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Take control

To the Editor:

Knowledge is power. For the estimated quarter of a million Americans who are infected with HIV but not aware of it, knowledge could save their lives.

While we have made tremendous strides in treating HIV disease and related infections, those advances mean little to someone who does not know that they are infected. Even today, far too many people still learn that they have HIV quite late in their infection. More than 20 years into the epidemic, this should not still be happening.

On June 27, the Southern Colorado AIDS Project is coordinating National HIV Testing Day in Colorado Springs. If you have ever had unprotected sex or shared needles, then you should consider getting an anonymous or confidential HIV test. Early detection of a HIV infection can help you to make effective use of available medications.

Take the test, take control. Get tested for HIV. For more information, contact SCAP at 800/241-5468 or visit

www.s-cap.org.

-- Ed Diaz
HIV Prevention Specialist
Southern Colorado AIDS Project

Big trouble

To the Editor:

My respect goes out to the peace activists for having the courage to stand up to the Air Force Academy officials and El Paso County Sheriffs ["Terrorism Is as Terrorism Does," June 6]. What is this country coming to when people of conscience cannot peacefully assemble at a public ceremony held at a taxpayer-subsidized public institution to express their opposition to increasing militarization? Those were your tax dollars flying overhead at the graduation ceremony, and paying for Mr. Rumsfield's travel.

In the hysteria of post9-11, this situation is a perfect example of how compromised our civil liberties have become. If the Colorado Springs ACLU wants to put its money where its mouth is, I hope they will take a position on this case and contribute to the defense of people guilty only of expressing an opinion which goes against mainstream America.

If the military and the police are able to make a trumped-up trespassing charge stick here, then we are all in big trouble.

-- Cyndy Kulp
Colorado Springs

Now more than ever

To the Editor:

Thank you so much for the well-informed and well-written article about Biff Baker ["Rocket Racket," June 13]. Unfortunately, this situation is replicated many times over within governmental agencies' procurement practices, without the benefit of whistle-blowers. I appreciate the courage of Biff Baker, the interest of Terje Langeland in getting the truth out and your support in this endeavor.

We are currently witnessing a suppression of truth and a loss of investigative reporting under the name of "patriotism" which I find most troubling. It was inspiring to say the least to find your journalist willing to speak out.

Keep supporting this kind of reporting. Now more than ever we need citizen oversight of the government.

-- Carolyn Gil
Colorado Springs

Too kind

To the Editor:

You were much too kind to Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) in your article about whistle-blower Biff Baker and the improper missile defense contracts. Your quotes give the impression that Sen. Allard is really helping to bring the fraud and waste uncovered by Mr. Baker into the light of day, and get something done about it.

In fact, Mr. Baker has reported to me and others that Allard's office has done virtually nothing with the evidence and leads sent to them, and appears to be content to let the military explain away the improprieties involved.

Just another case of conservative Republican bowing and scraping before the god of the military, and its budget.

The tremendous effort which it took to get legislation protecting whistle-blowers passed back in the '70s and '80s appears to have been for nothing, as the military now simply uses the ruse of "sexual harassment" and fires those who try to expose their waste and fraud anyway. This certainly explains why Biff Baker is running for Congress. And Joel Hefley's (R-CO) complete failure even to acknowledge Mr. Baker's attempts to secure his help in exposing the fleecing of the taxpayers shows why Mr. Baker would make an excellent replacement for him.

-- Patrick L. Lilly
Occupied Cheyenne Caon

Think "figleaf"

To the Editor:

Robert McAndrews' column "Look at the Facts on Cuba" [Your Turn, June 6] was refreshing; he's correct that Cuba is being singled out for human-rights abuses.

