South Portland, Me.

Kirsten Moore [“Missed Conception,” July 14] goes well beyond semantics and simply misstates the facts in saying that “the morning-after pill prevents conception.” It does its work by producing hormonal changes in the uterine lining that prevent the implantation of any ova that may already be fertilized, or may soon become so. Abortion, as defined medically, is the termination of a pregnancy, which is only brought about by implantation. Considered literally, the morning-after pill can be called neither an abortifacient nor a contraceptive.

Contraception has been sensibly understood broadly in common parlance to include those techniques that prevent pregnancy but not fertilization, but no sensible definition of conception would render fertilization irrelevant. Moore should have said that the morning-after pill prevents pregnancy, not conception. The difference is important to many people, not all of whom travel with the far right. It serves nobody to gloss over this distinction.



Washington, DC

Glenn Picher is basically correct. It would have been more accurate to say that emergency contraception prevents “pregnancy,” given the current limits of our scientific knowledge. But he is wrong in the particulars. While the precise mechanism of EC is not known for every individual woman, delay or prevention of ovulation–and therefore prevention of fertilization–is the only well-documented mechanism. And since EC works before a pregnancy is established, it is indeed categorized by the US Food and Drug Administration as a contraceptive. Mifepristone, on the other hand, more commonly known as RU-486, interrupts an established pregnancy and is categorized as an abortifacient.



Washington, DC

Steve Early’s “Labor’s Health Problem” [July 7], on the challenges unions face in addressing healthcare, conveniently leaves out labor’s most recent successes. But of course, Early would never give the Teamsters Union credit where credit is due.

In the past year, Jim Hoffa and the Teamsters Union have negotiated three national contracts–United Parcel Service, Freight and Carhaul. The UPS contract, the largest pact negotiated in the United States last year, covers more than 200,000 workers. The Freight agreement, ratified earlier this year by a record 86 percent, covers more than 65,000 workers. And the Carhaul contract, which is currently being voted on by members, covers nearly 10,000 workers.

Why is each of these major contracts so important? Not one of these nearly 300,000 Teamsters will spend one dime on healthcare co-pays. As the battle over healthcare costs rages, Teamsters negotiators won contracts that not only provide a zero cost for workers but include wage increases, improved safety and health provisions and other dramatic improvements.

It is hard to fathom how an article can be written on the challenges unions face without also mentioning the victories. Your readers deserve some context on what is occurring across the labor movement.

Director of communications
International Brotherhood of Teamsters

New Haven, Conn.

Steve Early’s “Labor’s Health Problem” should be required reading for all union leaders and negotiators. When he writes, “Engaging this broader public during benefit disputes requires a candid admission by labor that today’s healthcare crisis can’t be settled at the bargaining table,” Early pushes union leadership to discuss with their membership honestly the limits of our power when we represent only 13 percent of the labor force. He also challenges us to take advantage of the “teachable moment” to engage both union and not-yet-union workers about the opportunity to work toward a future of increased medical security. Far too many local union leaders can’t see beyond their ever-shrinking base; international union leadership, rank-and-file membership and healthcare activists need to insist that circling a smaller and smaller number of wagons is not a viable strategy. Maybe the best work we can all do in preparation for the 2004 presidential election is to incite a wave of working-family-to-working-family discussions about healthcare security.

AFSCME Local 3144

Rockford, Mich.

Here in Rockford, the UAW is striking against Hamilton Sundstrand (actually, locked out by management) over health benefits for retirees. I find it unfortunate that anyone in our nation has to fight for this basic right. I lived in Japan for two years, benefiting greatly from a nationalized health insurance program. I never had a long wait and enjoyed more choice than I have ever experienced, before or since. My husband’s Canadian relatives express greater satisfaction with their healthcare than we do. Perhaps most telling, Americans on the Canadian border take bus trips to get pharmaceuticals from their northern neighbor. I can only hope that the propaganda that “socialized” medicine is ineffective will lose out to the truth, and all Americans will gain health insurance.



Arlington, Mass.

Contrary to Bret Caldwell’s assertion, few Teamsters are immune from the effects of medical cost inflation. Even when contract settlements preserve existing employer financing of healthcare, workers usually pay a price elsewhere in their wage-benefit package–and pensioners can be squeezed as well.

