Arctic Blasts

Article excerpt

Byline: Greg Pierce, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

ARCTIC BLASTS

Almost 300,000 people have asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to halt oil and gas activities in the U.S. Arctic region and to permanently protect Alaska's Bristol Bay from drilling.

The requests were in response to a new offshore drilling plan pushed through by the George W. Bush administration during its last days that calls for opening most of Alaska's Arctic Ocean region and 5.6 million acres of Bristol Bay to oil and gas development.

The public comment period - extended to 180 days by Mr. Salazar when he took office in February - ended Monday.

The American public has unequivocally said that Bush's aggressive plans for oil and gas development have no place in America's Arctic and Bristol Bay, said Cindy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League. Secretary Salazar pledged to make wise decisions based on sound information. We urge him to continue the process he has begun and come up with a rigorous plan that ensures the survival of these two national treasures.

More than 400 scientists from the United States and 20 other countries also have sent a letter to the Obama administration, saying Mr. Bush's plan was created without sufficient scientific understanding of environmental consequences and without full consultation with indigenous residents.

We still have a chance to do it right in the Arctic, said Jeffrey Short, Pacific science director for Oceana and former National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration research chemist. All we're really asking is that we look before we leap.

GINGRICH ON HEALTH

We do need basic health reforms, writes former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on Monday. "But their focus should be on maximizing patient choice and freeing health care providers.

"If we embrace reforms such as expanding Health Savings Accounts, patients and their doctors will, through billions of decentralized decisions, determine the percentage of [gross domestic product] that should be spent on health care.

"We could also expand choice and competition by repealing laws that prevent patients from buying health insurance across state lines .. The government

should make public information collected through Medicare that will allow consumers to see where they can get the cheapest and most effective treatments

No American should suffer pain, disease or worse because of a lack of health care. We already spend huge sums to help those of modest means through Medicaid and other programs. Reform those programs to create a true health care safety net. Back it up with state high-risk pools to ensure health coverage for everyone.

ACORN DEFENDED

For many years the combined forces of the far right and the Republican Party have sought to ruin ACORN, the largest organization of poor and working families in America, writes liberal columnist Joe Conason at Salon.com. "Owing to the idiocy of a few ACORN employees, notoriously caught in a videotape 'sting' sponsored by a conservative Web site and publicized by Fox News, that campaign has scored significant victories on Capitol Hill and in the media.

"Both the Senate and the House have voted over the past few days to curtail any federal funding of ACORN's activities. While that congressional action probably won't destroy the group, whose funding does not mainly depend on government largesse, the ban inflicts severe damage on its reputation.

"In the atmosphere of frenzy created by the BigGovernment videos - which feature a young man and an even younger woman who pretend to be a prostitute and a pimp seeking 'advice' from ACORN about starting a teenage brothel - it is hardly shocking that both Democrats and Republicans would put as much distance as possible between themselves and the sleazy outfit depicted on-screen . …