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May 14th

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Issue Home May 9, 2006 Site Home

100 Years Ago
Along the Way...With P. Jay

From the Desk of the D.A.
The Healthy Geezer
Straight From Starrucca
The Family Doctor
Software Services

100 Years Ago

LAWTON: The graded school question in this town is one to be seriously considered by the voters and tax payers. A graded school would be an improvement but the outlying districts should not be deprived of a means of educating the smaller children, which can be done at less expense and hardship for the little ones in their own districts.

FOREST CITY: The first baseball game of the season to be reported here was played between the Polish Stars and the Stumpjumpers, on the Association grounds, Monday. The former won by a score of 5-4. The battery for the Stars was E.O. Evans and J. Mangan; for the Jumpers, Miscall and W. Hert.

SPRINGVILLE: Mark Scott had the misfortune to have two cows killed and another badly injured on Monday by the [railroad] cars. AND: A carload of butter while being run off the siding here on Tuesday was overturned and rolled down the steep embankment. It was necessary to bring the wrecking derrick from Sayre the following morning to get the car back on the track.

HARFORD: The monthly temperance service will be held on Sunday evening at the Congregational church at 7:30. An address will be delivered by the Rev. L. R. Burrows, Presbyterian, of New Milford, and it is expected that a good program will be gone through.

JONES LAKE (Lake Montrose): W. A. Lathrop has a force of men engaged in converting the old shop, known as the E. T. Purdy wagon shop, into a dwelling house. Charles Berg and wife will occupy the house when completed.

GIBSON: There being two Ladies’ Aid Societies in this place, correspondents should designate which, what and where. People who attend both would not be so badly mixed.

FRANKLIN: Dr. Caterson is going to have an automobile this summer. That is right, save the horses.

ELK LAKE: C.W. Broadhead, of Montrose, was through here last Wednesday, dressing horses’ teeth.

GREAT BEND: The Harmony creek bridge near Great Bend, which was carried out this spring, has been replaced higher than before on the stone piers. This raging little torrent is one of the most destructive in the county, having carried the bridge out twice in the past two years. It is hoped that the increased elevation of the superstructure will prevent the ice and water from repeating the disaster.

DIMOCK: L. F. Thornton, perhaps the largest buyer of furs in this region, was in Montrose on Wednesday. He tells us that he has bought over $15,000 worth of furs the past season. The open winter has been an unusually good one for his business.

JACKSON: At his late home, Saturday afternoon, occurred the death of Harvey Lamb, for many years a well-known and popular Erie conductor. Deceased, while in the employ of the Erie company, resided in Port Jervis, but about a year ago he returned to his native town, Jackson, spending the last months upon the old homestead, the Chauncey Lamb farm. He is survived by a wife, one sister and one brother, Ransom Lamb, of New Jersey.

MONTROSE: Dogs are all the subject to palpitation of the heart these days for they know the dog catcher is camped on their trail. From now until the first of October the life of the unmuzzled dog will be anything but pleasant. (Probably some lover of the canine will say, “the life of the muzzled one too,” and still be right, for the dog likes not a headgear of leather straps and telegraph wire.) But reasonable people will see the necessity of protecting our calves, not to speak of the lambs, from the bites of too affectionate mongrels, and the warning is already being generally observed. The dog tax is also to be rigidly enforced this season, as it was two years ago. A dog untaxed is in as much danger of being impounded as is that dog whose owner does not keep him up to the fashion with regard to the muzzle. Save trouble by paying the tax and providing the muzzle if it has not already been done.

JERSEY HILL, Auburn Twp.: The H. C. Titman Post, G.A.R., of Auburn Corners and Auburn Center Lodge No. 905, I.O.O.F., will hold Memorial services at Jersey Hill, exercises to commence at 10 A.M. Veterans of the Civil War and neighboring lodges are invited. Bring your lunch baskets and enjoy the day.

THOMPSON: Frank Hall Post, No. 503, G.A.R., has made full arrangements for the observance of Memorial Day. The Thompson quartette and the Thompson orchestra will furnish music. AND: The Bordens (Company) are building their road from Main street to their plant, along side the Erie depot property.

