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KOOP RADIO 91.7 FM The Voice of the COMMUNITY www.koop.org Single-payer advocates, who’ve dogged lawmakers at public events for years but received scant press attention, also made their mark. Doggett said he was open to a single-payer system, but that Obama had taken that option off the table from the outset. At the end, Doggett seemed pleased. “I think we’ve had a reasonable dialogue this morning,” he said. He walked to his car with only his aides in tow. Forrest Wilder Big Oil Gulps More Gulf …AND NOBODY NOTICES 0 n Aug. 19, after the Observer went to press, representatives from some of the world’s biggest oil companies were set to gather in New Orleans to bid on oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico. The Obama administration is auctioning i8 million acres of oil and gas tracts, some just nine miles from the Texas shore. If all the leases were snatched up, some 3,400 new oil wells could be added to the 3,800 wells already active in the Gulf. That won’t happen; industry analysts say only the most potentially productive leases will be bid on. “With the economy and prices on oil being down, we will probably see less money and less bids:’ says Andy Radford, a senior policy analyst with the American Petroleum Institute. Even so, with environmentalists viewing the Gulf as already under siege, the auction is unwelcome to many. Expanded drilling will hasten climate change and further pollute the Gulf, says Jackie Savitz of the nonprofit environmental group Oceana. She cites studies showing that drilling for natural gas and oil dumps massive amounts of untreated mud into ocean water, and that oil spills kill marine mammals and fish. She cites a spill off the Louisiana coast in late July, when more than 58,000 gallons of oil oozed into the Gulf from an underwater pipeline owned by Royal Dutch Shell PLC. So far, oil companies are winning the debate over drilling in the Gulf. Rather than organize against more offshore platforms in platform-rich Texas, some environmental groups are turning to other fightslike opposing drilling near the coasts of Florida and Alaska, which compared with Texas have been left largely untouched. The Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that successfully sued the Bush administration to stop expansion of offshore drilling, says it’s concerned about the Gulf’s health, but is focused on saving Alaska. “Decisions were already made decades ago about the Gulf, and it already has significant gas and oil infrastructure,” says Bill Snape, senior counsel with the center. He says his group and others are “drawing a line in the snow on Alaska when it comes to climate change.” Others are focused on environmentally fragile areas off the coast of Florida that would see more drilling under an energy bill now in the Senate. “Big Oil is never satisfied:’ Savitz says. “They keep asking for more of the Gulf to drill, and now they are back for another bite of the apple.” Melissa del Bosque For results of the Aug. 17 oil-lease auction, see Melissa del Bosque’s “La Linea” at texasobserver.org . Blaming the Whistleblowers NURSES INDICTED FOR SNITCHING ON A DOCTOR In early April, two nurses in a far West Texas town decided they’d had enough of allegedly unethical practices by a doctor at their county hospital. They sent a letter to the Texas Medical Board, the state agency that oversees physicians, outlining the doctor’s questionable activities and requesting an investigation. Four months later, the two nurses find themselves on trial, facing criminal indictments in state court. It’s one of the most unusual, and suspicious, prosecutions you’ll ever see. The two whistleblowers, Anne Mitchell and Vicki Galle, worked at Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit, a town of 5,000 near the New Mexico state line. Their main allegation is that Dr. Rolando Arafiles encouraged patients to buy herbal medicine he sold through a side business. After the medical board told Arafiles he might be under investigation, the doctor complained about the nurses to Winkler County Sheriff Robert Roberts, who began an inquiry. The sheriff is a friend and former patient of Arafiles, according to testimony at a preliminary court hearing in early August. They were once in business togetherselling herbal medicine. The district attorney indicted the nurses for violating an obscure law barring the use of government information that’s not public for nongovernmental purposes. Because the nurses worked at a public hospital, prosecutors allege, the patient names were government information. By disclosing the names to the medical board, they say, the nurses used the information for a “nongovernmental” purpose. 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER AUGUST 21, 2009