March 26th, 2012
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. -- Sorry kids, but there will not be an Easter egg hunt in Old Colorado City this year.
The free Springtime event held at Bancroft Park attracts hundreds of families every year. Thousands of candy-filled plastic eggs are scattered across the park for kids to collect. But, thanks to greedy parents, the annual event has been cancelled.
"It's sort of got out of hand," Dave Van Ness, executive director for the Old Colorado City Associates, said.
Organizers of the hunt said parents are getting to be too aggressive when it comes to gathering eggs with their children.
"There were disgruntled people because there either weren't enough eggs to go around or some kids didn't get one," Van Ness said. "Parents would get aggressive."
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Van Ness said it is unfortunate that parents have seemingly taken the fun out of what was meant to be a fun-filled community event, but that they had no other choice but to cancel the yearly tradition.
"Rather than create ill will, let's just not do it," he said.
Chris Greene, a father of six, said he is disappointed by the parents' actions.
"What kind of role model are you as a parent if your actions are cancelling an event your child is going to remember for the rest of your life?" Greene said.
Not only is the cancellation disappointing to some parents, but owners of businesses located near Bancroft Park are upset, too.
"We're very disappointed that the exposure that we would normally have we're not going to get this year," Molly Smith, owner of Republic of Paws, said.
Van Ness said the egg hunt event was also designed to help attract customers to businesses in Old Colorado City but that hasn't really been the case.
"It's a catch 22," Maureen Bird, an employee of Nice 'N Naughty, said. "You get the people in Old Colorado City, but you also get people who are here for a family event and they're not shopping."
Whether or not the event creates revenue for nearby businesses, those that live and work in the area said they want to see parents act their age.
"Just chill out a little bit," Jennifer Reid, a teacher in Old Colorado City, said. "Let these kids enjoy it!"
Van Ness said he is not sure if the Easter egg hunt will be back on next year.
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March 25th, 2012
By JIM KUHNHENN
WASHINGTON The Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is likely to shake the presidential election race in early summer. But the winners in the court will not necessarily be the winners in the political arena.
No doubt, a decision to throw out the entire law would be a defeat for Obama. His judgment and leadership, even his reputation as a former constitutional law professor, would be called into question for pushing through a contentious and partisan health insurance overhaul only to see it declared unconstitutional by the court.
But it would not spell certain doom for his re-election. In fact, it would end the GOP argument that a Republican president must be elected to guarantee repeal of the law. It also could re-energize liberals, shift the spotlight onto insurance companies and reignite a debate about how to best provide health care.
If the court upholds the law, Obama would be vindicated legally. Republican constitutional criticisms would be undercut because five of the nine justices were nominated by Republican presidents.
But opposition would intensify in the political world. Without legal recourse, Republicans would gain new energy to argue that the only path to kill the law would be to elect a Republican president and enough GOP candidates to control the House and Senate. They might be wary of promising overnight repeal because a filibuster-proof Senate majority seems beyond their reach in the November election.
Central to the dispute over the law is a provision that requires individuals to have health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty. Polls show that this mandate is opposed by 3 of 5 Americans. Among Republicans, calls for its repeal are a surefire applause line.
Of the four federal appeals courts that have ruled, two upheld the law, one struck down only the insurance mandate and one punted, saying an obscure tax law makes it premature to decide the merits until the main coverage provisions take effect in 2014.
With the court hearing arguments Monday through Wednesday, operatives from both parties have been playing out the potential outcomes. It's a calculation complicated by the intensely polarized public attitudes toward the law, by the still unsettled race for the Republican nomination and, most important, by the range of potential decisions by the court.
"A lot of the arguments that are being made against it right now are that they violate basic constitutional rights and principles," said Tad Devine, a veteran consultant of Democratic presidential politics. "If the Supreme Court, controlled by Republicans, doesn't agree with that, I think it's going to be hard to make that argument."
"If they strike down the mandate," he added, "it takes away a lot of the attack against the president on that issue."
White House and Obama campaign officials would not publicly discuss the options ahead, worried they would be perceived as trying to influence the court. But the Obama campaign has begun to draw attention to the benefits of the law, hoping to counter the beating the law has taken from the GOP presidential candidates.
This past week, it posted a new health care app online where users can find out how the health care law affects them. It also launched a website that features testimonials about the law.
The campaign's Obama Twitter account drew attention Thursday to that "Faces of Change" website and to the law's second anniversary, a day after White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed any observance of the bill's signing as something "that only those who toil inside the Beltway focus on."
