Opinion Columns, Columnists

Pheil: A pricey culinary delight and other Web links

December 21, 2014 — 

Howdy everyone. I’ve got a fun grab-bag of various links from around the Web for you this week — hopefully I’ve included something for nearly everyone. Enjoy.

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Sirota: The treasury secretary’s misperceptions about wealth

December 21, 2014 — 

By Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s reckoning, being a millionaire does not constitute living high above the ranks of ordinary people. Lew said last week that back when he was in the private sector enjoying six- and seven-figure pay packages, “My own compensation was never in the stratosphere.”

Lew made that pronouncement as he sought to defend President Barack Obama’s embattled Treasury undersecretary nominee Antonio Weiss from charges that as a financial executive, he is out of touch with the interests of regular people. Lew was seeking to cast his own lot with the ranks of ordinary Americans at a time of growing economic inequality.

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Purcell: Praying for a white Christmas

December 21, 2014 — 

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Tom Purcell’s memoir, “Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood.”

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Petri Dish: Research community stepping up efforts to learn about Ebola virus

December 21, 2014 — 

In addition to serving as chief scientific officer for Keystone Symposia, I am also the editor-in-chief of the international journal Viral Immunology that is published 10 times a year by Mary Ann Liebert publishers. The journal publishes current, cutting-edge studies from research scientists all over the world. In addition, the journal occasionally publishes special issues focusing on a specific topic. In this regard, last February I commissioned two prominent scientists to guest-edit an issue on a class of viruses called Filoviruses, the most familiar of which is Ebola. Eerily, just a month later, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa became international news. The focus of the special issue was subsequently changed to address Ebola virus disease exclusively.

Today, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has resulted in more than 13,000 cases and approximately 5,000 deaths. While the disease epicenter has been Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, there have been other travel-related cases in Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Spain and the United States. The challenge of dealing with an Ebola outbreak in poor countries with minimal health services has proven to be especially great. Success is hampered by the fact that there are no approved vaccines or treatments for Ebola. The urgency of the situation in Africa has driven the research community to significantly increase its efforts to understand this deadly disease and to accelerate the development of anti-Ebola drugs and vaccines.

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Biff America: The lonely lights of Christmas

December 20, 2014 — 

Mike’s empty home mocked him as he sat in his cold car. The Christmas decorations, hung by his daughter, despite his protest, sparkled in the wet Massachusetts winter. They brought him no joy — his wife was not waiting inside.

When they were newlyweds, Pat would call him on the phone at work and ask for “my hero.” He truly was a hero to her. When Pat was 16, Mike took her from an abusive home, got her a waitressing job and a room at women’s boardinghouse. Four years later they married. They raised six children, in a crowded house with loud plumbing. There were some bad years, but even during the worst of times they would have gladly died for each other.

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Littwin: The great pot shot

December 19, 2014 — 

Now we know what they do on a slow day (in other words, every day but ’Husker game day) in Nebraska. They take their neighbors to court.

And so, we now have the Great Pot Shot, in which Nebraska and Oklahoma are suing Colorado for not just legalizing weed, but for — yes — dealing it. Unless you buy the slow-day angle, you’re probably as confused as I am. In this world, pot’s the gateway drug and Colorado has become the Gateway State.

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Hey, Spike! encourages you to Summit in style

December 19, 2014 — 

We guarantee the best powder in the state!”

That’s quite a boastful statement, but if you’re able to deliver, it’s fact.

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Littwin: We’re having the race conversation

December 17, 2014 — 

If you believe the polls, or watch cable TV news, you may be halfway convinced that race relations in America have somehow grown worse during the tenure of the first black president.

But if that seems counterintuitive, that’s because, well, it is. It’s counterintuitive and it’s wrong.

