- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A military ride-along

Last year, I worked as a subcontractor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. During that time, at least one other subcontracting company (Cochise Consultancy Inc.) used several of Chris Berman’s F-550 derivatives, known locally as Warthogs (“Ex-SEAL vies to fortify U.S. combat trucks,” Page 1, Tuesday). I had occasion to ride in these vehicles several times and found them to be cramped and ergonomically unsound. (Passengers/shooters had to bend over to see out the armored glass ports.) Invariably, the air conditioning was inadequate. This last point sounds minor, but in 120-degree heat for three to five hours at a time, it soon becomes a critical issue. The armor that was added to the chassis of these vehicles was light at best, and in my opinion, not protective against anything heavier than glancing small-arms fire and perhaps shrapnel.

While I was on home leave in late August and early September, one of these Warthogs was struck by two improvised explosive devices while on a mission just outside Baghdad. The driver and assistant driver were killed immediately, both gunners were severely wounded, and one lost both legs. As a result of this and other considerations, the company involved decided to cancel its contract with the Army Corps of Engineers.

I take exception to the final paragraph of The Washington Times article with respect to the comment that no one has been wounded or killed in one of these vehicles. Four families were devastated, and many of us lost valued friends and co-workers. To have their sacrifices ignored and covered up is outrageous. They were provided with inferior equipment and sent into harm’s way with the fallacious belief that their vehicles would protect them.

R.J. OSTASHOWER

Calgary, Alberta

Flavorful

It was heartwarming to read the article “Greece is the word for flavor” (Food, May 23). Kim Upton captures the stillness and beauty of life on the historical island of Chios and showcases mastiha, a simple ingredient which has graced Greek food with its fragrance for ages.

IalsofoundSteven Raichlen’s article on hamburgers very entertaining (“The world loves a good hamburger,” Food, May 23). Who knew one could discover the world in pursuit of a burger?

In conclusion, please allow me to say that Greece is not only the word for flavor, but also for health. I would say that Greek food is not healthy, but rather, healthy food is Greek.

ALEXANDROS MALLIAS

Ambassador of Greece

Washington

Amnesty and Social Security

Monday’s Commentary column “Coming clean on amnesty” by Debra J. Saunders was right on the mark.

I am smart enough, as I think most Americans are, to know that the Kennedy-Kyl bill is a sellout of our borders and a surrender to the lawlessness that has transformed our nation. It is nonsense to say that the current system is broken — because it is not. The problem is that it is not enforced. The fault is not the system but the same politicians who say they need a new immigration bill to fix it.

I trust voters will remember those in both parties who are responsible for hammering this nail in the coffin of our Social Security system. It certainly will collapse under the weight of 12 million to 20 million new people. Our language and culture will go out the window, and the loyalty of people coming into our country who wanted to be Americans will be a thing of the past. Like the proverbial bull in a china shop, the politicians are the ones who need “fixing.” I hope voters remember the names and give them what’s due them come election time.

PAUL WALKOWSKI

Dorchester, Mass.

Clinton’s nebby nose

Congratulations to Robert Goldberg for his May 15 expose (“Clinton skulduggery”) of the former president’s unwitting effort to compromise public health by encouraging foreign nations to subvert our patent system.

I serve as the ranking Republican of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over intellectual property, including patents. Our committee has spent much of the last several years trying to update our patent laws. Intellectual property is the foundation of the modern American economy. In fact, U.S. IP rights exceed 5 trillion in value, about 45 percent of our GDP. Three million American jobs are tied to the pharmaceutical industry alone, which creates 70 percent of all of the world’s medicines.

Between stops on his overseas speaking tour, President Clinton paused this month to defend the governments of Thailand and Brazil as they ignore patent protection for drugs developed by American companies. The World Trade Organization permits the issuance of “compulsory licenses” to lower drug costs, but this action may only be taken under emergency conditions; for example, to combat a pandemic. But the camel’s nose is under the tent: Thai authorities now want to expand coverage to all “essential” drugs needed to support its universal health system.

Thailand and Brazil each rank in the top 10 percent of the world’s wealthiest nations, yet they spend very little on health care. There is no excuse for their behavior. Mr. Clinton does a disservice to the men and women employed by the American pharmaceutical industry by standing with Thailand and Brazil.

When an American company spends upwards of $800 million to bring a state-of-the-art drug to market, that company deserves a return on its investment. And without that return, much of which is reinvested into additional R&D, you will see fewer break-through drugs in the future. That is a health-care outcome the American people neither want nor deserve. Mr. Clinton should know better.

REP.LAMAR SMITH

Ranking Member

House Judiciary Committee

Washington

Minuteman should show donors the money

Both Minuteman organizations — the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC) and Minuteman Project — should be further probed by authorities (“Minuteman chief purges ranks,” Page 1, May 24). It’s not just a question of turning over the financial documentation to the state chapter leaders, but to the public as a whole, in a tax form 990. Chris Simcox has one for 2005 on his Web site, errors included. My request for an IRS-stamped 990 has gone unanswered and I fail to find his statement published at GuideStar, the pre-eminent authority on U.S. non-profits.

As a member of the board of directors for the Minuteman Project, we rightfully terminated the president and founder, Jim Gilchrist, and Executive Director Stephen Eichler in part for thwarting our financial investigation. My Feb. 20 request for the 2005 990 has been completely ignored and many questions as to fundraising and donations have gone unanswered. It is no surprise that both MCDC and MMP use the same consulting firms and fundraising groups.

The MCDC state chapter leaders were free to leave and form their own groups, whereas we as board members could be held liable along with Mr. Gilchrist for any IRS quandaries had we not started the investigation on our own. Mr. Gilchrist continues to claim he is the sole director and president of his former nonprofit, and he refuses to go quietly and allow public oversight for the tax-exempt donations.

Mr. Gilchrist has been vicious on the attack and sued us, claiming we were never a board. He continues to hamper our investigation into the MMP finances, and does not allow public oversight to prevail. We are pushing for receivership and a forensic audit at our June 6 court date to get full answers and not one-dimensional accounting.

DEBORAH COURTNEY

Tustin, Calif.

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