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Low Back PainEditor: I would like to...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Low Back Pain

Editor: I would like to comment on the Oct. 20 article in the Fitness Clinic section of To Your Health.

Physical therapists and physicians agree that most people with low back pain would benefit from abdominal strengthening, back stretching and back-strengthening exercises.

The back-strengthening exercise Dr. Gabe Mirkin recommends is technically a stretching exercise designed to increase flexibility of the hamstrings, hip adductors and lower back muscles.

Stretching exercises cause the muscles to elongate, making them more flexible; strengthening only occurs when muscles are forced to contract and create movement.

The exercise described in the article may not be appropriate for the majority of individuals suffering from low back pain.

This type of stretch has potential to place too much pressure on the lower back intervertebral discs. Lumbar-stretching activities should not excessively round out the curve of the lower back, as this markedly increases pressure on the discs in this area.

Physical therapists often prescribe the following back exercises for strengthening:

1. Active back extension: Lie on stomach with arms at side (place a pillow under abdomen for comfort). Raise head and shoulders off the floor as far as possible while tightening seat muscles. Hold for 3 seconds, then slowly lower to the starting position. Repeat at least 10 times.

2. Active leg extension: Lie on stomach with legs straight (place pillow under abdomen for comfort). Using seat muscles, lift the entire leg off of the floor approximately 4 to 6 inches. Do not let the pelvis raise off the floor. Hold for 3 seconds, then return the leg to the floor. Repeat 10 times on each leg. This will help to strengthen deep lumbar muscles.

It is important to note that any lumbar exercise (stretching or strengthening) that causes buttock or leg pain should not be performed. Physical therapists can be very helpful in prescribing safe and appropriate home exercise programs.

John J. Nietubicz, P.T.

Baltimore

Political Theater

Professor Craig Clifford's literary allusions to playwrights in the last two sentences of his article criticizing the win or lose approach to evaluating the presidential debates (Opinion * Commentary, Oct. 18) are strikingly apropos.

For a number of reasons our presidential nomination and election political processes have become, in large part, political theater.

The media professionals have fallen into a trap by becoming theater "critics." In this art form one focuses on how well the actors simulate emotions to create the illusion of reality.

By focusing on the presidential play acting the media professionals are reporting the facts of the simulation and thus "resonate" (a popular word this year) with their vibrations to the performance.

Too many of the professionals have been seduced, to use Mr. Clifford's phrase, by the show-biz culture.

Since the tools of their trade are words, spoken or written, the entertainment context provides them the wrong metaphors with which to illuminate the realities of the who, what, when, where and why of the issues.

Martin Berdit

Columbia

Catholic Schools

In a letter to the editor (Oct. 22), Edward Veit, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, suggests that allowing parents to choose parochial schools for their children is merely a subsidy for the wealthy.

Contrary to Mr. Veit's charge, parochial schools currently educate 2.5 million children in the United States, only a small percentage of which belongs to families with a "$100,000-a-year standard of living."

Mr. Veit also suggests that parents should send their students to public schools and advocate proper public school funding.

A recent study by James Coleman, a University of Chicago sociologist, has found that Catholic high school students outperform their public school counterparts in reading, vocabulary, mathematics and writing.

In addition, the dropout rate in Catholic high schools was less than 4 percent compared to 14 percent in public schools. Furthermore, 83 percent of the graduates of Catholic schools go to college, in contrast to 52 percent of those from public schools.

All of this is achieved at a lower per-pupil cost than the public schools. Money isn't the problem.

Is it fair to tell parents that their children have to receive a second-rate eduction because they cannot afford to pay private school tuition in addition to the taxes they currently pay for education?

Instead of throwing more money at the public schools, why not support measures that increase the opportunities for those who have the most to lose -- our children?

Thomas G. Iler

Owings Mills

CAFE Standards

As a retired environmental engineer, I take issue with President Bush's debate statement that increasing corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards to 40 mpg would mean the loss of thousands of jobs in the automobile industry. Actually, the reverse is true.

Increased automobile mileage is already almost an accomplished fact. The Japanese have at least two models that give over 50 mpg. So do the Germans. Volvo has a road-ready model that will give 90 mpg. In our own country, Ford has a model that will exceed 40 mpg. The Japanese plan to put one of their over-50-mpg models on the market in the near future.

This tells you why we have lost so much of the sales market to Japan and Germany. They research and promote aggressively. We bask in the glory of the past.

The real problem is the lobbying of the oil industry and General Motors and their huge contributions to the campaign of President Bush, and the export of our manufacturing operations to cheap-labor Mexico, which President Bush has so ardently promoted.

Increasing average mileage standards of each manufacturer to 40 mpg would actually improve the job market in this country by increasing our market share. In addition, the American driver could save serious money by spending 35 percent less on gasoline. Finally, our air would be considerably cleaner.

President Bush is just trying to repay a favor to his oil business buddies and to General Motors. It's just one more phoney misrepresentation on his part.

Ernest M. Stolberg

Baltimore

Reporting from Israel

Doug Struck's Oct. 8 article, "Israel Force Wounds 100 Palestinians," left a false impression that Israeli troops were responsible for provoking violence in the Gaza Strip two days earlier.

Mr. Struck reports that soldiers fired on demonstrators and mentions only later in the paragraph, almost as an afterthought, that Palestinians threw stones and at least five fire-bombs, thereby triggering the Israeli response.

In reporting the same incident, the New York Times stated that "Israeli soldiers fired on several thousand stone-throwing protesters in the Gaza Strip who were marching in support of an 11-day hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners." Quite a different impression than The Sun's coverage.

Throughout the rest of the article we see a litany of charges brought against the Israelis for human rights abuses of Palestinians being held in prisons and detention centers. As supporting evidence, Mr. Struck quotes from the U.S. State Department's 1991 report on human rights, claiming that it contains detailed reports of abuse.

But the State Department report is very careful not to claim these reports as its own; instead, it merely relates for the record that various sources (including Palestinian) had made such assertions.

Finally, the best example in the overall anti-Israel tone of the article occurs near its end, when Mr. Struck accuses the Israeli government of having "seized on the dispute, portraying anti-peace politics as the real cause for the strike," thus implying that the Israelis were looking for excuses to cover legitimate complaints.

Yet surprisingly, earlier in the paragraph Mr. Struck noted that even the Palestinians admitted that the hunger strike was a political ploy designed to embarrass the Israelis and disrupt the peace talks.

Perhaps problems cited above emanate from the fact that Mr. Struck drew almost exclusively from Palestinian sources to write this article. If he had made a greater attempt at balance, then surely such a skewed report would have been avoided.

Sanford V. Teplitzky

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Baltimore Jewish Council.

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