TIME plague

3 New Plague Cases Confirmed in Colorado

The state health department has found a total of four people infected with the pneumonic plague

Three new cases of plague have been identified in Colorado for a total so far of four, the state health department announced Friday.

The four people diagnosed all had contact with a dog that died of the plague. The initial patient remains hospitalized but the three infected later “all had minor symptoms, were treated with appropriate antibiotics, recovered and are no longer contagious,” the health department said in a release.

Plague is spread from rodent—in this case prairie dogs—to other animals, including humans, by rogue fleas.

Of the 60 cases of plague in its various forms that Colorado has seen in recent years, nine people have died from the disease, according to a Bloomberg report. Doctors recommend keeping a safe distance from any rodents, alive or dead.

TIME weather

Lightning Deaths at National Park Concern Visitors

Lightning Danger Rocky Mountain Park
A couple walks together past a snowfield just off Trail Ridge Road, above tree-line at Rocky Mountain National Park, west of Estes Park, Colo., on Monday, July 14, 2014. Lightning killed two people last weekend just miles apart in the popular park, where summer storms can close in quickly with deadly results. Breannan Linsley—AP

Lightning strikes that killed two people in two days at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado has made visitors more cautious about hiking — the deaths were the first that the park has seen in 14 years

(ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colo.) — Visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park are hiking more cautiously after lightning strikes at the popular park killed two people in two days at the height of summer travel season.

Signs around the park warn its 3 million annual visitors that storms can close in quickly with deadly results. But the park hadn’t seen a lightning fatality in 14 years until Friday, when Rebecca Teilhet, 42, of Yellow Springs, Ohio, was killed and seven more hikers were injured on the Ute Crossing Trail at about 11,400 feet above sea level.

One day later and a few miles away, lightning killed Gregory Cardwell, 52, of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, at Rainbow Curve, a pullout on Trail Ridge Road with sweeping vistas from a vantage point about 10,800 feet above sea level. Three others were hurt by that strike.

The deaths were on the minds of visitors Monday.

“We were looking at the sky and (thinking) don’t be the tallest thing around,” Sarah Jones, of Greeley, said before setting out for a hike with her husband and three children.

Rebecca Tilhet’s husband, Justin Teilhet, was among those injured on Ute Crossing. He didn’t remember hearing a boom or feeling a sting, just waking up numb on the treeless tundra high in Rocky Mountain National Park and discovering his good friend was trying to revive his wife.

It was a lightning bolt, he learned later, and it killed his wife and left him with a burn on his shoulder and scrapes on his face when he was knocked unconscious.

“I had been laying in the ambulance for maybe 15 minutes, 20 minutes, and the two emergency responders who had worked on my wife came into the ambulance and held my hand and told me (she was dead),” Justin Teilhet said. “They were both next to tears.”

Colorado averages three deaths and 15 injuries a year from lightning and often ranks No. 2 in the nation in lightning casualties behind Florida, said Bob Glancy, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Boulder.

“Part of that is because Colorado is a great place to be outside,” he said. The terrain and weather also are factors. The mountain profile and summer weather patterns create frequent thunderstorms over the Front Range, which includes Rocky Mountain National Park.

Justin Teilhet, his wife and his friend Nick Tertel, of Fort Collins, Colorado, were in a line of hikers hustling back to the trailhead parking lot on Trail Ridge Road as the weather changed.

“A storm blew in, and it came very fast,” Teilhet said Monday from his home in Ohio. “It started raining a little bit. We were hearing claps of thunder everywhere, but there wasn’t any lightning.”

Teilhet and Cardwell were the first people killed by lightning in the park since a climber died on Longs Peak in 2000, officials said. A woman was injured by lightning last year.

Park officials don’t close Trail Ridge Road because of lightning, saying that would be impractical.

Teilhet said he saw one of the advisories about lightning at the trailhead.

“When you see a sign warning you about lightning, you just sort of file it away with the things you already know are dangerous,” he said.

Teilhet said he doesn’t think the National Park Service could or should have done anything more, and he praised the staff’s response.

“This a huge, beautiful, dangerous, amazing place, and they’ve done a lot to make it accessible to the public,” he said.

