Mile-High Headlines for Monday, November 17

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The Problem Vets
Boulder Marine Lance Hering has been arrested in Washington state for staging his disappearance more than two years ago, according to Boulder’s Daily Camera. Hering’s father, Lloyd, was also arrested for aiding his son. The case began in August of 2006, when rescue crews scoured Eldorado Canyon State Park for Hering after a friend told authorities he was lost. Later, a security camera at a Denver bus depot caught Hering buying a ticket. It’s just the latest story involving troops who have served in Iraq. In three years, nine men from Fort Carson have been charged in 10 murders and attempted murders–all but two in the Colorado Springs area, according to The Denver Post. Several had a history of mental-health problems. Jurors are currently deliberating one of those cases–Louis Bressler, 24, who is accused of killing Spc. Kevin Shields in an incident that ultimately involved five soldiers, according to The Associated Press. I was quoted by National Public Radio as that story broke earlier this year.

Betsy Markey: A Blue Dog?
Congressman John Salazar says he’d like to see his new Democratic colleague Betsy Markey join the Blue Dog Coalition. The fiscally conservative group, which currently boasts 49 members, would be a good fit for the Fourth Congressional District’s replacement of ultra-conservative Marilyn Musgrave, Salazar tells Grand Junction’s Daily Sentinel. Markey didn’t comment for the article, in which Salazar also notes that the two have a lot in common, such as a desire to prevent the Army from expanding its Piñon Canyon training grounds in southeastern Colorado. Markey spokesman Ben Marter wouldn’t tell PolitickerCO whether Markey will join the coalition. Meanwhile, Musgrave, who lost by 12 points, has earned “sore loser” honors from Newsweek for failing to concede the race, which was chock-full of attack ads.

Finding the Workers
Illegal immigration has become a political grenade as police have cracked down, and now field hands are harder to come by in northern Colorado, according to The Greeley Tribune. Referencing immigration raids at Greeley’s Swift & Co. plant two years ago, among other factors, Colorado is rough on migrants, and they seem to be going to other states because of it. Eleven suspected undocumented immigrants were arrested in Weld County after trying to claim tax refunds on jobs “they shouldn’t have had in the first place,” according to 9News, which reports Sheriff John Cooke is looking for at least 1,300 people. Over the summer, President-elect Barack Obama told the National Council of La Raza that comprehensive immigration reform would be a top priority his first year, but “don’t hold your breath,” writes the San Jose Mercury News.

Here Comes the Holiday Fight
Focus on the Family’s political-action wing is again launching its holiday campaign to force cashiers to wish you a “Merry Christmas”–as opposed to “happy holidays,” or perhaps just “next.” The Colorado Springs-based evangelical group has come up with three categories for retailers: “Christmas-friendly,” “Christmas-negligent,” and “Christmas-offensive,” according to The Gazette. The more references to Christmas a store has, the better it will do. Meanwhile, The Denver Post is reporting that the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing Governor Bill Ritter to end the state-sanctioned annual “Day of Prayer.” A spokesman for the governor, who is Catholic, says the state expects to win. But remember, the season is about giving, not receiving. As such, The Salvation Army is seeking to modernize its fundraising in the Colorado Springs area with hi-tech plastic kettles that accept credit and debit cards as well as spare change, according to The Associated Press.

Xcel Wants to Take a Hike
Although Barbara O’Brien, the state’s lieutenant governor, says Colorado is headed toward a greener, and hopefully less costly, future–one with solar panels on the roof of the state Capitol (via the Rocky Mountain News)–Xcel Energy remains vastly old school in its use of coal and natural gas. The utility seeks to raise electricity rates across the state by more than $174 million. A typical small business will see its rates go up by eight percent, according to the Denver Business Journal. That is, if the state’s Public Utilities Commission approves the plan. In making its request, Xcel pointed to several major investments, including the expansion of a power plant in Pueblo and the cost of trying to reduce the pollutants that spew into the air. The last electricity rate hike, 7.7 percent, came in 2006.

Columbine Tragedy a Novel Idea
Whether Connecticut writer Wally Lamb’s new novel, “The Hour I First Believed,” spawns controversy remains to be seen. Though the book, Lamb’s first in a decade, is largely a “rambling enterprise,” according to a Washington Post review, it contains a gripping section that serves as a “docudrama” of the 1999 Columbine massacre, “describing the actual events, naming the real victims and heroes and providing chilling excerpts” from the killers’ journals and videotapes. In another review, USA Today writes that the lengthy book might have “benefited from a more ruthless editor.” The families of the victims have yet to issue their own criticisms.

Broncos Save Another One
A touchdown pass from quarterback Jay Cutler to Daniel Graham, with less than six minutes remaining, gave the Denver Broncos a 24-20 lead and a victory in Atlanta on Sunday. The Broncos are plagued by injuries; all three of the expected starting linebackers were out. Still, it was a show of defensive strength that ultimately gave the Falcons their first loss at home, according to the Rocky Mountain News. The Broncos are now 6-4 and first place in the West.

Audiodose: As George W. Bush’s administration enters its final month, it is nonetheless pursuing a fast-track plan to remove “key protections” for endangered species, according to KUNC radio.

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