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Another round of updates on some of 2013's memorable stories

Whatever happened to ...?



At the end of each calendar year, we take time to update some of the stories that have stuck out, for one reason or another, during the previous 12 months or so. This issue brings the second of three installments.

Animal subtractions

Should the military be able to mutilate and kill livestock for medical training?

Back on Jan. 23, we reported that policies on "live tissue training" were being reconsidered by lawmakers ("Can't stop the bleating," News). That followed People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' release of secret video footage showing soldiers cutting the legs off live goats with hedge trimmers, and spilling their innards as the animals squirmed.

At the time the story ran, Fort Carson was preparing for an LTT, though a spokesperson said animals wouldn't feel any pain, and the procedures would be closely monitored to ensure humane treatment. He said what the PETA video showed wasn't in line with procedures. And he defended LTT, saying it was more effective, and more affordable, than other ways of preparing soldiers to save lives on the battlefield, such as using high-tech dummies or cadavers.

(For its part, PETA cited a study published in Military Medicine that found that physicians and paramedics in the Israel Defense Forces felt more confident after being trained with dummies and patients compared with LTT.)

It appeared in January that lawmakers might be siding with PETA. The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act required that the military set a timeline by March to largely phase out the use of live animals in such training exercises.

Today, a new Army regulation limits LTT to medical providers, nurses and "68w" combat medics. Two bills that would ban LTT are also sitting in congressional committees. And last week, Fort Carson spokesperson Dani Johnson told the Independent that "Fort Carson, at this time, is not conducting live tissue training." (She wouldn't explain whether that meant that the base had suspended all LTT indefinitely.)

All that said, Department of Defense spokesperson Jennifer Elzea writes via email that LTT is still valuable, and that strict rules govern its employment.

"Use of the animal model for training healthcare providers continues to be an integral adjunct component of these training programs," she writes. "Comprehensive instruction in life-saving skills and procedures, essential for maintaining a highly proficient medical force, is a major contributor to dramatically increased battlefield survival rates."

Institutional Animal Care & Use Committees protocol provides strict guidelines for humane LTT, Elzea adds, and the IACUC provides oversight, as do Department of Defense Component Animal Use Oversight offices. Animal use reports are also made annually to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. All programs are accredited by the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, International.

As for an actual phase-out? It doesn't appear to have any hard dates.

"The strategy includes a timeline illustrative of the research activities that will drive the development and procurement of simulation products," Elzea states. "DoD is actively working to refine, reduce, and, when appropriate, replace the use of live animals in medical education and training. However, until there are validated alternatives, the experience and confidence gained by the use of the live animal model in teaching life-saving procedures cannot be substituted by other training methods." — J. Adrian Stanley

Suing over 64

It's been about 4½ months since retired criminal-defense attorney Dennis Sladek fought for recreational marijuana, filing a lawsuit against Mayor Steve Bach and the governments of Colorado Springs, Woodland Park, Palmer Lake, Green Mountain Falls, Fountain, Monument and El Paso County. It alleges that the clause in Amendment 64 allowing municipalities to ban centers in the first place "deprived Plaintiff of his constitutional right to pursue a legal business" as well as protections offered under the 14th Amendment.

Reached via email recently, Sladek says all have filed motions to dismiss, which he's contesting.

"In short, the regulations are due process violations," he writes. "I have a constitutional right to engage in a legal business. The voters have made marijuana legal. Some small city council, or county commission is going directly against the will of the voters."

Sladek says attorneys for the defendants have also had the case moved to federal court, since it contains federal-level claims. It's a move he welcomes.

"The bottom line is that federal judges are somewhat smarter than the average state court judge," he says. "It should be interesting since ... [it] means a federal judge will have to decide state law versus federal law."— Bryce Crawford

Still rolling along

In 2012, the Front Range Express (FREX) bus between Denver and Colorado Springs ran its final route.

The shutdown came at a time when Colorado Department of Transportation authorities said they were working on a plan to take over the route, relieving the city of the financial burden and expanding the service. Those officials said the city continuing FREX until a takeover would help with rider continuity.

But neither that argument nor the appeals of dedicated riders won over Mayor Steve Bach, who shut down the bus to save money.

Thankfully, the state didn't abandon its plans, as we reported in "Son of FREX" (News, July 3). Instead, it's been moving steadily along, and today a new bus service is expected to start running in late 2014 or early 2015.

"We're on track to getting things figured out," says CDOT commissioner Les Gruen. "It's just sort of, at this point, working out all of the details, and a lot of that is even getting as specific as what the fares are going to be."

CDOT director Mark Imhoff says the bus currently being called the "Interregional Express" is expected to get a snazzier name before it's unveiled. It will be based in downtown Denver, where Union Station is undergoing a major expansion and renovation. The Denver hub will feature a variety of connecting transit routes.

The service will likely run four round-trips a day between Colorado Springs and Denver; four between Fort Collins and Denver; and one to Glenwood Springs.

The one-way cost for a ride from Colorado Springs to Denver is expected to run $12, or $9 from Monument. Riders who buy a 10-ride pass will get a 10 percent discount. A 20-ride pass will save 20 percent, and a 40-ride pass will save 25 percent. Imhoff notes the fares are low if you consider the costs of gas, vehicle wear and tear, and parking.

Plus, workers can get something done during their commute. The new buses will offer wi-fi, a bathroom, bike racks and plenty of legroom. Park-n-Rides will also see improvements, including shelters, benches and infrared heating.

CDOT plans to bid out the building of 13 buses for the operation; they could cost $8 million total. Yearly operations will likely run the department more than $3 million (not including money collected via fares). — J. Adrian Stanley

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