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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - December 14, 2003, New Braunfels, Texas Page 4A — Herald-Zeitung — Sunday,December 14, 2003 Herald-Zeitung Our Opinion Unprepared for flu bug’s bite With the nation largely out of flu vaccine and in the midst of a bad flu season, health officials should begin now to review policies and procedures. T he early onset of the flu season combined with the emergence of a new strain of flu has raised questions about the nation’s anti-influenza procedures. Many areas of the country, including Comal County, have run out of flu vaccines. Locally, 12,000 county residents have been vaccinated this year. That’s small consolation for the thousands of others who now find themselves unprotected and with no way of getting the vaccine. County health department officials are predicting this could be one of the worst flu seasons in history. Already, the number of flu cases exceeds IO times last year’s ratios. The flu outbreak has swept the entire nation. Flu cases have now been reported in all 50 states. Most states have exhausted their supplies of vaccines. Worse, vaccines that were distributed may be less effective than desired because they were designed to fight other strains than the one infecting many Americans. All this makes one wonder if the system being used to formulate and produce vaccines is as effective as it needs to be. Most flu vaccines are designed to target strains that have been detected. So if new strains emerge, the prevention effort is far less successful. The current dilemma also illustrates problems with distribution — and redistribution — of enough vaccines. These concerns should be addressed now, as the current flu season enters full bloom, rather than in February, when health officials typically begin planning for the next flu season. s' Today in History By The Associated Press Today is Sunday, Dec. 14, the 348th day of2003. There are 17 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History:    »    ., ST (5h Dec. 14,1799, thefirst president ofjhe United States, George Washington, died at his,Mount Vernon home at age 67.    I On this date: In 1819, Alabama joined the Union as 22nd state. In 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the First man to reach the South Pole, beating out an expedition led by Robert F. Scott. In 1939, the Soviet Union was dropped from the League of Nations. In 1946, the IJ.N. General Assembly voted to establish U.N. headquarters in New York. LUTKUS POLICY ■ Letters must be 250 words or fewer. ■ The Herald-Zeitung reserves the right to edit all submissions. ■ Guest columns should be less than 500 words and must be accompanied by a photo. ■ Address and telephone number must be included so authorship can be confirmed. Mail latter* to: Letters to Editor c/o Herald-Zeitung P.O. Drawer 311328 New Braunfels, TX 78131 1328 Fax them to: (830) 606 3413 e-mail them to: news@herald- Serving New Braunfels and Comal County since 1852.- New Braunfels Zeitun$ was founded 1852; New Braunfels Herald was founded 1890. The two papers merged in 1957and printed in both German and English until 1958 Managing Editor Gary E. Maitland News Editor Brady Creal Features Editor Brian Grant Editor and Publisher Doug Tonay Circulation Director Craig Pauling Advertising Director Courtney Abarnathy Business Manager Heather Grant mni ii' 11 mmmmmmmmm Letters to the Editor Parents: Get active, speak up for the sake of your children The Dec. 3 editorial pointed directly to what could be the basis of many of the problems in the world today: Total lack of responsibility by many parents to raise their children to be good citizens. Not one parent could find the time to goto a meeting at Smithson Valley High School to discuss issues very close to everyone’s minds. This is not a unique problem at this one high school; it is a sad expression by a majority of adults. Each one of us needs to speak out on issues that affect all things we face. All of us need to take a part in doing more than making nasty remarks about President Bush. You are insulting not only the man, but the office as well. The White House belongs to all of us. If Bush had not taken the bull by the horns, so to speak, would we not be looking St still another “9/11 ” tragedy? I see weak spots in his plan, we all do! When prayer was taken out of the school, Was that not the beginning of most of our problems? But is sitting back and letting someone else speak up the answer? The violence frequently starts with gangs. Are not terrorists all members of gangs? These parents who did not show up for their students at