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Voice of Kermit fired over ‘unacceptable’ conduct

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NEW YORK — The Muppets Studio is blaming “unacceptable business conduct” for its dismissal of Steve Whitmire as the longtime performer of Kermit the Frog. This explanation, issued Monday, follows Whitmire’s emotional blog post last week after his firing was made public. He said he learned last October that the role of Kermit would be recast. Whitmire had been wit…

NEW YORK — The Muppets Studio is blaming “unacceptable business conduct” for its dismissal of Steve Whitmire as the longtime performer of Kermit the Frog. This explanation, issued Monday, follows Whitmire’s emotional blog post last week after his firing was made public. He said he learned last October that the role of Kermit would be recast. Whitmire had been wit…

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US & World

Aretha Franklin: the sound of America’s Civil Rights Movement

The Queen of Soul created the soundtrack that inspired millions to fight for racial equality.

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FILE - In this March 26, 1973 file photo, soul singer Aretha Franklin appears at a news conference. Franklin died Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018 at her home in Detroit. She was 76. (AP Photo, File)

Aretha Franklin, who was born and rose to fame during the segregation era and went on to sing at the inauguration of the first black president, often used her talent, fortune and platform to inspire millions of black Americans and support the fight for racial equality.

“She not only provided the soundtrack for the civil rights movement, Aretha’s music transcended race, nationality and religion and helped people from all backgrounds to recognize what they had in common,” said longtime civil rights leader the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery.

Franklin, who died Thursday at 76, was a close confidante of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a financial lifeline to the civil rights organization he co-founded, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The Queen of Soul’s commitment to civil rights was instilled by her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, who also knew King and preached social justice from his pulpit at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit.

Jesse Jackson, Betty Shabazz, Tom Todd, Aretha Franklin, Louis Stokes

The church, in fact, was the first place King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. Among those in the congregation were Aretha Franklin and Mahalia Jackson. It was Jackson who later urged the civil rights leader to “tell them about the dream, Martin” at the March on Washington, where he delivered the oration for which he is most famous.

Franklin recorded “Respect” on Valentine’s Day 1967. Black Americans had already won federal legislation outlawing segregation and protecting their voting rights, particularly in the Deep South.

But blacks were still a year away from the Fair Housing Act. And just months after the song was recorded, urban centers, including Franklin’s hometown of Detroit, would burn, exposing police brutality and unequal living conditions and job opportunities.

“Her songs were songs of the movement,” Andrew Young, the former King lieutenant and U.N. ambassador, said Thursday. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T. … That’s basically what we wanted. The movement was about respect.”

The SCLC often struggled financially, but Franklin played a vital role in keeping the movement afloat.

“Almost every time we needed money, there were two people we could always count on: Aretha Franklin and Harry Belafonte,” Young said. “They would get together and have a concert, and that would put us back on our feet.”

FILE – In this March 26, 1973 file photo, soul singer Aretha Franklin appears at a news conference. Franklin died Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018 at her home in Detroit. She was 76. (AP Photo, File)

King and Franklin were like spiritual siblings, sharing a bond rooted in their Christian faith, Young said. King would often ask Franklin to sing his favorite songs, “Amazing Grace” or “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” When King was assassinated in 1968, Franklin sang “Precious Lord” at his funeral in Atlanta.

Franklin’s “Amazing Grace” was also a comfort to the Rev. Al Sharpton when he was a boy. He recalled that his mother would play the song nonstop in their Brooklyn home after his father left.

As an adult and an activist, Sharpton became friends with the soul singer. He noted her unwavering faith, which she brought with her on stage to every performance.

“Whether it was the White House, Radio City Music Hall or the Apollo Theater, she always did gospel numbers,” Sharpton said. “She was unapologetically a hardcore, faith-believing Baptist. At the height of her career, she cut a gospel album. Who does that? Her faith is what motivated her.”

Long after the civil rights movement ended, Franklin remained committed to social justice, helping Sharpton as he began his organization, the National Action Network, in New York. She would call Sharpton for updates on the emerging Black Lives Matter movement, asking about such cases as those of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner.

“She gave so much to so many people, from Dr. King, to Mandela, to Barack Obama,” said Rev. Jesse Jackson, a longtime friend who visited her the day before her death.

Her presence and influence were as valuable to the movement as her financial contributions, Sharpton said.

