- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2007

The Stockholm syndrome

The miraculous discovery and rescue of 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck, who spent four years in captivity (“Teen passed up chances to escape from abductor,” Page 1, yesterday), provides an insight into the similarly dark and disturbing life experienced by the estimated 15,000 to 18,000 human slavery victims annually trafficked in the United States.

These individuals, mostly children and women, are captured, coerced or deceived into slavery for sex or forced labor. They often experience the same eventual bizarre identification with their captors that Shawn Hornbeck may have experienced, known as the Stockholm syndrome.

This psychological coping mechanism explains why many captured victims not only cease attempts to escape but also may even refuse to cooperate with law enforcement officials who rescue them.

Shawn and 13-year-old Ben Ownby, another boy held captive with Shawn, are alive and resting safely in the arms of family today because 15-year-old Mitchell Hults took the time to observe and report to police a tip that helped crack the case. Americans should educate themselves about human trafficking so they too can observe and report clues that can tip off authorities to captors.

Readers can find more information about human trafficking at www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking/index.html and can report tips to the national hotline at 888-3737-888. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children also offers information at www.missingkids.com and a hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).


Senior policy analyst

Christian Medical Association

Washington office

Ashburn, Va.

Focus on property tax rates

Maryland property taxes will shoot up over the next three years unless drastic action is taken by local governments to reduce tax rates (“Looming deficit confronts O’Malley,” Metropolitan, Jan. 2).

The state has significantly increased assessments of property market values, and since real estate taxes are the product of these assessments and local tax rates, the property taxes will drastically increase if local tax rates are left to stand.

Property assessments have been undervalued in the past, but the tax rates were set to provide a fair level of taxes on homeowners. There can generally be little point in contesting the new and more accurate assessments of market values, but it is important that property taxes should not thereby be increased to a punishingly high level.

Responsibility rests with local governments to examine this situation objectively before setting the new tax levels. Moreover, the state gets a share of the property taxes collected on their behalf by local governments, so it is not completely out of the picture. In conclusion, let us avoid getting distracted by the issue of more realistic property assessments and focus on the controlling issue of tax rates.


Silver Spring

Obesity misinformation

In the article, “Obesity drugs” (Life, Jan. 9), the new diet drug, Acomplia, is described. Acomplia is still awaiting Food and Drug Administration approval, probably based on concerns regarding its “long-term side effects,” but it was released by Britain this past June.

This drug, also known as Rimonabant, can be ordered from Internet pharmacies after filling out an in-house doctor’s health questionnaire and paying “between $230 and $285 for a month’s supply.”

While I believe that the article gives a balanced assessment of the situation, as far as mentioning the risks involved in ordering Acomplia online and taking this obesity drug, I take issue with several statements made by Dr. Richard Atkinson, director of the Obetech Obesity Research Center in Richmond.

First, Dr. Atkinson mentions how emotional his clients often become when he tells them “that they have a disease and that I can help them.” First, obesity is not a disease. There may be a small genetic component to obesity, but the main cause is overconsumption, often of too much protein and/or carbohydrate-based foods, not enough consumption of fruits and vegetables and a lack of adequate exercise.

According to Dr. Atkinson, “thin people are often unable to grasp the constant, insatiable hunger that many obese people experience.” I do not believe this to be the case. The difference between obese and thin people is not that thin people do not experience strong hunger pangs, but rather that when they do experience the pangs of hunger, thin people respond to them in a different manner. Thin people tend to eat less food, period, and more fruits and vegetables; they also tend to exercise more.

Finally, I disagree with Dr. Atkinson’s assertion that “Gnawing hunger is one of the most awful of human conditions.” While feeling hungry in between meals can be a little uncomfortable, there are many worse conditions that the human body could have to endure.

If a person had not eaten for three days, the hunger pains would probably be intense; however, the discomfort a person feels right before he or she eats his or her next meal on a regular schedule is relatively easy to deal with, and the situation can easily be solved with a little sustenance.

The surefire way of avoiding the risks associated with diet drugs is to not take them at all and take on weight loss using a natural approach; the effort is well worth the benefits: a lower risk of various diseases and health conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and high blood pressure, and ultimately, a longer life span.



Boxer’s illogic

After reading of the “confrontation” between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, I was amazed at the illogic of Mrs. Boxer’s comments (“Rice, Gates face Hill heat over Iraq plan,” Page 1, Friday).

The statement that Miss Rice is “not going to pay a particular price” because she is unmarried and without children and therefore unable to make responsible, understanding decisions, is lacking in both logical truth and pertinent reality.

Mrs. Boxer’s statements would indicate that in order to make proper decisions in the prosecution of the Iraqi war, one must “pay the price” for those decisions. In order to pay the price, one must be married and have children of an age that they can or do serve in the military.

If this is true, then our government has a major problem. There is a large majority of people in both the executive branch and Congress — people who are making decisions about the war — who by Mrs. Boxer’s logic are unqualified to do so.

How many decision-making people in the Defense and State departments are single or have no children with which to “pay the price?” How many senators or representatives have children serving in the military or of an age to serve in the military, qualifying them to “pay the price” in order to make responsible decisions?

Being able to make compassionate, informed decisions on the manner in which the Iraq war is conducted has nothing to do with either marital or parental status. To suggest that someone must have children of their own in order to have any understanding of the pain and suffering that possible injury or death can bring to the parents of serving military personnel is both ignorant and arrogant. To indicate that being married or being a parent is a necessary requirement for holding a position of authority or decision-making in the conduct of the war is shortsighted and prejudiced.

It seems that Mrs. Boxer wants to argue against the war in Iraq, but cannot present logical reasoning in support of her position. She therefore attacks opponents in a personal way. To infer that Miss Rice’s marital and parental status is proof of her inability to understand the impact of her decisions only illuminates the weakness (and prejudice) of Mrs. Boxer’s position.

It is sad that Mrs. Boxer cannot see the arrogance of her statements and does not have the character necessary to admit her mistake and apologize. Hopefully, others will not take up her illogical and unreasoned position and start judging those they must work with by their marital or parental status, things that have no bearing on or indication of the ability of people to understand the “price” of their decisions.


Glen Burnie, Md.

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