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Health care and budget cuts, casinos and racism

Reader feedback 9.8.04 


HEALTH CARE, SLASHED

Thank you for the article "Catching the Cold" (Metro Ink, August 18). It fills in the details of a July article in Harper's magazine titled "We are not immune," by Ronald Glaser.

            Glaser says: "Public health is often invisible and unremarked when it works well; when it fails, our neighbors sicken and die. A public health system is only as strong as its weakest link; an epidemic enforces, in the most rigorous fashion, the American credo that we are created equal. If we allow one segment of our society to suffer and perish from preventable disease, little stands in the way of collective doom. Prevention becomes secondary to simply keeping people alive.

            "While 44 million American people are without health insurance, many receive inadequate treatment. As people become more mobile, so do deadly diseases. AIDS took decades to spread, SARS took weeks. Tuberculosis has reemerged as an epidemic in some places and spreads with drug-resistant strains. Each year 76 million Americans fall ill to food-borne illnesses resulting in 335,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. Influenza infects 10 percent to 20 percent of the population every year and kills 36,000. A virulent avian flu could kill millions. The truly imminent biological threat, which all public health experts agree will inevitably strike, is an influenza epidemic."

            The article goes on for pages with grim warnings of the reckless gamble taken by public officials:

            "The peculiar dynamics of American politics, with its periodic spasms of irrational antigovernment hysteria, has resulted in attracting powerful political enemies to effective public-health policies. The president's budget calls for a $105 million cut in bioterrorism funding."

            "State and local health budgets continue to decline."

            "The New York public health budget was cut 19 percent."

            "Meanwhile we are afflicted with a government that wages war across the world at $4 billion a month to avenge the death of 3,000 terror victims, far fewer than die of influenza in a mild year; a government that insists on spending $50 billion on a missile defense system that does not work."

            Why is the county executive cooperating with this madness instead of fighting it?

            Bill and Sally McCoy, Magee Avenue, Rochester


CASINO'S RACIST

Yes, gambling sucks money from the pockets of the poor. It could have negative impacts on our downtown, and we don't have enough say in decisions like this. But I want to talk about another issue, one that receives far less attention and shouldn't. New York State casino gambling relies on policies that are racially discriminatory and deeply unjust.

            Casino gambling is illegal in New York. Rather than change the law, allowing the state and its corporate partners to earn revenue from casinos, Pataki has taken a subtler route: real estate is sold to Indian nations and incorporated into their "sovereign" territory, which is not subject to state law.

            Nations like Canada cannot buy land in the US and add it to their territory. When a Canadian business acquires land in Rochester, the property remains subject to our laws and is still taxed. The problem is that Indian nations are not truly sovereign. American Indians are US citizens and vote in US elections. Indian nations have a degree of self-governance, but the US government clearly does not regard them as fully sovereign states.

            Membership in Indian nations is determined by ancestry. You cannot emigrate. Therefore, policies governing Indian "nations" are really policies governing a particular race. American Indians have special rights to which other races are not entitled: the right to own a casino gambling business and the right to sell gas and tobacco products tax-free. Some say these policies are fair compensation for past mistreatment. However, Indians themselves are the real victims. The apartheid system of limited self-determination and special treatment has only perpetuated the cycle of poverty in Indian nations. Casino profits enrich the powerful leaders of Indian nations, while gambling addiction further burdens their already struggling society.

            American Indian policy counters all efforts toward racial equality, and it is morally unacceptable. Our country must move away from its current patronizing attitude toward American Indians. They must be given equal rights and responsibilities under the law, or else full sovereignty, not the mock sovereignty currently allowed by the federal government.

            Nathan Chronister, Laurelton Road, Rochester


COVER UP?

I was pleased that City included the Northeast Naturist Festival as a City's Choice and with Meg Devine's follow-up story. However, I was surprised that City chose to place stars over body parts in the photo accompanying the story. This cover-up speaks against the naturist philosophy: "Body Acceptance Is the Idea; Nude Recreation Is the Way."

            This form of editorializing against acceptance of the human body is inconsistent with City's principled coverage of women's campaign for topfree equality when City included uncovered male and female chests on its cover. This year City placed stars over female but not male nipples.

            Topfree equality exists on every street in New York State, but not on the pages of City. Accurate reporting should include natural, untouched photos.

            Morley Schloss, Vassar Street, Rochester


CHANGE THE BOARD

I am following the election campaign for Rochester school board with great interest. Although I do not live in Monroe County, I spent 12 years working in Monroe County at a mental-health agency. It always amazed me that more often than not, city school district children lacked the basic educational skills: reading, writing, math.

            While certainly their home environment contributed to this lack, I never had the sense that their schools were prepared to deal with these children. This did not change in the years I spent working with the children. People grow comfortable in the "tried and failed" methods and either do not or cannot consider other viable options.

            The same party has been in charge of the school board for 30 years. Perhaps it is time for fresh ideas, new blood. Holding onto the party line has clearly proven ineffective.

            Chris Sullivan, Lincoln Avenue, LeRoy


CONSPIRACY? OR TRUTH?

City's cover story featuring Ron Netsky's dialogue with author Michael Barkun was a devastating blow to your reputation as our trusted source for alternative news in Rochester ("Paranoia Strikes Deep," August 4). City and other papers like it are alternative because they offer a gamut of information not readily available in mainstream coverage. And they sometimes even raise the bar a little higher by investigating where others fear to go --- courageous enough to pursue truth, wherever and to whomever it leads us.

