ustxtxb_obs_1995_01_13_50_00013-00000_000.pdf

Page 21

by

Continued from pg. 24 tal regulations, complained that the tests are unfair to the general public. “We certainly want to see the environment clean,” said Aubre Vaughan. “But more tests on tailpipes are not cost-effective.” Whitmire apparently agrees. As does a chorus of Republicans who have been whining about the air-quality measures. Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in late January called for a moratorium on the tests, and Rep. Joe Barton, REnnis, new chairman of a House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee, promised hearings on the new air standards. WORKING FOR LABOR. Labor Party Advocates, a group that is exploring the possibility of forming a worker-oriented party in the United States, will meet January 21 in St. Louis to decide what to do next in light of the Republican takeover of Congress and the rightward drift of Democratic Party leaders. For more information, call 202-319-1932 or write LPA, P.O. Box 53177, Washington, D.C. 20009-3177. Membership costs $20 \(or $100 to join the NUCLEAR FAMILY. Lee Hogan, president and CEO of Houston Industries Energy, which owns Houston Lighting & Power, got a little carried away in his announcement that his company had acquired an Argentine power plant. Hogan told the Houston Chronicle that the acquisition of a second plant in Argentina provides the company with a “critical mass” that will help it operate more efficiently in the country. Houston Lighting & Power is the managing partner in the South Texas Project, a nuclear-powered electric plant often cited by federal regulators as one of the worst plants in the nation. The Chronicle story did not specify if the second Argentine plant acquired, at Santiago de Estero, is a conventional or nuclear plant. And perhaps Hogan meant “economy of scale.” HI Energy announced plans to acquire more foreign power plants as Argentina, like other cash-starved South American countries, auctions its national patrimony in an attempt to pay off foreign debt. ARCHER’S AGENDA. It does not include eliminating tax breaks for the wealthy, Houston Republican Congressman Bill Archer told the Wall Street Journal in December, because the wealthy don’t get tax breaks. Asked if there might be provisions in the tax code that only benefit narrow special interests and ought to be eliminated, Archer responded as God intended him to: “Since 1982, ‘the tax code has been swabbed and swabbed again’ to eliminate special-interest tax breaks,’ Mr. Archer argued. ‘I really don’t think there are any sig nificant factors in the code today that would save you any revenue that you could do away with.” Journal reporter Alan Murray had to disagree, writing: “… Mr. Archer’s contention that the tax code has been cleared of such debris is novel to say the least. Narrow tax breaks shower billions in benefits on the oil-and-gas, timber, cattlebreeding and real-estate industries and others.” Archer, after years of relative obscurity representing the congressional district that once elected George Bush, is now chair of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. V WAR ON THE POOR. Before Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, in 1965, 33.2 million Americans-17 percent of the populationlived in poverty. By 1973, writes Bob Herbert in his New York Times column, both the absolute numbers and the rate of poverty had declined, to 23 million and 11 percent, respectively. “And then came the reversal. By 1988, after eight years of Reagan revolution and its cruel assault on social services, the number of people in poverty had risen to 31.9 million, or 13.1 percent of the population, and the numbers are still rising.” V PEMEX IN DEER PARK. Mexico will stop short of selling its nationally owned according to Paul B. Carroll of the Wall Street Journal’s Mexico City bureau. But the company, nationalized in the 1930s by President Lazaro Cardenas, is going to change under its new director, Adrian Lajous Vagas. Lajous, an economist appointed in the shuffle of technocrats that followed the Christmas collapse of the peso, will open Pemex’s downstream operations to foreign investorspossibly allowing investments in petrochemical plants or pipelines. As corporate director of operations in 1992, Lajous was largely responsible for a $1-billion joint venture with Shell Oil Co. The agreement provides Pemex access to Shell’s Deer Park refinery, where according to the Journal, Pemex “can observe the technology Shell uses and see just how far below world standards Pemex has been in the refining of unleaded gasoline.” The Journal touts Lajous as a smart guy, so there’s more to this than shared technology, which could have been achieved through a bidding war for one of Shell’s design engineers. ORPHAN COMMISSIONER? “It’s, possible, you bet,” Governor-elect George Bush said of placing some children of unwed welfare mothers in orphanages in Texas. “Whether or not it needs to be expanded to the state of Texas, I’m not prepared to say at this point…Boys Town in the Panhandle of Texas has worked. Now whether or not that needs to be expanded, I’m open for suggestions.” The boys’ town Bush referred to is Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch, near Amarillo, a privately funded, non-profit home for troubled youth. The only alumnus of Farley’s Boys Ranch ever elected to Congress, Bill Sarpalius, was defeated in November and has said he is looking for work. NO TO COMPOUND 1080. Environmentalists scored a victory when the federal EPA decided to deny the Texas Department of Agriculture’s request to use a highly toxic poison in an attempt to control rabies. The TDA asked for permission to use Compound 1080, an extremely toxic, water soluble, poison that was developed during World War II as a chemical warfare agent and was banned in 1972 because of its persistence in the environment, the carnage of non-targeted wildlife and threats to humans. The Texas Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control promote vaccination rather than poisoned bait for rabies control. RADIOACTIVE SURPRISE. The Army Corps of Engineers has found low levels of radioactive cesium in three landfills at the government’s Pantex weapons plant near Amarillo, the Fort Worth StarTelegram reported. Cesium 1377, a product of nuclear fission, emits harmful gamma rays that penetrate skin and bones. It usually is associated with nuclear reactors or bomb factories, not assembly plants like Pantex. “The levels are not a significantly huge number. It’s just something that’s not expected there,” said Joe Martillotti, an official with the state Bureau of Radiation Control. The corps also confirmed that high explosives and other contaminants had leached from a Pantex lake into the Ogallala Aquifer, the underground water source for the Panhandle, but of course added there was no cause for alarm. DRUG OF CHOICE. Federal Drug Czar Lee Brown and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala expressed alarm at a recent report that marijuana use was up among youth, as 25 percent of 10th graders said they had smoked marijuana in the last year. But the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws continued to argue that the focus on marijuana is way out of proportion. NORML noted that over 20 percent of 10th graders said they had been drunk in the last month. According to the government’s own statistics, alcohol killed over 100,000 Americans in 1993 while marijuana killed a reported 300; NORML noted that drug-related emergency-room admissions amounted to 0.57 percent of all visits, while alcohol accounted for 15-25 percent of admissions were related to alcohol. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13