Trump re-election campaign working with ex-Cambridge Analytica staffers – The Denver Post

WASHINGTON — A company run by former officials at Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm brought down by a scandal over how it obtained Facebook users’ private data, has quietly been working for President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election effort, The Associated Press has learned.

The AP confirmed that at least four former Cambridge Analytica employees are affiliated with Data Propria, a new company specializing in voter and consumer targeting work similar to Cambridge Analytica’s efforts before its collapse. The company’s former head of product, Matt Oczkowski, leads the new firm, which also includes Cambridge Analytica’s former chief data scientist.

Oczkowski denied a link to the Trump campaign, but acknowledged that his new firm has agreed to do 2018 campaign work for the Republican National Committee. Oczkowski led the Cambridge Analytica data team which worked on Trump’s successful 2016 campaign.

The AP learned of Data Propria’s role in Trump’s re-election effort as a result of conversations held with political contacts and prospective clients in recent weeks by Oczkowski. In one such conversation, which took place in a public place and was overheard by two AP reporters, Oczkowski said he and Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, were “doing the president’s work for 2020.”

In addition, a person familiar with Data Propria’s Washington efforts, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect business relationships, confirmed to the AP that Trump-related 2020 work already had begun at the firm along the lines of Cambridge Analytica’s 2016 work.

Both Oczkowski and Parscale told the AP that no Trump re-election work by Data Propria was even planned, but confirmed that Parscale had helped Data Propria line up a successful bid on 2018 midterm polling-related work for the RNC, awarded earlier this week. Oczkowski called the contract modest.

Oczkowski had previously told the AP the firm had no intention of seeking political clients. After being informed the AP had overheard him directly discussing campaign work, he said his young company had changed course and that whatever he’d said about the 2020 campaign would have been speculative.

“I’m obviously open to any work that would become available,” Oczkowski said, noting that he and Parscale had worked together closely during Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Parscale told the AP that he has not even begun awarding contracts for the 2020 campaign, which he was appointed to manage in March.

“I am laser-focused on the 2018 midterms and holding the House and increasing our seats in the Senate,” he said. “Once we do those things, I’ll start working on re-electing President Trump.”

London-based Cambridge Analytica was accused of playing a key role in the 2014 breach of 87 million Facebook users’ personal data. The company said it did not use the information for Trump’s 2016 campaign, but some former employees have disputed that. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that it was “entirely possible” the social media data ended up being used in Russian propaganda efforts.

In May, Cambridge Analytica filed for bankruptcy and said it was “ceasing all operations.” A British investigation of Cambridge Analytica and its parent company will continue despite the shutdown, the U.K.s Information Commissioner’s office said last month.

The description of Data Propria’s efforts overheard by the AP reporters tracks closely with the services Cambridge Analytica provided to both commercial clients and Trump’s 2016 campaign, including profiling voters based on data about them in a process known as “psychography.” The technique classifies people according to their attitudes, aspirations and other psychological criteria to tailor advertisements or marketing strategies.

Oczkowski told the AP that three of the people on Data Propria’s 10-person team are Cambridge Analytica alumni, but said they were focused on campaign operations and data analysis — not behavioral psychology.

Data Propria is “not going down the psychometrics side of things,” he said.

Among the former Cambridge Analytica employees is David Wilkinson, a British citizen who was the company’s lead data scientist. During the 2016 campaign, Wilkinson helped oversee the voter data modeling that informed Trump’s focus on the Rust Belt, according to a Cambridge Analytica press release issued after the election.

Federal election law bars foreign nationals from “directing, controlling or directly or indirectly participating in the decision-making process” of U.S. campaigns. The public advocacy group Common Cause filed a complaint with the FEC in March alleging that Cambridge Analytica’s foreign employees broke that law, though the complaint did not name Wilkinson.

Oczkowski told the AP that the London-based Wilkinson is a contractor and will not be involved in Data Propria’s U.S. political work.

Another issue raised by Data Propria’s work on Trump’s re-election effort is the firm’s financial links to Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager.

Parscale is a part owner of Data Propria’s parent company, a publicly traded firm called Cloud Commerce that bought his digital marketing business in August. Over the last year, Cloud Commerce has largely rebuilt itself around Parscale’s former company, now rebranded Parscale Digital. Parscale sits on Cloud Commerce’s board of directors and provides the company with the majority of its $2.9 million in revenue, according to the company’s most recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

By working with a Cloud Commerce subsidiary, the Trump campaign could be helping Parscale profit beyond his $15,000 monthly campaign retainer and the commissions he has been collecting on Trump’s digital advertising spending.

While Parscale’s personal business still works for the campaign, it’s unclear how that work may be changing now that he has become Trump’s official campaign manager.

Under one contract between Parscale and Cloud Commerce, he receives a 5 percent cut of every dollar collected by Parscale Digital — which is largely composed of the web marketing business Parscale sold to Cloud Commerce last year. In SEC filings, Cloud Commerce has estimated that Parscale’s cut of those revenues, excluding pass through payments, would total between $850,000 and $1.3 million. Parscale Digital would not be directly receiving funds from the RNC or the campaign.

Even though Parscale is not directly receiving money from Data Propria work, the firms provide each other with business and Data Propria’s success would help Cloud Commerce pay off the money it owns Parscale.

