via email

On March 17, 2009, representatives of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms testified before Congress that “90 percent of the weapons that could be traced were determined to have originated from various sources within the U.S.” (emphasis ours). Fox News calculated that the weapons traceable to the United States constituted only 17 percent of the total weapons found at Mexican crime scenes. — Editor

1 Across: Appreciation

Thank you so much for offering these challenging crossword puzzles each week in the Reader, and especially thank you for the newly designed and very trendy T-shirt you sent me.

For the past many years that I have participated in the weekly puzzle, I have won three or four times, and I was thrilled with the plain white shirt with the red Reader.com. All my family members wear them proudly during a special occasion.

I will continue to be an avid participant, and I read all the articles. My favorites are “City Lights,” Don Bauder, Stringers, and, of course, the feature article.

Keep up the good work, and I will try to do mine.

Elenore Stephens

Why Transit’s Troubled

It is easy to criticize transit in San Diego, so no special credit to Ollie for his March 5 cover story “Waste time. Save money. Ride the bus!” It is more difficult to defend it, so a tip of the hat to Robert K. Johnston for his letter in the April 2 issue, “Master-Planned Bad Transit.”

But the problem is that so few understand transit in San Diego and why it will never be greatly successful. To be a success, transit needs two basic elements: a dense concentration of potential riders and financial support beyond just those who ride the systems.

San Diego has too little density, and what we do have is broken up by canyons, valleys, mountains, and water bodies. Look at a map of the Metropolitan Transit System or North County Transit District and see how long some of the routes are. Successful transit attracts a high number of riders for each mile it operates. It is easy to see that most routes here do not and cannot meet that measure.

To the best of my knowledge, no public transit system in the U.S. pays its own way; some level of subsidy is required. A subsidy is the difference between operating costs and operating revenues — fares, to you and me. San Diego has an unusually low level of subsidy support. Most of what is generated by sales tax that goes to transportation is utilized for capital expenditures: building roads and buying trolleys and buses. Very little is available for paying drivers, maintenance, and fuel.

This is why the MTS and NCTD cannot afford to provide a level and distribution of service that would be attractive to a much larger percentage of our population.

If this bothers you, discuss it with your elected officials.

Tim Price
via email

The Doctor Is Out

The January 22 Reader carried an article titled “Deadly Mosquitoes Breed in Our Urban Drool.”

On page 37, there is this statement attributed to Dr. Lieu: “Wherever it has peaked, and then the number of cases has started to go down, the virus has never circled back. If you look at New England and New York, where they had a whole bunch of cases seven or eight years ago, in the past couple of years, they hardly had any.” Data I obtained from the Centers for Disease Control website (cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/ westnile/) demonstrate that the data is inconsistent with the statement just quoted. (In the years 1999 through 2008, the number of cases was 62, 14, 15, 82, 71, 10, 38, 24, 22, 46, respectively.)

On page 38, there is this statement attributed to Dr. Lieu: “And that starts about three to seven days after the bite.” The CDC website, (cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/ westnile/clinicians/clindesc. htm#fever), states, “The incubation period for WNV infection is thought to range from about 2 to 14 days, although longer incubation periods have been documented in immunosuppressed persons.”

Also on page 38, there is this statement attributed to Dr. Lieu: “But about 1 in 100 people who get infected develops encephalitis.” On the CDC website in 2004, there was this statement: “Approximately 1 in 150 infections will result in severe neurological disease.” There is a difference between severe neurological disease and encephalitis. The CDC website states, “About 60% to 75% of people with neuroinvasive WNV infection reportedly have encephalitis or meningoencephalitis, which is characterized by altered mental status or focal neurologic findings.” Both encephalitis and meningitis have varying degrees of severity.

It seems to me that it is important to be as exact as possible when printing information such as is in the article referenced. I do not know if Dr. Lieu was quoted accurately. It seems to me that a reporter should check figures quoted by someone he/she interviews with some authoritative source, and if discrepancies are discovered between information stated by one interviewed and sources considered authoritative, such as the CDC, then the reporter should contact the person interviewed and present the discrepancies prior to any publication so that inaccurate information is not disseminated.

Roger Bitar, M.D., M.P.H.

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