Some Colorado schools don’t have enough milk for their students because of ‘unprecedented’ supply shortages

Milk school tray
Denver Public Schools told Insider it was struggling to supply enough milk and food to its pupils.

  • Denver Public Schools (DPS) says it’s struggling to get enough milk to serve at breakfast and lunch.
  • Pupils are instead being encouraged to bring refillable water bottles with them.
  • DPS attributed it to “unprecedented supply-chain challenges.”

Schools across Denver are struggling to supply enough milk and food to their pupils, which their school district credited to supply-chain problems.

Denver Public Schools (DPS), which includes more than 200 schools with a total of just over 90,000 students, is instead encouraging pupils to bring refillable water bottles with them.

“DPS is struggling to receive enough milk to serve to every child at breakfast and lunch every day,” Theresa Hafner, DPS executive director of Food Services, told Insider in an email.

“When the milk is available, we are prioritizing serving milk at breakfast at all schools and at our elementary schools for lunch,” she said.

“I think the milk company is trying its best to give most schools at least some milk, but not a complete order,” she added.

DPS told parents and guardians in a newsletter on October 8 that it was experiencing “unprecedented supply-chain challenges with food and milk this fall,” DPS Food services outreach and engagement officer Theresa Peña said.

DPS told parents and guardians that some of the food served to students might differ from what’s listed on its menu.

Peña told Insider that Meadow Gold, a brand by Dean Foods, was the milk vendor for most of the Denver metro school districts. Dean Foods, which is now owned by the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative, didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Typically, just over 60% of pupils at DPS schools are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. However, all pupils nationwide can get access to free breakfast and lunch during the 2021-2022 academic year because of a Department of Agriculture charges waiver. The school district typically serves around 32,000 breakfasts and 45,000 lunches each day.

Businesses across the US have been hit by supply-chain shortages stemming from port congestion, a lack of truckers, and a huge surge in demand for goods. Restaurants and stores have been changing their menus and putting prices up to cope with delays, shortages, and rising costs of products.

As well as the supply-chain issues being experienced by DPS, schools across the US have been struggling to find enough staff, too. Teachers are leaving the profession because of burnout and fears of catching the coronavirus.

One high school in Boston hired a party bus with a stripper pole after being unable to find any bus drivers, while an elementary school in Philadelphia bought pizza for 400 students after food-services staff didn’t show up.

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Republican who attended Mike Lindell’s 2020 conspiracy conference stripped of authority to oversee elections

Mike Lindell speaking to reporters.
MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell, speaks to reporters outside federal court in Washington, Thursday, June 24, 2021.

  • Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters spent weeks in hiding after attending Mike Lindell’s conference.
  • She is under investigation for allegedly allowing an outsider to access her county’s voting equipment.
  • Elections will now be overseen by former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican.

A judge in Colorado on Wednesday issued an injunction that strips election authority from a local Republican official who allowed an unauthorized “consultant” to access voting machines – and then claimed to have found evidence of fraud at a conspiracy theory conference hosted by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell.

Tina Peters, an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump, was elected to serve as Mesa County Clerk in 2018. The year following, her office admitted that it failed to count more than 500 ballots in a local election, leading Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, to require Peters’ office to undergo remedial training.

Following the 2020 election, Peters joined the former president’s campaign to discredit his loss, despite President Joe Biden winning Colorado by a 13.5% margin. At Lindell’s conference this summer, she claimed to present evidence that showed equipment from Dominion Voting Systems could be hacked to flip votes, despite the fact that equipment was never connected to the internet.

It’s what happened before attending that conference, however, that has led to Peters losing her authority to oversee elections in a case brought by the office of Colorado’s Secretary of State. As detailed in the ruling from Mesa County District Court Judge Valerie J. Robison, Peters last March allowed an unauthorized consultant to access the county’s voting machines, with one of her aides requesting that election department cameras be turned off for two weeks – long enough to allow that unauthorized third party to make a “forensic image” of the hard drive used by Dominion vote-tabulating equipment.

That aide now faces criminal charges.

Later, video of election staff and employees of Dominion Voting Systems performing a software update in Peters’ office was leaked on social media, and with it the confidential passwords used to access voting machines. Mesa County’s Republican-led Board of Commissioners elected, in August, to replace that equipment, which had been decertified following the unauthorized access.

In her ruling, Robison said Peters and her aide had “neglected their duties by failing to take adequate precautions to protect confidential information, and committed wrongful acts by being untruthful.” The decision comes after Peters spent weeks hiding in an undisclosed location provided by Lindell. She is currently under state and federal investigation.

Mesa County’s next election will be overseen by former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican appointed by Griswold’s office.