A second agreement obligates Cloud Commerce to pay Parscale $85,150 a month as part of its separate $1 million purchase of his former web-hosting business. Parscale earns another $3,000 per month from leasing computers and office furniture to Cloud Commerce.

Trevor Potter, a Republican who once headed the Federal Election Commission and now leads the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, said it was unusual for an incumbent president’s campaign to direct large amounts of business to outside firms tied to his campaign manager.

Such arrangements are more common for long-shot candidates in need of expertise, he said.

“Top-notch candidates have bargaining power and are less likely to put up with that,” Potter said. “It sounds like a very rich opportunity for Mr. Parscale, but that’s really the candidate’s call.”

Aside from the ties to Parscale, Cloud Commerce’s parent company is an unusual candidate for blue chip political work. Founded in 1999, the firm has repeatedly changed its name and business model, and the company’s most recent audit “expressed substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern” without continuing infusions of cash.

An AP investigation of Cloud Commerce in March found that a former CEO of its predecessor firm pleaded guilty to stock fraud in 2008 and remained active in Cloud Commerce’s affairs until at least 2015. Cloud Commerce says the man has had no connection with its business since at least 2011.

The AP also found discrepancies in the professional biography of current Cloud Commerce chief executive Andrew Van Noy, who has told investors that he worked for Morgan Stanley and was a private equity executive in the years immediately preceding his arrival at Cloud Commerce in 2011.

Van Noy’s August 2010 Utah bankruptcy filing conflicts with that portrayal, showing he spent most of the prior two and a half years unemployed. The filings also reveal that Van Noy had been accused of selling unlicensed securities and using $100,000 of an investor’s money for personal purposes.

“Luckily I have not had to go to the homeless shelter,” Van Noy wrote to that investor in 2011 after the man asked what had happened to his investment. After the man sued for fraud, Van Noy agreed to pay him $105,000.

A year later, he became president of Cloud Commerce.

Associated Press writers Michael Biesecker, Juliet Linderman and Steve Peoples contributed to this reporting.

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416 fire grows to 32,959 acres, containment rises to 18 percent – The Denver Post

An ever-growing number of firefighters are battling the 416 fire north of Durango as it continues to scorch its way through the San Juan National Forest, authorities say.

The battalion-strength crew has now grown to 1,137 firefighters.

The wildfire has burned 32,959 acres about 13 miles north of Durango. The fire is now 18 percent contained, according to the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.

A red flag warning will be in place between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Friday because of the increased fire risk due to expected dry lightning and 40 mph winds, a news release says.

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Denver Broncos’ offseason program: 5 things we learned

Broncos coach Vance Joseph had a six-goal checklist for the final portion of the offseason program Thursday.

“Just continue to establish our play style, to build our library (of plays) for the fall and a couple more that I won’t share,” he said.

Joseph said the Broncos “absolutely” accomplished goals 1-5. The final goal was to stay healthy. The Broncos lost linebacker Deiontrez Mount for the season (torn Achilles) and linebacker Shane Ray (wrist surgery) is out for several months.

Aside from Ray’s injury, it was a relatively tranquil five weeks of full-squad on-field work for the Broncos.

So what happened? Here are five post-offseason program takeaways:

Denver Broncos quarterback Case Keenum (4) ...

Joe Amon, The Denver Post

Denver Broncos quarterback Case Keenum (4) heads the team downfield on the first day of Broncos OTA’s at the UCHealth Training Center in Englewood. May 22, 2018 Englewood.

1. Case Keenum has command of the offense and the huddle.

Impressive during the six practices open to the media was how few operational errors the first-team offense experienced under Keenum’s direction.

Yes, Keenum is 30 and has been in the league since 2012, but occasional hiccups such as false start/delay of game penalties, players lined up in the wrong spot and fumbled snaps are semi-expected when a new offense with a new quarterback is being introduced. But not with the Broncos. Keenum looked comfortable running the plays and has the respect of the locker room.

“It’s (a) priceless experience running so many different plays (against) so many different looks against a defense that’s really, really good,” Keenum said.

Said offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave: “I think the guys have very much rallied around (Keenum), both on offense and on defense, just because he’s the same guy every day.”

Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton ...

David Zalubowski, The Associated Press

Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton takes part in a drill during an NFL football minicamp session Tuesday, May 22, 2018, at the team’s headquarters in Englewood, Colo.

2. The rookie receivers are for real.

Yes, we’ll jump to a conclusion: Receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton were steals in the second and fourth rounds, and it will be surprising if they aren’t a big part of the passing game.

Sutton averaged one highlight catch per day during the open practices. He showed good body control and sideline awareness and should be a red-zone target right away. And Hamilton flashed on shallow crossing routes.

An aside: Let’s also include tight end Jake Butt, who is basically a rookie after spending 2017 on injured reserve. There were times the Broncos’ linebackers had no answer for him.

Because of the unsettled running back situation, the passing game should be viewed as the strength of the offense.

Denver Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb, left, ...

David Zalubowski, The Associated Press

Denver Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb, left, talks with linebacker Von Miller as they take part in drills during practice at the NFL football team’s training camp Tuesday, May 29, 2018, in Englewood, Colo.

