'Race for the Cure'
I am writing to clear up what I consider to be glaring misconceptions in Sara Engram's Sept. 26 column on breast cancer and the underlying premise of the Race for the Cure 5K run for women on Oct. 2.
I am one of the unfortunate souls Ms. Engram sadly references in passing. I have fourth-stage breast cancer, considered by medical science to be terminal. There is no "Race for the Cure" for me, or tens of thousands like me. We are the faces who haunt the proponents of early detection.
I did detect my breast cancer early. I performed breast self-exam every month from the age of 19 to the age of 30, when I found a cancerous lump. Twice a year I had my gynecologist do the same. Three years ago I caught the lump "in time," dutifully had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, only to have the cancer recur with a vengeance a year ago.
Two major studies last year showed that mammogram screening for women under 50 does not increase the rate of detection of cancer -- in other words, mammograms are statistically meaningless for women younger than 50.
Certainly, even one pre-menopausal woman's life saved by mammogram screening is worth the effort. Mammograms do save the lives of postmenopausal women, but early detection is hardly the panacea that well-meaning advocates and public health officials wish it were.
The public emphasis on early detection bespeaks a greater myopia.
While Ms. Engram pointed out that less than 10 percent of breast cancers are genetically caused, she did not report a far greater proportion of research money is spent on genetic causes than on the causes of the other 90 to 95 percent of all breast cancers.
We are witnessing an epidemic of devastating proportions, and yet no one seems willing to ask the simple question. Why?
Why did one in 20 women get breast cancer 50 years ago, when it is now one in nine? A quick glance at the studies provides tantalizing clues that no one seems willing to aggressively study and pull together into a cohesive picture.
The research studies I've collected point to an epidemic with multifactorial causes that go to the very heart of the American way of life. One showed that as women from other cultures move to the United States, their low rate of breast cancer increases to the high American rate.
Why? Is it the high fat American diet, stress, environmental pollutants? Studies have shown that obese women and women who drink alcohol are more prone to breast cancer.
Why? Is it the substances themselves and their effect on hormonal levels? Is it the negative and stressful lifestyles these groups may tend to live? Some combination of both?
Other studies done recently have linked breast cancer to DDT and dioxin exposure -- but the environmental pollutants angle is the most shamefully ignored and under-funded aspect of breast cancer research.
So we "Race for the Cure" because it's easier to focus on the medical magic bullet that continues to elude cancer researchers.
Because it's easier to run a 5K race than to clean up thousands of toxic dump sites, or change the way the food industry operates. To remove stress from our lives sometimes means changing our jobs, our marriages, our lives.
I'm afraid that mammography screening can be part of the problem, a way for us to stay in denial instead of facing the hard truths.
Real "early detection" would be to root out the causes of breast cancer, so you, your mother, your sister or your wife don't have to become statistics of a myopic public policy. I'm banking on the knowledge of those causes to help save my life and the lives of those of us already on the wrong side of the bell curve.
A Better Way to Select State Judges
As an attorney and unsuccessful judicial applicant, I would like to comment on why there is such a dearth of applicants before the judicial nominating commissions. There is virtually no chance of getting through the Judicial Nominating Commission to have one's name presented to the governor. It has developed into a very unhealthy situation.
Notwithstanding the six lay members and the chairman appointed by the governor, the lawyers have effectively taken over these selection commissions.
The non-lawyer members of the commission have traditionally looked to the lawyers for guidance and advice because of the force of their personalities and their knowledge of the law and legal procedures. This has allowed the local bar associations to take over the process of selecting judges.
The concept of the judicial selection commissions started with Gov. Marvin Mandel in 1970, who had been elected by the legislature to fill the vacancy created when Spiro Agnew was elected vice president. To prove he would at least take the selection of judges out of the "political process," Mr. Mandel came up with the concept of the judicial selection commissions prior to that year's election. It helped him sail through the election.
Unfortunately, the people of Maryland have been saddled with these judicial nominating commissions since that time. The selection of judges by sleight of hand has effectively been taken out of the governor's hands and passed to the hands of the bar associations.
There are two ways to fix the system. First, you could create a procedure similar to the federal system, with the governor submitting a list of names to the nominating commission of individuals he is considering for appointment. The commission would examine the credentials and report back to the governor whether the individuals are "qualified" or "unqualified."
