National News

Monday, August 22, 2016

Doctor who rid the world of smallpox dies

Posted By on Mon, Aug 22, 2016 at 12:48 PM

Dr. Donald Henderson in 2002 with his Presidential Medal of Freedom. - WIKIPEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikipedia Commons
  • Dr. Donald Henderson in 2002 with his Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In 2015, the Independent interviewed Dr. Donald Henderson, the man responsible for ridding the world of smallpox.

Back in the 1960s, Henderson led World Health Organization’s Global Smallpox Eradication Campaign, which eradicated smallpox worldwide. He was also a major proponent for other immunizations, which saved many children from needless deaths or disabilities.

Henderson said he wasn’t a fan of the anti-vaxxer craze, saying that he didn’t think parents these days realize how serious the diseases that vaccinations prevent are. If they did, he said, he hoped they would feel obligated to protect not only their own children, but children who are too young or sickly to be vaccinated themselves.

“The feeling is, you are part of a social community,” he said at the time, “and it’s not just your child that’s going to be affected.”

According the to the New York Times, Henderson died on August 19 in a hospice in Maryland, where he suffered complications from a hip fracture. He was 87.
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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Trump event at UCCS stirs controversy

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 2:14 PM

click image GAGE SKIDMORE
  • Gage Skidmore
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will speak at 2 p.m. Friday at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' Gallogly Event Center.

Not everyone is happy about it.

In a letter released to the public, Chancellor Pam Shockley- Zalaback noted that, "Many faculty, staff, and students have expressed disappointment and anger at Mr. Trump's appearance on our campus." 

 It should be noted that UCCS, as a public university, cannot refuse to host a political event on the basis of preference for (or distaste for) a candidate. But many faculty at the university have signed on to a protest letter in advance of Trump's event. Both the faculty protest letter and a letter from the Chancellor explaining the decision to host the event are posted below after the jump:

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Colorado Springs is fifth best place to live

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 5:44 PM

Mayor John Suthers says "very proud" of the designation. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mayor John Suthers says "very proud" of the designation.

Colorado Springs may have its share of problems, from potholes to panhandlers, but it's still the fifth best place to live in the country according to the  U.S. News and World Report.

Denver was No. 1 on the 2016 “Best Places to Live” list. But the Springs rated higher than many other cities often cited for their quality of life, including Portland, Seattle, Boise, San Francisco, and San Jose.

Mayor John Suthers held a press conference this afternoon to celebrate the good news, along with other favorable rankings of the city. The mayor said Colorado Springs’ strong finish was a sign that the city is being recognized for its “positive trajectory,” including:

• an improving political climate
• the recent deal that allowed the city to be branded “Olympic City USA”
• a 15-year sustained low in the unemployment rate (which stands at 4 to 4.3 percent)
• a strong housing market
• a relatively low cost of living
• improving infrastructure
• strong hospitals and universities
• a growing airport
• beautiful outdoor spaces
• a great quality of life

On that last point, the mayor said that “desirability” — or how much people want to live here, based on a Google Consumer Survey — was among the factors that the U.S News and World Report examined. Colorado Springs, he said, was the only city to score a perfect 10 on that index.

Doug Price, President and CEO of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that Denver’s top ranking benefits the Springs by bringing more people to the state. Many visitors, he says, go on to move the Springs once they see what the city has to offer. Part of the draw, he says, is the friendly locals, who are often willing to recommend a favorite restaurant or offer directions.

“When people travel,” he says, “they like to see ‘How do you people live?’”