3. The pass rush should be elite.

If they can stop the run and get into pass-rushing situations, the Broncos can send waves of players onto the field.

Von Miller, Shaquil Barrett, maybe even undrafted rookie Jeff Holland and, when he’s healthy, Ray coming around the corner.

Bradley Chubb, DeMarcus Walker and Adam Gotsis creating pressure from the defensive line.

The Broncos had 33 sacks last year (22nd in the NFL). Not substantially exceeding that total is inexcusable.

Ron Leary

David Zalubowski, The Associated Press

Broncos guard Ron Leary.

4. They’re not concerned about offensive line injuries … but should be.

Reacting to a dormant run game (eight touchdowns, tied for 25th in the league) and leaky pass protection (52 sacks allowed, tied for third third-most), the Broncos tweaked their offensive line during the offseason. They acquired right tackle Jared Veldheer from Arizona and moved Ron Leary back to his natural left guard position.

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Man arrested on suspicion of murder in quadruple Westminster shooting that killed boy – The Denver Post

A 23-year-old man arrested after a shooting that killed a boy and wounded three others in a Westminster shopping center parking is being held without bond.

The man was officially booked into the Adams County Jail at 1:39 a.m., more than 10 hours after the shooting that killed the boy, critically wounded his mother and brother and injured a bystander.

Westminster detectives interviewed the man for several hours after he was arrested without incident on Interstate 25 in Castle Rock.

Jeremy John Webster has been arrested for investigation of first-degree murder, first-degree murder extreme indifference and three counts of first-degree assault, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation records.

Westminster police have not said what they believe led to the shooting.

Cheri Spottke, Westminster police spokeswoman, said police are conducting photo lineups using the suspect. About 20 people witnessed the shooting and police are not releasing the suspect’s photograph until that part of the investigation is complete.

The names of the victims have not been released.

Police allege Webster suspect shot the four victims in the Cedar Wood Square parking lot at 80th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard, climbed back in his car and drove onto Interstate 25 and headed south.

The bystander, who police say had no relationship to the family, is expected to survive his wounds.

Patrons at the shopping center, who witnessed the shooting, described hearing multiple gunshots in an area heavily saturated with bars, retail stores and two dentists’ offices.



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How Colorado law fails to protect students from sex abuse

The principal caught an incriminating sight when she walked by the classroom: The male math teacher was sitting provocatively close to the 13-year-old student perched on his desk wearing a short skirt. But the principal did nothing other than warn the teacher, after the student exited, to act more professionally.

Throughout the spring of 2011, rumors flew around the hallways at Rocky Heights Middle School in Highlands Ranch about the teacher, Richard “Rick” Johnson, and young girls. After Johnson plastered his office walls with photos of another eighth-grade girl he liked to hug, students talked about how he must be having sex with her. At least three students and two parents told school administrators that Johnson was cultivating an inappropriate relationship with the student, but the officials continued to sit on the information, according to documents in a federal lawsuit. Not until parents went to police was Johnson investigated, charged and convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl he began showering with affection the year before.

A key state law is supposed to defend Colorado’s vulnerable children in such instances. The law classifies school authorities, teachers, clergy and more than 40 other professions as “mandatory reporters,” who are required to alert police or child-protection workers to any suspected physical or sexual abuse of children.

Former Douglas County teacher, Richard "Rick" Johnson

Douglas County Sheriff’s Office

School officials ignored reports that Richard “Rick” Johnson was having sex with his students, but he was ultimately convicted of raping one of them.

But, as was the case at Rocky Heights, the law is too often ignored.

An investigation by The Denver Post found that the mandatory reporting law is seldom enforced and often results in leniency for violators. Those convicted of the law face a penalty as low as a $50 fine. While criminal penalties have been light, legal proceedings have raised questions about how seriously school districts take their mandatory reporting obligations. At least three lawsuits accusing school authorities in Colorado of ignoring mandatory reporting requirements resulted in settlements, one of which cost $1.4 million.

“If a child tells you they have been harmed, sexually assaulted or raped, you should say it’s not your fault and call the police, but instead we have some mandatory reporters who understand the law and how they can sweep it under the rug and deny justice for those who have been victimized,” state Sen. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat from Aurora, said this year at a legislative hearing in which she failed to persuade other legislators to join her effort to bolster Colorado’s mandatory reporting law.

Since 2010, prosecutors have brought just 46 criminal cases of failing to act as a mandatory reporter, a review of state judicial data shows.

Only about half of those cases resulted in a conviction. And of those that did, virtually all of the convictions eventually were dismissed by a judge after the defendant served a short stint on probation.

The harshest penalties were handed out in 2015 to two Longmont church pastors — Walter Roberson and Robert Young — who were given the option of serving 10 days in lockup or doing work release. They were convicted in what prosecutors described as a coverup for failing to report allegations from a woman that she had been raped at the age of 14 by a youth pastor, who was the son of Roberson. Two other elders at the church received lesser sentences for their failures as mandatory reporters in that case.

More typical is what occurred when Colorado Springs police in 2011 discovered failures in mandatory reporting at the state-run Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. Detectives were called to investigate after a 15-year-old student confessed to a school employee that he had sexually assaulted five students in the previous three years.

