HAVE A HEART
Erik Baard and Rebecca Cooney's article "China's Kidney Transplant Trade" [May 8] missed a key issue. Condemned prisoners in China do indeed sell their own organs, with the money going to their families. It is well known here that if you need an organ, you have to go to a prison and make a deal with a prisoner. The Chinese cops may be real bastards at times, but they do not prevent condemned men from seeing their families so they can sell their organs and then steal the money. It would seem that Chinese prisoners have more rights than their U.S. counterparts with respect to their own bodies. Why should people not have the right to dispose of their own organs as they see fit?
What are dead people going to do with their kidneys? Their hearts? Their livers? Baard and Cooney's article brings up many good points about human rights violations in China, but harvesting organs from corpses is not one of the more pressing ones. A sentimental attachment to one's postmortem corneas is nothing compared to the opportunity to give someone sight. The real issue here is China's gross disrespect for life and freedom, not the trivial matter of how the government squeezes a few dollars out of an execution.
What a powerful article on the harvesting of organs in China. I picked it up on RealClear Politics this morning. This is the first time I've seen your paper. Even though I'm a conservative free trader, I can't understand how in God's name we can overlook so many human rights violations in China and continue doing business with them. I've put your site on my faves and will check on you. Good work.
Nice work on the transplant story. No matter where I live, The Village Voice still provides the most interesting and informative muckraking to be found nationwide.
San Diego, California
I have a friend who writes fiction. I asked him how he decides to write his novels; he replied that he figures out the start and the ending, and then fills in the chapters to make it happen.
I have just read Tom Robbins's May 1 story about the Fashion Institute of Technology ["Giving to the Neediest: FIT Prez Chooses Posh Pad Over Student Scholarships"]. Robbins, like my friend the novelist, obviously has the same method. Your readers and our student body should be made aware of the following facts:
My colleagues and I are on the boards of FIT and the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries because we feel we can make a difference in the students' lives. We are not frivolous or carefree with the money we raise or the money we give as individuals. Many of us sponsor scholarships and fund labs and special studies. Robbins's second article about FIT, while citing financial facts (again), is inflammatory and seriously misleading. Contrary to the implication in the article, the fact is that in more than six years, the foundation provided $2 million in scholarship funds only once, and that was prior to our decision to increase college support to an unprecedented $5.83 million over five years. Every one of these dollars directly benefits students. Why would responsible individuals, who give time and money, shortchange the very students we are so interested in helping? Robbins is citing correct financial facts to write an incorrect story.
I can testify that the president's apartment was fairly run-down, not [as former FIT president Allan Hershfield was quoted as describing it] "fairly lavish." Your readers should know that the renovation was a responsible decision, made by responsible and caring individuals, who understand that this is a valuable investment for the future.
Mr. Robbins also is attempting to attract attention to state comptroller Carl McCall's gubernatorial candidacy [McCall is the husband of FIT president Joyce Brown]. As was mentioned in the article, I did co-chair a fundraiser for McCall that many friends attended. I am not aware of any FIT officials who attended this fundraising meeting.
John J. Pomerantz
The Leslie Fay Company
Tom Robbins replies: John Pomerantz has confused me with a novelist of the same name. I don't write fiction. Pomerantz acknowledges that FIT doled out $2 million in scholarships in 1999 and suggests that was some sort of anomaly. In fact, the school's scholarships grew continually in the 1990s until a decision was made to spend some of that money elsewhere, including on renovations and new furnishings for the penthouse occupied by FIT president Brown and her husband. As for the apartment's condition, I can only assume that garment industry titan Pomerantz has a different definition of "lavish" than most people.
I would like to thank Tom Robbins for his article "The Clean-Up Man" [April 24]. As a 20-year member of Local 295, I must say that the years celebrity lawyer Tom Puccio has been running the local have been terrible. In all the meetings I have been to, I have yet to see him attend any. I saw him once on TV with his client, the preppie rapist. That is the only time I have seen him.
Deer Park, New York
In Norah Vincent's Higher Ed column ["Standard Issue," May 1], she suggests that the political left has taken control of the academy, and that this transformation has resulted in the diminishment of standards and distinctions made on meritocratic grounds. As someone identified in the column as a possible "hoarse voice crying in the wilderness," I think it's worth noting that grade inflation, lowered student workloads, and textbooks that read like they've been edited by Reader's Digest are likely the result of market-driven factors, not the political orientation of the academy.
Sure, the Woodstock generation has had a loopy influence on universities and colleges. But our lowering of expectations is quite another kettle of fish. It's principally the result of viewing the student as a consumer of a costly product rather than as an apprentice. In this new view, the customer is always right, and deans and presidents have become avid consumer advocates. The idea that college exists more for social and economic accreditation and less for education is a fashionable one today, and like the "little black dress," it is a fashion worn by both the political left and right.