Dirk Draper, President and CEO of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, highlighted another honor that the Springs recently received. The Springs is one of ten cities to be named a “Great American Defense Community” by the Association of Defense Communities. This is the first year the award has been given. It honors cities for supporting service members and military families.
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Monday, February 8, 2016

Springs VA clinic gets bad review

Posted By on Mon, Feb 8, 2016 at 12:10 PM

Findings issued on Thursday by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs showed 288 veterans encountered waits longer than 30 days at the Colorado Springs VA Clinic. Even worse, VA staff tried to make their record-keeping "appear the appointment wait time was less than 30 days," the IG reported.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
Here's the report's summary from the IG's website:
In January 2015, the Office of Inspector General received an allegation that the PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom Outpatient Clinic, a Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Colorado Springs, CO, did not provide veterans’ access to the Veterans Choice Program when the CBOC did not provide veterans timely VA care. One affected veteran sent the complaint, along with examples of issues affecting clinic services provided in audiology, mental health, neurology, optometry, orthopedic, and primary care. We substantiated the allegation that the veteran, as well as other eligible Colorado Springs veterans, did not receive timely care in the six reviewed services. We reviewed 150 referrals for specialty care consults and 300 primary care appointments. Of the 450 consults and appointments, 288 veterans encountered wait times in excess of 30 days. For all 288 veterans, VA staff either did not add them to the Veterans Choice List (VCL) or did not add them to the VCL in a timely manner. For 59 of the 288 veterans, scheduling staff used incorrect dates that made it appear the appointment wait time was less than 30 days. For 229 of the 288 veterans with appointments over 30 days, NVCC staff did not add 173 veterans at the CBOCs in the Eastern Colorado Health Care System (ECHCS) to the VCL in a timely manner and they did not add 56 veterans to the list at all. In addition, scheduling staff did not take timely action on 94 consults and primary care appointment requests. As a result, VA staff did not fully use Veterans Choice Program funds to afford CBOC Colorado Springs veterans the opportunity to receive timely care. We recommended that the ECHCS Director take actions to ensure appointments are scheduled using clinically indicated or preferred appointment dates, all veterans eligible for the Veterans Choice Program are added to the VCL in a timely manner, and scheduling staff timely act on consults and appointment requests. The acting director of the ECHCS concurred in principle with our recommendations. ECHCS executed a number of corrective actions to become compliant with current VHA scheduling guidance. Based on actions already implemented, we consider Recommendation 1 closed. We will follow up on the implementation of the remaining recommendations until all proposed actions are completed.
Colorado's congressional delegation immediately reacted with harsh criticism.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., issued a statement saying:
It is intolerable that investigations continue to uncover these unacceptable practices at the VA. Our veterans deserve better.

Veterans waiting too long must have the option to access care through the Choice program and scheduling processes must be followed correctly. We’ll review the report’s findings and recommendations, ensure that the appropriate corrective steps are taken, and determine if any additional policy changes are needed. It’s clear from this report that we must continue to demand accountability at the VA and that strong oversight is still essential.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Peggy Littleton joins crowded U.S. Senate race

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2016 at 12:04 PM

Peggy Littleton will run for U.S. Senate. - FILE PHOTO
  • Peggy Littleton will run for U.S. Senate.
Peggy Littleton has joined a crowded field seeking to be the Republican Party's nominee for U.S. Senate.

If chosen, she would run against incumbent U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat. Other contenders for the Republican nomination include state Sen. Tim Neville, state Rep. Jon Keyser, and businessmen Robert Blaha and Jerry Natividad, among many others. Littleton's fellow El Paso County Commissioner and frequent ally, Darryl Glenn, is also in the race.

Littleton has served as an El Paso County Commissioner since January 2011. Before that, she spent seven years on the Colorado State Board of Education. In her county role, Littleton was the first commissioner to call for the resignation of Sheriff Terry Maketa, and was active in fire/flood recovery efforts. She has also distinguished herself as a fierce gun-rights proponent. (I wrote about her ties to groups allied with Cliven Bundy — whose family members are currently participating in the Oregon standoff — here.) 

Littleton has a long reputation as a deeply conservative Republican. She homeschooled her kids, campaigned for a delegate spot in 2004 as a "Blond Babe for Bush," funded abstinence-only education when she was on the Board of Education, and was a leader in building a new gun range in the county. You can read my short biography of her from 2014 here.

Littleton is portraying herself as an outsider, both because of her conservative beliefs and because she is a woman.

