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‘Squid Game’ is the first Korean series to rank No. 1 on Netflix in the US

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Squid Games is number one

The new K-drama thriller “Squid Game” is the first Korean series to rank No. 1 in Netflix U.S. most-watched and also occupies one of the top two spots in more than 70 other countries and territories’ Netflix platforms.

Topping the charts: According to the streaming analytics company FlixPatrol, the hit series beat out the popular British teen drama “Sex Education” which previously maintained the top position on the U.S. chart for its season 3 premiere, reported Korea JoongAng Daily

  • On the global chart, “Squid Game” has secured the No. 2 spot overall. 
  • The drama leads with the No.1 position in 21 other countries and territories and is No. 2 in 50 others, according to Manila Bulletin
  • While “Squid Game” has become the streaming giant’s most popular K-drama, the drama “Sweet Home,” came close in December, taking the third leading position on the U.S. chart.

About the drama: Starring top South Korean actors and models including Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Jung Ho-yeon, Wi Ha-joon and Lee Byung-hyun, with a cameo appearance from Gong Yoo, the drama follows the story of 456 players fighting for the top prize of 45.6 billion Won in a deadly game.

  • Director Hwang Dong-hyuk said he’d started working on the show in 2008 after being “mesmerized” by survival games and wanting to create a Korean version. 
  • He told The Korea Herald that the project was initially shelved before picking it back up for Netflix. “The idea of a game winner who strikes it rich was unwelcomed [back then]. The brutality and cruelty of the games were of concern.”
  • With the show’s release, the director hoped that viewers would be able to seek relief from the competition and pressures of everyday life.
  • The show has received critical acclaim from all over the world despite some accusations of plagiarism, scoring 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.3 out of 10 rating on IMDB.

Featured Image via Netflix

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Taliban say they won’t work with US to contain Islamic State

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Taliban say they won’t work with US to contain Islamic State

ISLAMABAD — The Taliban on Saturday ruled out cooperation with the United States to contain extremist groups in Afghanistan, staking out an uncompromising position on a key issue ahead of the first direct talks between the former foes since America withdrew from the country in August.

Senior Taliban officials and U.S. representatives are to meet Saturday and Sunday in Doha, the capital of Qatar. Officials from both sides have said issues include reining in extremist groups and the evacuation of foreign citizens and Afghans from the country. The Taliban have signaled flexibility on evacuations.

However, Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen told The Associated Press there would be no cooperation with Washington on containing the increasingly active Islamic State group in Afghanistan. IS has taken responsibility for a number of recent attacks, including a suicide bombing Friday that killed 46 minority Shiite Muslims and wounded dozens as they prayed in a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz.

“We are able to tackle Daesh independently,” Shaheen said, when asked whether the Taliban would work with the U.S. to contain the Islamic State affiliate. He used an Arabic acronym for IS.

IS has carried out relentless assaults on the country’s Shiites since emerging in eastern Afghanistan in 2014. It is also seen as the terror group that poses the greatest threat to the United States for its potential to stage attacks on American targets.

The weekend meetings in Doha are the first since U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan in late August, ending a 20-year military presence as the Taliban overran the country. The U.S. has made it clear the talks are not a preamble to recognition.

The talks also come on the heels of two days of difficult discussions between Pakistani officials and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Islamabad that focused on Afghanistan. Pakistani officials urged the U.S. to engage with Afghanistan’s new rulers and release billions of dollars in international funds to stave off an economic meltdown.

Pakistan also had a message for the Taliban, urging them to become more inclusive and pay attention to human rights and minority ethnic and religious groups.

Afghanistan’s Shiite clerics assailed the Taliban rulers following Friday’s attack, demanding greater protection at their places of worship. The IS affiliate claimed responsibility and identified the bomber as a Uyghur Muslim. The claim said the attack targeted both Shiites and the Taliban for their purported willingness to expel Uyghurs to meet demands from China. It was the deadliest attack since U.S. and NATO troops left Afghanistan on Aug. 30.

Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the U.S.-based Wilson Center, said Friday’s attack could be a harbinger of more violence. Most of the Uyghur militants belong to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which has found a safe haven in the border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan for decades.

“If the (IS) claim is true, China’s concerns about terrorism in (Afghanistan)—to which the Taliban claims to be receptive—will increase,” he tweeted following the attack.

Meanwhile, the Taliban began busing Afghans who had fled from the insurgents’ blitz takeover in August and were living in tents in a Kabul park back to their homes in the country’s north, where threats from IS are mounting following the Kunduz attack.