Smithson Valley did nothing of value to solve problems in their children’s world today. Barham J. Griffin New Braunfels Time for newspaper to stop printing Charlie Reese columns Now is the time for the Herald-Zeitung to seriously consider to discontinue publishing editorial columns by Charlie Reese. My reason for making this statement is in his column that appeared Nov. 25 in the Herald-Zeitung, he made several statements revealing his lack of support for morality in this country. I can think of no good reason why “our newspaper” should allow those who support immorality to have the privilege to express themselves to the members of our community. Morality is an issue that that should receive credibility from the Herald-Zeitung, and I believe it should endeavor to publish articlas that encourage morality. There are those out there who will say that Reese has the "right to freedom of speech" as guaranteed by the Constitution, and I do say, yes, that is true. He does have the right to freedom of speech; but the.(Constitution does not say that he has the privilege to have articles published by those who care about the quality of life for the citizens of this country. If Reese had written a column that extolled the declaration of our national motto, then I would not have come out against him. But, as he is a declared libertarian who belittles the support of morality in this country, it is time to put his column to rest. In this day and age, we don’t need to endorse those who are trying to undo the principles on which this great nation was founded. Philip Rogers New Braunfels Reese right: City governments, chambers are one in the same Charles Reese really hit the nail on the head with his statement Dec. 9 in your paper. This is exactly What is happening here in New Braunfels. He said, “Most city governments are indistinguishable from chambers of commerce. They seem to think their primary function is not to deliver services to the people but to promote economic development.” This proposed new civic center is an excellent example of what we don’t need. I hear, and I don’t know if it is true, that the chamber wants a new facility to get a new office for the chamber. The chamber says new economic development will lower taxes. “Bull corn!” I have not seen my taxes go down any. We have had traffic problems for years and nothing has been done. They are finally getting around to fixing our streets. I am not holding my breath as to how long it will take to get tliis done. William Af. Abbott New Braunfels iimimimii MOW TO CONTACT United States Government PRESIDENT N George W. Bush 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, D C. 20500 SENATE H Kay Bailey Hutchison Russell Senate Office Building Room 284 Washington, D C. 20510 Telephone: (202) 224-5922 Fox: (202) 224-0776 Web: (Send e-mails through Web site.) SAN ANTONIO OFFICE: 8023 Vantage Drive, Suite 460 San Antonio 78230 Telephone: (210) 340-2885 Fox: (210) 349-6753 H John Cobnyn Russell Senate-Hart Room 517 Washington, DC. 20510 Telephone: (202) 224-2934 Fox: (202) 228-2856 Web: (Send e-mails through Web site.) AUSTIN OFFICE: 221 West Sixth St., Suite 1530 Austin 78701 Telephone: (512) 469-6034 Fox: (512) 469-6020 SAN ANTONIO OFFICE: 600 Navarro, Suite 210 San Antonio 78205 Telephone: (210) 224-7485 Fox: (210) 224-8569 CONGRESSMAN H Lamar Smith Rayburn House Office Building Room 2231 Washington, D C. 20515 Telephone: (202) 225-4236 Fox: (202) 225-8628 SAN ANTONIO OFFICE: 1100 NE Loop 410, Suite 640 San Antonio 78209 Telephone: (210) 821-5024 Fox: (210) 821-5947 MOW TO CONTACT Texas Government 9 mimiiim GOVERNOR H Rick Perry State Capitol. Room 2S.1 PO. Box 12428 Austin 78711 Telephone: (800) 843-5789 Fox: (512) 463-1849 STATE HOUSE H Carter Casteel 254 E. Mill St. New Braunfels 78130 Telephone: (830) 627-0215 Toll Free: (866) 687-4961 Fax: (830) 627-8895 WHILE IN AUSTIN: PO. Box 2910 Austin 78768-2190 Telephone: (512) 463-0325 Fax: (512) 473-9920 E-mail address: [email protected] STATE SENATE H Jefe Wentworth 1250 NE Loop 410, Suite 720 San Antonio 78209 Telephone: (210) 826-7800 Fax: (210) 826-0571 WHILE IN AUSTIN: Telephone: (512) 463-0125 Fax: (512) 463-7794 E-mail address: [email protected] H Judith Zaffirini PO. Box 627 Laredo 78042-0627 SAN ANTONIO OFFICE: 12702 Toepperwein Road #214 San Antonio 78233 Telephone: (210) 657-0095Revised mercury pollution regulations are deadly mistake MOLLYIVINS Molly Ivin is a columnist for Creators Syndicate. She also does acca sional commentary for National Public Radio and the McNeil/Lehrer program. AUSTIN — I can’t tell whether this administration is flaunting its cynicism, its contempt for science