Letters to the editor

Thanky, Hanke!

I have been meaning to write a letter of great praise about your movie reviewer, Ken Hanke. I want him to know what an excellent job he does (this is more than one [person’s] opinion). I have only ever read negative criticism of his movie reviews. Even when I disagree with him, I can still appreciate what his take [is] on a film.

The thing I most appreciate is his knowledge [across movie genres]. It first struck me when reading the review for Down With Love [Xpress May 21]; his references to older movies really impress me. I am studying history and I love movies, but I’ve never been so inspired to put the two together until reading these well-educated, well-written reviews.

Thank you, Mr. Hanke. You help me decide on going to the theater, going to rent [a movie] or not bothering [with it at all]. It’s nice to have you at the movies.

— Jenny Wallace

Quit cowing around and get a job, Ramsey

I nearly choked on my soymilk smoothie when I read [in “Milkman,” Xpress July 23] that Nathan Ramsey relies on federal Milk Income Loss Compensation payments to stay in business. A Republican “free-market” conservative who lives off of government subsidies? Certainly there are needier welfare recipients than the Ramsey family, owners of a prime piece of Fairview real estate.

I smoked cigarettes and consumed dairy products for many years. Both activities have negatively affected my health and likely shortened my life span. Those were my decisions, but why should taxpayers support the producers of products that adversely affect human health?

The late Dr. Benjamin Spock, a vegan and author of the world’s most influential book on bringing up children, Baby and Child Care, recommended in the seventh edition of his book that parents raise children on a vegan diet. The book explains that feeding children dairy and meat products greatly increases their risk of developing health problems like heart disease, many cancers, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes later in life. Dr. Spock’s book has been translated into 39 languages and [has] sold over 50 million copies, making it second in sales only to the Bible.

For eight great reasons to eliminate dairy products from your diet, visit the Web site of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine at www.pcrm.org, and do a search for “What’s Wrong With Dairy Products.” You’ll read overwhelming scientific evidence that humans should not consume dairy products. For more reasons to stop consuming dairy, including the horrific treatment of cows and the environmental degradation caused by the industry, go to www.dumpdairy.com.

Nathan, you are an intelligent and likable fellow with multiple college degrees. If you can’t make a living selling milk, why not give the cows and taxpayers a break by finding a job?

— Stewart David

Big Brother/Big Sister = big rewards

As a follow-up to Joy Harmon’s commentary “[Teaching in the School of Life,” Xpress July 23], [let me say that] folks who are interested in having a child in their lives should consider the Big Brother/Big Sister program.

I have been involved with this organization for three months and have received a great amount of satisfaction from my interactions with my Li’l Sis. We’ve participated in some free activities through the program, such as attending Singing in the Rain at the Flat Rock Playhouse and “Clay Day” at the Folk Art Center; [plus] we’ve gone bowling and mall browsing, and we’re scheduled to go to a Tourists game and shadow an attorney for a day.

While the activities themselves are entertaining and expand my Li’l Sis’s range of experiences, the interactions we have before, during and after the activities are also [outstanding] quality time. We share aspects of our lives with each other, learn each other’s perspectives and values, and [are developing] a true friendship that is rewarding to both of us.

The program did an excellent job matching my Li’l Sis and me — I truly enjoy her company and look forward to our visits. The commitment is minimal — two activities a month, with as many phone calls or other interactions as we feel like. So for those of you interested in enriching your lives through interaction with children, consider the Big Brother/Big Sister program.

— Erin Doyle

Driver’s advisory: Shark-infested streets!

It would be nice if Mountain Xpress would publish a weekly warning to tourists and locals who patronize downtown Asheville establishments: “WARNING! Tow Truck Sharks! Do not park your car in any downtown Asheville lot with a No Parking Tow Away sign.”

Tow-truck operators are on the prowl, looking for illegally parked cars. If you park in a private lot with a No Parking sign, your car will be towed. It will cost over $100 in cash to retrieve your vehicle. Park on the street or in Asheville parking garages or public lots.

Put the tow-truck operators out of business. Park only where you know it’s legal. If you’re not sure, ask a local business person. If you see someone parking in a private lot with a No Parking sign, warn them about the Tow Truck Sharks.

— Paul D. King

[Ed. Note: King’s letter was actually received prior to Xpress‘s July 23 series of letters on downtown parking and towing.

What will you give this nuclear anniversary?

Weapons of mass destruction are horribly destructive — [and] none more unimaginably devastating than nuclear bombs. We taxpayers have expended more than $1 trillion on these nuclear devices since bombing Hiroshima [in 1945].

According to the Center for Defense Information, last year the U.S. had more than 10,000 intact nuclear warheads, plus disassembled parts for 5,000 more of them. Large numbers of these weapons are still on instant alert status. The Bush-Putin agreement is mostly smoke and mirrors, as the majority of the “dismantled” weapons would simply be put on reserve.

Meanwhile, three of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s nuclear reactors are manufacturing sufficient tritium to supply tens of thousands of weapons. The Energy Department is planning on constructing a modern plutonium factory, possibly at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, sufficient to arm 125 to 450 nuclear warheads per year by the time it is completed. And construction is under way for a new nuclear-weapons factory to replace the aging Y-12 plant at Oak Ridge, Tenn. (Estimated cost for each — $4 billion.) In WNC, we live between the interstate and railway arteries over which such radioactive materials are already traversing.

