- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2008


A better vision

Sight is arguably the most valued of the five senses, and the thought of losing your sight is enough to make most people shiver. So why is it that with such an intrinsic fear of blindness, so many people neglect to properly care for their eyes?

Somewhere along the line the connection between proper eye care and the preservation of sight has been lost. Many people do not consider routine eye exams or vision screenings to be part of their regular health regimen like, for example, going to the dentist might be.

This problem is only exacerbated in the black community where preventative care is not a priority, even though African Americans suffer disproportionately from almost every major eye disease, including diabetes-related blindness and glaucoma.

The American Diabetes Association estimates that 11.4 percent of all African Americans ages 20 and older have diabetes, and one third of them do not know it. In addition, blacks are twice as likely to suffer from diabetes-related blindness — a disease that often times display no symptoms in the early stages.

The situation with glaucoma (a slow loss of periphery vision) is even worse. Glaucoma prevalence rates are four to five times higher in African Americans than among Caucasians, making it the leading cause of blindness in the black community.

But vision loss is not inevitable; it is not a natural part of aging, and it is detectable and preventable. Proactively seeking out information, scheduling regular eye exams and complying with doctor’s order can help prevent, detect and manage eye disease — and could save your sight.

If an issue is detected, programs such as Eye Care America are available to assist with treatment for those who are uninsured. Numerous programs exist throughout the country to help those in need and community organizations or local health clinics should be able to provide options.

There are enough challenges to face in life; preventable disease should not be one of them.


Vice President,

Health and Quality for Life

National Urban League

New York City

A fairer defense

James Jay Carafano’s column on defense spending (“In defense of defense spending,” Commentary, Thursday) is characteristic of the surreal non-debate over the U.S. defense budget. For one example, Mr. Carafano poses the rhetorical question: “How can it cost almost as much to chase after Osama bin Laden as it did to beat both Adolf Hitler and Hideki Tojo?”

It doesn’t. The vast bulk of the U.S. defense budget has nothing to do with chasing bin Laden. Missile defense, the Virginia class submarine, the F-22 none of these costly platforms has a thing to do with chasing bin Laden. To imply that they do is sleight of hand.

Even robust counterterrorism efforts, involving intelligence cooperation and perhaps the limited use of military force, are quite cheap. What is expensive, by contrast, is chasing after the Bush doctrine’s Rube Goldberg logic about fighting terrorism by invading and occupying Muslim countries.

Mr. Carafano also argues that it’s misleading to point out that our defense spending is as high adjusted for inflation as it has been since the end of World War II, because our economy is so much bigger. Fair point. What Mr. Carafano does not highlight is our share of global military spending. The United States spends roughly as much on defense as the rest of the world combined and still politicians of both parties agree it’s not enough. This imbalance calls not for even more defense spending, as the Heritage Foundation suggests, but rather a rethinking of our strategic premises.


Associate director

Foreign Policy Studies

Cato Institute


Oil realities

Richard Rahn says current high oil prices are caused by the ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (“Washingtonomics,” Commentary, Feb. 12). However, this ban was already in place in 1998 when oil cost just $10 a barrel. So there must be something more to the equation. If we were to drill in ANWR, I assure you the price wouldn’t go back down to $10. In fact, it will continue to cost more than $100 a barrel regardless of whether we drill in ANWR. There just isn’t enough oil in ANWR to make a difference in the world price.

The price of oil is high and rising because production can’t keep up with demand. Because oil is finite, this problem will only get worse. It can’t be solved on the supply side. The answer has to lie with demand. The ANWR oil can be used only once. We would have been fools to burn it when the price was $10 a barrel. The price will only go higher as world oil production enters decline. We are better off supporting better fuel economy, transit and walkable communities rather than more drilling.


North Potomac

The Sri Lankan story

Sri Lankan Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke has put a good but inaccurate face on the Sri Lankan Sinhalese majority’s conflict with the Tamil minority (“Tamil homeland fantasy,” Commentary, Sunday).

First, he says weighting examinations was never intended to discriminate against us Tamils. I took the common Advanced Level exam in 1969 and was admitted to the engineering faculty.

The government then redid the admissions after adding some 28 marks to the four-subject aggregate of Sinhalese students.

I lost my seat. They effectively claimed that the son of a Sinhalese minister in an elite Colombo school was disadvantaged vis-a-vis a Tamil tea-plucker’s son. Unable to defend this, in 1973 they created the statistical scheme equating Tamil and Sinhalese averages with regional preferences to which the ambassador refers.

Tamils were still shut out.

Second, Sri Lankan democracy: The ambassador is justly proud of Sinhalese democracy with universal adult franchise since 1931. However, promptly upon independence, half the Tamils those in the tea plantations were denied citizenship.

The rest of us Tamils began losing our franchise in 1981, when the government rigged the District Council elections, ironically meant to devolve power to us.

By 1983, our parliamentarians, set upon by government hoodlums, fled to India. The vacuum was filled by the virulent Tamil Tigers. They claim to be our sole representative, forcibly recruit our children and murder those standing for election without their blessings.

They have massacred innocent Muslim and Sinhalese villagers. Cornered by the Indian peacekeeping force from 1987 to 1990, they got a new lease on life when the Sri Lankan government accommodated them in five-star hotels and armed them.

His excellency laments the loss of our rights without acknowledging his government’s hand.

Zeal for denying democracy for Tamils is evident as it promotes a breakaway faction of the Tigers fielding candidates for elections while recruiting children, bearing arms and terrorizing Tamils the very methods of the Tigers that the government excoriates.

Finally, there is the suggestion that Tamils prefer living under the government to living in Tiger territory: I for one loved living in the Tamil neighborhoods where I grew up. But my ancestral house was destroyed, and innocent locals disappeared.

Tamil shopkeepers visited by soldiers for cigarettes and public servants have been murdered by the Tigers. Few dare live there in these circumstances.

Sri Lanka’s real story is the more complex oedipal unfolding of inexorable Sinhalese nationalist communalism meeting its ugly little baby, Tamil fascism. We ordinary Tamils struggle under the two.


Goodwin College

Drexel University


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