SILVER LAKE: Oscar W. Caswell intends to leave here for Los Angeles, Cal., soon. His father and sister, Mrs. M. Heller, are there, and have sent for him. Mr. Caswell has a fine watch dog to give away where a good home will be provided. He is a little inclined to be cross to children, but is all right if left alone.

HALLSTEAD: Mr. Martin J. Shannon, who has been visiting his mother, has returned to his home at Krebs, Indian Territory.

SUSQUEHANNA: James Paye, who had an auction, reports a large sale of horses, harness, wagons, farm implements, etc. However, he is replenishing his stock with new goods and the assortment remains large and complete.

NEWS BRIEFS: The “Philistine Convention” will occur at East Aurora, NY, July 1-9, 1906. Addresses to be given by brainy men who “think, feel, and try to tell the truth.” AND: The postoffice department has decided that children going to and from school shall not be allowed to get their parents mail, so do not blame the postmaster if your children are refused the mail.

FOR BACK ISSUES of 100 Years go to our website Be sure to use the index feature.


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Along the Way...With P. Jay

School Days, School Days, Dear Old Golden...

The Blue Ridge School Regional District and tax collectors in three of the participating communities that send their children to school there are getting ready to duke it out in a court of law.

While the plaintiffs in the case, Vicki L. Drake, tax collector for New Milford Borough; Margo B. Merritt, tax collector for Great Bend Township; and, Miriam J. Page, tax collector for Jackson Township, are digging into their own pockets to pay the legal fees, the school board will more than likely be dipping into the district’s coffers for the money to defend its action.

The heart of the suit – or is it the heartless – is the Board of Education’s attempt to slice the salaries of the tax collectors by 80 percent. If the board’s action is upheld, the six tax collectors in the school district will be working for 60 cents a tax bill beginning this year, compared with the three dollars a tax bill they were paid in previous years for school real estate taxes and the $2.75 per tax bill they were paid for occupation per capita tax.

Michael Giangrieco, attorney for the tax collectors, is confident that the school board’s action will be set aside. He told me there is no statute in Pennsylvania that allows school districts to collect their own taxes which, he said, the Blue Ridge Board of Education wants to do. (And it does appear obvious that is the intent of the board.)

Giangrieco also contends that reducing the compensation of the tax collectors by 80 percent is unreasonable and capricious. In short, the suit alleges that the board of education had a sudden change of mind or action without adequate motive.

In all probability, the case will not be heard by Susquehanna County President Judge Kenneth W. Seamans. Judge Seamans resides in the Blue Ridge Regional School District and any decision he makes could result in the losing side alleging prejudice.

In looking at copies of letters that were exchanged by the tax collectors and the Board of Education, there is a much more significant point to be decided.

In a letter handed to the Board of Education at a board meeting and dated October 25, 2005, the tax collectors asked for a pay increase effective in 2006. “In order to make an informed decision about whether or not to run again, it is necessary to find out what the pay for next term will be.” That having been written, the collectors then asked for an additional 25 cents per tax bill in the real estate tax and 25 cents per tax bill in the school occupation per capita tax.

In its answer, the letter writer said: “In response to your compensation request of October 25, 2004, for the 2006-2009 term, please be advised that the agenda for the February 14, 2005 meeting contains a recommendation setting the elected tax collectors compensation for the 2006-2009 tern at 60 cents per bill handled.”

My friends, I have seen a lot of letters that were written by municipal agencies and school boards. Never have I seen a document so poorly assembled as the response letter to the tax collectors. For openers. it was not written on official school stationary, just plain paper. Secondly, it was dated simply “February, 2005.” And finally, it was not signed. It could have been written by a third grader. Nah, I think even a third grade student would have enough smarts to sign the letter. In either event, it was very, very unprofessional. Then, too, if the letter from the tax collectors has the correct date, it was written October 25, 2005, and the school board’s answer was written in February 2005, the dates just don’t jive.

There is a tax collection law that states the compensation for tax collectors must be set by February 15 of the year when the office is up for election, therefore the deadline would have been February 15, 2005 for any change to take effect January 1, 2006. And, if the tax collectors made their inquiry regarding the pay schedule on October 25, 2004 and the board did not act on it until the day before the February 15 deadline, it demonstrates poor judgment on the part of the school board because it did not allow any time for negotiating an agreement before the deadline.

