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It’s the last weekend for prime leaf-peeping, and it’s “resplendent” in SW Colorado

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It’s the last weekend for prime leaf-peeping, and it’s “resplendent” in SW Colorado

The climax of the fall color change in Colorado’s high country seems likely to begin this weekend or early next week, observers in the southern part of the state are predicting. And in some areas, it has already arrived.

Leaf-peeping season in Colorado begins in early September, moving from north to south and from high to lower elevations. Some of the best viewing this week has been in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, where the impact of elevation has played out vividly between Silverton and Durango. Silverton, at 9,300 feet, was peaking last weekend. But in Durango, 40 miles to the south at 6,500 feet, trees just started to turn this week.

Alicia Laws, events coordinator for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, noticed the difference after riding the train up from Durango last weekend. After spending the night in Silverton, she was treated to an amazing sight at sunrise.

“I don’t even know if I could describe it,” Laws said. “The clouds were laying low, the sun was on Silverton Mountain — always the last hill to change — and it was almost like camo with oranges and yellows and a little bit of red. Because it was so warm this summer, the reds were really spectacular this year. Here in Durango, I woke up (Tuesday) morning and I noticed there were yellow trees — like overnight, we’re in fall colors. I think we still have a few more weeks in Durango, but as far as Silverton, it’s ending.”

A similar scenario played out a little farther north in Telluride and Ouray.

“We are creeping to peak right now,” Jon Miller, shop manager at Jagged Edge Mountain Gear in Telluride, said on Tuesday. “This next week or so is going to be really, really good. There’s still a lot of green out there, so it’s going to be good for a bit. Peak, I think, is going to be early next week.”

Telluride sits at an elevation of 8,750 feet. In Ouray, 10 miles to the northeast and nearly 1,000 feet lower, the leaves were just starting to turn this week according to Arianna Whitmire, a server at the Full Tilt Saloon.

“I’d say like a quarter, maybe,” Whitmire said. “We have some yellows, a lot of green still, some reds thrown in. I think next week might be a good time for a peak, I would guess.”

In the Wolf Creek Pass area 60 miles to the southeast of Ouray, the colors are spectacular.

“It’s resplendent,” said Becki Helmstetler, who works in the ticket office at the Wolf Creek ski area at an elevation of 10,300 feet. “It’s in all of its glory. It’s beautiful.”

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Biden re-election poll shows dismal 22% support; Harris even worse at 12%

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Biden re-election poll shows dismal 22% support; Harris even worse at 12%

The numbers are cringeworthy — 22% and 12%.

That’s the support for President Biden and his VP Kamala Harris in an I&I/TIPP poll that asked who would you vote for in the 2024 election. Even if you doubt the veracity of all this polling, these are poor numbers.

The only good news for Biden, the survey adds, is “no favorite has emerged among the large field of potential challengers to run against Biden in the 2024 primaries.”

But the sinking survey results are not out of the norm. A Wall Street Journal poll out Tuesday pegged Biden’s approval rating at a dismal 41%. Rasmussen had it at 42%.

Congress, however, was at 22% in the Journal poll, but that’s another story.

“It’s undeniable. Joe Biden is hurting in the polls right now and it’s due to a number of factors,” said Erin O’Brien, associate professor of political science at UMass Boston.

Those factors, she said, include the nagging pandemic, soaring inflation, lingering doubts about Biden’s foreign policy chops after the botched pullout from Kabul and lingering legislation.

The Journal adds that with Biden flatlining in the polls, he won’t be in a position to help Democrats fighting to keep their jobs in the midterms.

This comes as Democrats hold a slim majority in the House, where the split is 221-213, and in the Senate, at 50-50, but with Harris as the tiebreaker.

Support for former President Donald Trump remains strong among those loyal to him, so that also could be reflected in the polling that shows Biden needs to rebound or it will be too late to get much done in the second half of his tenure.

Now Biden faces a new challenge.

He held a video conference Tuesday with Russia’s Vladimir Putin over Russian troops heading toward the Ukrainian border.

Just hours before the call got underway, the Associated Press reported that Ukrainian officials charged Russia was continuing to escalate the crisis by sending tanks and snipers to war-torn eastern Ukraine to “provoke return fire.”

Republicans are watching to see how Biden fares, considering how poorly his administration handled withdrawal from Afghanistan.

It’s all showing in the polls, with the Journal adding 63% of voters said the country had gone off-track, with just 27% saying the nation was on the right course. Some 61% said the economy was headed in the wrong direction.

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Cam Talbot shines as Wild top Oilers 4-1 for seventh straight win

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Cam Talbot shines as Wild top Oilers 4-1 for seventh straight win

EDMONTON — The last time Cam Talbot faced the Edmonton Oilers, he was throwing punches at center ice with Oilers goaltender Mike Smith in an infamous brawl in a Battle of Alberta between the Calgary Flames and Oilers, two seasons ago that made highlight reels all across North America.

On Tuesday night, Talbot made the highlight reel for all the reasons he’s paid for. Stopping pucks.

The former Oilers goaltender was spectacular, making 38 saves as the Wild beat Edmonton 4-1 at Rogers Place.

Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno, Victor Rask and Dmitry Kulikov tallied for the Wild, while Jesse Puljujarvi scored the lone marker for the Oilers as Minnesota extended its win-streak to seven games, while the Oilers have dropped three straight contests.

The Wild improve to 18-6-1 and remain in top spot in the Central division.

