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Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007 01:47 pm

Letters to the Editor

Untitled Document We welcome letters. Please include your full name, address, and telephone number. We edit all letters. Send them to Letters, Illinois Times, P.O. Box 5256, Springfield, IL 62705; fax 217-753-3958; e-mail editor@illinoistimes.com.
REQUIRED READING I had been meaning to write a letter earlier regarding Dusty Rhodes’ story on former police officer Tara Borders [see “Opt out,” Nov. 8]. After reading Roland Klose’s commentary last week, I guess the reason I held off is that there is a chance that Chief Ralph Caldwell might read it upon the mayor’s orders that he read Illinois Times (even though the mayor himself will not read the paper).
Dusty Rhodes’ article should be required reading and discussion with all of the members of the police department. Taken together with her excellent writing about Renatta Frazier and her other reports on racism within the police department, what Rhodes has done is to confront an ongoing culture of intolerant attitudes and behaviors that appear to run deep within the department.
It can be relatively easy to write about overt acts of discrimination, but Rhodes understands that is not always the way racism occurs within our society. By focusing on the acceptance of racism within city departments, she has done us all an important service. Whether it is a small minority (which I suspect) or a majority, until all of the vestiges of racism are rooted out of the police department Springfield will face continuing tension and division. Chief Caldwell has pledged to try to deal with this problem. As we approach the 100th anniversary of the white race riot in Springfield, the time is here to make clear that racial diversity is mandatory within the department and that those officers who don’t want to work in such an environment should be the ones to leave — now. The time has also come for the chief to find a way around the police “union” to institute in-depth training on diversity, in particularly dealing with race relations, that will be ongoing and involve all members of the department.
Larry Golden
Emeritus professor, Political Studies and Legal Studies

University of Illinois at Springfield
ANOTHER VAGUE CONSPIRACY THEORY Your article “The Assassin’s Brother” [C.D. Stelzer, Nov. 29] brought back memories. In the 1970s James Earl Ray was an inmate in Tennessee’s Brushy Mountain State Prison, and “Brushy” was on my beat as state editor and regional reporter at a nearby newspaper in Oak Ridge, Tenn. So for several years I wrote stories for The Oak Ridger about vague conspiracy theories and wild speculation about CIA, FBI, or military involvement in the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. None of it ever checked out. If John Larry Ray is “still trying to set the record straight,” he’s doing it with the same kind of malarkey we’ve heard in the past from his brother’s lawyer Mark Lane, a parade of witnesses before the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations and, of course, James Earl Ray himself. When Ray went on escape from Brushy in 1977, Lane argued he was trying to “escape into a courtroom” so he could set the record straight on Dr. King’s assassination. I was chosen as the print pool reporter to cover his preliminary hearing on the escape charges (he was bound over and later convicted). While I was being escorted into the maximum security prison by a corrections-department public-affairs officer named Becca Cottrill, who had always been straight with me and whom I trusted, I said I wondered if we’d ever learn what the truth was. She said she’d heard Ray give so many versions of the story, she doubted even he knew what the truth was anymore. I had to agree, and I doubt his brother’s version will get us any closer to the truth. James Earl Ray attracted a legion of self-interested publicity-seekers, and this latest account reminded me of all the rest. But I’ve got to admit, I read every word of it. Peter Ellertsen Instructor, journalism Benedictine University/Springfield College
KEEP UP PRESSURE ON MEXICO Thanks for the great piece on Plan Mexico and the murdered U.S. journalist Brad Will [R.L. Nave, “Change of plans,” Nov. 29]. We appreciate that U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, among others, have written to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the murder by members of the Mexican government of U.S. journalist Brad Will. We know that such powerful lawmakers should be able to shut down consideration of Bush’s plan to spend U.S. taxpayers’ money arming and training notoriously corrupt Mexican “security” forces, which have repeatedly commit human rights abuses against their own people with impunity. Neither the “drug war” nor the “war on terror” should be used as an excuse to increase the vulnerability of Mexican and foreign journalists, activists, and everyday Mexican citizens who would suffer the depredations of better armed Mexican police and military working with Blackwater-style mercenaries envisioned in Plan Mexico. The United Steelworkers Union recently joined the growing opposition to this Bush plan. Durbin and others should send a clear signal back to President Bush that human rights are a priority in Mexico and that Democrats recognize that brutality and corruption of the Mexican security forces are some of the reasons that Mexican citizens risk fleeing to the United States. An end to impunity must precede any consideration of Bush’s new militarization plan for Mexico.
Robert Jereski
Congressional liaison
Friends of Brad Will (NYC Chapter)
New York City
 

NO CAPS ON MEDICAL MALPRACTICE On Nov. 13, a Cook County Circuit Court Judge ruled that the Illinois medical-malpractice law passed in 2005 is unconstitutional. This law put a $500,000 limit on suits against doctors and $1 million against hospitals. This ruling will be appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which will have the final say. Big business, big insurance, and other supporters of caps say this law helps control runaway juries and contend that the victim should be happy just to get their bills paid. What they don’t talk about is all of the resulting conditions, like hernias, staph infections, surgeries, and the lost time from work for all these doctor visits and procedures. The list goes on. Many times victims have no other choice but to take what is offered by the people who hurt them to pay mounting medical bills and end the ordeal of a lawsuit.
These rushed settlements do not cover the ongoing medical needs of the victim or the loss of quality of life. Victims then have to turn to public programs, like Medicare and Social Security, to help with their medical problems. The toll of all this is enormous for the victim and their family. Meanwhile, big insurance companies are escaping accountability and raking in profits. Also, doctors who have committed negligent acts of medical malpractice need to be held accountable for their acts. As a victim of malpractice, I know the hardships and true costs of medical malpractice. I hope the Illinois Supreme Court will once again find caps unconstitutional. Tammy Schilt
West Salem

GIFTS FOR FIDO AND WHISKERS Give your dog or cat a great gift this holiday season: love. Animals depend on us to play with them, take them for walks, change their litterboxes frequently, get them veterinary care, and keep them safe, healthy, and happy. Here are some simple things everyone can do to bring peace and goodwill to animals: Have them spayed or neutered. Spaying reduces the stress and discomfort females endure during heat periods, eliminates the risk of uterine cancer, and greatly reduces the chance of mammary cancer. Neutering makes males much less likely to roam or fight and helps prevent testicular cancer. Spaying and neutering also helps prevent animal overpopulation. Let your dog live inside with the rest of the family. Many dogs are forced to live outdoors without shelter in all weather conditions. If a dog in your community is left outside all day, please do all you can to persuade his or her “caregiver” to bring the dog inside or, at the very least, provide the dog with adequate shelter, food, water, and enrichment. If he or she refuses, contact your local humane society. Share some holiday cheer with homeless animals — collect donated dog and cat food, bedding, toys, and treats for animals at your local shelter; volunteer to help walk dogs, clean cages, and play with the animals; make a contribution to a rescue group; or simply show some extra kindness to a neglected animal in your neighborhood.
Heather Moore
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Norfolk, Va. 
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