FencesIf poets are going to be sensitive...



If poets are going to be sensitive to misinterpretation, they had better switch trades.

But when a famous poem is constantly quoted as meaning its exact opposite, it eventually becomes the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back.

This camel's back was broken recently on hearing a presidential candidate on Maryland Public Television laying at Robert Frost's feet the sentiment he was rejecting: "Good fences make good neighbors."

For all I know, they do. But Robert Frost wrote his famous poem, "Mending Wall," to say the opposite.

The poem begins, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall." The poet adjures his stubborn neighbor that he has no cows and that his apple trees will not get over to eat the neighbor's pine cones.

At the poem's end, he takes on a deeper problem: He says his neighbor, with a boulder in each hand, seems to him like "an old stone savage, moving in darkness of more than trees."

To which the old stone savage merely responds, like a parrot with his favorite phrase: "Good fences make good neighbors" -- an all-too-quotable line.

It's discouraging.

Josephine Jacobsen


Sins of a Few

I was very disturbed to see the cartoon June 22, which was a misleading portrayal of the trucking industry. It was particularly appalling to see the notice at the bottom that reads, "Important News: Trucking Companies Frequently Flaunt Federal Safety Rules". . .

xTC I am sure you must have empirical data to support this indictment. of an industry that employs approximately 2.8 million people.

The truth of the matter is that between 1983 and 1993 the number of miles driven by commercial trucks increased 41 percent, while the fatal accident rate fell 37 percent.

Another interesting fact is that during 1993 more than 1.9 million roadside inspections were performed, and only 5.4 percent of the drivers were placed out of service due to hours-of-service violations.

Donald A. Orr

Farmer City, Ill.

L The writer is president of Roberson Transportation Services.

Serious Problems?

When I read of Congress' attempts to find painless ways to cut the budget, increase military spending, continue tobacco and sugar subsidies and, at the same time, reduce taxes, I am reminded of a remark made by a former foreign minister of France who was recently quoted by Time magazine:

"It is hard to take seriously a nation which has deep problems if they can be fixed by a 50-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline."

Dan Lynch


Jews in Greece

I was really puzzled by the July 9 Perspective article of Scott Ponemone, with the title "A search for Jewish Culture," which I am afraid may lead to some erroneous conclusions with regard to the Jewish presence in my country.

In this respect, I wish to underline that throughout history, Jews in Greece lived happily and prosperously, being a vibrant and integral part of the Greek people.

In World War II, among the hundreds of thousands of victims that my country suffered during its occupation by the Nazis, there were many thousands of Greek Jews, especially in the city of Thessaloniki.

During this dark period, both the people and the authorities of Greece showed unwavering support and tangible solidarity to the horrible drama of their Jewish brothers, a fact recognized and highly praised by the Jewish nation, including the State of Israel, all Jewish organizations worldwide and, moreover, the Greek Jews.

The relative absence of Jewish culture in the city of Thessaloniki is a sad result not only of the Nazi atrocities, but also of the big fire of August 18, 1917.

That fire, a major calamity for the whole city of Thessaloniki, caused the destruction of 4,000 buildings, many of which belonged to the Jewish community, including almost all the historic features that the distinctive Jewish presence had imprinted on the city over the centuries.

Greece has been particularly proud of the traditionally strong bonds of friendship between the Greek and Jewish peoples, as underlined not only by the excellent relations that my country enjoys with the State of Israel, but also by the mutual feelings of esteem, affection and respect between the two nations that manifest themselves on every occasion . . .

Loucas Tsilas


The writer is ambassador of Greece to the United States.

Some Doctors Push Products for Money

I was greatly interested in vascular surgeon Frank Criado's July 9 letter expressing annoyance with dietitian Colleen Pierre's opinions regarding a nutritional supplementation program called

Interior Design Nutritionals Program (IDN).

I take strong issue with this surgeon's statement: "To suggest that some doctors would become involved with this program simply because of the economic opportunity is wrong, untrue and personally offensive."

This is a fact, not a suggestion.

In November 1994 a Towson physician contacted me by phone at the practice where I am employed as a nurse practitioner.

He wanted to speak to me as the current president of the Nurse Practitioner Association of Maryland.

He described himself as a past president of a well respected local physician's organization.

He would tell me nothing more except that he had something to tell me that would benefit both of our organizations.

I gave in to curiosity and met this doctor and his nurse wife in his Towson office, where I was presented with an array of IDN products and brochures and a wealth of anecdotes extolling their benefits.

He told me that I looked tired and offered me a product called "Overdrive," which he said he takes when he's having a stressful day (this is actually a B-complex vitamin).

I asked him for medical journal articles to back up his claims and was told there is nothing in the medical literature, "but you know how medicine is."

He presented binders filled with articles from the nutritional literature.

I later learned that he was not listed on the membership roster of the physicians' association mentioned by him on the phone.

I wrote to the president of this association, who agreed that his behavior was unethical and did not appreciate the implication that he was representing this organization.

Bottom line: The physician wanted me to sell IDN products to patients in my practice and was trying to get access to my organization's members.

IDN was presented as an easy way to make money. He has his patients write down their Master Card and Visa numbers as part of the medical history form!

Typical patients for whom he recommends IDN are the chronically fatigued (a very common primary care complaint), athletes and those with chronic illness.

Orders are phoned in from the doctor's home, and the products arrive at the patient's homes a few days later.

The doctor gets a 20 percent commission and in one month told me that he made $1,200, "nothing to sneeze at."

He told me that the IDN company was looking for "young, dynamic people such as nurse practitioners who were focused on disease prevention and wanted to make people feel better."

The doctor also alleged, "You girls could do a lot for yourselves." I do not know how he would benefit if I sold IDN, but I can guess.

I totally agree with Dr. Criado's noble assertion that "patients' reliance on and trust in physicians' integrity and sound advice should be the cornerstone of [the health care] system."

Certainly this is true for all health care providers. All are in a very good position to sell products for profit to a trusting patient.

Integrity of the provider is key. Consumers and providers should beware anecdotal evidence.

For sound professional advice about nutrition, I would not call the chief of vascular surgery. I'd call or refer to a registered dietitian such as Colleen Pierre.

anet S. Selway


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