For years, as a Central America activist, I collected human-rights data, relying on impartial, nongovernmental sources like Amnesty International. Here's what I learned:

Cuba is a one-party state; what should be legitimate political opposition is often intimidated. There are no "death squads" (paramilitary groups unofficially doing a government's dirty work) though there are official executions; a few years ago, a Cuban general was shot for involvement in the drug trade, for instance. In probably the worst recent abuse, in the mid-'90s, Cuban police tried to corral a group of would-be emigrants, and 200-some drowned. A dissident in Cuba has a good chance of being jailed; there are instances of police brutality but no clear pattern of torture. After serving time, political prisoners often end up living in exile in the United States.

The area's "free" nations are now multiparty democracies. But for democracy to work, the political process must be free from coercion; in these "democracies," coercion abounds. In the nightmarish world of death squads, dissidents are typically abducted, raped if female, and dismembered and murdered with machetes. (No reputable rights group, incidentally, buys our State Department's claim that these paramilitaries are beyond governmental control.) Those who make it to jail are often tortured. In 1998, Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera of Guatemala, head of a national human-rights commission that two days prior had delivered a "scathing" report condemning Guatemala's government and paramilitaries, had his skull crushed with a concrete block. From Chiapas a few years ago came well-documented reports of an entire village slaughtered by the Mexican military.

Circumstances vary with nation and time; some "free" nations like Costa Rica aren't so repressive, but overall, Cuban rights abuses tend to pale in comparison. It may be technically correct to call Cuba "the hemisphere's sole dictatorship"; it's also misleading.

U.S. policy toward Cuba is about property rights, not human rights: Washington won't accept any nation nationalizing American business and clings to the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay -- a colonial prize. So, when you hear people like National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice justifying the embargo against Cuba as the moral responsibility of a "Great Democracy," think "figleaf for empire."

-- Paul Dougan
Manitou Springs

Local color

To the Editor:

I must say that your "101 Summer Things" [May 30] was a great article. I have spent a good part of almost every summer in the Manitou Springs area for the past 15 years and found some things that I never had thought about doing and some things that I didn't know existed. I thought that the article was very well written and the light-heartedness added color to many things that I might have thought to be mundane and insane to the point where I have made plans to broaden my mind a bit this year.

Your article came out at a fantastic time because of the fires and has opened up some new doors for me since I have to change some of my plans now, as I am sure many others do also. Thanks for the great insight to what I have been missing and perhaps I will even go to a holistic fair now because of you!

-- Thom Preston
Via the Internet

Flyin' high

To the Editor:

Kathryn Eastburn's recent Domestic Bliss column ["The boy with flyin' shoes," June 6] was superb! It should be required reading for everyone, especially parents. A tribute to her eldest son, she shows her pride in his decision to serve others through public service.

If you haven't read this column, I encourage you to find a quiet moment to do so. I guarantee it will bring a lump to your throat.

Great writing!

-- Bob Armintor
Colorado Springs

Sprinkles and hugs

To the Editor:

How can I begin to tell you how much the honor of being selected for the Independence Community Fund's Community Builder Award means to me? I am touched beyond belief and inspired to continue to give my best for the children and families of this community. The award ceremony, reception, your tokens of appreciation and the fabulous cover story by Kathryn Eastburn ["There's Something About Mary," May 9] have made me feel like Queen of the May!

The generous donation of $1,000 to the Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration (KCIC) from the Independence Community Fund will help insure that we have the ability to continue to offer quality arts and educational programs for students and families. Be assured that we will use the funding wisely in order to impact the lives of as many young people as possible.

All of you at The Colorado Springs Independent and the Independence Community Fund have touched my heart. Thank you for being part of the Imagination Celebration family!

Sprinkles and Hugs!

-- Mary L. Mashburn
Executive Director
Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration

Editor's note: The Independence Community Fund is a nonprofit fundraising organization, chaired by Independent publisher John Weiss, dedicated to meeting the needs of local nonprofit organizations that support community building. Independence Community Fund activities and editorial decisions of The Colorado Springs Independent remain separate and inviolate. Ms. Mashburn was the Fund's first winner of the Community Builder Legacy Award.

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