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March 1-7, 2006

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News Briefs

By Patricia Lynn Henley


Suing Over Sewage

Napa County is one for one on the sludge front as the county's district attorney is suing Oregon Steel Mills, former owners of the now-closed 152-acre Napa Pipe complex. The district attorney alleges that several times over the years the plant released waste known as "red sludge" into storm drains and an unnamed stream leading into Bedford Slough. The Napa River is adjacent to the Napa Pipe site, but is not listed in the county's lawsuit, which seeks damages of more than $150,000. However, Napa County has wastewater woes of its own; it's being sued by the California attorney general for allegedly allowing numerous spills or releases of raw sewage into Lake Berryessa and its tributaries over the past 10 years. Lake Berryessa provides drinking water for the cities of Fairfield, Vallejo, Suisun City and Vacaville.

Terrorism Lite

Citizens should sleep more soundly knowing journalists are prepared for the worst through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' publication Terrorism and Other Public Health Emergencies: A Reference Guide for Media (also available online at www.hhs.gov/emergency). This oversized softcover book is filled with large graphics in strong, primary colors, giving it an overwhelming resemblance to an ultramodern elementary school textbook. Obviously, the feds feel the media's attention span rivals that of a third-grader—a valid assumption. Among the topics in the cheerful, rainbow-hued table of contents are "biological agents," "chemical agents," "radiation emergencies," "terrorism and the food supply," "self-care for media" and much more. The anthrax chapter includes line drawings of the human body, showing exactly how this bacteria invades and destroys internal organs. That should be useful. And since a few wimpy journalists might not carry this upbeat but heavy publication with them on a daily basis, there's a handy-dandy laminated business-card-sized wallet guide, which unfolds into a 9-by-20-inch paper worksheet where media types can record local contact information, create a personal emergency plan and peruse a "Responding to Specific Agents" chart that provides sound-bite-sized details about viral hemorrhagic fevers, dirty bombs and other delights. Aren't you feeling better already, knowing your tax dollars have provided news hounds nationwide with these colorful reference guides? Who cares about port ownership when we're protected by an informed media armed with brightly hued emergency manuals?


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