Associate Professor of Hydrology
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Michael Musto was right on the mark in his review of Aleshia Brevard's autobiography ["Trans Mission: Memoir of a Sex-Change Trailblazer," May 8]. It is rare in this day that somebody actually cares about and makes an attempt to understand what it means to be transsexual. Musto is able to capture the joyous, sassy side of our world, but is still grounded enough to understand what we go through.
Brevard's book is hilarious, disturbing, poignant, intelligent, trashy, but more than anything informative. As one of Dr. Harry Benjamin's NYC girls of the late '60s, I fit the stereotype of thin and pretty, but as Brevard so elegantly states, that was the image expected of all women then, and we conformed as best we could. Some of us found it harder to pass as boys, while other sisters had a hard time period.
Brevard's book gave me insight into my post-op transsexual life. I never realized why the family embarrassmentmewas accepted after surgery. Musto understood what points Brevard was making, and explained them in his inimitable style, which is always a little tongue-in-cheek, campy, but sensitive. A rather engaging style that I find highly enjoyable yet sadly missing in much of the print press today. Musto recognizes that sometimes things really suck, but that doesn't mean there isn't humor in it.
Nashua, New Hampshire
I was very upset after reading Chisun Lee's "Fun With China" [May 1]. People of every color should watch Schindler's List to see how far dehumanizing one particular group of people can take us.
I have been trying hard not to feel bitter about racist remarks made by members of the media, like those featured in the article. Human rights organizations should look at such comments and take action where necessary. As a first-generation immigrant living in the U.S., I have learned that we have to stand up and fight for our rights.
I hope that Asian Americans will read Lee's article as a reality check about how we are viewed by some people in this society. While we are working hard to take care of our material needs, we should also nourish our spiritual needs for respect, dignity, and equality.
I just finished reading Sinclair Rankin's article on the New York City Yo-Yo Open Tournament ["Kings of String," May 8]. Most of it was interesting. However, the part where Rankin pokes fun at "roly-poly" individuals is insulting, uncalled for, and extremely useless information that should definitely have been left out. What justifies publishing insults and rude remarks about people, just because they don't match the "ideal" of what your writer thinks they should be?
Also, yo-yoing is not [as one young fan was quoted as saying] a "game for lazy people." It requires countless hours of practice and lots of skill.
Sinclair Rankin replies: I had hoped to convey quite the opposite of what Weems inferred. Namely, that it was a most welcome change to see a sport in which a buff physique wasn't a prerequisite for participation.
In "Flagrant Fouls: The College Basketball Real-Life Top 25" [March 20], Brian Dunleavy makes some rather flagrant errors himself.
The item on the University of Florida Gators describes me as a "summer coach." I've never been a summer coach. I'm an attorney and business adviser.
Dunleavy wrote that I gave former Gator Mike Miller a $50,000 line of credit. I did no such thing. He also claimed that I referred Miller to agent Andy Miller. Again, that is not the truth. These are simple facts that could have been checked through a phone call. They weren't. I would have expected higher journalistic standards.
Brian Dunleavy replies: If Bearup has a beef with how I've presented his relationship with former UF star Mike Miller and agent Andy Miller, he should have similar complaints with papers across the U.S., which have described him in the exact same way. Also, the item did mention his role as a "financial adviser."
Thank you for Michael Kamber's enlightening three-part series on the ever growing Mexican population in New York City ["Crossing to the Other Side," April 17-May 1]. Perhaps these articles will help grant some dignity to this invisible population whose contributions keep the city running. As a third-generation Chicano enrolled in a Ph.D. program, I stand firmly upon the shoulders of these hardworking people.
David A. Sanchez
Thanks for running Robert Sietsema's "Cheap Chow Now" [May 1], listing the top 100 inexpensive restaurants in New York. The Voice should be proud to have the city's most enthusiastic and intrepid food columnist. Mr. Sietsema's articles have led me and countless friends not only to great restaurants but to parts of this city that we would otherwise not have experienced. His writing does more than just open mouths to new and unusual flavors; it opens doors to the five boroughs of New York City.
THE CELLING OF ABORTION
In "No Rx Required" [April 10], Dave Gilden shows that he misunderstands Biology 101. The human embryo, even at the single-cell stage of fertilization, is not a mere "ball of cells" or a "primitive embryo." In fact, this human being is alive and growing. If this were not the case, she would not be able to create her new home by nestling into her mother's womb at implantation. If implantation fails, the embryonic baby dies. It is abortion if the morning-after pill causes that baby to die. Gilden should be totally accurate when reporting on chemical compounds with the potential to kill peopleeven when they are young and growing.
Judie Brown, President
American Life League
Dave Gilden replies: I stand corrected. The single-cell fertilized egg is definitely not a "ball of cells." It is surely something less. That's Mathematics 101. Only the most diehard anti-abortionists assign human life to the tenuous stage immediately after fertilization.
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