A Taliban official in charge of refugees, Mohammed Arsa Kharoti, said there are up to 1.3 million Afghans displaced from past wars and that the Taliban lack funds to organize the return home for all. He said the Taliban have organized the return of 1,005 displaced families to their homes so far.

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Sturgeon catch on Red River offers opportunity for recovery update

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Sturgeon catch on Red River offers opportunity for recovery update

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — You never know what you’re going to catch in the Red River.

Nathan Mytych of Grand Forks found that out firsthand Saturday, Oct. 2, when he landed a 38-inch lake sturgeon on the Red River in Grand Forks while fishing walleyes with fishing buddy Tom Luney of Grand Forks. The sturgeon hit a live sucker hooked through the tail in 12 feet of water, said Luney, who shared the photo.

“We were thinking it was a catfish (at first), but were questioning it at the end of the fight because it did not come to the surface – it was digging,” said Luney, who fishes the Red River frequently.

Historically, lake sturgeon thrived in the Red River and its tributaries until the early 1900s, when damming, pollution and other human activities decimated the population.

Efforts to re-establish lake sturgeon in the Red River Basin began in 1997 and 1998, when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources stocked juvenile sturgeon into the Red River and several tributaries, using fish from the Rainy River.

A new era in the recovery effort began in 2001, when the White Earth Nation began stocking lakes to the north of Detroit Lakes, Minn., as part of a cooperative production and stocking venture with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said Nick Kludt, Red River fisheries specialist for the DNR in Detroit Lakes.

The Minnesota DNR began stocking in 2002 as part of the venture with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa began stocking lake sturgeon in tribal waters of Red Lake in 2007, Kludt said. The Rainy River First Nations in Ontario collects the lake sturgeon eggs for the operation, and they are hatched at the Valley City National Fish Hatchery in North Dakota.

To date, the cooperative effort between the tribes, the DNR and the Fish and Wildlife Service has resulted in 567,334 lake sturgeon fingerlings, more than 2.1 million fry, 375 juveniles and 4,402 yearlings being stocked into the Red River Basin, Kludt said.

“We don’t stock the Red River directly,” Kludt said. “Instead, we stock the tributary river and lake habitats. We know downstream dispersal happens at various life stages, so the natural movement of lake sturgeon disperses them throughout the basin.”

Occasional lake sturgeon catches from the Red River have been reported over the years since stocking efforts began, but the sturgeon Mytych released is the biggest one to occur in the Grand Forks area — at least among the catches that have been reported to the Grand Forks Herald.

In the Grand Forks area this year, an angler reported catching a 32-inch sturgeon in mid-May, and another angler reported catching a 28-inch sturgeon in late August, Kludt said. The DNR typically receives one to five sturgeon reports from the Red River every year, he said.

A milestone in the lake sturgeon recovery effort occurred this past spring, when the DNR sampled two reproductively mature female sturgeon in the Red River Basin. A 53-inch female captured from Deer Lake in Otter Tail County was released below Orwell Dam on the Otter Tail River after DNR staff implanted a transmitter. A second female “just shy of 55 inches” was captured and released below the Otter Tail Lake outlet dam a few miles upstream from Deer Lake, Kludt said.

Nick Kludt, Red River fisheries specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Detroit Lakes, Minn., holds a reproductively mature female sturgeon sampled in May 2021 in the Red River Basin. The presence of reproductively mature sturgeon bodes well for reintroduction efforts in the Red River Basin. (Nick Kludt / Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)

The DNR documented the first reproductively mature female lake sturgeon in the basin in 2019, Kludt said, so three now have been confirmed since reintroduction efforts began.

Sturgeon populations now have recovered to the point where the DNR offers a catch-and-release season throughout the Red River Basin. Fishing has been very good, at times, in recent years, Kludt says, especially on the Otter Tail River.

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For aspiring Minnesota United, ‘playoff mode’ hits now

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For aspiring Minnesota United, ‘playoff mode’ hits now

The math is daunting for Minnesota United.

To host a home MLS Cup playoff game at Allianz Field in November, the seventh-place Loons need to overcome an eight-point gap over fourth-place Portland. (The Western Conference’s second, third and four seeds host first-round playoff games, while top spot gets a bye.)

Minnesota has seven regular-season games left to play, while the Timbers, fifth-place Real Salt Lake and sixth-place L.A. Galaxy each having six matches remaining. MNUFC (10-9-8, 38 points) will make up that difference when third-place Colorado comes to Allianz Field for a 3 p.m. kickoff Sunday.

So, is hosting a third straight home playoff game really attainable?