TIME 2014 Election

Friendly Fire Over Colorado Fracking Could Cost Democrats the U.S. Senate

U.S. Representative Jared Polis during the Colorado Democratic Party's State Assembly in Denver on April 12, 2014.
U.S. Representative Jared Polis during the Colorado Democratic Party's State Assembly in Denver on April 12, 2014. David Zalubowski—AP

The reelections of the Democratic governor and U.S. Senator in Colorado are threatened by ballot initiatives pushed by a renegade House Democrat

Correction appended July 15, 2014

With a nail biter election on the horizon that flip control of the U.S. senate, the biggest concern of many Colorado Democrats is one of their own—a wealthy congressman named Jared Polis who is pushing statewide ballot initiatives that party strategists fear could increase Republican turnout in November.

Polis has introduced and is helping garner enough signatures for a state ballot effort would restrict oil and gas fracking, a major issue in his home district where four of the five biggest towns have banned it.

The initiatives have so scared Democrats that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has spent the better part of the last month trying to come up with a legislative compromise so he could call the state legislature back into a special session to waylay Polis. But with an Aug. 4 deadline to lock in ballot initiatives, hope for a legislative fix is dwindling.

Meanwhile, Democrats have privately and publicly called on Polis to withdraw the initiatives, but he has refused to do so, saying the Democratic base supports these moves. While that is true, the fracking issue could motivate Republicans more, by making the oil and gas industry front and center this election year.

“The concern among many Democrats is that the ballot initiatives that we’re talking about are very very appealing the farther left you go; troubling at the center; and on the right, they are turn out machines,” says Steve McMahon, a Democratic strategist and Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign manager. “If you’re in a safe district, you’re not concerned. But if you’re a Democrat that has to win statewide these things look a lot different.”

At stake isn’t just Democrat Hickenlooper’s tough reelection, but that of fellow Democrat Senator Mark Udall—and, given the electoral map, potential control of the Senate. Oil and gas groups are gearing up to pour in $20 million in Colorado to defeat the initiatives, which they say would essential halve or effectively halt fracking in Colorado. Fracking generated $29.5 billion in economic activity in Colorado in 2012, creating 111,000 direct jobs with an average wage of $74,811, according to the Colorado Petroleum Association.

“Oil and gas has been the spark of the recovery for Colorado and these initiatives would destroy that,” says Stan Dempsey, head of the association. “Why [Polis] thinks that only he has the perfect solution rather than the experts at the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission is beyond me.” Dempsey notes that the industry just went through an extensive rule making process last year in Colorado.

First elected in 2008, Polis is a wealthy businessman and philanthropist, who founded a number of ecommerce companies, including ProFlowers.com. In 2008, he became the first openly gay parent elected to Congress, and while in office sponsored the Race to the Top education reform and has been a defender of the virtual currency Bitcoin. He represents a relatively safe seat, and given his personal fortune is not beholden to leaders or rich patrons to fundraise.

He first got involved in fracking issues in early 2012 when he lobbied Encana Corp. to halt construction on wells close to Red Hawk Elementary School in Erie, Colorado. “Many families have moved out of that area,” Polis tells TIME. “It absolutely hurt the housing market, then people saw fracking going in.” Polis says that having fracking within eyesight of a building reduces property values between 5% and 15%. He also cites environmental concerns given that there were 400 spills last year alone, many of them in populated areas.

Polis says he isn’t anti-fracking and that he believes in an “all of the above” energy policy. “It’s exciting that our state is contributing to American energy independence,” Polis says. But, he adds, he wants companies to act more respectfully of the population. One of his initiatives would require extending setbacks to 2,000 feet from existing buildings, a move that would cut in half the amount of available land or fracking in Colorado, Dempsey says.

Polis argues that it’s such a big issue for his constituents, he cannot ignore the problem. He would prefer a legislative solution, but the “window for that is closing,” leaving him no choice but to proceed with his ballot initiatives. He has contributed personal money to the push to get enough signatures to get on the ballot.

The Colorado Petroleum Association’s Dempsey compares Polis’s tactics, given the ongoing legislative process, to “negotiating with a gun to our heads.” “If he was serious he’d set aside the ballot initiatives, sit down with all the stakeholders and thrash out a compromise,” Dempsey said of Polis. “But it’s his way or the high way and the high way is going to be an expensive and potentially divisive political fight.”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the fracking setback in the Polis ballot initiative. It is 2,000 feet.

