Opinion Columns, Columnists

An Earthly Idea: More to GMOs than labeling

October 23, 2014 — 

Ballots have been mailed out. It’s time to switch from trying to block out all the negative political ads to actually thinking about voting. One state issue is much more important environmentally than it might seem at first glance.

Colorado Proposition 105 would require that food made with genetically modified organisms be so labeled. Contrary to agribusiness squawking, this is a simple requirement that shouldn’t be a big deal. It would be like stating that a food contains a common allergen like peanuts. Other than this reporting burden, most discussion has been on whether eating genetically modified food might be harmful, on which I won’t try to pass judgment. I do think, however, that how genetically modified crops affect agricultural practices deserves far more attention.

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Writers on the Range: Ten lessons from the American Robin

October 23, 2014 — 

For climate activists, this feels like the last moment. The huge marches in New York and other cities around the world were a reflection, among other things, of desperation. How loud must we scream before our so-called leaders will listen? How many hundreds of thousands must fill the streets before any of those leaders act?

In times like these, we need both the perspective and renewal of energy to be gained from nature’s teaching. Many famous fables feature the attributes of animals we may never see in person: the courage of the lion, the memory of the elephant, the teamwork of the wolf pack. But in truth, we need look no farther than our backyards to gain instruction from nature. Here are 10 valuable lessons I have learned from a species so familiar that we take it for granted: the American robin.

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Mountain Law: Restricting land use tricky in Colorado

October 21, 2014 — 

There aren’t a lot of good options for a local government wanting to preserve a certain type of land use, whether it be open space, agricultural land, historic buildings or the like. One option is simply for the government to buy the land, then restrict its use in whatever way it wants. But that takes a lot of taxpayer money that can be hard to come by.

Another option is for the government to pass regulations in furtherance of preservation goals (e.g., “downzone” the land). But, if the regulations are too weak they might not achieve the goals, and if the regulations are too severe it can lead to landowners claiming a “taking” and demanding just compensation. One possible solution is a transferable development rights (TDR) program as discussed in this article, but that approach is not without legal concerns.

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Bargell: Nebraska in the rearview mirror

October 21, 2014 — 

When our youngest completed a recent investigation of her family heritage we unearthed photos of distant, and sadly forever unnamed, relatives from the turn of the century. Stern faces staring back at the camera, unaware a Summit County middle-schooler would wonder just who they were, and how they contributed to who she is today. I’m pleased the school takes the time to connect kids to their distant heritage in humanities (for those unaware, a class formerly known as social studies). Through the years we’ve made countless Swedish rosette cookies, my husband’s contribution to the family mix, and I often speak wistfully about their grandpa who immigrated from Scotland to make a better living mining coal underground. I’d venture to guess he was not quite as nostalgic about the brutality of the mines that robbed him of two brothers at a young age, and one has to wonder how bad life was to make being underground 12 hours a day an improvement.

Our history bent continued on a recent trip through the Midwest. In search of “different” attractions on our visit, we noted signs for “Nebraska’s #1 Attraction” in various stages of dilapidation sprinkled alongside Interstate 80. The signs prompted my husband to reflect on the field trip he made to the attraction, Nebraska’s Pioneer Village, during his junior high years (now known as middle school). He seemed genuinely chagrined that he somehow missed seeing the world’s smallest violin on the trip. Recognizing our opportunity to remedy this childhood deprivation with a mere 13-mile detour we headed directly to Minden, Nebraska, population not quite 3,000.

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Liddick: Dough! Democrats’ deep pockets highlight hypocrisy

October 21, 2014 — 

Two weeks left. At which point we’ll discover if Colorado’s political future is for sale to the highest bidder. At present it looks as though it mostly won’t be: Democrats looked to be foiled in their attempt to buy the state delegation.

You read that right. For all the squealing from the Left about “money in politics,” they are the really big spenders in Colorado. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, as of Oct. 18 liberal and Democrat groups have outspent conservative and Republican in Colorado races by about 15 percent, $24 to $20 million. The race-buying champ is again California’s uber-left fat cat Tom Steyer, who has shoveled $5.7 million into Colorado, principally targeting the Senate race. Steyer has pledged to crush the Keystone pipeline, promising to reward its foes and punish its supporters — thereby enhancing his personal portfolio: he’s invested in a competitor and he wants your help to become even richer.

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Sirota: Fracking for the Cure?

October 20, 2014 — 

Helping find a cure for cancer or “pinkwashing” carcinogenic pollution?