“Sure. Win seven games,” United owner Bill McGuire said during an interview Tuesday, the banner day his club was awarded the 2022 MLS All-Star Game.

Sitting across the table in the stadium’s suite level was MLS commissioner Don Garber, who replied: “Easy, peasy, lemon, squeezy.”

The commish and the owner both know how hard it is to put together a run like that. It’s the type of pace that would be out of left field for this Loons side, which has had to scrape together goals in 2021. It’s the type of streak that would set a MNUFC record, yet also not be completely unlike the eight-game unbeaten run (4-0-4) the Loons strung together at the end of the 2020 season.

With the Loons on edge of the playoff picture, just getting in at this stage of the season is the paramount goal. Three teams on the outside are within five points of Minnesota. If it goes south and MNUFC miss out on the playoffs all together, it could become, well, “stressed, depressed, lemon zest.”

By Chief Soccer Officer Manny Lagos’ calculation, the Loons’ route to a home playoff game focuses on the old adage: three points with home wins and one point with away draws. If Minnesota does that with four home games and three away to finish the year, they would average 2.14 points per game over the stretch, which would be more than half a point above their current pace of 1.41.

Manager Adrian Heath said for any of this to matter in a month’s time, Minnesota must beat the Rapids on Sunday.

“In the confines of my office, we’ve been through every sort of eventuality what we think teams are going to get,” Heath said Friday. “For the players, they just have to win the next game. Don’t get too focused on what is coming up after.”

Like a voodoo doll, the Rapids have stuck it to Minnesota in painful ways this season. Minnesota was desperately trying to get out of an 0-3 start to the season and took a 2-0 lead in Colorado on May 8 but gave up three goals in the final 33 minutes. On July 7, Minnesota came out flat and got smoked 2-0 on the road.

The club points to these games among the worst of the season.

The Rapids were on a 12-game unbeaten streak (6-0-6) before a 3-0 loss to first-place Seattle last Sunday, and Heath put Colorado coach Robin Fraser behind New England’s Bruce Arena for “manager of the year” this season.

The Loons have three starters (center back Michael Boxall, leading scorer Robin Lod and right back Romain Metanire) away on international duty, while the Rapids midfield could be a place to exlploit with two key players gone (Mark Anthony-Kaye and Kellyn Acosta).

In the Loons last seven games, six are against teams in the playoff picture, four with playoff spots. They will play five games in a 16-day stretch by the end of October.

Three points on the road against last-place expansion side Austin FC next Saturday seems like a good opportunity to offset the pending challenge of Eastern Conference third-place side Philadelphia Union coming to St. Paul on Oct. 20.

L.A. Galaxy coach Greg Vanney mentioned the higher stakes this time of the year after a loss to MMUFC in mid-September, a comment Heath brought up Friday.

“It’s like you just sense that it’s more like playoff time,” Heath said. “The games mean so much more. … I think the gravity of losing a game now and somebody behind you winning and then you are looking at everybody’s fixtures, it’s almost like we are in playoff mode now. That is how we have to approach all the games.”

LOONS’ REMAINING SCHEDULE

Saturday — Colorado Rapids, 48 points
Oct. 16 — Austin FC, 25
Oct. 20 — Philadelphia Union, 42
Oct. 23 — Los Angeles FC, 34
Oct. 27 — Vancouver Whitecaps, 37
Oct. 31 — Sporting Kansas City, 52
Nov. 7 — Los Angeles Galaxy, 39

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Free COVID saliva tests, Door Dashed to your home. What’s not to like?

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Free COVID saliva tests, Door Dashed to your home. What’s not to like?

With kids back in school, testing mandates at some workplaces and the delta variant pushing cases higher, Minnesota is seeing some of the highest demands for coronavirus testing since the pandemic started.

Store shelves are cleared of rapid tests, and social media is a-twitter with questions about the most convenient ways to see if that sniffle or headache is COVID-19: Are the lines long at mass testing sites like St. Paul’s RiverCentre? (Generally no.) Is anyone else having problems scheduling a test through their doctor or pharmacy? (Sometimes.) How convenient and pricey are for-profit companies that offer tests? (It varies.)

Yet there’s a free testing program that will deliver a spit test (no irritating nasal swab) to your home anywhere in Minnesota and then emails you results in a comparable time frame to most of these others.

It’s the state’s at-home saliva test program, run through the Minnesota Department of Health, Vault Medical Services and local labs. It’s similar to at-home testing programs done by dozens of other states, including Wisconsin, last year when the nation began to get out from under a testing shortage that had plagued the earliest months of the pandemic.

