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Latin America; Afghanistan; cancer testing; noisy kids

November 27, 2009

Latin America's role

Re “Lula takes risk with Ahmadinejad,” Nov. 23

Yes, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's taking a risk meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- but Lula's not anybody's proxy, and with Latin America so often ignored, Brazil can decide with whom to meet without asking anyone's permission.

Ahmadinejad's plan for a new global order to be formed with Africa and Latin America (Brazil and Venezuela in particular) could be bluster or could be serious. Could have adherents, could fall flat. Latin America can't be ignored.

Damiana Chavez
Los Angeles

The cost of Afghanistan

Re “More than more troops,” Editorial, Nov. 24

Your editorial identifies two options for Afghanistan: an increase of 40,000 troops per Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's recommendation, or a dramatic reduction in troops with a focus on economic development.

Why not full and immediate withdrawal? Why is it taken for granted that America's role in the world is to occupy foreign lands and install governments favorable to U.S. interests?

When George W. Bush was president, there was no shortage of calls from the left to end the war-making. Now that President Obama is in office, the "realists" on the left are all too willing to go along, as long as the occupation includes promoting economic development.

How about reining in our empire so that we can have economic development in this country?

Eric Spiess
Los Angeles

Lessons learned in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq prove that Americans are not willing to jeopardize our standard of living and social service programs. Consequently, it is imperative that Obama and other political leaders reveal that, to succeed in Afghanistan, enormous human and financial resources -- well beyond what is currently envisioned -- will be required.

The administration, Congress and the media should inform Americans of the cost and that we will have to sacrifice our healthcare, education and other social development programs to make incremental progress toward achieving the Obama administration's goals -- over a time frame that will extend well beyond the 2012 election.

Jim Watson
Dana Point

Re “Talk of war tax rises in House,” Nov. 25

A war tax?

What a great idea! There should be a big, fat tax slapped on any member of our three branches of government who supports this moronic war.

Dawna Kaufmann
Los Angeles

Medicine under the microscope

Re “Cancer testing: What could it hurt?,” Nov. 21 and “New view of mammograms,” Editorial, Nov. 20

The hue and cry over the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations show why we spend way more money than any other country on healthcare with such mediocre results, and why we have such difficulty improving. The task force consists of unbiased experts who carefully and openly examine the scientific evidence in the most rigorous way. We don't have to agree with everything they advise, but they deserve to be respected -- not vilified.

Their recommendations on mammography are what many physicians like myself have already been doing for years: After age 50, I strongly encourage mammograms, including multiple reminders to those who have not done the test. Between 40 and 50 in low-risk women, I will offer the test, but explain that there is controversy and why. It doesn't take long, and people appreciate it. I believe people from all walks of life can handle being given information, even numerical information. I also believe insurance should pay for this test.

Medical tests and treatments are objects of rational discourse, not cultural icons.

Hyman J. Milstein MD
Studio City

Let me pose two agonizing scenarios:

First, you do a cancer screening and are advised that you may or may not have a serious case of cancer and that further procedures or operations can themselves be life-threatening; or second, you are told that you have terminal cancer but had it been detected through a simple screening test a few years earlier, you could have been saved.

I think we would all opt for the misery of the first option rather than a terminal diagnosis.

The solution should be to retain routine screenings but ensure that qualified doctors vigorously diagnose the results and that patients are given all options and advised of all risks. It is no solution to remain ignorant just because I may have a test that produces a false positive. I can handle that -- but I can't handle a death sentence that could have been avoided.

David Marshall
Los Angeles

I wonder if those who are so concerned that the new guidelines for mammograms and Pap smears are the harbinger of government rationing of healthcare would be equally concerned if there was no healthcare debate going on and health insurance companies were denying coverage based on the same studies.

Jack Fuller
Long Beach

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