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Visions of the Apocalypse: Last September, head Promise Keeper and former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney secured a commitment from 9,000 men gathered at the Colorado Springs World Arena--they would each bring ten other families to rallies at state capitols across the country on January 1, 2000. "May the men of this nation change our culture through Jesus Christ!" he bellowed. "There is only one way!"

Make that two ways: The state-capitol rallies have now been scrapped in favor of local church and home-based gatherings. Contrary to last week's reports that Promise Keepers had scaled back its events because of Y2K fears, spokesman Steve Ruppe says the group's bigger concerns were "good stewardship of funds" (i.e., the endeavor would be way too expensive) and "asking people to travel a long distance on a holiday" (i.e., it would be a public-relations disaster if nobody showed up). And then there was the weather, which apparently even God can't (or won't) control. "We got feedback from guys all over the country saying it might not be good to have an event in the state capitol in, say, North Dakota or Minnesota on January 1st," Ruppe explains.

Ruppe denies that Promise Keepers is responding to recent rumblings from some members of the religious right who say that the movement's emphasis on politics isn't working and that evangelicals should refocus their efforts on saving souls closer to home. The organization has been "nonpolitical from the beginning," Ruppe insists, adding that the original plan to gather at state capitols had nothing to do with politics--just like Promise Keepers' 1997 rally in Washington, D.C., was completely apolitical. "It was just a place people tend to go when they want to gather in large numbers," he explains. "That's where the logistical setup is, there's space--there were never political undertones. It's very practical."

Especially since Washington is so centrally located.

A czar is born: When Mayor Wellington Webb announced his new strategy for combating drug abuse last week, it came with the new cabinet-level position of drug "czar." Gee, with the Chinese premier due in town, wouldn't something like "comrade" have been more appropriate? As it turns out, "czar" isn't the official title, either--just a catchy fill-in. "The position is not completely defined at this point," says Webb spokesman Andrew Hudson. "The real title and the salary will be determined in September."

In the meantime, Hudson has other things to worry about. Like complaining to the Denver Post about the price the city (actually, the city's taxpayers) will pay for the anti-gun ad that Webb ran in the paper Monday. The city also bought a full-page ad in the Denver Rocky Mountain News, which cost $6,800; when the Post told Hudson that a full page would cost $9,859 (up from an original estimate of $8,442), he figured the bigger, broadsheet page justified the bigger price. But after the ads ran--inspiring a barrage of sniping from proponents of the concealed-weapons bill that Webb opposes--Hudson got another call from his Post sales rep. Oops--the tab for that ad was actually $12,033, since it was a "political ad." And how. Hudson admits the campaign was the city's attempt to "turn up the temperature at the Capitol." Still, he's sticking to his guns--and to the agreed-upon price.

Your tax dollars at work.

Follow that story! Last July, local cop Ken Storch and his buddy LJ Dalicandro headed to the San Luis Valley on a mission to catch some miscreants. Specifically, aliens--and not the kind sneaking across the border. No, they were looking for beings from beyond. And they recruited a handful of locals to serve as eyewitnesses for whatever they might spot, which turned out to be not much...this time, at least. But their mission did snag a story in Westword ("Reach for the Sky!" July 1, 1998) and now a documentary that airs April 8 as part of A&E's "The Unexplained" series.

Narrated by Bill Kurtis (last heard in these parts hosting a segment on the murder of JonBenet Ramsey), the documentary follows Storch's expedition into Mysterious Valley. Producer Ken Barry first met Storch in 1992, when he was a producer for Cops and Storch quickly displayed his star power. "We stayed in touch," Barry says. "I'd get together with him, and he'd tell me about chasing UFOs, and I'd wonder, why is this guy telling me these things?" But one day, when Barry was in town to do a story on the Heaven's Gate disciples who were briefly holed up in a downtown Denver hotel before heading to the great beyond themselves, he started listening to Storch's UFO theories more closely and asked if he could follow him with a camera.

UFO's--Testing the Evidence is the second Barry documentary in which Storch has had a starring role. He's a natural before the camera, and "that's my bottom line," Barry says. "I think it's great television. Whether it's true or not, it's very entertaining.

 
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