Focus on prevention

Concerning a recent Times article, "Study: Cost of dementia expected to surge," the billions we have spent for the so-called "cost of dementia" has been primarily for cure or treatment, thus far benefiting our medical and pharmacological associations more than the patients.

One consistently overlooked answer to brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's, is prevention.

These many years of research in the United States have been a failure for families such as mine. To my knowledge, at my age of 86, our family has lost eight persons to AD, three in my generation.

Currently, I have sent my information to our legislators, to the National Alzheimer's Plan, to the Alzheimer's Association and to AARP.

Although they have all asked for personal AD stories, they have unaccountably ignored my message, despite it being published on the Alzheimer's Research Forum, on PreventDisease.com, on Celiac.com and other media.

Computerized statistics can now provide discovery of causes and prevention of dementia.

Pathologies, injuries, genetics, environment will all be comparable issues if we finally establish a national/international registry, to record the earliest possible statistics on the histories of these many millions of dementia patients, and of families like mine.

Gerta Farber

Berkeley


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Difference in interpretations

A trio of letters to the editor suggests considerable confusion about the respective roles of religion and science.

In his letter, "Schools teach kids what to think," Bob Humphrey claims that in the minds of his professors, "evolutionary theory was fact and, therefore, as incontrovertible as the theory of gravity." What Humphrey doesn't understand is that all scientific theories -- including gravity -- are provisional.

If evidence were discovered that controverted either gravity or evolution, you can bet the theory would be vigorously challenged by scientists eager to claim a Nobel Prize. Instead, ever since Darwin first proposed the theory, evolution has steadily become a more and more cogent explanation of the unity and diversity of life on Earth.

Rebutting Humphrey, in her letter titled, "Evolution is not a 'viewpoint'," Jayne Thomas overreacts with her outlandish assertion, "You cannot call yourself a Christian and also claim to be a critical thinker."

That would be news to the tens of thousands of scientists who call themselves Christians and to the tens of thousands of members of the Christian clergy who explicitly accept evolution. It would also be news to the distinguished members of the International Society for Science and Religion www.issr.org.uk/, whose brilliant and critical work on issues at the interface of science and religion might be unintelligible to Thomas.

Raphael Sealey, in his letter, "Evolution is a fantasy," wrote that his friend God "nearly laughed his head off" when he heard that "evolution merely asserts that those who survive, survive." Sealey understands neither the science he contemptuously mocks as tautological, nor the God he anthropomorphically characterizes.

Religion and science are discrete enterprises with roots that run deep into the soil of human history and anthropology. Why not respect each as interpreting different aspects of the ancient, dynamic and evolving universe we inhabit?

Peter M.J. Hess

Berkeley

Hess is with the National Center for Science Education in Oakland.

SB 289 ignores scientific reality

SB 289, a bill that would make it illegal to drive with any detectable trace of marijuana or other illegal drugs in the blood, regardless of the driver's actual impairment, is a mess. It ignores scientific reality and hampers police by dumping questionable procedures into police work in a gesture about zero tolerance and "drugged driving."

Statistics point to impairment from alcohol and prescription drug use as a vastly more common threat to public safety than people under the influence of illicit substances. Yet we set tolerances for blood alcohol and trust people to diligently follow instructions on drug containers. Zero tolerance schemes fail to deal with complex and variable conditions.

This law would place at risk hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients who have safely integrated cannabis medicine into their lives. Because cannabis metabolites stay in fat tissue, a person could test positive for marijuana days or weeks after exposure.

When one considers what this law would require police to do, we wonder if looking for people driving as if they are impaired might be a better use of their time than looking for molecules.

Jim Hausken

Kensington

Cartoon was offensive

I find Tom Meyer's April 18 Times editorial-page cartoon on state retirees personally offensive.

My last 10 years before age 65 retirement were spent as a state worker, for which I receive a pension less than the Social Security earned in previous jobs, and a 457 plan that Wall Street keeps chiseling -- CalPERS has barely recouped those investments after the 2008 grand theft showed us what private enterprise can do -- and mostly get away with.

My experience is:

  • State employees provide valuable services that private capital would avoid.

  • State jobs are not easy to get, they require expertise and effort. State employees risk their lives and well being for us every day.

  • I saw my co-workers die soon after retirement.

  • The cartoon figure is by far exceptional, though you can find freeloaders in any large organization.

    My conclusion is that Meyer actually believes the GOP propaganda that all social services should be privatized -- which masks the real objective of a few rich people to cherry-pick some potentially profitable state functions, to the detriment of the rest of us.

    How about a cartoon of the Koch brothers stealing the Postal Service?

    John G. Mackinney

    Albany

    The NRA is subversive

    The Senate's defeat of a bill to moderately control keeping weapons out of the hands of the wrong people suggests a reconsideration of the National Rifle Association.

    I believe the NRA is a subversive organization. A definition of subversion is an intention to overthrow the government.

    Statements from the NRA emphasize that the Second Amendment not only allows members to own deadly weapons, it strongly insists it gives them the license to overthrow the government, provided, in their belief, the government is tyrannical.

    Given the intimidation from many members, as they boldly display their weapons for all to see at protests and elsewhere, they clearly advocate likely insurrection, with the conviction they are ready to act.

    Many outbursts from NRA members reveal pathological behavior reminiscent of dangerous radicals. It is no secret that NRA extremists are armed, operate in small groups, and rehearse for that insurrection.

    Five members of the Supreme Court, in their fractured logic, support that conviction, and clearly, the senators who voted against the gun-control bill are enablers. Allow me to inquire: "How long will the justice department give a blind eye to this mounting subversion in our country?"

    Robert Schwendinger

    Berkeley