Letters for March 5-11, 2007 

Readers sound off on the safety of the Gardasil cervical cancer vaccine, criminal recycling, our recommendation against Prop. 93, our reviews of "We Interrupt Your Program" and Dollar Curry House, and more on AC Transit's efforts to create a more Europea


"One Less," Feature, 2/6

Irresponsible and Sensational

Although I completely understand why her mother might wonder if the tragic death of Brooke Petkevicius was related to her having received injections of Gardasil, it is hard to see why that feeling is enough to justify putting that theory on the cover of your paper. Given that there is more evidence to support the theory that her birth control, not her vaccination, caused her death, isn't it poor journalism to bury her use of birth control pills deep in the story?

Here's the point I believe the writer wanted to make: given that all medicines, including Gardasil, have risks, only some of which are known, and that the regular medical exams that most American women receive will catch HPV before it can develop into cancer, does Gardasil make sense from a public health standpoint in America? However, it was an act of irresponsible and sensational journalism to insinuate that Gardasil killed Brooke Petkevicius to make that point.

Suzanne Wilson, Richmond

One Less Cover Story

Here's One Less front page story the world needed. In over twenty years of reading your paper, this is the worst non-story ever. Sadly, a few women on birth control pills die coincidentally within a few weeks of getting a vaccine. Unfortunately, a few women have fainting spells in reaction to the injection. Your fear-mongering does a disservice to women by playing on their health anxieties. As the medical professionals deep within the story reveal, the headline should have been: Millions of Women Safely Given 100 Percent Effective Anti-Cancer Vaccine. How about this concept: of the many women scared off the vaccine by your article, some will die from preventable cervical cancer, statistically more than die after taking the vaccine. How about a front page story on negative yellow journalism that kills women by slanted medical reporting?

David Myriad, El Sobrante

Anecdotal Speculation

This article is scare-mongering at its ugliest. It is well documented that the birth control pill increases a woman's chance of getting clots and having pulmonary embolisms — even in healthy young non-smoking women. I'm very sorry that Brooke Petkevicius was one of these women, but no matter how much this article tries to convince us otherwise, it seems EXTREMELY unlikely that it was related to the Gardasil shot. The connection is her mother's speculation — based on anecdotal evidence — and nothing more. It seems that there are perhaps more side effects from this vaccine than Merck knows about (or tells us about?), such as seizures, fainting, paralysis, etc., but evidence indicates that death is not among them. Maybe all these girls had allergic reactions to the shot? Who knows? Surely these less severe reactions (?) need to be investigated. But, like the CDC says, when 500 million women have been given a vaccination, there are bound to be some coincidental deaths — especially when many of the women receiving the shot are probably also on the pill.

What disgusts me the most about this cover story is the fact that many women are going to look at it, see the connection between Gardasil and the death of a healthy young woman, and not go out and get the shot as a result, thus setting themselves up for risk of cervical cancer and/or genital warts. I can't believe the East Bay Express gave one woman's anecdotal speculations the time of day, let alone a cover story.

Heather Lynch, San Francisco

The Rush to Vaccinate

There is an enormous Vaccination Public Relations Campaign that is centered in several places, the APA and the Healthfraud/Quackwatch media teams, aka the Snake-oil Team: http://breastimplantawareness.org/snake-oil.htm. They use every trick of the trade, infiltrate blogs, Wikipedia, and other media with the pro-vaccination propaganda. They blame the deaths and thousands of immediate ill effects on everything but the vaccination, and trivialize them ... while concurrently using hysterical rants to scare people into believing they "need" this unproven vaccine. Research has shown that women are miscarrying after this drug. Research has shown too that women already being HPV+ will become sick after this vaccination. Check out this blog to see the billion dollar Merck PR plan: http://ilenarose.blogspot.com/2007/07/politics-pr-of-cervical-cancer.html.

Ilena Rose, San Diego

"Recycling Turns Criminal," Cityside, 1/23

Cure the Addicts and You'll Stop the Theft

A reasonable suggestion from a hard-working scrap metal recycler. Even though there are many mornings when I arrive to work at 6 a.m. to find my fence torn down and a trail of scrap copper cable leading out to 105th Avenue, I'm not really into busting and punishing people. I'm all about fixing problems and making sure they don't happen again.

Examine what appeared in the article "Recycling Turns Criminal." Officer John Koster claims that 90 percent of scrap-metal thieves are meth addicts. If we take his statistic as fact (or a good professional guess), I believe the only reasonable solution to this crime of "epidemic proportions" is to legalize the drug and use all the money that we spend on fighting the drug war and supporting the criminalization process to treat, nurture, and rehabilitate these addicts.