Police discovered the school’s staff members had been alerted by some of the victims and their parents of the alleged sexual abuse, but those reports hadn’t been forwarded to law enforcement, court records show. The shocked detectives also found significant confusion among school personnel about the mandatory reporting law. Several staffers said they hadn’t alerted police because they thought they had an obligation to keep confidential the names of students accused of sexual acts because they were juveniles.

In the end, only the former principal, Louis Tutt, was charged with failure to report, but he never had to appear in court. His charges were dismissed because he had moved out of state.

In 2016, a $1.4 million settlement brought an end to lawsuits filed on behalf of two the five victims who alleged mandatory reporting failures at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. One of the victims, who was 9 at the time and struggled with cerebral palsy, had been sexually assaulted in a school bathroom by the older student. The other victim, 15 at the time, was repeatedly sexually abused at school by the same assailant, including being forced to perform oral sex.

“Schools and school districts like the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind go through training on mandatory reporting requirements, but when it comes time to act on it, it appears that oftentimes they want to do their own investigation instead of reporting it, or officials minimize what the person has reported,” said Steve Baity, one of the lawyers who filed the suit for the two blind victims.

How training is conducted for mandatory reporters throughout the state remains a concern for Stephanie Villafuerte, Colorado’s child protection ombudsman, the state’s watchdog for the child-protection system.

“What’s interesting to me is that we have more than 40 different mandated reporters in Colorado and yet we don’t mandate any training for those same reporters,” Villafuerte said.

A 2015 survey by the Colorado Department of Human Services, part of a campaign to increase public awareness about child abuse, found that 30 percent of mandatory reporters did not know the proper steps to report child abuse or neglect.

Villafuerte said mandatory reporters have called her office asking how they are supposed to handle alleged abuse between two juveniles. Such abuse must be reported, just like abuse between an adult and a juvenile, she said. In addition, the law holds individuals responsible for their reporting obligations, which means the obligations aren’t satisfied merely by alerting supervisors. The law requires the individual to report their suspicions to law enforcement or child-protection services, she noted.

“You cannot pass on your obligation to report,” Villafuerte said.

The Colorado Education Department leaves it up to individual school districts to decide what training to give their personnel on the law — or whether to train them at all. And no surveys are conducted by state officials on how those districts are conducting that training.

Two recent cases have renewed questions about whether schools in Colorado are taking their mandatory reporting duties seriously enough.

East High School principal Andy Mendelsberg

John Leyba, The Denver Post

East High School principal Andy Mendelsberg has been charged with failure to report a suspected rape of one of his students.

Denver prosecutors in April filed criminal charges against Andy Mendelsberg, the former principal of East High School, for failure to report that a student had told school officials she had been raped by another student. Also charged with failure to report in that case were vice principal Jann Peterson, deans Jen Sculley and Eric Sinclair, and counselor Anita Curtiss.

Court documents allege that the East High girl became the target of relentless bullying from other students aware of her allegations. When the girl sought help from Sculley, the dean told her to move on and that “this is their little secret,” according to one police report. After the girl’s parents decided to pull their child out of school, they met with Mendelsberg, who advised them to take care of the situation by keeping their daughter at the school and finding her a new group of friends, another police report states. The boy was charged with one count of sexual assault after the girl and her parents went to the police on their own.

Charges of failure to report also are pending against two Cherry Creek School District leaders –Prairie Middle School principal David Gonzales and assistant principal A.J. MacIntosh — for their conduct regarding allegations that a teacher raped a girl. Charging documents say administrators pressured the alleged victim, a teen, to recant her claim of sexual abuse by Brian Vasquez, a teacher at Prairie. Vasquez has now been charged with sexually assaulting five students.

Brian Vasquez

Photo courtesy of Aurora Police Department

Brian Vasquez, a teacher at Prairie Middle School, has been accused of sexually assaulting several children, Aurora police said.

Cherry Creek School District’s policy manual has a statement on how to handle sexual harassment allegations that appears in at least one respect to be contrary to the law. The policy manual states: “In cases involving potential criminal conduct, a determination will be made as to whether appropriate law enforcement officials should be notified.” But the law requires mandatory reporters to alert police of child-protective workers of allegations of abuse no matter what school administrators determine. The child-protective workers or police — not  school administrators — are the ones who determine the sufficiency of the evidence.

Defense lawyers in Cherry Creek reporting cases are seeking dismissal of the criminal charges, arguing the statute of limitations has passed. That dispute prompted Fields, the state legislator, to urge her colleagues at the Capitol to change the statute of limitations to five years instead of 18 months. Sen. Vicki Marble, a Fort Collins Republican, questioned during the debate whether the crime of failing to report ought to be raised to a felony. It currently is a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of six months’ incarceration.

The Colorado Catholic Conference and the Colorado Education Association handily beat back Fields’ effort.

In the Rocky Heights case, the principal at the time, Patricia Dierberger, and the assistant principal at the time, James McMurphy, instead of alerting police, disciplined the students who told them they thought Johnson was having sex with a student. Two of the students were suspended for “harassing” the teacher. Another was ordered to write a letter of apology to Johnson.

