Congress can be hazardous to health

The 110th Congress is close to becoming the most deadly term for lawmakers in the past 20 years.

The death of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, who died Wednesday of a brain aneurysm, brings to eight the number of legislators who have died since the current Congress began in January 2007.

That ties the death toll of eight for the 100th Congress, which ran from 1987 to 1989.

The current Congress ends in January.


A measure of relief is on the way from those aggravating "robo-calls" — automated messages that clog up your answering machine and tie up your line while hawking one thing or another.

The Federal Trade Commission has now ruled that, by December, companies cannot send out prerecorded sales messages unless they include a way for you to "opt out" of future calls. By Sept. 1, 2009, telemarketing and other sales pitches may be placed only if the consumer signs a written agreement to allow them.

But the FTC has not banned "informational" calls that remind you of an appointment. And it also decided not to prohibit some of the most annoying robo-calls — those from election candidates or politicians speaking on their behalf.


Think you can’t afford to get sick? Join the club. A recent report from the health-policy watchdog The Commonwealth Fund finds 116 million American adults under the age of 65 — nearly two-thirds of this age group — had medical-bill problems or debts, went without care because of the cost, went uninsured or had insurance that left them with large out-of-pocket costs because of deductibles or co-pays last year.

And even though they have Medicare, the study found another 7 million people 65 and older also reported having problems paying their medical bills.


Nearly 50 talk-radio hosts will descend on Capitol Hill on Sept. 11 to holler about immigration, demanding tougher enforcement, no amnesty for illegal immigrants and tightened borders. Lou Dobbs, a CNN and United Stations Radio Network host, will be leading the charge during two days of live broadcasts aimed across the country.

Organizers say it’s appropriate that the event occur on the seventh anniversary of the al Qaeda terror attacks because immigration is a critical national-security issue.


If you’re traveling over the Labor Day weekend, you might not find yourself sharing an airliner seat armrest. The Air Transport Association of America forecasts a nearly 6 percent drop in travelers from the 17 million who took to the skies last year. Reason: rising airfares and airline schedule cuts.


(E-mail Lisa Hoffman at hoffmanl(at) Scripps Howard News Service correspondent Lee Bowman contributed to this column.)