"If you want another Washington good ol’ boy, I’m not your gal,” Littleton stated in a press release announcing her candidacy. “But if you believe, like I do, that America is a great nation and our best days are ahead, I ask for your prayers and your vote. We need safety, security and hope for the future.”

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Lending a hand in the wake of the shooting

Posted By on Wed, Dec 2, 2015 at 1:11 PM

  • Travis Lowell

We haven't buried our dead yet from the mass shooting at Planned Parenthood on Friday.

But in San Bernardino, early reports are flooding in that as many as 20 people have been shot at a social services office. Our thoughts and prayers are, of course, with them. We grieve for them because we know what it's like to be faced with such violence and tragedy. 

Here in Colorado Springs, we are still trying to cope with the loss of three people: 44-year-old Officer Garrett Swasey, 35-year-old Jennifer Markovsky, and 29-year-old Ke'Arre Marcell Stewart. All three leave behind young children.

Many people have helped in various ways already, but here are a couple more ways you can reach out:

1) Donate money to the Pikes Peak Community Foundation's new Emergency Relief Fund for Crisis Intervention

Supporting Victims and the Colorado Springs Community through PPCF Emergency Relief Fund: Crisis Intervention

The Pikes Peak Community Foundation (PPCF) has initiated a new Emergency Relief Fund in response to the recent shootings at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs in which three people were killed and several more were injured. Through a thoughtful application process, PPCF’s Emergency Relief Fund: Crisis Intervention will support community-wide efforts of healing in the aftermath of this tragic event.

The Emergency Relief Fund: Crisis Intervention will provide financial resources to local nonprofits and agencies including first responders who immediately answered the call to help our community during this unexpected event, and to the agencies that will be working to meet future recovery needs.

A committee of community experts is being put into action now to help achieve the maximum positive impact possible for every dollar invested back into the community. In its commitment to that end, PPCF is underwriting all of the administrative costs associated with the Emergency Relief Fund: Crisis Intervention. That means 100% of every donation to this Fund will flow back into the relief and recovery effort.

Tax-deductible donations are being accepted to the Emergency Relief Fund: Crisis Intervention immediately and can be made online at or sent by mail to:

Pikes Peak Community Foundation
730 North Nevada Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
(Please make checks out to Pikes Peak Community Foundation, with “ERF: Crisis Intervention” noted.)

About the Emergency Relief Fund

PPCF’s Emergency Relief Fund: Crisis Intervention is modeled after the 2013 Black Forest Fund, which received an outpouring of community support and led the charge in relief efforts after the devastating Black Forest Fire, with the flexibility to quickly respond to the community's needs. PPCF created the Emergency Relief Fund so that donations may be instantly available for any emergency such as fires, floods, and other community challenges.

About PPCF

The Pikes Peak Community Foundation was founded in 1996. PPCF makes grants to support community improvement projects and operates high-impact programs such as Venetucci Farm, the Fund for the Arts, Pikes Peak Urban Gardens, the Erikson Fund, the Pikes Peak Conservation Fund, Pinello Ranch, and the Gordon Jackson Foundation at Aspen Valley Ranch, to create maximum benefit for our community. The Foundation creates custom-designed charitable gift funds for individuals, families, and businesses, including donor-advised funds, donor-designated funds, endowment funds, memorial funds, and scholarship funds, providing flexible and inexpensive alternatives to setting up private or family foundations.

2) Sign the thank you banner for first responders

The COS Human Relations Commission has organized a community Thank You banner signing event for the first responders in our city. The event is to honor those who protect and serve us as we begin recovery from the tragedy of last Friday.

Colorado Springs School District 11 is donating the banner paper and markers.

The signing events are:

Thursday , December 3 , 2015, from 3-5 PM , Pikes Peak Room, City Hall, 107 N. Nevada, Colorado Springs, CO 80903

Friday , December 4 , 2015 from 9-11 AM, C 21 Library , ENT Conference Room , 1175 Chapel Hills Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80920.

Please bring your family, neighbors and co-workers to sign banners which will be distributed throughout the city to our first responders. The banners signed on Thursday will be used at Officer Swasey's service on Friday.