My friends, have you noticed that around these parts, candidates for school boards are full of enthusiasm and ideas when they are campaigning. When they get elected, they fall into the same rut as the directors they replace on the board. They distance themselves from their constituents and all the fanfare and promises are gone. I cannot remember the last time I heard a school director in Northeastern Pennsylvania present an original idea at an open board of education meeting.

In Forest City, for example, I do not know when decisions are made on motions. I have been to school board work sessions and regular meetings, and there is very seldom any question or comment made by the board members on motions that appear on the agenda. The board president calls on a director who reads the motion as it appears on the agenda. Someone else offers a second and there is a vote that is almost always unanimous. So when do the board members discuss these motions? If they do it behind closed doors, much of the board’s actions could be challenged for violating the state Sunshine Act.

It would be nice if taxpayers in Northeastern Pennsylvania paid a bit more attention to what is going on in their municipalities and in their schools. Perhaps it would give them an insight as to which candidates deserve to hold office and which ones should be voted out of office. Who knows, maybe candidates would be elected for what they know and not who they know.


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From the Desk of the D.A.

A few months ago I received an interesting article from a reader questioning the financial cost associated with criminal trials. In particular, the article involved the capital murder trial of Dustin Briggs in Bradford County with the estimated cost to Bradford County taxpayers of $435,000 – and this amount will increase pending the unending appeals that follow every death penalty case. In that case, the two county judges both recused themselves because of their close personal connections to the two victims – both of whom were Bradford County Deputy Sheriffs. A judge from outside the area was appointed to hear the case and make decisions on request for funding from the defense team.

Because Briggs was indigent and could not afford to pay for his own defense, the burden fell upon Bradford County to provide legal representation and a defense. What was necessary for the defense depended upon the determination of the judge assigned to the case – a person with no connections to Bradford County. For instance, the judge approved expenses connected with a single expert witness for Briggs’ defense totaling $142,500! The costs will continue to mount as the appeals continue and, in the worst case scenario, there is always the possibility of a successful appeal and the need to do it all over again. If this were to occur, then the costs would continue to escalate with the local judges, commissioners, district attorney and taxpayers all having no control whatsoever.

The reader was upset that a judge with no ties to the community could authorize the spending of large sums of money without any recourse, i.e., the judge would not be concerned about being voted out of office as he had no ties to the community. To complicate the matter, the prosecutor was a representative from the Attorney General’s Office without local ties, and the defense attorneys were also from outside Bradford County. So how does a county protect itself from such a potentially large financial bill for a criminal trial?

The simple answer is that there is no way. The Constitution requires that a defendant be provided with legal counsel if he/she cannot afford to hire his own attorney – and the courts have interpreted this to mean that a defendant is entitled to effective and competent legal representation. In death penalty cases, there are very specific rules to determine whether a defense attorney is qualified to represent a defendant – and these rules generally require that the attorney must have been involved in other capital cases. In rural counties, this provides an insurmountable problem as there are (thankfully) very few death penalty cases, and, as a result, none of the local counsel have the required expertise to be deemed appropriate counsel. In short, a death penalty case will normally require that defense attorneys from a larger jurisdiction be hired to represent the indigent defendant – and these defense attorneys, because of their experience, require substantially more compensation than normally allowed for court appointed counsel. If the judge does not select competent and effective counsel, then the conviction will be overturned on appeal – which results in additional costs to the taxpayers.

Furthermore, in order to provide a defendant with due process, the court must also provide the defense attorneys with funds to pursue and prepare a defense – which often includes funds for expert witnesses. In a death penalty case, the expert witnesses may be numerous and expensive. If the trial judge fails to provide an expert witness that the appellate courts deemed necessary, then the conviction will be reversed and a new trial ordered. In any death penalty case, the cost to the county will be substantial. If the trial judge fails to provide necessary funds to the defense, then the county will be faced with a second trial – with the same expenses plus the additional ones deemed necessary by the appellate courts.

