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Rachel's #871: Hazards of Synthetic Turf

HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS IN SYNTHETIC TURF

[Rachel's introduction: New York City is installing the latest "synthetic turf" in 79 city parks, often replacing natural soil and grass. Other cities and towns may be considering a similar move for playgrounds, ball fields, and parks. Unfortunately, tests of the new synthetic turf have revealed heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals at levels exceeding New York state standards.]

By William Crain and Junfeng Zhang**

A new generation of synthetic turf is becoming popular in the U.S. Brands such as FieldTurf are springier than the old AstroTurf and feel more like real grass. They also promise low maintenance costs. New York City is so attracted to the new synthetic turf that it is installing it in 79 parks, often substituting it for natural soil and grass.(1)

However, the new artificial grass raises health concerns. In particular, the base of FieldTurf and similar brands includes recycled rubber pellets that could contain harmful chemicals. What's more, we have observed that on many New York City fields, the rubber pellets are also present on the surface. When one of us (William Crain) was picking up some pellets by hand, a boy told him that after playing in the park, he finds the pellets in his shoes at home at night. Because the rubber pellets are much more accessible to children and athletes than we had supposed, we decided to analyze a sample for two possible sets of toxicants -- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and toxic metals.

We collected our first sample from a new FieldTurf surface in Manhattan's Riverside Park in May, 2006. To gain information on the reliability of our results, we gathered a second sample in June, 2006 from a different part of the park.

The PAHs were extracted in a Soxhlet apparatus with organic solvents. The metals were extracted by means of nitric acid with the aid of a high-efficiency microwave oven (Marsx Microwave). Both methods were used to estimate the maximum amounts of the chemicals contained in the bulk material (rubber pellets). The analyses were conducted at the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute of Rutgers University.

The PAH results for our first sample are listed as Sample 1 in Table 1, below. As the table shows, six PAHs were above the concentration levels that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) considers sufficiently hazardous to public health to require their removal from contaminated soil sites (2). It is highly likely that all six PAHs are carcinogenic to humans.

The PAH results for Sample 2 are also listed in the table. Although the concentration levels in Samples 1 and 2 varied somewhat, the results for Sample 2 replicated the finding that the concentration levels of the six PAHs are above the DEC's tolerable levels for soil.

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Table 1. Concentrations of PAHs (ppm*)

.................... Sample 1 ......... Sample 2 ....... DEC
.................... FieldTurf ........ FieldTurf ...... Contaminated
.................... Rubber Pellets.... Rubber Pellets . Soil Limits

Benzo(a)anthracene.... 1.23 ............ 1.26 ........... 1.0
Chrysene ............. 1.32 ............ 7.55 ........... 1.0
Benzo(b)fluoranthene.. 3.39 ............ 2.19 ........... 1.0
Benzo(a)pyrene ....... 8.58 ............ 3.56 ........... 1.0
Benzo(k)fluoranthene.. 7.29 ............ 1.78 ........... 0.8
Dibenzo(a,h)anthracene 3.52 ............ 1.55 ........... 0.33

* ppm = parts per million


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The analyses also revealed levels of zinc in both samples that exceed the DEC's tolerable levels. Lead and arsenic also were present, and many scientists believe that these metals should not be introduced into the environment at all.

We want to emphasize that the findings are preliminary. PAHs in rubber might not act the same way as in soil, and we do not yet have information on the ease with which the PAHs in these rubber particles might be absorbed by children or adults -- by ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through the skin. However, the findings are worrisome. Until more is known, it wouldn't be prudent to install the synthetic turf in any more parks.

We have informed the New York City Parks Department of our findings, but as far as we know, the Parks Department has not altered its plans to continue the installation of FieldTurf in numerous parks.

** William Crain, Ph.D., is professor of psychology at The City College of New York and president of Citizens for a Green Riverside Park. Junfeng (Jim) Zhang, Ph.D. is professor and acting chair, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, the School of Public Health, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Rutgers University.

References

(1) New Yorkers for Parks. A New Turf War: Synthetic Turf in New York City's Parks -- Special Report, Spring 2006. www.NY4P.org

(2) 6 NYCRR Part 375, Environmental Remediation Program, Draft Revised June 14, 2006, Department of Environmental Conservation, Table 375-6.8 (a) and (b).