There is no better time for our city to unite, overcome adversity and thank those that continually and selflessly serve our community.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

UPDATE: Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia stepping down

Posted By on Tue, Nov 10, 2015 at 9:52 AM

The governor's office has provided the following statement:

Lt. Gov. Garcia to join Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education

DENVER — Tuesday, Nov.10, 2015 — Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia today announced that Lt. Gov. Garcia has accepted a position as president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. He will leave his dual role, which includes executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE), and plans to begin with WICHE sometime before July 1, 2016.

“I want to thank Gov. Hickenlooper and the State of Colorado for the incredible opportunity to work on important policy issues for the last five years,” said Garcia. “This was a difficult decision but education has always been my passion. I look forward to carrying the message of opportunity, college completion and workforce development throughout the West.”

“Joe will be nearly impossible to replace,” said Hickenlooper. “He has been an exceptional lieutenant governor and in leading education efforts for Colorado. He has given five years selflessly to the success of this state and the future education of our children. We are grateful and wish him continued success.”

Before he was elected lieutenant governor, Garcia was president of Colorado State University - Pueblo. He also served as president of the second-largest community college in Colorado, Pikes Peak Community College and as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary’s Representative for the Rocky Mountain States; Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies; and was named the first Hispanic partner in the 100-year history of the law firm, Holme Roberts & Owen.

Lt. Gov. Garcia has been actively involved throughout his career as a board member for many non-profit agencies such as the YMCAs of Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Denver; Pikes Peak Legal Aid; the Colorado Springs and Pueblo Economic Development Agencies; The Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (where he served as board president); the Pikes Peak Child Nursery Centers Inc.; the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities; and numerous other civil rights, educational, and cultural organizations. He earned a business degree from the University of Colorado and a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School.

In the event of a vacancy, the governor nominates the lieutenant governor who takes office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both houses according to the Colorado constitution.

The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and its 16 members work collaboratively to expand educational access and excellence for all citizens of the West. By promoting innovation, cooperation, resource sharing, and sound public policy among states and institutions, WICHE strengthens higher education’s contributions to the region’s social, economic, and civic life. Its programs – Student Exchange, the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, Policy Analysis and Research, and Mental Health and several other interstate collaborations – are working to find answers to some of the most critical questions facing higher education today. WICHE’s 16 members include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the U.S. Pacific territories and freely associated states (the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is the first of the group to participate).
——- ORIGINAL POST, TODAY, 9:52 A.M. ——-

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia - BRYAN OLLER
  • Bryan Oller
  • Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia has announced he will step down to accept a position as president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, several news outlets are reporting.

Before becoming lieutenant governor, Garcia served as president of Colorado State University-Pueblo and, before that, Pikes Peak Community College. While lieutenant governor, he has served concurrently as executive director of the state Department of Higher Education. Back in 2013, the Independent's Ralph Routon wrote that Garcia was the "rising star" of the Pikes Peak region, and was likely to be pursued for an opening in the president's cabinet. 

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

E-free Act would ban problematic birth control Essure

Posted By on Wed, Nov 4, 2015 at 2:36 PM

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick announces the introduction of The E-Free Act. - COURTESY REP. MIKE FITZPATRICK'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick's Office
  • Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick announces the introduction of The E-Free Act.

In today's news article "Side effects may include...", I told the story of four local women who have joined a nationwide fight against the birth control method Essure.

Essure is a non-surgical sterilization method that's been available to women for more than a decade. But a lot of women say it's caused serious side effects. Like, really serious. Here's an excerpt from my story:

The FDA reports that it received 5,093 reports on Essure, mostly from women who received the implant, from Nov. 4, 2002, to May 31, 2015. The most common complaints included "pain/abdominal pain (3,353), heavier menses/menstrual irregularities (1,408), headache (1,383), fatigue (966) and weight fluctuations (936)." The most frequent device problems were "patient device incompatibility (941) (for example, possible nickel allergy), migration of the device or device component (482), device operating differently than expected (301), device breakage (259) and malposition of the device (133)."
The women I talked to reported far more problems, like cysts, hair and tooth loss, heart problems, vomiting, panic attacks, and loss of mental function. I mentioned in the article that U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., was planning to introduce a bill to address those concerns called "The E-Free Act." At the time, his office wouldn't give details on exactly what the bill would do.

