National News

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:

11-15-13_Special_Order_remarks_on_Religious_Freedom_in_the_Military_2.pdf
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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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, ConManCory.com, 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

Screen_Shot_2014-12-04_at_11.42.58_AM.png


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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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Same-sex marriage bans upheld by federal appeals court

Posted By on Thu, Nov 6, 2014 at 3:38 PM

FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
Not long ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the decisions of lower courts that had found same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

That set the stage for marriage equality to become the law of the land in most states, including Colorado.  What it didn't do was prevent a federal appeals court from ruling to uphold same-sex marriage bans. And that's exactly what just happened.

The New York Times reports: "By a two-to-one vote, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the right of states to ban same-sex marriage, overturning lower-court decisions in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee that had found such restrictions to be unconstitutional."

The ruling contradicts those made by four other federal appeals courts, and it means that the U.S. Supreme Court will likely need to make the final call on same-sex marriage for the country. The Supreme Court usually decides on cases when federal appeals courts disagree.


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Monday, October 6, 2014

Supreme Court move will likely make gay marriage legal in Colorado

Posted By on Mon, Oct 6, 2014 at 9:54 AM

FILE PHOTO
  • File Photo
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to review the findings for the 4th Circuit of several circuits of the U.S. Court of Appeals on same-sex marriage.

The refusal means the lower court ruling stands in the states in question, making same-sex marriage legal in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. But it also indicates that the Supreme Court doesn't intend to intervene in any lower court rulings on same-sex marriage at this point. So that also probably means that Appeals Court rulings in other districts that have made same-sex marriage legal will become final. That includes rulings in the 10th Circuit, which includes Colorado.

In all, the Supreme Court's move will likely mean that same-sex marriage will soon be legal in 30 states. The Washington Post has a good explanation of the situation here.

The move by the Supreme Court isn't exactly what either side was looking for. Same-sex marriage proponents had hoped the courts would make such marriages legal across the country. Opponents, of course, had hoped for the opposite. The move likely means that the justices do not want to weigh in on the debate until more states have legalized the practice.

All the same, proponents are celebrating today. Check out this release from the Freedom to Marry campaign:
Supreme Court Lets Marriage Wins Stand
Decision not to review lower-court victories means number of states with freedom to marry to skyrocket, but still falls short of national resolution


New York – Today the Supreme Court denied review of five cases seeking the freedom to marry, leaving standing marriage victories in several federal circuits and opening the door to the freedom to marry in many more states, while deferring for another day the national resolution that Freedom to Marry, businesses, elected officials, and families across the country had urged now. The Court’s decision not to review the rulings means that soon as many as 60% of the American people will be living in freedom to marry states, with a majority of the states (30) having the freedom to marry for all.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, released the following statement:

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court leaves in force five favorable marriage rulings reached in three federal appellate courts, ensuring the freedom to marry for millions more Americans around the country. The Court’s letting stand these victories means that gay couples will soon share in the freedom to marry in 30 states, representing 60% of the American people. But we are one country, with one Constitution, and the Court’s delay in affirming the freedom to marry nationwide prolongs the patchwork of state-to-state discrimination and the harms and indignity that the denial of marriage still inflicts on too many couples in too many places. As waves of freedom to marry litigation continue to surge, we will continue to press the urgency and make the case that America – all of America — is ready for the freedom to marry, and the Supreme Court should finish the job.”

With the Supreme Court’s decision not to review the cases, favorable marriage rulings in the 10th Circuit, the 7th Circuit, and the 4th Circuit will soon go into effect. Marriage bans in every state within those circuits will be invalidated, adding Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, and Wisconsin to the list of freedom to marry states. As a result of the Court’s decision, an additional 51 million Americans will live in a freedom to marry state.

In total, 41 federal and state courts in the past year have ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples with only one federal and one state ruling going the other way. Five of these marriage wins were before the Supreme Court for possible review.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

About that Ebola patient in Dallas

Posted By on Tue, Sep 30, 2014 at 5:17 PM

Ebola: A nasty little virus. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Ebola: A nasty little virus.
I watch too many zombie flicks. 

