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Entertaining in country: Vail Valley woman reflects on her USO tours during the Vietnam War

EDWARDS — Watching war and warriors from a USO stage is beautiful and bittersweet.

Pamela Smith has that perspective. When the Vail Valley resident was a Colorado State University student, she joined four other women from the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority to do hundreds of shows over several weeks, entertaining thousands of troops in Vietnam.

How they came to be in country

Kappa Kappa Gamma was fond of putting together jug bands — the Kappa Pickers — to entertain candidates during rush week parties: washboards, guitars and honest-to-moonshine-holding jugs.

This was 1968-72, and there was a war on.

A USO guy caught their act and said, “You should apply to do USO shows.”

“What?!?” they replied.

“You should apply to do USO shows,” the guy said again. “This is exactly what these guys want to see: girls their age,” the guy said.

The average age of American G.I.s in Vietman was about 22.

Pamela Smith arriving on the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk during a USO tour to entertain troops during the Vietnam War.
Special to the Daily

So, the Kappa Pickers put together a demo tape, rehearsed a lot and booked a Shakey’s Pizza in Fort Collins for their audition. They packed it with friends who cheered and stomped and clapped at exactly the right times, as friends will.

The guy signed them that night, Smith said.

The Kappa Pickers’ parents were from the “Greatest Generation.”

“They did not once let us think that they weren’t all in, or that we had anything other than their total support,” Smith said.

In the summer of 1970, they boarded a plane for Southeast Asia to meet the war. The war met them.

“Our first show was a burn ward in Tokyo,” Smith said.

They wore gowns and footies to cover their shoes — nothing to cover their eyes, though and some things cannot be unseen.

Colorado Gov. John Love gives the Kappa Pickers a send-off from Denver’s Stapleton airport.
Special to the Daily

That first tour was six weeks: Japan, Okinawa, Guam, the Philippines and South Korea. Dozens of shows for adoring audiences of GIs a long way from home with no one to talk to. In country (a term for being in Vietnam) during the late ’60s and early ’70s, a letter was a soldier’s only communication with the world.

“The shows lasted an hour, then we’d spend three hours talking to the soldiers,” Smith said. “They just wanted someone to talk to.

Besides incredibly polite marriage proposals, Smith said, the question the Kappa Pickers answered most often was, “How is everything in the world?”

An encore

They were so popular that the USO asked them to tour for five weeks during the holidays of 1970-71. They took their final exams early at CSU and boarded another plane for Southeast Asia and the war.

Christmas Day they did five shows, flying in helicopters from landing zone to landing zone. Crowds might be 50 appreciative GIs, Smith said.

Sometimes, though, the show does NOT go on. They canceled a couple because their landing zones were under enemy fire, and one because there was just too much mud.

During their USO tours in Vietnam and Asia, the Kappa Pickers performed dozens of shows for thousands of troops. This is part of a Christmas holiday tour in 1970.
Special to the Daily

Christmas night they flew back to their quarters in the Demilitarized Zone – that narrow strip of land separating South and North Vietnam — exhausted and pummeled by rain and mud. They found exquisitely hand-lettered invitations to dine with the generals. The menu would be filet mignon, lobster tail and Champagne.

When dinner was done, the generals asked, “Would you like to see a movie?” They watched “Kelly’s Heroes.”

“A far cry from singing for soldiers in the mud and rain,” Smith said.

‘Our job was to talk to these guys’

Their third tour was the 1971 summer. The war was different by then, and so were the soldiers. America was tired of being lied to by its own government. It showed in the faces of the men and women fighting.

“That was the toughest. Morale was terrible. The guys did not know why we were there, and no one was telling them. The government could not make the case for the war.”

During that third tour, the Kappa Pickers wore helmets and flak jackets in the officers’ quarters where they stayed. GIs did not know the Pickers were in there and had developed the tendency of throwing flaming bottles and other things at the officers’ quarters, apparently reasoning that a dead or dying officer could not order them to their own deaths.