A trial judge has a constitutional obligation to provide the defendant with effective and competent legal representation, the necessary funds to prepare an adequate defense, and ultimately a fair trial. In making these determinations, the costs to the taxpayers is not relevant – the court must only ensure that the defendant receives due process. This is not to say that the trial judge does not consider the ultimate costs to the taxpayers – but it is a difficult constitutional line to walk.

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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The Healthy Geezer

Q. My wife can ride in the car and read a book. It makes me jealous because I’d be sick to my stomach if I did that. How can she do that without feeling queasy?

Little is known about individual susceptibility to motion sickness. Your wife caught a biological break. You didn’t.

Many people – including me – suffer nausea when traveling by boat, car or airplane. It also happens on rides in amusement parks and playgrounds. The symptoms of motion sickness are caused by conflicting messages arriving at the central nervous system.

Different parts of your body let your brain know where you are and what you’re doing. The inner ears lets you know if you’re turning, or moving forward-backward, side-to-side, and up-and-down. The eyes also monitor the directions of motion and where the body is in space, such as upside down. Skin pressure receptors tell you what part of the body is touching the ground. The muscle and joint sensory receptors tell what parts of the body are moving.

If all the signals tell the same story, there are no problems. However, suppose you’re below deck in a heaving sea. Your body is getting information that the boat is moving violently. But your eyes see the unmoving walls of your cabin. If you are susceptible to motion sickness, this below-deck scenario is almost guaranteed to make you look for a porthole to get rid of your last meal.

How about the example of reading in the car? Well, your body is picking up all kinds of cues that you’re in motion, but your eyes see only the unmoving pages of your book.

Here are some tips to avoid motion sickness:

Always ride where your eyes will see the same motion that your body senses. For example, sit in the front seat of the car and look out the windshield to distant scenery; don’t stare at the rapidly passing telephone poles outside the passenger window. I prefer driving so I am forced to look straight ahead.

If you’re on a boat, go up on deck and watch the horizon. Request a cabin in the forward or middle of the ship, or on the upper deck.

On an airplane, sit by the window and look outside. Also, choose a seat over the wings where there is the least motion. Direct the air vent at your face.

On a train, take a seat near the front and next to a window. Face forward.

Minimize head movement.

Avoid strong odors and spicy or greasy foods immediately before and during your travel. Don’t overeat.

Don't smoke or sit near smokers.

Before your travel begins, take motion sickness medicine recommended by your physician. There are over-the-counter drugs. There is also prescription medicine in an adhesive patch or in oral form.

There are other treatments for motion sickness that may benefit some people, but they have not been proven to be consistently effective. High levels of ginger have helped some. There’s an acupuncture point of the wrist that provides relief of nausea during pregnancy and after chemotherapy, but there is contradictory evidence about its effectivness in treating motion sickness.

If you have a question, please write to


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Straight From Starrucca

The Bag Ladies should be proud of themselves. In the fall when they start over again they set their goal at one hundred sleeping bags. Wednesday Mr. Wheatly picked up fifty-five bags to be distributed in Brooklyn, NY and forty-five bags were picked up previously, so these compassionate women reached their goal and will go over it in the next couple weeks by adding four or five more bags.

Dennis and Florence Downton arrived at their home last Friday as scheduled.

The community hall was a happy scene last Sunday when a birthday party was held to celebrate two children whose birthdays were close together. They were Taylor and Courtney Bennett, and Andy and Jennifer Bennett are their parents.

Wednesday, May 10 the senior citizens will gather for their twice-monthly meeting. We will be privileged to hear a man from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office whose topic will be “Senior Self Protection.”

Ruth Mroczka will be exhibiting eight quilts at the Pleasant Mount Community Center, Saturday, May 20.

This event, called “A Pleasant Mountain of Quilts” is co-sponsored by the Pleasant Mount Library and the Community Center. There will be quilt demonstrations, quilt vendors, quilt appraisals, fat quarter raffles, a bake sale and refreshments.

My son, Nelson was buried May 5 in the Jordanville, NY Cemetery, which is only a short distance from his home. Thank you to all who came to the memorial service for him a week ago Saturday.