In a statement, Griswold praised Wednesday’s decision, saying it would prevent peters from “further threatening the integrity of Mesa’s elections.”

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A Colorado woman couldn’t get a kidney transplant because she refused a COVID-19 vaccine – a policy at many hospitals

organ transplant donation kidney
Dr. Matthew Cooper carries a kidney before a transplant at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC on June 28, 2016.

  • A Colorado woman was denied an organ transplant after refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine, the AP reported.
  • Like many hospitals, Colorado’s UCHealth prioritizes patients who are more likely to survive after surgery.
  • Vaccinated people fall into that category, since they’re well protected against COVID-19.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Leilani Lutali was due for an organ transplant to treat her stage 5 kidney disease. But her hospital, UCHealth in Colorado, requires transplant patients to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Lutali refused the shot, the Associated Press reported, leaving her to search for a different hospital that might approve the surgery.

UCHealth is denying transplants to unvaccinated people “in almost all situations,” the health system told The Washington Post, since these individuals are more likely than vaccinated people to die of COVID-19.

Dan Weaver, a spokesperson for UCHealth, told The Post that the policy aligns with a common practice of prioritizing people who are more likely to survive a transplant, and less likely to require another one down the line. The Cleveland Clinic, one of the largest hospitals in the US, also requires transplant recipients to get a COVID-19 shot.

Lutali, who works as a tech recruiter, is Catholic, and said her decision not to get the vaccine was based on concerns about the connection between vaccines and aborted fetal cells, the AP reported. COVID-19 vaccines don’t contain any fetal tissue – rather, they’re developed using cells that descend from fetal tissue collected several decades ago.

Her wait could be long: More than 100,000 Americans are on a waitlist for an organ transplant, and deciding who to prioritize is complicated business. Patients must be deemed a good match for an organ based on their height, weight, blood type, and geographic location. Many transplant centers require patients to get other vaccines and abstain from drinking or smoking.

In transplant decisions, a key question: Who’s most likely to live?

Deciding who’s eligible for surgery based on vaccination status raises complicated ethical questions.

“Each individual [transplant] center is wrestling with what to do about COVID vaccination status,” Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University, told Insider.

“You try to maximize lives saved, years of life saved, and even, to some extent, quality of life saved with your scarce supply,” he added. “I don’t see why we wouldn’t be doing that with COVID and vaccination status.”

louisiana covid hospital
Clinicians work on intubating a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital in Louisiana on August 10, 2021.

Healthcare systems across the US vie for organs from a national waitlist managed by the nonprofit United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). UNOS has guidelines for how to make the best use of a limited organ supply and prevent discrimination based on demographic factors like sex, religion, or financial status. But health systems can determine independently whether to add or remove someone from the waitlist.

“The general principle driving the list used to be, ‘Who’s sickest? Who’s going to die if they don’t get it?'” Caplan said. “That slowly has been shifting toward, ‘Who’s most likely to live, and how do we get the most benefit from the scarce supply?'”

There are a few reasons for that, he added: Organ transplants started to have a better success rate around the early 2000s, so transplant centers began to worry more about “wasting” organs on people who were likely to die anyway. Transplant centers are also evaluated based on their success rates, which can inform whether they remain eligible for organs from UNOS.

“That puts even more pressure to have organs that work for one year, two years, and five years,” Caplan said. “So they are in a way incentivized not to take higher-risk people – and that would include non-vaccinated people for both flu and COVID.”

a man with a heart transplant seen getting a COVID-19 shot
A doctor administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a heart transplant recipient at a hospital in Strasbourg, France, on February 20, 2021.

Many medical experts agree that it’s important to consider a person’s vaccination status ahead of a transplant, along with other risk factors.

Transplant patients have a much higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than the average person, since their immune systems do a poorer job of vanquishing the virus. Studies have shown that kidney transplant recipients with COVID-19 have a mortality rate between 13% and 39%. (The COVID-19 mortality rate across the entire US is around 1.6%.)

There’s also a small risk that transplant patients will receive an organ from someone who’s had COVID-19, and could therefore inherit a previously undetected infection.

Overall, unvaccinated Americans are 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than fully vaccinated Americans, according to a September study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This story has been updated with new information. It was originally published October 7.

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People are flocking to Colorado for the great outdoors, but air pollution is leading to more days when residents are stuck inside

hiker wearing a gas mask against a polluted orange Colorado mountain range, with the text "Greetings from COLORADO" superimposed as on a postcard

With mild winters, plenty of open space, and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, it’s easy to see why Colorado is one of the fastest-growing states in the US.

“We were tired of having to spend nine winter months indoors without the sun,” Ashley O’Connor, who moved to Colorado from Chicago in 2015, told Insider. “We like to joke that we traded skyscrapers for mountains.”

