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Virtual dissections are an enlightened choice

As a biologist, I applaud people like Dr. Nancy Harrison for promoting dissection alternatives and encouraging students and educators to take advantage of these teaching tools ("No guts, no gory," Aug. 9). Here are four "E's" for why schools should replace traditional animal dissections with virtual dissections.

Published studies have shown that the best dissection alternatives offer students a superior educational experience. Programs like Digital Frog 2 are economically less draining, paying for themselves before the last non-reusable preserved frog has been dropped in the hazmat waste bucket. Using alternatives doesn't support the removal of millions of frogs from wetland environments each year. And finally, alternatives have a clear ethical edge by teaching biology without sacrificing animals, or compassion.

The challenge now is to get biology teachers to make enlightened choices about their teaching methods.

Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Washington, D.C.




If doctors don't need dissections, why do high schools?

Thank you for such a well-reasoned article ("No guts, no gory," Aug. 9). Arguments about dissection often become overcharged with emotion eliminating the possibility of a rational, well-reasoned decision.

I think it's worth pointing out that many well-respected medical schools, including Stanford University School of Medicine and the Mayo Medical School, have adopted a curriculum that does not include animal dissection. If these well-respected medical institutions feel that they can produce qualified doctors without using dissection, why then would a high school biology class need dissection?

Troy Riggs





Let's save this town we love

I was very fortunate to be born and raised in San Luis Obispo, but have since moved away. I come home to visit my family, all of whom still live there, once every other month. I was shocked this past weekend by all of the drastic changes that have gone on in my little hometown. When I mentioned it to my mom, she told me about all the plans the developers had, and I couldn't contain the tears.

I love my little town and all the shops that have been there since I was a kid. I have a hard time even recognizing my own town anymore when I drive down some of the main drags. I moved to Santa Barbara when I was 21 and Alameda (SF Bay Area) when I was 24, and no matter what, when I drove back into SLO to visit, I always felt a sense of comfort. Only recently did I feel weird driving around my small hometown and it scares me to think that in a year, I may only recognize the street my parents live on.

I read the cover story "If you want to build it, they will protest" (July 31), and was shocked to find out that one of the proposed projects included destroying Bubble Gum Alley. I would love to know how Hamish Marshall would feel if he had hundreds of longtime SLO County residents crying on the streets of San Luis Obispo on a Thursday night with candles and T-shirts stating "Save SLO" on them. Why, you ask? Because that is what I am proposing that we do. It's like a living funeral, a candlelight vigil for the city we love that we are all watching disappear. Residents, tourists, anyone who loves this town of ours for the town it has always been, please stand up and fight to save what you love: our town, San Luis Obispo.

Liesl Slem





We activists aren't negative

In reference to "If you want to build it, they will protest" (Aug. 2), I want to thank you for a balanced article on this issue. I am a member of the Concerned Citizens of Cayucos and do not think of myself, or this group, as "negative activists," as Mr. DeCicco characterizes us.

Is it negative to want to maintain a certain quality of life in our neighborhood? Is it negative to want to maintain the character of this part of town?

We choose to live in this area because of its small neighborhood feel and character. We fear these qualities will no longer exist if this project is built as proposed. We would welcome a development that is of a compatible character and more in scale with its surroundings. For additional information about this project or the Concerned Citizens of Cayucos, please go to the web site at

Linda Mayfield





Everyone should enjoy the Avila bluff

Years ago, I chose to move to the Central Coast after spending 21 years of family vacations in Avila Beach. Although I don't live in Avila Beach, I want to voice my opinion about a small town I care about. Avila Beach is host to many vacationing families year after year for its beautiful beaches and wonderful weather. For good or bad, Avila has recently seen a total transformation, which includes many upscale hotels, changing the demographics of the community.

I don't believe people spend their vacation dollars visiting areas to simply see new hotel after new hotel. They want more. The bluff overlooking Avila Beach could be a beautiful park, botanical gardens, hiking/cycling trails, exercise area, etc. These are things that visitors and residents alike will all use, remember, and return to visit. Europeans know the value of open space and beautiful parks. We should learn from them. Open space is a very precious commodity, and will only become more so in the future.

I am concerned that impending decisions regarding this beautiful bluff above Avila will soon fall to developers. This property should belong to all of the people in the county, and the visitors who wish to enjoy it. I think Unocal's appointment of a developer to oversee this project's future is like putting a fox in charge of the henhouse.

