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Monday, Jan. 28, 2013: Palm oil, media bias and undiagnosed illnesses

Palm oil marketplace

Most people wouldn’t knowingly support the decimation of some of the most endangered species on the planet. Yet, a large percentage of the population does just that when visiting their local market.

Found in approximately one half of all consumer goods, palm oil is an ingredient making its way into everything from soaps and cosmetics to packaged foods and biofuels.

However it is also largely responsible for the rapidly declining numbers of Sumatran rhinos, tigers, orangutans and Asian elephants.

With demand rising since the 1970s, vast swaths of tropical rainforests are being cleared to make way for palm oil plantations, primarily in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Responsibly managed palm oil production can provide lasting jobs to developing countries.

Unfortunately, a small percentage is certified sustainable. In addition, the unchecked large-scale expansion puts vulnerable wildlife at an ever greater risk, while expediting climate change and destroying watershed resources that locals depend on.

Given the rapidly expanding global marketplace, it is increasingly important to be a conscious consumer and to read labels. Lives depend on it.

Rebecca Tripp


Picking the right target

Law-abiding gun owners in Maine will not tolerate any compromise of our Second Amendment rights.

I hope the government of our great state isn’t part of the fear-based rush to undermine our Constitution for a false sense of security.

We have more guns than ever in America, and violent crime overall is much lower than before.

Picking the right target is imperative when trying to solve any problem. Guns are not the right target.

There is another common denominator in these horrific mass murders that isn’t being widely reported. It’s the incredible increase in prescription drugs, primarily antidepressants.

We also have an epidemic problem of opiate addiction here in Maine.

I’ve lived in Bucksport my entire life, and twice in 2012 the local Rite Aid was robbed for Oxycontin. Certainly a first for Bucksport.

I’ve been concerned for a long time now about the seemingly large number of children who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I don’t remember any of my classmates getting drugged for being overactive or for any other reason.

If I had a child with any behavioral or emotional issues, the last thing I would do is resort to prescription drugs.

The time for logical debate and action are long overdue about the right target.

Stephen Crosson


Media judge some, not others

What is the world coming to when we allow media and technology to not only control our life but also our thoughts?

For example, Lance Armstrong. Day after day, the media digs a little deeper, wanting their ounce of flesh. They tear it from the man one strip at a time, watching him bleed and loving every minute.

Looking closer, where does the real embarrassment lie?

Is it that a man was so passionate about achieving something, especially after being given a second chance at life? Or is it that the testing committee failed time and time again to find evidence of drugs in an athlete’s system?

How many more athletes did they miss? Was Lance Armstrong the only one on performance-enhancing drugs?

Highly unlikely. Does the fact that the others did not win make their indiscretion “less” wrong?

What’s truly wrong here is our reaction. The man’s face is down in the mud, and people are waiting in line to step on his head.

The media has perfected their art of biased reporting, which proves even more unfair when they show him receiving his trophies with his little kids.

Not only do they destroy the man, but they make the kids suffer and live with this stigma the rest of their life.

How is Armstrong’s story any different from anything else we see and hear on a daily basis? We all know that if it’s worth getting, it’s worth cheating for.

How about the campaigns of the highest office in the U.S.? Don’t presidential candidates lie and cheat? Also the most sacred union between two people — marriage — is more often than not riddled with lies and deceit.

Why are we so quick to judge some but not others?

If only the honest and caring people could report the stories, maybe the news would sound a lot different.

Mildred G. Walker


Undiagnosed illness

I appreciate the article, “Researchers find new disease carried by deer ticks” that ran on Jan. 17 about Borrelia miyamotoi in black-legged ticks and the report of a Lyme–like illness with features of relapsing fever.

Many individuals with Lyme-like illnesses have gone undiagnosed because tests for the specific pathogen, Borrelia burgdorferi, were negative. Is this part of the explanation?

In the article, the Yale investigator states that diagnosing this new pathogen as responsible for the illness requires a person to have a positive test. For epidemiologic purposes, this is true.

If the sensitivities of tests for this newly described pathogen are no better than those for Lyme disease, the testing will miss more than a third of true positive patients.

My concern is that this sets up another situation in which individuals may have an illness, fail to test positive and remain undiagnosed and untreated.

Even testing for both pathogens will not assure that we have not missed a different “infector” causing the illness.

Perhaps the most important things physicians can do is recognize that there is still much more we don’t know than we do, remain open to possibilities, continue to use laboratory testing prudently, recognize limitations of the lab in supporting diagnoses and, most importantly, believe our patients.

Normal lab test results do not mean that nothing is wrong. How many were told, “Your Lyme test is negative; you’re fine?”

Careful, doctor. First, do no harm.

Beatrice M. Szantyr, MD

Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine


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