Letters to the editor

A good story well told

Re "The old men and the sea," Column One, Jan. 1

Christopher Goffard's article was an especially fine piece of writing. It was well-structured and lucid, with many beautiful turns of phrase. He captured his subject, of course, as a good journalist should, but he also rendered a deft sketch of an archetypical American character and of a singularly lonely way of life. What a pleasure to find this kind of writing in The Times.

Steve Barker

San Juan Capistrano

Goffard's piece on Karl Markvart and the other sailor-dreamers is just one very fine art of storytelling and slice of life -- exquisitely written. He captured something indefinable, fragments of life itself! I just wish it had been longer. The poignancy, humor, the conversation between two tough old men (dueling monologues), the interview with the boatyard manager -- everything right on. Congratulations.

Peter Canning

Los Angeles

Rep. Lantos and Raoul Wallenberg

Re "Lantos says he won't run in fall," Jan. 3

It is symbolic that Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Burlingame) announced his illness and his stepping-down in the same month that we commemorate the day that Raoul Wallenberg -- the man who saved Lantos and his wife more than 60 years ago -- was taken by the Soviets, never to be seen again.

Lantos never forgot the man who saved his life. When elected to Congress in 1981, he was the driving force behind President Reagan awarding Wallenberg honorary U.S. citizenship. Lantos was also the first to sign our campaign "100,000 Names for 100,000 Lives" to disclose the fate of Wallenberg.

We at the foundation know he will continue his work to preserve the memory and disclose the fate of Wallenberg.

Abigail Tenembaum

Executive Director

International Raoul

Wallenberg Foundation

New York

Genetic screening is safer

Re "Registry may track egg, sperm donors," Jan. 3

As a father of two healthy children who were conceived in the same way as Krystie Karl-Steiger, I think this story missed an important point: Despite the semi-anonymous donor process, the risk of genetic disease is far lower for these kids than for children conceived outside of the artificial fertility process.

The number of tests our egg donor and we had to undergo before the day of conception was staggering, not only in volume but also in expense. We were tested for Tay-Sachs even though we were not part of an at-risk group. We also had the benefit of using an egg from a 20-year-old, which is safer than an older egg donor.

Conception is a risky process, but by every measure, our risk was a fraction of that incurred by selfish couples who decide to reproduce with no genetic screening.

Jim Smith

Toluca Lake

Predictions differ from promises

Re "A promise of unpredictability," Opinion, Jan. 2

Joseph Ellis offers Ronald Reagan as an example of a president reversing a position he took during a campaign, stating that Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire" and then negotiated an arms agreement with it. However, Reagan's "evil empire" speech was given in 1983 and can hardly be considered a campaign position.

In his 1980 campaign, Reagan promised to increase military expenditures, end the grain embargo against the Soviet Union and enact tax reductions. He carried out these promises. To be sure, he promised that the tax reductions would not decrease government revenues, and that his policies would eliminate inflation without causing a recession. These claims, however, were more predictions than promises.

Alan Pfeffer

Long Branch, N.J.

Make Alzheimer's a campaign issue

Re "No meeting of the minds -- yet," Dec. 27

The Times article on Alzheimer's disease mentions the role of mutation of the ApoE protein, which destroys cholesterol. The nation's longest-running heart health study, the Framingham Heart Study, has found that high cholesterol correlates positively with maintaining high cognitive functioning as people age. The higher the cholesterol levels, the better is memory, attention and concentration.

Our brains are largely composed of cholesterol, so perhaps the mutated protein is removing too much cholesterol from the brain, thereby causing the changes observed in Alzheimer's. Perhaps the rising incidence of Alzheimer's is the result of older people being placed on diets and medications that drastically reduce cholesterol.

Cholesterol might be necessary for maintaining cognitive functioning. The bad rap cholesterol has regarding heart health might actually be caused by other blood serum factors that are found in the company of cholesterol, and it is those factors, not the cholesterol, that need to be reduced for heart health.

John F. Rossmann


Perhaps the title of this article should have been "No meeting of the minds -- but there could be with sufficient research funding and elected officials who truly understood the crisis that is Alzheimer's."

It's true that "the rising costs of treating the disease coupled with reduced research funding is ... a foreboding combination."

Foreboding indeed -- it's downright horrifying. The toll on families living with Alzheimer's may be well understood, but that doesn't make it any less devastating.

I'm waiting to hear from the presidential candidates that Alzheimer's is a priority for them.

I've been waiting a long time.

Sherrie Matza

San Francisco

The myth that Alzheimer's disease is a singular condition separate from brain aging that we can cure is no longer a viable clinical, research or business strategy.

What we now label "Alzheimer's disease" encompasses multiple processes (vascular changes, oxidative stress, inflammation, the formation of abnormal proteins, etc.) that are intimately related if not identical to severe brain aging. Thus, to cure Alzheimer's, we would literally have to arrest these processes, which seems at best quixotic and at worst deceitful.

The Alzheimer's field needs a significant shift in its thinking and its values.

With the new year, and the start of the next century of research in what we used to call Alzheimer's disease, we are presented with an opportunity to push through the mental roadblocks that have limited our intellectual and ethical thinking about brain aging and can ultimately tell a better story about what it means to be an elder whose body and mind will invariably change over time.

Peter Whitehouse MD

Danny George


The writers are coauthors of "The Myth of Alzheimer's: What You Aren't Being Told About Today's Most Dreaded Diagnosis."

The homeless are not to blame

Re "Choosing their lots in life," Column One, Dec. 31

I am dismayed by Steve Chawkins' assertion that homelessness and poverty are a choice.

No one -- except perhaps the mentally ill or the wandering pseudo-hippie bohemians the author chose to feature as representative of the homeless auto dwellers -- is really happy with a "permanent berth on the asphalt." It is an anomaly to find any feasting on an "expensive raw-food diet" and wearing "all natural clothing."

Chawkins puts the blame for homelessness all on the individual, "bad luck, bad choices, booze, drugs or mental illness," without a reproachful word for the economic system that actually creates the problem.

John Brennan

Los Angeles

Victims or accomplices?

Re "How a bank fell victim to loan fraud," Dec. 31

This fraud would not have been possible had Lehman Bros. Bank observed proper checks and balances and hired its own appraisers before funding loans for the properties. According to the article, Lehman Bros. also was contacted by two local real estate agents reporting questionable valuations of area homes, yet it chose to ignore the concerns raised.

Ditto for the straw buyer, Kathy Moore of Utah. She sold the use of her identity and credit to help make one of the deals happen; she was no more a victim than Lehman Bros. and was just as greedy as the other players.

Monique Bryher


The writer is a real estate broker.

No compassion for U.S. POWs

Re "Defense bill's demise stymies ex-POWs' suit," Dec. 30

This article states that 17 ex-POWs, pilots who were shot down and brutalized by Saddam Hussein's regime, are suing the Iraqi government for damages.

The Bush administration is denying their lawsuit, claiming that the money would place a financial burden on the Iraqi government and strain the relationship between Iraq and the United States.

Is this administration more loyal to a corrupt foreign government than to our own troops who were prisoners of war?

This administration has no shame, loyalty or compassion for those who are fighting to protect our country.

Mike Lockridge

Mission Viejo

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