Cynthia Cotts's story about our union's health care travails was sloppy reporting ["Writers Union Hit by Insurance Scam," Press Clips, January 15]. We have a significant challenge with a part of our health plan because of the behavior of one insurance company. I'm angry that even a single member has had to wait for reimbursement of a claim or didn't receive prompt service from the company. Our 600 affected members are among 29,000 people, from many organizations, who have been victimized by this company, not to mention the outrageous health care crisis in the country that affects millions.
From the outset, we have committed significant resources, in time and money, to solve this problem. Cotts called me to discuss the issue, admitting she knew very little about the health care industryand it showed. She said the crisis leaves "hundreds of members with no protection." Falsemembers are still covered by the plan, as one of the internal communications to our members explained. The memo was among many pieces of information I gave to Cotts, including: how to contact the court-appointed receiver who could confirm the story (somehow members reach him, but not a professional reporter); dozens of other members thankful for our work; and the president of one of several major writers' organizations whose members participate in our plan, for his assessment of our work to solve the crisis.
Instead, Cotts spoke only to people who fit her ill-informed, preconceived, and poorly reported thesis. In an e-mail to me, she said she did not return my call because she "was able to substantiate all my reporting." Her e-mail then proceeded to say, "I believe it's a serious situation that the union must address more aggressively; even if only two members are suffering, the union should be accountable and take action to make them whole." If Cotts had focused on her jobcollecting factsrather than lecturing, your readers would have been given a full accounting of our efforts and our members' situation.
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We hope that any new reporter the Voice assigns to gather facts on our endeavors will have the time, patience, and thoroughness to give your readers the full story.
Jonathan Tasini, President
National Writers Union
Cynthia Cotts replies: First, Tasini seems to have forgotten that Press Clips is an opinion column. Second, he never called me about this story. I called him once, and I said I would call him back if I needed to check any facts. Tasini omits the fact that the managers of Employers Mutual, his union's insurance carrier, are under federal investigation for allegedly diverting premiums into their personal accounts. And the only fact he says I got wrong is the claim by some members that the collapse of Employers Mutual left them unprotected. I printed Tasini's claim that the existing insurance is valid, along with quotes from two members who say the insurance policy failed to protect them, both of whom provided supporting evidence.
I've worked in the rave scene for six years and have discussed MDMA with hundreds of users. Based on this experience, I have some concerns about articles like Carla Spartos's "Prescription: Euphoria" [January 15].
Such articles encourage what I believe is a risky practice: consuming Ecstasy for therapeutic purposes without trained assistance. Sometimes, in the atmosphere of MDMA-induced openness, people discuss serious issues such as child abuse, rape, etc.; for many, it's the first time they have talked about it. While I understand the mind-set of desperation for temporary respite from pain, I'm concerned that pieces like this offer false hope to people who are struggling emotionally and seeking relief. Unfortunately, they are exactly the people who should never use MDMA without the assistance of a trained professional.
In "Prescription: Euphoria," Carla Spartos writes that "the Israeli Ministry of Health has considered a protocol for treating victims of terrorist attacks with Ecstasy." As chairperson of the Israeli Association Against Psychiatric Assault, a human rights organization that works against psychiatric coercion, I can state that no such initiative was ever put before the public here. Can Spartos reveal to us the source for this intriguing information?
Tel Aviv, Israel
Carla Spartos replies: According to Rick Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, MAPS discussed the MDMA/PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] research project mentioned in my article with Israeli Ministry of Health officials on September 9 at the International Society of Addiction Medicine Conference in Tel Aviv. Officials expressed interest in the project on the condition that the FDA first approve such research in the U.S. On November 30, the FDA gave such approval.
As a firm believer in universal human rights over cultural relativism, I found James Ridgeway's Mondo Washington item about the beheading of three men convicted of sexually abusing young boys to be an irresponsible attempt to rouse further anti-Arab sentiment ["Saudis Behead Gay Men," January 15]. I'd also like to point out the important distinction between homosexuality and pedophilia, as the two were presented as being synonymous in the item.
We ought to examine our own death penalty before pointing the finger overseas. Among those executed in the United States in the year 2000 were individuals who were mentally impaired and four juvenile offenderspeople below the age of 18 when the crimes for which they were sentenced were committed. The United States is one of only six countries that execute juvenile offenders; Saudi Arabia is another.
Wayne Barrett's criticism of Gifford Miller's decision not to participate in the Campaign Finance Program ["A Question of Candor," January 22] places me in the awkward position of having to defend my recent opponent. First, Barrett made at least one factual error: I was not "the Republican-Liberal nominee in [Miller's] district." I was the Libertarian Party nominee in Council District 5; Robert Strougo was the Republican nominee. Miller was cross-endorsed by the Liberal Party.
More importantly, the CFP is a scam, and I applaud Miller for refusing to participate in it. My only reason for registering with the program was so I could qualify for the matching funds and then burn the check. (I never reached the minimum fundraising threshold, so I was unable to complete the stunt.) It is immoral to use taxpayers' money to fund a political campaign; and it would have been pointless for Miller to do so when he so clearly didn't need it.
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