National News

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Coloradans conflicted on Trump's Supreme Court pick

Posted By on Wed, Feb 1, 2017 at 1:03 PM

Neil Gorsuch's nomination has been met with support and resistance. - COLORADO LAW
  • Colorado Law
  • Neil Gorsuch's nomination has been met with support and resistance.

Wednesday, while some Coloradans celebrate the nomination of Colorado’s own Justice Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court, others are adamant that Gorsuch’s track record doesn’t reflect the state’s values.

Gorsuch, a fourth-generation Coloradan, was born in Denver, but now lives and works in Boulder. He serves on the United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals while working as a visiting professor for The University of Colorado’s law school.

CU Chancellor Philip D. DiStefano offered his congratulations in a press release yesterday, saying, “[Gorsuch’s] time spent teaching, advising and mentoring our students has been invaluable to our campus. He has embodied our goals at CU Boulder for ensuring student success and developing tomorrow’s leaders.”

Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, too, congratulated Gorsuch on the nomination, though the language of their statements differed. Gardner said in a statement, “I'm enthusiastic about the native Coloradan's nomination and will work to ensure that his confirmation process is fair, thorough and expedient.” A spokesperson for Bennet, however, said, “Michael takes seriously the Senate's responsibility to advise and consent on Supreme Court nominations. He intends to review Judge Gorsuch's record carefully in the coming weeks.”

Not all Coloradans are quite as thrilled as CU and our Republican senator. One Colorado, the state’s leading LGBTQ-rights organization, released a statement condemning the nomination yesterday evening, citing Gorsuch’s support of religious exemption cases, which would allow businesses and individuals to refuse service to someone based on religious beliefs.

“A Supreme Court that would rule in support of religious exemptions would certainly open LGBTQ Americans up to discrimination,”  Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, stated in a press release, “and open up a can of worms that could allow individuals to ignore child welfare, domestic violence or other laws that someone could contend [are] contrary to their religion.”

ProgressNow Colorado, an online progressive advocacy organization, also criticized the nomination. Executive Director Ian Silverii stated in a press release, “On the Supreme Court, Gorsuch would be a vote to roll back women's rights, environmental protections and hard-won protections against discrimination in the workplace.”

Both One Colorado and ProgressNow Colorado also mentioned that Gorsuch has been endorsed by multiple anti-LGBTQ organizations, a warning sign for progressives.

There has been national outcry against the nomination as well, coming from Greenpeace, the Latino Victory Project and NARAL Pro-Choice America, among others.

However, with recommendations on the pages of The New York Times and The Denver Post, it is hard to say whether Gorsuch’s history will call his impartiality into question enough to keep him off the Supreme Court.

In either case, his nomination comes at a tumultuous time in our political climate, and it is doubtful he will skate into that coveted seat without public resistance.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

'Alt-right' agitator Milo Yiannopoulos named LGBTQ Nation's 'Person of the Year'

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2017 at 3:33 PM

WIKIPEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikipedia Commons
LGBTQ Nation, an online news magazine that claims to be a leading news source for LGBTQ people (and runs other LGBTQ-focused websites such as Queerty and GayCities), has named Milo Yiannopoulos its “Person of the Year.”

Yes, we’re talking about the same Milo Yiannopoulos with ties to the white-nationalist, xenophobic, racist, transphobic, homophobic, anti-Semitic, misogynistic “alt-right” movement whose upcoming visit to UCCS has half our city in an uproar.

What’s more, in the article announcing his win, the site bowed to pressure from Yiannopoulos himself to remove reference to the “alt-right” movement from their write-up. While Yiannopoulos does not personally identify with that label, and many “alt-right” leaders disavow him, he still shares fundamental ideological beliefs with the movement.

Their excuse for Yiannopoulos’ win? It’s the result of internet poll, which accepted votes from everyone — LGBTQ Nation readers and otherwise. The “otherwise” — Yiannopoulos’ fans who mobilized via sites like Reddit and 4chan — won out. These fans spammed the poll, and ended up tipping the scales in his favor, earning him nearly 70 percent of the vote.

A similar effort on behalf of Vice President-Elect Mike Pence (who is vehemently anti-LGBTQ and advocates for LGBTQ conversion therapy) landed the governor in second place.