O’Connor and her husband are hardly alone. According to census data, Colorado was one of the fastest-growing states from 2010 to 2020, increasing its population by nearly 15%. Colorado real estate has also been booming for years and experienced an even greater boost during the pandemic as urbanites ditched cities for less crowded spaces.

But one of the state’s biggest draws – abundant access to the outdoors – is under threat.

The air in Colorado is getting dirtier, resulting in more days where haze obscures the mountains and when public health officials say it’s unsafe to be outside, let alone do something active.

“For the last three months, three out of four days were air quality alerts,” Frank Flocke, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, told Insider in mid-September. “We just had a clear day for the first time for weeks, where you could actually see the mountains.”

A hazy view of the downtown Denver skyline from Sloan Lake in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday, August 3, 2021.
A hazy view of the downtown Denver skyline from Sloan Lake in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday, August 3, 2021.

Ozone pollution and wildfire smoke are largely responsible for obscuring the view of the Rocky Mountains, an increasingly common sight in Colorado, according to Flocke.

This summer, Colorado public health officials issued an ozone alert every day from July 5 to August 14, marking a 41-day stretch of air quality warnings. The state issued 65 ozone action day alerts from June through August, more than any year since 2016, when the current ozone standard was set.

‘Hazy, smoky mountain ranges have become a bit of a regular sight’

For longtime residents, the change in air quality, and the impact it’s had on their outdoor life, is evident.

“Honestly, it’s heartbreaking,” Susanna Joy, who has lived in Colorado most of her life, told Insider. “Those of us that are from here have noticed a really big shift in our ability to enjoy life how we grew up.”

Joy said she grew up outdoors and remains an avid hiker who loves camping and being outside as much as possible. She said air quality and wildfires weren’t even on her radar growing up, a stark difference from recent years.

“I never thought about air quality when I was planning outdoor adventures and now it’s something that we look at consistently,” Joy said.

A post shared by Susanna Joy (@susannagans)

Now, she gets an email every morning from a local newspaper that tells her the air quality for that day, so she can decide if she even wants to think about doing something outside.

“There’s been multiple times where we’re planning a 40-mile bike ride and we just don’t do it because the air quality is too bad or it’s too hot,” she said.

Checking in on air quality has become a daily part of many Coloradoans’ lives. The air quality index, or AQI – a tool used by government agencies to convey to the public how safe the air is on any given day – has become as common a discussion point as which 14er, or mountain peak higher than 14,000 feet, is hardest to hike to.

Even for recent transplants, the change is palpable, according to O’Connor, who lives in the Rockies in Summit County, home to some of the state’s most popular ski resorts, like Breckenridge and Keystone.

Being outside “isn’t just about hobbies, it is a way of life,” O’Connor said. She loves to ski, bike, take her sailboat out on the Dillon Reservoir, and hike the many trails located minutes from her home.

But the “hazy, smoky mountain ranges have become a bit of a regular sight since moving here,” she said. “Not only has it affected the amount of time we are willing to spend outdoors, but how we spend it.”

O’Connor said she and her husband even wake up sometimes with “red, burning, itchy eyes” and congestion due to the poor air quality.

The sky is illuminated as the sun sets behind the Rocky Mountain Thursday, Sept. 10, 2021, in Denver.
Sun sets behind the Rocky Mountains on Sept. 10, 2021, in Colorado, where smoke from western wildfires has funneled into the region to create colorful sunsets and sunrises and trigger air quality alerts.

The culprits: ‘A product of our own doing’

Ozone is the primary pollutant taking a toll on Colorado’s air, according to Flocke.

Colorado has some of the worst ozone pollution of anywhere in the US. In 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency reclassified the Denver area as a “serious” violator of federal air quality standards. The agency gave the state until July of this year to get the ozone pollution under control, but that deadline came and went.

Ozone is a naturally occurring and man-made gas found in Earth’s atmosphere. High-altitude ozone, like that found in the ozone layer, protects the planet by absorbing UV rays from the sun. Ground-level ozone, on the other hand, is emitted by things like cars, chemical plants, and oil and gas refineries, and enters the air we breathe.

Flocke said ozone pollution is “mainly a product of our own doing,” calling transportation of people and goods and the oil and gas industry the “elephants in the room” when it comes to cutting ozone emissions.

A 2019 study co-authored by Flocke found the fossil fuel and transportation sectors were the major contributors to ozone on Colorado’s front range.

Bumper to bumper traffic on Interstate 70 in Colorado, a familiar scene on the main highway connecting Denver to the mountains.
In this Jan. 7, 2018, photo, traffic backs up on Interstate 70 in Colorado, a familiar scene on the main highway connecting Denver to the mountains.

