- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2002

For Bush administration, NAS report on Klamath nothing to celebrate

In response to your recent article on the Klamath Basin and the National Academy of Science (NAS) interim report, Earthjustice would like to point out that the NAS panel did not determine that the water levels in the Klamath as determined by the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are wrong, only that the science currently is inconclusive ("NAS challenges water-ban reasons," Feb. 5). This means that "future science" well may show that higher water levels are warranted.

The Endangered Species Act requires us to act today, using the best available science, to halt these species' slide toward extinction and to begin their restoration.

Unfortunately, the lake fish and the coho cannot wait five to 10 years for us to develop science that is perfect. The numbers of coho returning to spawn in the Klamath River have dropped from more than hundreds of thousands in 1900 to just a few thousand in 2001. Common sense requires that we err on the side of caution.

We also are calling on the Bush administration to heed the warnings in this report that the very low lake and river levels the administration proposes "have no scientific basis" and "would require the acceptance of undocumented risk" to the endangered fish in the basin.

Finally, this report does not change the reality on the ground in the Klamath Basin. We have brought irrigation to the high desert and, in the process, promised too much water to too many people. Even under the status quo, in dry years there will not be enough water to go around. We need to implement a comprehensive plan to restore the Klamath Basin, including demand reduction and wetlands restoration, as we are doing in the Everglades. Only then will we be able to provide clean water for fish and wildlife as well as farmers, fishermen and tribal peoples.


Legislative representative



'Individual responsibility' basis for fast-food lawsuit

Regarding my position that legal action can be a useful tool against the growing epidemic of obesity, your editorial failed to note several significant points most important, that individual responsibility is the basis of my three proposals ("A truly deadly sin," Feb. 5).

First, insurance companies should charge more for those whose "personal choices" make them obese so that they will take responsibility for the consequences of their choices, rather than requiring those who maintain a healthy weight to pay for them (which is the case now because both pay the same premium).

Second, because obesity forces all taxpayers to pay far more in federal, state and local taxes to cover the ballooning costs of medical care for the obese under Medicare, Medicaid, veteran's and Indian's benefits and other welfare programs, it's only fair to shift more of that burden to the obese through taxes on foods that tend to cause obesity.

Third, in some cases, lawsuits against food companies can help shift these same enormous financial burdens to those who eat unhealthful foods because the companies will simply pass those costs along to those who consume the product. Two such lawsuits possible harbingers of the future are already doing very well.

For example, my law students instigated a class-action lawsuit against McDonald's, charging that it misrepresented the contents of its french fries. As the Chicago Tribune's editorial page recognized, the suit already has forced McDonald's to apologize for "duping" people. The Tribune noted that "even the most careful consumers can't protect themselves when a food producer hides what's in its product" a good rebuttal to your claim that everyone knows what foods make them fat. The second lawsuit, which a judge already has certified as a class action, is against an ice-cream company for reportedly misrepresenting just how fattening its product is.

Many scoffed when I started promoting legal action to shift the huge costs of smoking from nonsmokers to smokers where it belongs. Now, with higher health insurance rates for smokers a growing trend, increased taxes on cigarettes a reality in most states and hundreds of billions of dollars in verdicts and settlements against tobacco companies, the scoffing has stopped. Perhaps the same will be true in the future for obesity, a social health problem that annually costs all of us dozens of times the amount of the Enron failure.


Professor of public-interest law

George Washington University Law School


Attacks on PETA have underlying agenda

Mike Burita, the spokesman for the Center for Consumer Freedom quoted in your Feb. 4 story "A smear campaign against milk?", is so busy "revealing" information about People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) some of it false, some that has always been available to the public that he forgets to mention a few facts about his own organization.

The Center for Consumer Freedom says it's a "coalition of restaurant and tavern operators and others" who fight "vegetarian activists" but every time I go to a restaurant looking for a great veggie meal, I'm welcomed with an array of choices, and the last time I checked, beer was still vegetarian.

So what is the Center for Consumer Freedom really about? Its Web site makes it clear that its raison d'etre is to defend cigarette companies, factory farming, genetic engineering and alcohol consumption. Its enemies include, in addition to animal protectionists, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and anyone who would put limits on public smoking and drinking.

PETA's goal is to help people understand that the choices we make can either harm or help animals. The Center for Consumer Freedom's goal is to fight anybody who points out that excessive alcohol, too much animal fat and cigarettes are detrimental to our health.



People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)


Security isn't always the bottom line

Eleanor Holmes Norton is exactly right ("Norton decries 'closing down' of capital," Feb. 5). She writes, "Maintaining safety and security in an open, democratic society is too important to be left to security officials alone." She and a number of private, nonprofit organizations have suggested imaginative ways to provide enhanced domestic security during our war with terrorism while also keeping Washington what it must always be a proud and beautiful symbol of the freedoms so vital to our democracy.

Only the president, however, has the authority to ensure that security is not necessarily always the bottom line. The president should act to see that Ms. Norton's views get the respect and hearing that they deserve.


Bethesda, Md.

Bruce Laingen was a hostage in Iran, l979-81.


Yesterday's letter "Revolving door between refugee agencies and government" was incorrectly edited to read, "For example, 19 percent of recent refugee households have one or more household members receiving a Social Security Income check." The letter should have read "Supplemental Security Income," not "Social Security Income."

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