Lost Generation

I am overwhelmed by Nat Hentoff's reports on atrocities committed against my people in the villages of south Sudan ["The Execution of Black Children," February 6]. I could not help shedding tears over the graphic account of the ordeal faced by the schoolboys who were abducted in Marial Bai. As one of the "lost boys" who lived in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya after leaving my village in southern Sudan to escape the civil war, I was reminded of what I went through as early as age 13.

Our people in the villages have silently suffered the effects of war for years. But little coverage is given to our plight by the international media. It is time that world leaders come together to reconcile the warring parties. Although I now live in Canada, I am still tormented by the past and what my brothers and sisters are facing in the plains of Bhrel Gazal.

Akol Lual
Ottawa, Canada

I came across Nat Hentoff's February 6 column on slavery in Sudan while searching for something to read with my English students. As an American expatriate, I am always trying to prove that there are real U.S. journalists with something of their own to say—and Hentoff is a good example. But I'm not sure if I have what it takes to bring up the genocide in Sudan, even though the French press is often alone in speaking out on such things. I had no idea of the atrocities until I read Hentoff. Isn't this equivalent to what the Nazis did?

In Sudan there are smoke signals of distress, but most world leaders obviously don't have the slightest concern about 2 million killings. I think I'll go in tomorrow and blow smoke in my students' faces.

Christine Darsigny
Nice, France

Arctic Chill

"Our perfrigid town"? " . . . lugubriously ice-encrusted [and] bedecked with crystalline stalactites"? " . . . the last outpost"?

I suppose someone as creative as Guy Maddin ["Death in Winnipeg," February 6] is entitled to his artistic license. Now I'm off to take my dogsled team to the daily caribou hunt down by the local ice-fishing hole. But where did I leave my mukluks?

Bartley Kives
Winnipeg, Canada

2Steps Back

After reading with interest Scott Woods's article "2Step's Ticket to Paradise" [February 6], I feel compelled to enquire, as a DJ and journalist, why Woods ignored the real background behind the christening of this music.

2step, as a genre description, refers to any rhythm not strictly centered around 4/4 time. Popular with 1970s-1980s Southern Soul scenes in the U.K., tracks like Jocelyn Brown's "If I Can't Have Your Love" came under the 2step banner just as the term was bandied around reggae and blues dances during the same period. From these black, English origins has come a music that has united the survivors of rave music (golden years of 1990-1993) and those DJs and artists who kept faith with U.S. garage while the rest of the U.K. fell head over heels for European trance.

As Woods pointed out, 2step is also a movement married to modern-day U.S. r&b, both in the charts and in the clubs and streets. He might also have focused on how much money and attention is now given to the newer generation of young 2step artists, such as Oxide and Neutrino with "Casualty," and how every Zac Toms remix further splits the scene into different camps. In a very short time, some heavyweight talent and business acumen have emerged from this scene, and it was a pity that the vastly different aspects of this music were not more evenly covered in the article.

Congratulations on realizing that "there's a riot going on," but get with the programme, New York. You don't have to wait for La Ciccone's approval to shake your booty.

Pat Mac Mellow
Dublin, Ireland

Modern History High

Bravo to Kevin Nelson for his well-put-together article "The Year in Pot" [February 6]. The death stats alone that he cites for other drugs in comparison to marijuana should make people realize that maybe they've been wrong about pot prohibition, and the amount of money spent to incarcerate marijuana patients while they serve long prison terms is insane.

I plan to use this article for an assignment in my U.S. modern history class.

Ivy Eads
Seattle, Washington

Seeds of Doubt

I can't believe Kevin Nelson's assertion that marijuana, unlike other drugs, was not responsible for one death in the year 2000. Exactly how do you know that? I have no attachment to marijuana prohibition, and I abhor the hypocrisy of legalizing drugs like alcohol and tobacco while demonizing others—most notably so-called hard drugs (and those addicted to them). Also, coming from Australia, I'm appalled by the incredibly harsh penalties handed out here.  

But let's get real. Injury and death must sometimes be the result of pot use. It is, after all, a drug that alters consciousness and impairs judgment and normal function. Frankly, I find it just as frightening to think of sharing the road with a stoned driver as with a drunk one. But since motorists aren't tested for it, you won't find stats.

Furthermore, excessive use of pot, like that of all drugs, has other consequences on the culture. I would no more care to grow up as the child of a chronic daily pot smoker than I would in a house with alcoholics.

If you want to challenge the law and write passionate articles, fine—but get it right. Romanticizing weed is as unreal as demonizing it.

Meera Atkinson

The Egg and Ashcroft

As a concerned nurse, mother, and woman, I am writing in response to Sharon Lerner's article "Reading Between the Lines" [February 6], regarding John Ashcroft's stance on abortion and contraception.