Well, Rep. Fitzpatrick has introduced the bill, and it's pretty straightforward. file:///Users/reporter/Downloads/E-Free%20Act%20Bill%20Text.pdf" target="_blank">The E-Free Act would compel the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration to withdraw its approval of Essure no later than 60 days after the bill's passage.

Here's the release from Rep. Fitzpatrick:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-8) joined women harmed by the medical device Essure Wednesday outside the United States Capitol to announce the introduction of the E-Free Act - legislation to remove the product from the market.

“Can you imagine such debilitating pain, fatigue and depression that you feel as if your children have lost you as a parent? For women impacted by the medical device Essure and its documented damaging side effects, this unimaginable situation is a stark reality,” said Fitzpatrick. “That’s why, 13 years to the day after Essure was given pre-market approval, I’ve introduced the E-Free Act to remove this device from the market before it can hurt any more women.”

Essure is a permanent sterilization device for women produced by Bayer. This medical device is a nickel-based metal coil designed to be inserted in the fallopian tube and cause tissue scarring. Since it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on November 4, 2002, the FDA has received over 5,000 formal complaints related to the device. Tens of thousands of women have reported symptoms including extreme pelvic and abdominal pain, migraines, autoimmune reactions, loss of teeth and hair, the metal coil breaking and migrating throughout the body, and the coil cutting into the uterus and other organs in the abdominal cavity. The deaths of at least four women and five unborn children have been attributed to Essure.

“The failures of Essure are well documented and wide ranging. Yet, in the face of all these facts, this device remains on the market; certified with the FDA’s stamp of approval. That’s unacceptable to me and unacceptable to the tens of thousands of “Essure Sisters” who are living with this device’s effects,” said Fitzpatrick. “If the FDA or manufacturer aren’t willing to act in the best interest of these women, Congress must.”

Essure Problems, a group of over 23,000 women who joined together online to share stories of how Essure impacted their lives, has led a grassroots lobbying effort to bring awareness to the issue and stop the harm caused by the device.

“The Essure Problems group is so very grateful for the support of Congressman Fitzpatrick. The women harmed represent every party, every nationality, every color, and every walk of life. We have been able to stand side by side and unite and work together for this cause,” said Amanda Rusmisell, victim and Legislative Liaison of the Essure Problems group. “Tens of thousands of otherwise healthy young women have been significantly harmed by the medical device Essure - most of them requiring multiple surgeries, most often, hysterectomy. We are asking Congress to help push the FDA to revoke the approval for this dangerous and ineffective medical device.”

Fitzpatrick is an outspoken advocate for medical device safety and has previously pushed back against the FDA’s approval process for power morcellators which have been proven to spread undetected cancer in women. After receiving a bipartisan letter led by Fitzpatrick, the Government Accountability Office is in the process of investigating the device and its approval process.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Army still under fire for PTSD handling

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 1:35 PM

Yesterday NPR aired a segment titled Missed Treatment: Soldiers With Mental Health Issues Dismissed For 'Misconduct' which made many references to Fort Carson and soldiers based here in Colorado Springs. 

The central subject of the feature is stage sgt. Eric James, who secretly recorded more than 20 hours of his sessions with Army therapists, revealing several instances of what amount to misconduct on their end according to other mental health professionals who heard the tapes and weighed in. 

It's a heavy piece of journalism and worth a read or listen. 

But it's also worth noting that this type reporting was also featured here in the Indy nearly a decade ago, as then-staff-writer Michael de Yoanna did a series of pieces around the same subject. 