And yes, maybe that influenced my thinking when I told my editors in August that Ebola would hit America. How, I asked, could the country prevent the infection from coming to the U.S. when patients can be asymptomatic, and airlines are still running between the U.S. and infected portions of Africa?

Furthermore, when Ebola does present symptoms, which is also when it becomes contagious through bodily fluids, it looks an awful lot like the flu. A person may not know they have the virus. And let's face it, they also may not want to admit to themselves that something so deadly is what's causing them to feel sick. 

Well, the bad news is, I was right. Ebola has officially spread to the U.S. via a patient in Dallas who recently flew in from Liberia. The good news is that health experts don't expect Ebola to spread here the way it has sadly spread through parts of Africa, killing thousands.

Our health systems are advanced, and the virus is expected to be easily contained. But if you're interested in what the risk is in the Springs, and how we're preparing for any possible outbreak, you could read my story from August on that very subject.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

UPDATE: Local prof responds to Ferguson: Don't mess with the cops

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 7:28 PM

Since this blog post, we have been contacted by a public relations specialist working on behalf of Colorado Technical University  who asked us to inform our readers that the views of Dutta are his own and not those of Colorado Technical University.


——- ORIGINAL POST, TUESDAY, 7:28 P.M. ——-

A local professor and longtime Los Angeles police officer is poking the proverbial bear with an editorial in the Washington Post. His message: If you don't want a cop to hurt you, do everything he or she says without question.

Sunil Dutta, a professor of homeland security at Colorado Technical University, reacting to the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, says most cases involving police brutality are the fault of the suspect. He advises anyone stopped by a police officer as follows: 

 [I]f you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?
Oh, and if that police officer is abusing your rights, including your right to free speech, he says you can always sue later.

Dutta's comments will be seen as inflammatory by many who support the protests in Ferguson, which followed the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Brown was shot six times. Angry protests erupted following the Aug. 9 shooting; the officer still has not been arrested. Police and the National Guard have responded to the protests with violence and tear gas. 

Gawker, by the way, is having a field day with Dutta's comments. You can read its take here.
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Monday, August 4, 2014

Barring a lawsuit, 800 wild horses to be rounded up in Wyoming

Posted By on Mon, Aug 4, 2014 at 2:18 PM

Rosellen Westerhoff's "Running with Cloud," now on display at Cottonwood.
  • Rosellen Westerhoff's "Running with Cloud," now on display at Cottonwood.
In this week's issue, Bret Wright spoke to Ginger Kathrens, executive director of the Cloud Foundation, an advocacy group for wild horses. With Kathrens' help, along with that of gallery owner and artist Tracy Miller, an exhibit devoted to wild horses opened at Cottonwood Center for the Arts.

Kathrens, a local filmmaker whose efforts have appeared on Nature, will also screen her latest installment of a series of documentaries she's made following wild horses in Montana, on Wednesday, Aug. 6, at 7 p.m. at the Tim Gill Center for Public Media (315 E. Costilla St.).

As Kathrens told Wright, wild horses are regularly rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management, due to overpopulation. However, Kathrens and her kind find their methods questionable and their round-up practices cruel.

On Aug. 1, the Cloud Foundation, along with the American Wild Horses Preservation Campaign and Return to Freedom filed a lawsuit in federal court in Wyoming to block the BLM's planned round-up on Aug. 20 to gather 800 horses from the Wyoming Checkerboard area, in the southwestern quadrant of the state. They will be removed permanently.

The suit alleges the BLM violated the National Environmental Protection Act, the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

“The BLM’s decision to move forward without any opportunity for public review or comment on such a drastic action is a blatant slap in the face to the American public and the Democratic process,” Kathrens says in a press release. “Losing these wild horse families so that private livestock interests can continue to make money at taxpayer expense is truly disgusting.”