Of course, the purpose of all this proposed WMD construction is only revealed to us taxpayers in vague security terminology. The administration advocates construction of new earth-penetrating and mini-nuclear weapons, trying to blur the distinction between conventional and nuclear WMD, stating that they might use them in a number of circumstances. It is probable that the U.S. ultimately plans to place these weapons in space to institute undisputed world military and economic domination.

How our threats to use terror will protect us from terrorism is not apparent. With the gap widening between the few rich and powerful and the increasingly impoverished masses of Earth’s inhabitants, there is fertile ground for terrorism.

Our elected leaders insist that there must be no proliferation of nuclear weapons on our planet, except for what we do ourselves. They insist that a $60 billion missile-defense program will protect us from other nations, and from terrorists who might be able to acquire WMD.

As physicians representing Physicians for Social Responsibility, our prime rule is “do no harm.” Concerned citizens should insist upon that same goal for our national-security policy.

In [downtown Asheville’s] Pritchard Park on Wednesday, Aug. 6 at 8 p.m., we will commemorate the 58th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. It will be an opportunity for you to find hope and make commitments to take action.

— Lewis E. Patrie, M.D.
WNC Physicians for Social Responsibility

Ramsey’s milk mustache obscures dairy truths

Nathan Ramsey [in “Milkman,” Xpress July 23] omitted some important dairy-industry facts, included here:

With genetic manipulation and intensive production technologies, it’s common for modern dairy cows to produce 100 pounds of milk a day — 10 times more than they would naturally produce. To keep milk production as high as possible, farmers artificially inseminate cows annually. Growth hormones and unnatural milking schedules cause dairy cows’ udders to become painfully heavy, resulting in frequent infections and overuse of antibiotics. Cows (like all mammals) make milk to feed their own babies — not [to feed] humans.

Male calves, “byproducts” of the dairy industry, endure 16 weeks of torment in veal crates so small they can’t even turn around. Female calves replace their old, worn-out mothers, or are slaughtered soon after birth for the rennet in their stomachs (an ingredient of most cheeses). They are often kept in tiny crates for the first few months of their lives, only to grow up to become “milk machines.”

It takes a great deal of grain and other foodstuffs cycled through cows to produce a small amount of milk. Not only is milk a waste of energy and water, the production of milk is also a disastrous source of water pollution. A dairy cow produces 120 pounds of waste daily — equal to that of 24 people, but with no toilets, sewers or treatment plants.

In Lancaster County, Penn., manure from dairy cows is destroying the Chesapeake Bay; in California, which produces one-fifth of the country’s total milk supply, the manure from dairy farms has poisoned vast expanses of underground water, rivers and streams. A smallish farm of 200 cows will produce as much nitrogen as the sewage from a community of 5,000 to 10,000 people, according to a U.S. Senate report on animal waste.

— Kayla Rae Worden

Heart health, meat eating a bad mix

The number of Americans suffering from high blood pressure has risen to 58.4 million, or 28.7 percent of the population, according to a study published in [the July 9] issue of the The Journal of the American Medical Association. The study, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was based on a national sample of 5,448 adults. High blood pressure is a major cause of heart disease and stroke, which [respectively] kill 710,000 and 170,000 Americans annually.

Edward Roccella, coordinator of the National Health, Lung and Blood Institute’s National Blood Pressure Education Program, notes that high blood pressure can be avoided and lowered by eating a more healthful diet, and exercising. In fact, a 1997 study by Johns Hopkins University found dramatic decreases in blood pressure of men and women who ate lots of fruits and vegetables and consumed meat infrequently. The alarming results of the CDC study should further strengthen our resolve to replace meat and animal fat in our diet with vegetables, grains and fruits.

— Anthony Taber

The lowdown on high rises

On July 24, I attended the meeting hosted by the Pack Square Conservancy to solicit input concerning proposed construction in or on Pack Square and City/County Plaza. The hosts showed computer simulations of proposed high-rise buildings. One of the most shocking was the one to be built east of the Biltmore building. The most common question from attendees did not concern the design, rather it was, “Why do we have to build high rises on our public square at all?”

The urban-design consultant informed us that all good urban spaces are defined by buildings, which serve as the walls to the “living room.”

Why would we want to feel like we are in a room when we are in a public park enjoying the breeze, sunlight and mountain views? Attendee William Robertson asked, “In a city that’s going to be even more dense as people move into the downtown area, why would you give up any more green space?” A recent poll conducted by the daily paper asked, “Should the Grove Park Inn be permitted to build two buildings on either side of City/County Plaza?” The answer was “No.”

On Aug. 12, City Council will hear public input on whether to sell the land. I urge City Council to say “No” to selling our public park land to the Grove Park Inn owners for development.

If you care about the future of Pack Square, please attend the Council meeting at 5 p.m. next Tuesday [Aug. 12]. If you can’t attend, let the Council know how you feel. You can get a list of Council members’ names, e-mail addresses and phone numbers by calling 259-5601.

— Julie Brandt

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