On Friday, the White House released a report that promoted achievements such as coverage for young adults and omitted any mention of problems, including the little or no progress toward carrying out the law in many states. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement the law "gives hard working middle-class families the security they deserve."
Privately, many Democrats concede that repeal of the law would be represent a huge public relations problem for Obama, though one he could overcome if the court issues its opinion in June, as expected.
Republicans appear divided on the results.
Republican strategist Greg Mueller, who works on many conservative causes, said that if the law is upheld, the conservative base will be energized; if the law is declared unconstitutional, it will display Obama's overreach.
"I don't think there is a bad scenario for Republican candidates," he said.
Not all see it that way.
Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa said this past week an Obama victory would be more assured if the court strikes down the individual mandate, as King would like.
"I think then that there is more risk that President Obama will be re-elected because people will think they are protected from this egregious reach into our freedom," King said.
"If the Supreme Court finds it constitutional," he added, "then I believe Barack Obama will not be re-elected because they will understand that they have to vote him out of office to repeal it."
The public's broad respect for the Supreme Court as an institution is also a factor.
"I think a wide swath of the people will say 'if the court says it's kosher, then it's kosher.' I think in many ways that will be the final word," said John Feehery, a former top Republican House leadership aide. "That doesn't mean the controversy is going to go away because this law is so massive and has so many parts that haven't been implemented yet, including the individual mandate."
The court's decision could affect the Republican presidential contest, too.
A court opinion in June would come at the tail end of the GOP primaries and ahead of the Republican National Convention.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania has elevated the health care law to his top campaign issue. He argues he would be best equipped to carry the repeal banner. Front-runner, Mitt Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, signed into law a health overhaul similar to Obama's, with an insurance requirement as part of it.
Romney has said he would seek to repeal the federal health care law, but has stood behind Massachusetts'. He argues these decisions should be left to states.
"Well, that's pretty compelling," Santorum countered sarcastically Wednesday at a rally near the shores of Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain.
"Why would conservatives, Republicans, take the biggest issue in this race - freedom, and its impact on the economy, on your life, on your economic well-being, on your religious liberty - why would we take that issue and turn it around and give it to Barack Obama instead of using it like a sledge hammer?" he asked.
It's a case that Santorum pledges to take all the way to the floor of the convention, if he somehow manages to accomplish his long-shot goal of denying Romney enough delegates to win the nomination outright.
March 25th, 2012
"I became convinced that it's a fraud," Park Romney told the BBC, explaining his reason for leaving the Mormon fold.
The two visions of Mormonism the Romney cousins present could not be more starkly opposed.
Park Romney, 56, is a former Mormon high priest, who turned against the church.
On the stump Mitt Romney, 65, has avoided mentioning Mormonism, instead talking generally about his faith, but he has been an active lifelong member of the church.
"If that is what they believe, it's probably a good thing they leave, because we're not a cult”~Jeffrey Holland Mormon Church Elder
He was a Mormon missionary to France in the 1960s, studied at the almost-exclusively Mormon Brigham Young university and rose to become first bishop, then "Stake President" (diocesan leader) in his home state of Massachusetts.
He led Sunday services, ran Bible classes for children and looked after a 4,000-strong congregation in Boston for five years in the 1980s.
Like all Mormons, he is expected to give 10% of his annual income - no-one knows how much he is worth, but it is estimated at anywhere from $150 million to $1 billion - to the Church and not drink tea, coffee or alcohol.
Committed Mormons wear special under-garments, and Romney is believed to follow this tenet of his faith too.
Park Romney's criticisms of the church are fundamental.
Along with other ex-Mormons, he questions founder Joseph Smith's prophecies - for example Smith's translation of an Egyptian scroll, part of the Mormon book of Abraham, which Egyptologists say is a fraud.
"There's compelling evidence that the Mormon Church leaders knowingly and wilfully misrepresent the historical truth of their origins and of the Church for the purpose of deceiving their members into a state of mind that renders them exploitable," says Park.
Such accusations are rarely heard in the US, a nation founded on the principle of freedom of religion.
"It's not something you're supposed to talk about," says Prof Robert Putnam of Harvard Kennedy School.
"Whenever the issue of Romney's Mormonism has come to the surface, there's been lots of condemnation across the political spectrum for raising the issue of his religion," says Putnam.
"I'm not saying it's not relevant, but it's not talked about in polite company."