That is the question being raised upon the news that one of the world’s largest fossil fuel services firms is partnering with the Susan G. Komen Foundation on a breast cancer awareness campaign, despite possible links between fracking and cancer.

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Littwin: Another easy question; another apparent whopper of a white lie

October 17, 2014 — 

The question in the 9News Senate debate was half-softball, half-gotcha and the answers, by themselves, meant little in the greater scheme of things.

Except for this:

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Brown: Is biomass all its cut up to be?

October 17, 2014 — 

One possible reason for sticking to the ill-advised Ophir Mountain and other clear-cutting plans is that the clear-cut trees would go to the biomass power plant in Gypsum. Biomass power is renewable energy. It wouldn’t justify destroying Summit County’s wonderful forests and trails, but biomass is green energy right? Maybe not.

Is biomass power a good renewable energy source that we should promote here in Colorado? To answer this, we need to back up and look at where biomass energy comes from. As with most of our energy sources, it starts with energy from the sun. In photosynthesis, plants use solar energy to convert water and carbon dioxide to carbohydrates. Energy is stored in the carbon-hydrogen bonds. (Geologic pressure over time strips the oxygen from plant material to create hydrocarbon fossil fuels.) When animals metabolize carbohydrates, or when plant or fossil fuel material combusts (burns), that energy is released as oxygen combined with the material, returning to the lower-energy carbon-oxygen and hydrogen-oxygen bonds of carbon dioxide and water.

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Liddick: Higher standards, not more funding, for Summit County schools

October 13, 2014 — 

Ah, election season — when school districts across Colorado whine about the need for more money, and lots of it. After all, “It’s for the children ...”

Sadly, the implicit promise is a fraud.

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Sirota: How Big Brother can watch you with metadata

October 13, 2014 — 

Why did Bradley Cooper and Jessica Alba fail to record a tip when they paid their cabbies during New York City taxi rides back in 2013? Why was Cooper near a Mediterranean restaurant in Greenwich Village? Why was Alba at a ritzy hotel in Soho?

We don’t know the answers, but we do know exactly when and where the movie stars were going, and we also know there’s no record of them forking over any gratuity. What’s worrisome, say privacy experts, is that we know all of this not from some special government sting operation but from publicly available data about millions of people’s movements throughout New York City.

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Hallett: Columbus Day revisited

October 13, 2014 — 

As Columbus Day approaches, its is interesting to think about what we learned in school about the holiday and how the perception has changed for me as time has passed. Growing up Portuguese on Cape Cod, sailing was a big deal and I remember the Nina, Pinta and the Santa Maria story, thinking how exciting it would be to set sail across the wide expanse of ocean in search of new territory as an explorer. There were also historical landmarks and names such as Waquoit, Wianno and Cotuit, that indicated we were not the first ones to settle in this beautiful place. For me there was a double mystery of Columbus and what he was really doing and how the Wampanoag Indians felt about new immigrants (pilgrims). According to Columbus’ journals, he mentions gold 180 times during the first voyage. He also states many Indians shared anything that was asked and remarked that they were naïve. According to the late historian Howard Zinn, the time of Columbus was a time of mass killings, an era marked by colonization and dispossession in native homelands conducted by the settlers. According to Martin Espada, as Columbus was governor of Espanola in 1495, he required indigenous people to bring him quotas of gold or have their hands cut off. A great feature film called “Even the Rain” does a good job of explaining Columbus’ actions while an undercurrent story unwinds itself. Why is it that we accept the teaching of history from diplomats and leaders but bury the atrocities?

Yes, there have been benefits to the development of foreign lands; much of our modern lifestyle is possible due to resources acquired in this story of domination, power, money and oppression. But, it seems clear that more harm than good has been done by looking at the devastation to the natural world and the lives of indigenous peoples. There are insidious impacts on this modern world as well. The excessive notion of a culture that “more is better” keeps us moving at unhealthy speeds to achieve success measured by money and power. People are obese, depressed, running on the hamster wheel, feeling unsatisfied at the end of the day. Just as the Earth is unable to sustain this trajectory, so too are we humans.

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Writers on the Range: Heard around the West

October 11, 2014 — 

BLACK ROCK CITY, NEVADA

Once again, Burning Man has come and gone: 70,000 people have converged on Black Rock City, which pops up every year in late August in the Nevada desert north of Reno and then more or less disappears in a cloud of dust. This year’s art theme was “Caravansary,” but the many villages and camps included old favorites, such as the air-conditioned “Orgy Dome” sponsored by a group called “And Then There’s Only LOVE.” The shenanigans — which take place throughout the week before Labor Day on a playa, or dry lake bed — traditionally climax with the burning of a giant man-shaped effigy.