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From: Environmental Science & Technology
September 6, 2006

PESTICIDES LURK IN DAYCARE CENTERS

[Rachel's introduction: Pesticides were detected in 100% of 168 daycare centers tested in a national survey. Some states, like Massachusetts, are starting to take action to minimize chemical exposures to kids in daycare, but most states are not yet paying attention. Millions of children are being exposed to chemicals that are designed to be biologically active.]

By Paul D. Thacker

The first national study to examine pesticide exposure in daycare centers finds some mixed results.

Millions of children get exposed to pesticides while attending daycare, concludes the first nationwide study of insecticide residues in U.S. daycare centers. The study, published today on ES&T's Research ASAP website (DOI: 10.1021/es061021h), found low levels of organophosphate and pyrethroid pesticides. Although the health impacts are unclear, the results raise questions about the risks children face from these chemicals.

"We found at least one pesticide in every daycare center," says lead author Nicolle Tulve, a research scientist with the U.S. EPA's National Exposure Research Laboratory. Tulve says that the concentrations were quite low. She did not comment on whether these concentrations might be harmful but notes that no health advisories or national standards currently exist for such exposures.

For the study, researchers selected 168 daycare centers across the U.S. At each site, a technician wiped samples from indoor surfaces, such as floors and tables, and collected soil from outdoor play areas. The manager of each facility was also questioned about cleaning and pest-management practices. Researchers tested for 39 pesticides, and 63% of the centers reported applying up to 10 different insectides. Organophosphate and pyrethroid pesticides cropped up most often, and three of the four centers with the most pesticides detected were in the South, where warm weather brings out the bugs.

This study provides a teaching opportunity in terms of training childcare workers to manage pests in the safest way possible, says Lynn Goldman, who is a professor of applied health at Johns Hopkins University and a former EPA official in charge of the agency's pesticide program. "These chemicals should be avoided around children, and if needed, bait traps, which do not leave residues on the floors and surfaces, are preferable, as long as they are kept out of the reach of children," she says.

Goldman says that she was disappointed that the agency did not use the results to characterize how much exposure to pesticides children face. "These data are interesting but [could] be far more meaningful," she says.

Paul Lioy, the deputy director of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute at Rutgers University, agrees. He says that aggregating the total exposures could help to identify individuals with sensitivity to these chemicals.

In the past decade, more and more states have started regulating pesticides in daycare facilities. In 2000, Massachusetts passed a law requiring all schools to submit integrated pest-management plans to limit children's contact with pesticides. And New York legislators recently introduced a bill to prohibit pesticide applications in daycare centers during business hours. Meanwhile, California is considering a bill to require daycare owners to notify parents when they are treating for pests.

However, Lioy also notes that pesticides are not all bad. These chemicals kill roaches, which can cause allergies in some children. Prudence, he says, dictates wise use of insecticides and complete pest-management plans.

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From: Salt Lake Tribune
September 3, 2006

FEDS MAY STEP IN AFTER GOSHUTES VOTE TO SHUT DOWN TRIBAL BUSINESS

[Rachel's introduction: The U.S. nuclear industry made a deal with the Skull Valley Goshutes in Utah to store high-level nuclear waste for up to 50 years because the U.S. government has failed to open a suitable waste repository and the waste is presently accumulating at nuclear power plants, creating a host of dangers. Now the government of the Goshute Tribe is experiencing serious internal difficulties, throwing into question the viability of the nuclear industry's best- laid plans.]

By Judy Fahys, The Salt Lake Tribune

South Salt Lake -- The door was locked, the lights out and unopened mail stacked on the reception desk at the Skull Valley Goshutes business office here.

It's exactly what members of the tiny Indian tribe had directed last weekend when they voted to accept the resignation of one leader, bar another from doing official business and take the rare step of asking the federal government to supervise an election.

The leadership of the organization behind a multibillion-dollar plan to store nuclear reactor waste has been in dispute for a long time. But now, it's in meltdown.

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs acknowledged that the Skull Valley Goshutes government -- which has no constitution or formal legal system -- is in a shambles and needs help. The BIA tries to stay out of tribal business as a matter of policy. But, in this case, the agency is looking into what role it can play in an election.

"It's unusual for us to do that in this day and age," said Allen S. Anspaugh, the agency's Phoenix regional director. "Time is of the essence, because right now, they really don't have a government."

