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News briefs from the Front Range

Soup kitchen still serving

You can still get food at the Marian House Soup Kitchen. You'll just have to navigate around the construction to get to it.

The Marian House, located at 14 W. Bijou St., is in the process of a $4 to $5 million expansion and renovation, which is needed to accommodate increased traffic in the building. Dining room capacity will at least double from its current 75, the kitchen will be updated, and there'll be more room for administration and human services.

Construction is scheduled to complete in fall 2008.

The Marian House serves an average of 400 to 450 people a day. Its patrons include the homeless, elderly, struggling veterans, teens and impoverished families.

Jason Christensen, executive director of Catholic Charities, says Marian House does not anticipate any pause in its services during the expansion.

"We are only anticipating just a couple of days where we will actually serve box lunches," he says. JAS

New arts calendar coming

On Friday, the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region (COPPeR) will launch peakradar.com, a site aiming to provide a comprehensive calendar featuring information on arts, cultural and outdoor events happening in the area.

"There is nothing else out there that provides the whole package and is accessible 24 hours a day," says Susan Edmondson, vice chair of the COPPeR board of directors.

The site features a search function for arts organizations, free arts-related classifieds and a function that enables users to alert others about upcoming events. Visitors will also be able to view videos of performances.

The Pikes Peak region joins nine other cities in the Artsopolis Marketing Partnership network, including Phoenix, Austin, Houston, Denver and San Jose. AG

National Right to Life ousts state organization

The battle continues between anti-abortion activists and anti-abortion activists, as the national Right to Life organization last week severed ties with its Colorado chapter.

The move comes after Colorado Right to Life attacked Focus on the Family chairman James Dobson and other groups with full-page ads in the Gazette and the Washington Times, saying Dobson misled supporters over the April ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that upholds a ban on partial birth abortions.

Dobson and leaders from many other groups, including the National Right to Life, cheered the ruling, and Dobson claimed that the lives of children would be saved. Colorado Right to Life and other groups condemned Dobson and others who "celebrated this evil ruling." Bob Enyart, a Denver radio talk show host and church pastor who has been a vocal critic of Dobson, accused the Focus leader of becoming a "moral relativist."

After the National Right to Life announced it was severing ties with its Colorado chapter, Focus issued a release praising the decision, calling Colorado Right to Life "a rogue and divisive group." CD

Allard seeks truth on Cheyenne Mountain closing

U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard has expressed "deep concern" that the Pentagon aims to shut down Cheyenne Mountain, rather than place it on "warm standby," suggesting he was misled by military officials.

In an April 25 letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Allard stated he was told during a classified briefing last year that there were "no ongoing discussions" about closing the mountain. Yet despite assurances from Adm. Timothy Keating, former head of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Command (NORAD), and his staff, Allard later "obtained information" indicating such talks were occurring.

The senator also wrote that the base realignment and closure process in 2005 mulled shutting down Cheyenne Mountain, but did not because of the costs involved a contrast to "cost savings" Keating suggested earlier this year, prior to leaving Colorado Springs for a command in Hawaii.

The realignment process revealed "initial rough estimates" of $120 million to $150 million to house functions elsewhere; $1.5 billion in "mission unique communications costs;" $10 billion in mission systems costs; and more than $600 million to move organizations needed to support the change.

"The closure of Cheyenne Mountain was eventually rejected as an unacceptable alternative," the senator wrote. MdY

Army attacked on Pion

Setting back Army ambitions in southern Colorado, the U.S. House has passed a measure effectively blocking expansion in Pion Canyon Maneuver Site for at least the next year.

"As an Army man, I am saddened to rise today in opposition to the Army's plan to condemn nearly a half-million acres of privately owned land in my district," said sponsor Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, who argued the plan would "devastate the economy in southern Colorado, which relies on agriculture to survive."

The 383-35 vote to amend the Military Construction Appropriations Act for 2008 is a blow to Fort Carson's plan to expand the 235,000-acre training ground by some 418,000 acres. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, vainly opposed the measure, arguing the Army needs more space to train troops increasingly reliant on technology.

Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., who sits on the key Senate Appropriations Committee, "hasn't decided where he stands," his spokesman, Steve Wymer, said via phone Tuesday.

"However, he's supportive of the process, the idea of studying it," Wymer said. MdY

Dems want Springs for 2008

Barring a last-second veto by top state Democrats, Colorado Springs in 2008 will (briefly) become Donkeyville.

A selection committee has recommended that the party's state convention come to the nation's fabled conservative hotbed next May about three months before the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

"Never before has this been done," said El Paso County Democratic Party Chairman John Morris, adding the push began almost as a lark. "It's a new adventure."

The convention, he said, could pump $1 million into the local economy while energizing progressives and moderates "who feel like they are the only Democrat in town."

But the state party increasingly views El Paso County as critical to its future, he added.

Although Republicans outnumber Democrats about 2 to 1, many county voters are unaffiliated. Moreover, if just 40 percent of county voters back a statewide Democrat, the sheer numbers portend possible victory, meaning the county can be critical to Democrats seeking offices such as U.S. Senate.

Although the party's statewide executive committee next month must formally approve the recommendation, Morris doubts a reversal since Republicans selected Broomfield, which the Dem committee also visited, for its GOP convention next year. MdY

Flag flown upside-down over Springs Spree

Around 10 a.m. Saturday, Springs Spree festival revelers approached a Marine recruitment booth with a message: The American flag over Tejon Street's U.S. Bank building was flying upside-down.

"Us being Marines, we got pissed," says Cpl. Brandon Hawke.

After conferring with police on-site, Hawke decided to ascend the fire escape and right the flag. Onlookers below cheered when he finished.

The Marine acknowledges that flags are usually flown in such a manner to signify either distress or disrespect.

"Somebody was just trying to make a statement," says Hawke. "It's an Army and Air Force town, [but] there are a lot of hippies and liberals against the war." MS

Compiled by Cara DeGette, Angela Grosshans, Matthew Schniper, J. Adrian Stanley and Michael de Yoanna.

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