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Spin obscures the whole truth

To the Editor:

While it's always fascinating to see the kind of "spin" a public relations-type puts on a story, what is most curious is to see the PR flack for American Medical Response level accusations of inaccuracy while simultaneously failing to tell the whole truth ("AMR, at your service," April 20).

Here's what Ms. Kezziah said:

Laidlaw does not own Safety-Kleen. Therefore, obviously, all conclusions based on that erroneous fact (e.g., that Laidlaw is selling Safety-Kleen) are also inaccurate. Laidlaw simply owns shares in the company.

Now, here's the whole truth -- Laidlaw not only "simply owns shares" in Safety-Kleen, but is the clear majority shareholder. Here's "the rest of the story" as reported in numerous financial papers, but this quote is from the Colorado Springs Business Journal:

"Laidlaw's financial statements show that the company had a $603 million investment in Safety-Kleen in 1999, and the company's operating expenses jumped from $639 million in 1998 to $794.7 million in 1999. The company lost more than $54 million in 1999 from the Safety-Kleen operations alone. Laidlaw also saw a $124 million loss from all operations in 1999."

The plain and complete facts are that Laidlaw owns a 44 percent share of Safety-Kleen, which is by far the controlling interest in the latter company. The truth is that Laidlaw has announced that it will "delay" its latest financial reporting because of "accounting irregularities" in Safety-Kleen that deeply affect Laidlaw's own accounting. The truth is that Laidlaw's stock price dropped below $1 a share this week (after once being as high as $27) because of its problems with its subsidiaries (e.g., AMR) and its de facto ownership and control of Safety-Kleen.

Why should this be important to residents of El Paso County? Simply because Laidlaw is the 100 percent owner of your sole emergency ambulance company, American Medical Response. What will happen to that exclusive contract if Laidlaw goes bankrupt, or is bought out? No one knows.

But one thing is perfectly clear -- citizens here will be better served by getting to the truth about this situation, rather than listening to the political/economic spin put on by, and rather than reading the half-truths told by, AMR's public relations machine. If I were an AMR employee right now, in whatever position, I'd be making sure my resume was up-to-date and looking for another job. The much-vaunted (by County EMS Coordinator Eric Schmidt) "multi-billion dollar international corporation" Laidlaw may well be on the verge of vanishing, and it's subsidiaries along with it. What then, Ms. Kezziah? What then, Mr. Schmidt?

-- Tim Pleasant

Colorado Springs

The way it really was

To the Editor:

Ralph Routon and Leland Feitz, please remove your rose- colored glasses before you proceed.

In response to newcomer Feitz's romanticized view of our city when he arrived in 1942, a broader view of history is offered by a native.

All of the five theaters in downtown Colorado Springs required that my brother and I sit in the balconies -- along with others of our color. We were too young to realize that we were paying to be insulted! And we really could have managed without seeing Indians and Africans (and all indigenous African wildlife) subdued by Caucasian cowboys and Tarzan.

We were allowed in the better restaurants -- in the back door in order to wash dishes and perform other service duties. This continued for at least another 15 years. Woolworth's food counter was verboten. Our money was welcome if we could stomach the insult. And we really could have managed without the inferior food; our mothers (often the cooks) did their best work at home.

I don't recall segregation in grocery stores and drug stores, but the racial antipathy has always been a part of the fabric of Colorado Springs.

Years later I worked at the Antlers Hotel as a maid while on a summer vacation from my new home, Detroit, where I was an honor roll student. I was barred from using the elevator to carry heavy linens from the basement to my first floor duty station. I was subjected to hearing white staff talk of eating watermelon "nigger style" and was chased around guest rooms by old lascivious white men. And I really could have managed without the fear and humiliation.

The newspaper then, like today, was oblivious to events affecting my race -- except for sensationalized criminal stories. No change there. A white woman once told me that she couldn't fathom why a black woman was dissatisfied with the lack of black obituaries in the newspaper. She should be happy that black people were not dying. Don't get me wrong; I manage quite well without the validation of the white press.