On Aug. 26, nearly all of the 33 adults who attended the annual meeting voted to shut down the executive committee that carries out the tribe's daily business. Handwritten on legal paper, their directive also formally accepts the resignation of tribal Vice Chairman Lori Bear, cousin of Chairman Leon D. Bear, who said she was tired of working with a "king" and forced to sign blank checks without knowing what they were for.

The decadelong reign of Leon Bear has been riddled with allegations of corruption and cronyism. He led the tribe of about 120 members through the federally sponsored review of nuclear waste site hosting and ultimately to the contract with Private Fuel Storage, a consortium of eight utility companies. But the real trouble began when he inked the deal for the project, billed then as a $3.1 billion venture to park up to 44,000 tons of used nuclear waste on 100 acres across the highway from the village where about two dozen tribe members live, about 45 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

Details of the Goshutes' contract with PFS remain secret, but the sums are rumored to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

In 2003, Bear was indicted on six criminal charges, including embezzling money from his tribe, taking double travel payments and cheating on his taxes. He pleaded guilty to one tax charge last year, and agreed to pay back taxes and fines, and to serve three years probation. Bear would not respond to a telephone call seeking comment on the latest developments. But, in a Reuters story this week, he indicated he's going nowhere as long as the tribe's failure to get a quorum of 44.

"I'm chief for life at this point," he said.

But his critics also have been vocal. They tried to enlist state and federal courts, state and federal regulators and the BIA's parent agency, the U.S. Interior Department, to probe more deeply. They have said Bear has violated tribal law by mishandling funds, playing favorites with supporters for government and tribal benefits and refusing to hold a legitimate election for five years.

Little is happening with the waste project now, but the Goshutes do have ongoing businesses, including a landfill for household garbage, and tribal assistance programs that require oversight.

"They have to do something," said Rex Allen, the onetime tribal secretary who helped organize the shutdown of the tribal government. He and his sister, former tribal Vice Chair Mary Allen, have been pushing for greater federal involvement for about five years. Allen says he has never been removed officially as tribal secretary. And three members who insist they were elected to the Executive Committee in a September 2002 special election pleaded guilty to theft after they accessed tribal bank accounts and started spending the money.

Margene Bullcreek, Bear's across-the-road neighbor and a longtime critic, leads a group of Skull Valley members who are petitioning Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to intervene. Allen and his sister have a case against Bear over tribal funds in Utah state court.

"We've already said what we've had to say," said Bullcreek, referring to the Aug. 26 meeting. "And they [at the BIA] should act on that."

At least two American Indian law scholars say, though rare in modern times, the kind of help the Goshute dissidents request is available under the law.

Robert Miller, of the Lewis & Clark Law College in Oregon, said the BIA is loathe to involve itself in tribal fights because it does not want to look paternalistic. It is a tough balance to strike with sovereign governments, with which the federal government has a trust relationship.

"The BIA has to decide who the government of the tribe is [in order] to have a political relationship," Miller said.

Kevin Worthen, dean of the J. Ruben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, noted that the U.S. government has vacillated between a heavy handed involvement in tribal affairs and a hands-off approach. But, for the past 40 years or so, the agency has meticulously stood back and let these "dependent, domestic nations" handle their own affairs.

"Normally, it would be rare for them to get involved," Worthen said. "But given the high stakes [in Skull Valley] there is some chance they would."

Chet Mills, the BIA superintendent for Utah tribes, said he cannot schedule an election until he gets proper paperwork from those seeking an election. And that's being discussed with attorneys for the tribe and for the dissidents.

"It's just as frustrating for me as for everyone else," he said.

fahys@sltrib.com

Goshute government crisis timeline

* Waste storage lease approved: Private Fuel Storage and the Skull Valley Band of Goshutes three-member Executive Committee, led by Leon Bear, approve waste storage lease in May 1997. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) gives provisional approval pending PFS receiving license to operate from federal Nuclear Regulatory Agency.

* A special tribal election ousts Bear in fall 2001. Bear says a subsequent election confirms his leadership.

* The U.S. Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, an arm of the federal nuclear regulation agency, offers in early 2002 to mediate tribal leadership and corruption allegations. Later, the board's "environmental justice" order for tribal leaders is overturned by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Agency.

* The BIA offers to mediate leadership dispute that winter, but, in March 2003, says it recognizes Bear as the leader.

* U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell in September dismisses a lawsuit brought by 18 tribal members seeking to remove Bear from leadership, ruling the plaintiffs had not exhausted their administrative appeals.

