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Letters to the Editor 

Uncharitable Cuts

How ironic that Gambit Weekly would feature an issue on AIDS ("The Changing Face of AIDS," July 29) at the same time that the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), the governor and the Legislature have slashed the Charity Hospital budget so drastically that its nationally known HIV Outpatient Clinic will shut its doors soon unless public outcry can save it.

This is not due to wasteful spending, but to deliberate actions that blatantly discriminate against Charity. DHH pays Charity between two and seven times less for the care of identical Medicaid patients; to make matters worse, federal funds intended for Charity are being diverted to the DHH budget and to private hospitals. DHH also places an arbitrary limit on the number of Medicaid patients they will pay Charity for, but places no such limits on private hospitals. Thus, Charity cares for thousands of patients, but does not receive a penny for it.

These officials ignore the fact that objective measures of patient mortality show that patients receive better care at Charity than at other hospitals of similar size. They ignore the fact that the quality of care delivered to millions of patients statewide has been improved by the training that their health care providers received there. They ignore the fact that Charity brings in a huge amount of insurance dollars through its billing process and asks for less than 10 percent of its budget from state tax dollars. Few other state departments can make that claim; no agency but Charity has been targeted for cuts by the Legislature.

In addition to our legislators, the records of several of the current candidates for governor reveal had a hand in orchestrating this travesty, one as a whiz-kid health care bureaucrat and another as a current coastal parish state legislator. Hopefully, the citizens will be asking tough questions of all of them during the next election campaign.

--Thomas P. Butcher, RN MPH


Furious With Funk

I was very angry after reading the article about Stephen Funk ("Sir, No Sir!" Aug. 5). It's a shame that our military has members like this.

Who doesn't know that the job of Marines is to go out and kill when they have to? Joining the Marines without knowing one has to kill is almost a lie. It's OK to use media attention to help win the case; people are free to believe as they want. However, unauthorized absence really doesn't have to do with his beliefs, does it?

After six years of living in America and serving two years in the military, I am very disappointed with America. Personally, the war in Iraq bothers me. It is wasting our service members' time. Those poor guys have to stand "endless" duty for some cause they don't really know. I'm sorry; this war is too hypocritical for me to believe.

I am glad I am stationed in New Orleans instead of Iraq. I have decided to stay till the enlistment ends. Why can't people just do that? Why can't they be responsible for what they sign up for? Instead, they can appeal to the media and talk about their beliefs and let others take over their burden.

I hope the Marine Corps discharges Funk as soon as possible. It would be better for both sides.

--Elaine Chan


Funk Rotten to the Corps

I am a Marine in New Orleans at this time. I have read the article on Stephen Funk ("Sir, No Sir!" Aug. 5) and am disgusted by this young man who has wasted the time of the Corps and the taxpayers.

No one joins the Marines without the knowledge that we are in the business of war. He can say he joined for experience and knowledge and everything else, but he doesn't think of where this comes from. We Marines have fought for our nation for more than 200 years, and the demands of getting that done is what makes us leaders. Someone like Funk joins and only thinks of himself and what he can get. They forget that the military is not a free ride.

I read of the things he says he goes through or what he has lived with in the past; in my opinion, he is a weak, small man who puts his own feelings of inadequacy on others. I, too, am of mixed races, and yet I don't feel awkward because of questions about my background. When asked, "What are you?" I respond, "American." I, too, went to an alternative school to graduate early, and I feel that helped me in boot camp. I could think and adapt to situations faster because I learned to work in a less-structured environment. For Funk, he lets that be a weakness.

Everything I see about this man is sad. He says all he wants is peace in the world, yet he was willing to forego his morals for college money and good marks on a resume. Funk was fine to sit it out and do his job in the Marines until the call for us came and we had to go to Iraq. Then he went U/A and expects the military to not want to court-martial him.

I have no problem with letting him out of the Marines, but if at any time this nation has enemies on our soil and it is our children risking gas attacks instead of Kurd or Iranian children, then let us all remember COs like Funk who are willing to stand by.

--Lance Corporal Jesse R. Belt, USMC


Ridiculous Remedy

It is truly sad that a sweet, nurturing grandmother was killed at Six Flags, but your suggestion that another federal agency and/or centralized database would remedy this situation is preposterous ("The Element of Danger," Aug. 19).

Anytime something tragic happens we shout, "Government regulation" or -- even better -- "Let's develop a database." You might as well say, "Let's allot millions of tax dollars for absolutely nothing." The only thing databases do is give stats to people like you.

Your editorial stated that there were no mechanical failures, so why the rush to have more governmental inspectors? Six Flags has more incentive to prevent accidents because of insurance rates, civil lawsuits and public relations than any bureaucrat.

We collectively refuse to take any responsibility for our actions, decisions or situations. There are agencies of the government that make manufacturers put warnings on hair dryers that say, "Don't use while in the bathtub." Ask yourself this question: will the agency do more than demand that a sign is posted saying, "Don't cross the yellow line"? The signs are already there. It's part of the insurance rider.

Let's try to get a little more creative with our solutions/editorials than federal regulations.

--Billie Schexnaydre

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