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Biolab will be safe

Your article "Biotech or biohazard?" (cover story, by Lisa Sorg, July 25) raises important issues about the proposal to bring the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) to North Carolina, but your readers should have a complete version of facts to make a judgment on this issue.

The article implies that prior biosecurity breaches at Plum Island, a 50-year-old facility, and elsewhere mean that NBAF would present a threat to its neighboring populations. This is misleading. Advances in biosafety knowledge, technology and construction will make the NBAF among the most secure facilities in the world.

Furthermore, many of the diseases mentioned in the article (smallpox, ebola, anthrax and Marburg) will not be studied at the NBAF. These dangerous pathogens have, however, been safely studied at the Centers for Disease Control in downtown Atlanta for decades.

The article also mistakenly asserts that the nearest emergency response teams will be 35 to 50 minutes away. This response time represents current capabilities. If North Carolina is chosen for the NBAF, the N.C. Division of Emergency Management will design a regional all-hazards plan for this facility that will provide immediate, full response capabilities.

It is impossible to create a 100 percent risk-free environment. But just as drivers manage the risk they face on the highways every day, the risks presented by the NBAF will be effectively managed by highly trained personnel experienced in providing biosecurity and protecting workers and the public.

Your readers should also consider the substantial economic benefits that will accrue to the region if this unique facility is located here. In addition to 300 permanent jobs, a facility of this renown will also bring international attention and many research dollars and industries to the state. NBAF would extend North Carolina's investments in life sciences and biotechnology, serving as an engine for economic growth.

David Schanzer
N.C. Consortium for NBAF

Get out of Iraq

Hal Crowther's essay ("Summer soldiers and sunshine patriots," cover story, July 4) was depicted perfectly by the following: "Americans are an optimistic and amnesiac people who give their politicians and celebrities a dozen chances—Richard Nixon was half-rehabilitated and Don Imus still may be—but what this smirking fool has done to his country will never be forgotten or forgiven."

Bush lied blatantly on the need for this war. His incompetence has been demonstrated throughout his career. His only success was head cheerleader at Yale.

We must leave Iraq; it is a civil war having gone on for over 1,400 years. One soldier said: "We're helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us." In short, we Americans are fools if we allow this incompetent idiot to drain our blood and treasure simultaneously. Let us depart Iraq wisely and well.

David Charles Nash
Chapel Hill

Skinny wallets, fat people

Today I read Stephen Largen's Q&A with Eric Finkelstein about obesity in the South (July 18). Whether intended or not, the tone of Finkelstein's comments was one of blaming the victims, in this case, minorities. Based on my reading of the article, minorities, who are more likely to be obese, increase taxes for everyone because of their health status, and their mere presence in a geographic region inflates obesity rates.

The solutions offered by Finkelstein seem to center around educating these individuals, particularly when they are young. I fully support health education, but missing from the Q&A is a discussion of the political/economic reasons why minorities are more likely to be obese in the first place. Minorities may be more likely to be obese, but they are also more likely to be poor.

Finkelstein states that "there's really no correlation" between income and obesity. I'm no statistician, but if you live in a low-income household, your access to certain foods will no doubt be affected. High-calorie, high-fat foods are generally less expensive (and have a longer shelf-life) than healthier foods. The link between income and obesity seems clear to me. Where does racial/ethnic discrimination and access to jobs that provide an adequate wage factor into Finkelstein's analysis of the causes of obesity?

April Morgan

Renovated Dix gym stinks

In "Dix: The deal" (Citizen, June 20), Bob Geary reported that the day was coming when rational people, namely Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker and the incoming Department of Health and Human Services pooh-bah, Dempsey Benton, could strike a rational arrangement. Meanwhile, the minions of subterfuge mutter their incantations.

The state Division of Mental Health recently reported that it would refurbish the Dix facility's health spa and open it to the department's employees. The rationale was that the gym was underutilized by the patients. Apparently, mental health employees did not find the facility satisfactory, either—thus the new investment. Mental health has previously proven that dissatisfaction among the disabled is no cause for remedy.

I don't mean to suggest that those who gain their livelihood from the Division of Mental Health don't need an onsite health club; it might develop in them the strength to lift the receiver to return telephone calls.

Unfortunately, it is also possible that the investment in the improved gym could make the property more marketable to commercial developers and investors.

Don Ward

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