The millions of recent Colorado transplants aren’t helping the problem, as the increase in population and traffic only causes those emissions to rise.

Breathing ozone can lead to serious health effects, according to the EPA, including coughing, throat irritation, chest pain, and shortness of breath, as well as longer-lasting issues like declining lung function. There is also strong evidence linking higher ozone levels with asthma attacks, increased hospitalizations, and increased mortality.

Sensitive groups, including older people, children, and people with respiratory issues are especially at risk, but high ozone levels can trigger symptoms even for people who aren’t at higher risk.

‘The fires make everything worse’

Those impacts are only magnified by the other pollutant permeating Colorado’s air: fine particulate matter from wildfires. Particulate matter, or PM pollution, refers to tiny particles found in the air that are so small they can be inhaled when breathing.

“The fires make everything worse because they add the particles to the ozone,” Flocke said.

The particles emitted from wildfires can get deep into the lungs and even the bloodstream, according to the EPA. Studies have linked PM to premature deaths in people with heart or lung disease, heart attacks, decreased lung function, and respiratory problems.

Even in years when Colorado has a relatively mild wildfire season, like this year, the state still deals with dangerous levels of PM blown in from other parts of the West. This year, fires in California and Oregon brought hazy, smoky days all the way to Colorado.

Smoke from the Grizzly Creek Fire blankets Glenwood Canyon and Interstate 70 on August 26, 2020 in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
Smoke from the Grizzly Creek Fire blankets Glenwood Canyon and Interstate 70 on August 26, 2020 in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

“They made a lot of the days multiple pollutant warning days, where you had ozone exceed the standard and particulates exceed the standard at the same time,” Flocke said. “For people that are sensitive to pollution, that really makes it hard to be outside and enjoy life.”

Flocke said the issue is worsened by the fact that the meteorological conditions that prevent the local ozone from being flushed out by cold fronts are the same conditions that bring in the wildfire smoke from the coast.

‘If we tackle the climate problem, we will slowly also tackle our air quality problem’

The impact of wildfires on Colorado’s air quality is unlikely to let up so long as the climate continues to warm, according to Russ Schumacher, director of the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University.

“Many studies, going back 10 to 15 years, have projected that the amount of acreage burned of wildfires in the West was going to increase as the climate warms,” he told Insider. “We’re starting to see that now.”

Schumacher said the wildfires aren’t solely due to climate change, but that climate change and the related droughts and heatwaves have set the stage for these big fires.

Climate change and air quality are “intimately connected,” according to Flocke: “Our lifestyle causes emissions of CO2, which exacerbate climate change, which exacerbate the fires, which exacerbate our air quality problems.”

Denver Skyline as seen from the Cherry Creek Dam road in Denver, Colorado on April 30, 2015.
Denver Skyline as seen from the Cherry Creek Dam road in Denver, Colorado on a relatively clear day in 2015.

But, he said, both crises could be addressed in Colorado with many of the same actions. Enacting tighter regulations on oil and gas emissions, improving public transportation, and disincentivizing driving would all help cut greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants.

“If we tackle the climate problem, we will slowly also tackle our air quality problem,” Flocke said, adding that the solutions are “clear” but that there needs to be political will to actually implement them.

He said the increase in awareness about air quality, partly driven by the wildfires and climate change, could result in a greater push for change. The many transplants moving to the state could have a positive impact on that as well.

“People move to Colorado because they have this idea that we have clean mountain air,” he said. “Maybe they will be more susceptible to accept stricter regulations.”

Joy echoed those sentiments, saying she’s “hopeful that this isn’t just how summer is now, because I enjoyed summer so much as a kid.”

While she personally tries to minimize her impact on emissions, she said she’s also trying to come to terms with the fact that “until we make some big changes that help us reduce the impact that we’re having overall, it’s not going to change. It’s going to continue to amplify.”

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US Bureau of Land Management is returning to Washington, DC, reversing a Trump administration decision

Deb Haaland
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland departs the stage after delivering remarks at an event commemorating the delivery of the Red Road Totem Pole to the Biden Administration in Washington, DC, on on July 29, 2021.

  • Secretary Haaland announced that the Bureau of Land Management headquarters will move back to DC.
  • The Colorado office will remain open and become the agency’s Western headquarters.
  • The agency was moved to Colorado by the Trump administration in a widely-criticized move.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Interior secretary Deb Haaland on Friday announced that the national headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will move back to Washington, DC, after it was relocated to Colorado, a reversal of a move by former President Donald Trump’s administration to place the public lands agency in the critical Western region.

The bureau, which oversees nearly one-fifth of public lands in the US and has more than 7,000 employees, is recalibrating after losing nearly 300 employees to retirement or resignation after its headquarters was shifted to Grand Junction in 2019.