TIME Drugs

Colorado Is Consuming Way More Pot Than Anyone Ever Believed

Colorado 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Co.
Hundreds of people lit up joints, bongs, pipes and marijuana cigarettes at exactly 4:20 p.m. during the Colorado 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver on April 20, 2014, to celebrate the legal use of marijuana in the state. Helen H. Richardson—Denver Post via Getty Images

And most is consumed by a minority of daily users

About 9% of Colorado’s population consumes marijuana, according to a market demand study conducted by the state department of revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division and the state’s Marijuana Policy Group. And those users, it’s estimated, will get through about 121.4 metric tons of pot every year.

According to the report, that consumption — calculated through survey results, demographic data and source data — is “31 percent higher than a recent department of revenue assessment, 89 percent higher than a study by the Colorado Futures Center, and 111 percent higher than an older study by the Colorado Center for Law and Policy.”

The state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division analyzed the market demand for the drug, which Colorado began selling for recreational use in January, in an effort to “effectively manage production within the regulated industry,” according to a press release.

According to the study, published Wednesday, the bulk of the demand for the drug comes from the most frequent users. About 21.8% of users report consuming marijuana almost daily, accounting for 66.9% of the total demand in the state. That constitutes a lot of consistent tokers. Across the country, only 17% of American adults consume marijuana that frequently, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

About 29.2% of adults report smoking less than once a month in Colorado.

But it looks like Coloradans aren’t the only ones getting Rocky Mountain high. Using sales-tax analysis and data from tourist offices, the study’s authors estimate about 44% of all retail sales of marijuana come from tourists — the bulk of whom visited mountain communities. In all, visitors are expected to consume about 8.9 metric tons of pot per year.

TIME LGBT

Judge: Same-Sex Couples Can Keep Marrying in Colorado

But the gay marriage ban is still in effect

Gay couples can continue to marry in Colorado, but the state’s ban on same-sex marriage will remain in place, a judge ruled Thursday.

District Court Judge Andrew Hartman found that a county clerk can continue issuing marriage license to gay couples while arguments about the constitutionality of Colorado’s prohibition make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hartman said the clerk could ignore a federal stay on a ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which found states cannot set gender requirements for marriage. Clerks in Denver and Boulder told the Associated Press that they plan to issue licenses.

The judge said in his decision that even though gay marriage is technically illegal in the state, the clerk’s actions are not harming anyone. He noted that every judge in the state who has ruled on this issue in the past year has found gay marriage constitutional and predicted the inevitability of the prohibition’s overturn.

TIME Drugs

Colorado Selling Over 10 Tons of Pot Every Month

Marijuana photographed inside the Evergreen Apothecary in Denver, Colo., Jan. 9, 2014.
Marijuana photographed inside the Evergreen Apothecary in Denver, Colo., Jan. 9, 2014. Matthew Staver—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Annual market demand roughly 130 metric tons a year, state study finds

Correction appended, July 10

The estimated annual market demand for marijuana in Colorado is roughly 130 metric tons, according to the first post-legalization study of the market.

The study, released by state regulators, used actual sales data to draw up the figure rather than rely on survey responses as studies have done in the past, and was able to provide some revealing information.

Surveys have estimated that a third of marijuana users consumed the drug less than once a month, according to the Associated Press. But the study found that those users comprise only .3 percent of the total market, meaning the most of the marijuana is consumed by heavy, more regular users.

The study’s estimate for total market demand, which includes both medical and recreational marijuana, surpassed past figures by nearly a third. The analysis found that demand from residents hovers around 121 metric tons and demand from visitors stands at around 9 metric tons.

But in some of the Colorado’s vacation spots, out-of-staters account for as much as 90 percent of the recreational dispensary traffic. According to the study, legal marijuana is, on average, going for $220 per ounce.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly suggested that the study contradicted previous findings about infrequent marijuana users in Colorado.

MONEY

Price War Heats Up Between Legal Marijuana and the Black Market

KRYSTAL KLACSAN uses a hole punch on the laminated badges for VIP's and members of the press at Cannabis City
After an initial surge following legalization, Colorado's dispensaries have gradually lowered prices. Brian Cahn—ZUMA Press

Recreational marijuana went on sale legally for the first time in Washington state Tuesday, and early reports indicate it’s not cheap to be an early adopter.

The New York Times reports that a combination of tough regulations, financing troubles, meticulous inspectors, and tight land-use laws have severely slowed the rollout of recreational marijuana dispensaries. Of the 334 vendor licensees authorized for the first wave of stores, only about 20 have actually been granted.