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Life on the Summit: Hey, Spike! finds a cultural season kicking off

October 11, 2014 — 

Seasons on the Summit range from skiing, boarding, biking, golfing, boating, fishing, shoulder and mud — to opera?

Yep, opera.

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Dupuy: Where’s the storm we were promised?

October 10, 2014 — 

Remember? “There’s a storm gathering. The clouds are dark and the winds are strong and I am afraid.” This was the widely mocked anti-gay-marriage commercial the National Organization for Marriage put out in 2009. “But some who advocate same-sex marriage have not been content with same-sex couples living as they wish,” the spot continued. “Those advocates want to change the way I live. I will have no choice. The storm is coming. But we have hope, a rainbow coalition of people of every creed and color are coming together in love to protect marriage.”

That “rainbow coalition” has been hard at work trying to convince Americans that gay marriage is a threat. It will hurt children! That if we give same-sex partnerships legal recognition it will destroy opposite-sex partnerships. Then once straight marriage is obliterated, according to right-wing bloviaters, everyone will marry their cat/horse/dog/child, have sham gay weddings for benefits and people who publicly denounce sodomy will be prosecuted.

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Littwin: The Gardner and the woodshed

October 9, 2014 — 

A funny thing happened at the latest U.S. Senate debate. Cory Gardner got lectured. He got scolded. He got taken to the proverbial (whatever that actually means) woodshed.

And here’s the funny/strange part: It wasn’t Mark Udall who took him there. It was Denver Post politics editor and co-moderator Chuck Plunkett.

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Young: ‘Twould be lovely to whitewash history

October 9, 2014 — 

A controlling school-board clique seeks to sanitize the teaching of American history — scrub away unsightly blemishes like racial oppression and women’s liberation. Should be a piece of cake, right?

Sure, except that the students find out about it and voice their outrage loudly.

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Bargell: Traveling alone but not lonely

October 8, 2014 — 

The chance to travel alone, with its attendant solitude, is something that I didn’t really want to admit to my family I was looking forward to as an uncommon luxury. Opportunities for silence are appreciated, and I welcomed a convergence of events allowing me to make a brief trip out of state to revisit the grandeur of Utah. The vistas that expose views that go on for miles are a perfect accompaniment for solitude, and the perspective that comes from being surrounded by such perspectives.

My expectation to take it all in with vigor was short-changed one afternoon when I felt out of sorts, and I hurried to the room I’d booked in a quaint bed and breakfast, if only to get off my feet. Upon arrival, I happened upon a few other couples staying in the same spot, who from the moment they saw my ashen face were both compassionate and welcoming. They were a group drawn together by a nearby Shakespeare festival, quite famous I later learned, but one that I was not familiar with.

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Littwin: And then the justices did nothing, which meant everything

October 8, 2014 — 

I think the first time I wrote that it was definitely all over on gay marriage was the day that Antonin Scalia wrote grudgingly, and as a warning, that it would soon be all over on gay marriage.

Or it might have been the night Frank McNulty blocked civil unions at the state legislature, when I said something like he was standing in the way of — and would soon be run over by — that old history train.

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Mountain Law: What Colorado law says about disposing of the marital home in divorce

October 7, 2014 — 

Many divorce cases involve the question of what to do with the marital home. This issue has emotional as well as economic significance. It can be useful to consider the issue in three parts: 1) short-term plan; 2) long-term plan; and (3) equity and debt plan.

Each of these parts is discussed below.

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Liddick: ‘Their mouths are moving’ isn’t just a political punchline

October 7, 2014 — 

“I have nothing to offer but blood, tears, toil and sweat.”

Winston Churchill’s first speech to Commons as Prime Minister, May 13, 1940.

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Tyree: Pet hospices teach old owners new tricks

October 6, 2014 — 

For those arriving late: I love to sink my teeth into the newest silly fad and satirize it until it resembles something the cat dragged in.

That will NOT be happening this week.

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Sirota: Why economic inequality is not a bigger political issue

October 5, 2014 — 

If critics of income inequality are wondering why the growing gap between rich and poor hasn’t been a more potent political issue in the upcoming elections, a new study offers some answers: Americans grossly underestimate this inequality. That’s one of the key findings of a survey showing the gap between CEO and average worker pay in America is more than 10 times larger than the typical American perceives.