Haaland, a former New Mexico congresswoman and the first Native American Cabinet secretary, said that the Colorado office would be overhauled to become the agency’s Western headquarters.

“The Bureau of Land Management is critical to the nation’s efforts to address the climate crisis, expand public access to our public lands, and preserve our nation’s shared outdoor heritage. It is imperative that the bureau have the appropriate structure and resources to serve the American public,” she said. “There’s no doubt that the BLM should have a leadership presence in Washington, DC – like all the other land management agencies – to ensure that it has access to the policy-, budget-, and decision-making levers to best carry out its mission.”

The Colorado office will expand and strengthen Western perspectives in its overall mission, especially as it relates to clean energy, conservation, and scientific missions.

According to data released by the Biden administration, about 87 percent of BLM staffers departed the agency when the Trump administration put in motion the move to the Centennial State.

Critics of the previous administration’s decision allege that the relocation was intended to push out longtime employees and stifle the agency.

In her comments, Haaland acknowledged that the earlier move created untenable situations for agency employees.

“The past several years have been incredibly disruptive to the organization, to our public servants, and to their families,” she said. “As we move forward, my priority is to revitalize and rebuild the BLM so that it can meet the pressing challenges of our time, and to look out for our employees’ well-being.”

She added: “I look forward to continuing to work with Congress, Tribes, elected officials and the many stakeholders who care about the stewardship of our shared public lands and healthy communities.”

Ryan Zinke, a former Montana congressman and Trump’s first interior secretary, set the stage for the move to Colorado, emphasizing during his tenure that officials should be closer to the vast public lands that fall under the agency’s purview. The relocation was finalized under David Bernhardt, who succeeded Zinke in 2019.

While many progressives applauded the move back to the nation’s Capitol, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado lamented the decision while remaining optimistic about the beefed up Western presence.

“While I am disappointed that the national headquarters will be in Washington, I believe establishing and growing a permanent BLM Western Headquarters in Grand Junction should be a very positive development,” he said in a statement. “In the coming months, I will hold the Administration accountable to ensure that the BLM Western Headquarters is permanent, fully staffed, and informed by the voices of the Rocky Mountain West – after the last administration failed to deliver on that promise.”

However, GOP Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming blasted the decision.

“The Biden administration’s answer for everything is to double the size of government,” he said. “The Bureau of Land Management doesn’t need two headquarters. The single headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management belongs in the West, closer to the resources it manages and the people it serves.”

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Trump boasts that he ‘single-handedly’ selected Alabama as the new location for Space Command, frustrating Colorado politicians who previously criticized the relocation

Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump.

  • Former President Trump said that he “single-handedly” moved Space Command from Colorado to Alabama.
  • Trump made the revelation on the radio show “Rick and Bubba” ahead of a Saturday rally in the state.
  • A bipartisan group of Colorado politicians are calling for a reexamination of the decision.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former President Donald Trump on Friday revealed that he “single-handedly” decided to move the US Space Command from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado to a new site in Alabama, frustrating a bipartisan group of elected officials who have long harbored suspicions that the decision was made for political reasons.

During an interview on the Alabama-based “Rick and Bubba” radio show ahead of a Saturday evening rally in the southern state, Trump boasted of making the decision, despite mistakenly mixing up Space Command with Space Force, a separate branch of the military.

“I single-handedly said, ‘Let’s go to Alabama,'” he told the hosts. “They wanted it. I said ‘Let’s go to Alabama.’ I love Alabama.”

In January, the US Air Force announced that Space Command’s headquarters would be relocated from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.

Colorado Springs was home to Space Command’s predecessor, Air Force Space Command, and many lawmakers have questioned the change.

The decision is currently being investigated by the Pentagon’s Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office.

While Colorado voted for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016 and now-President Joe Biden in 2020, Alabama voters overwhelmingly backed Trump in both of his presidential campaigns.

Read more: Trumpworld is being tormented by this tiny legal office that almost nobody’s heard of

The move has drawn the ire of the state’s top Democrats, which include Gov. Jared Polis and Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, as well as local Republicans, from Congressman Doug Lamborn to Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.

“Colorado is the natural home for Space Command,” the governor said in a joint statement with Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera on Friday. “These callous comments fly in the face of Coloradans, military families, and those who have worked to cultivate our aerospace ecosystem that is suited to guarantee the operational success of US Space Command and deliver the best value to taxpayers.”

They added: “Keeping US Space Command in Colorado means protecting our national security but it’s clear that the former President – now through his own admission – made this misguided decision for political or personal purposes.”

