Letters: Fall 2009
August 28, 2009 |  by Johns Hopkins Staff

Couldn’t do it without them

We are honored to be recognized in the comprehensive article by Dale Keiger on industrial food animal production and infectious disease [“Farmacology,” June]. In light of the H1N1 swine influenza pandemic, this topic is extraordinarily timely. I am writing to correct an omission concerning the support for much of the Hopkins research discussed in the article, which exemplifies the inestimable value of the independent private university and foundation funding for a topic that has not been welcomed by industry nor (at least until now) by government agencies. Without the strong support at the highest levels of the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins University, we might well have found our research discouraged or even terminated, as has been the experience of some of our colleagues at state universities. Without funding from the Center for a Livable Future (along with the Winslow Foundation and the Clayton Baker Trust), none of our studies could have been conducted. If there is anyone who still wonders about the value of supporting Johns Hopkins, our experience confirms the essentiality of our university’s tradition of unhindered inquiry in the pursuit of knowledge for all. The history of public health has been repeatedly marked by accusations of being “an enemy of the people” (to cite Ibsen), and it takes individual and institutional integrity to withstand such calumnies.

Ellen Silbergeld
Professor, Environmental Health Sciences
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health


You do a disservice by not mentioning Robert Slavin’s relationship with the Center for Social Organization of Schools and its researchers, who developed the Success for All program [Wholly Hopkins, “Phonics Alone Not Enough,” June]. He is validating his own organization’s research (the results of which I agree with, not being a researcher but a parent).

Benjamin J. Reynolds Sr.
Program Manager
CTYonline Center for Talented Youth

Not lashing out

Yash Gupta takes former Vice President Cheney to task on two counts: first for not being able to admit mistakes, second for “lashing out” at his successor [Wholly Hopkins: “Real Leaders Know They’re Fallible,” June]. Presumably, the mistake he is talking about is Iraq, which presumes that it was a mistake. Not all of us would agree.

Furthermore, the thing that the former vice president was talking about was keeping the homeland safe and being concerned that the current president might be doing things that would endanger us. He was talking about policy; he was not “lashing out.”

Henry Quigley
A&S ’69
Corpus Christi, Texas

Science, faith, and blastocysts

To compare a morula with the human beings who died in Auschwitz, one has to accept, as an article of faith, that a blastocyst is a human [Letters: “Human Experience Was Wrong, Is Wrong,” June]. It requires no long reflection to understand that the victims of the Holocaust were sentient human beings. The opponents of stem cell experimentation are asking the rest of us to accept their minority religious beliefs.

R. Owen Sear
A&S ’57, Med ’62
Winter Haven, Florida

Brothers and sisters in arms

Geoff Brown’s “Gamer Theory” [April] made me smile, as I have much in common with Coleman, MacLean, and Train. I am also a veteran of the Richard F. Oles boot camp, having fenced epee and foil at JHU from 1968 to 1972. Coincidentally, I bought a Timex Sinclair to play PONG “back in the day” and in 1985 purchased my first IBM PC 256K RAM (ack!), complete with amber monochrome monitor. I’ve followed the rise and fall of MicroProse since its inception, and I’ve owned and played all the Micro- Prose games. So here’s a salute (how we start a fencing bout) and a handshake (how we end a fencing bout, win or lose) to my talented brothers and sisters “in arms,” who learned not only a great sport but life lessons from an actual master, Dick Oles.

Ingram Roberts
A&S ’72, Med ’76 Co-Captain, JHU Varsity Fencing ’72
Southport, Connecticut

You missed two

I was surprised to read about the first time “Hopkins produced two conference champs in the same year” [Wholly Hopkins: “Fishel Caps Great Career,” April 2008]. Bill Swartz and I were Mason-Dixon Champions at 167 and heavyweight in 1966. I was undefeated the next year and won, and Bill placed second for the next two years. I would not be surprised if there were other dual champions, for the Blue Jay spirit is awesome.

William D. L. Hunt
A&S ’68
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Indecent praise

There is something indecent about singing the praises of Trita Parsi’s pseudoscholarly apologetics for the Iranian regime in an issue that features both the heart-rending tale of the Hollander family, nearly wiped out by the Nazis and their accomplices, and the uplifting story of a brilliant physicist whose research stretches beyond the confines of the known universe [Wholly Hopkins: “A Problem of Perception,” “Fatherland,” and “Chasing the Great Beyond,” February 2008]. The Hollander story reminds us that threats to exterminate the Jews should always be taken at face value; the account of Adam Riess’ scientific adventure underlines the virtues of the scientific method by which verifiable data trumps wishful thinking.

One does not have to read Parsi’s book to take issue with the notion that Western nations, mistakenly perceiving the Iran-Israel conflict as ideological and the Iranians as an irrational force not amenable to deterrence or negotiation, could opt for a military strike that would sacrifice American interests to Israel’s goals.

Parsi, according to the reviewer, would replace our faulty policies with a reasonable trade-off. Israel would forgo its military hegemony and Iran would change its attitude. How about vice versa? The lack of military hegemony led to the extermination of one half of the Jewish population of Europe. If Ahmadinejad’s repeated promise to exterminate the rest of world Jewry is not ideological but pragmatic it must be that he thinks Western nations can be lured, once again, into hanging themselves with the genocidal noose.

Nidra Poller
A&S ’69 (MA)
Paris, France