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August 8, 2009, Letters to the Editor

Right to marry

I applaud the Rev. Bob Emrich, a leader of Stand for Marriage, when he said in the August 1-2 BDN, “They [the petitioners] believe there is a duty and a benefit to nurture and promote the unique institution of traditional marriage.” All I would like is to have my relationship with my partner, Diana, receive the same respect and nurturance. After 20 years of devoted coupleship, we too wish to be married.

In the July 20 Wall Street Journal, David Boies, one of the two attorneys working to overturn Proposition 8 in California wrote, “The occasional suggestion that marriages between people of different sexes may somehow be threatened by marriages of people of the same sex does not withstand discussion. It is difficult to the point of impossibility to envision two love-struck heterosexuals contemplating marriage to decide against it because gays and lesbians also have the right to marry; it is equally hard to envision a couple whose marriage is troubled basing the decision of whether to divorce on whether their gay neighbors are married or living in a domestic partnership.”

Though I wish we were not faced with this fundamentally unjust ballot question in November, since we are, I urge fair-minded Mainers to vote no, preserving my right and that of many others to the security and dignity offered by marriage.

Katharine Wilkins



Cancer behavior

The effort to understand cancer in Maine by geographical mapping, “Mapping Cancer ([BDN, Aug. 1-2), is an exciting effort that, however, seems imbalanced. While much attention is given to environmental toxins, mapping of behavioral and social factors is relegated to secondary importance. Is that wise?

Consider lung cancer, whose primary cause is behavioral. Between 80 and 90 percent of lung cancer is caused by smoking. Heavy smokers have about 20 times the risk of suffering the disease than a nonsmoker does.

Smoking is expensive, yet, paradoxically, it is most prevalent among those least able to afford it, those with low income and limited education. What is going on here? A recent review of lung cancer epidemiology by A.J. Alberg and colleagues in the medical journal Chest notes that association of smoking and lung cancer with poverty and lack of education is seen in countries as diverse as the United States, China and the Netherlands.

Poverty, lack of education, diet, smoking, and exposure to toxins all contribute to lung cancer, says Alberg, in ways difficult to untangle. But shouldn’t we try? These social and behavioral factors may be even more important than the genetic and environmental ones. Could it be, for example, that the chronic physiological stress of struggling to make ends meet with limited means, something familiar to many rural Mainers, leaves the body more susceptible to toxins like radon, leading to disease?

Cancer is a public health problem needing both research and action at the public level.

Paul B. Laub



Affordable health care

We live in the wealthiest country in the world and yet a recent news report showed hundreds of Americans traveling a hundred miles and more, sleeping in their cars, in order to get free medical, dental and eye care. Most reported they had jobs but couldn’t afford health care.

When Wendell Potter, a former communications director for Cigna, visited one of these “health care expedition” sites in Tennessee, he found a clinic set up at a fairgrounds, and he says in a recent Bill Moyers interview that “It was absolutely stunning. When I walked through the fairground gates, I saw hundreds of people lined up in the rain. Lined up, waiting to get care, in animal stalls. Animal stalls.” Wendell Potter has now quit his very lucrative job in health insurance and is advocating for a public health care plan.

Six senators (including Olympia Snowe) are drafting the legislation on health care policy. Along with insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry and health professionals are contributing large amounts of money to these senators to help them make the “right” decisions. How objective can a senator be with all of this outside help? A recent BDN editorial reported that health insurers and pharmaceutical manufacturers gave over $5 million to 10 ranking senators and representatives.

A recent poll showed that over 70 percent of us want something similar to Medicare for everyone. Medicare has worked. People in Europe and Canada have quality health care that works. Why can’t we?

Diane Sanderson



Jewish settlements

Regarding the editorial “Stopping the Settlements” (BDN, Aug. 3): Israel did not capture the West Bank and East Jerusalem from the Palestinians in 1967. Israel captured those territories from Jordan in 1967.

Those territories were captured from the newborn Jewish state in 1948. They were then liberated by Israel in 1967. Jews always had a presence in East Jerusalem for the past 3,000 years except when occupied by oppressors.

I toured the area in 1967. It was total destruction and devastation, both Jewish and Arab areas. Hadassah headquarters, the Mount of Olives Jewish cemetery, synagogues and Jewish schools were all destroyed. Only since 1967 have Jews and Arabs both returned and rebuilt their neighborhoods and started construction on new housing.

The problem isn’t that Jews want to move into an Arab neighborhood; it’s that Arabs don’t want Jews moving into their community. It’s surprising that a black man living in the White House would promote this type of segregation.

Irwin Pasternak



Help Americans first

After all this hype of helping the car dealers out and bailing them out, now they have this cash for clunkers ($4,500 per vehicle). I think enough is enough.

Plus sending money overseas to feed the people. I think the president ought to help out the Americans first … after all, we are the ones that voted him in office! I think probably a lot of other people think so too.

He ought to give us homeowners help. There are so many people going through foreclosure (over 3.5 million people in U.S.) and will be homeless.

It isn’t right to help the car dealers. It is not right that they think we can have a new car but to hell with a place to call home?

The president ought to get his priorities straight first. After all, didn’t we put him in office? He ought to help us out first.

Martha Hankins



Lemonade, not beer

What ever happened to the old-fashioned idea of serving cookies and lemonade to guests? Beer and pretzels, oh dear!

What message does this send to our young people when the president is looked up to by so many?

Ina Sleight


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