Hickenlooper, a former Denver mayor and Colorado governor who was elected to the Senate last November, was equally critical of the move.

“Former President Trump has admitted what we already knew: that he made a strictly political decision to move Space Command and completely disregarded both critical national security and budgetary considerations,” he said in a statement. “This is exactly why we’ve called for a review and reconsideration of the decision. We look forward to the Air Force doing just that – looking at what is best for our national security – and making sure Space Command is located where it belongs, in Colorado Springs.”

Suthers told the Colorado Springs Gazette, which first reported on Trump’s comments, that the admission should prompt a reexamination of the decisionmaking process.

“We have maintained throughout the process that the permanent basing decision for US Space Command was not made on merit,” he told the outlet. “The admission by former President Trump that he ‘single-handedly’ directed the move to Huntsville, Alabama, supports our position.”

Space Command was retooled under the Trump administration in late 2019.

The command was created to handle possible threats on US space assets from Russia and China.

Congress has not yet appropriated any funding to move the command and the Pentagon has not officially approved a relocation.

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A pro-Trump county clerk is accused of helping to leak sensitive election data to one of QAnon’s leaders: reports

Tina Peters, left, and Ron Watkins, right.
Tina Peters, a Mesa County clerk, is accused of allowing information to be leaked to Ron Watkins.

  • Colorado’s secretary of state said that a county clerk is accused of “assisting” in a security breach.
  • Sensitive election data collected during the breach was leaked to Ron Watkins, Vice reported.
  • Watkins, who is believed by some to be ‘Q,’ shared information from the leak on his Telegram channel.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A pro-Trump election official in Colorado is accused of assisting in the compromising of voting machines and allowing someone to leak sensitive data to a prominent QAnon influencer, according to Vice.

Tina Peters, a county clerk in Mesa, Colorado, and so-called “Trump Truther,” permitted surveillance cameras to be turned off for up to two months, it is alleged. During that time, she has allowed someone to steal information that was then leaked to QAnon figurehead Ron Watkins, the media outlet reported.

Read more: Dozens of people who supported radical right-wing efforts to overturn the 2020 election currently sit on government boards running places like the Holocaust Memorial and the Kennedy Center

At some point in May, Peters’s office reportedly ordered officials to turn off the surveillance cameras monitoring Mesa County’s voting equipment, according to evidence from Colorado’s Democratic Secretary of State Jenna Griswold.

The cameras were not turned on again until this month, Vice reported, which broke the equipment’s “chain of custody” and means that the machines cannot be used in November’s city, town, and school district elections.

“This is troubling for the entire state of Colorado to have someone in a trusted position, literally trusted to protect democracy, allow this type of situation to occur,” Griswold said during a Thursday press conference. “To be very clear, Mesa County Clerk and Recorder allowed a security breach and by all evidence at this point assisted it.”

On May 23, an unknown person gained access to one of the Election Management Systems machines from Dominion Voting Systems used by Mesa County, Vice reported. That person was then able to download an image of the machine’s hard drive, a process repeated on May 26, a cybersecurity expert told Vice.

On May 25, Dominion employees visited the country to conduct a highly-regulated “trusted build” upgrade to the voting machines’ software, the media outlet said.

According to state law, only staff from Griswold’s office, Mesa County, and Dominion are permitted to be in the room during a “trusted build.”

Peters, however, invited an unauthorized non-employee into the room during the process, the Associated Press reported. She misled Griswold about his employment status, CBS Denver said.

While the unauthorized man was there, he allegedly illegally captured footage of the machines being updated.

On August 2, this footage was posted to Watkin’s Telegram channel. The former 8chan owner and administrator has fervently promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory, and some people believe that him and his father could be the infamous ‘Q.’

According to Griswold’s team, the footage included an image that accidentally linked the leak to Mesa County.

Griswold issued an order last week authorizing her staff to travel to Mesa County to inspect the election system, but when they arrived, Peters was nowhere to be seen.

Peters was on her way to MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s “cyber symposium” in South Dakota, Vice reported.

While speaking at the event, the Colorado Newsline reported that Peters accused Griswold’s office of “raiding” her county’s office.

At the South Dakota symposium, Vice said that Watkins showed the audience images that appear to have been taken from the Mesa County machines on May 23 and May 26.

Griswold’s office is investigating the security breach, Colorado Newsline reported. An investigator with 21st Judicial District Attorney Dan Rubinstein’s office is also looking into related potential criminal conduct, according to the local paper.

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Federal judge sanctions lawyers who brought conspiracy theory-filled lawsuit trying to overturn the 2020 election, reap $160 billion in damages

Melania Trump and Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump.

