Pols Ignore Nuke Danger

Why aren’t Governor George Pataki and Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton lifting a finger to protect the lives of the 20 million Americans who live in New York City and the suburbs of Westchester, Orange, Rockland, Putnam, Bergen and Fairfield counties? If that sounds drastic, that’s because it is: Despite ample evidence that the Indian Point nuclear power plant-located just 35 miles north of Times Square-is a disaster waiting to happen, none of the state’s three highest elected officials have done anything more than mumble about “safety improvements.” Both of Mr. Pataki’s Democratic challengers, Andrew Cuomo and Carl McCall, have looked at the facts and urgently called for Indian Point to be shut down. But as The Observer reported last week, Indian Point’s owner, the $10 billion, New Orleans-based Entergy Corporation, is winning the public-relations battle-and apparently the acquiescence of Mr. Pataki, Mr. Schumer and Ms. Clinton.

There’s no mystery why Entergy wants to keep Indian Point active and has hired the public-relations firm of Burson-Marsteller to do battle with environmentalists and others who are alarmed by the plant’s lousy safety record. Entergy is earning 20 percent annually on its investment of $1 billion, and its chief executive, J. Wayne Leonard, and board of directors seem oblivious to the fact that a meltdown or a terrorist attack would cost them more than the $1 billion write-down they would have to take to close the plant.

How would New York City residents be affected if Indian Point were shut down? According to The New York Times , there would be some risk of minor summertime power outages and a 20 percent rise in electric bills. But by 2004, several non-nuclear plants that are being built will be able to replace the power generated by Indian Point. New Yorkers would accept a temporary rise in their electric bills if it meant they would no longer be living in the shadow of the country’s least-safe nuclear reactor.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission categorizes a reactor’s safety by the colors green, white, yellow and red, with green being the safest. Indian Point is currently the only plant in the U.S. with a red finding. In 2000, one of its reactors had to be shut down after it leaked 20,000 gallons of radioactive water. In 2001, four of Indian Point’s seven control-room crews failed to react properly during accident drills. The state’s current evacuation plan, which covers just a 10-mile radius, is a joke; a more responsible plan would encompass a 50-mile radius. And yes, that includes all of New York City.

The threat represented to New Yorkers by Indian Point has increased since Sept. 11. American soldiers found diagrams of U.S. nuclear plants in caves in Afghanistan, and American Airlines Flight 11 flew over Indian Point on its way to the World Trade Center. Experts note that the plant was not built to withstand the impact of a commercial jetliner.

Governor Pataki and Senators Schumer and Clinton might want to ask themselves why they are siding with a multibillion-dollar New Orleans- based corporation rather than with the lives and well-being of the people who voted them into office.

State Senator Pedro Espada: Throw the Bum Out

If a sense of shame meant anything in Albany, then State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx would have tendered his resignation on July 22. That’s when The New York Times revealed that he tried to wire $745,000 in state money to a community organization that pays him more than $200,000 a year in salary.

That’s right-the distinguished Senator tried to get away with a scheme to enrich an organization that he heads when he’s not working on behalf of the public. Even by Albany’s standards, this is outrageous and verges on criminal.

Actually, the Espada story reveals a series of outrages. First, why is a State Senator who earns $90,000 a year allowed to hold down another job-and one that pays him more than double his Senatorial salary? (State legislators, like City Council members, technically are part-time workers-a fact they rarely mention when they vote themselves raises.) Second, Mr. Espada tried to get the money for his organization, the Comprehensive Community Development Corporation, through Albany’s corrupt practice of awarding cash grants to legislators’ favorite community groups. These awards are called “member items.” In the State Senate, the Republicans who control that body set aside $2 million for each Senator to buy the undying love of organizations back home. But Democrats, who are in the minority, are only allowed about $100,000 apiece to waste.

Member items are grotesque remnants of Tammany-style politics. But it was left to Mr. Espada to add a new and even more corrupt wrinkle to this odious practice: He designated money for an organization that he himself founded and heads. The money was available because Mr. Espada is a Democrat who publicly promised to vote with the Republican majority. The Republicans rewarded him by allowing him to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on member items in his Bronx district. That’s how the CCDC wound up as the proposed recipient of $745,000.

After reporters began questioning this arrangement, Mr. Espada said he had nothing to do with the appropriation, adding that it would be “wrong.” He then changed his tune and admitted his role, saying he was confused about all the details.

Mr. Espada’s colleagues, who prefer to scheme in the shadows, apparently were embarrassed when his hack work became known. They rescinded the grants he tried to wire to CCDC. That’s not justice; that’s simply correcting an injustice. If justice is to be served, Mr. Espada should be made to resign.

Why Parents Spank

If you’re a New York parent, you may know other parents who will defend occasionally spanking their child-only, of course, when absolutely necessary, as when a child runs into the street or otherwise puts himself or herself in danger. But a lengthy new study of the effects of spanking indicates that even in cases where a light spanking seems to be in the best interests of the child, significantly more harm than good is done.

Six decades of spankings were studied by Elizabeth Gershoff, a psychologist at Columbia University, and she found only one “positive” effect: In the moments after a spanking, a child will comply with his or her parents’ wishes. Dr. Gershoff found the long-term negative effects from spanking to include aggressive, antisocial behavior and other mental-health problems. Writing in the American Psychological Association journal Psychological Bulletin , Dr. Gershoff-who spent five years on her research -concluded that “Americans need to re-evaluate why we believe it is reasonable to hit young, vulnerable children, when it is against the law to hit other adults, prisoners and even animals.”

The truth seems to be that parents resort to spanking to get their way. Which is, come to think of it, rather childish.

Pols Ignore Nuke Danger