Page 3


Postmaster: If undeliverable, send Form 3579 to The Texas Observer, 307 West 7th, Austin, Texas 78701 POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE WHO NEEDS GUINEA PIGS? “A historical event has taken place. The President of the United States has been assassinated.” That announcement was read over the public address system of Carrollton’s Charles M. Blalack Junior High School as part of an experiment, according to The Dallas Morning News. Assistant Principal Dana Stewart read the “news” before classes began, apparently adding emphasis by feigning tears. Four minutes later, Stewart revealed the statement was untrue and explained that her actions were part of a class project. Principal Laura Folsom issued a public apology and escaped any disciplinary actions toward her administration after a flood of negative reactions to the above statement. Folsom said several classes were studying the 1938 radio play The War of The Worlds which fictitiously reported a hostile Martian attack on New Jersey as the reason she approved the student-led project aimed to evaluate reactions to tragedy. Reactions varied from anger at the deception to concern over the possible loss of administrative credibility. A major concern among students was why the administration frightened the entire school for a project that only involved a few students. “I was shocked. I wanted to talk to the people in charge,” student Chantelle Lindlief told the Morning News. “Once someone does that to you, it’s hard to ever trust what they say.” Some 50 students walked out of school during their lunch breaks to protest the announcement, while entire classes marched to Folsom’s office to voice their disapproval. “They were playing with our emotions, and they shouldn’t have done that for any reason,” eighth-grader Shane Speakman told the Morning News. “This has hurt a lot of people. What really makes me mad is how the assistant principal faked crying.” The mother of one student involved in the lunch-time walk-out supported her sons actions in a quote to the Morning News. “The kids did what they thought was right. They were more responsible than the adults,” said Eileen Ray, whose son Derek is an eighthgrader. “I was in the sixth grade when Presi dent Kennedy was shot, and this whole thing brought back some painful memories for me.” TEXAS BOUNCERS. Rep. Bill Sarpalius, D-Amarillo, and the late Rep. Mickey Leland are two Texas lawmakers whose names have come to light in the continued House bank and House restaurant scandals. Last month, the General Accounting Office set off a wave of controversy by revealing that House members wrote 8,331 insufficient funds checks at the bank from July 1989 to June 1990. Later released was the fact that about $300,000 in unsettled restaurant tabs were also accumulated by House members. Without any fine assessments imposed for bouncing House checks, the actions amounted to interest-free loans. Although the GAO did not pinpoint guilty lawmakers when it released the information, many went about trying to clear their names. Initially denying that he had written any hot checks, Sarpalius later admitted to the deed and became the fifth Texan in the House to come forth on such allegations. According to an Associated Press release, Sarpalius has attempted to make amends with the GAO and to alleviate his “embarrassed” conscience with a self-imposed $50.71 fine to compensate for the $905.31 worth of bad checks he wrote on his House account over two years ago. Sarpalius calculated his own fine by assessing himself a $15 per bounced check fee and a 12 percent interest rate for each day his account remained in the red. Sarpalius had written three unbacked checks for $14.13, and $264.13 in July 1989, and one for $627.05 the following month. Leland, who was killed in an August 1989 plane crash, died owing some $30,000 to the House bank for rubber checks and $10,000 in unpaid meals to the House restaurant, the AP reported later. Money owed from overdrafts was deducted from a death annuity paid to Leland’s widow, the wire service reported, but the restaurant tab remains unpaid, and no claim for compensation has been filed against Leland’s estate. House members have voted to close the bank and to require payment for meals when served. Five other Texas lawmakers have acknowledged that they had bounced House checks. They include Reps. Albert Bustamante, D-San Antonio; Greg Laughlin, D-West Columbia; Charles Stenholm, DStamford; Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio; and Charles Wilson, D-Lufkin. As of yet, none of the five have decided to take Sarpalius’ lead and divvy up their own punishments. COMPILED BY RODDY DE LA GARZA Roddy de la Garza is an Observer editorial intern. ATOMIC AQUIFER. President Bush’s recent announcement of cuts in the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile could have ominous implications for the Panhandle. In January of identified the Pantex nuclear weapons plant near Amarillo as the primary storage location for fissionable materials such as uranium and plutonium. \(See “Panhandling for Plutonium,” TO, reduction plan goes through, some 84,000 pounds of highly radioactive material recovered from the decommissioned warheads could end up being stored at Pantex. The facility sits directly atop the Ogalalla aquifer, a huge underground water system that supplies drinking and irrigation water to Amarillo and surrounding farms and communities. DOE has not indicated how long it intends to store nuclear material at Pantex. Given plutonium’s half-life of 24,000 years, however, storage requirements would run on the order of tens of thousands of years at a minimum. According to the Dallas Morning News, the company that operates the Pantex plant has been awarded a new five year contract with the Department of Energy. The agreement will pay the company, Mason & Hanger-Silas Mason Co., $5.1 million per year, not including additional incentives available. FIXED GAME? Although the state lottery has not been approved by voters \(see ediSee Political Intelligence page 23 24 OCTOBER 18, 1991