The Department of Health estimates the program will have cost at least $14 million by the end of 2021, all paid for by federal funds, with a potential for health insurance companies to pay for extra expenses. There are no co-pays or upfront costs, or billed costs of any kind charged to people taking the tests, and you can take as many as you want.

My family has been doing these tests, generally every week or so, since our son returned to in-person school last year, and we’ve found them the most convenient way to test. And my kid has become a champion at storing up a mouthful of saliva.

All you need is an email address and some sort of computer device with Zoom video capabilities.

Yet the vast majority of Minnesotans appear not to get themselves tested this way.

As of Sept. 20, only a little over 2 percent of Minnesota’s COVID-19 tests reported by labs were through the free at-home testing program.

Here’s how it works:

QUICK DELIVERY AND PRO TIPS

Once you’ve set up an account at VaultHealth.com, you order a test online by answering a few questions. (Pro tip: If it gets annoyingly tedious to enter all your insurance info, just say you don’t have your card with you to go faster.)

Pioneer Press reporter Dave Orrick spits into a tube for a coronavirus test while Andrea Davies, a physician assistant with Vault Medical Services, supervises via Zoom videoconferencing in this computer screenshot from Orrick’s computer Friday, Oct. 1, 2021.

It gets delivered to your home by Door Dash. It can technically take 24 hours, but I’ve found if you order your tests on a weekday morning, you’ll get it that day, sometimes before noon. The test kit is a plastic tube with a little spit funnel and few other items.

Then you pick a time when you won’t eat or drink for a half an hour. (Food chunks and their after-effects make saliva too viscous for the lab testing process.)

Pro tip: Now’s the time to get your saliva flowing. Frying up bacon works best for me, but sniffing vinegar, or any food aroma — or even the thought of something yummy — can work.

Next, go to your Vault account and click “Meet a provider.” This launches a Zoom video chat session with a Vault contractor, who is either a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner, a physician assistant or a medical assistant. You’ll usually have to wait about five minutes for one of these folks to free up. I’ve found waits can vary from zero to one that took 20 minutes. Good idea to have something handy to keep you busy.

DRY MOUTH PANIC

When the test supervisor comes on, you answer a few questions — perhaps able to keep the pool of saliva in place while talking. Then they tell you to spit in the tube, usually while they watch.

Yeah, awkward, silly and, for novices, surprisingly high-pressure. My first time, I suddenly got dry mouth.

“The more you do it, the better you get,” said Kandace Graunke, a registered nurse who lives in the west metro and has been on the Vault side of the Zoom calls. Graunke now works as regional clinical manager for Vault, which has about 650 nationwide spit supervisors.

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Public workers balk at contract offers from St. Paul, Minneapolis, Met Council

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Public workers balk at contract offers from St. Paul, Minneapolis, Met Council

The construction mechanics and heavy equipment operators affiliated with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 openly acknowledge that when it comes to contract negotiations with large public employers, things are not going well.

Plant operators, sewer workers, plow drivers and other on-the-ground laborers employed by St. Paul, Minneapolis and the Metropolitan Council tend to agree.

Following a difficult year of talks and three failed mediation sessions, dozens of Local 49 members joined two other labor groups on Tuesday — Teamsters 120 and Laborers Local 363 — in rejecting a two-year contract offer from the city of St. Paul. Instead, they authorized a possible strike of some 280 St. Paul Public Works, St. Paul Parks and Recreation, Water Services and Sewer workers.

An actual strike does not appear imminent, but the hard feelings during Tuesday’s vote were palpable.

Asked if the city’s latest contract offer had been rejected, a worker walking to his car outside the union hall in St. Anthony laughed and said wryly, “With a zero-percent increase? What do you think?”

“People are frustrated,” said Liz Xiong, a spokesperson for the Laborers District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota. “Our members are frustrated because we had our folks go out every day while civil unrest and the pandemic are happening, and the offers are not meeting the moment.”

MET COUNCIL, MAC, MINNEAPOLIS WORKERS ALSO DEALING WITH CONTRACT ISSUES

That sentiment reaches beyond St. Paul. On Thursday evening, 150 wastewater treatment plant operators employed by the Met Council and affiliated with Local 49 were scheduled to vote on another possible strike authorization. In late September, more than 100 members of Local 49 rejected the latest contract offer from the city of Minneapolis, as did Local 363 on Sept. 21. At the Metropolitan Airports Commission, more than 20 members of Local 49 who take care of equipment and airport runway field maintenance have been working under an expired agreement for months.

