citydesk (1/28/09) 

Dalai Lama disinvited to Special Olympics

A letter from the Dalai Lama's office that came across the citydesk indicates that an invitation to attend the Special Olympics World Games opening ceremonies in Boise next week had been withdrawn.

The U.S. Office of Tibet in New York City said the Dalai Lama was first invited to attend the opening ceremonies on Feb. 7 at the Idaho Center in Nampa. But according to Dalai Lama spokesman, Lobsang Nyandak, the Chinese government threatened to boycott the games and shut down Special Olympics programs in China, putting pressure on the organizing committee to alter its invite.

After this pressure, which the Tibetan official said was applied in November 2008, the Special Olympics proposed that the Dalai Lama attend the end of the games, but he was already booked elsewhere later that week.

"It is important to realize that if the people in a free and democratic society know-tow [sic] to the political pressure, we are emboldening the other side in their wrong doings. Standing up against injustice will help China become a responsible member of the world community," the Office of Tibet letter read.

The Special Olympics World Games responded to a recent letter to the editor in the Idaho Mountain Express that first exposed the controversy. The Special Olympics is placing blame on the Dalai Lama for not being able to attend:

"This invitation was still open when the Dalai Lama unfortunately decided he could not attend. Although regrettable, we respect this decision and hope that this inspirational leader will be able to celebrate Special Olympics with us at a future event," a games spokesperson wrote.

Special Olympics spokeswoman Kirsten Suto Seckler said the Dalai Lama was invited to attend the games in general and not for a specific portion of the games, much like world leaders in all 180 countries in which the games have a presence.

Nyandak stressed that the Dalai Lama is still praying for a peaceful winter games in Idaho: "It is not the fault of the organizing committee," he said. "We wish that the games be held peacefully and successfully."

Nathaniel Hoffman

Obama Spurs Council Run

At the recent Barack Obama inaugural throwdown at the Linen Building, TJ Thomson, local 2009 "Grassroots Organizer of the Year" and leader of the Idaho for Obama campaign, announced his intent to run for the Boise City Council seat now held by Jim Tibbs.

"I spent the last two years speaking with people all across Boise while leading the Obama campaign, and it gave me the opportunity to hear their thoughts on what needs to be corrected and improved," explained Thomson. "Based on my experience, I felt like I could come up with the initiative to solve those problems."

Thomson's platform is dotted with pretty standard local bullet points: protecting the environment, promoting water and air quality, increasing open spaces, managing growth and urban sprawl and advocating a light rail system.

Some of his more specific platform points include: focusing on green energy development, increasing the number of dog parks, integrating modern technology into local decision making, and promoting small local businesses and start-ups by reducing cumbersome bureaucratic requirements.

"In terms of the economy, I really think it's important that we work closely with the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce," said Thomson. "I want to bring a high profile to small businesses in particular."

Thomson is getting a jump-start on the City Council races; none of the council members, including his presumptive opponent, two-time mayoral candidate Tibbs, have indicated at this early date if they intend to run again.

Tara Morgan

Nampa gym denies family

A Lesbian couple from Nampa is challenging the city policy of denying family gym memberships to same-sex couples.

"It's pretty obvious they're discriminating," Rachel Dovel said about the Nampa Recreation Center's refusal to sell a family pass to her partner and their son.

Dovel and her partner, Amber Howard, wanted to get a family membership pass to the city-run Nampa Recreation Center for themselves and Howard's 4-year-old son, Logan Henderson. According to Dovel, the Rec Center staff at first told them that they could get a family pass if they had legal documentation proving they were domestic partners—documentation that Dovel and Howard have because Dovel carries Howard on her insurance plan.

But when Howard returned to the Rec Center with the papers, the Rec Center denied them a family pass because Dovel and Howard aren't married.

"We are a family even if we can't get married," Dovel said. "The Rec Center is standing behind those laws as a cop-out."

The family pass policy states that "the primary member and spouse must be legally married."

Nampa Mayor Tom Dale defended the city-owned Rec Center's policies, saying that they aren't designed just to exclude gays and lesbians. They also exclude roommates and unmarried couples who live together, he said.

So Dovel turned to the Caldwell YMCA instead, which allowed her to buy a family pass. Although the costs are slightly higher, Dovel is grateful that the YMCA recognizes her family.

Lora Volkert

war in Iraq

U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Monday, Jan. 26, 2009, 4,234 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,406 in combat and 828 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 31,004. In the last 10 days, six U.S. soldiers died.

Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, six soldiers have died.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense

IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 90,441 and 98,730.

Source: iraqbodycount.net

COST OF IRAQ WAR: $591,825,706,507

Source: costofwar.com

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