Lazio in McCain Mode?

Hillary Babble On

No sooner did Rudy Giuliani announce that he would not seek the U.S. Senate seat from New York than Mandy Grunwald, Hillary’s media consultant, was on Larry King Live declaring that the race with Rick Lazio would be all about “stature” — meaning the First Lady vs. the schmuck from Babylon. Not only is this the kind of approach that ignites Hillary-hatred, but it could backfire. Lazio’s top media man is Mike Murphy, the architect of John McCain’s upset win in New Hampshire. Already Lazio is barnstorming the state, and if he starts holding town meetings in the McCain mode, accompanied by the press, he could be off to a great start. If McCain jumps in, Hillary might face real grief. In New Hampshire, Bush — somewhat like Hillary in New York — appeared only in tightly controlled circumstances behind a flying squad of Texas Rangers, taking few questions. Hillary moves in and out of carefully crafted events behind a tight cordon of Secret Service agents.

At least Lazio has a congressional record. Hillary has no experience in public office. Thanks to Lazio’s benefactor Al D’Amato, the Long Island congressman moved up the ladder quickly in Washington, and now sits on the powerful House Commerce Committee. And lest Hillary’s aides try painting Lazio as a Gingrich stooge, it must be remembered that one of Newt’s biggest allies was Bill Clinton, who stood shoulder to shoulder with the Speaker on welfare reform and trade issues.

Beyond this, the apparently squeaky-clean Lazio gives Hillary haters a new lease on life after revelations about Giuliani’s affairs seemed to have neutralized sex scandals as campaign fodder. So the allegations that Hillary had an affair with the late Vince Foster now can be expected to resurface. In addition, suspicions still abound on the right about her involvement with the Rose Law Firm in Arkansas, as well as in the firing of staffers in the White House Travel Office during Clinton’s first term. The latter have been fueled recently by Special Prosecutor Robert Ray’s hiring of new investigators to examine her role in Travelgate.

Nuclear Fears Follow Fire

Remember Los Alamos

On Monday, the feds were still trying to get a handle on the huge, purposely set Cerro Grande wildfire, which burned approximately 8000 acres and nearly overran a plutonium stockpile, endangering the public health in at least four states. Workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory spent the weekend digging pits to contain runoff from the nuclear lab that might be contaminated with radioactive or hazardous waste. They worry that it could wash into the Rio Grande.

During the 50 years that the lab has built and tested bombs and dumped nuclear waste, large amounts of depleted uranium and similar radionuclides have been dispersed into the area’s soil and vegetation. Environmental observers say the lab has 1500 nuclear- and hazardous-waste sites — many in canyon areas that were swept by the fire. Now officials are worried that rains could set off flooding on the fire-ravaged mountain overlooking the lab. Flood waters coming out of the mountain canyons could also sweep contaminants into the Rio Grande system.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, whose reporters accompanied Senator Jeff Bingaman on a tour of the burned site last Friday, some of the most damaged areas in Los Alamos are the most highly secret, including a nuclear facility.

The fire also came within a half-mile of a site where hazardous waste is stored in drums under tents atop a mesa — waiting to be moved to underground caverns. Burn trails show it came within a few feet of the high concertina-wire fence that surrounds the lab’s plutonium facility, the New Mexican said. Results of tests for nonradioactive chemicals, such as mercury, lead, and beryllium, will take several weeks to process, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Turner 1, Wolves 0

Los Lobos

In one of the sickest wildlife programs in recent memory, a Montana wolf pack that was caught feeding on cattle is being rounded up by helicopters manned by federal agents armed with dart guns and sent to media mogul Ted Turner’s Flying D Ranch south of Bozeman, where they are to be fitted with electric shock collars. The idea is to jolt the wolves every time they go for a tasty morsel of cow. If the wolves shape up and stop killing the cattle, they will be allowed back on the range. Otherwise, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service will slaughter them.

This is one of the most questionable projects yet undertaken by the “Mouth” and his allies in the Fish and Wildlife Service. First, because the price of beef is at an all-time low, fewer cows mean higher prices. Second, Defenders of Wildlife, the environmental foundation, pays ranchers substantial sums for cows killed by wolves. Third, these gray wolves — from Alaska and Canada — were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995, and they wander north along the Yellowstone River to feed mostly on elk, deer, and other wildlife. There shouldn’t be any cows in the river valley.

Of course, as Fish and Wildlife officials concede, if the project — known under the euphemism “aversive conditioning” — doesn’t pan out (meaning the wolves are killed), other wolves will take over the territory and more cows will be killed. But Ed Bangs, the genius at Fish and Wildlife who is in charge of the harebrained scheme, says doggedly, “We’re going to try to teach these wolves that livestock aren’t prey items.” Good luck, bud.

Hauling Ash, Cont.

Garbage Out

After 14 years of wandering the high seas, 2000 tons of Philadelphia’s toxic incinerated ash is once again looking for a final resting place. Last year the ash was dug from its burial place at the port city of Gonaives in Haiti, taken to dockside, and loaded aboard a Greek ship. On April 5 of this year, the ship set sail for Florida, where it landed near Fort Lauderdale. There, Waste Management, the big garbage outfit that is handling the return, hoped to stuff it into landfill.

“We have agreed to dispose of the material in the U.S., and we’re at present looking at the company’s network of facilities in the South and Southeast,” said a Waste Management spokesman. First, Georgia refused to take the ash. Then Florida environmental officials refused, insisting on testing the garbage to make sure it wasn’t hazardous. Waste Management next turned to Alabama, which also insisted on testing, not because it thought Philadelphia had contaminated the ash but because it was worried about importing hog cholera from Haiti. Most recently, it was destined for Lake Charles, Louisiana, the nation’s “cancer alley,” where trash companies have always been able to dump just about anything. But Louisiana officials are also worried about importing waste from Haiti. So the garbage still sits on barges bobbing off Florida.

The saga began in 1986, when a ship called the Khian Sea left Philadelphia for the Bahamas, carrying about 14,000 tons of ash from the city’s two municipal trash incinerators. The Bahamian government barred the cargo. During the next 16 months, there were unsuccessful plans to dump the ash in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Costa Rica, Chile, Guinea-Bissau, the Cape Verde Islands, and Turkey. In January 1988, the Khian Sea managed to unload several tons of what was described as “fertilizer ash” at Gonaives before Haiti could stop it, then slipped anchor and disappeared. After the vessel wandered the seas for months, much of the ash reportedly was dumped off Southeast Asia.

Selling Kidneys in India

Organ-ized Crime

For those who don’t make it in a prosperous society, there’s always the last resort of selling your body organs. And in the new global economy, body organs have become a booming business. In India, debt-ridden farmers are selling their kidneys to get moneylenders off their backs, according to the South China Morning Post. A kidney fetches $8750 in Andhra Pradesh state, which has been devastated by a severe drought. So far, officials have identified 35 farmers who sold kidneys. Three died after removal of the organs. Previously, moneylenders have demanded farmers’ wives as mortgages. Eighteen farmers have committed suicide under the pressure.

Rebel With a Cause

David Brower, 87, ill with cancer but a rebel to the end, quit the Sierra Club board last week. “I find going to the meetings is, frankly, a total waste of time,” said the great environmentalist. “They discuss practically nothing about conservation. You just get layers and layers of bureaucracy.”

Additional reporting: Kate Cortesi