The sticking point? Wages. At a time of municipal belt-tightening, public employers are offering contracts that labor advocates say don’t keep pace with inflation and cost-of-living increases, or the potential dangers associated with frontline work during a pandemic.

Meanwhile, individual city council members in St. Paul have promised to look for ways to bring down St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s proposed 6.9 percent levy increase, and public organizations like Metro Transit have been equally hard-pressed to balance the budget books.

Union organizers have tried to avoid discussing contract details in public. But in St. Paul, individual members of the three-union Tri-Council said the latest offer from the city called for no wage increase in the first year, and a 1.5 percent increase in the second year.

City officials said Friday they are offering a one-time lump sum payment in the first year, equivalent to a 2.5 percent general increase, funded by American Rescue Plan dollars. The last contract called for wage increases of 2.5 percent, 2.75 percent and 2.75 percent during the 2018-2020 contract period.

As of August, the Consumer Price Index — a measure of the market value of a basket of goods and services purchased by urban consumers — had for the year risen 5.3 percent.

WAGE RATES

The current advertised wage rate for St. Paul sewer, water utility or bridge maintenance workers is roughly $26 per hour. A gardener would start at $24 and earn about $25.50 after six months. A landscape worker or assistant gardener would start at $18 and earn about $19 after six months. An entry-level parks worker would earn about $15 to $16.50 hourly, while a Parks Worker II with added responsibilities would earn $16.50 to $20. A Parks Worker III would earn $25.50 to $26. A plow driver or driver-operator for the water utility starts around $26. Heavy equipment operators start at $30.

“These workers stayed on the job and kept things open during a global pandemic,” said Jason George, a business manager for Local 49, in a written statement. “They didn’t complain. They just did their jobs. There are a lot of politicians right now, particularly so-called progressive politicians, that use their words to express support for unions, and for frontline workers specifically. … They can start by making sure their budgets reflect their stated values. They can offer their workers a fair and just pay increase for the work they do.”

St. Paul officials said they’ve offered similar contracts to eight bargaining units to date, and all accepted their terms.

“Our city workers demonstrate their dedication to our residents and businesses every day,” said St. Paul communications director Peter Leggett, in an email. “We are grateful for their service and hopeful that our ongoing discussions will lead to a positive resolution.”

COVID BACKDROP

COVID-19 has provided an uneasy backdrop to negotiations, and driven home quality-of-life differences between various segments of the labor market. While many white-collar and pink-collar workers logged in remotely over the past 18 months, heavy equipment operators and other laborers often didn’t have the option to work from home.

Some have been called upon to tear down homeless encampments with bulldozers.

“That’s our frontline staff that go in and do that work,” said Tony Kelly, business manager with Local 363, or LIUNA, the Laborers International Union of North America, which represents most of the manual laborers in St. Paul Parks and Recreation and Public Works.

At the same time, St. Paul’s labor unions have appeared resistant to accepting a vaccination mandate that the city council called for on Aug. 18. Council members have expressed frustration at the delay.

“Because the city is a first-touch level of government, we need to make sure our employees are vaccinated,” said city council President Amy Brendmoen, addressing the council on Wednesday.

As the St. Paul vote totals were being counted Tuesday evening, some questioned why large municipalities hadn’t relied on federal financial relief, such as American Rescue Plan dollars, to boost wages.

“The city just got bailed out, as everybody read,” said Troy Gustafson, a business agent with Teamsters Local 120, which represents plow drivers.

Brendmoen said the council will host a public discussion about the city budget and its $166 million in American Rescue Plan funds at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Como Lakeside Pavilion, 1360 Lexington Parkway.

“Obviously, the ARP dollars are one-time dollars,” said Brendmoen. “The council, and I’m sure the administration, is going to be reluctant to use one-time dollars for ongoing salary expenses, but there may be room for using ARP dollars for one-time payment recognition during these really unusual and unprecedented times.”

St. Paul workers in particular have said their wages haven’t kept pace over the years with other cities across the metro, especially Minneapolis, even within the same union. Given tight staffing, they allege some lower-titled positions are handling supervisory-level work without the correct compensation and work title.

“When I started, we were the top-paid municipality,” said a St. Paul street maintenance worker who has been on the job for nearly 30 years. “We should be. We’re the capital city. (Now), we’re one of the lowest paid in the metro area.”

A contract rejection does not necessarily signal the beginning of a strike, though in most cases it opens the door to one without a further vote of the union. If any of the unions file an intent to strike with the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services, state law requires a 10-day cooling off period.

