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Leading the way
I just wanted to applaud Anthony Lane's piece ("Ballot box blues," News, May 15) and the Independent's coverage of election integrity issues in Colorado. As an advocate for improved accuracy, transparency and verifiability of elections in our state (and I think I speak for many advocates in "Colo-bama"), it is difficult to find much informative coverage on this issue ahead of the game.

Sadly, around the country the media tend to engage in "autopsy journalism" after the crimes and abuses have been committed, then they're there to sniff around.

Glad to see that the Colorado Springs Independent is ahead of the curve of the mainstream on election integrity.

Joe Richey

A step forward
I applaud the California Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriages, and I hope that California becomes the second state to allow same-sex couples to marry.

It is high time for this country to recognize all human beings as equals and give all of them equal rights and benefits. I hope that we are reaching the point in our evolution where we are actually learning truth, and acting with compassion and tolerance. If we don't act on this awareness, we are doomed.

Sexual preference is not a choice, just as skin color is not a choice. We need to think about this logically and not let ancient dogma influence our common sense.

Who would choose to be discriminated against, denied benefits and equality, looked on as sinful or disgusting, battered, beaten, and with the constant threat of being murdered? It is disgraceful that a segment of human beings in our society are discouraged from making their unions legal, from having healthy families, and from being able to care for and celebrate their love for another person openly and proudly.

Sharlene White
Santa Fe, N.M.

Indie country lives!
I enjoyed reading Jason Notte's profile of Shooter Jennings ("Hungry like the wolf," BreakBeat, May 22), even though Shooter complained that "there's no outlet" for an indie rock version of country music. To the contrary, even locally there is an outlet for this type of music: my radio show, Grass Roots Revival, Wednesday nights from 8 to 10 p.m. on KRCC.

I've been on the air for six months playing the best in classic and contemporary Americana, folk, bluegrass, true country and yes, alt-country. I hope Shooter tuned in while he was in town for his gig at the World Arena!

Steve Harris
Colorado Springs

Blue bloods

If you put the two Democratic candidates for president next to each other, you'll see a lot of differences. One is a man. One is a woman. One is black. One is white. These differences can mean the world to different people.

Therein lies the problem. More specifically, the word "can." All because it can mean something doesn't mean it will. You see, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have one thing in common.

They are Democrats. We are, too.

And that's just it. We can't afford another four years (at least) with the same policies we've been dealt for eight. It's ruining our country financially and causing distrust toward us in the international body. Americans have to defend themselves abroad now!

Whether or not Obama or Clinton gets the nomination, it is crucial and only reasonable that we rally behind the candidate chosen. To not do so is childish and selfish.

Other candidates have dropped out, like Biden, Richardson and Edwards. I'm willing to bet a vast majority of their supporters went on to support another candidate. It's because they have a reasonable attitude toward the party.

I am an Obama supporter. If he does not get the nomination, I'll support Clinton. I don't support Barack because he has the same sexual organs as me, and I won't support Hillary because she has the same color as me. They have my support because I agree with their stances more than John McCain's.

Tom Nelson
Colorado Springs

Remember Tangshan
I am saddened for the China earthquake victims and their families. I see footage of rescues and cleanup happening as swiftly and efficiently as possible. International aid pours in.

This reminds me of my time in Tangshan over 20 years ago. Tangshan had an earthquake in 1976, approximately the same on the Richter scale as the recent one. It happened at night, and many were buried as they slept. An aftershock killed many more.

China's political backwardness in 1976 meant the international community was ignorant of this stunning tragedy. Government aid took days to arrive. Official death tolls were around 250,000, but evidence I saw there made me believe the toll was at least twice that.

As far as I know, I was the first foreigner ever to live in Tangshan. It was 1985-86, and the devastation from 1976 was still everywhere, with paraplegics in hand-cranked, wooden wheelchairs. Few buildings were more than emergency barracks. The city was still valiantly trying to rebuild despite inadequate resources and very little aid. Everyone had a terrifying earthquake story. Most lost family members or, often, all of their family.

I often describe my time in Tangshan as "trying to teach English in a construction zone."

As a young teacher out of Harvard with a degree in East Asian Studies, my Chinese skills helped me get around fairly easily. However, I could not visit some areas. I was told they were still too dangerous: Buildings were unstable, and/or I could stumble on gigantic mass graves.