“To have someone like that that involved and interested … was a statement,” he said. “It gave all the credibility in the world. Others had celebrity, but she had gravity and respect.”

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Colorado

Cautionary Approach – New Mexico’s rail woes are a lesson for Colorado’s front range rail

New Mexico’s Rail Runner troubles provide a cautionary tale for Colorado’s proposed Front Range passenger rail project.

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To gauge the potential of Colorado’s planned north-south Front Range Passenger Rail between Trinidad and Fort Collins, perhaps it might help to look at another north-south passenger train system which has been operating in New Mexico for about a decade now.

The New Mexico Rail Runner Express (the moniker is a play on the name of the state bird, the roadrunner) is a double-decker, north-south passenger rail system that runs between the town of Belen, N.M., which is south of the state’s largest city, Albuquerque and New Mexico’s capital city, Santa Fe.

Each Rail Runner train is powered by one locomotive which always faces south and operates in reverse when going north in what is called a push-pull configuration.

Rail_runner_system_map.JPG

New Mexico Rail Runner Train Routes

The two-phase (Phase II was completed in December 2008) Rail Runner system cost $385 million to build. By comparison, full environment clearance alone (Phase III) for Colorado’s proposed five-phase Front Range Passenger Rail could cost up to $300 million. The construction cost for the Front Range project has not been determined.

One might consider that the Rail Runner is the yet-to-be-built Front Range Passenger Rail in microcosm. The Rail Runner’s track distance from beginning to end is only 96 miles compared with the roughly 260 miles of track needed for the proposed Front Range Passenger Rail. And the two largest population centers on the Rail Runner’s route (the Albuquerque metropolitan area and Santa Fe) just total about 987,000 people, whereas the four largest population centers that are planned to be served by the Front Range Passenger Rail (the Denver and Colorado Springs metro areas, and Fort Collins and Pueblo) have a total population of roughly 3.7 million people.

Ridership falling

The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) and another public entity, the Rio Metro Regional Transit District (Rio Metro), oversee Rail Runner’s operation.

To gauge the potential of Colorado’s planned north-south Front Range Passenger Rail between Trinidad and Fort Collins, perhaps it might help to look at another north-south passenger train system which has been operating in New Mexico for about a decade now.

The New Mexico Rail Runner Express (the moniker is a play on the name of the state bird, the roadrunner) is a double-decker, north-south passenger rail system that runs between the town of Belen, N.M., which is south of the state’s largest city, Albuquerque and New Mexico’s capital city, Santa Fe.

Each Rail Runner train is powered by one locomotive which always faces south and operates in reverse when going north in what is called a push-pull configuration.

Rail_runner_system_map.JPG

New Mexico Rail Runner Train Routes

The two-phase (Phase II was completed in December 2008) Rail Runner system cost $385 million to build. By comparison, full environment clearance alone (Phase III) for Colorado’s proposed five-phase Front Range Passenger Rail could cost up to $300 million. The construction cost for the Front Range project has not been determined.

One might consider that the Rail Runner is the yet-to-be-built Front Range Passenger Rail in microcosm. The Rail Runner’s track distance from beginning to end is only 96 miles compared with the roughly 260 miles of track needed for the proposed Front Range Passenger Rail. And the two largest population centers on the Rail Runner’s route (the Albuquerque metropolitan area and Santa Fe) just total about 987,000 people, whereas the four largest population centers that are planned to be served by the Front Range Passenger Rail (the Denver and Colorado Springs metro areas, and Fort Collins and Pueblo) have a total population of roughly 3.7 million people.

Ridership falling

The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) and another public entity, the Rio Metro Regional Transit District (Rio Metro), oversee Rail Runner’s operation.

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Colorado

Expect bigger, more damaging hail storms as they hit areas with growing populations

limate change will make the atmosphere more moist, but the effect that will have on hailstones isn’t clear experts aren’t clear.

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Hailstorms inflict billions of dollars in damage yearly in North America alone, and the cost will rise as the growing population builds more homes, offices and factories, climate and weather experts said Tuesday. The role of climate change in hailstorms is harder to assess, the experts said at a conference at the National Center for Atmospheri…

Hailstorms inflict billions of dollars in damage yearly in North America alone, and the cost will rise as the growing population builds more homes, offices and factories, climate and weather experts said Tuesday. The role of climate change in hailstorms is harder to assess, the experts said at a conference at the National Center for Atmospheri…

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One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

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