* The FBI, in April 2003, seizes financial papers and computers from Goshute tribal office in South Salt Lake. Utah lawmakers ask Gale Norton to intervene to stop the PFS proposal. Before Christmas, Bear and the three-person government that purportedly unseated him in 2001 are indicted on embezzlement, bank fraud and tax charges.

* A new landfill is permitted on the Goshute reservation by the BIA in July 2004 over the objections of dissident tribe members.

* Prosecutors drop five charges against Bear last summer in exchange for a guilty plea on a single tax charge. He agrees to three years probation. The three would-be leaders indicted at the same time, and their attorney, plead guilty in following months to theft charges.

* The BIA says after the Skull Valley Band's August 2006 meeting that it may opt to assist the tribe with a new election, after the vice chair quits in protest of alleged corruption and tribal members vote to shut down the executive committee.

(c) 2006 The Salt Lake Tribune

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From: The Nation
September 4, 2006


FIGHT FOR INTERNET FREEDOM HEATS UP

[Rachel's introduction: Telecommunications giants are trying to take control of the Internet to set up a two-tiered service -- a speedy, spiffy internet for those who can pay high fees, and a slow, unreliable internet for the rest of us. Our wonderful, democratic electronic commons is about to be privatized.]

By John Nichols

Congress is about to return to Washington this week after taking a long summer break for campaigning and before taking a long fall break for campaigning.

During the brief period of governing that will be wedged into the month of September, a lot of damage could be done -- particularly to "The First Amendment of the Internet": the principle known as "Net Neutrality."

Net Neutrality, which has until now been the guiding principle that preserves a free and open Internet, ensures that everyone who logs on can access the content or run the applications and devices of every site on the world wide web. The neutrality principle prevents telephone and cable companies that provide internet service from discriminating against content based on its source or ownership.

As the "Save the Internet" campaign [www.savetheinternet.com], a broad coalition of groups fighting to maintain open access to all sites on the web, explains: "Net Neutrality is the reason why the Internet has driven economic innovation, democratic participation, and free speech online. It's why the Internet has become an unrivaled environment for open communications, civic involvement and free speech."

Telecommunications firms salivate at the prospect of eliminating Net Neutrality requirements and setting up systems where websites that pay for the service will be more easily reached than sites that cannot afford the toll. And U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican who has for many years been a dominant figure in communications debates on Capitol Hill, is determined to change the rules so that Internet gatekeepers such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner, can create an "information superhighway" for those who pay and a dirt road for those who fail to do so.

A sweeping overhaul of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that is being promited by Stevens does not include Net Neutrality protections and would effectively clear the way for the telecommunications giants to colonize the Internet.

Stevens, the chairman of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, wants to see action on the measure before Congress breaks for the remainder of the election season in early October. But rewriting the rules to favor the telecommunications conglomerates may not be as easy this year as it was in 1996. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has placed a hold on the overhaul legislation and says he will not lift it until Net Neutrality protections are written into the measure.

Activists across the country used the August break to urge senators who had not taken a stand to line up in favor of net neutrality. Rallies in late August targeted Congressional offices in 25 cities nationwide, and they had an impact. A number of senators -- including New York's Chuck Schumer, Minnesota's Mark Dayton, Iowa's Tom Harkin and Vermont's Jim Jeffords -- pledged their support for net neutrality.

But Stevens -- and too many of his allies in both parties -- remained unmoved as September started.

As the return of Congress loomed, however, the Alaska senator took a poke from the largest daily newspaper in his state, the Anchorage Daily News, which bluntly declared in a September 4 editoral that: "Net Neutrality is a good idea. Sen. Ted Stevens should support it."

"Sen. Stevens has said he doesn't see an immediate problem that requires regulation. In other words, he's reluctant to have the government set the playing rules until more companies are caught cheating. Apparently he thinks competition can be counted on to prevent any abuses," explained the editorial. "Only problem is, local Internet service is not a fluid, totally free market with a lot of competitors. Many markets are served by only one or two high-speed Internet companies. Switching providers is not as easy as driving to the next gas station or grocery store. Special expertise and special equipment are required to switch. Many consumers may not even be sophisticated enough to know when their Internet service is playing favorites in sending content."

The Anchorage Daily News concluded that, "Net Neutrality is hardly a heavy-handed government intrusion into the free-wheeling world of the Internet. It is a simple antitrust rule that protects consumers by keeping Internet companies from exploiting their control over connections. Congress should get ahead of the curve and ensure net neutrality before abuses begin to spread."

