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hard labor, and lose his military benefits. No date or place for the trial has been set. Our October 26 issue featured a story on the effort by New Braunfels residents to prevent a local cement kiln from burning hazardous waste. After strong public protest, the company, Systech-LaFarge, has temporarily withdrawn its request for a hazardous waste permit. But according to a story in the Austin Chronicle, the company has not given up. THERE WAS a time when no one would consider that a gubernatorial appointment of Dr. Ramiro Casso might be challenged by a Rio Grande Valley Senator. That was before Eddie Lucio was elected to represent the Valley. Lucio, who defeated incumbent Hector Uribe, was considered a potential obstacle to the appointment of Casso, a longtime force for good in the Valley, to the position of the board of the state health department. Roberto Gutierrez, the freshman House member from McAllen, Casso’s hometown, had to approach Lucio to assure that Lucio would not invoke senatorial courtesy to kill the Casso nomination. The reason was evident. Casso once ran against Republican McAllen Mayor Othal Brand, who after the campaign was over, unsuccessfully sued Casso for libel. Lucio, it was assumed, would block the nomination if Brand requested it because Lucio ran with the support of the Farm Bureau and Valley Growers. Brand, a Farm Bureau member and a Valley grower, must not have wanted to fight the nomination through Lucio’s office. PHIL GRAMM, again, the leader of the PAC. The Republican Senator received $292,000 from fmance-related political action committees with huge vested interests in what role Gramm might play in shaping bankingreform legislation. Gramm is a member of the Senate Banking Committee. No other member of the committee, according to a story published in The New York Times, received as much as Gramm. The Times, which published a top-10 list of fmance-PAC recipients, also reported what percentage of the members’ total PAC contributions the financerelated PAC contributions represented. Though Gramm received by far the most financial PAC money, their contribution represented only 20 percent of his total PAC more when compared to Connecticut Democrat Christopher Dodd’s $88,212 from financial PACs, which represented 60 percent of Dodd’s total PAC contributions. The member of the House banking committee who received the least financial PAC committee chair Henry B. Gonzalez of San Antonio. Gonzalez’s $39,000 in financial PAC money, however, represented 45 percent of all of his PAC contributions. Leading the House list was Hawaii Republican Patricia Saiki, who received $194,000 in financial PAC money, which represented only 20 percent of her total PAC funding. PEOPLE CAN sue cigarette companies for death or injury, the Third Court of Appeals has ruled. This decision, written by Judge Woodie Jones, reversed a Travis County trial judge’s opinion, which had accepted the cigarette companies’ claim that federal law prevented people from trying to collect damages under state law. It also sets a new precedent for consumer rights in the judicial system, since the lower federal courts in the past have sided with cigarette companies. Judge Jones wrote in the opinion that the threat of lawsuits might force cigarette companies to better educate their customers about the hazards of smoking. The plaintiffs, two men with lung cancer and the wives of two smokers, contend that cigarette manufacturers have failed to warn consumers adequately about the danger of smoking and have worked to “nullify the overwhelming medical evidence that cigarette smoking is addictive and causes lung cancer and death.” The Third Court was overruled in another case that also involved a conflict between state and federal law. The Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Texas businesses can be prosecuted for criminally negligent acts that cause workplace deaths. The high court upheld the position of Travis County Attorney Ken Oden, who brought charges of criminally negligent homicide against two businesses who were then convicted of contributing to the deaths of employees who died in trench cave-ins on construction sites. Texas leads the nation in workplace deaths, and prosecutors around the country have sought to use criminal charges to punish employers who, through their negligence, send employees to their deaths. The Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the state law under which Oden brought charges was not superseded by federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, which provide little punishment for violators. The important ruling should give innovative prosecutors like Oden a powerful tool to protect workers. Interestingly, Frank Maloney, who was elected to the high court in November, represented the defendant businessmen in the appeal of one the cases. ANN RICHARDS’S appointments have started a feud between two Houston Post columnists. Post editor Lynn Ashby took the Governor to task, contending that all of her appointments were based on the amount of political contributions each appointee provided the Richards’s campaign. Ashby described Richards appointments as sordid epi :sodes, particularly taking issue with her appointment of Beaumont lawyer Walter Umphrey to the Parks and Wildlife Commission. Juan Palomo, just back from a stint in Washington, where unlike Ashby, he wrote news, responded one day later. Writing, “OK, I’ll take the bait” \(that Ashby had proffered to liberal columnists and fellow travelers who was equally outraged at the Umphrey appointment \(TO, But from that point on he took issue with his senior colleague. “Unlike Ashby,” Palomo wrote, “I can’t get upset about some of the other appointments … Some, I think, are brilliant. Waco insurance executive’ Bernard Rapoport, for instance, should have been on the University of Texas Board of Regents years ago.” Palomo reminded Ashby that Richards is an “establishment politician” and most voters know that. “We didn’t vote for her because she was Saint Ann,” Palomo observed. “We voted for her because she wasn’t Clayton Williams.” RICHARDS showed up at a White House dinner escorted by an unlikely fellow traveler: Lufkin Democratic Congressman Charlie Wilson. According to a Washington Post photographer Richards was overheard saying to Barbara Bush, “I don’t know if my reputation can stand this.” Spoons on the White House dinner tables were reported to be silver. There were no reports of Governor Richards commenting on George Bush’s foot. PUBLIC CITIZEN, the Ralph Naderfounded public-interest group, continues its tradition of trenchant research. Another of the consumer group’s surveys has revealed that the state’s schoolchildren are entering a “poison zone” in their classrooms because of excessive spraying of deadly pesticides there. The study found that most school districts \(particularly rural districts, where sprayers regardless of need, leading to unnecessary exposure by children who are likely to play on the floor or in the dirt and then put their hands in their mouths. The group, however, did find that a Houston area elementary school selected for an experimental Integrated Pest Management program had achieved a 97.8 percent reduction in pests –without using toxic chemicals. The school district has extended the program to four other schools. / COMMUNITY ACTIVISTS better watch out: The business community has a new weapon to prevent protests. A recent Associated Press story described the growing use of SLAPP \(Strategic Lawsuits Against Public ers silent. Typically, the story said, they invalve a large corporation suing an outspoken homeowner for millions of dollars on grounds of defamation, “forcing the activist to choose between the uncertainty of a high-stakes legal fight and a quiet retreat.” Though four out of five of the suits will fizzle if the defendant resists, sources cited in the story say the suits are discouraging public involvement in controversial issues. One victim of the tactic was Irene Mansfield of Pearland, who was sued for $5 million by a company whose landfill project she was trying to prevent from being located in her neighborhood. The company dropped the suit after it won a state permit. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17