- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

To tell the truth

Linda Chavez again perpetuates the myth that this country’s economy would shut down without cheap immigrant labor (“Wish list for 2007,” Commentary, Saturday).

In agriculture, depending on the product, labor costs range between 10 percent and 20 percent of the produce you buy at the supermarket. Let’s say a head of lettuce costs $1; 10 cents of that is labor. Even if the wages of the field workers were doubled, this means your final cost for that same head of lettuce would be $1.10. Anybody you know couldn’t afford to pay another dime for the lettuce?

DAVE GORAK

Executive Director

Midwest Coalition to

Reduce Immigration

LaValle, Wis.

Another Turkish myth

In “Unfair to Turkey,” (Op-Ed, Dec. 19), Tulin Daloglu ignores the facts and blames Cyprus for Turkey’s bumpy road toward European Union accession. In reality, the current impasse arises because Turkey refuses to adhere to the same membership criteria and rules and regulations that apply to all other EU accession candidates.

At the recent European Council meeting, the EU leaders said that “further significant efforts are required [by Turkey] to strengthen freedom of expression, freedom of religion, women’s rights, minority rights, trade union rights and civilian control of the military.” They also called on Turkey to fulfill its contractual obligations, including its commitment to extend its customs union to all EU member states, including Cyprus — something that Turkey had agreed to in July 2005 — and which had enabled the accession negotiations to start. Instead, Turkey continues to blockade Cypriot vessels and airplanes — as well as those of any other country that transits through Cyprus — from using Turkish ports or airfields. One should not forget, also, that some 43,000 Turkish troops continue to illegally occupy more than one third of Cyprus in violation of international law and contrary to the values and principles upon which the EU is founded.

Despite the writer’s claims, all of the Republic of Cyprus — which includes the Turkish-occupied area — was admitted to the EU. Even though the acquis communautaire has been suspended in that area until the island’s reunification, all Cypriot citizens are accorded the rights and benefits of EU citizenship by virtue of the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the EU, including the right to study, reside and work in the member states. There is no “economic blockade” of the Turkish Cypriot community. This is a myth which Turkey likes to propagate in order to extract maximum political benefits and at the same time elevate the status of the illegal, breakaway entity in the area of Cyprus under Turkish occupation since 1974. However, the EU proposals on the matter in 2004, to which Ms. Daloglu so distortedly refers, clearly specify that the measures should aim at the economic integration of the island and at improving contact between the two communities. The reality is that the Turkish side simply wants to consolidate partition.

ANNIE CHARALAMBOUS

Press Counselor

Embassy of Cyprus

Washington

Out on a limb

Marlo Lewis is right that energy poverty kills (“Energy diet for a starving world?” Commentary, Tuesday). But increasing our dependence on fossil fuels is only climbing farther out on a limb. Fossil fuels are finite. They run out at exactly the rate that we use them, and oil experts are increasingly convinced that global oil production will soon enter decline. Oil discoveries peaked in the early 1960s, and we have been burning more than we discover since 1980.

Further, the contention that global warming is speculative is less comforting each year. Glaciers are melting, spring is coming earlier and storms are growing stronger. Conventional oil will soon be in decline. If we replace declining oil with tar sands and oil shale, we will emit more carbon to deliver the same energy. We can’t replace declining oil with biofuels because we will be hard-pressed to feed ourselves with less oil inputs into our agriculture.

We need to find ways to maintain health without dependence on fossil fuels. That will be easier to do if we don’t climb farther out on the fossil-fuel limb and if we don’t destabilize our climate.

ROSEMARY M. HAMILL

North Potomac

D.C.’s health-care dilemma

The editorial “The Williams legacy” (Tuesday) praised former Mayor Tony Williams for leaving the city in better shape than when he came into office. Although I agree that the city is much better off in many aspects, the Williams administration’s legacy in health care is less than stellar.

As a former member of the public-private board that tried to reform and save D.C. General Hospital, I also agree that the District government should not be in the business of running a hospital. However, the former mayor’s 2001 closure of D.C. General, the District’s only public hospital, left myriad health-care delivery problems across the city. The closure of D.C. General’s busy emergency room has left the city’s other hospitals overwhelmed with sick and injured patients. According to the mayor’s own 2006 Health Care Task Force Report, the volume has been so great that hospital ERs routinely call the D.C. Fire Department to request “closure” — i.e. diversion of D.C. ambulance patients to other ERs. The city’s total “ER closure hours” have increased 60 percent since the closure of D.C. General.

The article “Checking in on emergency rooms,” (Life/Health, Tuesday) addressed the ER front door problem — inappropriate use of the ER. However, it failed to address the ER “back door” problem — patients backed up on stretchers in ER hallways, awaiting a hospital bed. This bottlenecking of the patients to be admitted to the hospital overwhelms the ER staff. It not only forces ERs to “close,” but often results in patients being held for over an hour in the back of ambulances that are parked outside the busy ER.

The “ER overwhelm” crisis has gotten so bad that the 2005 D.C. Fire Department’s average ER closure hour statistics reveal that the Washington Hospital Center ER is closed for more than 40 hours per week. The George Washington University Hospital ER is closed for more than 30 hours per week; the Howard University Hospital ER is closed for more than 25 hours per week and the Greater Southeast Community Hospital ER is closed for more than 25 hours per week.

As the nation’s capital, the District is at risk for major disaster or terrorism. Mr. Williams leaves the city with an emergency care system that is actually less prepared to respond even to localized disaster.

Also, Mr. Williams’ DC Healthcare Alliance program has been applauded for providing health insurance coverage to thousands of local uninsured residents. However, the reimbursement to care providers has been so low that alliance patients have trouble accessing specialists for basic care. Furthermore, the alliance fails to pay for some of the expensive medications that many patients need. It is certainly better than no coverage at all, but has failed to make any major difference in the District’s dismal health statistics.

As a District resident and a physician, it is my hope that the Fenty administration will truly partner with community leaders across the city to sit down, work out our issues and make the appropriate investments to make the District a “great city,” not just in hospitality — but in health care for residents, too.

DR. VICTOR G. FREEMAN

Washington

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