A shortage of stores meeting an avalanche of new demand adds up to high prices for the state’s first recreational pot consumers. According to the Times, an ounce is expected to sell for at least $400. Based on numbers from PriceOfWeed.com, a site that crowdsources national marijuana prices, that’s over twice as much as Washington’s black market consumers pay for an ounce of average quality pot.

If one point of marijuana legalization is to stamp out the unregulated black market, and thus avoid funding drug cartels that cause larger societal harms, sky-high prices for legal marijuana are a serious concern. Most consumers would prefer to purchase dope legally, but the corner dealer might be tempting if he’s selling at half price.

Can legal marijuana compete on price with the black market? Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana in January, is a the best case study available. There, in the early going, legal pot prices matched those of Washington’s new dispensaries. Medicine Man, a recreational marijuana shop in north Denver, started out selling marijuana for around $450 an ounce, including tax. “The first couple of months there was literally a line out the door, so we could make that profit,” says Kala Williams, the store’s receptionist and daughter of its owner.

But prices soon dropped as more retailers opened shop. At least half a dozen recreational shops operate within five miles of Medicine Man, which has lowered prices to compete. It now sells a range of marijuana strains for between $198 to $340 per ounce, plus tax. Similarly, an analysis by FiveThirtyEight in late April, about four months after recreational marijuana shops opened, revealed the median sticker price for an ounce of recreational weed in Denver to be $200. After adding Denver’s 7.72% sales tax (most marijuana shops are located in Denver), a 10% marijuana state tax, and an additional 3.5% Denver city tax, a $200 ounce would cost about $242 out the door. Checking store menus online, $200 seems on the low end of the price spectrum, but we had no trouble finding stores offering an ounce for about $300, including tax.

Gauging how these prices compare to the black market is difficult: Street prices vary widely; it’s hard to poll a large sample size; quality is difficult to account for; and drug dealers don’t send out earnings reports. But based on the limited information available, legal weed appears to cost more — but not a lot more — than its black market equivalent. Two Denver residents with knowledge of street prices say contraband pot tends to range from $160 to about $300 an ounce. That roughly correlates with PriceOfWeed’s numbers. If those figures are correct, legal marijuana in Colorado is priced in the upper end of the illegal market.

Whether or not legal marijuana currently competes on price, UCLA’s Mark Kleiman believes it definitely will in the future. A professor of public policy at the Luskin School of Public Affairs, Kleiman says legal weed dealers have one thing the illegal market can never have: The ability to openly invest on machines and other labor-saving technologies that can build economies of scale. “If you have to hide, you have to pay premium wages because people risk going to prison,” said Kleiman. “You can’t invest in expensive fixed tech because you’re worried about a raid.” For example, one of the biggest costs for the illegal drug market is hand trimming the plant’s buds, a process that can be done far more cheaply with machines. Kleiman also believes street dealers will be driven out as concentrates and edibles—marijuana embedded in food—become more popular, as these products are even more difficult to produce without expensive equipment.

His one caveat is that states could end up restricting the amount of land licensed for marijuana production to the point where supply cannot meet demand. That would keep prices permanently inflated, and give street dealers an edge.

That aside, in the long run Kleiman thinks the days of black market pot will soon be over in states where recreational weed is legal, even if prices remain high: “I think illegally growing marijuana in those states will become as common as illegally brewing whiskey.”

TIME Terrorism

Denver Teen Arrested for Support to ISIS Called Herself a ‘Slave of Allah’ on Facebook

Militant Islamist fighters waving flags, travel in vehicles as they take part in a military parade along streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Militant Islamist fighters waving flags, travel in vehicles as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. Reuters

Documents show Conley told FBI she wanted to help wage holy war against forces attacking Islam

(ARVADA, Colo.) — She was a memorable figure in this western Denver suburb, a teenager wearing a traditional Muslim headscarf and dress, sitting alone on a park swing or walking into a Christian church with a backpack and notebook.

People who encountered 19-year-old Shannon Maureen Conley over the past few months said Thursday they were shocked, unnerved or simply sad to learn she had been arrested on charges of conspiring to help terrorists.

“I feel sorry for her,” said Mary Beth Brugler, a member of Faith Bible Chapel, where Conley visited several times last fall before concerned church officials asked her to leave.

“She needs a lot of prayer,” Brugler said.

