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Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013: Whale watching, cardiac stents, shutdown blame, homeless

Kudos, Aislinn

Congratulations to Aislinn Sarnacki for having captured the spirit and excitement of the “old-fashioned whale watch” in her video and accompanying article. I was fortunate to be on the Sept. 19 watch that was the focus of her report.

I would also like to thank the College of the Atlantic for once again making such an intimate and educational experience available to us regular folk who are passionate about nature and her magnificent creatures. Capt. Toby Stephenson and naturalist Rachel Sullivan-Lord represented the absolute best that COA has to offer.

Pat Tracey

Mount Desert Island

Cardiac stents

The Sept. 30 BDN article by Peter Waldman, David Armstrong and Sydney P. Freedberg that discusses the alleged overuse of cardiac stents in U.S. hospitals paints a tableau of abuse with a broad brush that can inadvertently taint the thousands of interventional cardiologists who work diligently to choose the right treatment for the right patient.

Stents have great potential to help people, but they must be used selectively and weighed against the alternatives (medicines and bypass surgery). Stents work best in patients who have definite “ischemia” (lack of adequate blood flow) in a medium-to-large area of the heart. This can be estimated with imaging stress tests or with a special coronary artery pressure wire, which allows us to calculate whether a given coronary narrowing is causing ischemia.

My colleagues and I at Eastern Maine Medical Center’s catheterization laboratory have been at the forefront of this latter technology. We have participated in the clinical trials that have changed the way stents are used.

We now know that just estimating the percent narrowing of an artery is fraught with error and, alas, bias. Ultimately, patients have to feel comfortable asking tough questions, getting second opinions and knowing that their doctors are looking out for them.

Alan H. Wiseman, MD


Cheap violin

What’s really aggravating about the government shutdown is that that’s not what it is at all. It really is a shutdown of the symbols of the federal government. And the symbols that they, the actual government, have chosen to shut down are the ones slyly chosen to annoy us, the people, the most: the national parks, the monuments. (The ultimate American symbols, Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Health, etc., have all been closed.)

How many National Security Agency Facebook spies and Central Intelligence Agency operatives have been furloughed? Did the Internal Revenue Service close its doors? What about the “Federal Bureaucrats of Investigation”? Was anyone asked to stop chasing pot smokers for a few days and go fishing for some actual fish? No, no, no and no.

Are the American people being played like a cheap violin? Kind of what it feels like to me.

Charles Rasmussen

Bass Harbor

Truth and rhetoric

This is submitted in response to the Oct. 2 BDN letter by Rep. Heather Sirocki. It’s been my observation that as politicians have taken real life issues and then devised words and phrases to describe those issues, the ensuing semantics are usually more about political agendas than truth.

In the representative’s letter she talks about “thousands of able-bodied adults” receiving “medical welfare.” It would seem reasonable to assume that she is referencing MaineCare or Maine’s version of the federal Medicaid program. And then, with an obvious nod to political agenda, instead of alluding to access to health care, she labels it as “medical welfare.”

I invite the representative from Scarborough and all of her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to call me and make an appointment to talk with some of our employees who actually serve the named population. The truth is far broader and more complex than the rhetoric suggests.

Dennis Marble, Executive Director

Bangor Area Homeless Shelter


It can wait

When I first began driving, there were no cell phones. We were taught to keep our eyes on the road and pledged to never drink and drive. While these lessons are important today, now drivers have even more to think about. As nearly nine in 10 Americans now have cell phones, we must remind each other to take our own pledge to not text and drive.

The statistics on distracted driving are alarming: Texting while driving causes one in four accidents annually. It’s a national epidemic that we’re not immune to in Maine as tragic accidents involving texting and driving remain in the news.

In Maine, texting while driving has been illegal for more than two years and carries with it a $250 fine and adds two points to the offender’s license. Unfortunately, we need to do more than just enforce the law, we need to educate drivers of all ages about the dangers of distracted driving.

Nationwide, a program called It Can Wait is aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of texting and driving. It recently sponsored a national Drive for Pledges day, and people across Maine signed a pledge to not text and drive. Take the pledge at www.itcanwait.com, and share it with your loved ones. By educating each other, we can prevent these tragedies.

Matt Dunlap, Maine Secretary of State


Shutdown blame

The real blame for the government shutdown lies squarely with President Barack Obama and the Senate Democrats. The fact is that the House Republicans have repeatedly passed funding bills that will keep the government open, but the Senate Democrats will not even talk about them or vote on them.

Why is this? It is because the Republicans included a provision on Obamacare. It would give private citizens the same one-year break from the individual mandate that Obama gave to big business earlier this year.

Imagine, the big bad pro-business Republicans are trying to give you the same break big business got, and the Democrats won’t even discuss it! How ironic.

It is long past time for the president and Senate Democrats to give up on the “I will not negotiate, and my way is the only way” approach. I hope the House Republicans hold firm and don’t cave in.

Timothy Grant


Government haves

News is focusing on what people are losing in the shutdown. I wish the media would expose the current and lifetime benefits received by the legislatures who are creating this situation. If they are furloughed, do they sacrifice anything?

Everything is about what is being lost; nothing is being exposed as to what is not being lost by those who already “have” as compared to those who will be “have nots.”

Molly Hamel


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