Good morning from yet another snowy morning here in Denver. I’ll be honest, I thought the days of Denver having a recognizable winter were long gone, and I’m enjoying each scrape of the windshield and every frozen 5 a.m. dog walk. I mean, just look at all the snowplows out across the state right now. These are the moments I’ll be thinking of when we have 40 consecutive days of 90-degree weather this summer.
We have entirely too much news to get to today and only so much time on this planet to do it, so let’s cinch this scarf, shall we?
>> ABOVE THE FOLD
JUST IN: Colorado’s Attorney General joining multi-state lawsuit to challenge President Trump’s national emergency
Jesse Paul has the story (background here) of attorney general Phil Weiser’s move to put Colorado in direct confrontation with the Trump administration over its declaration of a national emergency to build a wall on the border with Mexico. >> Read more here.
The Denver teacher strike is over. Now, how are lawmakers going to solve Colorado’s chronic education funding problem?
“Our current trajectory, based on the way things are now, without reform of the issue, is unsustainable.”
— Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada and a member of the Joint Budget Committee
The Denver teacher strike was big and deservedly got a lot of attention in the world of education news over the past several weeks. But while the specific issues in play were mostly resolved by the new contract, Colorado’s broken education funding system threatens to cause more strife in districts around the state. Our education reporter Christopher Osher spent last week analyzing what’s wrong with the system (unequal distribution of per-pupil funds, inconsistent property taxes, for starters) as well as how the strike put the focus on the ways lawmakers are trying to fix it within the confines of TABOR.
Few Colorado workers get paid time off to care for a new baby or sick family member. Changing that is a key goal for Democrats.
Christine Levi unbuckles her daughter, Aaliyah, before dropping the toddler off at daycare early one morning last week in Denver. Levi resumed work the day she came home from the hospital after having Aaliyah because her employer offered no paid leave. Levi has since gotten a new job and is pregnant again. Her current employer is giving her 16 weeks of paid leave, she said. (Marvin Anani, Special to The Colorado Sun)
About 80 percent of workers in Colorado do not get paid leave to have a baby, adopt a baby, care for a loved one or sit beside a hospice bed. But a new program put forward by Democrats — similar to legislation rejected by Republican-led committees over the last few years — could create a program to provide paid leave for those workers through a combination of employee and employer contributions.
What is Vail Resorts’ plan for Crested Butte? Well, first they have to fix the lifts.
Chairlift seats buried in snow sit at the base of the closed Teocalli chairlift at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. After 39 years of operation, the popular Teocalli lift was shut down for repair at the beginning of the 2018-19 season and has remained closed. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)
“This Is Not Vail” was Crested Butte’s tagline not so long ago. But since Vail Resorts took over the ski area on Mount Crested Butte, the corporate behemoth has been taking it slow on making big changes to one of the most challenging ski areas on the continent — aside from investing millions into fixing lifts and other basic infrastructure.
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>> THE OPINION PAGE
“The way millennials see it, boomers have accumulated great wealth by sheltering their income from taxes and abandoning future generations to trillions in national debt. They are leaving behind a crumbling national infrastructure and an unfolding global climate catastrophe.”
- Diane Carman argues that the issues of gentrification, income inequality and climate change go hand-in-hand with an ideological battle between boomers and millennials (sorry Gen-Xers).
- In response to Jesse Paul’s article about hazmat drivers wanting off Loveland Pass and into the I-70 tunnels, John Clancy, a retired truck driver with 40 years of experience (30 of them hazmat) argues that Loveland Pass is much safer than risking a fire in the tunnel.
- “I used to think the case for the death penalty was a slam dunk. Now I think we should stop using it,” writes Ari Armstrong.
- Mario Nicolais writes that Colorado’s anti-corruption Amendment 41 has become just another avenue for political attacks in the state.
- Adoptee advocate Richard Uhrlaub takes a look at Colorado’s Safe Haven laws and raises questions about their effectiveness and unintended adoption consequences.
>> A QUICK GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE
I think about the future. A lot. Especially as it relates to journalism and technology, which is why a link in this weekend’s edition of Azeem Azar’s excellent newsletter “Exponential View” gave me chills. If you just glanced at the text on the tweet I quoted here, it would appear to be a slightly awkward but serviceable wire story about the discovery of talking unicorns in South America. But when you find out that the entire story was written by artificial intelligence based on a two-sentence prompt, it goes from quirky to terrifying.