In the report, Harvard University and Chulalongkorn University researchers analyzed survey data from 40 countries about perceptions of pay gaps between rich and poor. In every country, respondents underestimated the size of the gap between CEO and average worker pay. In the United States, for example, the researchers found the median American respondent estimated that the ratio of CEO to worker income is about 30-to-1. In reality, the gap is more than 350-to-1.

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Best: We need a locagua movement

October 4, 2014 — 

Whole Foods Market earlier this year opened a store in the Colorado mountain town of Frisco. Located at 9,097 feet, it can boast it’s the chain’s highest-elevation outlet.

Like each of the 393 other Whole Foods markets, the Frisco store goes out of its way to emphasize local connections. In a nod to Frisco’s four ski resorts, brightly decorated skis and snowboards direct customers to check-out lines, while local trees killed by mountain pine beetles have been fashioned into blue-stained wooden tables.

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Durst: Rocktober

October 4, 2014 — 

Welcome to Rocktober, Baby. That’s what all the rock and roll radio stations call this, the 10th month of the year. Doesn’t require more than a casually cocked ear to realize the airwaves are flooded with concerts and giveaways and promotional tie-ins. All in the name of Rocktober, Baby.

This amiable etymological contraction of Rock and October is just another example of how impatient our society has become. No one has the time to say ... Rocking October. We’re busy people, here. It’s Rocktober, Baby. And the “Baby” is permanently attached like a vestigial accentuater.

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Life on the Summit: Hey, Spike! sees art lovers and entrepreneurs

October 3, 2014 — 

Two imaginative synergistic efforts came to be with openings of the public Breckenridge Arts District and Frisco’s private Elevate CoSpace.

First off, Spike! attended the Arts District preview event, with its “BreckCreate” tag, which went over extremely well.

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Littwin: Ladies and gentleman, Not-Wingnut Bob for governor

October 3, 2014 — 

Bob Beauprez is not Tom Tancredo. That’s the whole reason Republicans nominated him to run for governor. That’s the reason he was recruited. The plan was that enough voters would overlook the fact that he had lost by 17 points the last time he ran for governor because, at minimum, they figured he wouldn’t be a Tancredo-like distraction. And it worked. He won the primary.

But what is not quite so obvious is that the Republican leaders who picked Beauprez also had to hope that he wouldn’t be, well, a Beauprez-like distraction. That’s the irony here. Beauprez is no Tancredo. But for a seemingly mainstream banker/rancher/farmer/wrong-side-of-the-horse whisperer, he’s remarkably close.

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Ask Eartha: Manufactured compostables no longer accepted at compost facility

October 3, 2014 — 

Dear Eartha,

I’m a restaurant owner and I’ve recently been informed that manufactured compostables will no longer be taken at the compost facility come Jan. 1. For the past year I’ve been purchasing expensive compostable to-go containers and because of this recent change, I’m making a switch to something less expensive. Does it really matter whether I buy Styrofoam or paper since neither one can be composted or recycled at the county landfill? — Anonymous recycler

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Writers on the Range: Trail dogs do the grunt work on our public lands

October 2, 2014 — 

Trail dogs — that’s what trail workers across the country call themselves. It tells you what life is like for the thousands of young men and women who spend their summers tending to the travel corridors on our country’s public lands.

Trail dogs really do work like dogs, cutting back brush, sawing through trees and rebuilding rough paths in heat, sleet and thunderstorms. They wolf down dinner after a day spent building bridges, managing pack mules or removing invasive weeds from some high-mountain meadow. Like a canine pack, a crew bonds together, building camaraderie and mutual trust.

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Writers on the Range: Trail dogs do the grunt work on our public lands

October 2, 2014 — 

Trail dogs — that’s what trail workers across the country call themselves. It tells you what life is like for the thousands of young men and women who spend their summers tending to the travel corridors on our country’s public lands.

Trail dogs really do work like dogs, cutting back brush, sawing through trees and rebuilding rough paths in heat, sleet and thunderstorms. They wolf down dinner after a day spent building bridges, managing pack mules or removing invasive weeds from some high-mountain meadow. Like a canine pack, a crew bonds together, building camaraderie and mutual trust.

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Young: Eric Holder’s heroic tenure

October 1, 2014 — 

In respect of civil rights,” wrote Justice John Harlan, “all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful.”

Well, at least that’s so on paper.

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