up to the tune of more than $100,000 helping cover the park’s share of repairs, O’Neil said.

Some of the money also went to building a trail to circumvent the bridge in case it couldn’t be rebuilt by winter. That way avid climbers could still access the School Room, one of the park’s original routes.

“It’s an iconic part of the park,” O’Neil said. “Lots of people come to climb in the School Room.”

Tiney Ricciardi, The Denver Post

A new bridge (pictured) was recently flown in and installed to replace one taken out by a March rockfall. Crews have been working since the spring to rebuild, repair and replace the Ouray Ice Park’s damaged infrastructure in advance of the 2021-2022 winter season. (Tiney Ricciardi, The Denver Post)

Preparing for winter

Construction is moving swiftly, however. A replacement bridge was recently flown in by helicopter and installation is expected to be completed soon to get the hydro-plant back up and running, the operators said. The next step will be reconnecting the Ouray Ice Park’s water system, which Davis likens to an irrigation system, and saturating the area by dripping water down the north-facing cliffs.

Saturation typically begins in mid-November and ensures the ice will have a solid foundation on which to collect, Davis said. Once saturation is complete and the weather is cold enough, the park’s ice farmers will turn on water spigots nightly to begin creating the signature sheet of climbing ice.

The Ouray Ice Park typically opens in mid-December and closes in late-March. (Official season dates have yet to be announced.)

“Once we get the temperatures right, we kick on the water, then you can build the entire park in one week pretty much, conditions permitting,” Davis said.

Farmers run about 250 gallons of water per minute and ice typically grows to 10 feet thick or more, Davis said. To keep it stable enough for climbing, ice farmers will continue to water the cliffs on nights when it’s cold enough. However, because the Ouray Ice Park shares its water supply with its namesake town, it has to do so carefully.

If the municipal reserve reaches below a certain level, the park is not permitted to run water, O’Neil said, because it’s then only for the town to fight fires and flush toilets, among other necessities. That’s why Ouray Ice Park, Inc. is working to secure a new water source to sustain and even expand the park in future years.

“It’s always a pinch,” Davis said. “We can’t run every sprayer in the park every night.”

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Is Meow Wolf Denver’s Convergence Station kid-friendly? I took mine to find out.

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Is Meow Wolf Denver’s Convergence Station kid-friendly? I took mine to find out.

Somewhere between the glowing, living swamp and the creepy, underground catacombs, my 4-year-old daughter began begging me to leave Meow Wolf Denver.

“It’s too scary!” Lucy half-whined, less than 30 minutes after she, my 9-year-old son, Tom, and I entered the massive, triangular building rising from Interstate 25 and West Colfax Avenue, which opened on Sept. 17.

We showed up for our 5 p.m. slot a few minutes early, joining the back of a long line that moved quickly once our time came. My backpack was searched and water bottles emptied, TSA-style, but otherwise entry was smooth. Just inside, my kids were wowed by the lobby of Convergence Station, as the Denver installation is called, with its airport-like flip boards and wide, echoing walls.

From there we could depart for one of four themed (or “converged,” as Meow Wolf says) worlds, each reflecting Meow Wolf’s trippy, sculptural-immersion aesthetic: an ice world (Eemia); an alien-swamp (Numina); an underground lair (Ossuary); and a futuristic urban dystopia (C Street). They’re all photo-friendly collections of eclectic, interactive elements, such as touch-sensitive lights and panels, mixed with the pleasant confusion of a theme park and the circular exploration of a fun house.

My kids didn’t know, and probably wouldn’t have cared, about the 100-plus local artists who contributed to the installation, or the debates over whether what the company does is art or commerce (surprise: it’s both!).

They just wanted to see “the cool stuff,” which Convergence Station is full of: a sinister pizza palace (inspired by ShowBiz Pizza Place); glowing skulls and death masks; Transformers-like robots; elaborate Indigenous murals; giant, interactive castles; and secret passages discoverable only by trial and error.

The lighting was at times spooky, and the constant sound-bath was disorienting for everyone in my small party. But as Lucy sucked it up and Tom became more comfortable with exploring, we fell into a rhythm that most parents will recognize from museum visits: The kids are always in a hurry, straining at the end of your tightly clasped hands like puppies on their first walk, eager to see the next wonder and skipping over many others in the process. Until they aren’t.

Children explore C Street at Meow Wolf Denver’s Convergence Station. While the maze of interactive sculptures and environments has a definite wow-factor for kids, the intensity may be too much for children 5 and under. (Kate Russell, provided by Meow Wolf)

My kids spent time with the things you could get in and climb through — especially C Street’s collection of steampunk-repurposed vehicles, which gave us the sense of being on a movie set — as well as the hypnotic, interactive projection mapping in the Perplexiplex (Meow Wolf Denver’s music venue). But after about two hours, they felt like they’d seen everything. They hadn’t, but that was OK with me. Lucy split off with my wife to grab a snack in the small café, while Tom and I delved deeper into the mystery for a few minutes more.

The costumed, roaming employees, who spout awkward-sounding gibberish as part of their nebulous and scene-setting improv, came on a little strong at times. I found myself avoiding them as I do with clipboard-toting volunteers at a park. While only open for three weeks, the installation is already showing hints of wear and tear, likely from handsy kids like mine. Empty shelves with glue marks showed where a couple of items had been ripped away. A few small sculptures seemed loose in their moorings.

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