Misleading article

I believe the July 5 BDN article by Michael Noonan, “Medical research is usually misleading or wrong,” is irresponsible to the public. He is a chiropractor, not a medical doctor, and not a biomedical researcher. I am a biologist with a doctoral degree and a university professor of cellular and developmental biology and embryology who studies how the front part of the eye, the cornea, develops.

For more than 40 years, I have published refereed research articles in medical ophthalmology journals. They routinely require each author of a manuscript to declare any and all possible conflicts of interest, such as owning stock in any company that might profit from the results. Those declarations are published on the front page of every article.

Noonan also does not understand the fundamental difference between “negative” and “positive” results. Negative results occur when a drug or treatment causes no observable effect compared to nontreated controls. Positive results are those in which a drug or other single treatment causes an effect in treated groups but not in control groups. Negative results cannot justify a conclusion about a drug mechanism, but a positive effect definitely can and is the only acceptable criterion for a journal to publish an experimental paper. That is the fundamental scientific method; it determines the mechanism by which a process works.

Noonan should apologize to the readers of the BDN and to the very large number of hardworking Maine undergraduate, graduate, medical and postdoctoral students who invest great efforts daily in doing biomedical research correctly and ethically.

Gary W. Conrad, Ph.D.

University distinguished professor, Kansas State University

Salisbury Cove

Dangerous business

I was one of the six people arrested on June 27 for helping to erect and keep standing a makeshift scaffolding that blocked train tracks in the downtown area of Fairfield. This was a blockade meant to stop Pan Am Railways and Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railways from running crude, hydrofracked oil from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to the Irving refinery in New Brunswick, Canada. I was horrified to read about the derailment and subsequent explosion of one of these very trains in Quebec.

This train was headed for Maine. The area we blocked on June 27 is in the heart of Fairfield, within close walking distance of two different schools and just blocks from another.

Transporting fuel by rail is dangerous. The destruction caused to surrounding homes by the engulfment of flames after this enormous explosion in Quebec is immeasurable. Just imagine if it had happened in Fairfield on a school day.

What would we say to the grieving families of the children who could possibly be scorched to death in such a situation? This subject has been quiet for far too long in this state, and it is high time people start taking notice and doing something about it.

I urge all those concerned to contact their legislators to demand that Maine stop allowing transport of this dirty, fracked fossil fuel through our state by train. It’s too dangerous a business, and our land and people are too valuable to put at risk any longer.

Sarah Linneken


Grassroots effort

It is my intent to launch a grassroots effort to form a nonprofit to offer support and resources to persons suffering from obesity. With the recent declaration that this is indeed a disease that threatens lives, stigma and marginalization of people with the life-threatening disorder should abate.

Instead of hate and discrimination, these people, we, should receive kind words of encouragement to find treatment successes and to pursue them. Anyone wishing to join this effort, please email dv53@yahoo.com

Dawn Coffin


Freedom of speech?

When people practice freedom of speech, it usually isn’t an everyday protest, and usually it’s with better cheer. The Women in Black stand at the corner of Congress Square but do not harass pedestrians.

They are not there every day, nor do they scream hatred at those who pass by. The point of contention I have with the Deliverance Center is that they are there almost every day and yell directly into every pedestrian’s face.

I have asked them to stand at Monument Square or in the Old Port. I feel everyday harassment of the residents of the Congress Square area should be illegal.

Aside from harassing residents every day, screaming of intolerant religious messages is bad for tourism as well because many people off cruise ships walk up Congress Street past the square. Should they hear intolerant messages against the city of Portland? These guys are not a cute tourist attraction. They have rage imprinted on their faces.

I want to put forward the notion that excessive public religious belligerence is unconstitutional and a violation of my civil liberties. If I have to cross the street to avoid them, then I am not free.

I want to know why the police never move them on. They certainly offend a variety of cultures of multicultural Portland. What if Muslims stood there calling people infidels, not just occasionally but every day, and showed the purest rage on their faces as they spit their wrath on people walking by?

Jan Snyder


Postal service

We sometimes complain of the poor service we receive at federal or state offices or service centers, and we forget that the employee we are dealing with has regulations and rules he or she must follow.

Here in Orrington, our most frequent contact is with our local postmaster. I think here in Orrington, we are fortunate to have a very good postmaster. His quick smile and his “how can I help you?” attitude is so helpful in helping us with our postal problems.

I worked for many years for the U.S. Postal Service and, for several years in the 1980s, part of my job was to evaluate and observe postmasters in eastern and northern Maine. I feel our postmaster here in Orrington is one of the best, and I’m quite sure many people in our town would say the same.

John J. Wedin