or its conviction that when in power you help your contributors and fry your enemies. Although how millions of small children and unborn fetuses came to be enemies of Bush and Co. is beyond my political or theological understanding. We are talking about the rollback announced last week in regulating mercury pollution. Except, of course, it wasn’t announced as a rollback, it was announced as a great step forward. This raises the always timely question, “How dumb do they think we are?" and this time the answer is “profoundly dumb,” because it is real hard to get fooled by this one. You look at the numbers and tell me. Mercury is a neurotoxin that damages the brains and nervous systems ofietuses and young children, and probably affects adults as well. It is one of the suspected, though not proven, causes of recent increases in autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. It is known to cause learning and attention disabilities and mental retardation. Eight percent of American women of childbearing age already have mercury in their blood above the EPA’s “safe level." Mercury eriiissions from power plants get into rain clouds and come down in lakes and rivers, there poisoning fish and the people who eat them. Coal-fired power plants are die largest source of mercury, spewing 50 tons a year into the air, about 40 percent of the total. In December 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a finding requiring the maximum amount of technically achievable reduction in mercury. This was expected to result in a 90 percent mercury reduction by 2007. Instead, the new EPA proposals downgrade mercury emissions — particularly mercury emissions from the utility industry — by taking it out of the “hazardous pollutant" category. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Simply by implementing the laws already on the books, annual mercury emissions from power plants could be reduced to 5 tons annually by 2007. But Bush’s EPA last week introduced a new plan to cap emission at 34 tons a year by 2010 and then 15 tons by 2018. This means hundreds of more tons of mercury discharged over the next 15 years, and that many more children born brain-damaged. I’d really like to know if John Graham, Bush’s cost-benefit guru at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, factored in the cost of special ed, health care and caretaking for those kids. The good news is this will save the utility Industry hundreds of millions of dollars — worth every retarded child, eh? Besides, tlje coal industry contributed more than $250,000 to Bush’s last campaign, and you didn t, john Walke, clean air director of the Natural Resource Defense Council, called it “a grotesque giveaway.” The truth is, EPA is doing nothing about mercury pollution. The decrease to 34 tons a year is a byproduct of new filtering requirements for nitrogen (causes smog) and sulfur dioxide (causes acid rain), which aren't much to write home about, either. Mike I^eavitt, new head of the EPA, defended the proposal as an emissions-trading program, like the one that has reduced acid rain. But the Environmental Defense Fund, which has endorsed the use of market-based, cap-and-trade systems for reducing some pollutants, is appalled by the mercury decision and apparently not comforted by the EPA’s decision to change mercury’s classification. One reason cap-and-trade on mercury pollution won’t work is it is pretty much site-specific. It hangs around the neigh borhood it comes from, so you get dangerous pockets of it, “hot spots” like the ones in south Florida. In a nicely dovetailed bureaucratic action, the Food and Drug Administration chimed in with a new, softer advisory on mercury-contaminated fish consumption. Consumers Union believes the new I DA advisory is so vague as to which fish are likely to have concentrations of mercury (those at the top of the fish food chain), it is largely useless. Probably the most infamous case of mercury poisoning was in the Japanese village of Minamata. Eugene W. Smith, the great photojournalist, took,the picture of the Minamata Madonna, gently holding her hopelessly deformed and retarded child in a steam bath.    • I once heard a Texas politician being begged to consider doing something "for the children of Texas.” He inquired back, “Do they have a PAC?” Well, no they don’t. But they have mommies. Their mommies can read numbers. Their mommies know the difference between 50 tons a year and 5 tons a year. Mommies know what a campaign contribution is. Mommies can tell the difference between a cynical politician and safe babies. Mommies can get very angry. You’ve got to watch those mommies, Karl. ( ;