Hopefully developers will not prevail. Our county, its visitors, and future generations deserve something we all can enjoy. People who choose open space over development should voice their opinions to Unocal before we're all watching yet another hotel go up.

Kelly Exner

Shell Beach




Don't sacrifice democracy in Atascadero

The people's right to speak is under attack in Atascadero.

Rather than limiting the excessive verbiage of councilmembers during their meetings, some influential voices are urging the City Council to limit public comment. The council should not capitulate to this pressure in responding to the problem of lengthy City Council meetings. A better means is available.

While councilmembers allow themselves five periods to comment on non-agenda issues at each meeting, they allow the public only one (Community Forum). Three of these councilmember opportunities occur before any business is conducted on noticed agenda items.

Councilmembers waste lots of time during these three non-agenda comment periods, unnecessarily lengthening meetings. The council should limit its own commentary before restricting the right of the citizenry to address it.

The council should discontinue council comments during Community Forum, limit council post-Community Forum comments to 15 minutes, and limit council announcements and reports to 10 minutes.

Community Forum provides city government with a crucial and vital link to the community with whose consent it governs, and offers the council an opportunity to learn of information and issues about which it may otherwise be ignorant.

The council should not sacrifice democracy on the altar of expediency.

David Broadwater





Elect replacements who can say no

Now is the time to begin finding candidates to replace California legislators, not extend term limits. Your/my state senator and assemblymember failed to gather sufficient support to enact a timely budget. Their failure had a domino effect on all counties, cities, and districts within the state, delaying many budgets. Hardships were created for individuals awaiting payments.

These legislators failed to accomplish any competitive redistricting. These legislators failed to adopt/maintain a governmental agency as the single payer of all Californians' medical/dental bills. These legislators failed to adopt meaningful corporation reforms. These legislators failed to make eco-fuel available for their eco-friendly government vehicles.

Find/elect replacements who also just say no to campaign donations from lobbyists, political action committees, and unrestrained corporation CEOs.

John Bauer





We need to grow a country of statesmen

Bruce Fein of the Heritage Foundation and John Nichols of Nation Magazine answered Bill Moyer's questions about impeachment on KCET recently. Their discussion gave me a profound refresher course in the U.S. Constitution. On opposite sides of the political fence, Fein and Nichols agreed that Congress should begin the impeachment process of Bush and Cheney now because the balance of powers in our government is at stake.

It doesn't matter who will be elected next. If Congress does not stop the current takeover of executive power it will continue in future administrations. The issue is beyond politics. Fein and Nichols are calling for statesmen to lead. I am calling for every social studies teacher in the nation to show this interview to all high school students.

Forget which candidate has the most money or the most dirty tricks. We need to grow a country of statesmen.

Evelyn Cole

Arroyo Grande




Nip any new presidential wars in the bud

Now might be a good time to amend the Constitution to deny any U.S. president the war power. The very next George W. Bush who wants to invade another country at a cost of billions of U.S. tax dollars and thousands of civilian lives ought to be stopped now. Only a two-thirds majority vote of both houses could declare war in the future and such a majority vote could be vetoed by the president but not another invasion planned in the oval office, ever, or Congress asked to follow the leader.

Camina Tripodi

Arroyo Grande





Who's really profiting from drug sales?

After reading the paper and watching TV, one might think that the War on Drugs is a failure. I'm writing to point out the obvious: It's a great success for those who profit! It's a classic ploy, well-known in history, to outlaw a substance and drive up the price by artificially creating scarcity. Then the very select few who make the substance illegal proceed to supply it. They usually have law enforcement as a willing partner, since there is so much money, power, and jobs involved. The law enforces the prohibition, thereby eliminating competition and keeping all the profit for the select few.

The owner of the legal dispensary for medical marijuana in this county is being prosecuted. His business has been closed, all the money and product confiscated, and now he is facing federal charges. This is said to be for the public's "protection," but now there are lots of people left without any way to get their medicine legally here in this county. I find myself asking the question: Who was controlling the flow of marijuana before a dispensary opened? Obviously someone who doesn't want any competition. There's a lot of money at stake here.

Our law enforcement should be protecting the law that California voters decided on, not flaunting its opposition. After all, who pays their salary? But maybe that's the real question.

Jose Garcia

San Luis Obispo

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