Letters

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THE KILLER GERM

"We are being exposed on a daily basis to new forms of bacteria, and our immune systems are no match for this newly evolved risk."
MICHAEL MOLNAR
St. Catharines, Ont.

As a practicing public health officer, I read with great interest your report on E. coli O157:H7 [KILLER BACTERIA, Aug. 3]. It provided readers with a real-life example of what epidemiologists do to protect the public health and underscored the need for maintaining skills and capabilities as an integral part of the U.S. public health system. All too often shortsighted budget cuts weaken the system's capacity to identify an outbreak quickly and intervene early enough to prevent further spread of an illness. Effective prevention requires some investment, and this is more important than ever with so many newly emerging communicable diseases like E. coli O157:H7. JOHN BECKLEY, Director Department of Health Hunterdon County Flemington, N.J.

To me, it's obvious why E. coli and many other viruses and contaminants are spreading: overpopulation. So long as we humans continue with our thoughtless breeding practices, forests will be cut down, wetlands will be drained and animals will be bred for meat, ensuring a long future of new viruses, bacteria and God knows what else. How much further must we continue down this path of self-destruction before we do something about it? To a point where it's too late?
PAUL SINCLAIRE
Pleasantville, N.Y.

Two years ago, this company made shipments of unpasteurized apple juice that, unknown to us, contained E. coli O157. Within hours of being notified, we initiated a voluntary recall of all affected products, promptly offered to pay all related medical expenses of those affected and revised our process to pasteurize all apple juice. In structuring the recent $1.5 million strict liability court settlement for unknowingly shipping adulterated juice, we worked hard to direct $250,000 toward further research and consumer awareness of the causes of food-borne disease. We've learned many painful lessons about today's volatile food-safety environment and hope our experience and stories like yours will help prevent another tragic outbreak.
CHRISTOPHER C. GALLAGHER JR.
Director of Communications Odwalla Inc. Half Moon Bay, Calif.

Contaminated factory farms and dirty slaughterhouses are perfect breeding grounds for killer bacteria such as E. coli. Irradiating food is not the answer. As your piece pointed out, "More effective than cleaning food after it has been contaminated is preventing it from getting dirty in the first place." A start would be adopting stricter hygienic rules in the factory farms and then applying similar high standards to the slaughterhouses.
DIANA KARLENZIG
San Francisco

How could you go on for pages without mentioning the obvious way to bypass much of the increasing danger posed by food-borne illnesses? Yes, by all means wash your hands, and thoroughly clean your vegetables, but going vegan is the best way to dodge most risk from contamination. And you can also lower your cholesterol and trim your waistline at the same time. NEAL D. BARNARD, M.D., President Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Washington

The insidious threat of waterborne diseases can bring everyday community life to a grinding halt. Imagine communities without chlorination, running water or the fuel to boil drinking water. One in every three people in the developing world drinks from unprotected sources, and every year diarrhea alone kills nearly 3 million children under the age of five, accounting for a quarter of all deaths in this age group. The U.N. Development Programme has been working to develop safe water sources, but the loss of life due to water-related illness continues because of the lack of political will, inadequate institutional structures, poor financial support, a growing population, water shortages and increasing pollution. ROBERTO LENTON, Director Sustainable Energy and Environment Division U.N. Development Programme New York City

You said that even "packaged so-called triple-washed vegetables, should be thoroughly cleaned." We at Dole Food Co. found this statement to be inaccurate. The wash system used by Dole results in a safer food than can be produced by most consumers at home. Cut salad is washed in three stages of chilled, sanitized water before being spun dry and sealed in packages. The result is a safe, wholesome food that consumers can eat with confidence. There has never been a food-borne-illness outbreak traced to triple-washed, packaged salad. Don't alarm consumers unnecessarily. THOMAS J. PERNICE, Vice President Public Affairs Dole Food Co. Inc. Los Angeles

