Letters

JUST COMPENSATION

In Claude Solnik's "The WTC Bombing—Revisited",[January 11], the spouse of an injured World Trade Center worker commented that the WTC bombing was bad, but "worse than that was how we were treated by the government, the system." This statement echoes the pain felt by thousands of injured workers who face similar scandalous delays at the New York State Workers' Compensation Board. Especially today, when we are facing what amounts to a global sweatshop economy—longer hours, speedups, and short-staffing leading to stress, lack of family time, and injuries—fast and just compensation for injured workers must be a bottom-line right.

As noted by Solnik, the World Trade Center workers have been waiting since 1993 for some kind of compensation. Injured workers commonly wait eight, nine, 10, even 18 years for the board to decide whether or not they will receive benefits and coverage for emergency medical treatments. Due to delays many not only lose their means of livelihood, but also their homes.

People with compensation cases have tried everything from changing lawyers, to gathering mountains of medical testimony, to writing politicians demanding change. Nothing works, because the Workers' Compensation Board permits the insurance companies every opportunity to controvert claims and to appeal decisions endlessly in the event of a favorable decision. As an example of how bad things are, fully disabled workers sometimes receive as little as $50 a week.

Workers are now organizing to demand that the Workers' Compensation Board make judgments within two to three months, cover emergency living expenses and medical treatments within a week, and provide just compensation. If chairman Robert Snashall cannot ensure that the board will compensate injured workers, then he must step down.

John Antush
National Mobilization Against Sweatshops
Brooklyn


ABUSE AND POWER

Peter Noel's article "Girl, Interrupted", [January 11] made clear the "emotional roller coaster" that most families experience when a child is molested. In 1993, as related in Noel's story, Joycelyn Charles found the support she and her daughter needed by reaching out to Victim Services' Multidisciplinary Response and Family Assistance projects. Ms. Charles is to be commended for wanting to start a child advocacy center in Brooklyn in response to the needs she identifies so well.

Victim Services' Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center has been operating since October 1996. We provide a neutral setting where an abused child and parent can be interviewed by the police, the district attorney's office, and by social workers, and the child can receive a medical examination by doctors trained specifically for this purpose. We can also issue referrals for ongoing counseling and support. From January through November 1999, approximately 1800 cases of child abuse were investigated through our Brooklyn center.

Gordon J. Campbell, Executive Director
Victim Services
Manhattan


GIVES A HOOT

Thank you so much, Karen Cook, for doing the story about "Leo" the Central Park owl, which appeared in last week's issue [ "Hoo Goes There" , January 18]. I am an avid Central Park birder and I especially love stopping by to see Leo whenever I am in the park in the winter, which is quite often.

The birding community in Central Park is very special. I have learned so much about birds from the park rangers, as well as ornithologist Sarah Elliott, mentioned in Ms. Cook's article, and other New York City Audubon birders. I have been birding in Central Park for about four years now, and have already seen 85 different species, including a rare sora this past fall.

My husband and I have decided to raise our son, Max, now six months old, in Manhattan, and I tell Max that Central Park is his backyard. I suspect that Max can already identify a rock dove, or pigeon, and I am very happy that living so near to Central Park gives him so many wonderful opportunities to see such a varied selection of birds.

Mary Beth Kooper
Manhattan


SCANNED IN SWEDEN

I have read all of Mark Schoofs's articles on "AIDS: The Agony of Africa" that I have found on the Web. Working for 10 years in HIV prevention for the city of Gothenburg, Sweden, my task has been to reach immigrants and ethnic minorities.

It was from the start evident that Africans in our city feared how we would tackle the problem. They felt that we connected skin color with HIV.

The tone of Mr. Schoofs's articles is very different from what I have read here. There have been a lot of negative articles in our newspapers about Africans and AIDS.

I think Mr. Schoofs manages to cope with the issue sensitively, in a way that we still lack in our media.

Lennart Engstrom
Gothenburg, Sweden


CLASS ACTS

I have followed Mark Schoofs's series on the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa with great interest, and I congratulate him for placing this important issue on the American conscience. I have been discussing these issues in class with my students, utilizing his articles. I've been disappointed, however, at the lack of options presented to readers for steps they can take to help fight this epidemic.

What advice can Mr. Schoofs offer to my students at UCLA or friends who have expressed concern? Which organizations are most trustworthy (as regards donations)? Which groups are doing the most courageous and beneficial work in the countries Mr. Schoofs visited? I would appreciate any assistance he can offer.

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