Here are some links if you care to delve further back into the history of this topic:

• Post-traumatic stress disorder is crippling thousands of soldiers, but Fort Carson officials aren't ready to talk about it

• Fort Carson soldiers allege abuse and intimidation

• With Congress casting an eye, Fort Carson confirms a huge jump in PTSD cases

Assertions of the Army's negligence to properly handle soldiers with PTSD are nothing new.
  • Assertions of the Army's negligence to properly handle soldiers with PTSD are nothing new.

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Friday, September 4, 2015

Your ovaries could kill you

Posted By on Fri, Sep 4, 2015 at 11:46 AM

  • Henry Vandyke Carter - Henry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body
  • Ovaries: They even look scary.

Like most of you, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about my ovaries. But today is National Wear Teal Day, the day when we are urged to think about ovarian cancer, so I'm directing my thoughts to those strange little egg-like structures in my reproductive system.

I was surprised to learn from the Sue DiNapoli Ovarian Cancer Society that a Colorado woman dies every 40 hours from ovarian cancer, and about 330 Colorado women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year. In fact, a Colorado woman's chance of developing ovarian cancer is 1 in 73, and 80 percent of those diagnoses are late stage, meaning the chance of surviving for more than five years is only 44 percent. 

Pretty scary stuff. What's sad is that if more women were diagnosed earlier, far more would live. A woman diagnosed with Stage 1 ovarian cancer has a 93 percent chance of surviving five years. Most women don't get that early diagnosis because there's a lot of misunderstanding about ovarian cancer. A lot of women assume that their annual Pap smear tests for the cancer. It doesn't.

Actually, the only way to detect ovarian cancer is to look for the symptoms and follow up with your doctor. The most common things to look for are: bloating; pelvic or abdominal pain or pressure; difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and urinary urgency or frequency. A lot of times the symptoms aren't severe, so if symptoms persist more than two weeks, it's best to get to your doctor or gynecologist for a transvaginal ultrasound, pelvic/rectal exam, and CA125 blood test. (Sounds fun, I know, but just remember it is better than dying.)

You may also want to consider whether you have risk factors for ovarian cancer such as a family history of breast, ovarian or colon cancer; increasing age; never having children; and not using birth control.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Haggman's medical license suspended in Washington State

Posted By on Thu, Aug 20, 2015 at 9:02 AM


My story
 on Dr. John Henry Hagmann details accusations against him for mistreatment of military members that shocked the conscience. Some of the alleged abuse took place in Colorado.

At the time I wrote the story, Hagmann's medical license had been revoked in Virginia. After the Independent's deadline, The Seattle Times reported that Hagmann's medical license was also suspended in Washington

According to the Times report, "The Washington suspension is based on a June decision by the Virginia Board of Medicine to revoke Hagmann’s license in that state."
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Friday, June 26, 2015

Take pride: Same-sex marriage is finally legal everywhere

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2015 at 11:37 AM

  • Purple Sherbet Photography

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution guarantees the right to marry for same-sex couples.

Today, my inbox has been flooded with emails — most of them celebrating the decision. I, too, am celebrating. Like many of you, I have family and friends in the LGBT community. But unlike most of you, I have been surrounded by that community from the day I was born. I "marched" in my first Pride Parade before I could walk. I gave speeches at PFLAG when I was an adolescent. I watched many dear family friends succumb to AIDS in a country that despised and feared them.

When I was growing up, the LGBT community was focused on dealing with the AIDS crisis and with violence. Community members were worried about getting beat up. They were worried about being murdered. They were worried about losing their jobs or their homes or their families.

A few years ago, I watched a YouTube video of a little girl who was outraged that her lesbian moms couldn't get married. It made me cry. At first, I wasn't sure why. But then it occurred to me that I was proud she was growing up in a world where she expected life to be fair — she expected everyone to be treated equally under the law. 

I had never dared to expect such a thing when I was her age. 

In the last few days, we've witnessed this country get better. Across the nation, loving gay and lesbian couples will soon be exchanging long-delayed wedding vows. In the South, Confederate flags are coming down. We're changing as a country. We're getting better.