Anything can be a stage, like this bunker on which the Kappa Pickers are performing in South Vietnam.
Special to the Daily

“Imagine being there late in the war. They kept saying, ‘We hope we can get out of  here alive.’ Our job was to talk to these guys,” Smith said.

Those USO tours were among the first times anyone differentiated between supporting the troops and the war they had been sent to fight.

“It was not about supporting the war. It was about supporting these guys our age,” Smith said. “We got over there and saw they were just like our brothers.”

Of the American military members sent to Vietnam, a third were drafted into service.

“You know there’s a problem when that many were there unwillingly,” Smith said.

Back in Fort Collins, letters from grateful GIs poured into their CSU sorority house. The Kappa Pickers read them to each other.

Lance Cpl. John Joyce, 3rd Marine Division, wrote: “I could sure use some other female pen pals … besides my mother.”

Once in a while, one of those soldiers showed up at their sorority house and asked for one of them.

American soldiers in Vietnam needed someone their own age to talk to. The average soldier in Vietnam was 22 years old, the same age as the Kappa Pickers.
Special to the Daily

Perspective and paradigms

Years later when the guns had gone silent, Smith and her husband, Rick, lived in Hong Kong, a one-hour flight from Hanoi. She made the trip several times, landing on airstrips surrounded by bomb craters left from the war.

She recalled a week the Kappa Pickers were on the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk. The captain invited them to the bridge to watch bombers take off to drop some of those bombs on those Hanoi airstrips she’d see years later.

In Hanoi she visited museums that told the North’s story of “The American War.”

Walking up a staircase in one of those Hanoi museums she spotted a picture of a North Vietnamese girl playing a guitar and entertaining her troops.

“My counterpart,” Smith said. “These were loved ones, too.”

The Kappa Pickers earned a perspective that few others had, and were horrified at the way the soldiers were treated when they returned from Vietnam, Smith said.

“That was the worst, the way they were treated when they came home,” Smith said. “That was a pivotal point for this country.”

Smith, still a CSU student, was riding a bus from Fort Collins to Vail to ski. She found a seat beside a young soldier fresh from the war. He just wanted to go home. People either ignored him or verbally assaulted him.

“He was devastated,” Smith said.

He told her, “You’re the first person who has talked to me.”

Smith and her family lived near Washington, D.C., when the Vietnam Veterans Memorial opened. Vietnam veterans rolled to the wall in wheelchairs, hobbled on crutches or walked to the wall. They found a buddy’s name to lay their fingers softly on. Some cried.

On the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk, Vietnam, in 1971. Vail Valley resident Pamela Smith is on the left.
Special to the Daily

These days Smith works in women’s empowerment causes and is a huge believer in diplomacy.

“Our country has learned from some of the mistakes of Vietnam, in the way we treat those who serve in the military and also in the value of a highly . trained volunteer military,” Smith said.

Sometimes it’s necessary to fight to protect our country, or at least be ready to, Smith said. The Vietnam War was a tragic catastrophe on so many levels, but for Smith and the other young Kappa Pickers, it accomplished one thing.

“It helped at least five young women realize the importance of international diplomacy, and of honoring those who serve,” Smith said.

Snow jobs: In tight labor market, ski areas up the ante

WARREN, Vt. (AP) — It used to be that a free ski pass was enough to lure workers to seasonal jobs at mountain resorts. No longer.

In the current tight labor market, ski areas across the country are having a tough time filling jobs, so they’re upping the ante by boosting wages, providing more housing and offering other perks to fill those jobs before the snow flies.

New Hampshire’s Wildcat is offering a $1,000 bonus for new snowmakers to come on board, and Sunday River in Maine last year increased its hourly wage from $13 to $20 for that job. Utah’s Snowbird is expanding its pool van service to get employees to the mountain, and Sugarbush in Vermont, which has among the lowest unemployment rates in the country, is hiring more foreign college students.

“It’s an enormous challenge for us,” Dave Byrd of the National Ski Areas Association said of the labor issue.