An AI capable of writing convincingly human articles with no more effort than writing a tweet represents another tool in the arsenal of the people who want to sow misinformation around the world. Imagine a couple of bad actors feeding the AI a sentence like “[Politician in a tight election] under investigation for [some shocking but slightly believable crime]” or “Study from [respected university] shows that vaccines do cause [some sort of horrible disease]” and then posting the results directly to social media from thousands of sock-puppet accounts (that use extremely convincing computer-generated profile photos like these from thispersondoesnotexist.com). It could sway close elections, cause public health crises or even stoke genocide via the spread of conspiracy theories (as has already happened with Facebook).
This is where you might expect me to lay out how to fight this. The problem is that there isn’t a silver bullet. The world needs a cocktail of sophisticated technological solutions by the social media platforms themselves (or regulations, if they aren’t willing), an aggressive public campaign for media literacy and importantly, more human journalists working in newsrooms that have earned the trust of readers (related: here’s a link to become a member of The Sun or buy a T-shirt to support our work 😁).
You’re probably doing this already, but one thing that can make a small difference is to work with your friends and family to fight the misinformation that’s already out there (call out links to fake or misleading stories on their factual and sourcing errors, not just their politics, for example) and prepare them for the coming wave. Every little bit helps.
(Quick note: This seems like a good time to thank everyone who came out to Boulder on Friday to meet our staff and see how we worked with the future journalists at CU’s News Corps. It’s support from people like you and work by young journalists like them that will help shape our future.)
OK, back to the very real, human-created news of the day.
(I’m interested in your thoughts on this topic and the future of journalism. My inbox is open.)
>> THE SHORTLIST
// You get three guesses as to what the White Fence Farm property could turn into and the first two don’t count. // KDVR
// Related: Here is why every single new apartment building in America looks the same. // Bloomberg
// The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the “Free the Nipple” activists in Fort Collins, saying that the city’s ban on women (but not men) going topless is unconstitutional. // The Coloradoan
// I used to drive by these buildings on the way home from work and always wondered who owned them (and why no one was doing anything with them). And now I know: “Douglas Bruce threatens Denver over seizure of property deemed blighted” // Westword
// 57 teenagers in Aspen accidentally got a jumpstart on their civic duties. // The Aspen Times
// Don’t. Steal. Public. Art. // OutThere Colorado
// Remember when Colorado was pushing to become home to Amazon’s HQ2 (or HQ1.5, based on their final decision)? Denver Business Journal looked at what’s happening to the 18 sites that were submitted by the state as possible locations. // DBJ 🔑
// If you missed it, Sue McMillin had a wonderful story about Cañon City’s work to make itself over as a destination, partially by competing to be the subject of a Hulu town makeover show (voting continues through tomorrow). Their chances improved over the weekend when the town picked up a surprising endorsement from the Piano Man himself. // The Colorado Sun, The Know
// This is a great essay by a new Colorado resident who battles fear over her status as a woman of color, an immigrant and someone without a lot of money — by mountain biking. // High Country News
// Denver cops are joining the troubling trend of encrypting police radio traffic. // The Denver Post
// A graduate of the University of Northern Colorado has become the first black “Anna” in the Broadway production of Disney’s “Frozen.” // The Greeley Tribune
// I really like the term “hutmaster,” even if it mostly involves cleaning up human waste at Summit County’s remote cabins. // Summit Daily
>> TODAY’S THING
The Thing: A longer phone charging cable.
Why You Might Like It: We’re all on our phones too much. That’s just a given. But while we all fight to look at those glowing screens less, you can at least make your screen time slightly more comfortable. One of the simplest upgrades you can make is buying a durable, reinforced 6-foot charging cable for your phone (here’s a really high-quality cord for both Android phones and iPhones). I finally replaced mine this weekend (my adorable but destructive puppy chewed right through the Kevlar on my old one a few months ago) and I had forgotten just how much more comfortable it is to be able to freely maneuver a charging phone vs. trying to keep it within a 24-inch radius of the nearest outlet.
Editor’s note: Every Sunriser will include one … thing … to cap off our time together. The Thing will be just about anything, like a TV show or a book or a particularly cool dog toy.
And with that, we reach the end of a President’s Day Sunriser. I’m sorry we don’t have any discounted mattresses to sell you, but we do have comfortable T-shirts for sale at their regular price (remember, all the proceeds go directly to funding more journalism).
Stay warm, drive safely and we’ll see you on Wednesday.