I've always been proud to be an American. But today, I'm prouder than I've ever been.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Lamborn backs 'so help me God' bill

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2015 at 4:16 PM

Who's to guess why religion issues dog the academy when the chief icon is a chapel? - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Who's to guess why religion issues dog the academy when the chief icon is a chapel?

We first reported on the "so help me God" issue in November 2013, sparked by a billboard sponsored by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

Now, a congressman from Texas, Sam Johnson, is trying to force the phrase at the Air Force Academy, and our representative, Congressman Doug Lamborn is one of three co-sponsors who've already signed on. The other two are Pete Olson and Pete Sessions, both from Texas. All are Republicans, as you might suspect.

The full story can be found here. The story starts like this:
A Republican congressman has introduced legislation that would force cadets at the Air Force’s Academy to say “so help me God” during their oaths every school year. He said the legislation is necessary because Americans don’t have “freedom from religion.”

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) said the bill, called the Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act of 2015, would protect the religious freedom of American troops.

“Our Constitution’s very First Amendment protects every individual’s freedom of religion. But our servicemen and women who protect our county with their lives are seeing that freedom under fire,” he said in a statement. 
Well, we had to check in with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation founder, Mikey Weinstein, to get his take. Though he's been inundated with media calls, Weinstein took time to send us this statement:
Congressman Sam Johnson should be tried for treason and sedition. The astounding ignorance and bigotry displayed by his brazen presentation of this proposed wretched sectarian legislation is literally mind-ripping. Not only does it viciously savage United States constitutional religious protections afforded all American citizens, including members of the U.S. military, it also provides an unparalleled bonanza of propaganda for our fundamentalist Islamic enemies such as Isis, the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Additionally, it enrages our Islamic allies and utterly desecrates and destroys military unit cohesion, good order, morale and discipline. The United States Congress should at the very least censure this constitutionally derelict villain and universally despicable human being.
Lamborn wasn't happy about "so help me God" being made optional by the academy, leading him to issue this statement about the matter on Nov. 15, 2013:

In a semi-related matter, which scores even higher on the wackiness meter, there's this story out of California from some deranged lawyer who wants to mount a ballot measure that would allow gays who practice sodomy to be shot in the head. Here's a story on the International Business Times website about it.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Con Man Cory is back

Posted By on Thu, Mar 19, 2015 at 3:45 PM

Sen. Cory Gardner
  • Sen. Cory Gardner
Do you remember how nasty the 2014 election was? 

Do you at least remember how contentious and verbally messy the race was between incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and Rep. Cory Gardner, the Republican challenger who went on the win the Senate race? Well, here's a little reminder. During the race, the liberal group ProgressNow Colorado had a Web site called "Con Man Cory." Basically, it was set up to document all the times that Gardner lied. Or fibbed. Or flip-flopped. Or forgot. (It's all a matter of perspective when it comes to politics, right?)

Udall's failed campaign largely focused on the idea that Republicans were going to try to trample women's reproductive rights if they got into office (which, unsurprisingly given recent history, turned out to be accurate). And Gardner was a tempting target for such attacks because he was listed as a co-sponsor of a federal Personhood bill, but kept insisting that a federal Personhood bill didn't exist. 

Anyway, Gardner has managed to piss off progressives steadily since becoming a senator, most recently by signing a letter to the government of Iran that many found inflammatory and probably not helpful in the ongoing nuclear negotiations with the U.S. 

In response, ProgressNow is breathing new life into that 2014 relic, the "Con Man Cory" web site. I'm sorry, did you think campaign season ended?

ProgressNow Colorado Relaunches Con Man Cory website

Thursday, March 19, 2015
CONTACT: Amy Runyon-Harms, Executive Director at 303-870-0448

DENVER: After an enormous response to an action alert to members demanding Sen. Cory Gardner remove his name from a controversial letter to the government of Iran, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, announced the relaunch of their Con Man Cory website from the 2014 campaign in order to hold Gardner accountable going forward.