Linked in the release (below) is an 2013 in-depth article from The Atlantic about this particular population in the Checkerboard, and, how, as the article states, "The Consent Decree reads like a capitulation by the feds. It does nothing to protect the horses or to recognize that the ranchers receive enormous financial benefits from the below-market leasing rates on public land."

Or, to put it more bluntly, how "the Department of the Interior sold out America's wild horses."

Lawsuit Filed to Halt BLM’s Scheduled Wild Horse Roundup on the Wyoming Checkerboard

Scheduled roundup would permanently remove all wild horses on 1.2 million acres.


CHEYENNE, WY (August 1, 2014) – The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), The Cloud Foundation, and Return to Freedom today filed a lawsuit in federal court in Wyoming to block the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from rounding up over 800 wild horses from the Adobe Town, Salt Wells and Divide Basin Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in the southwestern part of the state.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court of Wyoming by the public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein and Crystal, alleges that the BLM violated the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act (Wild Horse Act), and the Administrative Procedure Act, by authorizing the permanent removal of hundreds of wild horses from public and private lands within these three HMAs, known as the Wyoming Checkerboard. BLM has authorized this large-scale roundup of wild horses from public land in Wyoming without conducting any environmental analysis, without engaging the public during the decision-making process, and without making certain statutorily required determinations under the Wild Horse Act.

“BLM’s plan to roundup over 800 wild horses from Wyoming is an egregious violation of federal law and established procedures for public input,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC director. “In proceeding with this roundup, the agency is blatantly placing ranching special interests over the interests of the American public and our federally-protected wild horses on public land.”

“The BLM’s decision to move forward without any opportunity for public review or comment on such a drastic action is a blatant slap in the face to the American public and the Democratic process,” states Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation. “Losing these wild horse families so that private livestock interests can continue to make money at taxpayer expense is truly disgusting.”

“If this roundup is allowed to proceed, it will be the beginning of the end for half of Wyoming’s remaining wild horses,” said Neda DeMayo, founder and president of Return to Freedom. “This is just another complacent surrender of the BLM to pressure from livestock ranchers, a convenient tactic to proceed with wild horse eradication.”

Carol Walker, plaintiff in the case and Wild Horse Freedom Federation board member said,” BLM is primed and ready to annihilate wild horse families in the Adobe Town HMA despite the fact that the vast majority of these horses do not even live in the Checkerboard.” The noted photographer and author went on to say, “the horses would not have a chance if this action goes forward. They’ll be destined to a life of incarceration and the American public will lose an iconic symbol of freedom and independence.”

BLM is justifying its decision by claiming the agency is required under a consent decree with the Rock Springs Grazing Association to conduct this roundup. This consent decree resulted from a lawsuit that the Interior Department invited and then settled by capitulating to the rancher’s demands – the elimination of wild horses from the Wyoming checkerboard. Nothing in that agreement, however, authorizes BLM to violate the multiple federal statutes and regulations that govern the permanent removal of federally protected wild horses from public land.

AWHPC and The Cloud Foundation were intervenors in the Rock Springs Grazing Association litigation that resulted in the Consent Decree, and have been fighting BLM’s implementation of the decree since that time. The groups are asking the court to stop the roundup, which is scheduled to begin on August 20.


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

It's a really crappy time to be poor in America

Posted By on Thu, Apr 17, 2014 at 1:05 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • shutterstock

As the Supreme Court continues to revolutionize the amounts of money that can flow into politics, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern universities has scientifically confirmed what we all intrinsically know to be true: The common folk can't affect political policy, but their billionaire employer definitely can.

"Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions; they have little or no independent influence on policy at all," write authors Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page. "By contrast, economic elites are estimated to have a quite substantial, highly significant, independent impact on policy.

"This does not mean that theories of Economic Elite Domination are wholly upheld, since our results indicate that individual elites must share their policy influence with organized interest groups. Still, economic elites stand out as quite influential — more so than any other set of actors studied here — in the making of U.S. public policy."