Mitt Romney's biographer, Scott Helman, agrees.
Find out more
- The Mormon Candidate is part of the latest series of This World, broadcast on Tuesday 27 March at 19:00 BST on BBC Two
- Watch again on iPlayer (UK only) using the link above
"There are plenty of ways in which people try to cause alarm among some voters over it, but it's not something you're allowed to say explicitly," he says.
"But a certain function of reminding voters who might have some predisposed notion about Mormonism that maybe it is strange, maybe it's weird."
Ex-Mormons tend to be the church's most outspoken critics.
One thing that particularly agitates them is "shunning" - allegations that former church members are denied access to family members who remain in the church.
Park claims this has happened to him.
"I am alienated from my family," he told the BBC.
"Their doctrine, their protocol and their culture as enforced by bishops encourages the families to disassociate themselves from the apostate."
Mormon Church elder Jeffrey Holland denies shunning occurs.
"We don't use that word and we don't know that practice.
"If I had a son or a daughter who left the Church or was alienated or had a problem, I can tell you I would not cut that child out of family life," he states.
The Mormon Church maintains that it does a great deal of good. Its leaders say they have given more than $1bn in aid around the world since 1985.
The allegation that the Church is a cult, made by Park Romney and other ex-Mormons, is denied by Elder Holland.
"If that is what they believe, it's probably a good thing they leave, because we're not a cult.
"I have chosen this church because of the faith that I feel and the inspiration that comes, but if people want to call us a cult, you can call us a cult," Elder Holland says from behind his desk.
"But we are 14 million and growing."
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March 25th, 2012
White House senior adviser David Plouffe lashed out on Sunday over a pair of comments by Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to President Barack Obama's reaction to the Trayvon Martin shooting.
"Those two comments are really irresponsible," Plouffe said on CNN. "I would consider them reprehensible."
"If I had a son he would look like Trayvon," Obama said on Friday.
"Is the president suggesting if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it wouldn't look like him?" Gingrich said Friday on Sean Hannity's radio show. "That's just nonsense. I mean, dividing this country up, it is a tragedy this young man was shot."
In a separate radio interview Friday, Santorum had a similar reaction.
"What the president of the United States should do is try to bring people together, not use these types of horrible and tragic individual cases to try to drive a wedge in America," Santorum said.
On Friday, Obama said Martin's parents had the "right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and we will get to the bottom of exactly what happened." On "Meet The Press," Plouffe said Obama had not called Martin's parents.
"I think those comments were really hard to stomach, really, and I guess trying to appeal to people's worst instincts," he said on Candy Crowley's "State of the Union" on CNN. "I don't think there's very many people in America that would share that reaction.
Plouffe, who managed Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, added: "You know, this Republican primary at some points has been more of a circus show and a clown show."
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March 25th, 2012
by JIM FORMAN / KING 5 News
SEATAC, Wash. -- The wife of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians spoke publicly for the first time Sunday in the city of SeaTac.
In an exclusive interview with NBC's Matt Lauer to air on Monday's Today show, the wife of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales opened up about her husband, the man at the center of the Afghan massacre investigation.
Karilyn Bales told Lauer why her husband became a soldier after 9-11.
"His reasons for joining the military and the Army were to protect his family and friends (they) were his top priority, but also his country," said Karilyn. "And so he joined the Army after the 2001 attacks to protect his family, friends and his country. He wanted to do his part."
Now his country has charged her husband, a 38-year-old from Lake Tapps, with using his 9mm pistol and M-4 rifle to kill Afghan civilians -- four men, four women, two boys and seven girls, then burning some of the bodies.
Matt Lauer: When I asked what kind of dad he was, you said he was so involved with his children. He loves children?
Karilyn Bales: He loves children. He is like a big kid himself...It is unbelievable to me. I have no idea what happened, but he would not - he loves children. He would not do that.
For their safety, Karilyn Bales and her family were moved on post at Joint Base Lewis-MChord. Bales remains locked up at a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Karilyn said none of what her husband is accused of makes sense, and are not the actions of the man she knows.
Matt Lauer: How would you describe him?
Marilyn Bales: Very brave, very courageous.
Further legal proceedings will be held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but the Army said they have no plans on moving Bales back to Western Washington anytime soon.
You can hear Matt Lauer's full exclusive interview with the wife of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales on Monday morning on the Today show, with more coverage Monday evening on NBC Nightly News. Both air on KING 5.