Routine TestsTo read and hear that Sen....

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Routine Tests

To read and hear that Sen. Paul Sarbanes had his prostate cancer diagnosed early due to a "routine" blood test is a tribute to the miracles of modern medicine and research, which our government is slowly illuminating by cutting grants to carry on much needed research.

I personally wish Mr. Sarbanes a long and healthly life. I do note, however, the rather special health benefits afforded to members of Congress, and to those who can afford a private health care plan, that allows "routine" tests as part of its program.

My question is: Would the ordinary man been able to have that routine test, the ordinary woman a routine yearly mammogram, given the ever increasing growth of stringently managed health care systems, most of which do not even offer coverage for a routine physical examination?

Toby Mower

Baltimore

Religious Record

The Rev. T. M. Moore (letter, Aug. 28) calls upon all contenders in our church-state wars to tone down their rhetoric and show "more careful fidelity to the historical record."

Unfortunately, Pastor Moore's own letter is not free of extravagant claims. Particularly glaring is the boast that "everything from our republican form of government to higher education to the abolition of slavery to penal reform and a host of lesser benefits" was Christian-inspired.

When the Civil War helped America to cease being half-slave and half-free, Abraham Lincoln was painfully aware that both sides had prayed to the same God. Why, then, does Rev. Moore insist on giving full credit to Christian leadership for the abolition of slavery, while assigning no blame to the numerous clergy who had found biblical sanction for the abominable institution? For a long time, abolitionist clergy were at best a conspicuous minority in Christian ranks.

Similarly, at the birth of our republic, the colonial clergy were hardly unanimous in support of American independence. Many loved the mother country and wholeheartedly approved the monarch's role as "defender of the faith."

As for higher education, it's true that in our early years education at all levels was a church monopoly.

Jefferson, in founding the University of Virginia, fought hard to create a secular institution. He was an inveterate enemy of kings, priests and nobles "who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance." When he swore an oath upon the altar of God, it was directed against every form of "tyranny over the mind of man" -- and especially against religious establishments.

I welcome Rev. Moore's exploration of our history and heritage. But let's not coat religion with Teflon.

Stan Lichtenstein

Bethesda

Faulkner's Fate

Shannon Faulkner -- the Madeline Murray of the 1990s. All she wanted to do was create a brouhaha. She couldn't have been serious about going through The Citadel without preparation.

During the two years she was fighting her cause, she should have put her body through a strenuous fitness program. And how could she have been so naive as to think she wouldn't undergo every form of mental and physical stress?

Had she been after a for-real military education, she'd have applied to one of our service academies where women's programs have been in place for some years. But, of course, we all know she would never have been accepted with that body and mind.

I believe in equality for women in just about every way possible, but I also think there are some things that should remain sacred.

What's wrong with a little bit of exclusivity?

Alice Anderson

Ocean City

Special Moment

Everyone will remember a special moment in watching Cal Ripken pass Lou Gehrig's record and become a legend.

What I will remember about that moment has nothing to do with baseball.

I will remember watching a man, who at this finest professional hour raced to be with the people he so obviously loves, his wife and children. A man blind to cameras and screaming fans, who only wanted to be in the arms of those most dear to him. A man passing thousands of cheering fans intent on reaching the outstretched arms of his little son to hold him close.

I will remember witnessing in the middle of a public media frenzy a personal moment between four people whose eyes were only on each other while the world's eyes were on them.

That is what I will remember about the night Cal Ripken became a baseball legend.

Rhona R. Beitler-Akman

Owings Mills

Biotechnology's Faulty Premise

Cheers to Christine R. Mencken for her Opinion * Commentary piece (Aug. 20) on the UMBC Research Park. The Park's probable focus on biotechnology deserves additional comment.

As an alumnus ('87), I can see the administration's overbearing paternalism has only intensified (surprise!).

While some local residents may be "neither opposed to progress or modern technology," the rather ubiquitous blind faith in technology in Baltimore draws my ire. Those who have been indoctrinated believe biotechnology's apologists' claims that whatever ails society, they can engineer a genetic solution to cure it. But because biotechnology is based on a faulty premise, biotechnology will always fail.

Biotechnology's basic premise is that whatever nature can do, biotechnology can do better. In other words, biotech seeks to circumvent and suppress natural processes.

Unlike biotech, natural processes have evolved over millions of years with very specific support mechanisms; for example, anything nature produces, it can also break down.

That is, nature has accounted for all the possible side effects JTC from any of its processes. Without this ability, nature would not have achieved the essential quality of sustainability.

Meanwhile, whenever humans attempt to contradict nature, there are always significant, unforeseen side effects which either eliminate the benefits directly or produce such expensive costs that the "value" of the benefits is essentially zero.

In a Darwinian blip of time, biotechnologists are trying to perform tasks comparable to those which evolved in nature over millions of years. By definition, there is no opportunity to predict any potential side effects, or develop other processes to counter them. Inevitably, any process developed to counter the original side effects would have unpleasant side effects of its own.

A Business Week cover story Sept. 26 titled "Biotech: Why It Hasn't Paid Off" reported that several "high-profile products" have bombed in recent years due to lethal side effects or pure failure.

This is not surprising, since 90 percent of standard drugs never get past clinical trials: but we're supposed to believe that biotech's synthetic, invasive, engineered "miracles" are going to work?

Despite claims that biotech is Maryland's future economic engine, evidence suggests otherwise. Business Week reported "except for a handful of . . . companies, biotech stocks have plunged: the Amex Biotech Index is off more than 50 percent from its zenith in 1992." One analyst states that "the market is disillusioned with biotech" because 'the technology hasn't worked, and the likelihood of success is lower." In March, 1995, you reported that none of the 19 publicly-traded Maryland biotech companies were even profitable. And while a few people may get high-paying jobs, the majority of jobs will be maintenance and security work, paying non-livable wages.

Economist Charles McMillion was quoted in your own paper June 18 that "there [may be] enormous upside for profits, but not enormous upside for jobs."

In your own "Job Growth" guide of March 19, 1993, Federal Reserve economist Ray Ownes was quoted thusly: "We get marginally better care at great costs . . . of not developing other aspects of society."

The most obvious aspects ignored are the six principles of prevention (nutrition, hygiene, sanitation, exercise, clean environment, healthy mind), to which your paper usually gives lip service and others vilify as simplistic and impractical. Yet they work -- cheaply. And when biotechnology fails and is exposed for the fraud that it is, we taxpayers are supposed to foot the bill for the park (and possible cleanup of hazards)? What a scam.

Mark E. Rifkin

Ellicott City

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