Letters | More on CU’s integrity


More on CU’s integrity

(Re: “Grappling with preserving the past, for the future,” Dodge’s Bullets, Nov. 21.) Like you, personal feelings and a possible conflict of interest influence my words, but this appears to be an opportunity to share the truth. I hope your Boulder readers are interested in CU beyond the limits of the Boulder campus.

After the demise of the Silver & Gold Record, University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) Chancellor Pamela Shockley-Zalabak hired me to write stories for the UCCS newsletter Communiqué. I served in much the same capacity as I had for 20 years at the S&GR: I kept people informed about activities on the Colorado Springs campus.

Much to my surprise, some of the early Communiqué stories I wrote were subsequently reprinted in CU President Bruce Benson’s weekly newsletters. But they were printed without my byline, as if they were the product of spontaneous generation.

Granted, my stories were the property of CU, to use, quote or reprint as CU administrators saw fit. Obviously they saw fit to use the skills of a former S&GR reporter after earlier determining the S&GR and the skills were of its staff were expendable. But the fact remains that my name was intentionally removed. In all fairness, I have to say my byline appeared in later reprinted articles, at the insistence of UCCS University Relations Director Tom Hutton. Yet I find it curious that the earlier omissions were made at all.

I share a suspicion that there is selective re-writing of CU’s future history. And it impacts the role of the university.

To dismiss my words, the CU PR spinners may respond by calling me “a disgruntled former employee.” And maybe the description fits. All I know is that deception speaks volumes to the integrity of an institution.

Ronald Fitz, former S&GR UCCS reporter/Colorado Springs

The sequester and CU

(Re: “Sequester may shutter CU faculty research, labs,” cover story, Nov. 21.) I was pleased to discover that the importance of academic research and their subsequent shortcomings due to the federal sequester made the cover this week. Your illustration of how the decrease in funding will affect the scientific community, the lives of research faculty and staff, and the general public was spot on.

Not enough recognition is given to basic scientists for the good they do in their communities. The effects are not immediate. No money is being generated; no lives are being directly saved in the lab. The benefits of academic research aren’t seen for decades down the road, but the research being conducted in university laboratories helps inspire the inventions that improve our quality of life and lead to a cleaner, more sustainable future.

Despite a very well-written article, I have to disagree with a statement made by Dr. Robert Spencer. There has definitely been a decrease in funding available to graduate students. I agree with that. The Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology department lost their NIH training grant this past spring. I think that might have been the training grant that was referred to in the article, unless other departments lost training grants as well. Dr. Spencer stated that observed difficulty to secure grant funding might deter grad students and post-docs from pursuing careers in science. While that is probably true, I don’t agree that “we may have lost a great cohort of future scientists” through their discouragement.

This actually came up during a discussion I had this morning with my PI about the availability of grant funding to new faculty (Rule #1 in science: always give credit where credit is due). I’ve been working as a technician in the lab of a new faculty member in the MCDB department, and through my experience I have witnessed how difficult it has been, especially for younger professors, to secure funding. Somehow this article came up, and I mentioned how it suggests that grad students are being discouraged and deciding not to pursue careers in academia. “Good!” he said, “there are too many scientists anyway.” He makes a very good point. The life of a basic scientist is not glamorous. The hours are awful. The pay is lousy. It can be extremely frustrating at times, especially when experiments don’t work or equipment fails (it often does). Academic research is definitely not for the faint of heart.

The point is, a student who is discouraged because finding money is difficult these days might not be cut out to be a basic scientist anyway. The students who are passionate and willing to endure hardships to be successful as a researcher, those will become the great scientists of the future.

There might be silver lining here. Times might be tough for already established investigators, but the upand-coming scientists will be smarter, more resourceful and more persistent. They will have to be. Then, when more federal funding for basic science becomes available, whenever that may be, the scientists who made it will have the resources available to conduct their research in a manner that is far superior to their predecessors.

I don’t mean to sound preachy, just forcing myself to be optimistic. Thank you guys for supporting the scientific community.

Joshua Marcus/via Internet

TPP, a corporate bill of rights

Soon there will be a flash in Congress when the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) comes up for quick passage. Six hundred trans-national corporate negotiators and the U.S. trade representative have been working very hard and in secret to put together the TPP. They brand it as a trade agreement even though only five of the 29 chapters are about traditional trade issues.

The other completed chapters confer new privileges to trans-national corporations — privileges such as being able to sue nations in trade courts, for what corporations claim are potential lost profits resulting from laws and regulations in a county in which they operate. Foreign corporations involved in fracking will be able to sue the U.S. for profits lost to fracking regulations. Safety concerns will not be considered in the special courts.

Unlike ordinary courts, their deliberations are secret and the judges are trade lawyers who have no other interest than trade. Their decisions are binding, and there is no appeal to U.S. courts. Any nation that does not abide by TPP court decisions may have to pay damages to the offended corporation every year for the indefinite future.