That's the right position. And it is summed up by a measure that the Senate should pass before its members go out and ask Americans for their votes this fall: The Internet Freedom Preservation Act. Sponsored by Maine Republican Olympia Snowe and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan the act would provide meaningful protection for Net Neutrality.

While the machinations in the Senate this month are troubling, they also provide a critical opening for the debate that America should be having on media policy. No incumbent senator or candidate for a senate seat should be allowed to make it to November without addressing the issue of Net Neutrality and the broader question of whether media policy in this country should serve a few telecommunications giants or the the great mass of Americans and the great potential of American democracy.

Copyright 2006 The Nation

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From: Washington Post
September 1, 2006

OP-ED: PERFECT STORM FOR THE POOR

In income data, something more damaging than Katrina.

[Rachel's introduction: People are considered in deep poverty if they have half or less of the yearly income of those at the poverty line. In 2005 half the poverty line for a family of three was $7,788; for a family of four it was $9,985. (Try living on that.) According to the new report, 43.1 percent of poor people lived in that sort of deep poverty -- a record since 1975, when the government started assembling such statistics.]

By E.J. Dionne Jr.

After a week of remembering the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, the most depressing realization is how easily our leaders forgot their fervent promises to lift up our nation's poorest citizens.

All manner of politicians and columnists said in Katrina's wake that this was the time to revisit the problems of the destitute. The anguish of the people of New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward would have at least some redemptive power if the country took poverty seriously again.

It didn't happen. The innovative ideas that came from all sides were swept off the table. The poor became unfashionable once more. Congressional conservatives changed the conversation. A concern for the struggling gave way to debate over how to offset spending on Katrina with budget cuts -- directed in large part at programs for the needy.

Perhaps the release of the Census Bureau's annual report on income, poverty and health insurance coverage in this particular week is a sign that God and statisticians have a sense of humor. The report reinforces what we knew at the time of Katrina -- that the poor are still with us and that the middle class keeps losing ground.

The "good" news is that the poverty rate, the proportion of Americans who are poor, didn't change much between 2004 and 2005, falling in a statistically insignificant way from 12.7 percent to 12.6 percent. The bad news is that the poverty rate, having risen steadily in recent years, is still higher than it was in 2001, when it stood at 11.7 percent.

Worse is that the proportion of the poor who are very poor has risen. People are considered in deep poverty if they have half or less of the yearly income of those at the poverty line. In 2005 half the poverty line for a family of three was $7,788; for a family of four it was $9,985. (Try living on that.) According to the new report, 43.1 percent of poor people lived in that sort of deep poverty -- a record since 1975, when the government started assembling such statistics.

In the six economic recoveries since the early 1960s, this is the first time the poverty rate was higher in the recovery's fourth year than it was when the recession was at its worst.

The number of Americans without health insurance rose, too, to 46.6 million in 2005, up from 45.3 million in 2004 and 41.2 million in 2001. The proportion without insurance is up from 14.6 percent in 2001 to 15.9 percent in 2005.

What about the middle class? Yes, the median income of American households rose by 1.1 percent last year after five years of decline. But most of the growth was in households headed by Americans 65 and over -- who are helped, rightly, by substantial government benefits. In households headed by people under 65, incomes fell yet again.

Want to know why so many men out there are mad? Check out Table A-2 on Page 38 of the Census report. (I'm grateful to my friend Bill Galston for calling it to my attention.) Adjusted for inflation, men's earnings were lower in 2005 than they were in 1973.

Dear liberals, who worry about the political leanings of angry men, and dear conservatives, who exploit that anger, do you have any proposals to end this income stagnation?

Yes, women have been slowly closing the gender gap in income. Among full-time, year-round workers, women earn 77 percent of what men do, compared with 57 percent in 1973.

But in the most recent year, the gap closed because women lost income at a slightly slower rate than men did. Between 2004 and 2005, the earnings for those working full time year-round dropped 1.8 percent for men and 1.3 percent for women. That's not how most women imagine achieving equality.

The census had some very good news for the well-to-do. The top fifth of American households received 50.4 percent of all income last year, the highest proportion since 1967, when the Census Bureau started following that trend. The biggest gains were concentrated in the top 5 percent.

"The economy is growing, and someone is getting the growth," said Sharon Parrott, a senior analyst at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "So now we know who it is."