Yet the administrators never faced any criminal charges even though a Douglas County sheriff’s investigator determined their inaction violated the mandatory reporting law. It wasn’t until 2012 that the investigator learned from the parents that Johnson was preying on the girl, violations that eventually resulted in a 20-year prison sentence for Johnson. By then, the 18-month statute of limitations for bringing criminal charges for mandatory reporting law violations already had passed, which meant Dierberger and McMurphy could not be charged.

Cpl. Detective Dea Aragon, the sheriff’s investigator, expressed frustration in a declaration submitted in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of the girl Johnson raped. The sheriff’s department had conducted “numerous investigations” of Douglas County School District employees for failing to report sexual abuse, Aragon said in the declaration. For years, the sheriff’s office had been concerned about a culture in which school district employees had not “participated in adequate training regarding sexual abuse of children and did not understand or take seriously their responsibilities to report suspected sexual abuse,” the declaration said.

The Douglas County School District had promoted to head of human resources Brian Ewert, who in 2006 drew the ire of sheriff’s officials when he was principal of El Dorado Elementary School. Investigators had charged Ewert with failure to report after they determined he failed to tell them he knew a child-care director at his school had used a pen to draw a smiley face on the butt of one of the children in a rec center locker room. The child-care director, Paul Arriola, was later convicted of sexually assaulting children under his care after children revealed he ran a “tighty whitey club” in which he took photographs of children in their underwear kissing one another in exchange for candy and patted their naked buttocks.

“In hindsight you wonder, ‘What should I have seen that I didn’t see?’,” Ewert said in a recent interview, adding his criminal charges were dismissed by prosecutors. “Now my advice, in my position, is to never question anything. If you have any question in your head, it doesn’t matter. You just report, and then you leave it to the experts to determine what happened.”

Back during the turmoil at Rocky Heights, Aragon, the investigator, confronted McMurphy, the assistant principal, telling him during an interview that he had violated the mandatory reporting law by failing to report Johnson but would not be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations.  McMurphy told the investigator he still did not understand the mandatory reporting law even though he had been investigated for a separate violation of the law just six months earlier, Aragon recalled.

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Planning, adaptive tools can extend gardening to all people and abilities – The Denver Post

Carol Russell likes to meditate in her garden and has four benches to contemplate the change of seasons as her raised beds of various flowers bloom and her vegetables mature.

The stone benches and beds have purpose beyond providing a serene and beautiful space. Russell was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in April 2017 and her modified garden allows her to stay active — a key recommendation for those with Parkinson’s — and continue to enjoy something she loves.

yellow rudbeckia and daylily

Photo provided by Carol Russell

Thoughtful planting helps keep Carol Russell’s garden accessible. She planted lots of flowers, including mounds of daylilies, rudbeckia and yarrow, to crowd out grass, which reduces the amount of maintenance the garden requires.

“It’s mentally stimulating, physically sometimes-hard work, which is what is needed,” she says. “It’s become a passion, because exercise is the prescription. The more you can maintain and keep active, the better off you are.”

The garden is also valuable for another reason.

“One of the things with Parkinson’s is the frustration. It’s kind of like getting hyper,” Russell says. “Things that tend to soothe make things easier.”

Thus, her four benches to enjoy her garden from different vantage points.

Russell’s attraction to gardening wasn’t new. Even before her diagnosis, she had been working toward becoming a Colorado Master Gardener through the CSU Extension in Jefferson County. The volunteer program includes an application, interview, several classes and volunteer work.

Russell was due to begin her volunteer work when she was diagnosed. Since most of the master gardener volunteering was likely too physically demanding, Russell proposed an alternative: writing a blog about adaptive gardening. Her mentor in the program, Nance Tucker, agreed that the information Russell had to share applied to many gardeners who face physical limitations as they age.

gardener sitting on a stool

Photo provided by Nance Tucker

Jefferson County gardener Nance Tucker, 81, uses a portable bench to ease the strain on her back. Her garden has special features, including strategically placed posts that allow her to navigate safely while still enjoying tending to perennials and vegetables.

“She was the person with some disabilities. I am the senior citizen,” Tucker says. “We started writing the thing together.”

As it turned out, Russell did most of the writing, and Tucker edited the five-part Tips for Senior Gardening for the Jeffco Master Gardeners’ blog — jeffcogardener.blogspot.com — which offers numerous ideas to keep people in their gardens as long as possible.

Russell and Tucker have made substantial changes to the layout and plant choices in their gardens and have updated their tool sheds to include devices that help reduce back and joint strain.

Both have problems with balance. For Russell, whose yard slopes, the solution was installing steps that are easier to navigate than a sloping path. A railing adds extra support.

Russell also added raised beds and chipboard or pea gravel walkways in the vegetable garden to reduce the chances of tripping over uneven surfaces.

“The way we plant the vegetable garden is to put tomatoes in the middle in tomato cages, so you can hold onto the tomato cages as you walk down the walkway,” she says.

The stone raised beds allow her to sit while gardening. Telescoping pruners and other tools allow Russell to extend her reach. A tool that is called a Korean rake, positions the handle differently, so that she uses her shoulder muscles, rather than her hands and wrists to dig and weed. She also has a half-shovel that requires less strength, and tools with handles of different lengths.

