Harm from cuts widespread and long-lasting
Where will you be in five years? This question is becoming increasingly difficult for me to answer.
As a graduate student at the University of Kentucky, my goals as a research scientist have not changed; however, the certainty of obtaining the support necessary to reach these goals is fading.
While budget decisions for 2014 remain to be seen, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the federal agency that funds almost all biomedical research, received a $1.55 billion budget cut in 2013. Since 2005, funding rates of common research grants have decreased from 17.9 percent to 14.1 percent. For a research institution such as UK, this translates to a decrease of over $20 million in federal funding.
While the results of scientific research are not always tangible, innovative studies will eventually result in new therapies for the treatment of disease. Continued support is needed because new therapy development takes an average of 13 years and up to $1 billion.
Cuts affect other facets of our community. The 12,000-plus jobs UK provides may decrease. Cuts may also reduce the number of Kentuckians — who have some of the country's highest rates of cancer and mortality — able to receive the highest level of care. Moreover, local businesses such as Transposagen, a Lexington-based biotechnology company, have utilized NIH funding, further stimulating our local economy.
As young researchers constantly chase a decreasing funding line, it's not just our jobs that are affected; it is the well-being of our communities.
Climate deniers foolish
The author of the letter "Climate Hogwash," is a non-scientist who derides peer-reviewed scientific evidence, and has continuously mocked conclusions regarding man-made climate change arrived at by nearly all of the world's practicing-expert, peer-reviewed climate scientists and endorsed by all respected scientific organizations, such as AOAA, NASA and most practicing scientists. The expert scientist consensus which he continually mocks concludes that burning fossil fuels is dangerously warming the planet, dangerously acidifying the oceans, and probably increasing the incidence of extreme weather.
In this latest diatribe he oversimplifies to make weak arguments about the imperfect nature of scientific data and computer projections. I wonder if he can cite a single complex aspect of nature or technology that is perfectly understood, though he too undoubtedly enjoys our science/technology-based society.
He described the ocean as one big bowl of water with endless buffering capacity and without regional complexity — known local and micro-environments recognized by any good fishermen.
When non-expert individuals deride a great body of expert, peer-reviewed experimental evidence, especially when, like him, they claim that that body is in a world-wide conspiracy to deceive, it is fair to question their motives. One may ask if such individuals are driven by willful ignorance, unscientific ideology, or if they are agents of the well documented, well-funded U.S. climate-change-denial industry that is bent on maintaining the current fossil fuel-based energy status quo, even to the detriment of our grandchildren.
NRA scare tactics
NRA executive Wayne LaPierre sent me a letter on September 23.
He wrote "...the Obama-Biden-Bloomberg gun ban machine and their anti-gun media allies are waging all-out war on our gun rights." Then he shouts out in bold capital letters what he calls their threats:
"They've vowed to fight on and never surrender...Not until they BAN tens of millions of commonly owned firearms...SHUT DOWN gun shops and shows...impose crippling TAXES and FEES on firearms and ammunition...REGISTER gun owners...and DESTROY your right to defend yourself, your home and your loved ones."
"That's why I'm asking you to sign your National Petition to Protect Our Right to Keep and bear Arms and return it to me right away."
Wow: BAN. SHUT DOWN. crippling TAXES. FEES. REGISTER and DESTROY. Can we think of other words to heighten the fear level?
No one has plans toward LaPierre's terrifying description. Registration, yes (fearful thing, like we do with cars), for everyone's protection.
Strange that we cannot expect our city and state law protection agencies to be our first and adequate line of defense. Most of the rest of the modernized and developed nations can and suffer far less loss of life. But of course America wants to be exceptional.
D. Leslie Hill
Food stamp fraud
It breaks my heart to see the cuts in food stamps become necessary. However, I also am aware of fraud happening often.
I knew a man who got out of prison and in four days he had food stamps. He had no dependent children and lived with his parents, so he promptly sold his food stamps for half their value so he could have money for cigarettes, etc. I'm sure his parents could have used them. How could he qualify for food stamps when there are elderly people who have to choose between food and medicine and can't get help? I just know the system is broken. He is just one of many who are either selling their food stamps or wasting them on junk food.
Those type of people make it difficult for the ones truly in desperate need. The old commodity system was an antiquated way of doing things, but I'm not sure that more people didn't actually get fed. Shame on the abusers.
Worse than Gardasil
A letter from Megan Collins in the October 1 Herald-Leader warns teen girls and their parents about harmful effects of Gardasil, a vaccine for prevention of HPV infection, the known causative agent for cervical pre-cancer and cancer. Among the adverse effects identified are "fainting" upon vaccine administration; the letter further refers to online searches revealing "long-term and sometimes life-threatening conditions following the vaccine."
A quick online search reveals largely anecdotal, single, untoward events; many of these entries are on Websites advertising health-related products. Any medical therapy or intervention can be associated with harmful effects. However, it is important to emphasize that cervical cancer and its precursors are serious and life-threatening conditions. Although we see less cervical cancer today because of PAP screening, the disease continues to be a major risk, with Kentucky being among 12 states with the highest incidence of new cases and one of six with highest death rates from cervical cancer.
As a pathologist with fifty years of experience, I have examined far too many radical surgery specimens from patients with cervical cancer and seen far too many on women die prolonged and painful deaths from cervical cancer to not feel deep concern that young women will voluntarily decline the life-preserving benefits of this vaccine because of misinformation.
I urge teenage girls and their parents to consult with their physicians and avail themselves of readily obtainable scientific information about Gardasil and strongly consider the benefits of this life-saving vaccine.
Paul Bachner, MD.