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Look For Our HUNTING SPECIAL In The NOVEMBER 24th ISSUE Of The County Transcript

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Issue Home November 16, 2004 Site Home

COLUMNS:
Slices Of Life
Along the Way...With P. Jay

From the Desk of the D.A.
Earth Talk

Slices of Life

Crownless

Ah, the indignities of age. Tonight I am heading off to choir practice with a gaping hole in my mouth where a crown used to be. I will have to remember not to smile too broadly. It will be a few days before I can get this crown replaced, but fortunately, I have this jewel tucked away securely in a plastic bag.

Losing it was one of those surprises that sneak up on us now and then. I was eating homemade chicken/noodle soup when I suddenly bit down on something hard. Thinking I had missed a bone in the broth, I reached to take it from my mouth, and there was my crown, complete with dangerous looking screw. If I had swallowed it, I can’t imagine it would have been too good for my intestines.

When I called the dentist’s office, I suggested while I’m there getting this replaced, they might also do the cleaning that the hygienist has been bugging me about. She agreed to set up those appointments for the same day, and said we could then schedule the other crown I wanted done.

I said, "I don’t want that done. It’s the dentist who thinks I need a crown. I’m satisfied with all those fillings in that tooth. I don’t think we’ll do that."

I can’t tell you how many crowns I’ve had come loose over the years. Why would I want to add another one to the mix when the tooth is still functioning as is?

I’ve been contemplating another prosthetic device, which really makes no sense given my sensitivity to anything near my eyes. Because the two sides of my body are not exact replicas, there are days when my glasses drive me to distraction because they don’t sit straight on my face. I re-settle them over and over, until I get my mind on something else. So I’d been thinking about contact lenses. (My daughter is holding her sides with laughter as she reads this, because she knows how skittish I am about my eyes.) Now I know I’d be all day just trying to get the finger holding the lens near my eye, let alone seating the thing properly. And I’m certainly not adventuresome enough to have the laser procedure done. So I’m probably stuck with the crooked glasses. And I hate to think of the day when I have to replace these eight-year-old ones, because I’m remembering the fiasco I had getting these right. Lucky for me my eyes haven’t changed in that length of time and I really like these frames.

"Maturity" seems to mean patching, replacing, tinkering with and making do. It also involves deciding how much medical intervention we will tolerate (or welcome), what supplements, if any, will line our kitchen shelves, whether or not we will go the massage/chiropractic route or the medical profession way. Also how much prescription medication we will sign on to. Deciding if what’s keeping us alive is also killing us slowly. Do I sound like a skeptic?

Then there’s the other way of just keeping on with your life, making it fuller with humanitarian involvement; less "I" centered.

I have met the most inspiring older woman. Having recently become widowed, she fills her days with meaningful, necessary volunteer work, as well as honing her considerable musical skills. Working with other civic-minded people, she got hundreds, if not thousands, of Pennsylvania citizens registered before the election. Not registered necessarily to her political party; just registered so they could vote.
When you stop to think about it, losing a tooth or two is a small price to pay for being alive and well, and having as much of the world as you can manage be your playground.

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Along the Way...With P. Jay

What’s new in Forest City?

The Dollar General recently opened its doors for business on South Main Street and from reports trickling back to me, I would say it appears to be a hit. We understand that a Chinese Restaurant will be opening on Main Street and a couple of vacant store fronts also on Main Street now have tenants.

Being one of the old timers in the community, we can recall when Main Street was a highly successful business district with a wide assortment of Mom and Pop shops that featured just about every necessity from soup to nuts. There was even a theater and a couple of hotels on Main Street midway through the last century.

As the world progressed and shopping malls became the new fad, small businesses in boroughs suffered tremendous financial losses and one-by-one store owners began closing their doors for good.

Forest City was hard hit beginning in the late 1950’s and continuing through the 1960’s. The loss of many stores and services caused panic in the business district. Borough officials allowed a once beautiful shopping area to succumb to hodge-podge development that saw Main Street store fronts converted into offices, apartments and garment factories. And in some instances, the survivors bought adjoining properties and tore down buildings in favor of additional parking facilities.