For example, Teamsters at United Parcel Service–the world’s largest and most profitable transport company–haven’t had an increase from the union’s Central States Pension Fund since 1997. They’re not scheduled for another benefit hike until 2008 because employer contributions that might otherwise have boosted pensions are being diverted to the Central States Health and Welfare Fund, which insures active and retired members. Nevertheless, the latter just had their medical co-payments raised from $50 to $200 per month–with further increases likely.

There is a growing grassroots movement among beneficiaries of the Central States Funds to protest both this pension freeze and increased retiree healthcare costs. But, as Paul Wessel and Lori Drummond-Cherniwchan suggest, the only long-term solution is “a nationalized health insurance program.”

One of the first acts of President Ron Carey’s administration in 1992 was to commit the Teamsters to work for such a single-payer system. The union’s current leadership would do well to dust off that resolution and rejoin the movement for real healthcare reform.



West Chester, Ohio

While Eric Alterman is certainly right in his characterization of the conservative dominance of the media, and hence the framing of any debate [“Stop the Presses,” July 14], he does leave out some bright spots on the horizon regarding the left and talk-radio. Anyone with Internet access can tune in to America Radio, and hear good, progressive talk-radio, some of which has as much bite as Rush and Hannity. Further, you can contact the programming manager at your local radio stations, and America Radio will send demo tapes with the hope that local stations will pick up these progressive voices.


Key Largo, Fla.

Eric Alterman and your readers should know of two radio talk-shows by liberals that are great ratings successes. First is The Randi Rhodes Show on WJNO in Palm Beach. This wonderful, Democratic, brash woman (we fans call her “The Goddess”) destroys conservatives on a daily basis between 3 pm and 7 pm. Unlike Rush, she doesn’t screen her calls to try to keep people who disagree with her off the air. She relishes shredding their diatribes with facts that leave them no base to stand on. She follows Rush and gets ratings that are many times his.

Another is Neil Rogers on WQAM in Miami. The self-proclaimed “queen of talk radio” gets better ratings than most TV stations in Miami. “Neil God” has been targeted by Fox News for his bashing of W and the gang, including Condoleezza Rice. He is on air from 10 am to 2 pm. Both of these extremely entertaining personalities can be listened to on the Internet.



Low-power FM in the right hands is what the progressive community needs. We have been struggling to get a low-power FM license for five years. If this comes to pass, Music City USA will have a truly progressive voice: Radio Free Nashville. Talk about grassroots–we are the soil in which this community (progressive, Latino, black, Kurdish, Asian, etc.) can grow. We just had some high schoolers do a benefit that brought in some money to help us on our journey, because these kids know that they have no interest in what is going out over the airwaves and they want and deserve a voice.

Radio Free Nashville

P.S. I am tired of watching Clear Channel intimidate artists and buy up every amphitheater we play. Just because L. Lowry Mays made W a millionaire, I don’t think I should be forced to listen to the trashing of the Dixie Chicks every time I turn on the radio.

Greensboro, NC

It’s hard to believe that Eric Alterman failed to mention Free Speech TV Network, available on the DISH Network satellite system. (I do not have the satellite system, but I have recently decided to cut down a couple of the big trees in my yard, at much expense, that block me from getting it.) I hope that thousands, even millions, take up the charge to convert their home TV viewing over to the DISH Network in order to get the FSTV channel 24/7. Imagine thousands of people simultaneously calling their cable systems or DIRECTV to cancel. We could all explain that we are simply wanting to get FSTV–as well as the attention of the current right-wing media cabal. Perhaps we can grow this young network into the progressive behemoth needed to slay the corporatists’ multitude of remote-control dragons.


New York City

Discussing liberal media as a much-needed antidote to the barrage of right-wing corporate media, Eric Alterman overlooked one very important progressive voice, WorldLink TV. Operating on a minuscule budget compared with other television networks, three-year-old WorldLink TV broadcasts 24/7 via satellite television (DIRECTV, channel 375 and DISH Network, channel 9410) into 20 million US homes–that means WorldLink is found in one out of every five American homes. We provide a steady diet of news and music programming from around the world. Our current affairs and investigative reports focus on peace and justice issues, human rights, women’s rights, globalization and the environment. “Mosaic,” our daily roundup of news from sixteen Middle Eastern broadcasters, shows Americans what 280 million Arabs watch daily on their television sets. To learn more about WorldLink TV, check out our website at

WorldLink TV


Auckland, New Zealand

Looks like Bush is the boy who cried Wolfowitz. Who’s going to come to our aid when we really need it?