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Lifetime of addiction

A tragic irony has befallen our brave soldiers. In this time of war, they fight for freedom in foreign lands, yet return home to suffer from a lack of freedom in their own country.

Wounded members of our armed forces, whether physically or mentally injured, are forced to use damaging and addictive drugs because of the federal government's refusal to acknowledge the many medical benefits of marijuana.

As a scientist who specializes in the science that underlies marijuana's medical value, I know its value for chronic pain and post-traumatic stress. I find it particularly tragic when I meet brave military personnel who are afraid of the government they defended. They use or wish to use marijuana legally, but they are fearful to obtain a state medical marijuana permit, due to the federal government's position against it.

Those suffering from chronic pain are forced into a lifetime of narcotic addiction by federal policy. Those suffering from PTSD cannot use a plant that mimics the way the body combats stress.

Our local congressman, Joel Hefley, had an opportunity to give back to those who have given so much. He could have supported the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment, which would have prevented the DEA from interfering with medical marijuana patients in states that approved its use. Sadly, he did not have the courage to do so, despite being provided with the science supporting medical marijuana.

It's time for medical marijuana patients, and their families and friends, to make sure that we elect public officials who care about those in need more than politics.

Dr. Robert Melamede

Colorado Springs

Moving on

Instead of being divisive this political season, would it be possible for us to come together and get some real progress made in the state of Colorado?

Everyone seems to be worried about same-sex marriage. Is this the most pressing issue that we should be working on in society right now? I don't know about you, but if Jack and Joe decide to get married, it makes absolutely no difference to the relationship between my wife and me.

And how about illegal immigration? If the federal government would fund the border patrol and actually enforce existing laws, then we could start to make some progress on this issue.

I think our state would be better served if we would get together and figure out how to help the more than three-quarters of a million people in the state without health care coverage. The fact that any child in this state is living without health care coverage should be looked upon with shame.

Or, how about the children in the state that cannot get full-day kindergarten because they can't afford it or don't qualify? Do you know what a difference full-day kindergarten can make in a child's life? We're talking about the future of Colorado and the United States here.

Why don't we pay attention to the needs of the state's farmers, or the need for a water-sensitive growth policy, or the need for a cohesive, effective mass transportation system? It's about prioritization, plain and simple.

There are too many things, too many real issues, that we can work on together instead of worrying about these divisive wedge issues. Let's move forward, Colorado.

Keith Varney

Colorado Springs

Defining moment

Here in the Springs, there is a national issue that is being played out regarding District 11 and public education in general, that is smoldering like a mountain wildfire ready to burn back decades of man's impractical ideas toward nature.

Recent reports have it that the school board petition recall effort is succeeding above organizers' expectations and is rapidly reaching its goal. Canvassing political volunteers working for other campaigns are recording almost universal voter disgust towards D-11's politics, and are motivated to do something about it. Petition volunteers are commonly stating that citizens are actually seeking them out to sign, not vice versa. With their continued concerted efforts, the recall effort should succeed in getting on the ballot, where past statistics favor removal of those elected officials.

Nationally, it is now being said that "the right's" politics have always had less to do with actually embracing practical solutions for real problems and more to do with manipulating the marketplace of ideas for their political agendas. But time is unmerciful as it penalizes this kind of policy-politic, where inevitably the stench of mendacity rises, causing an ire among voters that crosses all partisan political spectrums.

The Springs has a unique opportunity, by coming to its collective senses. It can literally throw out the extremists, opportunists and others who were placed there by "Big Money" Steve Schuck and his band of fellow revolutionaries. Their agenda of seeking to radically change Colorado Springs for their own selfish interests is now transparent.

Ultimately, this is a political fight between those who desire to end public education and those who want to provide it at its common-good best.

The Springs today is one of the nation's main battlegrounds over the national discourse on public education. If the recall effort is successful, it would signal the possible beginning of the end of the radical ideas brought forward by "the right."

This is a defining moment for both the community and the generation, who need to say they are "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore" and then actually do something about it.

Bob Nemanich

Colorado Springs

Celebrating art

There seems to have been, in recent weeks, a lot of passionate and confused people writing letters about the School District 11-sponsored annual Young People's Art Exhibition.

This exhibit, now a 44-year tradition, has been generously sponsored by School District 11 for as long as I can remember. As a second-grader in 1964, I had my first oil painting displayed in the Young People's exhibit. Tom Fleecs and School District 11 have continued to graciously provide the resources and hard work needed to sponsor this event, which benefits young artists throughout the Pikes Peak region.

For many years the annual Young People's Art Exhibition was housed in the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. After Michael DeMarsche and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center announced that they were a museum, not a community center and had no place for local children's artwork, Mary Mashburn and The Kennedy Center's Imagination Celebration came to the rescue and offered a space so that the Young People's tradition could continue.