Because ski resorts are by their nature in mountainous areas, they are often far from cities from which to draw workers. And with the national unemployment rate recently hitting the lowest level in 50 years, potential workers would rather have full-time jobs with benefits, said Byrd, director of risk and regulatory affairs for the Colorado-based association.

“We don’t have a lot of ski areas that are in close proximity to major metropolitan areas. And even when we do, like the ski areas in Salt Lake … they’re still struggling to find people,” he said.

The country’s roughly 460 ski resorts hire about 100,000 seasonal workers each fall, he said. Many rely on foreign guest workers for 5% to 10% of their labor, he said.

“We are not able to fill 100% of the jobs we have available,” he said, adding that the J-1 visa program is critical for the ski industry.

The program is intended to give foreign workers who can be scholars, teachers, camp counselors and au pairs training and experience in those fields in the United States. The ski industry uses about 8,000 J-1 visas, Byrd said.

This year, Vermont’s Sugarbush is bringing on more than 100 foreign college students through the program because of the difficulty in filling jobs. A few years ago, it had no one on J-1 visas, spokesman John Bleh said by email. Sugarbush has also been increasing its employee housing over the past several years, according to Bleh.

Housing can be scarce, expensive or both in the remote mountainous areas or resort towns, and online vacation rental services have added pressure to the market by gobbling up a chunk of the available property, Byrd said.

The housing crunch makes it difficult to be ski bum nowadays.

“If you wanted to be ski bum and you want to take a gap year after you graduate college before you go on to getting a real job, that notion of the ski bum in the 1980s and 1990s, those are hard to find, those people, because housing is so enormously challenging for us in the industry,” Bryd said.

And the free mountain pass that comes with the job is no longer enough of an incentive in the era of competitive pass programs that allow skiers and snowboarders to get a bargain without working at the resort, he said.

On top of that, potential workers can now be choosy and opt for a year-round job with benefits.

“When Home Depot and Target are paying $13 an hour, and the ski area 20 minutes out of town — they’ve got to match that,” Byrd said. “They’ve got to compete for that labor pool.”

Colt suspends production of AR-15 for civilian market

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — Gunmaker Colt says it is suspending its production of rifles for the civilian market including the popular AR-15.

Colt’s chief executive officer, Dennis Veilleux, says it is not permanently ending production but believes there is already an adequate supply of sporting rifles on the market. He said in a statement Thursday the company will concentrate on fulfilling military and law enforcement contracts with its rifle manufacturing.

The West Hartford, Connecticut-based company has received some criticism from gun rights advocates for moving away from the civilian market.

Veilleux said in the statement the company remains committed to the Second Amendment and is adapting to consumer demand.

A national gun control debate has focused on access to AR-15s and other assault-style rifles because of their use in mass shootings.

18 years later, America vows to ‘never forget’ 9/11

NEW YORK (AP) — People who were too young on 9/11 to even remember their lost loved ones, and others for whom the grief is still raw, paid tribute with wreath-layings and the solemn roll call of the dead Wednesday as America marked the 18th anniversary of the worst terror attack on U.S. soil.

“As long as the city will gift us this moment, I will be here,” Margie Miller, who lost her husband, Joel, said as she attended the ground zero anniversary ceremony, as she has every year. “I want people to remember.”

President Donald Trump laid a wreath at the Pentagon, telling victims’ relatives there: “This is your anniversary of personal and permanent loss.”

“It’s the day that has replayed in your memory a thousand times over. The last kiss. The last phone call. The last time hearing those precious words, ‘I love you,'” the president said.

Near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the third site where planes crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, Vice President Mike Pence credited the crew and passengers who fought back against the hijackers with protecting him and others in the U.S. Capitol that day.

“I will always believe that I and many others in our nation’s capital were able to go home that day and hug our families because of the courage and selflessness of your families,” said Pence, who was an Indiana congressman at the time. Officials concluded the attackers had been aiming the plane toward Washington.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed when terrorist-piloted planes slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania.

For families like Mary Ann Marino’s, “18 years has not lessened our loss,” she told those gathered at ground zero after she read part of the long list of victims’ names. She lost her son, firefighter Kenneth Marino.

