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News briefs from the Front Range

No change on Iraq war stances
Testimony this week regarding the troop "surge" from the top U.S. commander and ambassador to Iraq left Colorado's Democrats and Republicans as split as ever over the war.

Republican Sen. Wayne Allard, in a statement, was encouraged that the offensive, in its third month, is "working."

Allard agreed with Gen. David Petraeus' plan to leave most of the 30,000 additional surge troops on the ground until next summer. However, the senator expressed concern that the Iraqi government isn't doing enough.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, also issued a statement supporting Petraeus.

"I was reassured not only that the surge is working, but that we will succeed as long as we give our troops a realistic opportunity to meet their goals," Lamborn stated.

Sen. Ken Salazar, a Democrat, was encouraged that some 2,000 troops could return home soon, but was disappointed Petraeus has not embraced the core recommendation of the Iraq Study Group that the U.S. mission in Iraq should shift from combat to training and support of Iraqi government troops.

"If troops are going to come home, there needs to be a change in the mission," Salazar spokesman Cody Wertz said after Petraeus' testimony.

Even if surge troops return home next summer, some 130,000 would remain in Iraq. MdY

Dobson says he's cleared in endorsement accusations
James Dobson declared this week that he has been cleared of accusations that he went too far as Focus on the Family chairman when he endorsed Republican candidates in the 2004 election.

Groups classified as 501(c)(3) nonprofits run the risk of losing tax-exempt status if they endorse political candidates, but an IRS audit concluded that Dobson did nothing wrong, according to a news release posted on Focus on the Family Action's "Citizenlink" Web site.

"No dings. No criticisms. Not a single allegation was found to have substance," Dobson says on the site.

Colorado Springs-based Citizens Project was among groups asking the IRS to look at whether Focus engaged in "partisan electioneering." Citizens Project raised concerns about a November 2004 issue of Focus' Citizen magazine that compared views of President George Bush and Sen. John Kerry on abortion, stem-cell research and same-sex marriage, making it clear Bush's views were preferred.

Citizens Project executive director Barb Van Hoy says it's hard to analyze the IRS ruling, since the only information so far has come from Dobson or groups related to Focus. She calls the news "surprising," adding, "The IRS is supposed to be independent, but so is the Justice Department." AL

Pikes Peak Arts Council award winners announced
You may or may not have watched the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday night, but another ceremony took place earlier that day as the Pikes Peak Arts Council announced winners in its Awards for Excellence in the Arts.

The big winners were The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore, a production of the Colorado's Classical Youth Ballet, the Colorado Vocal Arts Ensemble and the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs; the Star Bar Players' Night and Her Stars; and the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company's Into the Woods. Each took two awards.

The coolest announcement came as The Nicotine Fits, a prominent local punk act, took home the prize for Best Popular Music (group). Other notable winners: Karen Sucharski for Best Performance Poet; Benjamin Pratt for Best Popular Music (solo); and Herman Raymond, for Best Artist. PF

Police and Fire probably won't see big raises
City Council looked at "median salary data found in our comparison labor markets" this week, hoping to stay competitive by emulating those city employees' salaries in 2008.

If Council decides to match those salary figures, management will see significantly bigger raises than workers, in most cases. A police commander would get a 7 percent raise, while officers would get a 2.9 percent raise. In the fire department, a battalion chief would have a 4 percent raise, while firefighters would only get 1 percent.

Councilman Jerry Heimlicher stresses that Council hasn't yet approved the figures; in fact, there hasn't even been a formal recommendation. Heimlicher adds that it's possible the city will see no raises in 2008 because of budget constraints. JAS

Economic forecast still bleak
Last year, local economic expert Tucker Hart Adams was a lonely pessimist in predicting tough times for 2007. Now, U.S. Bank's chief Rocky Mountain region economist has plenty of company.

Adams, delivering her 30th and final forecast before retiring in early 2008, told local leaders Wednesday that the recession she projected for late 2007 may have begun but statistics lag months behind reality.

"It would be really tacky to say 'I told you so,' but I will say you heard it first here," Adams said. She added that some economic indicators are unreliable, calling them "data distortions." One example, she said, is the 4.5 million Americans who have part-time jobs because they can't find full-time work yet still are counted as employed. That figure, by the way, is up 10 percent from a year ago.

Adams says housing sales are at their lowest in six years and new-home construction is at a 10-year low. Asked if the nation needs a war to keep the economy going, she referred to good times in the 1980s and '90s, neither in a "war economy." Adams feels if the recession is mild, the 2009 outlook "perhaps will be more cheerful." RR

Vicious Cycles on display
To call Sue Coe's etchings "nightmarish" is easy her imagery is most definitely unpleasant. Through sketchy and sooty black-and-white etchings, Coe creates sometimes-fantastical images of the fallout of war, brutality against animals and children and intolerance toward AIDS patients, to name a few. While her subjects have a running subconscious style, their messages are contemporary and acute, far from the ramblings of dreams.

What's the end result in her Cycles show? Visit and click on Web extra to find out. EA

Compiled by Edie Adelstein, Pete Freedman, Anthony Lane, Ralph Routon, J. Adrian Stanley and Michael de Yoanna.

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