- The Washington Times - Monday, August 5, 2002

Turtles in the fast lane

Eric Peters' "Move over, slowpoke" (Op-Ed, Friday) is right on the money. The unfortunate practice of driving 50 mph to 55 mph in the left lane has been one of my pet peeves for years.
Having just returned from a week in Germany, I had the pleasure to witness exactly what Mr. Peters described about Europeans' courteous driving habits. The Germans do drive extremely fast on their Autobahn, but they are not reckless (speed alone does not constitute recklessness, despite what some of our laws might say), and they religiously keep the left lane open for passing. I drove at their pace (100 mph to 120 mph) on their highways for one week and didn't witness one accident. I also noticed that there did not appear to be any drivers suffering from the infamous "road rage" we have all grown tired of hearing about.
However, Mr. Peters is wrong to suggest that poor driving habits and lack of common courtesy (and situational awareness) are rampant across this nation. Although the "left-lane-clogging syndrome" is prevalent in most urban areas and all across the Northeast especially in Northern Virginia and the District visitors driving in Texas will be pleasantly surprised. Locals follow the popular custom of pulling onto the shoulder of most two-lane highways and farm roads to let would-be passers go by (usually offering a friendly wave as part of the treatment). Too many drivers in this area tend to respond to a "please let me by" flash of the lights by slowing down or offering the middle finger. It's no wonder Karen Hughes was so anxious to return to Texas.


In Bolivia, stick to drinking beer

Unfortunately, The Washington Times didn't contact Bechtel Corp. for a July 29 article about water privatization ("Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink," World). A call to Bechtel would have enabled the article to present an accurate picture of what has happened in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where tap water is scarce and unhealthful.

The Bolivian government turned to the private sector to operate the city's water and wastewater system because it was a shambles. It had run for years at a financial loss that had led to ever-declining service service unavailable to 40 percent of the city's population. The Bolivian government contracted with Aguas del Tunari, a consortium that is 27.5 percent owned by Bechtel, to operate the system, not purchase it.

Aguas del Tunari persuaded the government's negotiating committee to reverse the incumbent utility's unfair and illogical practice of charging lower-volume customers who tended to be poor more per unit of water rather than less.

Higher rates set by the government and put into effect in January 2000 were rolled back by the government in February 2000 to October 1999 levels. Customers who had paid the higher rates were refunded the difference.

More than half the rate increase came from unrelated government requirements, such as paying down more than $30 million of debt accumulated by the water utility that had run the system so poorly. Even at the higher rates, customers would have paid 20 percent less for water than the South American average including the rate in the Bolivian capital of La Paz, where a private company has been running the system.

The Bolivian government rescinded its contract with Aguas del Tunari in April 2000, and the 60 percent of Cochabambinos connected to the system receive the same erratic service they have endured for years. As for the many thousands without connections, most have no choice but to buy water from operators of tanker trucks. These people pay several times more per liter than if they were hooked up.


Corporate communications

Bechtel Corp.

San Francisco

Even a poor lab rat is entitled to some happiness

Christopher J. Heyde's column "Atrocities in the laboratory" (Op-Ed, Thursday) deserves serious attention for at least four reasons.

First, it points out that potentially useful lobbying groups, such as the National Association for Biomedical Research, can devolve to the point where they no longer believe they exist to represent their constituents' opinions. A change in administration seems in order.

Second, a good-faith conflict over what constitutes proper protection of birds, rats and mice in biomedical research something that required considerable study and discussion was "solved" by absurdly declaring that these entities are not "animals," rendering moot considerations of cruelty. Is this the model of analytic and ethical thinking we want to put before students of science and the general public?

Third, the column reminded us that the unrelenting drive for scientific discovery and achievement at times supports crass and thoughtless treatment of research participants by otherwise decent people.

Finally, Mr. Heyde's reasonable arguments show how grave a mistake we scientists have made in alienating moderate groups such as Mr. Heyde's, which support animal research in the context of humane treatment.


Senior bioethicist

Health Science Center Institute for Ethics

University of New Mexico


Christopher J. Heyde of the Society for Animal Protective Legislation illustrates how animal rights groups seek to eliminate Americans' freedoms by increasing the federal government's control over what ought to be local matters.

Specifically, Mr. Heyde wants to expand the Animal Welfare Act to create federal jurisdiction over "25 million animals a year." According to him, existing laws are inadequate, thus demanding a new central authority that will do animal groups' bidding. This is the classic approach used for the past 30 years by radicals and extremists to pass and then expand laws such as the Wilderness Act and the Endangered Species Act. Mr. Heyde seems to mask his extreme agenda by claiming that he is not opposed to animal research per se.

The Animal Welfare Act would not have passed Congress if it tried to cover animals used for medical testing. Like all these other extremist animal rights and environmental laws, they start with a horror story from a normal person and an appeal for federal intervention. Once passed, federal regulations expand authorities and activist federal employees intensify enforcement activities.

The welfare of animals should remain under the jurisdiction of state authorities influenced by community standards. Extending federal protection to lab animals inevitably would lead to the guaratee of "legal rights" for animals the just property of individuals, overseen by local authorities, in a free society.



The obvious answer to West Nile virus

As if finding birds dead from the West Nile virus on the White House lawn were not enough to bring public attention to this disease, perhaps The Washington Times' coverage of its rapid spread across the United States will ("West Nile virus makes itself at home in U.S.," Nation, July 28). As a farmer who knows the value of pesticides in killing insects that would harm my soybeans, I think it's high time to break out the DDT and start controlling the mosquito carriers of the West Nile virus.

Although it is an award-winning insecticide that was used for 30 years with no ill effects on humans indeed, it is credited with saving millions of lives, especially in Africa DDT has been suppressed by environmentalists for whom the hard facts of good science have no bearing on their decisions.

When did this crazy ban begin? In the early '70s, DDT was banned by EPA Administrator William D. Ruckelshaus, a member of the Environmental Defense Fund, against the wishes of EPA Hearings Judge Edmund Sweeney, who had listened to some 9,000 pages of testimony for and against DDT.

Judge Sweeney had determined, "The uses of DDT (under the regulations involved here) do not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds or other wildlife." Exactly. Indeed, in 1970, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) declared, "In a little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million deaths due to malaria that would otherwise have been inevitable."

With DDT's demonization unsurprisingly, ingesting large doses, contrary to common-sensical regulations, may cause cancer that scenario has flipped. Indeed, by 1996, NAS stated that 40 percent of the world's population was afflicted with malaria and that "a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds, and most of those deaths are unnecessary."

Sadly, it would seem that anti-DDT environmentalists would prefer running the risk of losing a Richard B. Cheney or George W. Bush maybe even a malaria-stricken Chris Matthews than admit they are letting people die unnecessarily from mosquito-borne diseases.


Kokomo, Ind.

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