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School showed a lack of courage

What are we teaching our children?

The removal of a third grader's project on racial perceptions from the Mesa Elementary School science fair (Daily Camera, Feb. 14) was a shameful act motivated by ignorance and fear.

Rather than correcting the injustice done by the teachers and parents who errantly disqualified the young girl's project "Does skin color make a difference?" Boulder Valley elementary education director Veronica Benavidez attempted to justify the adults' actions by saying "A science fair is not the way we choose to discuss race relations."

In my opinion, the 8-year old Miss Thielen (her first name was not published) should be applauded for creatively tackling such a challenging subject. By allowing admissionin to the science fair, Mesa would have enhanced the girl's education, provided a forum for constructive feedback on applying the scientific method and offered her the recognition she deserves for spending the time and effort it took to develop her project.

Instead, the school disqualified Miss Thielen because her conclusions make some Mesa parents and teachers (and apparently Ms. Benavidez) uncomfortable. It is disappointing that given the opportunity to instruct on the rewards of self-directed research in a challenging field, Mesa chose to teach a lesson in censorship instead.




SIDS hard enough without suspicion

As a parent of a child who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, I am dismayed by the recommendation that "All suspected cases of SIDS be investigated by a child abuse expert." As reported so dramatically in the Daily Camera on Feb. 6, the American Academy of Pediatrics is the official institution promoting a criminal investigative procedure in SIDS cases.

When our child died in 1983, my wife and I were hard pressed to find any pediatrician who was in any way knowledgeable about SIDS. Our pediatrician with whom we consulted had absolutely no idea what the syndrome entailed or its suspected causes, preventative measures, the catastrophic tragic effects on us, our surviving child, our immediate family and our friends. I assume pediatric training in this field has been upgraded. The most notable advance in SIDS prevention known as "back to sleep" is simply having one's baby sleep on her back. Unfortunately for us, this was not a suggested sleeping method for babies born before the mid-1990s.

At the time of our child's death, we were helped greatly by the police and medics who responded to our call. They immediately recommended that we contact the local SIDS family support group in Denver. The SIDS group continually reinforced the fact that there was nothing we could have done to save our child. Nothing. They also worked diligently with us to help alleviate the guilt of being unable to revive our child at the time of her death. The guilt remains. Thoughts of possible neglect are hard to dismiss even now, even when we know that we were caring, nurturing and protective parents.

The idea that any parent of a SIDS child is a suspect of child abuse is abhorrent: that idea propels us back the days when indeed SIDS was a suspicious event. Back to before 1983, the dark ages.

The honorable American Academy of Pediatrics needs to review its position. Its research concerning SIDS needs updating. Its staff, most particularly a Dr. Kent Hymel, should attend SIDS support group meetings and sensitize itself to the hard realities of SIDS. I would like to invite any member to meet the true authorities concerning SIDS: my family, my friends, our current GP doctor, and the Denver SIDS support group.




Recent crunch should catalyze conservation

In the past three months we've heard plenty about power shortages in California. In Colorado, Excel Energy has increased natural gas prices a couple of times. The media focus has mainly been on power outages and price hikes and whether or not customers can pay their bills, which is a very serious situation for some.

Now we're starting to hear more about alternative fuels, and it's long over due. The one area that seems to be consistently overlooked is conservation of energy. Sure, conservation wouldn't entirely solve the Californians' power problem and it won't eliminate the rate hikes in Colorado, but it can help soften the blow. Building buildings so that they are more energy efficient and testing existing buildings to improve their efficiency will go a long way toward alleviating the pinch of higher prices and the need for more and more supply.

Those of us in existing buildings probably can revisit some fundamentals of conservation. Good insulation, tight windows and doors, turning off lights and appliances, setting back thermostats — all these and more can go a long way toward reducing the power pinch. Conservation should be part of every discussion about energy supply.

We can reach price equilibrium just as effectively by moderating demand as we can by increasing supply through raids in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other environmentally sensitive areas.


Boulder Energy Conservation Center


Government dallying, aid is sorely needed

I have just returned from earthquake-ravaged India, where deaths surpass 30,000, with many more injured and hundreds of thousands homeless, out in the cold, in a human tragedy of unimaginable proportions.

The extensive damage and collapse of structures was largely due to faulty construction, by builders who failed to observe building codes and reinforce concrete with steel or build adequate foundations. Added to the tragedy is the failure of the corrupt bureaucracy to provide assistance. The only belated actions by the government have been to appoint commissions and push papers, or for officials to visit the scene, thereby interrupting the efforts of those who are trying to help.

Assistance in the form of food, medicine, tents and blankets is being provided by non-governmental organizations, primarily from abroad. The Rotary Club International and some individuals and corporations in India also are offering aid, but none of it has met the magnitude of the emergency.

While in Delhi, some 400 miles from the epicenter, there was no damage, we definitely felt the tremors.

I am unaware through Indian media of any aid offered by President Bush, though I believe Bill Clinton would not have hesitated. Those who wish to assist can do so through C.A.R.E. or the International Red Cross.




'DU' ordnance emits low-level radiation

Dr. Helen Caldicott, the founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Women's action for Nuclear Disarmament, said in 1997: "The United States has conducted two nuclear wars. The first against Japan in 1945, the second in Kuwait and Iraq in 1991." Now we are finding that we must add a third to this list: Yugoslavia in 1999.

Depleted uranium, or DU, is used as an armor-piercing metal casing, originally designed to penetrate tanks. In 1990, the U.S. Army Armament, Munitions and Chemical Command stated that DU is a "low-level alpha radiation emitter which is linked to cancer when exposures are internal, (and) chemical toxicity causing kidney damage." In addition, the name depleted uranium is actually a misnomer since the uranium used in the manufacture of DU shells is the by-product of highly enriched uranium used by the Department of Energy in the making of bombs and the production of nuclear energy.

Even now that scores of U.S. and NATO soldiers, as well as civilians, complain of illnesses possibly related to DU, the U.S. has taken the position that there is no danger from depleted uranium whatsoever. In Iraq, cases of leukemia, birth defects and cancer among children are widespread.

Two recent reports are extremely troubling: that DU may have been used with cruise missiles launched against the Sudan and Afghanistan in 1998, and a Jan. 17 Associated Press report that DU bombs dropped on Yugoslavia may have contained plutonium. "Plutonium is about 200 thousand times more radioactive than uranium. (and) less than a thousandth of a gram of plutonium in the lungs could cause serious health problems," the article stated.

We, as citizens, have a responsibility to do everything we can to make our government conform to international conventions regarding the use of nuclear (read: Depleted Uranium) weapons.



February 18, 2001

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