BUS DRIVERS, OTHER UNIONS SETTLE

At the state Capitol, discussions over how to spend $250 million in potential hazard pay for essential workers have mostly stalled, with Republicans calling for $1,200 bonuses for first responders, corrections workers and health care workers in hospitals and long-term care settings. Democrats have called for a much larger list of recipients, including janitors and retail workers, though that could whittle checks down to as little as $375.

Despite the significant number of holdouts, other unions have settled contracts with large public employers.

The Met Council, which began negotiating a new contract with its wastewater plant operators in April, will enter its second mediation session with Local 49 on Oct. 21. “We are committed to our employees and have reached voluntary settlements with all other groups who represent employees in our Environmental Services division,” said Met Council spokesman John Schadl, in a written statement.

In August, nearly a year after authorizing a possible strike, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 approved a three-year contract for some 2,300 Metro Transit bus and light-rail drivers, mechanics, clerks and cleaners. The agreement, which follows a year of negotiations, provides a 6.5 percent wage increase over the life of the contract, a $1,000 bonus and improvements to sick leave.

Getting there hasn’t been easy. Like many industries, public transit has been hit by a severe worker shortage, compounded by plummeting ridership during the pandemic.

As of early August, ridership remained at 40 percent to 45 percent of pre-pandemic levels, prompting Metro Transit to reduce fares in September and October to $1.

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Salmonella outbreak tied to seafood from Denver-based company leaves 82 Coloradans in 14 counties ill

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Salmonella outbreak tied to seafood from Denver-based company leaves 82 Coloradans in 14 counties ill

A salmonella outbreak connected to seafood that Denver-based Northeast Seafood Products Inc. processed or manufactured has made at least 82 Coloradans in 14 counties ill.

Of 102 people in 14 states who got sick from salmonella, all but two of them either live in Colorado or reported traveling to the state the week before they became ill, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nineteen people were hospitalized from the illness, the food safety alert stated.

The agency is investigating the outbreak with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA reported that samples collected from Northeast Seafood Products on Oct. 7 were positive for Salmonella Thompson and matched the outbreak strain.

Northeast Seafood Products has temporarily stopped production and has recalled Haddock, Monkfish, Bone-in Trout, Grouper, Red Snapper, Red Rock Cod, Ocean Perch, Pacific Cod, Halibut, Coho Salmon, Atlantic Salmon Portions, Lane Snapper, Tilapia, All Natural Salmon Fillet, Pacific Sole, and Farm Raised Striped Bass that restaurants and grocery stores purchased and sold through Oct. 7, according to the food safety alert. Those stores include Albertsons, Safeway and Sprouts in Colorado. According to CDPHE, the Pacific Cod from Sprouts is not currently being recalled.

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Saunders: Rockies’ 2021 awards, from most valuable to most perplexing

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Saunders: Rockies’ 2021 awards, from most valuable to most perplexing

Another losing season is in the books for the Rockies, although their 74-87 record wasn’t nearly as dire as many predicted.

Kyle Newman, my esteemed colleague, said that the Rockies would finish 62-100, which would have been the first 100-loss season in franchise history.

Mr. Newman was not alone in his pessimism. PECOTA (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm), the projection system of Baseball Prospectus, predicted that the Rockies would finish 60.3-101.7.

I said that the Rockies would go 72-90, so I wasn’t too far off, although my other prognostications — a Padres vs. Yankees World Series, Trevor Story trade, Charlie Blackmon hitting .318, for example — missed by a mile.

But that was then, this is now. Time to hand out the awards for the Rockies’ 2021 season:

MVR: The most valuable Rockie was manager Bud Black. Despite the loss of Nolan Arenado and Scott Oberg, subpar seasons from Story and Blackmon, a terrible start to the schedule, and an imploding bullpen, Black prevented the team from totally collapsing. He never lost his composure or his patience and proved himself as a teacher.

MVPP: The most valuable position player, all things considered, was Ryan McMahon. First baseman C.J. Cron, who led the team with 28 home runs and a .905 OPS, was a close second.

McMahon deserves consideration for his Gold Glove defense at third base (he was also excellent at second), plus he hit 23 homers. However, after his hot start (16 homers through June) his final OPS of .779 OPS was disappointing. But his strikeout rate dropped from 34.2% last season to 24.7%. I believe McMahon’s best is yet to come.

MVP: In mid-July, first-time all-star German Marquez was a no-brainer as Colorado’s most valuable pitcher. But the right-hander’s 6.57 ERA over his last 10 starts was ugly and concerning.