The FBI says Conley was a convert to Islam who was planning to travel overseas and marry a man she believed was a Tunisian fighting with an al-Qaida splinter group in Syria. She told FBI agents she wanted to help wage holy war against forces attacking Islam, according to court documents.

Conley wanted to fight, the FBI said, but if she couldn’t, she would use her skills as a licensed nurse’s aide to help jihadi warriors.

The FBI said Conley was arrested at Denver International Airport in April while boarding a plane on the first leg of a trip to a town in Turkey three hours from the Syrian border. Authorities didn’t disclose her arrest until Wednesday, citing an active investigation.

Conley’s attorney didn’t return calls Wednesday and was out of the office Thursday. Her father declined to comment.

Conley’s family moved into an Arvada cul-de-sac in the past two years or so, neighbors said, and about a year ago she began wearing a headscarf.

On her Facebook page, she called herself a “slave of Allah,” and one of her posts — now removed — linked to a YouTube video about British women joining fighting in Syria.

Neighbor Bob Taylor recalls seeing her in a headscarf and long dress, sitting on swing in a nearby park for about a half hour at a time.

“I thought it was meditation or something. It just looked unusual,” Taylor said.

“I was shocked, and it’s a little unnerving, scary, you know,” he said of her arrest. “In here, you don’t expect that, you know, as neighbors.”

In October she began showing up at Faith Bible Chapel, sometimes with a backpack, said Jason King, an associate pastor. That caught the attention of security personnel at the church, where a gunman killed two missionary workers in 2007.

“We did ask her what she was doing here, because our first heart is to help and serve anyone,” King said. “So as she was walking around, she was acting a little different, so we just wanted to have a conversation with her.”

Brugler, who serves Sunday coffee and breakfast to worshippers at the church’s small cafe, said Conley ordered biscuits and gravy one morning.

“She asked me if it contained meat,” Brugler recalled. “I said, ‘Yes.’ She cursed and threw it in the trash.”

Church officials eventually asked her to leave.

“There was obviously some resistance, a little bit of hostility,” King said.

Conley later told FBI agents she thought church members were following her, the agency said.

“If they think I’m a terrorist, I’ll give them something to think I am,” she told the agents, according to a court document. She said she began keeping a notebook and acted as if she was diagramming the church “to alarm them,” according to the document.

Doug Newcomb, another associate pastor, said none of Conley’s conversations with church employees involved terrorism.

“All of our conversations with her were pastoral in nature, all related to explaining the Christian faith,” he said.

The FBI said when officers first asked Conley why she went to the church, she replied, “I hate those people.”

She told an FBI agent and an Arvada police detective she first went there to learn about other faiths, but that she disapproved of Faith Christian’s support of Israel.

Senior Pastor George Morrison said the investigation began when pastors expressed suspicions about Conley to security staff, which includes Arvada police officers. When officers learned the church asked her not to return, they started a probe on their own that eventually involved the FBI.

Court documents say FBI agents met with Conley eight times from November through April and that she freely described her plans — even though she knew she was speaking to government agents, and even though they told her what she wanted to do was illegal and tried to talk her out of it.

“It grieves your heart,” said King, the associate pastor.

“We know that this is not the best track, let alone for anyone, but especially a 19-year-old gal who is probably just trying to seek truth and find a place somewhere.”

TIME National Security

Woman Arrested in Denver for Alleged Support of Jihadist Group

Her arrest comes weeks after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launched an offensive in Iraq

+ READ ARTICLE

Updated 7:13 a.m. E.T. on July 3

A woman in Denver was arrested for allegedly providing material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the designated-terrorist organization that has been seizing regions in northern Iraq over the last month.

A criminal complaint filed with the U.S. District Court of Colorado says Shannon Maureen Conley conspired to commit an offense against the U.S., Reuters reports, and that she knew ISIS was engaged in militant activity.

The complaint said Conley met with a co-conspirator—a man, labeled in the documents as Y.M., who said he was an active member of the group—online last year and that she planned to meet him in Syria through Turkey. Conley had apparently attended training sessions for military tactics and using firearms in Texas earlier this year, the complaint added, with an aim to support fighters once she was on the ground.

[Reuters]

MONEY Autos

WATCH: Hail Yes! Car Dealers Slash Prices on Storm-Damaged Vehicles

Severe hailstorms in the West and Midwest have one benefit for bargain-hunters: Discounts on damaged cars.

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