The trend now appears to be reversing itself. Boroughs like Olyphant, Dunmore and Old Forge, that did not let their shopping districts get chopped up, appear to be enjoying a new business surge. The City of Carbondale, under the leadership of Mayor Justin Taylor, is looking to revitalize its downtown and cities like Scranton and Wilkes-Barre are coming back.

It is unfortunate that the community leaders in Forest City, business and political, did not have the faith or the foresight to believe that what goes around comes around. But then, this is also a community that turned its back on industrial growth a few years back and is now spending megabucks trying to lure tenants into its new industrial park.

For the sake of its residents, because some of the finest people in the world live in Forest City, Pennsylvania, I hope the efforts of Greater Forest City Industries pays off in big dividends. And I especially hope that in their efforts to show some results, GFCI leaders do not grasp at straws and allow the industrial park to be occupied by anyone other than a bonafide industry with more than a half dozen mediocre jobs to hand out.

And in Clifford?

I have been covering Clifford Township for a number of years and I never cease to be amazed by the attendance at the Board of Supervisors’ monthly meetings. I guess for the most part it can be said that it is the same people who attend but so what? These people show a genuine interest in their community and are regular attendees at the meetings, unlike those in many towns who only attend municipal meetings when they have a gripe.

Clifford is one of the fastest growing communities in Susquehanna County and usually where there is growth there are tax increases. Not so in Clifford. Oh, the school taxes are always going up but that seems to be happening in school districts across the Commonwealth. But for a municipal tax rate to be 1.25 mills as it is in Clifford is unheard of in this day and age. Hell, some towns have more than that earmarked just for debt service.

I recently received a copy of the current edition of the Clifford Township News. It is a newsletter published periodically by the Clifford Township Community Alliance, a group of volunteers who do so much good for the township. It is very informative, well written and most certainly a credit to the township and to the Alliance.

There’s not much to dislike about Clifford Township. Its governing body is conservative yet progressive. The residents support the community in many ways, mostly through volunteer work. And the fire department can be ranked as one of the best equipped and best trained volunteer units in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

If there is one drawback against living in Clifford Township, it would have to be the school taxes. Unfortunately, a lot of the costs in running a school district today are the result of unfunded state mandates that take large chunks from most school budgets. The growth in the regional school district has also been humongous resulting in new construction that isn’t cheap, additional teachers, and an assortment of costs that accompany increases in student enrollments.

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From the Desk of the D.A.

There are times when finding a topic for this article can be difficult. In reviewing some of my old textbooks for ideas, I came across the case of The Queen v. Dudley & Stevens, an old English case from 1884. The premise of the case is justification as a defense to criminal conduct. The facts are gruesome, but are necessary to understand the ultimate legal conclusion in the case, namely one must be responsible for his or her acts even where horrible temptations caused the criminal conduct.

How does this relate to crimes in 2004? Well, there are very few offenders who do not have a various excuses for their conduct ñ very few of which come close to resembling the circumstances presented to Dudley and Stevens. As a society, it seems that we want to find justifications for conduct, reasons for actions, and, as a result, excuses for offenders. Rarely do such excuses provide a legal justification for criminal conduct. In 1884, an English court reviewed a gruesome case and determined that even survival did not provide sufficient justification to kill another human being.

In 1884, three English seamen, Dudley, Stephens and Brooks, were on an English yacht that sank, leaving the seamen adrift at sea in a small boat without food or water. There was also a teenage boy with the crew. For days, the small crew had nothing to eat or drink, except rain water and a small sea turtle that was caught and consumed. By the eighteenth day, the seamen began to have a discussion that someone should be sacrificed in order that the others could survive, and Dudley and Stephens suggested that it should be the small teenage boy. Brooks refused to go along with Dudley and Stevens. On the next day, Dudley proposed to Stephens and Brooks that lots should be cast to determine who should be put to death to save the rest, but Brooks again refused to participate. Dudley and Stephens then decided that the boy, having no family, should be sacrificed, and decided that if no vessel appeared on the next day, the boy would be killed. On the next day, no vessel having appeared, the boy was killed by Dudley and Stephens, and the remaining seamen fed upon the body of the teenage boy for sustenance. During all of these conversations, the boy himself was never consulted or given a say in the matter. As fate would have it, the remaining seamen were rescued, and immediately arrested for the murder of the teenage boy. Dudley and Stephens asserted the defense of justification ñ that they would have died but for the decision to kill the teenage boy, and that, given the boy’s condition, he was likely to have died before the grown men in any event.

