Afternoon Headlines April 24, 2017

Saturday’s March for Science saw thousands of scientists and their supporters flock to downtown Denver to speak out against what they see as political attacks on the scientific method.

President Donald Trump has been notably outspoken against climate change and environmental research. His budget blueprint, essentially a wish list for budget boosts and cuts, proposed slashing funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 30 percent and reducing funds for environmental research agencies such as the National Oceanic and Environmental Administration.

“It breaks my heart that we have somehow politicized science,” said Kelsey Elwood, a first year graduate student at the University of Colorado-Boulder whose work includes environmental and climate change-related research.

The marchers, perhaps not used to shouting and marching in the streets, were a calm, quiet bunch. For the first several blocks, they walked with their signs in near silence, until they finally found their voice and began chanting things like, “Science not silence.”

But after the march, things weren’t so quiet. Governor John Hickenlooper’s remarks in Civic Center Park were nearly drowned out by anti-fracking activists, who stormed the stage with signs, banners and bullhorns.

Hickenlooper, a former geologist for the oil and gas industry, has been questioned about his commitment to climate action since rolling back the pioneering statewide climate plan set by his predecessor.

The governor spoke through the chants, telling the crowd, “I think the agenda that we’re facing in Washington now is trying to prevent science from getting the facts in the first place, and they’re looking at an unprecedented rollback of laws to protect our air and water.”

An unlikely coalition representing often-opposing political viewpoints has come together in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Amendment 71, more widely known as ‘Raise the Bar.’

The amendment, adopted by voters last November, requires that those seeking to change the state Constitution obtain petition signatures in every one of Colorado’s 35 Senate districts.

That’s unconstitutional, according to a coalition that includes the Libertarian-minded Independence Institute, as well as the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care, which backed a failed amendment last November to create a single payer health care system in Colorado. The Independence Institute was among the most ardent opponents of that measure.

Currently, petitions to change the state Constitution must obtain signatures from 5 percent of the registered voters who voted for Secretary of State. Amendment 71 added a requirement that in each of 35 Senate districts, 2 percent of registered voters must sign any petition seeking to amend the state’s Constitution.

Proponents of Amendment 71 claimed that the previous process excluded rural Coloradans, since petition gatherers could collect all of their signatures along the Front Range or other heavily populated urban areas.

The lawsuit, filed today in U.S. District Court, claims Amendment 71 violates both the state Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments protecting free speech and due process.
The purpose of Amendment 71 is to make it more difficult to place initiatives on the ballot, the lawsuit says, so its effect is to limit “core political speech.”

Greg Brophy, a spokesman for Raise the Bar, told The Colorado Independent that it should be harder to amend the Constitution than it is to change a law.”

Corrections officers in a Colorado jail gassed a room full of Muslim inmates in part because of their religion, a complaint filed today in U.S. District Court alleges.
The complaint, filed by Denver attorney David Lane, says that on April 15, as Muslim inmates at Sterling Correctional Facility gathered for weekly prayer, they found the room they use for services occupied by an officer. The inmates asked him if he could relocate so they could conduct prayer and the officer “became hostile in response: and ordered them back to their housing unit.
“Upon entering the room, the Muslim prisoners were immediately engulfed by a cloud of oleoresin capsicum gas (“OC Gas”), also known as pepper spray,’ the complaint continues.
After filing a grievance, “one of the inmates was threatened with being put into solitary confinement if he retained counsel and he was subsequently beaten,” Lane said in a statement. Sterling Correctional Facility officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

In the aftermath of Saturday’s March on Science, The Colorado Independent spoke with four Coloradans on the front lines of federally funded climate change research. All four rose up in a science environment that supported research and, for the most part, shielded scientists from swings in the political pendulum.
But at a time when the Trump administration is threatening to cut their programs and the climate trajectory most needs intervention, their sense of frustration is palpable. None imagined a day when, they say, scientific facts would be so disregarded by public policy or when a presidential administration would threaten to undermine science.
Read what they have to say in The Indy.




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