Letters to the editor

Freedom of religion

One of the things this great nation of ours was founded upon is the freedom of religion. This freedom, however, seems to be only for those who follow the most common or most popular belief systems, such as Christianity. Following any type of pagan religion is almost guaranteed to bring about unwanted (and, according to our Constitution, illegal) religious persecution.

Example: A local retail business is told to remove the symbol of a pentagram they were displaying outside their store. The reason given is that the pentagram is a satanic symbol. There are two profound problems here. First, the pentagram is a symbol of magick, not of satanism. Second, even if the pentagram was a satanic symbol, satanism is a government-recognized religion and, therefore, has every right to show its symbols, as do the Christians and their crosses.

There seems to be an abundance of ignorance about the true nature of pagan religions and denominations therein, but ignorance is no excuse.

This religious persecution must stop! If the pentagrams must stay hidden, then the crosses must as well. People don’t have to agree with something to accept it.

The Church of Tiamat welcomes all replies and opinions at P.O. Box 5174, Horse Shoe, NC, 28742.

— Roger Estes
Horse Shoe

Truth, democracy and America’s perilous state

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” If we don’t know the truth about what’s going on, how can we have a government of the people, by the people and for the people? What if information is kept from us? Well, it is!

That is what I’m upset about. No, I’m downright scared — and mad. America taught the world democracy (after the ancient Greeks, that is) and now, other countries are passing us in education, food quality and health care. What? Food and health care? Yes! Some European countries are refusing to use our meat because of antibiotics and hormones in it. And they are refusing to use grains and vegetables from us or anybody else who uses genetically changed seeds to grow them. How much have you heard about this? Not much!

Now here’s where the rubber meets the road: There are scientists worried by this experimental gene-altering way of producing food because there have been no safety tests done, and these foods are not labeled, so we can’t know if we are buying them. Do we hear anything about this? Not a peep.

Yes, that scares me. Somebody has a stranglehold on the news. I’ll give you one guess who would want to do that. You’re right — the companies that profit by the secret. Monsanto is one. Such censorship is not Christian, Jewish, Mohammedan or pagan either.

And are we behind other countries in health care? We have the best doctors in the world, but there are HMOs, hospitals for profit and drug companies that grab all the money they can, by any trick they can. How much have you heard about that? Not much!

Also, there is very helpful information about what to eat, but it is so slowly leaking out. You have to hunt … to find out very much. Do you suppose there is more profit in keeping us in ignorance — for some food producers, maybe? Or for the drug companies that treat us when we get sick? They finally have to admit some bits of information after a certain percentage of people find out anyway.

The same tragic greed is keeping us from saving our environment.

These are just some of the issues we must find out about. It isn’t necessary to go down this dark road.

Yes, I am scared, really, that we won’t rise up and do something. It is not democracy for a few big money interests to control us. We are paying them. We should control them. A lot of us will find we are stockholders in guilty companies. What an opportunity to be heard! I sold what little stock I had in General Electric because I disagreed with [their activities]. Maybe I should have kept it and used it for a pulpit.

I hear so many people say, “But what can we do?” We are supposed to run this country, aren’t we? Let’s stand up and move, instead of sitting and complaining. Individual voices count. Let’s tell our elected officials they will lose their jobs if they don’t fix things so that we have freedom of information. If they learn that they answer to “We, the people” instead of to lobbyists, we can clean up this unholy mess (I do mean unholy).

And the same goes for the media. Not only do we need campaign-finance reform and reporting of all gifts and favors to congressmen, but we need to know who owns and pays for what is reported to us on radio, TV and the Internet.

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Well, we are not free now. Let’s demand the truth — all and nothing but. Let’s talk loud and clear to our kind servants in government.

Here are some phone numbers you might want: Sen. Jesse Helms, (202) 224-6342; Sen. John Edwards, (202) 224-3154; and Rep. Charles Taylor, (202) 225-6401.

— Ruth Evangeline Archer
Burnsville

Call us before you print

The article by Steve Rasmussen in your March 8 issue, titled “Haywood County quits APCA,” included information regarding the North Carolina Division of Air Quality that was completely inaccurate and misleading. I am very concerned that Mr. Rasmussen did not contact anyone within the Division of Air Quality to verify the accuracy of his information prior to publishing this article.

I am readily available to provide information regarding the Division, and our files are public information and available during normal working hours for review.

I do not believe a fair treatment of the issues raised in Mr. Rasmussen’s article can ever be achieved unless the information regarding the Division of Air Quality is provided by someone with accurate knowledge of our program.

— Paul K. Muller, regional supervisor
Division of Air Quality
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Asheville

[Editor’s note: Steve Rasmussen is working on another air-related article, for which he is in touch with DAQ.]

More co-op problems?

Thank you for a most informative article on the [French Broad Food Co-op] union situation [“Making cooperation pay,” March 8]. Your article even aroused concern at the Hendersonville Co-op. The General Manager, Chris McElwee, was seen by customers removing publications with information about this battle from her store. Perhaps the [FBFC] is not the only co-op with problems.

— Kent McCracken
Leicester

[Editor’s note: When contacted about this situation, McElwee responded as follows: “I pulled copies of The Global Report from my store, because I had heard that an article [about the French Broad Food Co-op] published in it was totally slanted and one-sided, and I wanted to read it personally to check out the facts before the staff read it. I put the publications back out later, to let people make up their own minds. I thought the Mountain Xpress article about the co-op was incredibly fair and showed both sides of the story. I’ve known [FBFC Co-op General Manager] Jim DeLuca since 1974, and he is one the finest human beings I’ve ever met. I’ve been impressed with his fairness and level of ethical behavior, and I feel honored to have worked with Jim as part of the Southeast Cooperative Grocers Association.”]

