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May 27, 1997


Pardon Me

Once upon a time, if you committed a serious crime you went to jail. Four years ago Alabama Governor Guy Hunt was convicted of diverting $200,000 from his 1987 inaugural funds for his personal use, a felony offense. Hunt, who did not go to jail, appealed on May 12 for a pardon from the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. "I feel good about it,'' Hunt said after the televised spectacle. "I just feel like surely it'll go our way.'' Traditional values just ain't what they use to be.

The jury that convicted Hunt had no doubts. According to one account they came to their decision by the end of the first day of deliberation. Although Hunt argued that he did not know that money from an inaugural account had been put into his own, the prosecution showed that names had been changed on bank accounts and the money had been laundered before Hunt used it to buy cattle, a marble shower, a riding lawn mower and other personal items. Anyone who still believes in Alabama's system of justice should be outraged by Hunt's claim that he has been wronged.

But don't be surprised if the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles finds ``clear proof of innocence,'' the requirement for a pardon. Two members of the three-member board were appointed by Hunt. If the board does recommend a pardon then we can all agree with Hunt, who warned, ``The court system is in shambles. People have no confidence.''

-- Dan Silver

Life Forms by Dan Silver

Letters To The Editor

Dear Editor,

I was recently involved in an accident in which a driver under the influence of alcohol hit my car. My car was totaled, and the offending driver did not have liability insurance.

I am now of the opinion that liability insurance is meaningless unless the State of Alabama requires that every licensed driver have reasonable coverage.

I am a student on a limited income, but I still purchased liability insurance on my car because I believed it was the right thing to do. My only option at this point is to sue the offending driver. This is probably an expensive proposition since the other party does not have "deep pockets," and therefore no attorney will take my case on a contingency basis.

At this point I am reduced to hitching a ride from friends or walking, in a city that has very little public transportation to speak of, and is not pedestrian-friendly.

I hope this letter stimulates a public debate on the need for compulsory liability insurance. This will reduce the number of people resorting to litigation for redress, something that the Republican party at both the federal and state level is supposed to favor.

Abdul-Manaf A. Ibrahim
Mobile, AL

Dear Editor,

The recent U.S. News and World Report on the Superfund relocation of the Escambia community in Pensacola, Fla., left out vital pieces of information. For example, the article only mentions one Superfund site while there are two different Superfund sites in the same neighborhood. In addition to the wood treatment plant mentioned in the article, there is also a serious toxic legacy from the Agricola Chemical site, which produced agricultural chemicals starting in 1899. Scientific studies have shown that the detrimental health impacts from the synergistic impact of different toxic chemicals can be a thousand times more dangerous than one chemical alone.

Joel S. Hirschhorn, Ph.D., is an engineer and internationally recognized expert on toxics and hazardous waste cleanup. As technical advisor on the Agricola Chemical Superfund site, he said the Escambia neighborhood is "probably more contaminated by a broad range of carcinogenic chemicals that threaten people living immediately next door to the site than any other contaminated site in the country." Called to give Congressional testimony as an expert on Superfunds, Hirschhorn mentioned just two sites as examples of serious cleanup failures. The first was Escambia. Speaking of the danger to people living close to the former plant, he said, "What I saw was truly amazing. An enormous mountain of excavated, highly contaminated soil sat next to the equally large hole in the ground, next to a poor community of people of color....But any cleanup at the site should not proceed without moving those people. They are just too close to the site. Quite frankly, it made me sick and ashamed of the Federal government."

EPA made a serious mistake excavating the contaminated soils, which spread toxins into the air, without first evacuating the neighborhood. And the residents of Escambia paid the price: during and immediately after the "cleanup" people started dropping like flies. Small white crosses that mark deaths from cancer and respiratory disease death linked to the toxic sites can be seen throughout the neighborhood. Some homes have as many as five or six crosses.

The article's conclusion that the relocation of the Escambia neighborhood can't be justified by scientific evidence is patently false.

Becky Gillette
Ocean Springs, MS

The Harbinger, Mobile, AL