In response to this defense, a unanimous Queen’s Bench opined as follows:

“Now it is admitted that the deliberate killing of this unoffending and unresisting boy was clearly murder, unless the killing can be justified by what has been called ‘necessity.’ But the temptation to the act which existed here was not what the law has ever called necessity. Nor is this to be regretted. Though law and morality are not the same, and many things may be immoral which are not necessarily illegal, yet the absolute divorce of the law from morality would be of fatal consequences; and such divorce would follow if the temptation to murder in this case were to be held by law an absolute defense to it. It is not so. . . . It is not needful to point out the awful danger of admitted the principle which has been contended for. Who is to be the judge of this sort of necessity? Is it to be strength, or intellect, or what? It is plain that the principle leaves to him who is to profit by it to determine the necessity which will justify him in deliberately taking another’s life to save his own.”

“It must not be supposed that in refusing to admit temptation to be an excuse for crime it is forgotten how terrible the temptation was; how awful the suffering; how hard in such trials to keep the judgment straight and the conduct pure. We are often compelled to set up standards we cannot reach ourselves, and to law down rules which we could not ourselves satisfy. But a man has no right to declare temptation to be an excuse, though he might himself have yielded to it, nor allow compassion for the criminal to change or weaken in any manner the legal definition of the crime. It is therefore our duty to declare that the prisoners’ act in this case was willful murder.”

Please submit any questions, concerns, or comments to Susquehanna County District Attorney’s Office, P.O. Box 218, Montrose, Pennsylvania 18801.

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Earth Talk

Dear EarthTalk: Why is bottled water so ubiquitous in stores now? Isn't tap water safe enough to drink?

Matthew Lieberman, Wellesley, MA

Today just about all Americans have access to clean, safe and healthy tap water. Indeed, in many cases tap water may be safer to drink than some bottled water brands, which may not be subject to testing and might originate from sources near industrial facilities, despite the beautiful nature scenes found on many bottled water labels. Furthermore, about 40 percent of bottled water starts out as--you guessed it--tap water.

Early in 2004 there was public outrage in Britain when it was discovered that Coca Cola’s Dasani brand, marketed as “pure, still water” and sold for 95 pence ($1.74) for a half liter, was simply tap water from a public water supply southeast of London. To make matters worse, shortly thereafter the beverage giant had to hastily withdraw 500,000 bottles when it was learned they contained nearly twice the legal amounts of a chemical, added by Coke during treatment, that can cause cancers if consumed in large amounts.

Despite the facts, bottled water enjoys a “cool” factor that tap water can never match. A 2001 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) study confirmed that consumers widely associate bottled water with social status and healthy living. But in test after test, most people can't tell the difference between bottled water and tap water. When “Good Morning America” conducted a blind taste test with its studio audience, New York City tap water was chosen as the heavy favorite over Poland Spring, Evian, and the oxygenated water 02.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the quality of public water supplies, but it has no authority over bottled water. Bottled water that crosses state lines is considered a food product and is overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to the influential International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), “By law, the FDA Standard of Quality for bottled water must be as stringent as the EPA’s standards for public drinking water.”

The IBWA goes on to urge consumers to trust bottled water in part because the FDA requires water sources to be “inspected, sampled, analyzed and approved.” However, experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) argue that the FDA provides no specific restrictions--such as proximity to industrial facilities, underground storage tanks or dumps--on bottled water sources.

Meanwhile, if a brand of bottled water is wholly packaged and sold within the same state, it is not regulated by the FDA and is subject only to state standards, which can vary widely. The organization Co-op America reports that 43 states have just one full-time or part-time staff member dedicated to bottled water regulation.