Parboti Parbhu choked up as she spoke from the podium about her slain sister, Hardai. Even after nearly two decades, “There’s no easy way to say goodbye,” she said.

By now, the heritage of grief has been handed down to a new generation, including children and young adults who knew their lost relatives barely or not at all.

Jacob Campbell was 10 months old when his mother, Jill Maurer-Campbell, died on 9/11.

“It’s interesting growing up in a generation that doesn’t really remember it. I feel a connection that no one I go to school with can really understand,” Campbell, a University of Michigan sophomore, said as he attended the ceremony.

Like the families, the nation is still grappling with the aftermath of Sept. 11. The effects are visible from airport security checkpoints to Afghanistan, where the post-9/11 U.S. invasion has become America’s longest war. The aim was to dislodge Afghanistan’s then-ruling Taliban militants for harboring al-Qaida leader and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Earlier this week, Trump called off a secret meeting at Camp David with Taliban and Afghan government leaders and declared the peace talks “dead.” As the Sept. 11 anniversary began in Afghanistan, a rocket exploded at the U.S. Embassy just after midnight, with no injuries reported.

The politics of 9/11 flowed into the ground zero ceremony, too.

After reading victims’ names, Nicholas Haros Jr. used his turn at the podium to tear into Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota over her recent “Some people did something” reference to 9/11.

“Madam, objectively speaking, we know who and what was done,” Haros, who lost his mother, Frances, said as he reminded the audience of the al-Qaida attackers.

“Our constitutional freedoms were attacked, and our nation’s founding on Judeo-Christian values was attacked. That’s what ‘some people’ did. Got that now?” he said to applause.

Omar, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, has said she didn’t intend to minimize what happened on Sept. 11, and accused critics of taking her words out of context. She tweeted Wednesday that “September 11th was an attack on all of us.”

The dead included Muslims, as Zaheda Rahman underscored after reading names at ground zero. She called her uncle, Abul Chowdhury, a “proud Muslim-American man who lived his life with a carefree nature, a zeal for adventure and a tenacity which I emulate every single day.”

Others made a point of spotlighting the suffering of firefighters, police and others who died or fell ill after being exposed to the smoke and dust at ground zero.

A compensation fund for people with potentially Sept. 11-related health problems has paid out more than $5.5 billion so far. More than 51,000 people have applied. Over the summer, Congress made sure the fund won’t run dry. The sick also gained new recognition this year at the World Trade Center site, where a memorial glade was dedicated this spring.

Sept. 11 has become known also as a day of service. People around the country volunteer at food banks, schools, home-building projects, park cleanups and other community events around the anniversary.

“Help me transform this country”: Bernie Sanders rallies thousands of supporters in downtown Denver

Thousands of people sojourned to Civic Center park early Monday night, where they loudly and proudly cheered on Bernie Sanders as the progressive presidential contender denounced insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry and America’s military industrial complex.

The rally had a rock concert atmosphere, with strumming guitarists, volunteers throwing T-shirts to a front row of superfans, and chants of “Bernie!” before, during and after. State Rep. Emily Sirota, a Denver Democrat whose husband is a Sanders speechwriter, introduced the candidate by saying, “To all the CEOs out there, hear us loud and clear: Your greed is coming to an end.”

The 78-year-old democratic socialist senator from Vermont, a darling of liberals young and old, made a loud return to Colorado, 11 months after he stumped for now-Gov. Jared Polis and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse last October in Boulder and Fort Collins.

“I am here in Denver asking your support for more than just defeating Trump,” Sanders told the cheering crowd in a raspy, cracking voice. “I am here to ask you to help me transform this country and create an economy and government that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.”

Read more via The Denver Post.

OxyContin maker seeks to resolve all lawsuits

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A settlement being pursued by the maker of OxyContin aims to resolve all claims against the company filed in both state and federal courts and provides a formula for dividing a pot of money reaching into the billions, The Associated Press has learned.

