Letters to the editor

Make that “woman talk”

Incredible! On page 9 of the Feb. 21 Mountain Xpress, there is a photo of our city’s Mayor and two City Council members conferring. The caption under the photo reads, [in part], “Girl talk.” Incredible! I hope I may be the first of 2,000 such letters you receive.

— Barbara Devitt

Tobacco: conspiracy or treason?

For more than 100 years, the government has concealed the fact that all niacin used to fortify cereals, bread … and other baked goods is made form tobacco. Niacin, like vitamin C, is a necessary nutrient that human beings get sick and die without. The nutritional disease involved is called pellagra and was identified in the South after the War Between the States. The shortages of fresh meat and leafy vegetables like spinach caused thousands of Southerners to try to live on diets consisting mainly of corn meal and lard. Corn meal and lard contained no niacin, a critical B vitamin now called B-3, niacinamide or nicotinic acid.

People, mainly children, had been dying for more than 20 years from an ailment that started with lethargy, loss of appetite and dementia, then progressed on to aggressiveness, irritability and disphorea, ending with fever, skin eruptions and large red rashes covering most of the body. One doctor observed that patients literally scratched themselves to death. Another doctor, Dr. Goldberger, observed that people who used tobacco seemed to be immune from this disease. That, and the fact that it did not appear to be contagious, led him to assume that something in the tobacco was protecting people from the disease. In 1895, Dr. Goldberger announced that he had discovered and isolated vitamin B-3, which he called niacin, and that people and animals couldn’t live without it.

As a result of this research, all baked goods were required to contain niacin to protect the population from this ailment.

For the last 50 years, concerns over another ailment, lung cancer, have been destroying the tobacco industry without recognizing that only one in eight smokers gets this disease and that many of the ills attributed to tobacco are natural results of the aging process.

If American tobacco farmers are put out of business, as some special interest groups are trying to do, all the niacin necessary to sustain life in the United States will have to be imported and sold through the drug companies.

My question is: How much were Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and others paid to put American farmers out of work and give this crop to the world’s largest producer of tobacco, the Chinese — or are they really that stupid?

Did Clinton sell out Americans to the Chinese for Wal-Mart or has lack of niacin left all of Congress senile?

— Larry Monaghan
Arcadia, Kansas

Disinformation about chip mills harms North Carolina

I write in response to Mr. Julian Price’ s letter in the Feb. 28 edition of the Xpress, in which he attacks Ron Ogle and praises Xpress for not falling victim to “ad hominem attacks by many in the environmental movement.” I wish the same could be said regarding Xpress’ systematic refusal to print cogent, well-reasoned responses to commentaries such as Bob Slocum’s “Chip mills don’t harm North Carolina,” [Jan. 10] provided in a timely fashion and intended to spur public debate over an important issue. The following was submitted for publication in the Jan. 24 edition of the Xpress.

[Editor’s note: Xpress published a counter to Slocum’s commentary — Daniel Whittle’s “North Carolina can’t see the forests for the trees” — on Jan. 24. Due to space constraints and a backlog of commentaries, we normally run only one response commentary per piece. Our editorial policy does not constitute a “systematic refusal to print cogent, well-reasoned responses to commentaries.”]

Chip mills do not obtain their raw materials in the benign fashion described by Mr. Slocum as “tak[ing] low-grade trees and wood debris from land-clearing.” Instead, as noted in [a North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources study], many harvest sites that include a satellite wood-chip component are clearcut. Industrial clearcutting occurs more frequently and on a larger scale than naturally occurring disturbances (i.e. wind and fire). In the wake of this harvest “technique,” fewer, if any, trees, snags (standing, dead trees) and woody debris are left at the site. Snags and woody debris are critical components of an ecosystem, as they provide seed-germination sites, moisture reservoirs and habitat for earthworms, fungi, macroinvertebrates, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and small mammals. Additionally, the breakdown of snags and woody debris by microorganisms returns nutrients to the soil. Removing all trees and woody debris from a harvest site virtually eliminates this natural process of nutrient replenishing. … The significance of the cumulative environmental impacts associated with chip mills is explained in the study: “For a large wood chip mill of about 400,000 ton per year capacity, this would translate into 4,000 acres per year of incremental clearcut harvest area required to furnish a mill, or more area if chip harvests were only a share of removals on a harvest site. Partial wood chip timber harvest would require proportionately more total area. For example, if a site harvested only one-third of its material as wood chips, then 12,000 acres would be affected [per year]” (page 30). With regeneration rates of approximately 60 years, the cumulative impacts of the 18 satellite chip mills in North Carolina can scarcely be characterized as innocent.

Contradicting Mr. Slocum’s claim that chip mills “do not drive demand or harvest rates,” the study found it “most likely” that “chip mills contribute to increased production volumes [and] increased acres harvested” (pages 29, 70). Furthermore, the study notes that “while cleaner sites imply fewer acres disturbed by harvest, they also have the potential for increased erosion risk due to greater soil exposure” (page 70). Likewise, in claiming that the “impacts from timber harvesting are minor and are easily managed by state requirements to protect water quality,” Mr. Slocum ignores the study’s finding that state forest practice guidelines (FPGs) and best management practices (BMPs) “are more widely implemented in forests under professional management than forests that are not. This is not a small concern since a relatively large (but not well quantified) fraction of the owners of North Carolina’s forest land have little or no contact with professional resource managers and no formal management plans” (page 41). This finding is especially noteworthy since, as of 1990, 76 percent of the state’s forest land was owned by nonindustrial private forest owners (page 18).