Labels like “Buy American” and “Dolphin Free Tuna” are forbidden. Questions of labor conditions in overseas factories may not be used in restricting imports. This agreement will lower standards for human rights, workers, environment and consumers, worldwide. There will be no courts to hear complaints from us. Only the big trans-nationals have standing in these courts.

What to do: Urge Congress members to vote no on “Fast Track” (FT), otherwise known as “Trade Promotion Authority” (TPA). Demand that there be time for the public to read and digest the full implications of the TPP. If FT and TPA pass, the whole thing will be rushed through Congress in an up or down vote with no corrections or amendments.

Read more at www.commondreams.org/view/2013/10/30-3.

Contact Jared Polis at polis.house.gov, Mark Udall at markudall.senate. gov and Michael Bennet at bennet.senate.gov or through the Congressional switchboard, 866-338-1015.

Tom Moore/Boulder

Train horns bad

Boulderites are fond of preaching “It’s all good!” but the phrase lacks the punch required to deal with what’s not “all good.” Fact: Nothing gets a redesigned upgrade if the starting point is “It’s all good.”

Issue? Let’s start with sleep, because without it both our critical and creative mind is not operating well enough to solve anything. Many trust the climate science and open windows in Boulder rather than rely on AC, and so each night we are haunted by a violent aggressor as it kicks the shit out of “It’s all good” and then laughs in its happy, little innocent smiley face.

It’s the blasting horn of the trains … a relentless piercing, painful, unbreakable, super-sized alarm clock screaming … FFUUCCKKYYOOUU every night for four minutes about 4 a.m. This is not just a Boulder issue, of course, so I’m not blaming Boulder, but we do have a reputation for innovation, so yes, it’s up to us to change the horn blowing madness of trains and then pass on this enlightenment to the rest of the world.

The justification of the “horning” is that people’s lives are at stake, but because we know that roads are much more plentiful and dangerous and we don’t drive with constant and neverending horn blowing at crossings, we all know the logic doesn’t follow.

Shall we blame the insurance companies… trying to cover their ass, as a “hit” might mean the family of the deceased is hungry to sue a big fat train company for not “warning” their loved one?

Stats show that people are not accidently getting hit by quiet trains … people use trains to commit suicide worldwide. Trains, like guns and high bridges, are the effective methods people seek when ready to leave the “party.” Note there is no screeching siren on the Golden Gate Bridge because people would still jump and the millions crossing will be so aggravated they’d want to jump.

The creative solution to people jumping in front of trains (or jumping off bridges … or buying guns to kill themselves) is to give them a better option. In the meantime, disturbing the REM sleep of thousands night after night just means we sacrifice the sleep required to solve such a pressing issue.

It’s madness to cater to a law that robs us of peaceful nights as it wrongly insists that horn blowing is the only way to protect … not us, but insurance companies.

Cynthia Clayton Parent/Boulder

Boycott Walmart

Well, we never thought it would happen in Boulder, but Walmart just opened their store. I was there to protest (peaceful protest), but after a while we were asked to leave from the side of their store and from the side of 24 Hour Fitness (their neighbor).

We were the democratic process in process, but they and many like them have no idea why we were protesting.

1. They treat their employees like slaves with wages under $8 (I was told) per hour

2. No health benefits or benefits of any kind

3. They buy from low-wage workers in Asian countries

4. They move in where they are not wanted, pushing their fat asses even though they’ve been told we don’t want them

5. They kill small businesses who sell the same things as they do (my goodness that makes them socialists?)

6. And in Boulder’s case, they blocked east/west driving in front and in back of their store for a year; we have always used those roadways to travel to 28th Street from 30th or vice versa, but those fat-headed, arrogant people who run Walmart deliberately blocked those roadways so they could build their store.

Yes, people who are indigent, who don’t understand English or who don’t understand unions or the way our country was built will shop there because they don’t know any better.

Please, those of you who read this letter (if it gets printed) please do not shop there; let their profits fall and just maybe they will go away! It would be wonderful if all the rest of the markets in Boulder organized a protest against them as well!

Miriam Paisner/Boulder

Stop killing orcas

(Re: “SeaWorld can suck it,” Screen, Sept. 19.) Thanks for the great review of Blackfish — the must-see film of 2013. This important documentary, coupled with award-winning author David Kirby’s Death at SeaWorld, should be the final nails in any belief that keeping intelligent and social animals jammed in concrete tanks is acceptable. The meticulous research uncovered in both the film and the book provide irrefutable proof that captive orcas live in misery and die young in marine theme parks.

Orcas at SeaWorld aren’t retired; they work until they die. More than three dozen orcas have died at SeaWorld facilities from causes ranging from severe trauma, intestinal gangrene, acute hemorrhagic pneumonia, pulmonary abscesses, chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular failure to septicemia, influenza and brain necrosis.

Most are dying far short of even their average lifespan in the wild.

More and more families are refusing to buy tickets to marine abusement parks. The days of enslaving social ocean dwellers in concrete bathtubs are coming to an end.

Jennifer O’Connor, PETA Foundation/Norfolk, Va.