No more monster stores

I’d like to applaud the courage of Brian Peterson for being the only City Council [member] to vote against the building of another home-improvement monster store [a new Home Depot in West Asheville — ed.].

Why in the world anyone would think Asheville needs another one is way beyond me. Unless it’s some blind, hypnotic obedience to super-suicidal competition; some snake-handling, fundamentalist worship of an invisible economic hand that’s plainly herky-jerking with grand-mal seizures; some servile kowtowing to a puerile profit piracy gone ballistically ridiculous. Or a cringing surrender to a scary and arbitrary, a specious and capricious, and a no-reason or rhyming, full-blown Alzheiming blight on the sacred institution of property rights.

— Bill Branyon
Asheville

Softwood bedding (and rawhide) bad for pets

People should know that softwood shavings — particularly cedar and pine — have been linked to liver, respiratory, skin and immune-function diseases in animals constantly exposed to them. Veterinarians usually recommend bedding made from reclaimed wood-pulp waste, pressed-paper pellets, alfalfa, grain byproducts, aspen, unprinted newspaper, or newspaper printed with soy ink. (For more information about animal bedding, visit www.aracnet.com/seagull/faq/beddingfaq.shtml).

Those caring for dogs may know that, earlier this year, Sergeant’s Pet Products recalled certain batches of its rawhide dog chews as a precaution against salmonella contamination. Actually, it is best to always avoid giving dogs rawhide. Most veterinarians I spoke with say that rawhide ingestion puts dogs at risk for bacterial infections, digestive disturbances (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), and blockage of the intestines — which can be fatal. Some dogs have choked to death on rawhide.

Although chewing rawhide may enhance dogs’ dental health, veterinarians recommend using chew toys and “bones” made from hard rubber or nylon; feeding dogs hard, dry, sugar-free food; and regularly rubbing your dog’s teeth and gums with cloth or gauze — all safer means of preventing canine dental problems. It also helps to regularly brush your dog’s teeth with a soft toothbrush and a little baking soda.

Prior to learning about the hazards of softwood shavings, I used pine bedding with a succession of hamsters. They enjoyed climbing, treadmills and wholesome food in well-ventilated, spacious cages. Nevertheless, they all died far short of their normal life span. Today, my pet mice are doing well with a nontoxic bedding, with soft tissue paper added.

Manufacturers of softwood bedding argue that it repels parasites better than other bedding. Indeed, I helped one of my mice who had mites by placing him in a bowl filled with red cedar shavings for two hours daily for three successive days. But using cedar as a regular bedding would probably kill the mouse, as well as the mites. Topical sprays or ointments containing pyrethrins also eliminate mites, fleas and ticks.

Athena, my black Labrador retriever, once received a rawhide treat every night. Approximately twice a month, she had vomiting spells. Since discontinuing rawhide a year ago, the vomiting has stopped.

Hopefully, this information will benefit companion animals and their care providers in your locality.

— Joel Freedman
Canandaigua, N.Y.

Mr. Freedman chairs the public-education committee of Animal Advocates of Upstate New York.)

Less meat gets the official nod

I was delighted to learn that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has finally shown some interest in protecting consumers. Its new Dietary Guidelines are recognizing fortified soymilk as a calcium source on par with cow’s milk. School cafeterias are finally allowed to replace greasy hamburgers, laced with cholesterol and pathogens, with wholesome, soy-based veggie burgers.

It’s about time. The U.S. Senate Select Committee for Nutrition and Human Needs recommended reduced meat consumption back in 1977. The American Dietetic Association, American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute and other national health-advocacy organizations have advocated, for more than a decade, increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Recently, even the giant food conglomerates like ADM, ConAgra and Kraft have gotten into the act by launching vegetarian-food lines.

These must be heady times for the folks celebrating the 16th anniversary of the Great American Meatout on March 20. Nearly 2,000 communities in all 50 states are expected to participate in America’s oldest and largest grassroots diet-education campaign, with information tables and other educational events. They will ask their friends and neighbors to kick the meat habit on March 20 (the first day of spring), at least for a day, and to explore a more wholesome diet of fruits, vegetables and grains.

It’s sound advice that the USDA and the rest of us should have adopted a long time ago.

— Alicia Cosgrove
Charlotte

Kudos to FBFC union supporters

I must say that Matthew Dickens’ expose of the labor strife at the French Broad Food Co-op [“Making cooperation pay,” March 8] was one of the best Mountain Xpress articles I have ever read.

I certainly hope that everyone who is working in servitude to some local smoke-and-mirrors oligarchy shares the article with their co-workers. So many areas of endeavor in Asheville seem to be controlled by insecure cliques of elite “management people” who prosper, while naive employees foolishly squander their lives working for peanuts. [New home] prices in Asheville have risen 300-400 percent since 1990, and it is somewhat embarrassing (and actually tragic) to think that someone would spend years working for $6-8 per hour. Bravo to the [FBFC] employees who, after a mere four to five months on the job, realized that an injustice was being perpetuated under the guise of new-age subterfuge — and took action.

— Rob Dame
Candler

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