States and local governments would split the settlement cash following formulas that have already been developed, according to a person familiar with the talks but not authorized to discuss them publicly. The formulas consider the number of people who misuse opioids, overdose deaths and other factors.

As an example, Cabell County, West Virginia, a hard hit part of Appalachia, and the local governments in it would get a total of $975,000 for every $1 billion under the formula; Philadelphia would receive $6.5 million. And for each $1 billion, lawyers would be paid $100 million with $150 million available to communities for costs they have incurred beyond the factors used in the formula.

The attorneys general who are negotiating the deal do not have the authority to enter into settlements for other states, the source said. Once a deal is reached, there would be a process for each state to sign on — and that could lead to adjustments.

Purdue wants any settlement to apply to the nearly 2,000 lawsuits in federal court and the hundreds of other local government and state lawsuits filed in state courts. The settlement talks stem from the federal lawsuits, which are being overseen by a judge in U.S. District Court in Cleveland.

Published reports say a $10 billion to $12 billion nationwide settlement is taking shape.

Under that proposal, Purdue Pharma would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and transform itself into a “public benefit trust corporation,” with all profits from drug sales and other proceeds going to the plaintiffs, news reports said, citing a document outlining the tentative agreement.

The AP’s source said Purdue had pitched the idea of declaring bankruptcy and being operated as a public trust months ago.

The Wall Street Journal said the arrangement would stay in place for seven to 10 years and would be overseen by trustees named by the bankruptcy court. Details of the proposed settlement also were reported by NBC News and The New York Times.

The Sacklers would give up ownership of Purdue Pharma and contribute $3 billion of their own money toward the total, the reports said. They also would sell another pharmaceutical company, Mundipharma, adding $1.5 billion to the settlement.

Lawyers for Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma, the controlling Sackler family, several state attorneys general offices and a lawyer representing the local governments who are suing Purdue in federal court are trying to hammer out a deal.

Purdue declined comment Thursday but said earlier in the week that it sees little good in years of “wasteful litigation and appeals” and believes a far-reaching settlement is the best solution.

A sense of urgency surrounds the talks, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said Thursday. He confirmed his office is part of the negotiations but declined to discuss details.

Representatives for Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson also confirmed their involvement on Thursday, among several other state attorneys general.

Rocky Mountain water managers wrestle with Colorado River “grand bargain”

Rocky Mountain water managers worried about climate-driven depletion across the Colorado River Basin are mulling a “grand bargain” that would overhaul obligations among seven southwestern states for sharing the river’s water.

This reflects rising concerns that dry times could turn disastrous. An enshrined legal right of California and lower-basin states to demand more Colorado River water could imperil half of Denver’s water supply.

The grand bargain concept arose from increasing anxiety in booming Colorado and the other upper-basin states — New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — about their plight of being legally roped into sending more water downriver, even if dry winters, new population growth and development made that impossible without shutting faucets.

California, Arizona and Nevada, the lower-basin states that for years have siphoned more than their allotted one-half share of river water, face greater uncertainty and painful weaning from overuse.

Total water is decreasing in the 1,450-mile river, which trickles from high mountain snow northwest of Denver and carves canyons up to a mile deep. Over the last 15 years, amid a climate shift toward aridity, warming has reduced the river’s flows by at least 6%, according to research based on federal hydrology and temperature data.

Read more via The Denver Post.

Amazon fires: Brazil leader demands French apology before accepting international aid

ACUNDA NATIONAL FOREST, Brazil (AP) — The Latest on the fires burning in Brazil’s Amazon region (all times local):

10:10 a.m.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says Brazil will only accept an offer of international aid to fight Amazon fires if French leader Emmanuel Macron retracts comments that he finds offensive.

Bolsonaro on Tuesday said Macron had called him a liar and he accused the French president of questioning Brazil’s sovereignty amid tensions over fires sweeping the Amazon region.

Bolsonaro says Macron has to retract some of his comments “and then we can speak.”

Macron has questioned Bolsonaro’s trustworthiness and commitment to protecting biodiversity.