Now, one might think that, even if Yiannopoulos did win “fair and square” as LGBTQ Nation says, there might be some amount of editorial control over these things. The site could make a statement by refusing to allow Yiannopoulos the same courtesy previous persons of the year have received — namely an interview.

But instead of making that statement, it seems LGBTQ Nation will give Yiannopoulos an opportunity to speak his mind, allowing him one more platform for his vehement hate speech.

The site has asserted that in naming Yiannopoulos “person of the year,” they do not necessarily mean that he’s had a positive impact on the LGBTQ community. What it means, simply, is that he has had an impact.

“Hate him or love him, one thing Yiannopoulos truly excels at is getting attention for himself and his causes ... For a gay guy from Britain, he has truly made his mark on conservative American politics and entertainment. He’s been able to brand himself the ultimate gay provocateur in a year of provocateurs,” the website says.

Considering Yiannopoulos consistently encourages violence against minority groups, it may not be the best idea to allow him more platforms to “provoke,” but LGBTQ Nation has made up its mind.

If you are interested in making a statement to UCCS about his speech, currently tentatively scheduled for Jan. 26, the community group Colorado Springs Anti-fascists have organized a Facebook event with information about who to contact with your concerns. There may also be a public protest scheduled for the same day.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Judge: Electors must cast votes for Clinton or face the consequences

Posted By on Wed, Dec 14, 2016 at 4:29 PM

Editor's note: This story first appeared in The Colorado Independent.

DENVER — An attorney representing the state grilled two members of Colorado’s Electoral College in a downtown Denver courtroom Tuesday, asking whether they intend to violate a state law that says they must cast their ballots for the presidential candidate who won the state.

Since Election Day, electors Polly Baca of Denver and Bob Nemanich of Colorado Springs have been part of a Hail Mary effort to block Donald Trump from the White House by voting for someone else — and persuading their fellow electors to do the same. Because more national electors are Republicans, the alternative likely would have to be a Republican.

But as a Monday deadline for the national electoral vote looms, these electors have begun to look like martyrs for what they see as the true function of the Electoral College: The right to vote their consciences.
Hamilton electors are trying to keep Trump out the White House. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • Hamilton electors are trying to keep Trump out the White House.

Citing the writings of Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, Baca and Nemanich say just because the Electoral College has never had to break the glass in case of emergency doesn’t mean the glass is shatterproof.

And so twice this week, the two Colorado electors found themselves in court.

Yesterday, a federal judge threw out a legal filing by the two electors requesting a hold on enforcement of state law so they could vote their consciences. A federal lawsuit seeking to find the state law unconstitutional, though, is still pending.

Today’s court hearing was in Denver District County court where Secretary of State Wayne Williams asked Judge Elizabeth Starrs to clarify what sanctions the state could impose on the electors should they defy state law. What, state officials asked, could they do with electors who go rogue, something that has never happened in Colorado.

“It’s possible a crime could be committed next week,” Chris Jackson, a lawyer representing the state, told the judge.

An attorney for the electors, Jesse Witt, argued the state was asking the judiciary to put on a lawmaker’s hat, draft legislation, and then sign it into law like a governor.

“This is a clear case of legislating from the bench,” he said. The electors should have the right to vote their consciences without the threat of criminal punishment. That was how the Founding Fathers envisioned the Electoral College, he said.

“This is not a rubber stamp, this is not a ministerial act,” he said. “This is an important part of our democratic republican government.”

Witt said if the act of casting a vote for whoever won the state involved no deliberation among electors then what was the purpose of the state’s Electoral College members? Why even have humans involved?

“If it was a ministerial duty we could just do this by computer,” he said.

After three hours of testimony from both sides, including the state hauling the electors up on the witness stand, the judge ruled against the electors. They must vote for the winners of the popular vote in the state — Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine — or, the judge said, “there will be repercussions.”

She did not say, however, what those repercussions would be beyond removing them as electors.

The setback was the second in an unprecedented series of events that have played out in Colorado over the past few weeks. The defiant stand of the Hamilton electors has drawn the interest of C-SPAN, which might broadcast live from Monday’s vote-casting ceremony, and it has brought heightened public attention to how the Electoral College works. It even drew the attention of Trump himself who intervened in yesterday’s federal hearing.

