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Children come before the manatees
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Our editorial department receives dozens of phone calls, faxes and mail-delivered letters and hundreds of e-mails every day. The majority of information coming in is related to community events, with a few genuine news-worthy press releases.

Today I received an e-mail with the subject line reading, "Threats Loom for Manatees." At first I was mildly concerned; what catastrophe has threatened California's manatees? After reading on, I learned that 1.) The manatees in question are native to Florida, not California; and 2.) The press release was giving information on the total deaths of manatees for 2008 (337), which was lower that the previous five-year average of 357.

I like manatees just as much as the next person, but come on. Am I really supposed to care that manatees are dying in Florida and at a lesser amount than usual?

Shortly after that e-mail, I opened a letter from Children Now, a nonprofit organization that focuses on the needs of children in California. Children Now just released their annual California Report Card, grading how the state takes care of its children.

We aren't doing very well. In fact, the report was downright depressing and made me want to contact every state representative and ask what they are doing with our tax dollars.

Some of the more shocking statistics reported include:

• Approximately 11 out of every 1,000 California children, ages 0-17, are maltreated;

• 763,000 California children do not have health insurance;

• Asthma is diagnosed in 15 percent of all California children;

• Three out of four children in need of mental health services do not receive treatment; and

• California fourth-graders consistently underperform on reading tests when compared to children in other states.

This information should make every Californian stand up and call for action. Even in a nation-wide economic depression, the health, safety and education of our children need to be a priority.

You may be wondering what the Florida manatee population and the state of children in California have in common, well...not much. The point is there is so much noise in today's society of e-mails, text messages, cell phone calls, television, radio, print and billboard advertisements that important messages get drowned out.

To contact Kristin Hacker, e-mail