MEMORABLE WORDS

The quotation "I know that there is a God, and I see a storm coming. If he has a place for me, I am ready," which you ascribed to John F. Kennedy [NOTEBOOK, Aug. 3], actually comes from J.G. Holland's Life of Lincoln, published in 1866. Holland claimed that Lincoln, expressing his determination to resist the spread of slavery, told an Illinois educator in the spring of 1860, "I know there is a God, and...I see the storm coming...If he has a place and work for me...I am ready." But William Herndon, Lincoln's law partner, and most scholars doubt that Lincoln ever said anything like that. J.F.K. had the habit of writing down quotes he liked in a commonplace book, and that is clearly what he was intending to do in this case. As Lincoln, in the quote ascribed to him, was expressing a determination to resist the spread of slavery, so J.F.K., in recording a quote someone must have handed him, was expressing a determination to resist the spread of communism. Neither the Lincoln quote nor the Kennedy quote can be construed (as some have suggested) as premonitions of their own deaths.
ARTHUR SCHLESINGER JR.
New York City

MURDER IN THE HOUSE

Your coverage of the shooting of two policemen in Washington's Capitol by a gunman left no stones unturned [NATION, Aug. 3]. The flag flew at half-staff to express Americans' concerns at the loss of these men, but maybe we should also mourn our justice system. Why should we spend effort, time and money to save the gunman's life, and perhaps pay attorneys to put him away for a couple of years? All this will be paid for by hardworking Americans, who would like to see this person put away where he belongs--in an unmarked grave.
LEO W. PFEIFFER
Rochester, N.Y.

Lawmakers have refused to put into place the strong deterrent measures that would cause people to fear committing violent criminal acts. So long as the medicine--the law--is weak, the illness--capital crimes--will not be cured.
REAGAN SMITH
Sacramento, Calif.

Maybe now the elected representatives in Washington will reach an agreement on capital punishment.
HAROLD MUSNITSKY
Penn Valley, Pa.

The solution to preventing shootings like the one in Washington is right before our eyes: prohibit handguns.
SUSANNE PAUL
Burlington, Mass.

SILENCE ISN'T ALWAYS GOLDEN

The "wall of silence" erected by Bill Clinton's personal attorney, David Kendall [NATION, Aug. 3], is probably the worst legal advice given to an American President since Nixon during the Watergate crisis. Kendall may be a brilliant attorney and a fierce negotiator, but he is no student of history. Stonewalling does not work. Kendall has allowed Clinton to back himself into a corner. The right advice is to come clean. Kendall has helped turn an incident that was equivalent to a minor Watergate burglary into a reason for impeachment.
STEPHEN W. OSHINSKY
Monte Sereno, Calif.

Irrespective of the outcome of independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation of Bill Clinton, we have come a long way from George Washington's succinct "I cannot tell a lie."
C. DIXON LEE III
Chapin, S.C.

MORE THAN ONE DEFINITION

My letter to TIME included an incorrect phrase inserted by the editor that mistakenly referred to transgender people as "those whose deepest awareness of their sexuality doesn't correspond to the physical parts they were born with" [LETTERS, Aug. 10]. The term "transgender" is political and does not refer to any specific anatomy or sexual practice. It includes the full range of individuals who challenge society's perceptions of gender, including, but certainly not limited to, transsexuality. As a health center, we offer health care based on medical facts and empathy and not on prejudice or stereotypes. We would deem it dangerously irresponsible to state a single definition of transgender for our clientele or anyone else. The phrase that TIME mistakenly used does not represent my opinion or the policy of the center. DEAN LABATE, Executive Director Michael Callen-Audre Lorde Community Health Center Transgender Health & Education New York City

RECONCILING WITH IRAN

Can Iran be forgiven? Sure, forgive the Iranian students who held Americans captive for 444 days [WORLD, Aug. 3]. But what does Iran offer the U.S.? Cultural exchange? America has turned a painful page of history, but Iran still displays an antagonistic view of our country. Let the Iranians beg for forgiveness.
HECTOR F. CADENA
New York City

The memory of the Iranian captors' cruelty is stronger to me than my willingness to forgive an Iranian.
NAME WITHHELD BY REQUEST
Hendersonville, Tenn.

As usual, America is biased and sees things like relations with Iran from its point of view alone, never taking into account how the U.S. abused Iran and its people through its support of the Shah. While I don't condone the hostage taking of 1979, it is up to the U.S. to apologize to Iran. Through our actions, we brought the ordeal on ourselves.
MARK MCLAUGHLIN
Ocean City, N.J.