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Mountain Law: Explaining the laws on embezzlement in Colorado

December 17, 2014 — 

In the classic 1951 screen adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” a business owner named Mr. Jorkin must admit to his board of directors that the company is insolvent following years of embezzling. Mr. Scrooge seizes advantage of the crisis to gain control of the company, just one in a series of questionable dealings that cause him to later be haunted by Christmas ghosts.

Like Mr. Jorkin, there have sadly been several locals recently accused of embezzlement. There’s (allegedly) the property manager who “borrowed” funds from a homeowners association, the director of an association of Realtors who forged checks to herself and a public clerk who took money from tax accounts. Let’s use this opportunity to talk about the law of embezzlement in Colorado before reminding ourselves the lesson of Mr. Scrooge.

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Liddick: ‘Welcome to the Wonderland that is Liberal gender politics’

December 15, 2014 — 

Reade Seligmann. Collin Finnerty. David Evans. For those who need reminding about injustice involving white men, in March of 2006, these three members of the Duke University Lacrosse team were accused of rape by Crystal Gail Magnum, a Duke student and sometimes exotic dancer and escort. Their lives, and that of their coach Mike Pressler, were shredded by university administrators, a prosecutor hell-bent on conviction and a media foaming at the mouth to see the three teammates drawn and quartered publicly.

But Ms. Magnum’s account was a complete fabrication. There were early hints, but prosecutor Mike Nifong disregarded them, and more. He did not reveal contradictory or exculpatory evidence, doggedly pursuing the young men; his chief investigator, who had a history of confrontations with Duke students, did worse.

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Sirota: Are charter schools segregating America’s education system?

December 14, 2014 — 

Charter schools are often promoted as a tool to address educational inequities, but a potential precedent-setting legal case launched earlier this month says the opposite. In filings with the U.S. Department of Education, two Delaware nonprofit groups allege that some of the state’s publicly funded, privately managed schools are actively resegregating the education system — and in a way that violates federal civil rights law.

The complaint, by the Delaware branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Community Legal Aid Society, cites data showing that more than three-quarters of Delaware’s charter schools are “racially identifiable” — a term that describes schools whose demographics are substantially different from the surrounding community.

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VanDevelder: Underground storage can help stanch invisible drought

December 14, 2014 — 

When spring floods devastated river towns and farmlands along the Missouri River in 1927, Congress ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prepare a comprehensive hydrological report on the million-square-mile Missouri River Basin. The Corps’ engineers spent the next five years preparing a bells-and-whistles study, from Fort Peck, Montana, to St. Charles, Missouri. It’s a thing of beauty, this opus, with foldout maps drawn from geologic surveys of every bend, island and sandbar in the river.

Privately, the agency viewed this enterprise as an opportunity to slam the door on all those hair-brained irrigation and flood-control schemes forever being promoted by dry-land farmers and politicians. The Corps had learned its lessons on that “mad elephant of a river” the hard way: rescuing stranded paddle wheelers year after year. By 1927, it had other rivers to tame — let the Big Muddy run wild.

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Biff America: Date night on The Love Boat

December 13, 2014 — 

You totally creeped out that little girl.”

Of course, I thought my mate was off base with her assessment. I consider myself one of the least creepy people I know. I don’t hug, flirt or stare, and I no longer wear welding goggles and a kilt in the sauna.

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Littwin: Watching Udall stride across the White House lawn

December 12, 2014 — 

Mark Udall was on the Senate floor, probably for the last time, and giving ’em hell. He gave Barack Obama hell. He gave the CIA hell. He gave John Brennan, whom he called on to resign, even more than that.

It wasn’t just political theater, although it was dramatic. Udall was angry. He had finally helped get the mostly unredacted executive summary of the Senate torture report to light — and, well, nothing.

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Fitzwilliams: White River National Forest faces difficult choices

December 12, 2014 — 

By now, most folks in and around Breckenridge have noticed the tree cutting and slash-pile burning along Highway 9, near the Tiger Run RV park, out Tiger Run Road. Over the past several months, I have heard from many local residents; some are angry over the work we have done, others are happy with it.

