Short Takes: News From All Over

Collateral Damage
By Chris Arsenault, This Magazine
From the 1950s to the 1980s, Agent Orange was used by Canadian power companies and the military for purposes of defoliation. The men who applied it didn’t use protection because, says former sprayer Robyn Gregory, now in his late 60s, ‘We were told it was safe enough to drink.’ The practice has left many men with a litany of health problems. Now they are looking for compensation from the Canadian government. — Nick Rose

Messages Worth the Waiting
By Leslie Leyland Fields, Lost Magazine
From the magazine devoted to things lost, Leslie Leyland Fields reveals what we have sacrificed on the altar of technology. Even in the wilds of Alaska, where Fields lives, email has taken the excitement out of the best day of the week: mail day. The art and anticipation of sending and receiving letters has slipped away as email has made communication instantaneous. — Bennett Gordon

When on Hajj, Wear a Facemask
By Kevin Friedl, Seed Magazine
Mass gatherings are integral to many organized religions. For the faithful, crowds can represent community. For epidemiologists, crowds can represent a nightmare. Every year, more than 2.5 million Muslims from all over the world make the pilgrimage to Mecca for what is known as the ‘Hajj.’ Some scientists believe these gatherings provide the perfect incubator for a global pandemic by crowding hundreds of thousands of people, many from countries with substandard health care systems, into close quarters. During this year’s Hajj, nearly 10,000 doctors were employed to monitor the ceremonies for cases of avian influenza and other infectious diseases. The safeguards proved sufficient this year, but scientists are already looking for more protective measures for 2007. — Bennett Gordon

Seeds of Tomorrow
By Shera Dalin, Conscious Choice
Fourteen states already have passed preemptive legislation blocking voters from banning Genetically Modified (GM) food technology, and similar legislation is pending in five other states. By overriding the power of voters to ban GM seeds, these laws can stifle attempts to promote organic farming. Organic food producers across the country are trying to fight these measures, but the farmers have found themselves outmatched by agribusiness giants like Monsanto. — Bennett Gordon

Tastes of Sliced Bread: Tax Day Edition
By Readers, SinceSliced
Tax day is a time when many citizens look at their tax forms and think, ‘I could do better.’, a website tallying the Service Employees International Union’s call for ‘fresh, common sense ideas,’ gave readers the chance to back up their tax-day rants. More than 22,000 people responded to the union’s contest for innovative approaches to grow the economy while protecting and supporting workers, and plenty of their submissions were tax-related. Those ideas range from tax deductions for blood donations to tax incentives for hiring people over 40. The winner, who wants to promote sustainable industries by imposing a ‘resource tax,’ won $100,000. — Bennett Gordon

The Eternal Boys of Summer
By Gilbert Garcia, San Antonio Current
Fathers, the tradition goes, teach their sons baseball. Missing from the equation, think many across the nation, are grandfathers. Not any more, however, as there are currently 45,000 men of all ages participating in the Men’s Senior Baseball League. Boasting its own World Series, and a diverse membership, the league includes an octogenarian among its ranks. And though games are taken seriously, fun usually carries the day. Quoth umpire Ben Flores: ‘This is typical of the 48-and-over league. They can hit the hell out of the ball, but they can’t run or catch.’ — Nick Rose

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