As I read about this earthquake, I haven't seen one comparison to Tangshan. As someone who lived there, I ask everyone to say a prayer for the good people of Tangshan who survived a terrible earthquake and rebuilt their city without the foreign aid that is common practice today.

Dana Haefner
Colorado Springs

Pipe up for parks
This is a rebuttal to the Gazette's May 8 article wherein Dennis Hisey, chairman of the El Paso County commissioners, detailed possible plans to sell park lands, including regional parks such as Bear Creek and Black Forest, because revenues are below expectations.

"It is a very extreme measure that we would hope to avoid," Hisey stated. "But there are no sacred cows out there right now."

Interesting choice of words, Mr. Hisey, because to El Paso County residents and registered voters, these regional and area parks are entirely sacred.

The Denver Post said: "Hisey wouldn't rule out that a regional park could become a condo development. The land might end up going to the highest bidder."

Our parks provide benefits to young and old alike. They contribute to quality of life and give back to this community, not drain the county coffers. They promote outdoor activities, reduce crime and are instrumental in promoting healthy and physical lifestyles. They impact our tourism, open space and marketing appeal.

Pavilions, communal gardens, trails, dog parks and nature centers provide hours of educational enjoyment. We find it ironic that Bear Creek Nature Center's theme of "No Child Left Inside" would be sacrificed to satisfy the need for money, and even more audacious that our beautiful landscape would be replaced with condominiums. Our need for money is infinite; our open space finite.

What kind of precedent will this set? The impact on wildlife, animal safety and safety of citizens is another great concern. What happened to survey results used for a five-year master plan, in which citizens spoke loudly and clearly about park usage?

It is imperative we contact officials to voice our opposition to selling park land and open space. Time is of the essence.

Joe and Kathy Thiac
Steve and Christine Uveges
Colorado Springs

Do as Oprah does
Oprah Winfrey, the queen of daytime television, has decided to go vegan for 21 days, and she invites her viewers to join her. Her Web site provides a helpful menu, recipes and opportunity for comments at

Oprah's stated reason: "How can you say you're trying to spiritually evolve, without even a thought about what happens to the animals whose lives are sacrificed in the name of gluttony?" As an added benefit, she expects to cleanse her body of the saturated fat, cholesterol, pesticides, antibiotics and pathogens contained in animal products.

I hope Oprah's experience leads her to continue a vegan diet for life, and I invite your readers to take her 21-day challenge and discover the benefits for themselves!

Claus Singer
Colorado Springs

Exx-amine policy
In 2007, ExxonMobil alone made over $40 billion in net income, i.e. pure profit after all expenses and losses, while at this writing regular gasoline is quickly approaching $4 a gallon in most states.

They attribute the precipitous rise to supply and demand, yet they've slowly been reducing U.S. refining capacity over the past 10 to 20 years. In addition, the federal government continues to reward their predatory practices with tax breaks and other fiscal incentives. The oil industry's solution, parroted by their corrupt counterparts in the Bush administration, is to demand permission to drill in environmentally sensitive areas. I would like to propose an alternative solution:

1. Eliminate all current tax breaks and incentives for the oil companies. Let them pay their fair share like the average American.

2. Enact a "Windfall Profits Tax" to recover some of the obscene profits extracted from Americans. Use this money to develop environmentally sound alternative energy sources and fight global warming.

3. Designate the oil companies as public utilities, similar to what we do with electric/water companies, and regulate them accordingly.

4. Convene proper authority to investigate the oil companies for possible price-fixing and violations of the RICO act.

5. Our elected representatives stop taking money from the oil company lobbies.

Jefferey D. Tripe
Colorado Springs

Note to readers
We appreciate your letters, all of them, but many are coming in far longer than our limit of 300 words. To include as many as possible, we cannot deviate from that limit and reserve the right to edit longer letters as needed.

But it's much better for all concerned if you serve as your own editor, and make sure your letters don't go longer than the 300-word maximum. (To be honest, the shorter the letter, the better its chances of being published sooner.) Also, letters received by Monday morning will have priority for that week's edition.

Thanks for your continued interest and participation in one of the Independent's most popular weekly features.

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