Tucker has paths made of large flagstones and patios front and back that make for more even surfaces. She uses rock to reduce weeding and has placed poles strategically that she can use to steady herself or get up from a kneeling position. She plants vegetables in a raised bed purchased by her sons.

Plant selection is also important. Most gardeners work to create focal points and plant to have flowers in bloom all season. All gardeners must worry about light to be successful, and in dry Colorado, it’s a good idea to group together plants that have similar water needs, Tucker says.

An adaptive gardener also has other considerations. Choosing low maintenance plants for large areas is a must. That allows the gardener to place high-maintenance plants and vegetables in easy-to-reach spots.

Russell also suggests grouping plants of a similar type, so when you have a helper, the person is less likely to pull up a viable plant while weeding. Carefully placed mulch also makes weeds that do spring up more obvious to the non-gardener.

Denver Botanic Gardens horticulturalist Lee McCoy says using adaptive tools is changing the means to accomplish a task. After she tore some cartilage in her wrist, she began using a shovel and trowel that have what is called a pistol grip, meaning the handle is at a different angle than a typical tool of the same type.

For example, the grip on a trowel is horizontal instead of vertical. That makes it easier to exert downward pressure. She recommends disabilityworktools.com as a place where specialized tools can be ordered.

Some of the more basic adaptive tools can be found at most larger garden centers. These include benches that can be turned upside down to use as kneelers, tools with telescoping handles and nitrile gardening gloves that allow a better grip.

For instance, Echter’s, in Arvada, carries the bench/kneelers, lightweight hoses, hand tools with cushion grips and Fiskar shears, which have a ratcheting action.

For those who are no longer able to garden, contact with plants still can bring pleasure.

In the winter, McCoy does outreach with people who no longer live independently, but still enjoy working with plants. She and volunteers bring a collection of plants for touch and scent to assisted living and memory care centers and adult day cares. Participants typically make a terrarium that they can keep.

In the summer, the outreach is at the Sensory Garden at Denver Botanic Gardens, which participants tour.

McCoy says in a group of participants with early onset dementia, scents often trigger memories. Sage might be associated with stuffing a turkey at Thanksgiving. Often houseplants such as geraniums may be familiar.

She says participants usually react with “a very pure kind of childlike joy” when they encounter a long-forgotten scent. “It’s like going through a closet and finding something you haven’t seen in years,” she says. “It’s the joy of recognition. Those moments are few and far between.”

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Phil Mickelson gives U.S. Open the silent treatment after firing an opening round 77

OUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Phil Mickelson almost won the U.S. Open once while wearing a beeper — yes, a beeper — in case he had to be summoned for the birth of his daughter. He skipped another one because the same daughter was graduating from high school.

If it seems like Mickelson has been chasing Open titles almost as long as the USGA has been putting the tournament on, well, it’s not that much of a stretch. This is his 27th Open, and his third at Shinnecock Hills, where the first time he played was so long ago the winner hit a 4-wood made out of real wood on the 18th hole to capture the championship.

The way he played Thursday, this Open isn’t going to end much better for Mickelson than any of the others.

His opening round left him speechless — at least publicly. The player who loves to gab almost as much as he likes to play golf walked off Shinnecock Hills without a comment after shooting a fat 7-over 77 that badly damaged — if not eliminated — any chance he has of finally breaking through in the one tournament that has vexed him throughout his career.

There was nothing said about putts that wouldn’t drop, and there were plenty of them. No talk about bad breaks like the ball plugging in the side of a bunker on the sixth hole that cost him another bogey.

Nothing about his strategy of leaving the driver in the bag and hitting shots sometimes 30 to 40 yards behind his playing partners.

And for what might be the first time ever, Mickelson didn’t even compliment New York fans for their appreciation of golf.

Not that it really mattered. What can you really say about kicking another Open away before half the field even had a chance to tee off?

That’s pretty much what Mickelson did, as his long, somewhat strange relationship with the national championship continued in the warm sunshine of an early summer day on Long Island. His strategy was suspect, his short game shaky and he didn’t even come close to sniffing a birdie until his 14th hole.

About the only positive he could take out of it was he beat playing partners Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth as what seemed like a dream pairing turned into a nightmare for three of the world’s best players.

“It was just blah,” said Spieth, the only member of the threesome to comment. “It wasn’t fun.”

It didn’t look like much fun as the threesome made its way around a big golf course where the wind always seemed to come sideways and the pins were perched in precarious positions on a lot of elevated greens. There wasn’t much conversation among the three, which is hardly surprising on a day when they combined to shoot an astonishing 25-over-par in just one 18-hole round.

The large crowds that came to cheer them on politely clapped for the occasional par, and urged them on. But every hole seemed to contain unseen dangers as the wind blew and Shinnecock Hills played slippery and fast.

For Spieth and McIlroy, it was a disastrous start with respective rounds of 78 and 80. But they’ve already won an Open and are young enough to have a lot of chances to win more in the future.

Mickelson, meanwhile, is now 47 and his chances are running out. He’s finished second six different times in the Open, coming agonizingly close several times, including the last time it was held here, in 2004, when he held a lead on the back nine only to three-putt from 5 feet on the 17th hole to throw away his best chance.

