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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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Infotainment retuned for ’22 Infiniti QX80 resurgence

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Infotainment retuned for ’22 Infiniti QX80 resurgence

A refined infotainment system and center stack are standard on the 2022 Infiniti QX80 and should serve as major assists toward a more well-rounded competitiveness in the full-size luxury SUV field for the Japanese product.

Power and plushness are a given for the QX80 and have been for some years. Up-front interior tech, though, with dual screens lagging in wireless compatibility fared poorly in comparative assessments.

For 2022, a new 12.3-inch touchscreen offers navigation, lane guidance, Infiniti InTouch Services, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto links, Intelligent Cruise Control and Bose premium sound system with 17 speakers.

The upgraded QX80 is available in three trim levels – Luxe, Premium Select and Sensory – as it goes against Lexus LX, Mercedes GLS and G-Class, Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Range Rover, BMW X7 and Audi Q7.

Interestingly, while I was driving the QX80 last week came an announcement from Yokohama, Japan, of the promotion by Infiniti of Wendy Orthman to general manager of global integrated brand, marketing and communications, a newly created position merging the responsibilities of chief marketing and chief communications officer. She was global head of communications for the brand.

Orthman previously served positions with Nissan and, earlier, as Midwest PR manager with Chrysler. While with Chrysler, Denver was a frequent stop for her, including bringing famed Dodge designer Ralph Gilles here in 2008 to show off a redesigned Ram with storage in its box’s side panels.

The new version of the QX80 continues to draw notice for its size – it’s big, 6 ½ feet tall and square-bodied with 5,815-pound curb weight, riding on Bridgestone Dueler P275/50R22 tires.

Performance comes smoothly from a 400-horsepower, 413 lb.-ft. torque, 5.6-liter V-8 engine with 7-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. A dial in the center console engages switching from Auto to 4Hi and 4Lo, with a separate button for snow mode, which lessens torque on takeoff. The shifter can be moved into manual mode and tapped for upshifts or downshifts.

The Infiniti is impressive in its maneuverability, belying its oversize. Its EPA fuel estimate continues relatively low, 13 to 19 miles per gallon. I averaged 16.4 mpg.

Inside, the front seating, with quilted inserts, is finished in saddle brown. The second-row buckets, with an abundance of legroom, will flip-fold forward for opening a path to the 3rd row, where footspace is very tight. By folding the far-back seats into the floor, cargo space grows from 16.6 cubic feet to a roomy 49.6. Twin 8-inch screens highlight a rear-seat entertainment system.

For $87,985, the Infiniti’s high-end Sensory trim level includes power moonroof, power-folding and heated outside mirrors, power rear liftgate, leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, wireless phone charging, power reclining third-row seats and safety advancements forward emergency braking, blind-spot intervention, lane-departure prevention and around-view monitor with moving-object detection.

The Infiniti brand was introduced in the United States in 1989 as Nissan’s luxury offering to compete with Toyota and Honda premium units Lexus and Acura, respectively. The QX80 is built in Kyushu, Japan.

Contact Bud Wells at
[email protected]

The news and editorial staffs of The Denver Post had no role in this post’s preparation.

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Homicide investigation underway after man stabbed to death in Westminster home Monday

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100-year-old Longmont man assaulted along Main Street has died

Jefferson County authorities are investigating a homicide after a man was found stabbed to death early Monday inside a Westminster home.

Sheriff’s deputies responded at 4 a.m. to the 10400 block of Ammons Street to reports of a break-in, and upon arrival found the unidentified man dead, the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

A witness who lives at the house told police that “the male had forced entry into the home and was stabbed by another female resident during a physical altercation between the male and the witness,” authorities said in the release.

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Lionel Messi and Alexia Putellas win Ballon d’Or awards

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Lionel Messi and Alexia Putellas win Ballon d’Or awards

PARIS — Lionel Messi won the men’s Ballon d’Or for a record-extending seventh time on Monday, ending the year in style after a brilliant final season with Barcelona and earning his first major international trophy with Argentina.

Alexia Putellas became the third winner of the women’s award for an outstanding season with Barcelona and Spain.

The 34-year-old Messi led Argentina to the Copa America title in July after losing in four major international finals.

“I’m very happy to be here, happy to keep fighting for new trophies,” he said through a translator. “I don’t know how many years I have left, but I hope many more. I’d like to thank all my (former) teammates at Barcelona and Argentina.”

Messi finished with 613 points to top prolific Bayern Munich and Poland striker Robert Lewandowski on 580.

“I would like to say to Robert that it’s an honor to be your rival, and everyone would say you deserved to win it last year,” Messi said.

Awarded by France Football magazine, the Ballon d’Or has been given out to men every year since 1956 when Stanley Matthews won.

Both 2020 awards were canceled because the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the season.

The 33-year-old Lewandowski set a new single-season scoring record for the Bundesliga with 41 goals — one more than late Germany great Gerd Müller — when he scored in the last minute of the last game.

Lewandowski netted in 19 consecutive games in all competitions for Bayern from February to September and he just missed out on equaling the record of scoring in 16 Bundesliga games in a row. Overall, he already has 25 goals in 20 games for Bayern this season.

His 11 goals in 12 games for Poland this year took his international tally to 74 in 128 games, just six less than Messi.

Chelsea and Italy midfielder Jorginho was third with 460 points after helping the London club win the Champions League and his nation win the European Championship. Real Madrid and France forward Karim Benzema was fourth on 239.

Putellas helped Barca win the treble and scored 26 goals in 42 games overall. The midfielder netted in the Champions League final against Chelsea, and in August she was named UEFA women’s player of the year.

“I’m very emotional, it’s a very special moment,” she said at the Paris ceremony through a translator. “I would like to start by thanking all my teammates, especially my current (Barcelona) teammates. For me it’s a collective success.”

The only previous women’s award winners are Norway striker Ada Hegerberg in 2018, and U.S. forward Megan Rapinoe in 2019.

Putellas tallied 186 points to finish far ahead of club and country teammate Jenni Hermoso on 84.

Hermoso netted 31 goals to top the Spanish first division scoring charts for a third straight season. Hermoso was joint-top scorer in the Champions League with Chelsea’s Fran Kirby on six goals.

Chelsea and Australia striker Sam Kerr placed third in the voting after 21 goals in the English Women’s Super League and six for Australia at the Tokyo Games. Kerr has maintained her excellent form with 13 goals in 12 games this season.

Messi, meanwhile, counts two more Ballon d’Or awards than longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who was sixth in the voting.

Messi’s staggering tally of 672 goals for Barcelona included an extraordinary 50-goal league season in 2012; 96 league goals across 2012 and 2013; eight Spanish league and six Champions League scoring titles.

In his final season with the Spanish giant he netted 38 overall, winning his last trophy with a superb performance in the Copa del Rey final. At the Copa America, Messi was inspirational, finishing joint-top scorer with four goals and leading with five assists.

Then he stunned the soccer world by joining Paris Saint-Germain.

He has made a modest start with four goals in nine games. But he remains a constant threat, even when he’s not in top form, as he showed on Sunday in a 3-1 win at Saint-Etienne where he set up all three goals.

In other awards, the Kopa Trophy for the best under 21 player went to 19-year-old Spain and Barcelona midfielder Pedri. He caught the eye at Euro 2020 and reached the Olympic final.

The Lev Yashin for best goalkeeper was won by Gianluigi Donnarumma, who helped Italy win the Euros.

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