"Similarly, organized interest groups (all taken together, for now) are found to have substantial independent influence on policy."

The study comes on the heels of the news that Sears — where, in 1972, half of the U.S. held a credit account and 3 in 4 visited at least once a year, writes Salon — is taking a massive hit, which basically means the middle-class is taking a massive hit. (Plus, you know, the Internet.)

You can further see this by looking at what's selling and what's not. Sears, JCPenney, Olive Garden and all their brethren are feeling the crunch of their typical customer losing spending power, reported the New York Times in February. "But who's driving the economic comeback?" you ask. 

Well ...

"In 2012, the top 5 percent of earners were responsible for 38 percent of domestic consumption, up from 28 percent in 1995, the researchers found," the Times writes.

"Even more striking, the current recovery has been driven almost entirely by the upper crust, according to Mr. Fazzari and Mr. Cynamon. Since 2009, the year the recession ended, inflation-adjusted spending by this top echelon has risen 17 percent, compared with just 1 percent among the bottom 95 percent."

The problem with that?

"Mr. Fazzari also said that depending on a relatively small but affluent slice of the population to drive demand makes the economy more volatile, because this group does more discretionary spending that can rise and fall with the stock market, or track seesawing housing prices."

So, corporate profits are back to pre-recession levels, employee wages are flat and it's been scientifically proven that the regular person can't affect political policy. The economy's back, but only because the stacked are spending and could stop at any time, sending the country spiraling again. 

Basically, if banks can manage not to tank the economy, and bankers can manage to keep buying golf clubs, the struggling classes might get to continue barely making it.

And, oh yeah: The American Dream is a myth.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Defense Authorization includes anti-rape language

Posted By on Fri, Dec 13, 2013 at 2:04 PM

Sen. Mark Udall
  • Sen. Mark Udall
The 2014  National Defense Authorization Act currently includes 36 provisions to address sexual assault by military personnel.

The Act has passed the House with bipartisan support and will be voted on by the Senate next week. U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado) said in a press release that he fought to include the provisions, which came on the heels of an news of rising sexual assaults in the military.

"We ask a hell of a lot of our troops, but I refuse to ask them to put up with rape," Udall stated in a press release. "Military sexual assault threatens the readiness and morale of our military. These provisions, which I was proud to champion, will make clear that there is zero tolerance for these horrific crimes and the people who commit them." 

Per Udall's office, some of the provisions include:

• Requiring a minimum sentence of dishonorable discharge and dismissal for conviction of sexual assault;

• Assigning at least one fulltime [sic] sexual assault nurse examiner to all military medical facilities that offer 24-hour emergency care;

• Instituting a Special Victims' Counsel program in each service to provide specialized legal counsel to survivors of sexual assault;

• Prohibiting retaliation against service members for reporting a criminal offense while enhancing protections for military whistleblowers;

• Changing the rules for the military equivalent of a grand jury to better protect sexual assault survivors; and,

• Strengthening the review of decisions not to prosecute certain charges of sexual offenses.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Recycling plastic going to waste? Local companies say not so

Posted By on Tue, Nov 26, 2013 at 1:17 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
After guzzling down the last swallows of water, you toss the plastic bottle into the nicely labeled bin, awarding yourself a sticker and pat on the back for your efforts as a conscientious steward of the environment. Because, you figure, that plastic will be rightfully processed and broken down into raw materials to be used again.

But maybe you didn't know that China, the recipient of the vast majority of recycled plastic in the U.S., enacted a Green Fence Policy earlier this year, meaning your recycling plastic may have gone to waste, literally. Some such plastics are "absolutely going to a landfill," says David Kaplan, CEO of Maine Plastics, in Quartz magazine. 

Thankfully, when it comes to local companies like Blue Star Recyclers and Bestway DisposalKaplan's claim appears to be inaccurate.

