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#871 -- Hazards of Synthetic Turf, 07-Sep-2006


Rachel's Democracy & Health News #871

"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"

Thursday, September 7, 2006.............Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.

Featured stories in this issue...

Hazardous Chemicals in Synthetic Turf
  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. [Correction: Rachel's #871 published on Sept. 7,
  2006, stated incorrectly that samples of Fieldturf had been analyzed;
  in fact, samples of a competing product, A-Turf, had been sampled. See
  text below.]
Pesticides Lurk in Daycare Centers
  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.
Nuclear Industry's Radioactive Waste Program Hits Serious Snag
  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.
Fight for Internet Freedom Heats Up
  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.
Op-Ed: Perfect Storm for the Poor
  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.
A Plan to Save the Country
  Humorist Garrison Keillor offers a modest proposal for setting
  things right again in America.


From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #871, Sept. 7, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


By William Crain and Junfeng Zhang**

A new generation of synthetic turf is becoming popular in the U.S.
Brands such as FieldTurf [and A-Turf] 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 [such as A-Turf]
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. [Note: This is an error. The
brand of artificial turf sampled in Riverside Park was A-Turf, not
FieldTurf.] To gain information on the reliability of our results, we
gathered a second sample in June, 2006 from a different part of the

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

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.


Table 1. Concentrations of PAHs (ppm*)

.................... Sample 1 ......... Sample 2 ....... DEC
.................... A-Turf ........... A-Turf ......... 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


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 artificial turf 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.


(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, Sept. 6, 2006
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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

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, Sept. 3, 2006
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The Skull Valley Goshutes have shut down tribal business, and their
South Salt Lake office remains closed.

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

"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

"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

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.


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, Sept. 4, 2006
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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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2006 The Nation

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From: Washington Post, Sept. 1, 2006
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In income data, something more damaging than Katrina.

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

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

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

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

"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

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), Aug. 31, 2006
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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

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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