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Muscular dystrophy 'news' is hardly freshCan old...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Muscular dystrophy 'news' is hardly fresh

Can old news travel fast? Some readers of The Sun are likely to be asking themselves this question after seeing the Sept. 28 New York Times wire service report that an experimental procedure called myoblast transfer is so far ineffective against Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Studies by the Muscular Dystrophy Association have supported that conclusion since 1993.

That's why MDA emphasizes more promising forms of gene therapy in its worldwide research effort seeking treatments or cures for this fatal childhood disorder and many other neuromuscular diseases.

Let's hope the news travels far, because, despite the fact that every truly scientific study of myoblast transfer has shown the procedure as presently practiced to be ineffective, the Cell Therapy Research Foundation of Memphis, Tenn., continues to offer it as a "treatment" for children with Duchenne -- as long as their parents can come up with a $120,000 fee. One must strongly question the propriety of this approach to parents who are desperately seeking a treatment for their youngsters . . .

Robert Ross

Tucson, Ariz.

The writer is the senior vice president and executive director of

the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Here's the skinny on helping fat children

I was saddened, but not surprised, to learn that the number of extremely overweight children in the United States has more than doubled during the past three decades.

I was saddened because obesity is a key factor in heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and other chronic diseases that begin early in life and account for three-fourths of all deaths in the U.S.; because obesity is frequently associated with low energy and social stigma; because early dietary and other lifestyle habits leading to obesity become adult addictions.

I was not surprised because I know what the schools feed our kids. The National School Lunch Program has been a virtual dumping ground for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's surplus meat and dairy commodities. Daily feeding of meat and milk is mandated by Congress.

Nutrition education in our schools is provided by self-serving propaganda from the meat and dairy industries touting the fat- and cholesterol-laden "basic four food groups."

Indeed, a 1993 USDA survey found that school lunches contain 38 percent of calories from fat. U.S. dietary guidelines recommend no more than 30 percent, and many health authorities recommend even lower values.

The solution to this national tragedy is for parents to reclaim responsibility for their children's diets and health by insisting on the introduction of plant-based meals and nutrition education curricula in their schools. The curricula and recipes are available from our state health department and state chapters of the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association. For most children, it's not too late.

Alex Hershaft

Bethesda

Simpson trial taught lessons

True, O.J. Simpson was the defendant. However, so were the Los Angeles Police Department and our criminal justice system as we thought it existed.

One could not help but take note of the racial overtones that tainted the process -- a black defendant, white victims, a bigoted white detective and a majority black jury. Even the media and press played on the issues to sensationalize the story.

Racial tensions in Los Angeles were expected to become the epicenter of a shock wave that would once again be felt across the nation. But it never came with Mr. Simpson's acquittal. . . .

When the verdict of not guilty was read, downtown Los Angeles sighed with bittersweet relief. The deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were not in vain simply because the district attorney was not able to obtain a conviction. Two precious lives, nine months and millions of dollars later, we all learned more about our justice system then we would like to admit.

Our awareness of its weaknesses were keenly heightened as a result. Now it's time to make the system stronger, fairer and more accurate. It's time to remember the victims and their families. And it's time to heal our faith, not only in the justice system, but also in each other.

Maurice W. Aiken

Baltimore

Fells Point is ignored at the city's peril

In the midst of all the publicity regarding Baltimore's efforts to revitalize the desirability of city living and rehabilitate decaying neighborhoods through programs too numerous to mention, city leaders appear to have turned their backs on one area that was undergoing a highly successful private renaissance: Fells Point.

The people who had invested their own time and money to revive the housing stock and create a stable area of homeowners and small businesses (including a number of bars) -- the ultimate goals of urban renewal -- have now watched their efforts destroyed by even more bars with the attendant drunken rowdiness and vandalism.

Now many of the people who took the risk to start the revival have become discouraged and begun to leave. It takes little imagination to see that if the present trends continue, the result will be another area of abandoned homes, a large collection of cheap bars and crime -- with the announcement by the city of an exciting (and costly) new plan to revive Fells Point.

The good news is that the solution is relatively simple and inexpensive. The city authorities need only to strictly enforce the existing laws regarding the issuance and control of liquor licenses. And the police department must strictly enforce the laws regarding public drunkenness, disturbing the peace and vandalism.

The bad news is that the authorities lack the will to take these relatively simple steps.

The current situation in Fells Point is totally self-destructive, and the coming loss will be the entire city's.

Theodore M. Chandlee Jr.

Baltimore

Poetic license means rules can be broken

I am a sophomore at the Institute of Notre Dame school for girls. During one of my honors English classes, we came upon a Sept. 19 letter written to The Sun by Wilton H. Shaw concerning the poem "Say You're Sorry" by Chester Wickwire. After contemplating the issues of this letter, we concluded that the class had a difference of opinion with Wilton H. Shaw. Who is he to judge the style of another author? Is there no freedom of expression? Is a man not able to submit his poem without being criticized?

Although this poem does not convey the classical definition of poetry, creative writing should not be restricted by a hard-and-fast definition of poetry.

Ashleigh Hicks

Randallstown

A modest proposal for phone traffic jams

Why not an area code for the ones that are causing the problem, fax machines, modems, car phones, etc.?

John Byrne

Bishopville

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