I expected as much and I completely understand the responses. I admit the clear-cuts are ugly and the smoke from pile burning is an annoyance. But let me assure you that we are doing this with the community as our No. 1 consideration.

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Life on the Summit: Hey, Spike! finds busy people all over the place

December 12, 2014 — 

Some people really relish having a full plate — welcome to Kelly Keefer’s busy life.

As the Copper Mountain Resort corporate team’s senior vice president of finance, Kelly always has a large combination dish in front of her.

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Wockner: Is Las Vegas betting the Colorado River will go dry?

December 12, 2014 — 

Las Vegas is a city that plays the odds, and if you want to know which odds to play, you need to follow the smart money. Unfortunately, that money seems to be moving toward building yet more dams that will drain yet more water out of an already oversubscribed Colorado River.

Unlike most cities in the Southwest U.S., Las Vegas depends completely on the Colorado River. If the river goes dry, Vegas goes dry, and so how the river is managed by the states upstream from Vegas will partly define the city’s fate. The Colorado River already has more water taken out of it than flows into it, and Lake Mead — from which Vegas gets its Colorado River water — is less than half full and dropping farther every year.

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Ask Eartha: How to recycle glass in Summit County

December 12, 2014 — 

Dear Eartha,

I have been getting notices from my waste hauler that they are no longer accepting glass in my curbside collection. How can I recycle the copious amount of beer bottles that my roommates and I have? Help.

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Littwin on the CIA’s horrible, ineffective, criminal torture and lies

December 11, 2014 — 

Mark Udall promised that people would be “disgusted,” “appalled” and “shocked” by the CIA torture report that he had pushed so hard to have released.

He could have added “ashamed” and disturbed” and “revolted.”

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Young: A nation of generalizations

December 10, 2014 — 

Police did not kill Michael Brown. One policeman did.

Black people did not burn down buildings in Ferguson, Missouri. A few idiots did.

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Liddick: Harsher penalities needed for repeat DUI offenders

December 9, 2014 — 

On the evening of Sept. 28, David Bunn careened his truck through an intersection into a red Mustang, killing 17-year-old Lyneah Dyke and seriously injuring two others. He was drunk. So were 132 others involved in fatal car crashes in Colorado during the past year.

An additional 25,000 drunk drivers were arrested, fortunately before killing anyone. According to Colorado State Patrol records, one in three of those arrested had been so before, the majority on multiple occasions. Twenty-five percent of Colorado drivers charged with drunk driving in the last year never had a license or were arrested while their license was under suspension or revoked. Over 20 percent of unlicensed drivers were denied driving privileges due to earlier drunk driving convictions. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a problem.

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Bargell: Chris Rock monologue puts the ‘Jesus’ Birthday’ season in perspective

December 9, 2014 — 

Well before Black Friday and any holiday door-busters that resulted in mass mayhem, Chris Rock delivered a Christmas monologue on Saturday Night Live that hit home. Rock laid into Christmas commercialization, asking how we, as Americans, could have turned Jesus’ birthday into the most commercialized time of the year. As far as Rock knew (and he did not claim to be an expert) Jesus was about the “least materialistic person to ever roam the earth.” But here in America we have the “Jesus Birthday” season, where the emphasis often is on how much we can buy in a single month, or two. Rock pointed out we even have economists who talk about whether this Jesus Birthday season lived up to spending expectations compared to prior Jesus Birthday seasons. I laughed at Rock’s rhetoric, agreeing with some chagrin that Christmas all too often becomes a stress bucket of where and how to buy the presents to stuff under the tree.

I then caught a news brief about a couple who canceled Christmas for their three young boys. The parents were fed up with everything the kids wanted, mostly because the kids did not seem to appreciate all they had. Not an unfamiliar lament in our household this time of year. The family interview about the decision made national news, featuring three contrite kids who seemed genuinely understanding of their parents’ decision. The boys were determined to move from the naughty to the nice list when Jesus’ birthday rolled around next year. Comments on the parents’ decision ranged from calling them visionaries to heartless Grinches, sure to scar their kids for life.