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The Family Doctor

What should I do if I am too sick to take my medication? ( J.B., Susquehanna)

This struck me as a particularly important question, given that so many people are on very important medications that must not be skipped. It also raises the broader question of what to do when one “can’t keep anything down,” a condition that we all know can lead to dehydration very quickly.

The first thing to know, of course, is which medications are essential, which can be skipped for a day or so, and which can be delayed for a couple of hours. This is important information for you to have and should be made available for you by your doctor or pharmacist. You should know this for any and all medications you take, but you should also know of potential interactions and side effects that develop when certain things are combined, so if you take more than three types of medication a day, be sure to bring a list with you to your next doctor’s appointment. Ask your doctor which are essential and which can be held. Be sure to let your doctor know of any over-the-counter medications you use regularly, as well as any supplements and other products.

If you frequently suffer stomach and intestinal problems, or severe and frequent nausea from other medical conditions, your doctor may give you something to settle your stomach during those times so you can take your medications. Yes, indeed, a medicine to help you take your other medicines. You might also be offered a different form of the medicine, such as a patch, suppository or sub-lingual (under the tongue) product that does not have to be swallowed at all.

The broader question, “What do I do when I can’t keep anything down?” has an even simpler answer: don’t take anything down! Yes, it is possible to get dehydrated quickly, but the best advice for vomiting is to avoid taking anything in for an hour, to let your stomach reflexes and irritability settle down, and then try small amounts of simple fluids like water or tea or flat ginger ale. If the vomiting recurs, wait another hour and try again. If it doesn’t, then slowly and carefully advance the amount and frequency of fluids. If the vomiting lasts more than three hours, see your doctor or the emergency room.

If you have been unable to take you medications because of vomiting or nausea, try again in an hour or two when you can keep an ounce or two of fluids down. And if you develop vomiting within an hour of taking your medications, you should repeat the dose that you “lost” because it clearly wasn’t in you long enough to be absorbed. And now, having cleared up the vomiting, we can look at another question:

Are there any food that can be used as medicines? (S.C., Susquehanna)

This is one that makes me ask for suggestions from the community. I love hearing about “grandma’s remedies” and things that were done at home before the big pharmaceutical giants made us think that only things that come in a pill, shot, or patch could possibly help us. I know that as far back as 2000 BC, the ancient Egyptians were using honey as an antibiotic. It is still a very effective thing to put on sores and open wounds to promote healing, and it is indeed an effective antibacterial. I know, also, that people are always advised to eat yogurt when they have yeast infections, and while there may not be a lot of strong scientific evidence to support this, it stands to reason that replacing bacteria can help restore the balance that was thrown off by antibiotics, which led to the yeast infection in the first place. People have advocated ginger for nausea, cranberries for urinary infections, licorice to quit smoking, and warm milk to help sleep.

I remember when I was a kid my grandmother would always give me tea after being sick, which may well have been effective but to this day conjures up bad memories when I see a tea bag. There is also a two-inch thick book on my shelf titled “Prescription for Nutritional Healing” by James and Phyllis Balch (Avery publishing, 1997) that provides exhaustive recommendations and suggestions for nutritional approaches that can be tried for everything from age spots to yeast, but most of the recommendations are for specific amino acids or vitamins. Which raises an interesting point: if the active ingredient in specific foods for specific problems can be isolated, purified, and made into a pill, how does that differ from a medicine? Aspirin, after all, is a highly purified extract from willow tree bark, which was chewed in its pure form for many years as a headache remedy. Foods may be more “natural” sources of the active ingredients you’re looking for to treat a condition, but they may be hard to find, unpalatable, inconsistent in quality or content, and prone to interact with other medications or chemicals. There are not many conditions or problems for which I would recommend foods instead of medicine, simply because the development of medicine and pharmacology as a science (NOT as a business) has clarified the needs for treating specific things with other specific things, and can allow us to focus on exactly what is needed and the exact amounts. Food as medicine is interesting folklore, and may be helpful in a few areas, but when you’re sick, please call your doctor, not your grocer.

As always, if there is something you want to learn more about or have explained in general terms, write to me at “Ask the Family Doctor” c/o Susquehanna County Transcript, 212-216 Exchange Street, Susquehanna, PA 18847. You can also e-mail me at To schedule an appointment, call my office in the Barnes-Kasson Health Center, Hallstead Office, 879-5249.