            As a reader, I expect enlightened news coverage that offers us an opportunity to expand our base of knowledge and that entices self-exploration while also pushing the investigative-journalism envelope so that important stories that require time, effort, and money are not forgotten.

            City and the many other papers like it across the country have a great responsibility, probably now more than ever before. That responsibility is to inform the people with as much truth as reporters can find and deliver it to us with brutal honesty.

            Netsky's interview with Barkun made my stomach turn with each insinuation that legitimate concerns about certain global-power organizations are as far-fetched as UFO sightings and the many religious proclamations that lay claim on apocalyptic evidence. Barkun seems to be in good company with authors like Peter Knight and Daniel Pipes (appointed by President Bush to the US Institute of Peace board), who apparently confuse legitimate investigation into socio-political critiques with fringe conspiracies.

            Including comments about September 11, the Kennedy assassination, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission were like the sprinkling of misinformation our national media delivered by including Saddam Hussein's name whenever there was discussion about the terrorist attacks. After weeks of that kind of coverage, many Americans believed and still believe that Saddam had a hand in them.

            Are we to walk away from Netsky's article with the notion that the Council on Foreign Relations doesn't exist? Or that the Trilateral Commission is some phantom group that exists only in folklore and urban legend? Or even worse, to believe that Kennedy was killed by three shots from a book depository?

            The Tuskegee Experiment did happen. Small-pox was provided to Indians through disease-ridden blankets, and President Bush did appoint Henry Kissinger to chair the 9/11 Commission, knowing that he has been the subject of international indictment. Kissinger was involved in the 1972 Chilean Coup led by dictator General Pinochet, which ousted democratically elected Salvador Allende; 75 political prisoners were executed shortly after the coup took place --- which, oddly enough, was on September 11, 1972. Kissinger was Secretary of State, and former President Bush was the director of the CIA.

            Consider those examples while you think about the ramifications of publishing, with consistent quotation support from Ron Netsky, what could be considered borderline propaganda. Organized overt acts that affect us every day take place in high places; this has been true for many, many years.

            I leave you with a quote: "The world has accepted compulsory vaccination against small-pox, which is surely an invasion of the body.... And the state so claims control of the body of its male citizens that it compels them to accept military service, and of the bodies of its children --- male and female --- as to force their attendance at school.... In this context I do not think that sterilization after an allowable number of births is so revolutionary a restriction on personal freedom as it may first appear to be. I think it is obvious that we should help to discover and to support any system of incentives which would significantly reduce the birth rate in the countries which are in a population crisis." --- John P. Robin, Ford Foundation, representative for East and Central Africa, 1968.

            City, we need your help! There is still time to report the truth. Please don't let us down.

            William John Spaker, Brighton Street, Rochester


WE CAN HELP

To solve its budget deficit, the Rochester school district may have to lay off staff and cut programs. The proposed cuts include eliminating parent liaisons at the secondary level; reducing the number of counselors, art, and music teachers; reducing the number of academic intervention specialists, who generally work with at-risk older students; eliminating seventh and eighth-grade sports, and reducing after-school tutoring for students who did not pass state exams.

            Superintendent Manuel Rivera laid out an exciting, inclusive "Surround Care" plan in the past year, proposing that the school district partner with community organizations to address the needs of our youth. The pending cuts coupled with the strengths and services of community organizations like The Community Place of Greater Rochester, Inc. make this the perfect time for a true partnership.

            The proposed cuts mirror the exact services offered by The Community Place. Formerly known as Eastside Community Center, Genesee Settlement House, and Lewis Street Center, The Community Place is a neighborhood-based, multi-purpose community center established in Rochester nearly a century ago. It is a stable resource of programs and services in the community.

            When other organizations reduce or eliminate services, close their doors, and move out of the neighborhood due to funding cuts, a shift in priorities, or other factors, the settlement house remains and continues to provide those needed programs and services in a cost-effective manner. We could enhance and expand our programs and services at a fraction of the cost the school district pays for the same services.

            If the school district cannot provide counselors, art, and music, send the children to The Community Place. We provide those programs. When there aren't enough people to work with "at-risk youth," send them to us. They are children and youth from our neighborhoods, so sending them back to us will ensure proper guidance, support, life-skills training, mentoring, and decision-making skills.

            If the district can't provide continuous after-school homework assistance or tutoring, send the children and youths to us. We have skilled, qualified, and credentialed people who can provide that service.

            Oh, by the way, send the children and youths' families to us, too; we see the whole family as an extension of the children.

            Let's surround the children and their families with the care we can provide as partners in the community. Children who attend Rochester schools should not have to receive fewer resources due to budget issues when together, we can ensure they get it all.

            Sherry Walker-Cowart, president and CEO, The Community Place of Greater Rochester, Inc., Parsells Avenue


WRITING TO CITY

We welcome and encourage readers' letters for publication. Send them to: themail@rochester-citynews.com or The Mail, City Newspaper, 250 North Goodman Street, Rochester 14607.

            Our guidelines: We don't publish anonymous letters --- and we ask that you include your street name and city/town/village. We don't publish letters that have been sent to other media. While we don't restrict length, letters of under 350 words have a greater chance of being published. We do edit letters for clarity and brevity. And in general we don't publish letters (or longer "op-ed" pieces) from the same writer more often than about once every two months.

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