So it came down to lefty Kyle Freeland vs. right-hander Antonio Senzatela, who just signed a five-year, $50.5 million deal. It’s close, but I would go with the gritty Freeland, who came back from a bad shoulder injury in spring training and a tough early stretch to become Colorado’s most-dependable starter. If I had to pick one Rockies starter to pitch a must-win game, I would take Freeland.

MVR: Jordan Sheffield might get the nod as the most valuable reliever, but he only pitched 29 1/3 innings. And rookie lefty Lucas Gilbreath (3.38 ERA in 42 2/3 innings) emerged as a dependable arm in the second half of the season.

But my vote goes to journeyman right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (4.34 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .222 average against), who kept Colorado in a lot of games in mostly high-leverage innings.

MIP: My most improved player award came down to a choice between second baseman Brendan Rodgers and catcher Elias Diaz. My first impulse was to go with Rodgers, who came on strong in the second half to lead the team with a .284 average and hit 15 home runs (12 on the road).

But I’m going with Diaz because I honestly never thought he was as good as he is. After all, he was hitting .121 with one home run through June 1. But he finished with 18 homers, a .246 average, and he emerged as an excellent defensive catcher and game-caller.

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McConnell seizes on debt standoff to undermine Biden agenda

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McConnell seizes on debt standoff to undermine Biden agenda

WASHINGTON — In the frantic bid to avert a default on the nation’s debt, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell held a position of unusual power — as the one who orchestrated both the problem and the solution.

McConnell is no longer the majority leader, but he is exerting his minority status in convoluted and uncharted ways, all in an effort to stop President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda and even if doing so pushes the country toward grave economic uncertainty.

All said, the outcome of this debt crisis leaves zero confidence there won’t be a next one. In fact, McConnell engineered an end to the standoff that ensures Congress will be in the same spot in December when funding to pay America’s bills next runs out. That means another potentially devastating debt showdown, all as the COVID-19 crisis lingers and the economy struggles to recover.

“Mitch McConnell loves chaos,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. “He’s a very smart tactician and strategist, but the country pays the price so often for what he does.”

The crisis has cemented McConnell’s legacy as a master of misdirection. He’s the architect of the impasse and the one who resolved it, if only for the short term. More battles are to come as Democrats narrow Biden’s big agenda, a now-$2 trillion expansion of health, child care and climate change programs, all paid for with taxes on corporations and the wealthy that Republicans oppose.

To some Republicans, McConnell is a shrewd leader, using every tool at his disposal to leverage power and undermine Biden’s priorities. To others, including Donald Trump, he is weak, having “caved” too soon. To Democrats, McConnell remains an infuriating rival who has shown again he is willing to break one institutional norm after another to pursue Republican power.

“McConnell’s role is to be the leader of the opposition and it’s his job to push back on what the majority wants to do,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist.

“Nobody should be surprised to see the leader of the Republicans making the Democrats’ job harder,” he said.

The risks are clear, not just for Biden and the Democrats who control Washington.

The debt showdown left Democrats portrayed as big spenders, willing to boost the nation’s now-$28.4 trillion debt to pay the bills. But both parties have contributed to that load because of past decisions that leave the government rarely operating in the black.

Republicans, too, risk recriminations from all sides of their deeply divided party. In easing off the crisis, McConnell insulated his Republicans from further blame, but infuriated Trump and his allies, who are eager to skewer the Kentucky senator for giving in.

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Avs Mailbag: Which rookie is ready for a breakout year: Bo Byram or Alex Newhook?

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Avs Mailbag: Which rookie is ready for a breakout year: Bo Byram or Alex Newhook?

Denver Post sports writer Mike Chambers responds to questions in the Avs Mailbag periodically during the regular season. Pose an Avalanche- or NHL-related question for the Avs Mailbag.

What are your thoughts on whether there’s even a realistic shot for prospects like (Shane) Bowers to make an opening-night roster given the numerous veteran signings they seem committed to? Seems like some short-sighted roster management, with some arguably very average vets.

— Jeff, Broomfield

Those veteran forwards include Dylan Sikura, Kiefer Sherwood and Stefan Matteau and they were reassigned to the Eagles on Thursday. That was followed by Jayson Megna being reassigned to Loveland on Friday, when Artem Anisimov (tryout contract) was also released. Bowers and Martin Kaut were reassigned to the Eagles on Friday, leaving Newhook and Sampo Ranta as the rookie forwards still in contention to make the roster. I suspect they both will. But Bowers had a good showing and proved he’s a player for the future.