  • A federal judge in Colorado sanctioned two lawyers who challenged the 2020 election results.
  • He called their claims “fantastical” and “the stuff of which violent insurrections are made.”
  • The lawyers had asked for $160 billion in damages because Joe Biden won the presidential election.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A federal judge in Colorado has sanctioned attorneys who brought a lawsuit that challenged the results of the 2020 presidential election and sought $160 billion in damages, calling their conspiratorial claims “the stuff of which violent insurrections are made.”

The Wednesday ruling from US Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter concludes that the lawsuit “was filed in bad faith” and orders the attorneys, Ernest J. Walker and Gary D. Fielder, to pay the opposing lawyers’ expenses and fees. The order does not bar them from practicing law.

“This lawsuit was filed with a woeful lack of investigation into the law and (under the circumstances) the facts,” Neureiter wrote. “The lawsuit put into or repeated into the public record highly inflammatory and damaging allegations that could have put individuals’ safety in danger. Doing so without a valid legal basis or serious independent personal investigation into the facts was the height of recklessness.”

The lawsuit was first filed on December 22, more than a month after then-President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. Though it was filed in Colorado, the lawsuit named as defendants the governors and secretaries of state for swing states which Trump lost to now-President Joe Biden.

The plaintiffs – a smattering of Trump supporters who said in declarations that they believed the election results were rigged, were upset their Facebook posts were deleted, and didn’t want to get vaccinated against COVID-19 – also named Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan, and Dominion Voting Systems as defendants.

Neureiter’s ruling criticized the attorneys in scathing terms for purporting to “represent 160 million American registered voters,” seeking to nullify “actions of multiple state legislatures, municipalities, and state courts,” and then demand a “nominal amount of $1,000 per registered voter” in damages, which would amount to “a figure is greater than the annual GDP of Hungary.”

“In short, this was no slip-and-fall at the local grocery store,” Neureiter wrote. “Albeit disorganized and fantastical, the Complaint’s allegations are extraordinarily serious and, if accepted as true by large numbers of people, are the stuff of which violent insurrections are made.”

The lawyers’ ‘massive cut-and-paste job’ recycled claims from other failed lawsuits

The judge noted that sanctions were warranted because the attorneys did not bring the lawsuit based on the claims of the people they represented.

“It must also be noted that this was not a client-driven lawsuit. As Plaintiffs’ counsel, Mr. Fielder, conceded at the July 16 hearing, the lawsuit was his idea,” Neureiter wrote. “Mr. Fielder and Mr. Walker were not relying on information from the named Plaintiffs to construct the suit or for any of the substantive factual allegations.”

Neureiter said Walker and Fielder acted improperly by failing to research any factual basis for their claims that the 2020 election results were rigged, and by bringing a claim in Colorado against state officials in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Wisconsin.

Neureiter also criticized the lawyers’ “massive cut-and-paste job.” They recycled claims in their lawsuit from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Trump-affiliated lawyer Sidney Powell, both of whom failed in their own lawsuits challenging the election results.

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The lawyers recycled claims from Sidney Powell, who led several failed lawsuits seeking to overturn the election results.

The judge also criticized them for uncritically including a false Trump tweet about “Dominion deleting 2.7 million trump votes nationwide.” Neureiter wrote that when asked in a hearing about including the claim, Fielder’s only justification was that Trump was the president.

“Under the circumstances of this case, with this election, with this insurrection, with the on-going threats to election officials and company employees, including in a federal filing as if it were true such an inflammatory and damaging allegation, without any attempt at verification, merely because the out-going President had said it, was reckless and did not represent a reasonable inquiry under the circumstances,” Neureiter wrote.

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Colorado’s top elections official calls out lies, ‘blatant abuse,’ and voter suppression being used by GOP officials ‘a tool to steal future elections’

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold makes a point during a news conference about the the state's efforts to protect the process of casting a vote in the general election Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in downtown Denver.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold makes a point during a news conference about the the state’s efforts to protect the process of casting a vote in the general election Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in downtown Denver.

  • For nearly a decade, Colorado has automatically mailed a ballot to every registered voter.
  • Officials boast that the system is a “gold standard” for administering elections.
  • But after 2020, the bipartisan consensus has begun to erode.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jena Griswold was 34 years old when, in her first run for office back in 2018, she defeated a Republican incumbent to become the top elections official in Colorado, the first Democrat to hold the position in six decades and the youngest secretary of state in the nation.

Two years later, Griswold helped administer a presidential election – in a place where all voters receive a ballot in the mail – that state and national officials deemed “the most secure in American history.”

Joe Biden won Colorado by more than 439,000 votes and, with it, the presidency. But the groundwork for discrediting his victory had been laid months before. When voters made their choice, the lying hit a fever pitch: about widespread fraud; about fake ballots, maybe from China, being added to the tally in the middle of the night; about officials, left and right, rigging the vote against an incumbent.

