- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 23, 2001

AMAs real epidemic is not 'gun violence

Dr. Richard Corlin has announced that "gun safety" will be at the top of his agenda as he commences his term as president of the American Medical Association. Dr. Corlin says there is an "epidemic of handgun violence" and demands that millions of taxpayer dollars be spent to "gather data" about it (Around the Nation, June 21).

This is a pathetic smoke screen to divert attention from the real epidemic Dr. Corlin and his cronies should focus on: fatalities caused by doctor errors. What Dr. Corlin prefers not to acknowledge is that three times as many people are killed by their doctors every year than are killed by guns.

A recent report by the Institute of Medicine estimated that up to 98,000 patients a year die because of medical errors. By comparison, there were 30,708 gun-related deaths in 1998, the most recent year for which data are available. Medical mistakes kill more Americans than guns, breast cancer, highway accidents or AIDS.

If Dr. Corlin wants to address an "epidemic," he should focus his attention on how to prevent his colleagues from killing off their patients.


KURTIS J. KEARL

Petaluma, Calif.

Puerto Rico - no mementum towards statehood

Let me suggest that Jeffrey T. Kuhner come live here in San Juan for a year or so before rendering opinions such as "most Puerto Ricans want to learn English as a second language" and "successive referendums demonstrate that the statehood option has been rapidly gaining momentum" ("Puerto Rico, 51st state?" Op-Ed, June 21). On the contrary, anyone who watched Puerto Ricos last election, in which the pro-statehood party was ousted from power, would be hard pressed to "spin" the results as building momentum for statehood.

As for the language issue, a bill recently was debated in the Legislature here to make Spanish the official language. Mr. Kuhner would only have to live here a short time to realize that most Puerto Ricans do not want to learn English and that many of those who do know a little English speak it only begrudgingly. In short, there is a serious anti-American attitude in Puerto Rico.

I moved to San Juan in April 1999, the same month an errant Navy bomb killed a civilian security guard at Camp Garcia. Since then, I have learned things I never would have known had I remained on the mainland. First, if there ever was a time when there was momentum for statehood, it was before April 1999. Since that time, momentum has been on the side of independence. Second, while Mr. Kuhner states that "•pinion polls now show that a plurality of residents on the island favor becoming full-fledged Americans," the key word is "plurality." There are three distinct political parties in Puerto Rico representing three distinct groups. The "commonwealth party," known locally as the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), should be called the "We Want to Have Our Cake and Eat It, Too, Party." Most, if not all, members of the PDP are at least sympathetic to the cause of the Independientistas. This is not to say that the "plurality" of Puerto Ricans that favor statehood are not sincere and as patriotic as any American. When it comes to the issue of independence, however, they are the minority.

If Mr. Kuhner believes Puerto Rican Senate Minority Leader Kenneth D. McClintock´s assertion that making Puerto Rico a state "will show anti-American nationalists in the region that 'Uncle Sam is no longer Uncle Bully,´" then I have a bridge on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to sell him. The Bush administration´s announcement that it intends to stop the bombing at the end of the current two-year agreement has been met here with nothing more than stepped-up rhetoric demanding an immediate end to the bombing. And the Navy isn´t really bombing anymore anyway they´re dropping inert shells. What do they really think about the United States? President Bush is right: They don´t want us here.

Nonetheless, I do not believe Mr. Bush´s decision was right. And if it was done as a precursor to statehood, it was completely misguided. The Republicans who believe Puerto Rico will become "a liberal Democratic fiefdom" if it is granted statehood are correct. I can see little and possibly no political gain for the Republicans, even in the short term, if they make Puerto Rico a state.


BRIAN GERAGHTY

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Lowering drinking age would cause disaster

How sad that a leader in the health field advocates such unhealthy policy as legalizing teen-age boozing ("Girls just want to have fun," Op-Ed, June 21). On what planet was columnist Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health, when teens were allowed to drink during the 1970s?

When states lowered the drinking age to 18, teen alcohol-related traffic fatalities skyrocketed. Child alcoholism soared as then-legal teen boozers shared their alcohol with younger friends.

When the nation finally woke up to the tragedy wrought by that unfortunate policy, states returned the drinking age to 21 in the early 1980s. Subsequently, teen alcohol-related traffic fatalities dropped precipitously. Many lives have been saved each year since the more rational standard was restored.

Unfortunately, a residue of teen appetite for booze has remained, causing great damage to the teen population and their families. Parents such as the Bushes whose children get caught up in that dangerous teen-booze culture experience much anguish.

Lower the drinking age to authorize teen drinking again? America has been there and done that and it was an unmitigated health and safety disaster. America learned its lesson the hard way, and it´s not going to happen again. Case closed.


DEFOREST RATHBONE

Chairman

National Institute of Citizen Anti-drug Policy (NICAP)

Great Falls

Drug crop eradication is accelerating environmental decay

Commentary columnists F. Andy Messing and Patrick J. Oswald are correct in stating that cultivating and processing drug crops cause extensive damage to forests, soils, rivers and air quality ("Greening of the drug war," June 20). The authors, however, mistakenly argue that the crop eradication strategy pursued in Colombia will "reverse this negative process."

Eradication is accelerating environmental decay. In the past five years, Colombia´s farmers have planted more than 1 hectare of coca for each of the 115,000-odd hectares destroyed in aerial spraying campaigns, indicating that the coca frontier and the pollution associated with it are expanding ever farther into the Amazonian jungle.

This unfortunate cycle is likely to continue unless farmers find economically attractive alternatives to coca or until world demand for cocaine now estimated at 500 tons or more annually is reduced substantially.


RENSSELAER LEE

McLean


Rensselaer Lee consults in international security issues and is co-author with Patrick Clawson of "The Andean Cocaine Industry."

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