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April 15, 2005 | Page 4

Brazil rallies against war
Keep up the good work
Opposed to free speech?
What's behind the seal hunt?

The right to choose to die

BRIAN JONES' review of Million Dollar Baby curiously dodged the controversy around the killing of Hillary Swank's character, who is left severely disabled and asks Clint Eastwood's character to assist her suicide ("Hollywood plays it safe," February 25). I disagree Peter Spitzform, who recently wrote to argue that the film advocates the idea that it is better to be dead than disabled ("Million-dollar bigotry?" March 18), and I believe that socialists ought to take a different approach to the question of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

While we fight for a world where everyone has access to the best health care and one that removes the infinite barriers to people with disabilities, socialists who support the self-determination of the oppressed ought to defend the right of people who choose to die to do so if that is their desire. It's not a question of socialists advocating euthanasia, but of defending the right of people to control their decision to live--or die--in a world that denies them control over all else.

I've no doubt that many severely disabled people lead lives they find fulfilling, but what about those who don't, cannot tolerate their lives and choose to die? Should we side with right-wing Republicans like Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Gov. Jeb Bush, who fought to keep Terri Schiavo alive--against her previously stated wishes?

The media show heroic examples of disabled men and women such as Christopher Reeve, who went from Superman to quadriplegic advocate for funding and research for the disabled, but what about the many who don't share his network of support and will to persevere?

Perhaps in a society where the needs of human beings take priority, the desire to end it all will disappear for those with severe illnesses and disabilities, because the conditions of their lives will be infinitely improved. But in the world we live in now, many thousands of severely ill and disabled people are both denied health care and the basic right to make the most profound decision of their lives.

It seems to me that is a form of oppression, and their demands should be heeded as well.
Sherry Wolf, Chicago

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Brazil rallies against war

APPROXIMATELY 2,500 people demonstrated against the war in downtown São Paulo, Brazil, on March 19. The demonstration was part of an international call to protest the Iraq invasion on its second anniversary. Participants included human rights, anti-Free Trade Area of the Americas activists, religious groups, the Landless Workers Movement and socialist organizations.

Brazil is a very appropriate place to protest the occupation of Iraq since its president, Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva, continues to occupy Haiti with 1,200 troops. This has enabled the U.S. to focus more of its military wherewithal on Iraq.

Slogans raised during the protest included, "No more blood, no more prisoners for oil, U.S. troops out of Iraq" and "Bush is a terrorist." Other slogans, interwoven with those critical of the occupation of Iraq, were very critical of Brazil's occupation of Haiti: "Bush out of Iraq, Lula out of Haiti" and "Brazilian troops out of Haiti."

"I think it is absurd that Lula is helping Bush by occupying Haiti," said Barbara Ventura. "This demonstration is important to show that there are many people against the war."
Nate Moore, São Paulo, Brazil

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Keep up the good work

KUDOS FOR embracing socialism in a nation that seems dead-set against it. I actually found your publication as I was doing research for an article on wealth distribution and the problems of the free-market capitalist system.
Keep up your great and important work.

There was a time when socialism was a real force in the United States--we can bring back many of those ideals, but it will take a long and organized struggle.
Katherine Brengle, Bristol County, Mass.

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Opposed to free speech?

A RECENT survey on high-school students' attitude towards the Bill of Rights, conducted by the University of Connecticut, showed that "more than a third of students surveyed think the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees. Nearly three-fourths either do not know how they feel, or admit they take the First Amendment for granted."

According to the rhetoric of the Bush administration, this would mean that one-third of American students apparently "hate freedom." This survey also seems to contradict the claim that young Americans "know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation," which Bush made in his recent State of the Union address.

At least, this seems true, using the twisted logic of the Bush administration. However, as with the rest of the U.S. government's lies, the reality is different.

States and counties across the nation are facing record budget shortfalls. Budget shortfalls in local governments are passed directly onto the backs of working people, through cuts in school budgets and social services. Crumbling schools routinely use out-dated textbooks, face teacher shortages and are subject to new insane testing standards, thanks to No Child Left Behind. Most schools don't even have one student newspaper or student-run media outlet, let alone many to present a forum of debate.

To top it all off, entering a school these days feels more and more like a prison visit, with metal detectors, armed guards and video cameras. Principals, faced with pressure from religious fanatics and threats of funding cuts, choose the path of least resistance when it comes to controversy.

Most students don't have control over what they can wear to school or what they learn in school. Teachers are fearful for their jobs, due to the McCarthy-like witch-hunts against criticism of Israel or U.S. foreign policy by TV hosts like Fox's Bill O'Reilly and web sites like Campus Watch.

It's no wonder students don't think much of the First Amendment. Just like the people who supposedly "hate freedom" in Iraq and Afghanistan, students' daily life experience teaches them the truth.

The reality is that it's not just the ideas in people's heads that matter, it's their daily experience that informs and shapes their political beliefs. The reality for the people of the world is that while a tiny minority of people run society, for the sake of profits, freedom and liberty are only illusions.

Surveys like this remind us that our wars for oil and empire abroad have drastic effects here at home. The example of hundreds of college students in Seattle throwing a military recruiter off campus shows us all what is possible. There are many more Seattle's waiting to happen. It's up to us to organize ourselves and stand up against this racist war and this sick system. End the occupation, bring the troops home now!
Brian L., Rochester, N.Y.

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What's behind the seal hunt?

OVER THE past several weeks, many protests across Canada and some U.S. states have broken out over "sealing," a barbaric process where fishermen use a club with a metal spike to kill seal pups for their fur. Gruesome pictures and descriptions have been circulating, while many activists are calling for the Canadian government to ban the practice. Some are also calling for a boycott of certain seafood products.

It would be easy enough to think that this is a highly profitable industry that fishermen are willing to engage in because it's simply a job that pays. However, the International Fund for Animal Welfare found that only 5 percent of profits in the Newfoundland fishing industry are obtained through this practice.

Fishermen's willingness to partake in this event is probably helped by the rhetoric spouted from the Canadian government (which subsidizes the hunt) about seals being linked to the disappearance of cod--one of the most popular and profitable fish in the market. In fact there is no scientific evidence that seal populations have much to do with cod recovery, and in all probability, the disappearance of cod has more to do with the "fishing down the food web" that international fisheries have practiced for years.
Cynthia Little, Burlington, Vt.

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