- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

Fear and provocation in Havana

Your Page One story "Cubans harass U.S. envoys" (Feb. 21) says Havana tries to intimidate American diplomats stationed on the island. A State Department memorandum says that Havana's campaign includes house break-ins, vandalism, sexual advances, killing family pets, breaking into cars, bugging homes, and "other officially sanctioned provocations."
But Fidel Castro's provocations are not limited to intimidation. President Bush has pledged to go after terrorists and those who provide them safe haven. Havana is the home of more than 70 fugitives from American justice. According to the FBI, among them are Michael Finney and Charles Hill, suspects in the slaying of a New Mexico state trooper before they hijacked a TWA flight and diverted it to Cuba, where they were granted political asylum. Another fugitive, Joanne D. Chesimard, was convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper, but managed to escape from prison and flee to Cuba.
While American servicemen continue to be placed in harm's way to protect America, members of Congress, governors, academics and business folks are sometimes hosted by the Cuban leader, who has welcomed the murderers of American police officers.
The Washington Times does a great public service by reporting on the despicable actions against American diplomats. Perhaps the Cuban dictator's other provocations could also be brought to the attention of those who find him a congenial host.

Executive Director
Center for a Free Cuba

CASA rebuts its critics

Wednesday's editorial, "CASA's alcohol abuse," and Thursday's letter from sociologist David Hanson, "Drinking problems don't need exaggeration," both read like press releases from the alcohol industry. They are reminiscent of tobacco industry attacks in the late 1970s when the surgeon general and I as secretary of Health, Education and Welfare started the anti-smoking campaign. I would like to set the record straight.
The article by CASA researchers published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, "Alcohol Consumption and Expenditures for Underage Drinking and Adult Excessive Drinking," found that half of the alcohol consumed in this country is either underage drinking (19.7 percent) or the amount that adults drink that is excessive (30.4 percent). This equals $56.9 billion or 49 percent of consumer expenditures for alcohol. It reveals that the alcohol industry has an enormous financial interest in underage and adult excessive drinking.
CASA's interest, on the other hand, is in getting the numbers right. Because CASA made an error a year ago in calculating the amount of alcohol consumed by underage drinkers, we spent 10 months conducting an exhaustive analysis to correct this error and subjected our analysis to extensive external and rigorous peer review. To assure the accuracy of our findings, we solicited review by research scientists and the federal agencies responsible for the data we used in our analysis. In addition, we submitted the article for publication in the most prestigious health journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association, to solicit the most rigorous peer-reviewed process possible.
The standard for adult excessive drinking used in this research is taken directly from the nutritional guidelines of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture, which define moderate drinking as no more than one drink a day for most women and no more than two drinks a day for most men. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also recommends these guidelines, and adds a limit of one drink a day for people age 65 and over. Adult excessive drinking is alcohol consumption in excess of these standards because such drinking increases the risk for motor vehicle crashes, other injuries, high blood pressure, stroke, violence, suicide and certain types of cancer. To be cautious, the authors used the maximum federal standard of adult moderate drinking for men (two drinks a day) for women and those 65 and over as well as for men. Drinking more than this amount is excessive, not moderate, drinking. The analysis was conducted on the basis of a standard drink of distilled spirits equaling 1.5 ounces. The reference to 1.2 ounces was a typographical error.
Most troubling is the fact that adult excessive drinkers represent only 9 percent of drinkers, yet they consume 46.3 percent of the alcohol. Most drinkers (76 percent) are adults who drink moderately but they only consume 34 percent of the alcohol. The remaining 15 percent are youngsters under 21 who drink 19.7 percent of the alcohol.
The directors of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAGARA) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (IDA) stated in their joint editorial in the same edition of AMA that this study "adds important information to the literature on alcohol use and abuse." Charles Curie, administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, considers the work sound, and Mary Detour, deputy director of NIAGARA, called the study "a thoughtful and careful analysis."
Rather than attempting to discredit peer-reviewed work of this quality, a more constructive approach would be to rise to the challenge posed by Surgeons General Julius Richmond, Antonia Novello and David Satcher and former first lady Betty Ford and join the public health community in becoming part of the solution.

Chairman and president
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse
Columbia University
New York

Huffington has a point on Saudis and SUVs

I was disappointed with William H. Peterson's derisive criticism of Arianna Huffington's campaign against the sport utility vehicle ("Huffington turned by the tide," Op-Ed, Wednesday). The fact that oil conservation coincides with the interests of environmentalists does not justify this knee-jerk pseudo-conservative backlash. Since The Washington Times has done an outstanding job in connecting Saudi Arabia to terrorism, I will limit my "connecting the dots" only to America's impact on the Saudi economy.
Let's suppose everyone above the age of 16 drives a Lincoln Navigator about 6,000 miles per year; 6,000 miles at 14.5 miles per gallon (mpg) equals 413.8 gallons per year. Then, 413.8 gallons divided by 19.4 gallons of gasoline produced out of every barrel crude equals 21.33 barrels. Multiply this by 200 million and you need 4,266 million barrels per year. Divide this by 365 days per year and these fictional drivers will require 11.7 million barrels of crude per day. This is 3.3 million barrels more than the 8.4 million barrels per day of crude oil consumed by American drivers in 2001.
Suppose all these drivers had traded in their Lincoln Navigator for a Toyota Matrix. (Note: This car is a station wagon, so the sacrifice in space is minimal.) Since the Matrix gets about 32.5 mpg, this reduces the total consumption to about 3.2 million barrels less than the 8.4 million consumed by American drivers in 2001.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy's "Rules of Thumb," world oil prices increase $3 to $5 per barrel for every 1 million barrels removed from the world market. Assuming that this formula works in both directions, I have made the following calculations:
If Americans had consumed 3.3 million more barrels in 2001, the price per barrel could have gone as high as $31 to $37.
If Americans had consumed 3.2 million less barrels in 2001, the price per barrel could have gone as low as $5-$11.
According to an analysis by the Saudi American Bank, Saudi Arabia requires an oil price of $22 per barrel to balance its budget.
Obviously, this is a simplification. Not everyone over 16 has the resources to drive a Lincoln Navigator, and not everyone can switch to a car that uses less gas. Plumbers will always need vans and carpenters will always need pickup trucks. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia will always manage to sell its oil on the world market. However, since oil comprises 90-95 percent of total Saudi export earnings, the Saudi government cannot ignore the fact that America now consumes about 25 percent of the world oil supply.
This should put the consequences of an SUV owner's behavior in perspective if he drives alone to an office job.


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