It’s the hottest toy of the new year, kids! More dazzling than an electronic whirligig, more thrilling than the latest Game Boy alien-killer, it’s the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor! Only $83 million each.
You say that’s a little steep for you? Get ready, you’re buying one anyway. In fact, you, me, and other taxpayers are expected to buy 458 of the V-22 Ospreys–for a total tab of $38,014,000,000. The Osprey is the latest boondoggle being pushed on us by Congress at the behest of Boeing and Textron–the two Pentagon contractors that make this pricey turkey, and that also make major campaign donations to the Congressional critters that keep shoveling our tax dollars into the Osprey.
The chief trick of this high-tech hybrid is that it’s both a helicopter and an airplane: Its engines tilt up so it can take-off and land like a helicopter, then they drop down to fly forward like a plane. Sounds fun, unless you were one of the four Marines killed in a test flight of the Osprey last month, or one of 19 Marines killed in another test flight eight months earlier. Even though the tiltrotor doesn’t work and is deadly to fly, Congress keeps throwing our money at it. Representative Curt Weldon, a Republican in whose district much of the Osprey is built, dismisses the deaths of our Marines, saying: “Every time we’ve tested new planes … we have lost lives.” Hey, Curt: We’ve got a seat for you on the next test flight! What a goober.
Curt got even more gooberish when The Philadelphia Inquirer raised the point that Boeing and Textron had dumped some $2 million in campaign funds on him and other Washington politicians last year. Weldon puffed up and blustered that anyone who thinks the corporations are buying Congressional support for the Osprey is “dumb, naive, ignorant, and a stupid person.” Billions of dollars and two dozen lives frittered away … and he’s calling us stupid?
ADOPT A LAND MINE
Thousands of children, farmers, and others are maimed or killed each year by land mines left in place from yesterday’s wars. Armies put these concealed weapons of horror in place to kill their enemies, but once the war is over, the armies have no map of where they placed the mines, nor do they return to disarm them. So the mines are found, one deadly discovery at a time, by innocents who literally stumble upon them.
There are about a million of these mines still in Bosnia, a million in Mozambique, some six million in Cambodia, and up to seven million in Afghanistan. U.S. weapons manufacturers are the world’s leading marketers of land mines, which continue to be made, sold, and planted.
But there’s good news. A coalition of human rights, veterans, peace, and other advocacy groups, working with mine-clearing experts at the United Nations, have launched a remarkable, grassroots program called adopt-a-minefield. Yes, it’s modeled on our country’s adopt-a-highway litter clean-up program, only instead of groups picking up trash along a stretch of highway, the adopt-a-minefield program collects money from groups and individuals to pay for experts to do the painstaking work of inching across the world’s killing fields to de-mine them.
It costs about $300 to clear 100 square yards. From wealthy donors and schoolchildren alike, more than $2.5 million has already been raised to “adopt” 60 minefields, 20 of which have been cleared. As one of the organizers told The New York Times, “It’s something you can pay for that gets done and helps save lives–direct.”
To adopt a minefield, go to the Web site: www.landmines.org.
OLD MACDONALD GETS SALMONELLA
Every child knows “Old MacDonald had a farm,” but industrialized agribusiness is rapidly displacing Old Mac, replacing our family farmers with corporate pharmacists who fatten their livestock not with grass and corn, but with antibiotics. E-I-E-I-O!
The nonprofit, independent research group, Union of Concerned Scientists, recently issued a report revealing that cows, pigs, and chickens are being fed far more massive doses of antibiotics than the drug companies and livestock corporations have admitted. These drugs are not being administered to treat animal diseases, but simply as a quick and cheap fix for fattening the animals. The UCS reports that while only 3 million pounds of antibiotics are used each year to treat humans, industry is feeding 3.7 million pounds of the drugs to cattle, 10.3 million pounds to pigs, and 10.5 million to poultry – all to speed up their growth.
This nontherapeutic use of antibiotics means fatter profits for the drug and agribusiness giants, but it poses a real and present danger to you and your family’s health. Such overdosing means that bacteria that have a natural resistance to any given antibiotic survive in the animals, becoming “superbugs” that can’t be killed by that antibiotic. So, when you eat beef, pork, or poultry contaminated with these superbugs, the very antibiotic medicine that could have saved you before is now powerless.
Another study by the Centers for Disease Control finds that 14 percent of the bacteria that cause pneumonia are now resistant to three classes of antibiotics used to fight them, and that 25 percent of the pneumonia bacteria are immune to penicillin. Likewise, Salmonella bacteria are now being found to be immune to the antibiotic used to treat the most severe cases of Salmonella food poisoning–an antibiotic related to those used to fatten livestock.
To help stop this profiteering, call the Union of Concerned Scientists: 202 -332 -0900.
Jim Hightower’s radio talk show broadcasts nationwide daily from Austin. His latest book is If the Gods Had Meant Us to To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates. Find him at www.jimhightower.com, or write [email protected]