Bottled water starts to look good when flooding, pollution or terrorism might compromise public water supplies. Watchdog groups, however, advocate addressing such threats by increasing protection of public water sources. But as it stands today, water from the tap might be the healthiest thing you consume all day!

CONTACTS: International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), www.bottledwater.org; FDA Article: “Bottled Water: Better Than the Tap?” www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2002/402_h2o.html; NRDC’s “Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype?” report, www.nrdc.org/water/drinking/bw/bwinx.asp.

Dear EarthTalk: What are the environmental and health effects of the use of depleted uranium, such as that used in weapons in the Iraq War?

Ziad, Kuwait (via e-mail)

Developed in the 1970s by the U.S. military, weapons containing depleted uranium (DU) were originally used during the first Gulf War, and have played a key role more recently in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia. DU--a radioactive and toxic waste product recycled from nuclear energy facilities--is utilized primarily in artillery shells. Its density and combustibility make it ideal for cutting through and blowing up armored vehicles. Meanwhile, DU sheeting makes many American tanks impenetrable to enemy fire.

But despite its utility in military applications, DU weaponry poses serious environmental and health threats. Tens of thousands of American veterans of the first Gulf War, not to mention even larger numbers of Iraqi soldiers and civilians, blame exposure to DU for a wide range of ailments collectively known as Gulf War Syndrome. Symptoms include chronic fatigue, nervous system disorders and depression.

Meanwhile, DU is an extremely toxic heavy metal in its own right beyond its radioactive properties, with exposure linked to numerous health problems including neurological abnormalities, kidney problems, rashes, vision impairment or loss, various forms of cancer, sexual dysfunction and birth defects.

According to a U.S. Army report, when a DU projectile explodes, tiny particles of uranium are inhaled by anybody in the surrounding area--be they survivors of the blast, rescue workers or bystanders who happen along days or weeks later. Four out of five allied soldiers in the first Gulf War climbed in or on top of destroyed Iraqi vehicles; many of which were exposed to DU dust. “They were blowing locations up and we were driving through bodies and blown -up tanks. You were breathing all the smoke and the dust off the sand,” reports Mike Kirkby, a British Gulf War veteran who today suffers from Gulf War Syndrome.

Meanwhile, DU weapons that miss their targets, as the majority of fired munitions do, corrode in the ground, slowly discharging toxic heavy metals into the surrounding environment. The resulting contamination of air, land and water causes thousands of additional cases of health problems for civilians already dealing with the destruction of their homelands.

A network of non-profit advocacy groups--including the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, the Military Toxics Project and the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium--is pushing for an international ban on military applications of DU, despite resistance from the U.S., which still manufacturers and supplies the weaponry to U.S. forces as well as to foreign militaries.

CONTACTS: International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, www.bandepleteduranium.org ; Military Toxics Project, www.miltoxproj.org ; Campaign Against Depleted Uranium, www.cadu.org.uk.

GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; or submit your question at: www.emagazine.com, or e-mail us at: earthtalk@emagazine.com.

Dear EarthTalk: What are the environmental benefits of an all-steel home? What other kinds of “green” homes are on the market today?

D. Hudson, Park City, UT

In the past, ecologically sound new homes have been costlier to build and maintain than their traditional counterparts, but recent innovations in green design coupled with smart materials sourcing have allowed builders to create not only efficient but also affordable green homes. Many of these homes are on the cutting edge of building design, making use of steel framing, modular and panelized construction techniques, and energy efficient insulation.

While the criteria for what is considered a “green” building are not set in stone, most such structures offer good indoor air quality, reduced energy use, and resource conservation via the use of recycled, reused or sustainably-harvested virgin materials. Furthermore, green buildings are often sited to minimize water use and run-off while taking full advantage of the sun for solar heating and/or shade for natural cooling. The initial costs of a “green” home might be more than for a traditional house, but the buyer’s return on investment comes in the form of energy and maintenance cost savings over a lifetime.