The Group of Seven nations has pledged $20 million to help fight the flames in the Amazon and protect the rainforest, in addition to a separate $12 million from Britain and $11 million from Canada.


9:30 a.m.

Brazil has rejected a Group of Seven offer of international aid to fight Amazon wildfires, and French President Emmanuel Macron is shrugging off the snub.

Macron put the Amazon fires high on the agenda of the G-7 summit in France, where world powers pledged this week some $40 million to fight the fires and plant new trees because of the Amazon’s importance to the global climate.

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro accused France and other rich countries of treating the region like a “colony.”

Macron said in a speech Tuesday that Bolsonaro’s interpretation is a “mistake.

He said the money isn’t just aimed at Brazil but at nine countries in the Amazon region, including Colombia and Bolivia. France too considers itself an Amazon country via its overseas region of French Guiana.

Macron and Bolsonaro have been feuding over social media in recent days.


6:30 a.m.

Firefighters in Brazil’s Amazon have the enormous challenge of putting out a multitude of blazes and safeguarding a vast region described by world leaders as critical to the health of the planet. Brazil’s National Space Research Institute says the number of fires has risen by 85% to more than 77,000 in the last year. About half of the fires have been in the Amazon region, with many in just the past month.

Earth’s future is being written in fast-melting Greenland

HELHEIM GLACIER, Greenland (AP) — This is where Earth’s refrigerator door is left open, where glaciers dwindle and seas begin to rise.

New York University air and ocean scientist David Holland, who is tracking what’s happening in Greenland from both above and below, calls it “the end of the planet.” He is referring to geography more than the future. Yet in many ways this place is where the planet’s warmer and watery future is being written.

It is so warm here, just inside the Arctic Circle, that on an August day, coats are left on the ground and Holland and colleagues work on the watery melting ice without gloves. In one of the closest towns, Kulusuk, the morning temperature reached a shirtsleeve 52 degrees Fahrenheit (10.7 degrees Celsius).

The ice Holland is standing on is thousands of years old. It will be gone within a year or two, adding yet more water to rising seas worldwide.

Summer this year is hitting Greenland hard with record-shattering heat and extreme melt. By the end of the summer, about 440 billion tons (400 billion metric tons) of ice — maybe more — will have melted or calved off Greenland’s giant ice sheet, scientists estimate. That’s enough water to flood Pennsylvania or the country of Greece about a foot (35 centimeters) deep.

In just the five days from July 31 to Aug. 3, more than 58 billion tons (53 billion metric tons) melted from the surface. That’s over 40 billion tons more than the average for this time of year. And that 58 billion tons doesn’t even count the huge calving events or the warm water eating away at the glaciers from below, which may be a huge factor.

And one of the places hit hardest this hot Greenland summer is here on the southeastern edge of the giant frozen island: Helheim, one of Greenland’s fastest-retreating glaciers, has shrunk about 6 miles (10 kilometers) since scientists came here in 2005.

Several scientists, such as NASA oceanographer Josh Willis, who is also in Greenland, studying melting ice from above, said what’s happening is a combination of man-made climate change and natural but weird weather patterns. Glaciers here do shrink in the summer and grow in the winter, but nothing like this year.

Summit Station, a research camp nearly 2 miles high (3,200 meters) and far north, warmed to above freezing twice this year for a record total of 16.5 hours. Before this year, that station was above zero for only 6.5 hours in 2012, once in 1889 and also in the Middle Ages.

This year is coming near but not quite passing the extreme summer of 2012 — Greenland’s worst year in modern history for melting, scientists report.

“If you look at climate model projections, we can expect to see larger areas of the ice sheet experiencing melt for longer durations of the year and greater mass loss going forward,” said University of Georgia ice scientist Tom Mote. “There’s every reason to believe that years that look like this will become more common.”

A NASA satellite found that Greenland’s ice sheet lost about 255 billion metric tons of ice a year between 2003 and 2016, with the loss rate generally getting worse over that period. Nearly all of the 28 Greenland glaciers that Danish climate scientist Ruth Mottram measured are retreating, especially Helheim.

