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Screen the screening
I was most interested by Jill Thomas' article on genetic testing ("Would you? Could you?" cover story, Nov. 15). However, I was troubled by how little she questioned the medical opinions she got.

Cancer screening is a bad idea, and this is clearly explained by H. Gilbert Welch (M.D. and professor of medicine at Dartmouth Medical School) in his book, Should I Be Tested for Cancer? Anyone thinking about a mammogram, a PSA test or any other screening test (including genetic) should first read this book, at least Chapter 9. In a nutshell, the relevant statistics show that, at best, cancer screening has minimal benefits. However, it comes at huge emotional (and monetary) cost.

Ms. Thomas is told, "When you don't have breast tissue, you can't get cancer in it." Fine, but is the doctor reasonably sure the risk of cancer in some other part of the body (in the ovaries, say) does not increase after a mastectomy? Where are the studies following women after a mastectomy? How many women participated in the studies? How good are they? All are questions Ms. Thomas should ask before considering mutilating herself.

Another thing that troubles me is that we are given cancer probabilities of the type: "Given your family history, your probability of getting breast cancer is xx percent." But these probabilities are estimates, not hard facts, based on a few studies of a few families that certainly have different histories than our own. These numbers should be looked at very carefully: Where do they come from? What is the confidence interval of these estimates?

Dr. Welch summarizes well the problem with cancer screening when he writes: "Rather than making sick people well, we end up making well people sick."

Rinaldo Schinazi

Colorado Springs

Time to sober up
This city continues to cite example after example of people (men, women, youth, even babies) who have experienced problems/accidents/overdoses, etc. with alcohol. Yet no one in a position of leadership has the courage to stand up and say, "Enough is enough."

No more intoxicated women, men, youth and children having to suffer from the despair, hardships, pain and reality of alcohol abuse. Why won't anyone, as a leader in Colorado Springs, El Paso County or Colorado stand up and say that?

This is a "drunk city" whether we're No. 3 [as cited by Men's Health magazine] or No. 1, and whether or not the statistics come from one, two, three, four or five years ago, does not matter.

Do you get it? Can you comprehend the facts? Alcohol abuse is the No. 1 drug and societal problem of this city, and it is time to deal with it. We need a treatment facility right here in Colorado Springs. The jail's too full, and the local hospitals are sick and tired of taking in all these people for free at taxpayers' expense. Let's finally work for a real solution to this problem.

Addy M. Hansen

Colorado Springs

Fractured system
Thanks to Anthony Lane for addressing the issue of the boot-camp alternative ("Fear fracture," cover story, Nov. 22). What your investigation failed to point out, however, is why we incarcerate some drug users in the first place.

I am a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (leap.cc), a group of current and former law-enforcement professionals who believe the Drug War has failed. LEAP supports policy that would reduce the incidence of death, disease, crime and addiction, all made worse by the Drug War costing $70 billion a year.

As a former public-safety officer, I am aware that law enforcement is not qualified to address the illness called addiction. There are 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States; 25 percent are nonviolent drug offenders, while that same number or about 500,000 of known, registered sex offenders are walking around free in society today. Drug offenders take precious jail/prison space that should be occupied by violent offenders who, due to overcrowding, are released early, while someone with a drug offense will do outrageous time because of mandatory minimums.

I am not pro-drug. I am for keeping violent offenders behind bars and using resources for rehabilitation, or better yet, education and personal responsibility for so-called drug offenders. Legal drug users have a higher incidence of death than illegal drug users. Tobacco kills 450,000 a year, alcohol 150,000 a year. Marijuana kills zero and actually helps some sick people feel better.

What if Barack Obama, an admitted cocaine and marijuana user as a youth, had the misfortune of being arrested, then denied student-loan money to further educate himself? Each year, almost a million people in this country are arrested for simple possession of marijuana, a terrible waste of resources and court time. I suggest the Drug War is the root of the problem.

Michelle Holton

Manitou Springs

Paying (attention to) Paul
This is in response to Donald Pelton ("On bad presidents," Letters, Nov. 22). In his last paragraph, he states, "It would be wonderful if we knew in advance what a person would do as president."

With Ron Paul, you have that knowledge. I encourage all to Web-search this man's name and do their own reading in regard of the only elected individual in D.C. to take his oath of office to heart and not violate it like his colleagues. Here is a brief overview of Ron Paul's record in the House:

He has never voted to raise taxes. He has never voted for federal restriction on gun ownership. He has never voted to raise congressional pay. He has never taken a government-paid junket. He has never voted to increase the power of the executive branch.