Cure the addicts and scrap-metal theft disappears. Going after the scrap-metal recycling company is not going to work (and is probably more expensive) since there is no way to uniquely identity one copper pipe from another or one can of Pepsi from another can of Pepsi. Thank you for addressing this issue.

Aaron Forkash, Aaron Metals Co., Oakland

"No on Proposition 93," Full Disclosure, 1/30

Thanks for the Endorsement

Your article provides a valuable backstory to the political advertising with respect to Proposition 93 and the insinuations with respect to Don Perata. Thanks to you I have been able to make a decision with respect to my vote on this proposition. Sincere thanks are certainly yours as without your insight, I would have been misled. You have won a place in this reader's mind and heart as it is quite difficult at times to sort out the intended disinformation from the plethora of opinions that abound in such times of choice. There is a sense of joy when one finds a writer that appears to write for the sake of presenting a point of view that is not skewed by bias.

Philip Grinslade, Cloverdale

"Gray Area," Art & Museums, 1/30

Thanks for the Review

This is to thank you VERY MUCH for your smart, informed, and positive review of "We Interrupt Your Program" — the exhibition I organized as guest curator at the museum. Yours was the first review it received. I was thrilled that you really "got" what we tried to accomplish AND that you appreciated the works in the show and wrote so eloquently about them. Your piece provides an excellent preparation for viewers, and I know it will bring tons of people in to see the exhibition. Marcia Tanner, Guest Curator, Mills College Art Museum, Oakland

"The Other Fast Food," Restaurants, 2/6

Consider the Customers

This is an interesting article but I strongly disagree with some of the aspects of the article. Your reviews on Dollar Curry House come across as unfair. I'm an Indian and a die-hard fan of "Tandoori Tikka Kebab." I eat there pretty often and the kebabs have never tasted the way it has been described in the article. The kebabs and every dish on the menu are more than "value for money," especially for students who crave for delicious Indian food at a price that is not too hard on their pockets. I love Dollar Curry House and can eat there every day, especially with the price that they offer. Would appreciate if consumer feedback is taken into consideration and an appropriate response is made.

Neha Taleja, Berkeley

"Belgium or Bust," Feature, 1/30

Boutique Buses, Big-Box Service

Having just lived in Paris for eight months, I think that AC Transit's desire to design a "European-style bus system" is laudable. Unfortunately they followed the form but not the philosophy of those systems.

First, in Paris, the bus drivers were always kind and considerate. If I was between stops there were several times that I waved and the bus driver pulled over and picked me up. Contrast this with all the times that AC Transit drivers deliberately pass up people waiting at stops just because they are running late.

Secondly, in Paris, you can buy weekly, monthly, or yearly passes which allow you to use unlimited transit, Metro, RER, buses, and Tramways. Total cost for that was, at most, about $20 a week, even with the crappy dollar. Contrast this with $1.75 a trip, 25 cents for a transfer, and if you need to transfer twice you need to pay another $1.75. That's up to $3.75 a trip. Might as well drive.

Thirdly, in France, people do not poop on the buses. I have seen actual coils of human poop on both AC Transit trains and very often on the BART.

Fourth, in Paris, every bus stop has a posting of the bus schedule and many stops have GPS monitors that tell you how long until the next bus arrives. In the East Bay almost all the schedules have been removed from stops so that you don't even know if the bus is still running — for instance today I learned that the 7 stops running at 6 p.m. on Sundays. Insupportable!

The difference as I see it is that AC Transit doesn't see its customers or workers as people who deserve to be treated with some kind of human dignity. They do not pay their drivers enough to care about their jobs so they are just mean and surly most of the time. It is really awful having to return to the Bay Area and use the buses here. Sometimes they don't even come! That is probably the main reason ridership is down. If you have a job or a class that you need to be at at a certain time, you cannot afford to gamble on a bus system where buses often do not even come and other times drivers just speed past the stop where people are waiting.

AC Transit can buy all the fancy hardware they want, but until they realize that actual human beings are their customer base they will never be anything like a European system.

Finally, they are lying about the number of complaints they receive. I know that I personally called to complain after a Van Hools bus' hydraulic doors suddenly slammed on my leg as I was trying to get my bags of groceries off. No one ever called me back like they promised to. They just don't give a damn.

Nadine Markham, Berkeley

Corrections

In our February 13 review of Prime Spot Bar & Grill, we printed the wrong name for the restaurant's chef. It is Daron Cheng.

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