Hi Mike, I was wondering how you feel about a possible Annunen-vs.-Miska backup battle. Who would you prefer in net, should it come to that?

— Ben, Denver

Well, since Pavel Francouz will miss the first 3-4 weeks of the season, that’s probably your two guys in Loveland with the Eagles. It was supposed to be Jonas Johansson and Annunen before Francouz’s injury. Now, Johansson is Darcy Kuemper’s backup. Annunen is going to get a lot of attention with the Eagles in his first season in North America. He’s the club’s top prospect at that position. Miska probably won’t be around next year because Trent Miner, 20, is also coming up and will need AHL development.

Mike, losing Philipp Grubauer was huge, but I’m happy we were able to land Darcy Kuemper. Do you think we actually got stronger between the pipes with the move? Also, god forbid he goes down with an injury, but who’s our No. 2 guy this year?

— Miles, Parker

Your No. 2 guy was Francouz but he’s now on IR. So it’s Johansson right now. As for the Grubauer-Kuemper comparison, about five inches of height separates them. The 6-foot-5 Kuemper doesn’t give shooters a lot of net to shoot at. It seems like he’s equally as talented as Grubauer, who I consider a terrific 6-foot goalie. This could be an upgrade if Kuemper, like Gruabuer, can keep his goals-against average under 2.00 (among goalies playing 25 games, Grubauer led the league with a 1.95 GAA last season).

Hey Mike, who do you think is going to have a bigger breakout season for the Avs this year: Bowen Byram or Alex Newhook? Also, what’s the ETA for our last couple of first-rounders? Do you see Justin Barron or Oskar Olausson making their NHL debuts this year?

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‘No Time to Die’ director Cary Fukunaga says ‘a lot of people upset’ no matter who plays Bond after Daniel Craig

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Cary Fukunaga director

Cary Fukunaga is the second filmmaker of Asian descent and the first Asian American to direct a James Bond movie with “No Time to Die,” and he hopes his involvement in the franchise inspires young people to break into filmmaking.

Lee Tamahori, a filmmaker of Maori ancestry, directed “Die Another Day” in 2002. But in an interview with NextShark, Fukunaga said he does not think of himself as special for his racial identity.

“In my family, if my Japanese grandparents would hear me say, ‘I’m special,’ for any reason, it just wouldn’t fly,” Fukunaga said. “I just think about it in terms of what I’m bringing in and hoping that if people see it that way, then maybe it shows young people who are looking to get into filmmaking that you don’t have to be from Hollywood or know someone from Hollywood to do it. You can be like me, some kid from the Bay Area that pursued a dream, and that would motivate more diversity. We’re [Asians] moving into the studio network systems, which is also inevitably the gatekeeper for making movies and stories.”

Fukunaga said his upbringing and what he has learned from his parents, grandparents and cousins all influenced how he tells stories and how he approaches the subject material. Some of those Asian influences made it into “No Time to Die,” the 25th installment in the James Bond series.

“Some of it was based on the Fleming and Bond legacy. ‘You Only Live Twice’ was a big influence on some of these things,” Fukunaga said. “I think it’s the first time we really have a villain’s lair again, but try to make that organic and try to figure out a backstory that made sense for it.”

Director Cary Joji Fukunaga on the set of “No TIme To Die,” an EON Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios film. Image via Nicola Dove.

What many fans are now trying to make sense of is who will take on the role of Bond now that actor Daniel Craig has hung up his tux after “No Time to Die,” his swan song to the franchise. There has been a lot of speculation amongst the Bond fandom and beyond about the possibility of the next Bond being played by a woman or a Black actor. Whether the next Bond could even be Asian or portrayed as gay, Fukunaga believes that whoever follows in Craig’s footsteps has a very high bar to meet.

“It’d be a very tough challenge. I’m sure it’d be an honor of a challenge for whoever wants to do it,” he added. “I, thankfully, will not have to make that call. Because I think no matter who you pick, there’s going to be a lot of people who are upset.”

As for what is next for Fukunaga and whether he would helm another Bond film, he is not quite sure.

“I don’t want to say no, but I’m also not pursuing that right now,” he said. “I spent almost 20 months in this film and disappeared from the world, my friends and family. Then COVID hit and disappeared again for a year and a half. I feel like I’m just emerging from a cocoon.”

While Fukunaga is not thinking about directing another Bond film anytime soon, the filmmaker mentioned working on a project in London — a World War II series about American bomber pilots stationed in the U.K.

“No Time to Die” hits theaters today, Oct. 8.

Featured Image via UAR and Nicola Dove

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