"[Because of] the beneficial situation of being small enough, we aren’t typically having to find alternate buyers for the material," says Andy O’Riley, president of the Vocational Electronics Recycling Network program at Blue Star. "We’re sending [plastic] intact to consolidators, who then send it to companies that can granulate it, then to the end buyer.

"There is definitely still a market for plastic," he adds. "There are still buyers for it and it still has value."

Corroborating this, Alicia Archibald, Bestway Recycling educator, stands by the "Bestway standard" to stay off the landfill bandwagon. Even though the Green Fence Policy has slowed down the movement of some of the plastics in circulation at the locally owned business, it has not prevented the plastic from being properly recycled, she says. 

"It’s forced more local market," she says. "We’ve found more brokers who are interested in the materials in the U.S. We’ve been able unable to move our plastic for a period of time, and it created a stockpile. But we hung onto it until we found a buyer for it."

Archibald says that the Green Fence Policy was intended to make sure that the U.S. wasn't exporting waste. Before this policy was enacted, it was an "industry standard" to bail up plastics #3 through #7, the harder-to-break down plastics, and sell as a low-grade plastic mix. But, China's policy doesn't allow for this mix to be imported anymore, so it's left to the recycling business to separate every single category of plastic, making sure what is shipped is actually wanted, she says.

As it happens, finding these buyers locally, instead of in other nations, is better for the economy, Archibald says. Space and equipment appears to be the only challenge faced in finding a buyer. "If we tell you we’re going to do something, that’s what we’re going to do," she says. "If we have to hang onto it [plastic] until we figure it out, we hang onto it until we figure it out."

So the next time you casually toss that water bottle into the recycling bin, know that your efforts aren't going unnoticed. And, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, offer up some gratitude for these local businesses sticking to their guns. 
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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Business Insider declares Colorado not so guilty

Posted By on Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 2:23 PM

PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Photo: Shutterstock.com

Finally, an excuse to chant “We’re Number 40!”

Last week, Business Insider drew upon Justice Department statistics to create an infograph ranking the “most corrupt” states from first to last.

Louisiana, the publication determined, is the most corrupt state in the union, while South Carolina finished last. Colorado, meanwhile, ranked a respectably wide-eyed 40th.

The only problem, really, is with Business Insider’s definition of “corruption,” which it bases on the percentage of criminal convictions among a state’s general population. That would make Florida only the 20th-worst in the country.   

By contrast, the New York Times, while reporting on the recent arrest of three suburban Miami mayors, declared the Sunshine State a "hothouse for corruption," noting how Florida ranked first in convictions of public officials between 2000 and 2010.
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sen. Udall seeks info on firefighting

Posted By on Tue, Jul 23, 2013 at 11:04 AM

Udall: Staying on top of wildland firefighting
  • Udall: Staying on top of wildland firefighting

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., has been an ardent supporter of forest health and wildland firefighting, and he continues to probe for more information to enhance how fires are managed.

A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Udall wrote a letter Monday to Northern Command leader Gen. Charles Jacoby and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell asking for a retrospective for the Black Forest Fire.

Udall, along with Colorado's other Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, instigated a major study following the Waldo Canyon Fire that investigates the ecological, social and operational issues involved in fighting that blaze, which claimed 347 homes in Colorado Springs last year.

In his latest effort, Udall thanks Jacoby and Tidwell for their participation in the Black Forest Fire and what further lessons might be learned. He also asked them to explain procedural changes that made the rapid response possible.

From a news release:

Udall has been a leading voice for ensuring that Colorado and the West have adequate resources to prepare for the threat of wildfire, including pressing the U.S. Air Force to quickly transfer and repurpose excess aircraft to the U.S. Forest Service to fight wildfires. He also led the fight to ensure the U.S. Forest Service was able to cut through red tape and secure seven next-generation air tankers. One of the next-generation air tankers Udall fought to acquire helped fight the Black Forest Fire.