“I’ve been back in this building a couple of times, but never got the start,” Talbot said. “It’s nice, this place will always have a place in our heart, we started our family here and it was a great building to play in and I still have a lot of great friends here. It’s one of those things where you look to come back here every time and it’s even more fun when you get a big win.

“I can’t say enough about the way we closed out the game. You don’t want to have lulls in the game, but give the guys credit, they just found a way to battle and win the hockey game.”

The Wild’s special teams haven’t been great this season, but they clearly won the special teams battle against Edmonton, which boasts the league’s best power play and its penalty kill is in the top-5.

Minnesota scored once on the power play and denied the Oilers potent power play on all five of their opportunities.

“Our penalty kill was outstanding tonight, I can’t say enough about them,” said Talbot, who is 2-0 in three appearances since being dealt away from the Oilers two seasons ago. “We weren’t giving them those Grade A chances that they’re accustomed to, and with the statistics coming in you wouldn’t think the power-play match-up would favor us, but we got a big one (power play goal) early, and our penalty kill did a great job, so give our special teams a ton of credit tonight.”

The Oilers have been notoriously slow starters out of the gate, giving up the first goal in 14 of the team’s first 23 games, and the Wild made it 15 as Eriksson Ek scored a power-play marker just 1:11 into the contest.

They went up 2-0 just 6:03 later as Foligno buried a cross-ice feed from Matt Dumba.

Edmonton’s high-octane offence, led by superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl got rolling in the second period as they put all kinds of pressure on the Wild, who continue to play without top defenseman and captain Jared Spurgeon, but the Oilers were only able to cut their deficit in half, despite outshooting Minnesota 20-6 in the middle frame.

“They played really well in the second period, but we really liked our regroup and how we played in the third period. We did a lot of real, real good things,” said Wild coach Dean Evason. “They’re going to get shots and to not give that second and third gritty ones to them. Obviously Draisaitl and McDavid are special players. They’re going to get their opportunities to shoot pucks, but it’s that second and third one, that not only did Cam do a good job of smothering, but our second forward, we got pucks the heck out of that area, so they didn’t have more opportunities like that.”

Talbot made several big saves in the second period. He robbed Draisaitl with a left pad save as the former Hart Trophy winner tried to beat him with a one-timer, backdoor. In the final minute of the period, he stretched out to make a right pad save off of Tyson Barrie, who was wide open in the slot.

But his best save came early in the third when he dove across to deny Darnell Nurse of the tying goal.

“I knew that he was there, but obviously you have to stay patient with the guy in the slot first,” recalled Talbot. “But our guy did a good job of going down and taking away the lower part of the net, and I was able to see the pass right away and I knew Nurse was down there and I just tried to get everything in front of it.”

Moments after the big save off Nurse, the Wild scored on a delayed penalty as Victor Rask scored his fourth goal of the season to give Minnesota some breathing room and then Kulikov showed off some slick hands on a breakaway goal to give the Wild a 4-1 lead with 5:03 remaining to put the game away.

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Ellison: State, localities reach agreement on distributing $300M in opioid settlement

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Ellison: State, localities reach agreement on distributing $300M in opioid settlement

Minnesota moved another step closer this week to unlocking roughly $300 million from a settlement with Johnson & Johnson and the three major U.S. drug distributors in connection to the nation’s opioid painkiller addiction crisis.

Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Monday that the state had reached an agreement with Minnesota counties and cities on how to distribute the state’s share of a pending $26 billion national settlement agreement. The state and local governments had to reach an agreement by Jan. 2, 2022, in order to maximize the amount they receive from the national settlement.

Municipal governments will receive 75% of the settlement funds while the state will receive 25% to help pay for opioid addiction treatment and prevention. The most recent estimate from Ellison’s office projects Minnesota state and local governments will receive $296 million over the next 18 years.

The settlement agreement with Johnson & Johnson and the “big three” drug distributors — Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen — is just one of several fronts in ongoing nationwide litigation against drug makers, marketers and wholesalers in connection to an epidemic of opioid painkiller addiction across the U.S.

The settlement stems from investigations by state attorneys general from across the U.S. into whether the distributors failed to screen and stop suspicious drug orders, and whether Johnson & Johnson misled patients and doctors about the addictive nature of opioid painkillers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 38 people died a day in 2019 of prescription opioid overdoses, totaling about 14,000 deaths. Lawsuits filed against drug makers such as Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, estimate hundreds of thousands of Americans died of opioid painkiller overdoses between 1999 and 2015, while millions became addicted. About 5,500 Minnesotans died as a result of the addiction crisis, Ellison said.

In a statement issued with Ellison’s announcement, Pat Baustian, president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and mayor of Luverne, noted the addiction epidemic’s “devastating impact on families and communities throughout Greater Minnesota,” and expressed appreciation for the state’s efforts to cooperate with local governments on distributing the funds.

“Although no amount of money can make up for the loss of life, the funding from these national settlement agreements will help our communities provide services and resources to address this crisis,” Baustian said.

The state settlement fund will be overseen and distributed by the Opioid Epidemic Response Advisory Council, according to Ellison’s office. Under current state law, the state opioid abatement fund distributes to local governments, but the agreement between the state and local governments requires the parties to change the law in the 2022 legislative session, according to Ellison’s office.

The local government abatement fund created by the settlement money will be allocated to all counties that participated in the settlement. It will also include municipalities that have a population of 30,000 or more, have a public health department or filed a lawsuit against the defendants in the settlement.

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