While a wide range of construction materials passes the test as environmentally friendly, steel is king in the new generation of affordable green buildings. Besides its strength and resistance to weather and fire, steel is ultimately recyclable; two-thirds of all the steel in use in the U.S. today comes from recycled stock. Additionally, by framing houses with steel instead of wood, green builders save millions of trees every year.

Beyond steel, other materials, such as adobe, straw bales or “rammed earth,” can make for some of the most energy-efficient and affordable structural elements. Each provides excellent insulation, and can save on both materials and transportation costs if available and procured locally. Some designs include walls made by “stressed skin foam” panels, rigid foam that is sandwiched between oriented strand boards. More scaled down green homes might use recycled newspaper for insulation in otherwise traditional walls. Also, salvaging materials--such as old windowsills, floorboards or light fixtures--from existing or teardown structures epitomizes the green motto of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” while saving money.

Those inspired to build a green home on a limited budget today have a wealth of information at their disposal, notably a plethora of websites devoted to green building practices, techniques and materials that offer free information on-line. Also, Building Innovation for Homeownership, a publication of the federally funded Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing, profiles 63 award-winning low-cost housing developments that incorporate materials and techniques on the cutting edge of green building. Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers free access to its on-line “Energy Star” database of “green” builders. The EPA site also includes a database of both lenders and utilities that offer special incentives to buyers and builders of energy-efficient homes.

CONTACTS: Greenerbuilding.org, www.greenerbuilding.org ; EPA Energy Star New Homes Partner Locator, www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=new_homes_partners.showHomesSearch ; Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing, www.pathnet.org ; Green Building Resource Guide, www.greenguide.com; Green Builder, www.greenbuilder.com.

Dear EarthTalk: Why do many people think Nevada’s Yucca Mountain is an unsafe place to store nuclear waste?

Vinka Lasic, Cleveland, OH

Since the 1980s, the U.S. Department of Energy has been pushing to open Nevada’s Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste storage facility. In 2002, George W. Bush signed into law a plan to make the site the central repository for the spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste that is presently being held in separate locations throughout 43 U.S. states. Yucca Mountain is 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, and many environmentalists, area residents and local and state officials believe it is dangerously unsuitable for nuclear waste storage.

According to Judy Treichel, executive director of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, “There are numerous reasons to slow this thing down.” For one, independent and state-sponsored scientists have determined that Yucca Mountain is geologically active and is located near other active volcanoes. And, according to the Las Vegas- and Reno-based organization, Citizen Alert, the proposed site lies on 32 known fault lines and has a history of rising groundwater. If the facility were to get flooded, therefore, the groundwater could be contaminated with hazardous materials.

John Hadder, Citizen Alert’s northern Nevada coordinator, is concerned about dangers of transporting the nation’s nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain from so many distant locations where it now sits. The waste would arrive by truck, and six to seven shipments of the hazardous material would be made daily for the next 30 years. Such a transportation system has inherent dangers, such as spills due to accidents and the possibility of terrorist attacks, according to the National Safety Council. Citizen Alert also worries that the communities through which the vehicles pass would suffer economically if the plan goes through.

Most Nevadans, including area Native American communities, are dead set against their state becoming the nation’s nuclear waste repository. When George W. Bush became president in 2000, he said he would base his decision on whether or not to allow nuclear waste storage at the site based on “sound science.” Two years later, despite recommendations to the contrary from federal scientists and the General Accounting Office, and after heavy lobbying by the nuclear power industry, Bush approved the plan, much to the dismay of Nevada’s Congressional delegation.

Currently a handful of lawsuits challenging the plan are underway, and Nevadans are scrambling to propose alternative scenarios for handling nuclear waste. Meanwhile, Yucca Mountain could start accepting nuclear waste from across the country as soon as 2010.

CONTACTS: Citizen Alert, (702) 796-5662, www.citizenalert.org; Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, www.nvantinuclear.org; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Yucca Mountain Information, www.epa.gov/radiation/yucca; National Safety Council, (630) 285-1121, www.nsc.org.

GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; or submit your question at: www.emagazine.com, or e-mail us at: earthtalk@emagazine.com.

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