Similarly, Mr. Slocum misapprehends the study’s findings in stating that “the study stated that stormwater runoff from the mills does not present a threat to water quality.” This conclusion is, at best, tenuous, at worst, obfuscatory, for several reasons. First, the analysis of stormwater effects was based on the voluntary cooperation of only 12 of the 18 mills studied (page 54). One is forced to wonder why 33 percent of North Carolina’s satellite chip mills refused to cooperate in this study and whether their cooperation would have painted a more odious picture of chip-mill impacts on North Carolina’s water resources. Second, the analysis of stormwater effects was confined to site visits of the mills themselves, whose average size is 20 acres (page 54), yet whose production demands cause the clearcutting of hundreds of thousands of acres annually. The stormwater analysis did not include an analysis of these timber-harvesting sites feeding the chip mills. As such, the public, and professional foresters like Mr. Slocum, should be wary of concluding that the presence of chip mills in North Carolina is not harmful to the state’s environment. Third, “limited resources precluded collection and analysis of water samples” (page 54). Therefore, only one “macroinvertebrate assessment of stream quality was conducted” (page 54), and inferences regarding chemical pollutants were based on visual inspection” (page 54). Finally, despite the observance of high concentrations of dissolved oxygen, the study notes that “whether these compounds were concentrated enough to adversely impact streams are not known” (page 55).

… I encourage each of you to review the NCDENR study, as well as the study conducted by the Dogwood Alliance and Native Forest Network entitled “Chipping Forests and Jobs: A Report on the Economic and Environmental Impacts of Chip Mills in the Southeast,” and decide whether you agree with Mr. Slocum’s conclusions or those of the late Edward Abbey, who once observed:

“In clear-cutting … you clear away the natural forest, or what the industrial forester calls ‘weed trees,’ and plant all one species of tree in neat straight functional rows like corn, sorghum, sugar beets or any other practical farm crop. You then dump on chemical fertilizers to replace the washed away humus, inject the seedlings with growth-forcing hormones, surround your plot with deer repellents and raise a uniform crop of trees, all identical. When the trees reach a certain prespecified height (not maturity; that takes too long), you send in a fleet of tree-harvesting machines and cut the $!#*ers down. All of them. Then burn the slash, and harrow, seed, fertilize all over again, round and round and round again, faster and faster and tighter and tighter until, like the fabled Malaysian Concentric Bird which flies in ever-smaller circles, you disappear up you own !#$hole.”

— Scott Gollwitzer

Howard Allen exemplified what’s best about WNC

I enjoyed your article on Howard Allen, the “junkyard man” [Feb. 21, “Junkyard man”]. Having been one of the earlier newcomers to Madison County 25 years ago, we were a bit of “strangers in a strange land.” We moved here from Charlotte with a 1950 Ford truck loaded full of construction material. We were lucky to have made it up the mountain: The truck busted an axle as soon as we made it to our new home. Lucky to have been referred to Howard’s junkyard: His son Charles knew where an axle might be found. He helped me find the part for $5 and installed it for me at no charge. Charles learned well from his father.

Howard Allen may not have been a formally educated man, but his life training made him a mechanical genius and his heart made him one of the most loved men in these mountains. Having [myself] been in numerous situations from cars in the creek to logistical loading problems like trying to get gigantic logs loaded into a truck without any mechanical means except the dump truck itself, Howard would appear whether called or not. He had an uncanny way of being where people needed him.

Howard had a heart as big as these mountains. The day Howard left us was a major loss to Madison County and all of the surrounding mountains. Howard’s good deeds exemplified what is best about Western North Carolina.

— Stephen Schoch

J. Moon’s logic about new jail is skewed

I am responding to a letter to the editor [that ran] in the Feb. 14 issue of Mountain Xpress. Mr. J. Moon, who wrote the letter, was writing to protest the new jail proposed for Asheville. His complaint cited the fact that the new jail is going to create new criminals. By way of extrapolation, in Mr. Moon’s way of thinking building a new hospital would create more sick people, a new homeless shelter would create more homeless people, a new fire department will cause more fires, and new animal shelters would create more unwanted animals. I suppose then, due to their negative impact, that any of these facilities that may be proposed should therefore not be constructed.

Mr. Moon also stated that we should reduce Asheville’s police force, commenting on the fact that it has been proven that crime increases when we have more police. I believe that the simplest explanation for this is that possibly, with more police on the force, they are more able to catch the criminals that were out there in the first place but were getting away with their wrongdoing simply because there was no one around to observe or stop them. More arrests of deserving criminals logically means that statistics will rise. Overcrowding of our nation’s jails is an ongoing problem and I, for one, support wholeheartedly the building of a new facility — the same as I would a new hospital, homeless shelter or animal shelter.

According to Mr. Moon’s letter, he knows that the jail is overcrowded based on his own experiences. This sounds to me like a disgruntled criminal in need of some education regarding the laws in this city so he doesn’t have to worry about going to jail or dealing with the so called “overpopulation” of Asheville’s police force. Of course, Mr. Moon — being the intelligent person he seems to be — probably knows the criminal statutes quite well.

— Elizabeth Lendrum

On the side of the environment, community and future

Julian Price maintains that each side on the debate about chip mills has good and bad points to make, and that the Xpress should print both points of view [Letters, Feb. 28].

I, apparently, am on the side of the environment, our community and our children’s children’s children.

If it were 1850 and the “debate” was about slavery, I reckon that I’d be my ad hominem self and perhaps Mr. Price would find good points to make about slavery — say, economic arguments.

P.S. I am aware that my own views would be considered out of order in many publications, such as Biker Babes and the Asheville Tribune.

— Ron Ogle

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One thought on “Letters to the editor

  1. Dortha Christmas

    Informative commentary ! Just to add my thoughts , if your business needs to fill out a CBP 434 , my business partner discovered a blank version here http://goo.gl/yh25c2

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