If persons were found to be unqualified, the commission would advise the governor in full as to why they were not qualified. Answers such as "lacks judicial temperament" or "not as diligent should be" would not suffice. This would leave the commission system intact, but would not allow attorneys to dictate judicial appointments.
A second solution would be to adopt the outline of the bill Sen. Lawrence Levitan, D-Montgomery, introduced in 1989. Applicants for a judicial vacancy would submit their names to the nominating commission, which would hold hearings to consider the professional qualifications of the applicants. All the names would be forwarded to the governor with the recommendations from the commission as to whether the various applicants were professionally qualified.
In the event the commission concludes an individual is not qualified, the commission would give its reasons in writing to the governor. An applicant determined to be unqualified would be given an opportunity to respond. The governor would not be bound to appoint from those found to be qualified by the commission, but could exercise his own judgment after duly considering the written rationale and the applicant's response.
In the "federal" solution, the names originate with the governor and are sent to the commission. With the second solution, the names would originate by application to the commission and would then be sent to the governor.
The final decision would rest in the hands of the governor, who, after all, is the elected official who should bear the burden of the appointments in the first place.
Of course, we can always leave the selection of judges to the voters by retaining our present system of electing circuit court judges and perhaps reinstituting the election of appellate judges as well. This option operates as a check and balance to some of the inequities.
Victor L. Crawford
The writer, a former state senator, served as vice chairman of the Committee for Judicial Reform.
Football Tickets Should Be Distributed Fairly
I was quoted in a Sun article (Sept. 29) expressing dissatisfaction with the allocation of club seats in the proposed football stadium. How many of the choicest locations were skimmed off the top by sky suite purchasers? We don't know because the Maryland Stadium Authority -- a state agency leasing space in a public facility -- refuses to release that information.
My allegation that customers of the Touchdowners' sales force received preferential treatment could easily be disproved if, in analyzing who bought what from whom, it was determined that their patrons appear in the most desirable sections in the same proportion to their overall numbers as those of us who submitted applications through the publicly advertised channels.
In the absence of hard data, however, the suspicion lingers that the process was slanted toward people who show up on all the right Rolodexes.
The fairness of the club seat sales campaign would be largely moot at this point save for the following: In most cases club level purchasers have the opportunity to buy two additional reserved seats for every club lease they hold.
While the public seems to be vaguely counting on some sort of lottery to distribute the seats in the rest of the stadium, the only public comment by the Stadium Authority is a clause in the club seat lease stating allocation of reserved tickets will be the responsibility of the new NFL team's owner.
There is nothing to prevent a swath between the 20-yard lines, cascading from sky suite to club level to reserved seating, consisting solely of the Baltimore region's moneyed and well-connected.
Recent history is instructive in this regard. When Orioles fans complained about the transfer from Memorial Stadium to Camden Yards, Del. Joel Chasnoff, D-Montgomery, introduced legislation setting up arbitration for season ticket holders who felt that they had received inferior locations. It was defeated in committee, not least because of the Stadium Authority's position that the Orioles were a private tenant that could pretty much do as it wished.
Public financing of the stadium is what will assure each visiting team a $1 million gate and will produce a $28 million annual profit in the first few years. This has been accomplished via a state bond issue backed by instant lottery ticket sales. If Joe Lunchpail bought $10 worth of scratch-off tickets each week for the last two years, he's done as much as many club seat purchasers to ensure Baltimore's return to the NFL. Yet he has virtually no shot at scoring two on the 50 yard line.
A legally binding provision should be included in the state's lease providing for an equitable distribution procedure to be handled by some disinterested organization.
Better still, this should be coupled with a public pledge from the ownership groups that a high percentage of the seats in the new stadium -- including many of the best locations -- will be allotted in this fashion.
The process could be self-financing. I would gladly pay a few extra dollars in an application fee to ensure that I'm competing
for seats on a level-playing field.
Frank C. Fillmore Jr.
Zinman's Musical Mastery
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's mesmerizing and emotionally evocative performance of Henryk Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) served as a lasting testament to David Zinman's dynamic and inspirational leadership.
