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POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE RATLIFF UN-RAPPED. The rap rider is dead. Travis County District Court Judge Scott McCown ruled April 16 that a rider attached to the state budget last year by Senator Bill Ratliff is unconstitutional. The rider, which the Mount Pleasant Republican had aimed at rap music, was broadly written and could have affected a wide variety of music, including opera. The rider could also have forced the state’s pension and investment funds to sell nearly $800 million worth of stock in media companies like Walt Disney and Time Warner. The lawsuit against the rider was filed in January by a dozen plaintiffs \(including a firefighter, several law enforcement officers, and several Industry Association of America, a trade group that represents a half-dozen of the biggest U.S. record labels. Judge McCown said the key issue was that Ratliff’s rider was not debated by the Legislature, and was an attempt to enact a general law through the budget process a maneuver forbidden by the Texas Constitution. MOSCOW TO AMARILLO. Can the Russkies to bring sanity to Amarillo? According to a recent report in the Amarillo Globe-News, Russian environmentalists are as alarmed as Texans about U.S. plans to re-process weapons-grade plutonium, including onetime Soviet plutonium, for commercial reactor fuel. Under the program, plutonium would be mixed with uranium to make uranium-plutonium oxide fuel rods \(known as now is made of uranium oxide only. The Pantex plant near Amarillo, the U.S. center for assembly, and now-disassembly, of nuclear weapons, is one of the candidates for the MOX program. “We consider this plan mad,” said Alexei Yablokov, a prominent Russian environmentalist who previously served as an adviser to President Boris Yeltsin. “It’s fraught with environmental, economic and political risks.” Don Moniak, a spokesman for Serious Texans Against Nuclear Dumping, said MOX does not have the Russian support that many of its proponents claim. “People should be aware that over in Russia, there is not that much support for this,” Moniak said. “And we’re being led to believe that there is this huge amount of support.” Officials of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have strongly questioned the Department of Energy’s MOX plans as lacking in clear safety regulations, but Trish Neusch, whose family ranch is near the Pantex plant, commented, “Our experience is that the D.O.E. does whatever it wants to do, and public input is just a charade. I’m not sure they will ever be willing to heed any advice from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission either.” Meanwhile, Pantex officials announced April 22 that high-explosive contamination has been found in an upper-level aquifer near the plant’s eastern boundary. According to a report in the Amarillo Globe-Democrat, the contamination, found in a test well near the plant, includes two types of high explosives. This is the third such discovery in water near the Pantex site, although Energy Department officials insist that the contamination has only reached a “perched aquifer” not used for domestic or agricultural purposes, and does not threaten the Ogallala Aquifer, or the water used for “site workers, neighbors, livestock, or crops.” For more than a year, state and federal officials have been feuding about whether contamination has reached the Ogallala. Solvents, gasoline components, chromium, and high-explosive contaminants have been found in the perched aquifer. Depleted uranium, a low-level radioactive material, also has been found near a Pantex firing site. But plant officials recently announced they will ask the Environmental Protection Agency to remove Pantex from the Superfund program governing the nation’s most heavily contaminated sites. KLUXER ALERT. Students, faculty, and staff of Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos have recently been greeted by a new, virulent form of e-mail spam: racist propaganda from the Ku Klux Klan. In the aftermath of a recent alleged rape case involving black SWTSU athletes and white female students, some 16,000 university people received recruiting e-mail from Kluxers, apparently based in Austin and West Virginia, fabricating charges about the criminal tendencies of black men and calling for racial separation. A member of the white supremacist National Alliance of Hillsboro, West Virginia, told the Austin American-Statesman that it planned to bring Louisiana Klan leader David Duke to San Marcos, but university sources said there were no such plans. At a black student rally held on campus April 22, leaders of African-American campus groups described an atmosphere of racial hostility and harassment on campus, pointing particularly to poor representation of blacks in the university administration and an all-white university police force. EARTH DAY BLUES. Representatives of environmental and citizens’ groups from around the state gathered on the steps of the Capitol April 22 to acknowledge the annual Earth Day celebration and point out that in Texas, at least, Mother Earth has little to celebrate. Under a banner re-naming the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission as the “Texas Nuclear Radiation Contamination Commission,” speaker after speaker denounced the TNRCC’s record on environmental protection, and pointed to environmental problems around the state largely ignored or exacerbated by state government and the TNRCC. “Citizens should demand that the state regulatory agency, which oversees industry’s permitting and compliance on water, air, and waste issues, be accountable to the people, and not polluters,” said Virginia Kilgore of Duncanville, one of a group of people fighting a pending permit to allow Texas Industries to continue to burn hazardous waste at its cement-kiln facility in Midlothian. The rally also released an open letter to TAI. IOW 0%1* Labor Intensive Radio Radio of the union, by the union and for the union. Hosted and produced by union members dedicated to bringing the voice of labor to the Austin airwaves. \(News tips: call Paul Sherr at Tuesdays 6:30-7:00 p.m. KO.OP 91.7 FM P.O. Box 49340 Austin, TX 78765 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 8, 1998