Sunday, December 28, 2003

Jobless benefits shrinkage

In a Dec. 17 Commentary column titled “Jobless benefits shrinkage,” Bruce Bartlett complained about my suggestion that allowing the extended unemployment benefits program to expire “borders on being immoral.” Is giving every multimillionaire a $100,000 tax break while giving the unemployed the cold shoulder over the Christmas holiday immoral? You bet it is.

Mr. Bartlett’s column also suggested that current economic conditions do not warrant another extension of unemployment benefits. However, the facts say otherwise. Unemployment is higher today than when the extended-benefits program was established in March 2002. The percentage of jobless workers exhausting their regular unemployment benefits without finding work has reached its highest level on record. Finally, our economy has 2.35 million fewer jobs today than 2 years ago, leaving three unemployed workers looking for every available job.

Mr. Bartlett concludes by saying that ending jobless benefits may slightly reduce the unemployment rate and therefore “defuse it as a political issue next year.” I am not sure how to describe purposely hurting struggling families now in order to advance political goals next year, but it certainly is not what I would call “moral.”


New York Democrat


PETA’s anti-fur campaign

Please allow me to respond to your Inside the Beltway item about People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ new anti-fur flier (“Animal Cracker,” Nation, Wednesday). Because our flier exposes the extreme violence of the fur industry, we are not distributing it to young children — we’re handing it out only to people at least 13 years old or directly to their mothers. However, the message of compassion is one that children of all ages need to hear.

As a mother myself, I do everything I can to teach my daughter that cruelty and violence are wrong. That’s why I cannot understand why any parent would ever choose to wear fur.

Perhaps the fur wearers don’t know that animals caught in the wild for their fur face days of agony in traps, tearing flesh and breaking bones in a struggle to get free. On fur farms, animals spend their entire lives confined to cramped, filthy cages, constantly pacing back and forth from stress and boredom. They are poisoned, gassed, strangled or electrocuted.

As parents, we can choose to teach our children cruelty or kindness. Let’s choose kindness by shunning products, such as fur, that involve the unnecessary suffering of many innocent animals.

To learn what else you can do,


Staff writer

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals


Remembering Otto Graham

The reports of the passing of Otto Graham (“Otto Graham dies; Hall of Fame QB,” Sports, Dec. 18) seemed to be related entirely to his extraordinary athletic record as a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, tempered by his lesser success as coach of the Redskins. I have seen no mention of his personal character or his profound love of life.

As commandant of cadets at the Coast Guard Academy for three of the many years Graham was coach and later athletic director there, I came to know him very well. He did not drink alcohol or smoke even an occasional cigar, and he obviously loved his wife, Beverly, with unabashed delight. He was a true gentleman. I never heard him disparage a single person, not once. He told terrible jokes with great relish. He had a perpetual smile on his face.

That is the Otto Graham who will be missed by those who came to appreciate him as a regular guy, several thousand of whom once wore the uniform of the U.S. Coast Guard.


U.S. Coast Guard (retired)


Pakistan’s woes

The assassination attempt on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was a deplorable and cowardly act of violence by the members of extremist groups (“Musharraf escapes death, again,” Page 1, Friday). Pakistan has cooperated very closely with the United States from day one in the war against terror, and the history of collaboration between Pakistan and the United States spans many decades. Since its independence, Pakistan has indeed been a very reliable ally, especially during the Cold War.

It is imperative that we encourage the Pakistani government and request that U.S. policy-makers continue to increase their support for Pakistan, both economically and militarily.

Revamping and reforming the Pakistani political and institutional system is an uphill task. We see a sincere leader in Gen. Musharraf, and we should help him in attaining his dream of “enlightened moderation” for Pakistan.


Executive board

Association of Pakistani Professionals

Kew Gardens, N.Y.

Mad cow disease and food safety

The news that mad cow disease has been discovered in the United States comes as no surprise (“U.S. gets first case of mad cow disease,” Page 1, Wednesday).

What is surprising is that it took this long. For years, the U.S. cattle industry has been trying to polish its image, arguing that no U.S. beef had been infected with the disease. Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture inspects just a fraction of the animals that are slaughtered. It’s high time the cattle industry and the public acknowledge that as long as animals are treated like commodities — raised and cared for as cheaply as possible to reap as large a profit as possible — there is no way to ensure that such diseases don’t run rampant.

That anyone would encourage the consumption of beef during this time is highly irresponsible, and serves only to promote the interests of the cattle industry and its purse, not the public interest. The best way to protect oneself is to stop eating all animal products and instead eat a healthy vegan diet. If eating meat weren’t scary enough before, it’s definitely mad to eat meat now.


Mill Valley, Calif.


With its dramatic quarantine and meat recall, the Department of Agriculture seems to be treating mad cow disease as if it were caused by a conventional infection. The pathogen thought responsible for this disease, however, is not bacteria or a virus, but a prion — an infectious protein. It’s not transmitted the same ways salmonella and E. coli are; it’s transmitted when one animal eats another animal. In modern agribusiness, we have turned herbivorous cows not only into meat eaters, but into cannibals as well.

Although the poorly enforced 1997 feed regulations ban the feeding of most slaughterhouse waste directly to cows, billions of pounds of cattle remains, in the form of meat and bone meal, are fed to chickens and pigs. The deadly prions in turn theoretically could be passed directly to human consumers or back to the cows. (It remains legal to feed the remains of pigs and chickens to cows in this country.) It also remains legal to wean calves with milk replacer made with cow-blood protein, even though we have learned that blood may indeed carry prion infection.

The only way to find out how many other animals ate the same infected feed is, at the very least, to start testing every “downer” cow, as recommended by the World Health Organization. Even better, maybe it’s not such a good idea to eat animals too sick even to walk into the slaughterhouse. Perhaps downer cows should be euthanized, not eaten.



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