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Sirota: A multi-billion dollar secret

December 7, 2014 — 

If you are a public school teacher in Kentucky, the state has a message for you: You have no right to know the details of the investments being made with your retirement savings. That was the crux of the declaration issued by state officials to a high school history teacher when he asked to see the terms of the agreements between the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System and the Wall Street firms that are managing the system’s money on behalf of him, his colleagues and thousands of retirees.

The denial was the latest case of public officials blocking the release of information about how billions of dollars of public employees’ retirement nest eggs are being invested. Though some of the fine print of the investments has occasionally leaked, the agreements are tightly held in most states and cities. Critics say such secrecy prevents lawmakers and the public from evaluating the propriety of the increasing fees being paid to private financial firms for pension management services.

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A Google Chrome quick tip

December 7, 2014 — 

Today’s quick tip is for those who often find themselves using Chrome and re-opening the same tabs nearly every time they browse the Web.

I’m one of these people. No matter what I’m doing, searching for, or looking at online, I almost always have the same three additional tabs open: Google Calendar, Toodledo (my online to-do list management website), and my email program.

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Biff America: Wisdom on a bar napkin

December 6, 2014 — 

“Who steals my purse steals trash.”

—William Shakespeare

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Writers on the Range: Little sympathy for the deerly departed

December 6, 2014 — 

It’s 5:30, dusk scudding into darkness. A fawn stands on the centerline of Highway 20, gazing with vacant curiosity into my Pathfinder’s grille as the truck’s brake pads challenge the laws of physics having to do with objects at rest and in motion. A car is barreling down at us from the other direction. The shoulder drops off abruptly into rollover land, so swerving is out of the question. That’s how people get killed or maimed around here, careening into ghastly wreckage while the deer blithely prances away.

So we are locked in a fractional moment of inevitability, random creatures on a cosmic collision course. But that’s not the deer I hit.

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Hey, Spike! writes of knees, trains, bottles

December 5, 2014 — 

Hey, Spike!’s social business column items come from all over the place. This week’s demonstrates exactly that.

Spike! heard again from long-ago Summit Sentinel editor Brad Johnson, back home in Watertown, South Dakota, where he’s a civic leader and appraiser. Both the Sentinel and Brad left the scene back about 1990.

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An Earthly Idea: All I want for Christmas is electric AWD

December 5, 2014 — 

Dear Subaru Santa,

I would really love an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle with four-wheel drive and reasonably high clearance. I strongly believe that conversion from “infernal-combustion” to electric cars would be one of the best things possible for the U.S. environment and economy and even for world peace. The low clearance and two-wheel drive of current electric cars, however, are a problem where I live. My mountain resort community sees frequent heavy snow in the winter. Many of us also routinely drive up dirt roads to trailheads.

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Johnson: Ski trip travels down memory lane

December 5, 2014 — 

It was a trip down memory lane over Thanksgiving weekend as our family converged on the Breckenridge Ski Resort in Summit County, where I landed my first professional newspaper job back in 1981.

It has been about six years since my last visit and probably a decade since I have skied in the Colorado High Country.

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Stanford: Congress predictably on the side of dirty air

December 3, 2014 — 

Unlike Barack Obama, I am not a father to teenage girls, but it must be something like being president with this obstructionist Congress. No good deed for Obama goes unpunished by Republicans in Washington, and the recent climate agreement with China is a good example.

America showing world leadership? Finding progress where once there were only problems? Reaching the most important international climate deal in the history of the world. I can’t even, mutters Congress, its eyes fixed on the glowing screen, thumbs furiously typing up articles of impeachment or begging for a booking on Fox News. That is literally the greatest thing, said no one ever. Sorry not sorry.

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