Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor
Aug 14, 2005 - 8:28:00 PM

Schwarzenegger and Pleasant Care Corporation

Dear Editor,

Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken so much money from corporations that sometimes it all blurs together. But the $66,300 he's taken from the infamous Pleasant Care Corporation nursing homes is unprecedented and should be returned immediately. All told, 13 criminal charges have been recently filed against Pleasant Care for elder abuse and elder neglect.

In the past, Pleasant Care has faced numerous lawsuits and fines for sub-standard and abusive practices and is even barred from opening new nursing homes because of this record. Schwarzenegger collected funds earned from the pain and suffering of some of society's most vulnerable people and he insults them by spending it on his campaigns. As the
Presidents of the Congress of California Seniors and the California Nurses Association, we urge Schwarzenegger to return these funds immediately and to reject any future donations from this corporation.


Deborah Burger, RN, President of the California Nurses Association
Oakland, CA
Henry L. "Hank" Lacayo, President, Congress of California Seniors
Sacramento, CA

The Choking Game


I am writing in regard to a statement that was quoted by Paul Warner in the article he wrote regarding the Choking Game and my son Gabriel Mordecai. In this article Paul quoted UCLA as saying, �they had never heard of it and suggested the choking game was perhaps "an urban legend."�
Ask the families of other victims of this game if they think it is perhaps an �urban legend!� (Links to other families can be found on Gabe's website http://StillLovingMyGabriel.com)
It is ignorant statements like that one UCLA made that helps to keep this game alive and well. For shame UCLA! To not want to comment due to your ignorance is one thing, to make a comment based on your ignorance is another thing! What are you people suggesting? That this is perhaps a delusion hundreds of families are living with?
May I suggest you brush up on your current (and history - as I played this game in the 70's and received a letter from a woman who played it in 1939) events: I have received many, many e-mails from strangers wanting me to know that they too have played this game. Let me ask you this UCLA, do you think perhaps all those letters are urban legend as well?
I am dumbstruck and angered by their ignorance. I am so very sad.
Still loving all four of my children, and still too many tears.

Sarah Pacatte
Paradise, CA
The writer is the mother of Gabriel Harry Mordecai, who died at 13 playing the choking game.


To the Editor:

How comforting to know that my nephew's death is merely an urban legend.

We have been grieving the loss of Gabriel for two months. Now we can stop grieving and carry on with our lives.

The problem is, Gabriel is gone and won't be returning. Another problem is that while UCLA has "never heard of [the choking game]", many young teens have. News reports about the choking game have recently been carried by USA Today, ABC News' 20/20, CBS News, CNN News, and Fox News.

Thankfully, someone is trying to alert parents about this horrible �game� so that they might be able to keep their children safe. Does no one at UCLA Medical Center listen to, watch, or read the news?

After Gabe's death, many of my friends and co-workers told me that they used to choke each other when they were kids. Gabe's twin brother told us that he and Gabe learned how to choke themselves from another adolescent. Fully one-half of the eighth graders in Gabe's class have either heard of or tried the choking game themselves. Six seventh graders at a middle school in Nampa, Idaho were recently caught 'playing' the choking game. Security cameras videotaped them choking each other in a school hallway. Gabe was smart, an honor roll student. This risk-taking behavior is out there, and parents need to know about it.

Many heartfelt thanks to Paul M. Warner and the Canyon News for sensitively and accurately reporting Gabe's story. Gabe was very much loved by all his family. We will miss him forever.

M. Weatherfield,
Auburn, CA

Congressional Postal Reform: What's In It for Consumers?

By Don Soifer

With a major Postal Service reform bill now having passed the House of

Representatives, debate over the legislation among big business, big labor and bean counters from various branches of government is focused on Senate and White House approval.

Lost amid the political wrangling is the fact that the new law does little

to fix the most fundamental problems that affect post office consumers:

Exorbitant spending on labor, flat productivity, and murky accounting

practices that make it impossible to tell whether the Post Office is

unfairly hiking prices on Aunt Minnie to give discounts to big mailers.

The U.S. Postal Service has an oversized workforce of about 700,000 career employees who earn, on average, more than 25 percent more than their private-sector counterparts. That premium is one reason nearly 80 percent of USPS spending goes toward labor, which compares to about 50% at private delivery companies.

American consumers pay twice for this excess: Once as letter mailers,

forbidden by the USPS monopoly from taking their business elsewhere, and again as taxpayers. In addition to being exempt from most taxes, the USPS has received $27 billion in federal appropriations since 1970.

The legislation offers no relief on labor issues. A serious reform plan

would have strengthened USPS management's power to negotiate with unions. Instead the bill explicitly states that no existing labor privileges, such as no-layoff rules, shall be affected.

The bill capitulates to unions even further by mandating that one slot on the USPS Board of Governors be filled by someone with unanimous backing from organized labor. How about a seat for someone representing the consumer?

Ken McEldowney, the executive director of Consumer Action, a San

Francisco-based nonprofit that vigorously supports underprivileged

consumers, would be a good choice. Testifying before a Presidential

commission, he pointed out that the Postal Service's forays into non-postal commercial ventures  "involved large expenditures with near-zero revenues." Those expenditures, he feared, were being shifted onto ratepayers in the form of stamp price hikes.

That's the kind of voice consumers need on the Board of Governors - and the kind you might have expected from a bill that declares, "the Governors shall represent the public interest."

In addition to failing on labor, Congressional lawmakers passed up an

opportunity when they rejected a proposed amendment from Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ), one of Congress' free-market champions. It encouraged using pilot programs to test alternative methods of providing postal services, such as by allowing local postmasters to subcontract delivery routes to private companies.

It's a shame that the new bill is so ineffective on these crucial matters,

especially since it caps 25 years of Congressional efforts to repair the


The silver lining may be that many of the Postal Service's bottom line

problems can be fixed without legislation. Jim Miller, a veteran champion of free-market reforms, has been installed as the Service's new Chairman of the Board.  Independently of Congress, Postal Service managers already have some of the tools to make consumer-friendly improvements. 

Miller and Postmaster General John Potter have a powerful opportunity of their own to make major strides to cut waste and prevent future stamp price increases.  Of 35 specific reform recommendations made in the Report of the President's Commission on the USPS, a full 17 could be implemented with no Congressional action whatsoever.

They include measures like "developing an appropriately-sized workforce" by encouraging retirement; improving procurement practices; and maximizing the use of outsourcing to the private sector.

Any one of these steps could have a serious cost-saving impact.

The Senate is not likely to vote on the postal bill until lawmakers return

from the summer recess, and there's no telling when, or if, the President will endorse it.

In the meantime, there's no reason the USPS can't move ahead with

cost-saving reforms. With the legislation as weak as it is, passage is at

any rate almost irrelevant in terms of actually improving the Postal

Service. American consumers need USPS managers to move ahead on reform.

Don Soifer is Executive Director of the U.S. Consumer Postal Council, an association of mail users dedicated to promoting sensible reform and competition within the postal system.

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