President Bush and the Republican Congress, take a bow: You took power to make the well-off even better off, and you have succeeded brilliantly.

As for the poor and the middle class, maybe they'll do better after the next hurricane, or the one after that.

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From: Baltimore Sun (Maryland)
August 31, 2006

A PLAN TO SAVE THE COUNTRY

[Rachel's introduction: Humorist Garrison Keillor offers a modest proposal for setting things right again in America.]

By Garrison Keillor

It's the best part of summer, the long, lovely passage into fall. A procession of lazy, golden days that my sandy-haired, gap-toothed little girl has been painting, small abstract masterpieces in tempera and crayon and glitter, reminiscent of Franz Kline or Willem de Kooning (his early glitter period). She put a sign out front, "Art for Sale," and charged 25 cents per painting. Cheap at the price.

A teacher gave her this freedom to sit un-self-consciously and put paint on paper. A gentle, 6-foot-8 guy named Matt who taught art at her preschool. Her swimming teachers gave her freedom from fear of water. So much that has made this summer a pleasure for her I trace to specific teachers, and so it's painful to hear about public education sinking all around us.

A high school math class of 42! Everybody knows you can't teach math to 42 kids at once. The classroom smells bad because the custodial staff has been cut back. The teacher must whip his pupils into shape to pass the federal No Child Left Untested program. This is insanity, the legacy of Republicans and their tax-cutting and their hostility to secular institutions.

Last spring, I taught a college writing course and had the privilege of hanging out with people in their early 20s, an inspirational experience in return for which I tried to harass them about spelling and grammar and structure. My interest in being 21 again is less than my interest in having a frontal lobotomy, but the wit and passion and good-heartedness of these kids, which they try to conceal under their exquisite cool, are the hope of this country. You have to advocate for young people, or else what are we here for?

I keep running into retirees in their mid-50s, free to collect seashells and write bad poetry and shoot video of the Grand Canyon, and goody for them, but they're not the future. My college kids are graduating with a 20-pound ball of debt chained to their ankles. That's not right, and you know it.

This country is squashing its young. We're sending them to die in a war we d on't believe in anymore. We're cheating them so we can offer tax relief to the rich. And we're stealing from them so that old gaffers like me, who want to live forever, can go in for an MRI if we have a headache.

A society that pays for MRIs for headaches and can't pay teachers a decent wage has made a dreadful choice. But health care costs are ballooning, eating away at the economy. The boomers are getting to an age where their knees need replacing and their hearts need a quadruple bypass -- which they feel entitled to -- but our children aren't entitled to a damn thing. Any goombah with a Ph.D. in education can strip away French and German, music and art, dumb down the social sciences, offer Britney Spears instead of Shakespeare, and there is nothing the kid can do except hang out in the library, which is being cut back too.

This week, we mark the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the Current Occupant's line, "You're doing a heckuva job," which already is in common usage, a joke, a euphemism for utter ineptitude. It's sure to wind up in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, a summation of his occupancy.

Annual interest on the national debt now exceeds all government welfare programs combined. We'll be in Iraq for years to come. Hard choices need to be made, and given the situation we're in, I think we must bite the bullet and say no more health care for card-carrying Republicans. It just doesn't make sense to invest in longevity for people who don't believe in the future. Let them try faith-based medicine, let them pray for their arteries to be reamed and their hips to be restored, and leave science to the rest of us.

Cutting out health care to one-third of the population -- the folks with Bush-Cheney bumper stickers, who still believe the man is doing a heckuva job -- will save enough money to pay off the national debt, not a bad legacy for Republicans. As Scrooge said, let them die and reduce the surplus population. In return, we can offer them a reduction in the estate tax. All in favor, blow your nose.

Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.

Copyright 2006, The Baltimore Sun

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Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's Environment & Health News) highlights the connections between issues that are often considered separately or not at all.

The natural world is deteriorating and human health is declining because those who make the important decisions aren't the ones who bear the brunt. Our purpose is to connect the dots between human health, the destruction of nature, the decline of community, the rise of economic insecurity and inequalities, growing stress among workers and families, and the crippling legacies of patriarchy, intolerance, and racial injustice that allow us to be divided and therefore ruled by the few.

In a democracy, there are no more fundamental questions than, "Who gets to decide?" And, "How DO the few control the many, and what might be done about it?"

Rachel's Democracy and Health News is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

Editors:
Peter Montague - peter@rachel.org
Tim Montague - tim@rachel.org

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