- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2003

FDA must improve product-review process

Sunday's editorial recognizing the efforts of Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Mark McClellan to improve the product-review process for drugs and medical technologies, "Reforming the drug-approval process," is well-deserved.

Last year, Congress also recognized the importance of getting the latest medical advances to physicians and their patients in a timely manner. In response to strains placed on the FDA by the revolution in medical technology and flat funding levels for its medical device review center over the past decade, lawmakers passed historic legislation modernizing the FDA review process for medical technologies.

The law calls for a $225 million increase in funding for the FDA's medical device review center over the next five years $150 million contributed by medical technology manufacturers in the form of user fees and $75 million in additional congressional appropriations. Unfortunately, this landmark legislation is in jeopardy, and its potential benefits to patients may never be realized.

Provisions in the law stipulate that if Congress does not appropriate its share of the funds, the program will sunset. Last year, congressional appropriations fell short by $11 million. It is critical that Congress meet its funding obligations for this important program. With delays in the FDA's review of breakthrough technologies currently topping 400 days (more than twice the 180-day statutory limit), America's patients need this legislation now more than ever.



Advanced Medical Technology Association


Islamic resources

I read with interest the story on the Council for Secular Humanism's session on Islam at the Capitol Hilton ("Islamic dissidents warn humanists to beware radicals," Nation, April 13). One correction is in order, however.

Your reporter quotes me, somewhat puzzlingly, as saying: "Islam has the resources to come into the 21st century. The problem is that it doesn't."

Actually, what I said was: "The official title of our session this morning is, 'Will Islam Come Into the 21st Century?' But ask yourself: Is this the right question, at all?" My answer was "no."

I deliberately took no position on whether or not Islam has the resources to enter into the 21st century, arguing that humanists ought to be asking more adversarial questions of Islam (and of religion generally) than that. The central question of my talk was not whether Islam can be modernized but whether its main claims are true. As the article correctly reported, in my view, they aren't.


Adjunct professor of philosophy

College of New Jersey


Reaffirming the Pledge

Nat Hentoff's criticism of my statement on judges who want to ban the Pledge of Allegiance from schools (" 'Under God' or 'under conscience'?" Op-Ed, Monday) has had no effect on my admiration for him. But I stick to what I said.

I have called for the judges who made this decision to be impeached and for teachers in the nine Western states affected by the decision to practice civil disobedience. The reason I do so has nothing to do with imposing a religious test on the judges but has everything to do with jurisprudential incompetence.

Anyone familiar with the literature on the Founding Fathers and religion knows their desire to keep the state from encroaching on religion did not lead them to banish religious traditions and customs from society. Indeed, they were quite supportive of maintaining the religious underpinnings of our society even allowing state churches to exist at the time of the ratification of the Constitution.

In light of the historical meaning of the First Amendment, it is incomprehensible for judges to ban the Pledge of Allegiance simply because the words "under God" are included. According to this logic, we ought to ban public school students from reciting the Declaration of Independence lest the dreaded words "their Creator" be uttered.

My basic point remains: Just as it is academic malpractice for a math instructor to teach that two plus two equals five, it is judicial malpractice for a judge to rule that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional. Both the teacher and the judge need to be removed from office.



Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

New York

Thanks for a former ambassador

It is a sad day for many Indians to see U.S. Ambassador to India Robert D. Blackwill resign ("Embassy Row," World, yesterday). Particularly disheartening is the manner in which his departure came about. While the full circumstances behind his resignation may not be clear, it is evident that Mr. Blackwill and the State Department did not see eye to eye on the issue of terrorism in India, particularly of the variety originating in Pakistan.

Most Indians applaud Mr. Blackwill's courage in calling Pakistan to task for its role in fostering terror while being appalled by the way other State Department officials tap-danced around Pakistan's actions, even when dismaying facts about Pakistan's role in sponsoring terror came out with alarming frequency.

Mr. Blackwill will be fondly remembered, indeed, in the hearts of Indians, especially when compared with the moral relativists of Foggy Bottom who still haunt U.S.-Indian relations.



Scalping history

Friday's Inside Politics column by Greg Pierce contained an item called "Cartoon gets scalped." Unfortunately, Mr. Pierce failed to explain that the cartoon illustrates a historically skewed, racist stereotype. That is the real reason why it should have been yanked from the Wisconsin state Republican party's Web site, not because its removal was politically correct.

Sponsored by the Republicans in protest against a gaming contract signed between the Potawatomi tribe and the state, the cartoon depicts a tomahawk flying through the air at a Wisconsin taxpayer. The caption reads, "As taxpayers we got scalped." Of course, in our society, the word "scalped" brings to mind solely the image of an American Indian about to do in a settler. This stereotype is the result of biased literature, John Wayne-type Westerns and poor history lessons.

History shows that scalping was neither "invented" nor practiced exclusively by Indians. When we think of scalping, we don't consider the following:

• That the Dutch governor of Manhattan in 1641 offered the first "scalp bounty" for Indians. Soon thereafter, the Massachusetts government offered a 20-shilling bounty for every Indian scalp and 40 shillings for every prisoner who could be sold into slavery.

• That the Colonial government of Virginia in 1675 offered a coat to every friendly Indian who brought in the scalp of an Indian from a hostile tribe.

n That the governor of Pennsylvania in 1706 offered 130 pieces-of-eight for the scalp of Indian men older than 12 and 50 for a woman's scalp. Because it was impossible for those who paid the bounty to determine the victim's sex and sometimes the age from the scalp alone, killing women and children became a way to make easy money.

n That during the French and Indian War and later during America's War for Independence, all sides encouraged their Indian allies to scalp their enemies and provided the Indians with specially designed metal scalping knives.

• That in 1862 the state of Minnesota placed a scalp bounty on Indians. How many people today think of state governments literally scalping the inhabitants?

The Republican-sponsored cartoon is also a lie because it attempts to use the term "scalped" to mean that the taxpayers got a raw deal out of the gaming compact. Yet the Potawatomi will pay the state more than five times what they paid under compacts negotiated by Republican Gov. Tommy G. Thompson ($34 million per year compared to $6.37 million per year). Also, the Potawatomi casinos promise to generate about 1,000 jobs and draw more tourists into Wisconsin who, in turn, will help our economy grow.


Madison, Wis.

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