At Helheim, the ice, snow and water seem to go on and on, sandwiched by bare dirt mountains that now show no signs of ice but get covered in the winter. The only thing that gives a sense of scale is the helicopter carrying Holland and his team. It’s dwarfed by the landscape, an almost imperceptible red speck against the ice cliffs where Helheim stops and its remnants begin.

Those ice cliffs are somewhere between 225 feet (70 meters) and 328 feet (100 meters) high. Just next to them are Helheim’s remnants — sea ice, snow and icebergs — forming a mostly white expanse, with a mishmash of shapes and textures. Frequently water pools amid that white, glimmering a near-fluorescent blue that resembles windshield wiper fluid or Kool-Aid.

As pilot Martin Norregaard tries to land his helicopter on the broken-up part of what used to be glacier — a mush called a melange — he looks for ice specked with dirt, a sign that it’s firm enough for the chopper to set down on. Pure white ice could conceal a deep crevasse that leads to a cold and deadly plunge.

Holland and team climb out to install radar and GPS to track the ice movement and help explain why salty, warm, once-tropical water attacking the glacier’s “underbelly” has been bubbling to the surface

“It takes a really long time to grow an ice sheet, thousands and thousands of years, but they can be broken up or destroyed quite rapidly,” Holland said.

Holland, like NASA’s Willis, suspects that warm, salty water that comes in part from the Gulf Stream in North America is playing a bigger role than previously thought in melting Greenland’s ice. And if that’s the case, that’s probably bad news for the planet, because it means faster and more melting and higher sea level rise. Willis said that by the year 2100, Greenland alone could cause 3 or 4 feet (more than 1 meter) of sea level rise.

So it’s crucial to know how much of a role the air above and the water below play.

“What we want for this is an ice sheet forecast,” Holland said.

In this remote landscape, sound travels easily for miles. Every several minutes there’s a faint rumbling that sounds like thunder, but it’s not. It’s ice cracking.

In tiny Kulusuk, about a 40-minute helicopter ride away, Mugu Utuaq says the winter that used to last as much as 10 months when he was a boy can now be as short as five months. That matters to him because as the fourth-ranked dogsledder in Greenland, he has 23 dogs and needs to race them.

They can’t race in the summer, but they still have to eat. So Utuaq and friends go whale hunting with rifles in small boats. If they succeed, which this day they didn’t, the dogs can eat whale.

“People are getting rid of their dogs because there’s no season,” said Yewlin, who goes by one name. He used to run a sled dog team for tourists at a hotel in neighboring Tasiilaq, but they no longer can do that.

Yes, the melting glaciers, less ice and warmer weather are noticeable and much different from his childhood, said Kulusuk Mayor Justus Paulsen, 58. Sure, it means more fuel is needed for boats to get around, but that’s OK, he said.

“We like it because we like to have a summer,” Paulsen said.

But Holland looks out at Helheim glacier from his base camp and sees the bigger picture. And it’s not good, he said. Not for here. Not for Earth as a whole.

“It’s kind of nice to have a planet with glaciers around,” Holland said.

Colorado Democrats split among Sanders, Biden and Warren, first state poll says

It’s a three-person race in Colorado for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to the first 2020 poll of the state’s voters, but four of the five current leading contenders would beat President Donald Trump.

Among the Democratic candidates, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won Colorado’s 2016 caucus, leads with 26% support, according to the Emerson College poll released Tuesday. Former Vice President Joe Biden comes in a very close second with 25%, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is third with 20%. The margin of error is 4.8%.

Colorado’s own U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet received just 1% support in the poll.

Emerson College surveyed 403 likely Democratic primary voters by telephone and online between Aug. 16 and 19.

In a broader survey of 1,000 registered voters, Sanders, Biden, Warren and Pete Buttigieg, the Indiana mayor, would beat Trump by at least 7 percentage points. U.S. Kamala Harris leads by 3 points, within the poll’s margin of error.

Read more via The Denver Post.