This space, "The Celebration Place," is located at the Citadel Mall, and Deborah Thornton and her staff have worked tirelessly to make it an excellent venue with good lighting and plenty of exposure to a variety of local people.

The outrage I have been reading about is misguided and misplaced. There is a big difference between censorship and rejection due to clearly stated criteria. Somewhere along the line, at least 20 years ago, because of the family nature of the exhibit, guidelines were developed to avoid controversial issues such as drug use, nudity and violence. All entries were also required to have white mats because the exhibit looked better if all of the pieces had that in common.

To cry "censorship" because pieces that were entered did not meet the clearly stated guidelines of the supporters of the exhibit is simply unfounded.

The other misconception is that these guidelines have changed recently. Although the guidelines were strictly adhered to this year, they have not changed in the 26 years my students have entered work in the exhibit.

The Imagination Celebration and School District 11 are offering the community a wonderful service, and they don't deserve the slap in the face they have recently been delivered. There are other venues for the more controversial work produced by the youngsters in this area, including Wunderkind, hosted by the Business of Art Center, and the state and national Scholastics competitions.

Chip Shaw

Fine Arts Department Chair

Cheyenne Mountain High School

Stop smoking now

As a psychiatrist working in mental health in the VA system, I am pleased to see our state implementing the smoking ban. I have been concerned with the high rates of smoking in veterans, as compared to the general population.

More and more, it is evident that we need to assist others in their cessation efforts, especially in the mentally ill population, which smokes one half of all cigarettes produced. Cigarette smoking is a substance abuse disorder, which kills four times as many as does alcohol.

Studies have shown that, on average, cigarette smoking cuts off more than 13 years of life and leads to significant morbidity prior to death. The increased morbidity from smoking-related illness has been estimated to cost the VA system 24 percent of its heath care dollars.

Benefits of cessation can be seen quickly, with normalization of pulse, blood pressure and body temperature of extremities within 20 minutes. Already within 24 hours, chances of heart attack decreases, and carbon monoxide levels and oxygen levels return to normal. Within a month or so, studies show lung function up 30 percent, on average. At two years, heart attack risk drops to near normal.

Help is available, with nicotine replacement therapy, other medications and counseling. Evidence supports the fact that a majority of American smokers report that they would attempt to quit if one of their health care providers recommended it. There are free telephone quit lines that offer nicotine replacements and counseling free of charge. (Colorado quit line: 800/639-7848).

There are also Internet sites that can be helpful (co.quitnet.com and smokefree.gov).

If you are a smoker and your primary care or mental health provider or physician has not encouraged tobacco cessation, it is time to ask why.

Gary Kielpikowski, MD

staff psychiatrist,

Colorado Springs VA Clinic

Herd mentality

We are writing this in regard to the USDA's National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

On its face, the NAIS is an animal identification system developed through a partnership between the government and the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA), an industry lobby group. It is needed to lower the risk of foreign animal disease. The USDA even cites Sept. 11, 2001 as proof that our food is not safe. However, the NAIS will not require imported animals that are introduced to our grocery stores every day to be tagged or traceable.

The NAIS will require every livestock owner to register their "premises," complete with GPS location, and every animal must also be registered and assigned an "animal ID."

In addition, every animal must either have radio frequency tags or microchip. Satellites will be used at times to monitor animals and to determine how animals have co-mingled.

The databases needed to hold the information of hundreds of thousands of livestock owners and hundreds of millions of animals will be fully private, and privately funded.

Of course, all the fees for participating in this mandatory program will be decided by database gods. There are immeasurable market incentives to conduct data mining. Therefore, livestock owners that register their premises are opening themselves up to loss of privacy.

We encourage all livestock owners to protect themselves by not complying.

If you value your freedom, your lifestyle and your livelihood, stand up and make your voices heard. Don't let the government frighten your freedoms away. The NAIS is about multinational corporate agribusiness and control; it is not about safe food or animal health.

If the government was really concerned about safe food or animal health, there are many other steps that should be taken besides needing our private information.

Contact your state and national politicians, and tell them to stop funding the planning stages of the NAIS. To date, $86 million in taxpayers' money has been spent. Contact us at windkist@wildblue.net for links and join the millions of Americans who oppose the NAIS.

Dennis and Elaine Kist

Hartsel

Old-fashioned modernist

Separation of church and state makes sense. State is temporal; religion is spiritual.

However, 3,000 years ago, Solomon offered this wisdom: In all thy ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Many Americans believe that acknowledging God is what caused our nation to be the most blessed. Therefore, it should be no surprise that people of faith cringe as modernists increase profanity, indecency and promiscuity, while also demanding an end to public prayer, the removal of "In God We Trust" from edifices, and the legal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Noticing our present list of major national dilemmas, Dr. Phil might ask: And how is that working out for you?

Jim Inman

Colorado Springs

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