Zinman showed Baltimoreans why his special talents have helped propel Gorecki's hauntingly beautiful piece to world-wide acclaim.
The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs is a poignant revelation of human tragedy.
A portion of its vocal text is taken from the lines of a farewell from a daughter to her mother that were scratched on the wall of a Gestapo prison cell.
The seriousness of the music was reflected in Zinman's unusual request that the audience honor the work about to be performed with contemplative meditation and prayer-like silence.
The audience complied, and Zinman proceeded to unite the orchestra, soloist and audience together as one.
The almost sacred character of the event will not soon be forgotten by those who were present.
Zinman concentrated on the Gorecki score as though it was divine revelation, and the orchestra and soloist responded with inspired devotion to the music and to the conductor.
While Barber's beautiful Adagio for Strings gained new popularity when it was incorporated into the soundtrack of the hit movie "Platoon," Gorecki's work has gained enormous popularity through word of mouth alone. After hearing the BSO's awe-inspiring performance, it is no wonder why.
Zinman continues to build Baltimore's reputation as a center for great music. Fortunately for us, Gorecki's Third Symphony is now a part of Zinman's legacy in Baltimore.
Worth a Shot
You report that there is a federal marksmanship program whereby, with tax money, gun clubs teach safe gun-handling to youths.
Perhaps in prior times this program was needed in the rural areas. It is needed today in the city, where poor aiming and careless shooting harms bystanders.
Rather than take away the money, Congress should mandate that the gun clubs provide safe gun handling for city youths. I would think the NRA will support this proposal as they are advocates of gun ownership and safety.
Clinton, not Perot
The occasions on which The Sun goes into paroxysms of self-righteous fury are sometimes more accurate than it realizes.
On Sept. 13 the lead editorial described Ross Perot's prose as "bombast, distortion, omission, innuendo, sloganeering, exaggeration, demagogy, and plain old lies."
Quite unintentionally The Sun has described with stunning accuracy President Clinton and his entire administration.
Martin W. Mayer
Sprawl and the City
I am pleased to see that Neal Peirce (Opinion * Commentary, Sept. 14) is addressing the need to set up and enforce urban growth boundaries.
As president of the Baltimore City Council, Mary Pat Clarke is the only city official who has expressed a similar concern and has repeatedly tried to bring this issue to the attention of both the City Council and the mayor.
Sprawl in the county has a direct and crippling effect on the city's health and growth.
By constant enlargement of the urban demarcation line, Baltimore has allowed poorly planned development to deface its surroundings and endanger its unique reservoirs. It has also facilitated the exodus of city residents.
Baltimore City has the legal power to affect growth by denying any further expansion of city water and sewer lines.
I hope that the next Baltimore City mayor will share this concern.
I wish to commend and thank Mike Littwin for his exceptional article of Sept. 29, "Arnick is back and we should have seen it coming." His last paragraph says it all. "The Arnick case is just a symptom of a system gone wrong. His appointment says only one thing: The interests of those who govern are more important than those of the governed."
I felt Mr. Littwin could not have chosen a better reference than the book by William Greider called, "Who Will Tell the People?" It is subtitled: "The Betrayal of the American Democracy."
Delia Torgerson Watson
For the NEA
I admire George Will for his wit, for his polemical skills and for his steadfast loyalty to my hometown baseball team, the Cubs. So I am saddened when he makes a misleading and destructive attack on the National Endowment for the Arts (Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 23).
The arts provide many benefits -- inspiration, insight, consolation and sheer pleasure. Without public funding, it would be impossible to have great arts institutions such the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Museum of Art and dozens of smaller arts organizations throughout our state. The arts have never been economically self-sustaining; they depend upon public and private subsidy.
The arts are controversial because artists reach the emotions -- sometimes inspiring us, sometimes irritating or provoking us. While the enemies of public funding fuss over a very limited number of arts projects, the overwhelming majority of what the National Endowment for the Arts funds is of high quality and is warmly embraced by the public.
I am personally familiar with the workings of the National Endowment for the Arts, and I believe that the agency is unusually efficient. The budget of the endowment is less than $1 per person per year -- less than many spend on soft drinks in a day! Surely this is not too high a price to pay for the many civic benefits the arts bestow upon our country.
The writer is the executive director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.