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A JOURNAL OF FREE VOICES We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of human-kind as the foundation of democracy: we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them we do not necessarily imply that we agree with them, because this is a journal of free voices. SINCE 1954 Founding Editor: Ronnie Dugger Editor: Louis Dubose Associate Editor: Michael King Production: Harrison Saunders Copy Editor: Roxanne Bogucka Editorial Interns: Todd Basch, Mike Daecher, Jubilee Barton. Contributing Writers: Bill Adler, Barbara Belejack, Betty Brink, Warren Burnett, Brett Campbell, Peter Cassidy, Jo Clifton, Carol Countryman, Terry FitzPatrick, Richard L. Fricker, James Harrington, Bill Helmer, Jim Hightower, Ellen Hosmer, Molly Ivins, Steven Kellman, Michael King, Deborah Lutterbeck, Tom McClellan, Bryce Milligan, Debbie Nathan, James McCarty Yeager. Editorial Advisory Board: David Anderson, Austin; Frances Barton, Austin; Elroy Bode, El Paso; Chandler Davidson, Houston; Dave Denison, Cambridge, Mass; Bob Eckhardt, Austin; Sissy Farenthold, Houston; bridge, Mass.; Lawrence Goodwyn, Durham, N.C.; George Hendrick, Urbana, Ill.; Molly Ivins, Austin; Larry L. King, Washington, D.C.; Maury Maverick, Jr., San Antonio; Willie Morris, Jackson, Miss.; Kaye Northcott, Fort Worth; James Presley, Texarkana; Schwartz, Galveston; Fred Schmidt, Fredericksburg. Poetry Editor: Naomi Shihab Nye Poetry Consultant: Thomas B. 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INDEXES: The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981, The Texas Observer Index. copyrighted, 0 1995, is published biweekly except for a three-week interval 477-0746. E-mail: [email protected] Second-class postage paid at Austin, Texas. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to THE TEXAS OBSERVER, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. “OF COURSE, THE PEOPLE who get affected most by this are the children and the very old, the same people who are suffering under the other things that Congress is doing, like the cutbacks in school lunch and the cutbacks in Medicare,” Lloyd Doggett said at a midday press conference at Brackenridge Children’s Hospital. “These are people who have the weakest immune systems, both as a natural being and as a political being.” Doggett, a freshman Democratic Congressman from Travis County, was back in his district, laying out for the hometown press another item on what he refers to as the “Republicans’ extremist agenda.” New York Republican James Walsh had attached a rider to the agricultural appropriations bill that was scheduled fora floor vote during the week of July 17-21. If approved, Walsh’s amendment would defer indefinitely the implementation of what Doggett and John Hildreth of Consumers Union described as “science-based” meat-inspection prOceduresleaving in place the “poke, probe and sniff’ methods still in use. Doggett seems to have concluded that the fight against special-interest legislation has to be waged, at least in part, at home. Appearing with Doggett was eight-yearold Ali Lucas, a charming Central Texas child who had spent two weeks in Brackenridge Hospital after eating what her mother Julie described as “one bite of hamburger contaminated with bacteria.” As Doggett stood by and listened, Julie Lucas described in harrowing clinical detail what this one bite of hamburger served at a fastfood restaurant meant for her daughter. During the two weeks Ali spent in the hospital, she suffered permanent damage to her colon, hearing loss in her inner ear that requires her to wear a hearing aid in school, complete kidney failure and a blood count that fell so low that she required emergency transfusions. “The second week we were in here,” Julie Lucas said as her daughter stood by listening, “they came in to take blood in the morning at five o’clock and over the weekend we had watched her start to swell, her face, her feet, her ankles, until she reached the point that she didn’t even look like a little girl anymore. “Thirty minutes after they drew blood, they came in and told me that she was in critical condition, that her blood count was down to zero white cells and zero platelets and that they were going to have to start emergency blood transfusions. Later on that morning, after they started the blood transfusions, they came in and told us that her kidneys were in complete failure… “They also informed us that afternoon that if her kidneys did not start to respond, that she was going to have to be Starflighted to Galveston for dialysis. Through the night, in ICU, her kidneys started to respond to continuous blood transfusions, well enough that we were able to move back up into the room. “She has some impairments that we deal with now. She has lost a tremendous amount of hearing in her middle ear. She needs to wear special hearing devices at school. Her kidneys are now functioning at normal levels. Her blood pressure is running high but it’s now starting to come down, which they say is good and means that possibly what damage was done to her kidneys is starting to repair. They still don’t know if her kidneys are able to grow with her body, which means we may be eventually up for a kidney transplant.” Why, Doggett asked, defer the implementation of new science-based federal meat-inspection procedures that would protect other children from contaminated meat? “We’ve got now a combination in Congress of some people who think there should be no government and are opposing any kind of regulation and are trying to prevent just mighty near everything, plus some special interests who see this atmosphere and think that they can get away with continuing to do things the way they always have.” Doggett said that current USDA meat inspection proceduresthe eighty-year-old poke, probe and sniff methodonly guarantees that the USDA inspector didn’t see or smell anything wrong with the meat. Inspectors can’t detect the E. coli bacteria that changed the course of eight-year-old Alison Lucas’ life. The Center for Disease Control estimates that as much as 4 percent of the ground meat purchased in grocery stores or prepared in restaurants is contaminated by E. coli, and when the bacteria is not killed in the cooking process, people become ill20,000 a year in this country according to the CDC. Of those 20,000, 4,000 die. Hildreth, of the Consumers Union, even provided the simple arithmetic, which serves not only to establish that implementation of the new testing procedures is prudent, but might even counter the arguments EDITORIALS The High Cost of Deregulation 2 :JuLY 28, 1995