PRAYING TO BE STRAIGHT

Margaret Carlson's acidic analysis of the ex-gay phenomena, "Praying Away the Gay" [NOTEBOOK, July 27], doesn't change this basic fact: thousands of men and women, like John and Anne Paulk, have left homosexuality, and their number is increasing every year. John was deeply involved in the gay community for six years; he ended homosexual involvement a decade ago. He and Anne are now the parents of a young son. If anyone can read John's amazing story in his autobiography Not Afraid to Change and still believe change is impossible, we will gladly refund the price of the book. BOB DAVIES, North American Director Exodus International Seattle

If you could really pray away the gay, then I should be straight. I grew up in Oklahoma in a Southern Baptist church. In high school I helped conduct the church choir and taught Sunday school. I was gay the entire time. I prayed a lot--publicly and privately. But the fact is, I'm still praying and I'm still gay.
SONNY ROBERTS
New York City

Reports like Carlson's demonstrate why pro-family organizations must resort to purchasing ad space if they wish to see their message of hope and healing for homosexuals accurately represented. Most astonishing was the way Carlson attacked John and Anne Paulk, the ex-homosexuals featured in the ad. Carlson interprets the ad campaign as a political effort to bolster Republicans. The question is not one of politics but of law and culture and the place of marriage and the family in them. STEVE SCHWALM, Senior Writer, Analyst Family Research Council Washington

JEREMY'S LOVES LOST

About your item noting the many times actor Jeremy Irons has had romantic stalemates in his movies [PEOPLE, Aug. 3], I say, poor Jeremy, doomed forever. Here's another addition to his long string of heartbreaks. In Brideshead Revisited, he gets neither the girl, Lady Julia Flyte, nor her family's elegant Castle Howard estate. Bummer.
ELIZABETH RAMSEY
Albuquerque, N.M.

In the film Chinese Box, Irons once again courts the wrong woman: Gong Li as Vivian, a beautiful, elusive Asian with a shady past, whom he loves in the final days of Hong Kong as a colony, before it reverts to Chinese control.
LEN L. LASNIK
Castroville, Calif

NOT RELYING ON PAY-FOR-PLAY

In your report about pay-for-play on the radio [SHOW BUSINESS, Aug. 3], you gave a false impression of the Flip Records/Interscope band Limp Bizkit. Although in the spring of 1998 Flip/Interscope did have a pay-for-play contract with radio station KUFO of Portland, Ore., the arrangement didn't really have any long-term impact on Limp Bizkit's success. Before there was significant airplay from any radio station, including KUFO, Limp Bizkit's debut record, upon release in July 1997, landed on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart and stayed there for more than 40 weeks; it will be gold by September. The writer noted that after an initial boost from pay-for-play, Limp Bizkit's album sank to the bottom quarter of the Billboard Top 200. By early August, however, it had reached No. 132 and is on the rise. Also, the group is not from Southern California, as you said, but from Jacksonville, Fla. Flip Records does not rely on radio or music videos to break its bands. Instead we tour our groups relentlessly, so that kids will have a chance to discover the bands for themselves, and the groups will have credibility and full careers rather than just radio hits. Limp Bizkit is part of a new breed of rock bands that is building its fan base through nonstop touring. JORDAN SCHUR, Owner and President Flip Records West Hollywood, Calif.

BREAKTHROUGH FOR CLONING

Your report on a reliable technique that results in clones that reproduce rapidly was insightful [SCIENCE, Aug. 3]. Human cloning, as you noted, "will happen anyway." Before it does, what ethicists must figure out is, Under what circumstances would human cloning be acceptable? As you noted, a human clone would be only partly genetically determined. So a clone of Michael Jordan might not necessarily be as great as his "father." Who knows? One day we may feel that cloning is a way for infertile couples to have a child that is at least genetically connected to one parent.
JASON C. HUANG
Ithaca, N.Y.

Bodies grown for spare parts? Cloning NBA champs? Whoever is thinking about doing these things has got to be kidding! If this happens, human beings will ultimately lose their originality. After reading your article, I was relieved to know that cloned humans would not be exactly the same as their parents because, as you wrote, genetics can only partly determine who we are.
NABEEL KEBLAWI
Vienna, Va.