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Star group of Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth crash at Shinnecock – The Denver Post

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Three holes into his 27th U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson called over a rules official for a question rarely heard.

“Is there a rule that allows me to see the ball when I hit it?” he asked.

There was no relief for Mickelson. Not on the 12th hole at Shinnecock Hills. Not at many others.

And he wasn’t alone.

Mickelson was in the marquee group Thursday morning, which featured three players who have a dozen majors among them. And because USGA officials try to have a sense of humor, they put together the only three active players who have three legs of the career Grand Slam.

Mickelson shot a 77. He had the lowest score in the group.

Jordan Spieth shot a 78, his highest score in a major.

Rory McIlroy, who came bouncing into this major full of confidence and affection for Shinnecock Hills, was 10-over par through 11 holes. He played even par the rest of the way and shot an 80 for his highest score in the U.S. Open.

How did this happen?

Hard to say. Mickelson and McIlroy refused requests to speak to the media.

“There were certainly some dicey pins,” Spieth said. “But at the same time, there was guys that shot under par. So I could have played better.”

This was a painful to watch from the start at No. 10, where Spieth made bogey with a three-putt from long range and Mickelson went over the green. That’s to be expected at the U.S. Open.

It quickly unraveled for Spieth.

From a bunker right on the par-3 11th, his shot came out strong toward the hole and went just far enough to catch a slope and roll out some 15 yards. His first pitch came back to his feet. His second pitch nearly did. He used a putter and hit that 6 feet by the hole.

Twenty-five minutes after he teed off, it looked as though his U.S. Open could be over. He made the putt for triple bogey, leaving him at 4 over through two holes.

“When I hit the bunker shot, I thought I hit a good shot,” Spieth said. “I played the aggressive route and it hurts you. You can’t really do that at the U.S. Open. When you’re out of position you have to just give yourself a chance to save par, and if you make bogey, you make bogey.”

Then, it was Mickelson’s turn.

He constantly laid well back off the tee to make sure he kept it in the short grass, and Mickelson hit 13 out of 14 fairways. Little good that did him. He tugged his approach with a left-to-right wind and it landed in grass so deep the marshal couldn’t find it.

Mickelson explained to the volunteer that if the player stepped on the ball, it would be a penalty. But it was OK if the volunteer accidentally stepped on it.

“You’ve got to find it, man,” Mickelson said to him. “Get in there and find it.”

The marshal eventually did. Mickelson got a wedge and lost it again. That’s when he called for the ruling, didn’t get it, and did well to make bogey.

McIlroy’s turn was on No. 14, when he went right into the hay and needed a search party of about a dozen to find it. McIlroy didn’t need any help finding the next one, because he took a whack and saw it move only 6 feet. That led to one of his two double bogeys.

And so it went for more than five hours. They didn’t all hit the same green in regulation until their sixth hole.

Mickelson did well to avoid a big number. He just made eight bogeys.

That strategy of playing the par-5 16th hole didn’t work out so well. Mickelson was in prime position for a birdie on the 16th with a wedge into the green. He hit it thin and over the green, and turned a birdie chance into a soft bogey.

A gust got him on the sixth hole, and the ball buried just beneath the lip of a bunker. Mickelson turned at a 90-degree angle and played back toward the fairway, pitched up to about 12 feet and made it for bogey.

That felt like a par. That had to do, because there were so few birdies.

Even being 4-over after two holes, Spieth figured even par would be a reasonable start on a day like this, a course like this. And he made a long birdie at No. 9 to make the turn at 4 over. Instead, he bogeyed the opening two holes of the front nine. And after his birdie on the par-5 fifth, he missed the sixth fairway and made another bogey. And there were not many birdie opportunities to make up for that.

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Bat tests positive for rabies in Lakewood – The Denver Post

A bat discovered near Morrison Road and Wadsworth Boulevard in Lakewood on Wednesday was the first bat that tested positive for rabies in Jefferson County this year, authorities say.

Although no people were exposed to the bat, one dog was exposed, according to Ashley Moore, spokeswoman for Jefferson County Public Health.

The dog is current on its rabies vaccine, Moore said. Health workers recommended to the dog’s owner that they get it a rabies booster shot and watch it at home for 45 days.

The rabies virus, which is transmitted from infected animals through contact with their saliva or through bites, is nearly always fatal to animals and can be fatal to humans if left untreated, Moore wrote.

Skunk rabies continues to be a concern across the Denver area, with 14 skunks testing positive for the disease this year in Jefferson County.

Already in 2018, Colorado has documented more rabies-positive animals than in 2017, and peak rabies season is far from over, Moore wrote. Pets without up-to-date rabies vaccinations must undergo a 120-day quarantine.

Jefferson County Public Health recommends that pet owners vaccinate their pets and livestock against rabies. If a pet comes into contact with a wild animal, owners should wear gloves while cleaning them to minimize exposure to the virus.

People should not pet wild animals and teach their children to stay clear of wild animals.

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Trump administration drilling plan stirs debate in Colorado wilderness

WALSENBURG — From a small plane circling over secluded grassy meadows and Sangre de Cristo Mountain spires, politicians and conservationists on Friday will see the stakes as the federal government pushes to open 18,000 acres next to some of the nation’s most pristine wilderness and headwaters to fossil fuels development.