Lending institutions continue their history of discrimination. It is difficult to comment on doctors and dentists. When experiencing pain, focus tends to be on relief. And in '42 parents and grandparents often were the first ditch effort in fighting disease and discomfort.

Leland Feitz describes the "events" and the "people" of Colorado Springs without the necessary qualifications of "exclusive" events and "white" people. This would be fine, as is, as a chat between Leland and Ralph, but now it has been upgraded to a written commentary on the history of this area. Some people will take this myopic view as gospel and long for the good old days when Colorado Springs was "... a right (white) nice place!"

-- Juanita Stroud Martin

Colorado Springs

Mr. Smith vs. Washington

To the Editor:

Crime #1: Federal government violates the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ("The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution ... are reserved to the States ... or to the people.") by passing the Endangered Species Act. Score: Government 1, Justice 0.

Crime #2: Government violates Mr. Smith's property rights under the Fifth Amendment ("... nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.") by declaring his land the habitat of the endangered Red Eyed Sneeze Beetle and forbidding him to build his house. Mr. Smith's property value plummets due to the government decision so he is unable to sell his land and build elsewhere. Mr. Smith, knowing his rights and remembering the Supreme Court's decision stating that all laws which violate the Constitution are void and need not be obeyed, believes that in the end justice will prevail and so he builds his house anyway. Mr. Smith is arrested. Score: Government 2, Justice 0.

Crime #3: Government "stacks" the jury by removing any juror who feels that Mr. Smith's Constitutional rights have been violated and then railroads Mr. Smith into a conviction. Score: Government 3, Justice 0.

But didn't the Congressmen who proposed the law, and the President who signed the law, and the cops who arrested Mr. Smith, and the judge who presided over the trial, all swear an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution? Ha! Welcome to modern day America. The moral of this story: It's dangerous to be right when your despotic government is wrong.

-- Alexander Daube

Colorado Springs

A Freudian slip of the tongue

To the Editor:

At the annual prayer breakfast of the Christian Businessmen's Committee, Sheriff John Anderson gave the opening prayer. In his prayer, he prayed for guidance for government officials and leaders who "are in authority over us." Does this statement reflect an attitude that infuriates others as much as it does me?

Any graduate of Civics 101 knows that our republic was established with the express desire for government not to have "authority over us"!

"OK," you might say, "It's just a matter of semantics; he just had a slip of the tongue." Perhaps, but I'm afraid that it may have been a Freudian slip of the tongue. Far too many bureaucrats, legislators, police officials and other government functionaries misunderstand their roles as public servants, and believe themselves to be in authority over (in charge of) us, the American taxpayers!

It's time for a serious attitude adjustment! With predilections like this, so typical of government employees, is it any wonder that our country's founders, Thomas Jefferson in particular, advocated a strong militia and ownership of guns by the populace (not for hunting, but for the citizens' protection from tyranny)? Sure, I've probably overstated my case, but it's worth thinking about. By the way, I do not, nor have I ever owned a gun, as I don't like them and have no use for them.

I once saw a fellow wearing a Tshirt with The Bill Of Rights printed on it inside a red circle with backslash, and with the words "void where prohibited by law" inscribed. It becomes more and more true every day!

-- Terry Shaduck

Colorado Springs

Take extra care in the back country

To the Editor:

I enjoy backcountry snowboarding and snowshoeing, and was pleased to read James McVey's article on abandoned ski resorts ("The Lost Resort," April 6). But he failed to warn readers about the dangers of backcountry winter travel -- in particular, avalanches. Encouraging people to head out onto abandoned slopes without proper avalanche prediction and rescue training is an invitation to disaster. Colorado leads all states in avalanche incidents, and abandoned ski slopes are the ideal setting for avalanches. Ski patrollers at Colorado resorts do the necessary work to prevent avalanches from occuring. The freedom of the backcountry comes with a high level of personal responsibility. If you play, take proper precautions. Or, be prepared to pay for the free skiing -- with your life.

-- Gavin Ehringer

Colorado Springs

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