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rally
Rally at Georgia state capitol —“Invest in
Education Now, or Pay Later” by the Georgia
Association of Educators.
PHOTO /John Slaughter

By Gloria Slaughter

On Monday, January 11, 2010, school employees, parents, students and community members stood together outside the DeKalb County Board of Education building to protest the $15,000 raise that the DeKalb County School Superintendent received on January 4th. The School Board voted 8 – 1 to approve the increase in salary. The Superintendent receives a $2,500 a month expense account (which amounts to $30,000 a year) and a monthly contribution of $1,250 to his tax sheltered annuity. In contrast, the school bus drivers have taken a 29% pay cut. The Superintendent’s expense account is more than bus drivers make and many cafeteria workers find themselves with a $12,000 salary.
The members of the Organization of DeKalb Educators (ODE) are outraged that a raise was granted to the Superintendent in this economic turmoil. Due to funding cuts to public education in the state of Georgia ($2 billion in the past eight years) there have been losses of support personnel in areas such as art, music, reading, media centers, and Plant Services which lead to larger class sizes and decreased student options. The school buses are overcrowded. COLA was not given in 2009 nor raises for experience, and the loss of the local retirement plan deposits, but there was increased insurance premiums, furlough days and, in addition, there was a loss of local supplement portion of the teacher’s salary.    
The 2010 Legislative session begins with a $4 billion smaller budget than two years ago. This means that teachers will see an increase in furlough days, a shorter school week, and a loss of jobs for school and state employees.  
On January 23, 2010, the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) led a rally at the Capitol and a call for change. GAE has done some research and has begun to look into the tax cuts given to the corporations to come to Georgia. Ironically, a state audit also states that it is not sure that the cuts given to the corporations actually create the jobs the corporations say they will bring to Georgia. The Governor has declared that there will be more funding cuts for education, more furlough days and a merit pay proposal that will begin in 2014 with beginning teachers. The teachers already employed can opt in. Fifty percent of the merit pay will be based on student performance, observation by the administration and evaluation by a co-worker. There will be no extra pay for advanced degrees.  
2010 promises to be a very busy year regarding the demands from ordinary citizens who want to make Georgia work for us and not just the corporations and the wealthy.




Dr. Isaac Wolfe


              
The debate about mammograms has been presented as a discussion on how to save lives by optimizing the identification of what is the best way to save lives.  However, while the early detection of breast cancer certainly saves lives, the best way to treat cancer is to prevent it.  This was ignored during the recent debate, although hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on breast cancer prevention.
The major theme of the breast cancer prevention studies has been “life style” or “how you caused your cancer,” and it seems like new warnings of what “not to do” are published every week.  For example, on March 19, 2009, The Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk) reported the preliminary results from a study of 1.3 million British women and the results indicated that smoking, drinking alcohol and being overweight increased the chances of getting breast cancer.
While a lot of money and time have been spent on determining what a woman should not eat or drink, there has been little said about what is in our food and water.  The focus has been on “life style” even though there is clear evidence that the major risk factor is the contamination of our environment and food by cancer causing chemicals.  This situation is illustrated by a group of chemicals called endocrine disruptors (EDs).  EDs have been shown to cause a variety of diseases, including breast cancer, and are found everywhere.
How serious is ED contamination?  The Washington, DC area gets almost 90 percent of its drinking water from the Potomac River and 8 out of 10 of the male smallmouth bass in this river are growing eggs (The Washington Post, November 24, 2009). These intersex fish are due to the EDs washed and dumped into the river.
EDs also pollute the food we eat, and are specifically used as growth hormones in the beef and poultry industries.  An example of this is diethylstilbestrol (DES), a chemical that until 1971 was administered to millions of women to prevent miscarriages. While the drug did not significantly affect the mothers, it produced generations of “DES daughters” who face increased risks of breast, vaginal and cervical cancers (www.descancer.org). DES was not just prescribed by doctors, it entered our food chain as a growth hormone in the cattle and poultry industry.  Although DES was “phased out” of the food industry in the 1970’s, it has been replaced by other additives which are also EDs.
While the dangers associated with the use of EDs in food production have been established, the knowledge derived from the laboratory studies has not been incorporated into the “risk factors” determined in the “life style” studies.  For example, more than one major study has established a relationship between eating meat and breast cancer, (see for example www.cancerproject.org), but the dangers of EDs and the “life style” recommendations have not been connected, nor were the causes of breast cancer brought up during the mammography debate.  The reason for this is quite clear.  It is important for the Capitalists to have you believe that you caused your own disease by living a risky life style.
Thus, no one is to blame but yourself and all change is necessarily on an individual basis.  But, this is not the case.  Breast cancer is an environmental disease fueled by an economic system that places money ahead of health with the accompanying rape of the environment.  If we really want to save lives and effectively fight cancer, the first step is a society based upon the collective benefits for all, where the goal is to prevent disease and alleviate suffering, and where humanity replaces exploitation. 

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