Udall also pushed to pass a bipartisan amendment to the U.S. Senate's 2014 budget to allocate $100 million more for wildland firefighting and he successfully secured federal funds to repair drinking-water supplies damaged by 2012's Waldo Canyon and High Park fires.

Here's his letter to Jacoby and Tidwell:

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

DOMA goes down ... so what does that mean here?

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 12:07 PM

Local couple Jeff Mueller and Eric Gustafson.

Good news for those who believe in equality: The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and decided that Proposition 8, California's law banning same-sex marriage, will stay dead.

So what does that mean for Colorado same-sex couples? Not a lot. State Attorney General John Suthers noted in a release that the decisions won't spell the end of Colorado's ban on gay marriage.

ATTORNEY GENERAL RESPONDS TO SUPREME COURT SAME SEX MARRIAGE DECISIONS

DENVER—The United States Supreme Court issued opinions today on two cases involving same sex marriage. U.S. v. Windsor was a challenge to the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which denied certain federal benefits to same sex couples married under state laws. Hollingsworth v. Perry was a challenge to the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 declaring a marriage was between one man and one woman. Proposition 8 is virtually identical to a Colorado constitutional provision passed by voters in 2006.

In striking down DOMA on a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court reiterated that Congress is not given the power in the U.S. Constitution to define marriage and that what constitutes marriage remains the exclusive province of the states. The opinion clarifies that the federal government cannot discriminate against same sex couples recognized as married under state laws. The Attorney General’s Office did not weigh in on the merits of the DOMA case in the Supreme Court.

In the Proposition 8 case, on a 5-4 vote, the court dismissed the case on procedural grounds because the state officials named as defendants in that case declined to defend the state law or appeal the ruling of the trial court striking it down. The 9th Circuit decision invalidating Proposition 8 was therefore vacated, leaving in place the federal trial court decision invalidating Proposition 8. That decision does not invalidate laws of other states, like Colorado, which limit marriage to a man and a woman. As a result, the Supreme Court did not rule on the status of state laws and constitutional amendments that expressly prohibit same sex marriage.

Attorney General John W. Suthers issued the following statement in response to the decisions:

"We joined an amicus brief in the Proposition 8 case seeking clarity about the ability of states to adopt traditional definitions of marriage as Colorado’s voters did in 2006. The Supreme Court did not provide such clarity today. We will continue to analyze the opinions and will be prepared to defend Colorado statutes and constitutional provisions in the future."

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Funding ban renewed for Pinon Canyon

Posted By on Wed, May 15, 2013 at 4:48 PM

For the sixth year running, a ban on funding to expand the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site is making its way into law.

In a news release, Not 1 More Acre!, an advocacy group fighting to keep the Army from claiming more land in southeast Colorado for maneuvers, announced the military construction budget that was marked up in the Military Construction Subcommittee of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee today will continue the funding ban on "any action that relates to or promotes the expansion of the boundaries or size of the U.S. Army's Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site."

Here's the entire news release from Jean Aguerre, president of Not 1 More Acre!

Keeping the funding ban in the law has been a top priority for N1MA! as it fights to protect fragile prairie lands being ravaged by the Pentagon's armored tanks, high-tech weapons systems and training at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. The funding ban was first passed by Congress in 2007 to stop a massive secretly planned military expansion across 6.9 million acres of fragile native grasslands. For technical reasons related to the U.S. Senate's failure to enable a permanent prohibition on expansion of the site, the funding ban must be renewed every year by expansion opponents and their Representatives in the House.

Aguerre announced the renewal of the funding ban for the sixth consecutive year as Not 1 More Acre! hurled its third challenge against the Army's Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site environmental disclosures in just six weeks. The latest N1MA! rebuke was filed Wednesday (May 15, 2013) by the Denver-based Ewegen Law Firm in response to the "Programmatic Environmental Assessment and Draft Finding of No Significant Impact for the Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan 2013 - 2017 for Fort Carson and the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site."