The federal judge on Monday said he believed the attempt by a handful of national electors to try and deny Trump the presidency was a “political stunt.”

Tuesday’s courtroom action added to the week’s drama.

Approaching the electors as if they were on trial, Jackson peppered them with questions about how many other electors they had spoken to about their effort to dump Trump by way of their positions in the Electoral College.

“Sitting here today do you intend to vote for Hillary Clinton for president and Tim Kaine for vice president?” Jackson asked Baca, a former state senator and longtime Democratic Party activist.

“I don’t know,” she replied.

Jackson asked if she spoke to other electors about a “plan” to violate state law. Baca hedged, saying she did not know if such a “plan” exists.

Later, speaking to The Colorado Independent, Baca characterized her outreach to other electors as an “effort” or a “strategy,” but not a plan. They have been talking about their options, she said. But at this point any real movement hasn’t gelled.

So far, only 10 out of the 538 electors are on record saying they want to vote their conscience in order to stop Trump. Four are from Colorado, including Baca and Nemanich. They hope to get around 270 to agree. They call themselves Hamilton Electors in honor of Alexander Hamilton who viewed the Electoral College as a deliberative and investigative body created as a fail-safe against an unqualified president.

“Mr. Nemanich you’re next in the hot seat,” the judge said as Baca stepped down from the witness stand.
Bob Nemanich called himself an "average schmuck" in an interview before his Dec. 12 court date. - ALLEN TIAN
  • Allen Tian
  • Bob Nemanich called himself an "average schmuck" in an interview before his Dec. 12 court date.
Nemanich is a math teacher from Colorado Springs and was an early supporter of Bernie Sanders. He and Baca were subpoenaed to show up in court because they were the ones who filed the federal suit, and they had made statements to media indicating they might violate state law at noon on Monday when they have to cast their official votes.

Like Baca, Nemanich told the state’s lawyer he didn’t know how he would vote Monday.

Jackson asked how many other electors he has spoken with since the election.

“Probably 10,” he said.

There are only nine electors in Colorado, all Democrats.

Under oath, Nemanich said he intends to follow all the laws faithfully, but that anything could happen before then. Who knows how his appeals in his federal lawsuit will shake out, he said.
“My mind,” he said, “is still considering what the situation is.”

Later, during a break in the hearing, Nemanich told The Colorado Independent he had no plans of going to jail. During the same break, Republican Secretary of State Williams approached Nemanich and the two made pleasant small talk about where Nemanich teaches high school.

The in-person encounter was starkly different from the uncharacteristically harsh response Williams had for Nemanich and Baca in response to their federal lawsuit. He called their strategy “arrogant,” “evil,” “odious,” and part of an “illegal conspiracy.”

Toward the end of the hearing, Judge Starrs said she wished she had a couple weeks to rule — but doesn’t.

In six days Colorado’s nine electors will travel to the state Capitol where they will swear an oath and then sign two pieces of paper, which go into the record books for the official Electoral College tally of the 2016 presidential election.

Ben Schler, who handles the Electoral College administration for the Secretary of State’s office, said Clinton and Kaine’s names already will be printed on the paperwork for the electors to sign in public view. He said it is unclear exactly how an elector would go about voting for another choice. That never happened before. Asked what might happen if an elector chose to just sit there and do nothing, he smiled, shook his head, and shrugged. All new territory.

Following the ruling, Williams noted that district attorneys and the attorney general make the decisions on whether to prosecute someone.

“I think clearly if you take an oath that says you’re going to follow the law and immediately within minutes break that oath, I think that’s of severe consequence, but I think the electors will think about that,” he said.

Outside, in the marbled hallway of the courthouse, Witt put on a brave face, saying the nationwide Hamilton Elector effort has turned a floodlight on how the Electoral College should really work in a time when it is needed most.

“I think this has always been about more than just Colorado,” he said.

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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
  • 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
  • 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 ppcf.org/crisis 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.

About WICHE
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

Ovaries: They even look scary. - HENRY VANDYKE CARTER - HENRY GRAY (1918) ANATOMY OF THE HUMAN BODY
  • 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

news1-1-9f5fda6817104855.jpg

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

click image PURPLE SHERBET PHOTOGRAPHY
  • 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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