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Software Services

Cheap PCs are Great! Really?

Complete Desktop System for only $299! You see advertisements like this all the time. Do you ever wonder what makes a cheap PC cheap? No, it’s not that it’s all made in China, although many companies do use foreign parts or services. Where the parts are made is not as much of an issue as are the quality of those parts, which parts were chosen, how they were assembled, the sales method for selling the PC, and who supports it after you buy it. Let’s discuss each issue.

1. Quality of Parts: The quality of the parts is reflected in the price. Using a name brand hard drive will increase the full system price. Why? Name brands have a reputation to uphold. Seagate’s quality standards for hard drives are set high because that’s what they sell – hard drives. On the other hand, using off brand and lower quality parts lowers the system price. For cheap PCs, the quality of the parts is a game of chance. You may get a cheap PC that has a few good parts and runs great… then again you may have problems from day one.

2. Chosen Parts: Value-priced or budget PCs have power supplies that barely cover the needs of the system. Start upgrading the PC or adding on new components, and you’ll find that there’s just not enough power to go around; this causes other parts to have shorter lives. Cheap PC parts typically represent the lowest acceptable level of CPU speed, memory size, storage retrieval time, etc. No problem, you can always upgrade later, right? Some vendors design cheap PCs in such a way that only their components will work with their systems. While the initial purchase of the PC is lower, upgrade components are costly.

3. PC Assembly: In order to lower costs, cheap PCs are package deals. You must purchase one of the two or three packages that are offered. Choices add to the cost of the PC. This allows the PCs to be built on an assembly line, thousands at a time. They are built, packaged, and shipped out. Only one PC out of many is pulled for a quality control check. Usually with higher end PC every computer is inspected.

4. Sales Channel: Dell uses direct marketing. This greatly reduces the cost for Dell to sell a PC. You order the PC and they ship it from the warehouse to your door. They have no stores, or other headaches of retail sales. Other cheap PCs are only cheap if you send in rebates. HP uses this method. The purchase price is higher but they advertise the “after rebates” price. If you don’t get around to sending in all the rebates, you have a cheap PC that cost you a bundle.

5. Support/Repairs: When something goes wrong with your PC, do you get a live person or an “automated attendant”? Do you even get telephone support or do you have to use email or fill out an on-line form? When you do get a live support representative, is English his or her primary language? Does the support person actually know anything? Dell suffered due to poor quality support. It was a costly mistake for them. But live, US-based, English-as-a-first language support representatives that actually know something and have patience are expensive. This expense drives up the cost of the PC. Keep in mind your time also. If the manufacturer sends someone out to replace the hard drive, they will do that and reload the operating system as it originally came to you. Installing and setting up your programs, adjusting your settings and putting back your data are not included, it’s up to you to take care of that.

Just like a cheap car, a cheap PC has its place. If you just need a PC at home to email, instant message, and play a few games, then a cheap PC might be right for you. If you need to rely on your PC for bringing your work home, running a small business, or keeping track of organizational information, you should consider paying a little more up front to keep from paying more down the road.

Next time, Online Shysters Go Phishing: What is phishing and how to avoid being scammed.

Lori Martin is owner of Martin Works, Inc. (, Susquehanna, PA.


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From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard that it is now safe to throw away common household batteries and that only rechargeable batteries can now be recycled. Is this true?

Doug Reynolds, Martinsville, IN

Today’s common household batteries – those ubiquitous AAs, AAAs, Cs, Ds and 9-volts from Duracell, Energizer and others – are not thought to pose as great a threat to properly-equipped modern landfills as they used to because they contain much less mercury than their predecessors. As such most municipalities now recommend simply throwing such batteries away with your trash.

Nevertheless, environmentally concerned consumers might feel better recycling such batteries anyway, as they still do contain trace amounts of mercury and other potentially toxic stuff. Some municipalities will accept these batteries (as well as older, more toxic ones) at household hazardous waste facilities, from where they will most likely be sent elsewhere to be processed and recycled as components in new batteries.

