Supermax too full for Guantanamo detainees

Moving any large number of terror detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Colorado’s Supermax would require either shuffling current residents out of the Florence prison or expanding its capacity and resolving a long-running battle over adequate prison staffing.

As President Barack Obama and congressional leaders point toward the Colorado federal prison as a possible new home for some of the detainees, one big problem is the bed-space crunch. Supermax’s approximately 480 concrete cells already are jammed with the likes of Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator Terry Nichols, Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph and other notorious domestic criminals. There also are 33 international terrorists, including Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Ramzi Yousef and failed airline shoe bomber Richard Reid. Only one bed was not filled Thursday at Supermax, U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Tracy Billingsley said. Yet locals in the adjacent town of Florence say they’d probably would be supportive, Town Manager Tom Piltingsrud said. They took the initiative on establishing Supermax in the first place, scraping together money to buy land and then donating it to the government for the complex. They remain glad for the jobs it provides, Piltingsrud said. “It’s a recession-proof industry.”

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Attacks rattle refugees from Bhutan

Three recent, but apparently unrelated, attacks in the Denver area on newly arrived political refugees from Bhutan have frightened a fragile community. “Before leaving the refugee camp, I was thinking: We have problems. . . . I’ll feel safe in the United States. Now my feeling has changed. I’m not safe in the United States,” said Yadav Rizal, 39, who was robbed of $250, beaten and dragged behind a liquor store in northeast Denver. The attacks aggravate a difficult situation for refugees. The government grants them only $450 a month for eight months to resettle, forcing most to live in rougher areas where police and caseworkers say street crime is more frequent. Those who find work in the anemic economy often ride buses late at night. The Nepali-speaking, Hindu refugees from Bhutan now number about 530 in the Denver area.

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Workers’ woes laid on China

Steelworkers in Pueblo and across the country say Chinese pipe “dumping” forced U.S. layoffs.

Pueblo steelworkers have joined steel companies nationwide asking for government help after layoffs they say were forced by unfair trade practices by Chinese steel competitors. “I have no health insurance now. I don’t understand how the United States can allow this,” said Eddie Barela, 39, one of about 50 workers laid off recently from Evraz Rocky Mountain Steel in Pueblo — the old Colorado Fuel & Iron plant that employed his father for 35 years. This week, federal investigators expect responses from 212 Chinese seamless-pipe factories and China’s government after launching a probe into how allegedly unfair trade practices might have hurt Barela and hundreds of other seamless-pipe steelworkers. A petition filed by Evraz Rocky Mountain Steel and six other companies urges the government to take economic action against China. It accuses China’s government of unfairly subsidizing Chinese production of seamless pipe used in oil and gas drilling and then “dumping” vast quantities on the U.S. market. The dumping forced layoffs of more than 2,000 seamless-pipe workers in Colorado and around the country, union leaders charge.

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Casting ballot threatens immigrant’s stay

An elections clerk told Hong Skains she could vote. Now the Chinese woman married to a U.S. citizen may be deported.

A Chinese newlywed who proudly declared as she applied for citizenship that she had voted for George W. Bush is now facing deportation as a result of her admission. A Fremont County elections clerk signed up Hong Skains, 37, to vote in the 2004 elections in what officials now acknowledge was a misunderstanding. But the federal law barring non-citizens from voting makes no allowance for misunderstandings.  Now, unless an immigration judge rules otherwise, Skains’ art education at the University of Colorado is jeopardized, and her husband, Doug Skains, 73, would have to move to China to avoid separation.

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Cotter lays plans for tainted plant

 Many around Cañon City oppose processing uranium again.

While their plant officially remains an environmental disaster, owners of a Cañon City uranium mill are pursuing a plan to reopen for nuclear business by hauling 12.5 million tons of ore by train from a protected mountain in New Mexico to refurbished facilities along the Arkansas River. Cotter Corp. executives have informed state officials they will crush and chemically leach 500,000 tons of uranium per year for 25 years — starting as soon as 2014 — “dependent upon market forces.” Yet Cotter’s latest data indicate groundwater contamination from Cold War uranium-processing still is spreading unchecked toward Cañon City (pop. 15,850). And federal investigators still haven’t completed a required comprehensive look at whether contamination could be causing cancer and other health problems. Local leaders who long tolerated the contamination — it’s been 25 years since the Environmental Protection Agency ordered a Superfund cleanup — now oppose any project until the cleanup is done.

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