Kathleen Rumpf is back, fasting, praying, and generally making herself a pain in the rump once again for the folks who run the Carswell Federal Medical Center just outside Fort Worth’s western city limits.

She spent a week there in the August heat, camping outside the gates, calling attention to the critically ill and dying women inside – and demanding a congressional investigation into the allegations of medical neglect at the country’s only federal prison hospital for women, documented by this paper since 1999.

This time, Rumpf, a Catholic lay worker and long-time advocate for prison reform, is fasting and praying on behalf of a particular prisoner, 48-year-old terminal cancer patient Diane Nelson. The woman’s plea for compassionate release was recently turned down by the Bureau of Prisons in spite of letters from the federal judge who sentenced her, as well as the federal attorneys who prosecuted her, supporting her plea. U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson (no relation) of Nebraska, her home state, has intervened also, to no avail.

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Rumpf said she’s seeking help from the court of last resort – the public. “People must be made to understand how evil this [prison] system is to the sick and dying women inside … and demand congressional reform.” She’ll be here through Christmas.

Nelson, serving time for a drug crime, was sent to Carswell in May with a recommendation from her oncologist that she begin immediate chemotherapy and radiation treatment due to a recurrence of ovarian cancer that had been in remission for two years. At Carswell, she was subjected to a now-all-too-familiar pattern: a three-month wait to get the first biopsy to verify the diagnosis, a two-month wait for the biopsy’s results (stage III uterine cancer and stage I ovarian cancer), and even then no treatment other than pain medication. She now has only a few months to live.

“It is the worst cruelty,” Rumpf said, “to have denied her the treatment that could have extended her life and, now, after guaranteeing her death, to not allow her to go home to die with her family around her.”

Ho, Ho, Ho, No Black Snow

It was good news/ bad news for those opposing the coal-fired power plants proposed by TXU and other utility companies (“Taking Lumps over Coal,” Dec. 13, 2006). The good news is that the Texas Cities Clean Air Coalition, led by 17 mayors, including Laura Miller and Robert Cluck, was granted party status in the legal tussle over the plants, thus bringing badly needed funding to the fight.

The bad news: A group called Texans for Affordable and Reliable Power (TARP) – founded by Mayors Roy Hill (Fairfield), Buzz Fullen (Henderson), and others who support the plants – was also granted party status. Leaders of TARP, which is funded by TXU and shares a public relations firm with the company, argue that their cities would be hurt by the loss of jobs and cheap energy if TXU can’t build its new coal plants.

The administrative judges also affirmed Gov. Rick Perry’s executive order limiting hearings on the plants to six months and consolidating hearings on several plants into one proceeding. Both decisions are unprecedented. The Sierra Club is fighting Perry’s order on the grounds that it amounts to a violation of due process.

Hearings on the proposed Oak Grove plant in Franklin, the biggest, baddest of them all, is set for Jan 10. in Austin.

But hey, it’s Christmas. So on Wednesday, the “clean air elves” organized by the group Environmental Defense, complete with sleigh, will be in downtown Dallas handing out lumps of coal in postage-paid envelopes, in the hopes that people will re-gift them to TXU honcho John Wilder.

Go East, Young Woman

Terri Moore ran twice for the Tarrant County district attorney’s post without success, and now she’s packing up her toys to go play in Dallas. Democratic Dallas County DA-Elect Craig Watkins, who scored a major upset in his race last month, has named Moore to be his top assistant.

Moore lost to longtime incumbent Tim Curry this year by a 53- to 47-percent margin, about the same numbers she pulled in 2002. What hurt Moore and all the other Tarrant Dems was the county’s straight-ticket Republican voting. So, is she figuring the political grass is greener on the Dallas County side of the fence, where the Dems won every countywide race they ran in?

Not necessarily, Moore said. She may be packing up her law books, but she’s not pulling up roots. The former state and county prosecutor said she’s not closing the door on any political possibility in the next few years. After all, she said, she expects to see a Democrat in the White House two years from now, in which case the local U.S. Attorney’s office might be due for a new occupant … .

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