Thursday June 13, 2013

The world we’re living in

Editor of the Reformer:

PRISM, the NSA program by which the Internet is being monitored, sounds like a spelling variation on the infamous trap door-equipped PROMIS software that was sold around the world during the ‘80s by the CIA and Israel’s MOSSAD. In his memoir, former MOSSAD agent Ari Ben-Menashe labels the software "a killing machine" because it was used in places like South Africa and Guatemala to sweep up and disappear dissidents.

I have a very good friend who was rounded up in New York City shortly after 9/11, as a potential terrorist. My friend is dyslexic and had just moved into a new apartment and was suffering from insomnia one night. Without thinking to take any identification, he left his apartment and went across the street to a park to have a cigarette and to read a book of love poetry by Rumi.

Some law enforcement agent considered that to be suspicious activity. As a result of the stress that my dyslexic friend was put under by subsequent events, he was unable to remember his new address correctly. He was transported somewhere and harshly interrogated for three days. It was only when he finally came to the attention of a more literate person who was familiar with the name and poetry of Rumi that he was unapologetically released.

Most of the people currently being brutally force-fed at Guantanamo probably have a similar story. Many have been detained all these years without charges. Yet, our Congress has just declared that it will continue to refuse to work with President Obama to admit to and rectify the horrendous mistakes that have been made and to close the place.

The problem with the obscene amounts of money being spent on this sprawling infrastructure of "data farms" is that data collection can also be done on our politicians. Someone, somewhere, has the ability to monitor all of the communications and activity of everyone in a position of power. How do we know that the people who continue to vote for all of this security and surveillance infrastructure and who calmly assure us that everything is being done thoughtfully and legally, are not being blackmailed and controlled? How would we ever know, unless another courageous soul like Edward Snowden comes forward and makes the matter known, with no fear of what may happen next? How can we be certain that politics in this country is not now nothing more than entirely scripted theater with hundreds of well-paid puppets dancing to the tune of intelligence agency handlers?

I hope that every history teacher across the country is preparing lesson plans on subjects like East Germany’s Stasi and Stalin’s NKVD in honor of people like 82-year-old banner-hanging Sister Megan Rice -- who has been "successfully transformed by the U.S.government from [one of a group of] non-violent anti-nuclear peace protesters accused of misdemeanor trespassing into felons convicted of violent crimes of terrorism."

Jacqueline Brook,

Putney, June 10

On BF’s budget woes

Editor of the Reformer:

An open letter to the Bellows Falls Village Corporation Board of Trustees:

There is a great deal of talk in the village that the budget will not be fixed, that no amount of effort or attention will be given to the 2014 fiscal year budget by this newly elected board. That is unacceptable. It is more than unacceptable, it is blatantly unjustifiable. Setting a working, sustainable budget is the primary function of boards. The charter clearly states: "The board of trustees shall have charge of all prudential affairs of said corporation and perform the duties enjoined upon it by said corporation." Shirking your duty to create a working budget, by your own hand, is an egregious misrepresentation of yourselves as an elected body.

It is not something you can ignore because it provides the fodder that some people wish in their anticipation of remolding the village into their own image. You have a duty to make this work and to make it work well. To balance the needs of all the voters with the needs of the village departments. To make the hard choices in reducing department funding where necessary to a sustainable, acceptable budget.

Again, this is your duty. This is your job. If you cannot bring yourself to do it, then I ask that those who cannot step down and make room for those who can.

Deborah Wright,

Bellows Falls, June 12

Cancer clarification

Editor of the Reformer:

I want to clarify one of the scary numbers that Fish wrote about in his column about the Relay for life.

According to the National Cancer Institute, your risk of developing cancer over the next 10 (or seven) years is not 50/50; it’s somewhere between 0.12 percent and 24.32 percent. The numbers vary dramatically depending on your age, gender and race/ethnicity.

So if you are a 0- to 10 year-old Hispanic girl, then there is a 0.15 percent chance that in the next 10 years you’ll develop any form of invasive cancer; but if you’re an 80-plus-year-old African American male, there is a 22.23 percent chance.

The 50/50 statistic more accurately reflects the chances of developing cancer over one’s entire lifetime (less than 43 percent). For interested readers, these statistics can been found at http://1.usa.gov/12myd03 (table 2.12).

Kai-Ming Pu,

Yale University,

Berkeley College,

BUHS graduate, June 12