He voted against the Patriot Act. He voted against the Iraq war. He does not participate in the lucrative congressional pension program and returns a portion of his annual congressional office budget to the U.S. treasury every year.

I know many in this city want him as their next president, including me. I also know he is the last person that the global elitists (Council on Foreign Relations, Bilderberg Group, Council on 300, Illuminati) want in that office. It's an opportunity for this nation to elect a man of integrity and honesty to a position that has not had either in decades.

In order to do this: Be registered Republican and vote in this state's primary. Ron Paul must win state primaries to be the GOP candidate.

Gregory-Alan Johnson

Colorado Springs

Clear on Clinton
One of our friends from down under in the land of Oz, Mr. Don Smith, wrote a short but not-so-sweet letter ("Clinton's past," Letters, Nov. 22), that proves short does not necessarily mean succinct.

He identified Hillary as Ms. Clinton, when the whole world knows she is Mrs. Clinton, but I will not accuse him of trying to get a dig in on our former First Lady. He addressed his letter to "women voters" only (as a guy, I feel slighted), then warned them to resist the temptation to vote for her because she is a woman. That's like saying, "Men, resist the temptation to vote for Sen. Obama because he's a man."

Mr. Smith said the first woman president must be more than a mother and wife; she must be a leader. I refute that by saying: Why does she have to be a mom or a wife? What's wrong with just being a single woman?

As for being a leader, we usually don't find that out until a person becomes president. Case in point: Millions thought George Bush was a leader, and found out they were duped. As for Hillary being a leader? Millions believe she is, and millions believe she isn't. That's politics, folks.

Mr. Smith told us to remember Whitewater. Why? The Clintons were cleared of that fiasco by independent counsel Ken Starr, a pious, pompous lawyer who hung a blue dress in front of Congress, which promptly and sanctimoniously impeached President Clinton. As we learned, Ken Starr was one of the authors of the politics of personal destruction.

It's good that the Indy gets letters from as far away as Australia. In Don Smith's case, I'm glad it was a short one.

Phil Kenny

Colorado Springs

The hunger war
Thanks to Cara DeGette ("It's a year-round problem," Public Eye, Nov. 22) for highlighting the issue of hunger in Colorado Springs.

She is absolutely correct in her assertion that hunger is not just a month-long problem. We see it every day at the Marian House Soup Kitchen, which regularly serves an average of 400 people daily. Last year alone, we served more than 166,000 meals, and over 5,000 were to children.

She also hit the mark in saying that many people who receive food help in Colorado Springs are not "slackers and ne'er-do-wells."

In fact, approximately 60 percent of the people we see at Marian House are members of the working poor. They have jobs, but don't earn enough to make ends meet. These folks are families with children, and one or both parents work full-time. They are also people on a fixed income such as seniors, people with disabilities and our veterans.

Susan McConnell of Care and Share is correct that those who have the least often give the most. However, in fairness, those who have resources also give quite generously.

Probably the best reason for why stories pop up regarding hunger, and why people give more during the holidays, and maybe not at other times of the year, is because we as a society tend to reflect during this time of year on our good fortunes.

We have an increased need to give to our families and the community at-large. As most nonprofits will tell you, it is the increased level of donations from November through January that help them make it through the year. We are no exception.

Jason D. Christensen

executive director

Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs

Blackwater bleed
The Pentagon has tons of money for all the troops, but I was shocked to learn that a lion's share of all their appropriations are now going to private mercenary militias like Blackwater, and that there are as many "contractors" in Iraq as members of our armed forces.

How about cutting back on them? Perhaps it's because they're not being held accountable for random killing of civilians. Literally, getting away with murder.

Beyond that, it's just plain insanity to spend billions of dollars training our armed forces just so they can leave to go to Blackwater, which then sells their services back to us at a massive markup, up to 10 times as much.

With their furlough threats, they are literally holding our entire military civil service for ransom! The only realistic and humane way to support our troops is to bring them home now.

Sharlene White

Santa Fe, N.M.

Correction
Due to an editing error, last week's Long Story Short stated that Colorado's prison boot-camp program runs out of Cañon City, instead of Buena Vista. The Independent regrets the error.

  • Cancer, alcoholism, and other happy holiday topics.

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