“In response to intense criticism of his ill-advised letter to Iran undermining American foreign policy, Gardner actually said that he hopes that he can ‘work together’ with the President on the issue,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “In 2014, Gardner earned the nickname ‘Con Man Cory’ for his audacious falsehoods, like claiming ‘there is no federal Personhood bill’ when he was the legislation’s co-sponsor. Judging from this latest incident, Gardner is still intent on playing his con games as a United States Senator.”

In response to numerous queries and suggestions, ProgressNow Colorado is relaunching our website from the 2014 campaign,, to build a record of Gardner’s statements and broken promises for the long term. The public and journalists can find links to all of ProgressNow Colorado’s Gardner action alerts and press releases, and new alerts and news stories as they are released.

“By Gardner’s next election,” said Runyon-Harms, “we’ll have all the proof we need in one spot to hold Gardner accountable for his actions. For the next six years, it’s ProgressNow Colorado’s job to keep tabs on Con Man Cory and to ensure that every time he makes a mistake like the Iran letter, he knows Coloradans are watching.”


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Thursday, December 4, 2014

#BlackLivesMatter: Terror, fear and the American way

Posted By on Thu, Dec 4, 2014 at 11:53 AM


It's a weird time in the country right now. That national conversation about race seems to be happening, somewhat, but it's being driven by the continued killing of African-Americans by law enforcement. (We've requested situational statistics from the Colorado Springs Police Department on the last 10 years of officer killings, and will write a new post when we receive them.)

Jon Stewart couldn't even get a joke from the death of 43-year-old New Yorker Eric Garner. "None of the ambiguities that existed in the Ferguson case exist in the Staten Island case," the host said, "and yet the outcome is exactly the same."

And let's not forget how Cleveland police recently shot and killed a black 12-year-old named Tamir Rice. Here's the video. True, the child was holding a BB gun without the orange tip that would signify it as a toy, but, oddly, Jared Lee Loughner and James Holmes actually murdered scores of people with actual guns, and were apprehended alive.

So, because it seems like it's essentially legal in America for police to kill black people — a country not that far removed from a time when it was actually legal, in one form or another, to kill black people — here's a round-up of stories that offer some context.

• The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently released numbers for 2013, showing 27 police officers were killed "as a result of felonious acts." Of those, 15 were killed by a white person, 11 were killed by black person and race was not reported for the remainder.

• OK, so there are roughly 45 million African-Americans in the U.S., and 11 of them killed a police officer last year. Numbers for 2012 — as collected by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, which looked at the death of black people at the hands of security guards, law enforcement and "vigilantes" — show 313 black people were killed by authority figures that year. 136 of them were unarmed. Feel free to compare 2012 police killings: "30 of the alleged offenders were white, 16 were black."

"There’s never been a safer time to be a cop — or a more dangerous time to be a criminal," reads a Washington Post headline from Nov. 24, adding: "The decrease in officer deaths and rise in felon deaths has corresponded with a rise in the militarization of the nation's police forces, fueled by a glut of surplus military equipment heading home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

• When there is a shooting, police are rarely charged with a crime. "New research by a Bowling Green State University criminologist shows that 41 officers in the U.S. were charged with either murder or manslaughter in connection with on-duty shootings over a seven-year period ending in 2011," reported the Wall Street Journal on Nov. 24. "Over that same period, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported 2,718 justified homicides by law enforcement ..."

Of course, there's the obvious defense that the shooting was justified. Still, even when an officer is charged, they're convicted at half the rate of the general public: 33 percent, as compared to 66 percent.

• With these, and other, statistics in mind, it's hard not to draw the same conclusion as journalist Max Read: "Why Should Anyone 'Respect' the Law?"
There is a troubling trend in American thought that holds we should "respect" cops as we might "respect" venomous snakes: by staying away from them, by avoiding eye contact, by not making threatening gestures. "It is important that we respect the legal process and rule of law" because otherwise we will be beaten and sodomized with nightsticks and shot to death on our doorsteps. "It is important that we respect the legal process and rule of law" because the state has a monopoly on violence that it has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to use, especially against poor minorities.

That's not respect. That's terror and fear.

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