Other options abound, such as the mail-order service, Battery Solutions, which will recycle your spent batteries at a cost of 85 cents per pound. To find a company near you where you can drop off your old batteries for recycling, check out the comprehensive national database at the website. Meanwhile, the national chain, Batteries Plus, is happy to take back disposable batteries for recycling at any of its 255 retail stores from coast-to-coast.

Consumers should note that any old batteries they may find buried in their closets that were made before 1997 – when Congress mandated a widespread mercury phase-out in batteries of all types – should most surely be recycled and not discarded with the trash, as they may contain as much as 10 times the mercury of newer versions.

Perhaps of greater concern nowadays is what’s happening to spent rechargeable batteries from cell phones, MP3 players and laptops. Such items contain potentially toxic heavy metals sealed up inside, and if thrown out with the regular garbage can jeopardize the environmental integrity of both landfills and incinerator emissions. Luckily, the battery industry sponsors the operations of the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC), which facilitates the collection of used rechargeable batteries collected in an industry-wide "take back" program for recycling.

Consumers can help by limiting their electronics purchases to items that carry the RBRC logo on their packaging. Furthermore, they can find out where to drop off old rechargeable batteries (and even old cell phones) by calling RBRC's hotline at 1-800-8BATTERY or by visiting the online drop location finder at Also, most Radio Shack stores will take back rechargeable batteries and deliver them to RBRC free-of-charge. RBRC then processes the batteries via a thermal recovery technology that reclaims metals such as nickel, iron, cadmium, lead and cobalt, repurposing them for use in new batteries.

CONTACTS: Battery Solutions,; Earth911,; Batteries Plus,; Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC),

Dear EarthTalk: Is it true that logging companies have switched their focus from the Pacific Northwest to the Southeastern United States? And what have been the environmental effects?

David Older, New York, NY

When the logging business began to die down in the Pacific Northwest beginning in the 1980s, timber companies started looking increasingly to the southeastern United States for the wood pulp it would need to satisfy the rapidly expanding global demand for paper. Today, just two decades later, more logging is conducted in the Southeast than anywhere else in the world and Southeast pulpwood is in three quarters of all paper sold in the U.S.

What makes all the logging in the U.S. Southeast so egregious is not so much the sheer amount of wood harvested, but the destruction of biodiversity that the creation of single-species wood plantations in the region has wrought. Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the so-called New World, the Southeast played host to the highest tree species diversity on the continent. But a 2001 study by the U.S. Forest Service found that 40 percent of the region’s formerly diverse native pine forests have been turned into intensively managed single-species pulp plantations designed for maximum yield of wood pulp for making paper.

According to esteemed Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, plantation forests are 90 to 95 percent less biologically diverse than natural forests. One problem with this scenario is susceptibility to pests and disease. For instance, the invasive pine bark beetle has thrived across the Southeast as mixed forests have been clear cut and replaced with its favorite delicacy, pulp-friendly loblolly pine. The logging industry has, in turn, used the beetle infestation as an excuse to "salvage-log" much of the timber in the region, including that which has been unaffected by the beetles. The result has been ongoing problems with erosion on forest lands and watershed damage.

The end product of all this activity, postage stamp-sized wood chips, often ends up exported to Japan and used to make toilet paper, says Allen Hershkovitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "Most consumers don't even think about the fact that toilet paper comes from trees," he adds.

Stemming the tide of biodiversity loss in the region is an uphill battle because 90 percent of the affected forests in the Southeast are on private land. While advocacy groups like NRDC successfully lobbied to limit logging on public lands in the Pacific Northwest, which is partly what drove the industry south, they have had a much more difficult time convincing the more than five million private forestland owners in the Southeast to adopt more environmentally sound practices.

NRDC is working with a coalition of advocacy groups in the region, such as the Dogwood Alliance and ForestEthics, to create public awareness as well as a boycott of tissue made from Southeastern forests. Such boycotts were effective in the past at getting home improvement superstores to limit their procurement of virgin timber from the Pacific Northwest, but it is too early to tell whether such actions can help the ailing forests of the Southeast.

CONTACTS: The Dogwood Alliance,; ForestEthics,; Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC),

GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit it at:, or e-mail: Read past columns at:


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