[Find that document here: 2013-2017-Integrated-natural-resource-management-plan-and-environmental-assessment.pdf]

N1MA's latest effort to parry the Army's expansion plans followed on the heels of objections filed on Tax Day, April 15 that exposed the Army's shadowy partial disclosure of illegal construction supporting expansion at PCMS. Just three weeks earlier, on March 21, N1MA! protested the Army's claim that ongoing and expanded operations at the remote Southern Great Plains maneuver site pose no significant environmental or economic impacts. N1Ma's reprimand called those findings a "bizarre greenwash of an ongoing assault on fragile prairie grasslands in an area that Fritz L. Knopf, an historical Great Plains ecologist, describes as the 'headwinds' of the 1930s Dust Bowl."

The N1MA! reproach filed Wednesday accused the Army of continuing to "piecemeal its plans for the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in an effort to sidestep basic requirements of the funding ban, the National Environmental Policy Act and a 2009 Federal District Court ruling that vacated the PCMS Transformation Record of Decision issued by the Army in its original efforts to expand the site."

Over the last nearly eight years the Army has issued a staggering 10,000 pages of alleged
NEPA documentation - all of which make the absurd claim that the Army's actions have no significant impact to the quality of the environment, economy and culture of the Southern Great Plains.

In one segmented document after the next, the Army's analysis methodology ignores science and even the sound principles of science that establish military damage to the shortgrass prairie are irreparable and irreversible. Even as military training expands - less than 5% of the PCMS is off limits to training - and intensifies, the Army and its tax-supported real estate partners encumbering land in the region to be managed for military needs employ environmental tactics that appear to trick 'neighbors' and the public into believing that impacts will be insignificant.

While admitting the "sheer amount of alphabet soup" generated by the Army's disclosures and the legal processes are confusing, Aguerre said the underlying theory of the law isn't complicated. The Sikes Act, passed in 1960, recognizes the importance and value of natural and
cultural resources to military lands. Accordingly, the Sikes Act requires the Department of Defense to develop and implement Integrated Natural and Cultural Resources Management Plans (INRMPs/ICRMPs) for military installations across the United States.

"As a further example of this deceptive piecemealing, N1MA! asks where the Integrated Cultural Resource Management Plan is and why it wasn't issued as part of the Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan? And, why - except to mislead and confuse taxpayers - does the Army continue to ignore science that proves all the past, current and future military damage will devastate the entire region? The Army's 'make-believe NEPA' fails to comply either the spirit or letter of the law while perpetrating real-life catastrophic impacts to our security and health," Aguerre said.

The Army's latest mockery of environmental and economic impact analysis should be withdrawn because it fails to meet the basic requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. It also fails to heed the mandates of Congress as expressed in the funding ban - renewed for the sixth consecutive year on this very day. This Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan fails to make sense from a policy standpoint and it would both sanction and inflict massive and irreversible damage on America's last major intact grassland, a fragile ecosystem that elsewhere has not yet recovered from the devastation wrought by ill-considered federal government policies that led to plowing of these fragile grasslands in the 1920s in the bone-headed public campaign that "rain follows the plow." In fact, what followed the plow when the inevitable drought cycle reasserted itself was this nation's most catastrophic environmental collapse, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

The Army, its contractors and politicians, in defiance of the law, scientific knowledge and common sense, are effectively asking the public to believe that "rain will follow the tank!" and magically reseed and renew these tortured lands. Alas, the best science on this subject shows that the notion that invasive species can somehow revive devastated grasslands that required thousands of years of natural processes to reach their original productive state is a discredited policy as misguided and mischievous as the original "rain follows the plow" folly, Aguerre said.

But that doesn't mean the Army is giving up. It continues to try to win the hearts and minds of people in southern Colorado, including those of tender age.

Here's a shot of a Girl Scout being indoctrinated into the ways of war, sent to us from Doug Holdread of Trinidad:

Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site

And here's a report on how the Army is appealing to the young folk in Trinidad.

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