How ironic and sad that in an article on “The New Right-Wing Smear Machine” [Nov. 12] as well as on your cover, you use the innocent, maligned bat to suggest creepy evil. It goes to show that even the most well-intentioned sometimes inadvertently make use of coded, emotionally charged stereotypes, considered culturally acceptable until we are alerted to their insidious nature. I think you owe it to bats and to the balance of nature dependent on their voracious insectivorous behavior (at least for the species you depict) to issue an apology.
HEATHER BERMAN CANTINO
THE DESIGN TEAM REPLIES
New York City
We never intended to smear the humble bat any more than we would have maligned pumpkins had we put a jack-o’-lantern on our Halloween-inspired cover instead. Nevertheless, we apologize to all bats whose feelings were hurt by our depiction of them.
Frank W. Lewis errs in Puzzle No. 3103 [Nov. 19]. The clue for 27 Down mentions eating eucalyptus, and the answer is “panda.” Wrong. Pandas eat bamboo. Koalas eat eucalyptus. Very upsetting.
…& DUCKIES POISONED
New York City
Mark Schapiro’s “Toxic Toys” [Nov. 5] did a terrific job of laying out the dangers of phthalates in children’s toys. More than 90 percent of all phthalates are used to soften PVC plastic, the worst plastic from a health perspective. If we’re going to talk about toxic toys, we must examine the plastic used to make those toys, which causes health and environmental problems from production to disposal.
Highly toxic chemicals, including dioxins and furans, vinyl chloride, lead, mercury and phthalates, are used or released in the PVC life cycle. Studies have documented links between PVC and the increased likelihood of developing diseases, including a rare form of liver cancer. PVC is chlorine-based, making it a major dioxin source during production and especially in disposal. A highly toxic group of chemicals that build up in the food chain and in our bodies, they can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems. Dioxins are so toxic they have been targeted for a global phaseout by an international treaty. That’s why Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Nike, Apple and others are phasing out this poison plastic.
Sure, getting the phthalates out of toys is critically important, but it’s essential that we also address the life-cycle toxicity of the “rubber” duckies and other toys our kids are playing with.
Center for Health, Environment and Justice
College Station, Tex.
Mark Schapiro is right on target in writing that toys in the United States are more dangerous than toys in Europe and that phthalates are poisonous to the human nervous system and a threat to sexual development in children. He is also correct in reporting the lack of action by the EPA in limiting exposure to phthalates. The EPA keeps saying it can’t act because it doesn’t know why phthalates and related poisons are dangerous. Nonsense! Fifty years ago we learned that the same or very similar effects were produced by exposure to DDT and other chlorinated insecticides. As for sperm counts, this too has been known all this time.
Research in Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands has clearly shown that dioxins like those in Agent Orange and PCBs poison transthyretin, the carrier protein for vitamin A and the T4 thyroid hormone. It seems it has been inconvenient here to acknowledge the European research.
So far, there are no published reports on the interaction of these chemicals with transthyretin. If there is no poisoning, the chemical companies and the EPA would have published papers saying so. The lack of such data suggests guilt, not innocence, for the suspect chemicals. Since all these poisons produce the same or similar effects, it stands to reason they act the same way. Tests for the reaction of these chemicals with transthyretin are available and not hard to do. In short, the technology to protect us is available. All that’s missing is the will.
F.W. PLAPP JR.
Professor emeritus of pesticide chemistry
Texas A&M University
AND NOW, FOR A REAL CANDIDATE!
Mount Dora, Fla.
Thanks for the editorial “Let Dennis Debate” [Oct. 22]. I was outraged but not surprised when AARP excluded him from its debate–its magazines are filled with ads from the medical-industrial complex. Kucinich is the only presidential candidate offering meaningful healthcare reform that reduces profiteering by insurance and drug companies and creates a single-payer program guaranteeing healthcare for all Americans. He also supports many worthy peace initiatives.
I have long admired the Congressman from Cleveland. Recently 500 of us heard Kucinich speak and answer questions for over an hour–no notes, no evasions–directly, with knowledge, awareness, humor and vision. Here is a candidate who has a record of principle, who has a sound head and can also speak to the heart. It was a revitalizing experience to say yes! yes! yes! to one after another of Kucinich’s points. (And if you need “tall,” there is Elizabeth Kucinich.)
IZZO: MORE THAN NOIR
As a professor of French at Ohio State who has been teaching Jean-Claude Izzo for years, I was delighted that the October 22 Nation devoted four pages to Charles Taylor’s “Dark Paradise,” his stunning review of Izzo’s Marseilles trilogy, now available to American readers. The review captures the richness of Izzo’s noir trilogy. However, Izzo was not just the author of five novels and one collection of short stories. He also published numerous volumes of poetry, contributed chapters and introductions to many alternative books on Marseilles and wrote as a journalist for La Marseillaise. American readers with a knowledge of French will enjoy the beautiful website created by his son, Sébastien Izzo (www.jeanclaude-izzo.com).
AND THE OSCAR GOES TO…
If there were a language Academy Award for metaphor and imagery, Gary Younge would walk away with one for having Jim Crow conceive a son in the alleyway between de jure and de facto in his “‘Jena Is America‘” [“Beneath the Radar,” Oct. 8]. You guys save my sanity week after week.