by Cara Gardner and Joel Smith

New Meters -- SPOKANE -- No more digging around the bottom of the seat for change. Spokane could be close to replacing its parking meter system. This week, the city of Spokane began testing electronic parking kiosks (the kind you see in Seattle and Portland), which take debit cards, credit cards and cash. Parkers pay for as much time as they want, up to the maximum, and place a printed sticker in their window with the expiration time. If they move to a new parking spot, they can continue to use the sticker until their time is up. On the downside, if the city makes the switch, the days of finding meters with time remaining on them would be long gone. The four test kiosks will be placed on the north side of Main Avenue, near River Park Square, and in the parking lot north of City Hall. -- Cara Gardner

Embrace Mortality -- SPOKANE -- Pundits are always telling us how something "affects everyone." The Iraqi elections affect everyone. Traffic congestion affects everyone. Plastic diapers affect everyone. Well, how's this for a condition that affects everyone: aging. Feared by geezers and breathlessly anticipated by the young -- aging, now that affects us all.

But in these baby-booming, Social Security-blasting, HMO-phobic times, do we as a society have the tools to deal with aging? That's a question that the brain trust at WSU-Spokane would like to explore with you. For its Robert F.E. Stier Memorial Lecture in Medicine on Feb. 24, the local academic branch will host three distinguished speakers weighing in on the topic, "Living Long and Living Well: How Can We Afford It?"

Kicking off the conversation is a guy who knows a thing or two about aging. As the founding director of the National Institute on Aging, the co-founder of the International Longevity Center and the founder of the first department of geriatrics in a U.S. medical school, Robert N. Butler, M.D., has been called the "Father of Longevity Studies."

In the mid-1950s, Butler was in on the ground floor of a National Institute of Mental Health that resulted in the landmark tome "Human Aging," which found that a lot of the conditions and behaviors commonly attributed to old age in fact stemmed from disease, socioeconomic adversity and even personality. In 1976, Butler won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, Why Survive? Being Old in America. In 1995, he chaired the advisory committee for the White House Conference on Aging.

Butler will speak on "Quality of Life in the Era of Longevity" at the event, scheduled from 7-9 pm at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park, 303 W. North River Drive. He will be joined by David Sclar and Anthony Bonanzino, a pair of scientific thinkers from WSU and Hollister-Stier Laboratories (respectively), who will address "Drug Pricing: Costs and Remedies." -- Joel Smith

Talk About Toxins -- Coeur d'Alene -- If you haven't put in your two cents regarding toxins in the Coeur d' Alene River Basin, now's your chance. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has extended the public comment period through March 17 on its "public health assessment" document, which evaluates the possible public health impacts of metals, including lead, from the Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Site.

The document is a catalog of previous work on the site and will serve as a critical resource as the Basin Commission implements the EPA's "Record of Decision." -- Cara Gardner

The complete document can be viewed on at or at the North Idaho College Library, (1000 W. Garden Ave., CdA), the St. Maries Public Library (822 W. College Ave.), the Wallace Public Library (415 River St.), the Spokane Public Library (906 W. Main Ave.) and the EPA Office (1910 NW Blvd., Ste. 208, CdA).

The Wheels of the Bus -- SPOKANE -- Remember when it was all about coloring? Ah, kindergarten, when the biggest decision of the day is which color to use from the old box of 64 -- the cornflower or the raw umber?

Pre-registration for kindergarten and new first grade students attending Spokane Public Schools will be from March 1-11, 9:30-11 am and from 1-3:30 pm at all neighborhood schools. Parents need to bring a birth certificate for students who have not already been enrolled in school, and a Washington State Certification of Immunization is required, as well as information about special health care needs. Children must be at least 5 years old on or before August 31 for kindergarten. Call 354-7393 for more information. -- Cara Gardner

Publication date: 2/17/05

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