In an interview, Griswold said she now fears for her safety.

“I’m not alone in that,” she said. Across the country, “Democratic secretaries of state have received all types of death threats.” Republicans, too.

In Arizona, Katie Hobbs, that state’s Democratic elections official, was recently provided a state security detail after being threatened over her criticism of the partisan “audit” taking place in Maricopa County, where a private third party, Cyber Ninjas, has been given free rein by the GOP-led state senate over 2.1 million ballots – a majority of them cast for President Biden – in an apparent effort, dismissed by a bipartisan group of experts as not credible, to fit the facts to the pro-Trump conspiracy theories.

Griswold is part of a bipartisan group of elections officials urging Congress to provide billions of dollars to shore up state and local voting infrastructure (“elections cost money”). But the biggest threat to the security of democracy, she said, is something else: disinformation.

In 2016, the Russian government worked to tilt the election in Donald Trump’s favor, as well as to sow doubt about the integrity of any vote he lost. It did so again in 2020.

But stateside, “elected officials really embraced the use of lies to try to manipulate Americans voters,” Griswold said.

“The lies are creating violence. The lies are creating threats,” she said. It is those elected officials, more than any foreign adversary, that she sees as threatening the integrity of the US political system. The push for “fraudulent audits,” in Arizona and elsewhere, is to Griswold perhaps the most glaring example of officials who know better engaging in bad faith to better position themselves for the next GOP primary.

“The blatant abuse of political seats for these elected officials’ personal gain is incredibly dangerous to our democracy, but also to election workers,” she said. “That is, hands down, my number one concern.”

It has included misleading the public over the very right to vote. In Georgia, when Republicans passed a new elections law that requires mail-in voters to provide an ID every time they cast a ballot – citing the need to address fraud that was never uncovered – they pointed to Colorado as if it were a model they were following. But Colorado only requires proof of identification once, at registration, the standard Republicans embraced in the early 2000s, and it accepts utility bills, not just government forms of ID. And, as of 2019, residents are now automatically registered to vote anytime they get a driver’s license.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous to compare Colorado’s gold-standard voter model to Georgia’s voter suppression model,” Griswold told Insider. Even before the new restrictions, some voters in Georgia, particularly in urban areas, could expect to wait hours in line; in Colorado, the average wait time is seven minutes – and there’s no prohibition on giving them water.

But false claims of voter fraud are being used around the country to impose such new restrictions. The threat to democracy, again, is coming from within.

“What we’re seeing is insider political actors use voter suppression as a tool to steal future elections,” Griswold said. “And that is the most un-American and corrupting thing you can do.”

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Graphs show where the Delta variant is surging fastest in the US, with huge spikes in Missouri, Colorado, Utah, and Arkansas

tsa christmas
A man receives a nasal swab COVID-19 test at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport .

  • The number of people infected with the Delta variant has sky-rocketed in four US states, a virus expert said.
  • Delta was now the most common virus strain in Missouri, Utah, Colorado, and Arkansas, Trevor Bedford said.
  • Bedford co-developed Nextstrain, a data platform used by the World Health Organization that tracks virus outbreaks.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The number of people infected with the highly infectious Delta has skyrocketed in four US states, according to an expert in virus sequencing.

Trevor Bedford, affiliate associate professor at the department of genome sciences at University of Washington, said on Twitter on Thursday that the Delta variant had displaced the formerly-dominant Alpha variant in Missouri, Utah, Colorado, and Arkansas.

Bedford did not say where he got the data from, but he co-developed Nextstrain, a data platform used by the World Health Organization, that tracks virus outbreaks using publicly available data including from the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data.

The most striking change was in Missouri, where the Alpha variant caused more than 80% of cases in May, and now accounts for about 10% of cases. Meanwhile, the Delta caused about 30% of sequenced cases in May, and more than 80% of new cases now, he said.

Missouri has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the US – 36% of Missourians are fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Read more: Experts explain why the mRNA tech that revolutionized COVID-19 vaccines could be the answer to incurable diseases, heart attacks, and even snake bites: ‘The possibilities are endless’

The Delta variant is estimated to be at least twice as infectious as the Alpha variant and has rapidly spread to more than 96 countries. The World Health Organization said in a report released Tuesday that it expected Delta to outcompete other variants worldwide.

Bedford said on June 22 that it was difficult to predict the size of the Delta epidemic, but that he expected it to vary depending on the number of people vaccinated in an area. Real-world data from the UK showed that one dose of Pfizer’s vaccine was just 33% protective against COVID-19 with symptoms caused by Delta, rising to 88% effective after two doses.

Bedford did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the source of the data.

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