If I could influence Bill and Melinda Gates's initiative, I would encourage them to include more mentors for students in conjunction with a buddy system ("Bill Gates gets schooled," Cover Story, June 26). Twenty-five years ago, I was an out-of-wedlock child bouncing from one house to another, and my grades reflected the chaos in my life. I was surrounded by alcohol, drugs, and extenuating circumstances. Today, I interact with highly educated professionals. To move from then to now was an extremely difficult road.
I valued education, so I worked full-time during the day and went to community college at night, then juggled jobs and struggled with payments to graduate from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Instead of battling with decisions on my own, it would have been priceless for me to talk to a well-intentioned, educated, and experienced adult, and debrief with a peer or small group.
Camala A. Lindner
Education professors and public school supervisors and executives are too removed from the front lines. Bill and Melinda Gates should gather groups of recently retired teachers from elementary, middle, and high schools from several areas of the country and harvest their hundreds of years of experience and wisdom. So many facts are never mentioned, among them I.Q. and cultural differences.
Teachers of young children know that girls usually progress faster than boys in the language arts. Boys are more ready at age 7, when their hand muscles are better developed to write. If boys start too early, they feel failure at the beginning. France doesn't start their children reading until the third grade, and in the sixth grade they are tested to be the best readers in the world.
Middle school teachers will tell you that when the hormones are raging, boys and girls would do better in same-sex schools. High school teachers say that we are rushing our students too much. They have hardly enough time to go to the bathroom and eat lunch. We also need more physical education to expend that super childhood energy.
Sit-downs with real teachers will result in a harvest of critical knowledge from behind the "blackboard curtain."
Mary Moree Paynter
Gainesville, Fla. "Satisfaction not guaranteed" (News: Analysis & Commentary, June 19) does an excellent job demonstrating how extreme cost cutting can kill a business. But the article incorrectly implies that the flight attendants are a "nod to service" not yet removed by the airlines. In fact, flight attendants are required by Federal Aviation Administration regulation to ensure passenger safety. It's not a stretch to imagine that, if given the option, some airlines would cut the number of flight attendants on board or even fly their aircraft with only one pilot to save money.
Benjamin M. Zeloof
Bridgewater, N.J. As a menopausal woman, I read with interest "Homegrown hormone therapy: How safe?" (News: Analysis & Commentary, June 26). As I see it, the problem is not between the drug companies and the compounding pharmacies, which in actuality represent competing therapies dueling for the same market -- one government sanctioned, one not -- but rather that we are labeling menopause a disease and not just accepting it as a normal life transition.
As your article noted, the results of the 2002 Women's Health Initiative Study pointed to the risks in taking even Food & Drug Administration-approved therapies. For one month of my roughly 10-year perimenopause, I used a low-dose estrogen patch and Prometrium. The former made me bloated; the latter gave me the weepies. Now, happily and healthfully ensconced at 51 in full menopause, I am doing it the old-fashioned way -- diet, exercise, and no pharmaceutical intervention. I embrace and celebrate this life passage rather than medicalizing it, which makes my voice, and others like mine, a dangerous third alternative to the two sides of the debate referenced above. They can both experiment on someone else.
Karen Ann DeLuca
Many women, myself included, have a need for hormone therapy and cannot take the synthetic drugs. The side effects, for me, were severe and quite intolerable. What is desperately needed is well-funded, unbiased research into the bio-identical hormones, not only to establish safety, but also standards of purity and manufacturing, so that consumers can make informed decisions regarding them. The compounding pharmacies are not the problem here. Indeed, they are the only viable option for the many people for whom conventional drugs present a problem.
Hazel D. Burns
Lopez Island, Wash.
As the money has shifted from Wyeth Corp.'s (WYE
) products to the bio-identical products, Wyeth has launched a campaign to solve their problem using political means to snuff their competition. Let Wyeth compete by making bio-identicals themselves. They can probably do it better. The only problem is that they can't have a monopoly on it because they can't patent them.
Scottsdale, Ariz.Editor's note: The writer is a patient using bio-identical hormones.
Ginger Constantine, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals vice-president for women's health care, may throw up her hands in disgust over bio-identical drugs, but many women are rejecting Premarin because of sympathy for the horses. Female horses are tied up for six months during pregnancy to collect their urine. The foals are sold for slaughter, since there are so many.
There are other chemically based estrogen drugs available. When women know how Premarin is collected, they opt for other estrogen drugs.
Boulder, Colo. "Why the slowdown won't become a slump" (Business Outlook, June 26) uses Federal Reserve data to state that the ratio of household net worth to aftertax income is higher than it has been in 5 1/2 years. The ratio of liquid assets to income, at 67%, is the highest in 13 years. Using aggregate wealth data to justify the "wealth effect" on consumer spending is misleading. Studies show that wealth and net worth data are extremely skewed toward higher-net-worth households. It's estimated that the wealthiest 10% of households own about 80% of financial net worth, and the remaining 90% of households own only 20%. Moreover, high-net-worth and high-income households have a lower marginal propensity to consume than the vast majority of households. The latter are spending their entire income and extracting equity from their homes to buy even more. The pitiful personal saving rate should be taken seriously.
Edward M. Syring Jr.
Gulf Stream, Fla.Editor's note: The writer was an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and chief economist at Marine Midland Bank and E. F. Hutton & Co. I couldn't help but notice your exquisite sense of time and space in placing your article on vino-augmented gasoline ("A hint of oak and berries at the pump," UpFront, June 26) just preceding your welcoming announcement of wine guru Robert Parker ("Welcome, Robert Parker," Editor's Memo).
I wonder if Mr. Parker has any insight as to whether a Bordeaux really does provide more pickup than a ros??