But the Trump administration’s proposed sell-off of mineral rights on the eastern slopes of the mountains for possible oil and gas drilling puts locals in a quandary.

On one hand, Huerfano County ranks among the poorest in Colorado after decades of mineral booms and busts. One county commissioner and a state senator said new drilling could bring much-needed bucks. On the other hand, people here rely on the Huerfano River watershed and a natural solitude and beauty that increasingly attracts well-heeled visitors.

Drilling could be done on parcels touching the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area, and as close as one mile from the boundary of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Newly acquired Navajo ancestral property lies to the north, and Navajos consider two mountains in the area to be sacred.

A man walks down a dune ...

RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

A man walks down a dune at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve on June 12, 2018 near Alamosa.

“If there’s possible oil and gas, it would be good for the county — as long as they adhere to the standards,” Huerfano County Commission chairman Ray Garcia said.  “We won’t be taking a formal position. Whatever happens happens.”

However, fellow Commissioner Gerald Cisneros said he “‘can see both sides of it” and emphasized environmental stewardship.

“Fracking, they pump a lot of stuff into the ground,” Cisneros said. “We have the Cucharas River and the Huerfano River. Those are our only two water sources. For our farming community, people with wells, if the river gets contaminated, then what?”

In 2007, an energy company’s drilling for gas in Huerfano County led to methane contamination of domestic wells and explosions at a home and a well pump house. This has soured some residents on oil and gas development, and many of them now contend industrial truck traffic, drilling rigs and hydraulic fracturing, even under the state’s regulations, would bring more harm than help.

“We have clean air and water,” said longtime resident Margaret Gleisberg, who manages the county mining museum. “Yes, it is a poor county. It always has been. I would like to see economic development, but I don’t want to lose the good things we have.”

Federal Bureau of Land Management officials this summer will make the decision on whether to open this area for development. Under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, agency officials have been accelerating domestic fossil fuels production using public land, shortening periods for public protest from 30 days to 10.

A deer grazes on grasses at ...

RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

A deer grazes on grasses at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve on June 12, 2018 near Alamosa.

Most of the land was purchased last year by energy company owners David and Crystal Watts of Texas. And the BLM has received a petition seeking rights to extract public minerals under that land. The agency will not reveal the name of the petitioner, although locals widely assume it to be the Wattses or one of their companies.

David Watts on Thursday said he already owns some mineral rights and any oil and gas development would not harm land.

Asked about his plans for oil and gas development, Watts said in an emailed response, “How could we have plans on (mineral) leases that we don’t even own? We are the surface owners on most of the lands and we do own minerals as well. Our ranch is certainly conservation driven for wildlife, landscape, community and family.

“Any oil and gas activity or any activity … would have to be met with surface use agreements and other agreements that would be clearly spelled out to protect our ranch as well as the industry and community. The rights of private land owners and private minerals owners should always be considered by those who throw the first rock.”

Denver-based Environmental Protection Agency officials have suggested that the BLM consider a delay until the agency revises an outdated plan for eastern Colorado. State officials have supported this. Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said, “This land is sacred and the Navajo Nation will always protect the beauty and sacredness of the land.”

No dates have been set for completing an update of the BLM plan, agency spokesman Steven Hall said. The agency will issue a notice July 20, Hall said. “The parcels may or may not be included in that lease sale notice.” Then, he said, “the public will have the opportunity to protest the sale parcels at that time, with a deadline of July 30.”

On Friday, Sierra Club members and others plan to visit the area, north of 14,344-foot Blanca Peak — also known as White Shell Mountain, or Tsisnaasjini — at the southern edge of the Wet Mountain Valley. Aspen-based Eco-Flight will provide aerial access, with staffers for U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner scheduled to take a close look. Eco-Flight pilot Bruce Gordon said during a flight Wednesday that he’s concerned “things are getting rushed through” with less time for people to learn what is happening — making for “a one-sided deal without looking at science.”

BLM officials last year conducted an initial review and moved toward opening the area. At the eastern edge of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service researchers for nearly a decade have been working on a project to save bristlecone pine trees, now widely imperiled by a blister rust fungus.

Great Sand Dunes natural resources chief Fred Bunch said drilling, if it happens, wouldn’t be visible behind mountains to a growing international flow of visitors. Leasing public land for development “is what the BLM does,” said Bunch, who has been measuring light levels in the park in support of an application for international “dark skies” certification.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has said he takes seriously the concerns about the potential development, which have been raised by the EPA, Navajos and thousands of state residents who signed petitions.

Some environmental groups are growing worried ...

RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

Some environmental groups are growing worried about proposed oil and gas drilling less than a mile from Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve near Alamosa. The leasing parcels are in the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness area east of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Flight for aerial photos was provided by Eco Flight on June 13, 2018.

For years, Huerfano County has struggled economically. A private prison recently closed. Energy development began more than a century ago with coal mining, which claimed hundreds of lives from explosions, and continues with extraction of underground carbon dioxide, which moves by a pipeline to Texas for use stimulating older oil and gas wells as companies maximize production.

The prospect of new jobs and tax revenue appeals. However, Cisneros said energy companies typically “bring all their crew from other places. Very seldom do they hire from the community.”

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