In the article, Lerner states that the main therapeutic action of oral contraceptives and the injectable contraceptive Depo-Provera occurs after fertilization. This is not the case. The primary function of the pill is to inhibit ovulation through a negative feedback system directed at the hypothalamus. Although progesterone can inhibit implantation, the main goal of the pill is to keep fertilization from taking place. Depo-Provera, on the other hand, suppresses egg maturation and therefore ovulation; hence, the primary action occurs prior to fertilization.

Ashcroft opposes the use of contraceptives, including those that work to inhibit fertilization, so the issue becomes one that is more about control of women than concern for human life. The "human being" clause in the 14th Amendment referred to in Lerner's article, which Ashcroft uses in defense of his stance on abortion, cannot logically be applied to the use of contraception to suppress the maturation and release of the ovum unless Ashcroft posits that the ovum has potentiality for human life. One could argue that if potentiality is the condition on which Ashcroft bases his argument, every sperm also has potentiality, and using a spermicide would be considered mass murder.

Historically, Ashcroft has supported anti-abortion and anti-contraceptive policies that oppress women—even contraception that works prior to fertilization.

Julie Newton, R.N.
Massena, New York

Sharon Lerner replies: You're right; Depo-Provera and the pill both do certain things before fertilization. But, because they're also active after conception, these methods could have been outlawed by "human life" measures Ashcroft has supported. As for the 14th Amendment clause, it wasn't used against contraception in general, but against abortion (which, according to Ashcroft's definition, does seem to include these types of birth control).

Last Exit to Vinegar Hill

Despite the compelling reflections of our neighbors in the Farragut Houses ["Project Girls," Janet McDonald, January 23], it is unfortunate that they seem to know little about the surrounding areas of Vinegar Hill or DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).

In the 1840s, developer John Jackson attracted Irish immigrants to the Brooklyn waterfront, calling his planned community Vinegar Hill, after the Irish-English battle of 1798. The area was also known as "Irishtown."

After World War II, while Vinegar Hill somehow survived, the bustling red-light strip immediately to the south, then simply known as "the Navy Yard district," was razed to construct the Farragut Houses. Completed in 1951, they were named for Admiral David G. "Damn the Torpedoes!" Farragut in deference to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Thus, for Farragut resident Gladys Ollivierre to point out that we in Vinegar Hill don't "want to be known as Farragut" is like saying that the entire East Village doesn't want to be known as Stuyvesant Town.

With regard to Dolores Johnson's statement in the article that DUMBO residents "even got their own state park"—Empire State Park, on the East River, has been open to all since 1978. In recent years, the Vinegar Hill and DUMBO neighborhood associations have been among the most outspoken in ensuring that the proposed Brooklyn Bridge Park will welcome all of the communities around it, Farragut Houses among them.

Nicholas Evans-Cato
Vinegar Hill Neighborhood Association

Rocky Road

After reading Jennifer Gonnerman's article about Governor Pataki's plan to reform the Rockefeller drug laws ["Mixed Bag," January 30], I understand why some people are critical of the fact that the plan deals only with Class A-1 drug felonies. However, they should realize that it will be a big step.  

My husband is doing 25-to-life for a first-time Class A-1 drug offense. If he is released under the plan, I know he will fight for the 20,000 people doing time for non-A-1 drug felonies. We waited this long to hear such good news. I hope the legislature will see how important it is to release nonviolent drug offenders. If they do, it will be like a dream come true.

Susan Echevarria
Valley Stream, New York

Majority Leaders

After reading Richard Goldstein's article "Dark Victory: The Unintended Consequences of Failing to Stop Ashcroft" [February 13], I am even more convinced that liberals live in a world of fantasy. Goldstein writes: "Thirty-seven years ago, flush with power and purpose, a Democratic majority in Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It proved to be the most significant piece of social legislation since the New Deal." I thought everyone knew that most Democrats in the House at that time voted against the Civil Rights Act. It would not have passed without the votes of 138 Republicans.

Sam Matthews
Niceville, Florida

Richard Goldstein replies: There certainly was a Democratic congressional majority in 1964, and that majority's control of the Senate was what saved the Civil Rights Act from many destructive amendments. In the end, liberal Republicans did join northern Democrats to assure passage of the law. But it's worth noting that many conservative Democrats—also known in those days as Dixiecrats—who opposed the act are today proud members of the Republican Party, as a direct result of civil rights legislation introduced by a Democratic president.

Patient Information

Re Tom Robbins's article on Harry Ryttenberg ["The Trouble With Harry: Pataki's Wannabe Cop Gets Nailed," February 6]: With the disclosure that I'm a friend of Ryttenberg's, I have to take exception to a recurring theme in the piece. Robbins made repeated references to Ryttenberg's health problems, stating that he had "long claimed poor health" and adding that former police commissioner Howard Safir believed "Ryttenberg concocted his health problems." While I can't comment on Ryttenberg's legal situation, I took him to the hospital and visited him in coronary care units. Many times, I feared he wouldn't be alive the next day. His survival is due to perseverance, luck, and some top-notch medical care.

Danny Burstein

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