Letters to the Editor, April 16


Intern shares HiTOPS experience
To the editor:
   It seems that every time I read the newspaper or watch the news, I hear about millions of dollars in government funding going to "Abstinence Only" programs. I want to share an experience with your readers that have opened my eyes to a real need.
   According to the MTV sex quiz, 68 percent of kids in high schools will have had sexual intercourse by the time they graduate. I, a Rutgers University public health senior, interned for four months at HiTOPS (Health Interested Teens Own Program on Sexuality) in downtown Princeton. For me, a 23-year-old African American female from Union County, it has been an exceptional experience. I learned a great deal about the organization, the staff and the teens who come to HiTOPS.
   Growing up, I didn’t think about sex until I actually became sexually active. When I had questions, I didn’t go to my parents or teachers; I relied on my friends for answers. As adults, we know that sexual health advice from other teens isn’t the most accurate. It is for this reason I think HiTOPS as a source of information is such a unique program. It is a place where teens can come if they have questions regarding their health. My friends and I never had a facility that was available to us for counseling, support groups or reproductive health-care services.
   It wasn’t just my friends and I who had nowhere to go at the time, but most teens in New Jersey. HiTOPS gives teens the opportunity to become responsible health-care consumers. As a teen growing up, there are situations that arise, big and small, that ultimately have the potential to be life-altering. Two of my friends got pregnant in their senior year of high school and were not able to go to college right away. Maybe back then, if we had a resource like HiTOPS, some of our lives would have turned out differently.
   Why is providing teens with appropriate and accurate information important? In today’s society, teens are more mature than ever before. The key to the program’s success is providing teens with appropriate and accurate information that empowers them with the knowledge and gives them the skills they need to make smart and responsible decisions regarding sexual health and their relationships. Unfortunately, HiTOPS is the only teen health clinic of its kind in New Jersey. HiTOPS is unique in that it also provides male services. It is a clinic that provides reproductive health care to teens without the need of parental consent. It is a nonprofit organization aimed at promoting adolescent health and well-being. HiTOPS provides a public health approach through educational outreach into many New Jersey high schools, clinical services and support groups.
   This letter from a 16-year-old HiTOPS’ client sums it up best: "I didn’t know if I was pregnant or not when I came to HiTOPS. All I knew was the condom broke. You counseled my boyfriend and me. HiTOPS, you saved my life. Thank you."
Kelly S. Carmichael
Myrtle Avenue
Scotch Plains
End of the road for confusing signage
To the editor:
   As many Princetonians are undoubtedly aware, the northeast corner of Paul Robeson Place and Bayard Lane, in front of the "Y," has for many years been marked by contradictory and confusing traffic signage. One sign informs motorists that there is "No Right Turn" while another announces that there is "No Right Turn 7 a.m.-7 p.m."
   In early March, I unsuccessfully challenged this confusing signage in borough court as a violation of the state law requirement that "signs shall clearly indicate the requirements" they impose. The costs of appealing were prohibitive. But I was delighted to see just a few days ago, less than a month later, that the borough has somehow recognized the confusing and wrongful signage. Gone suddenly is the "No Right Turn" sign! Now drivers can reasonably be expected to know the rule at that corner.
David Abraham
Snowden Lane
Ominous silence on future of Rockingham
To the editor:
   Rockingham must be saved! This historic farmstead, Washington’s headquarters in 1783, is rapidly deteriorating and may soon be impossible to repair.
   In spite of extensive coverage in newspapers and television, and countless letters and e-mails to the governor and elected and appointed officials, there has been an ominous silence about the future of Rockingham.
   The old mansion, moved by the state in July 2001, sits on its new site, sheathed in Tyvek, supposedly to protect it from the elements. It is not working.
   I have recently been inside the building and I have seen the cracks, peeling plaster and paint on walls and ceilings, water leaks, warping and other serious problems. In a few months, these may be impossible to repair. The only word we have had is from a state spokesman who made a statement about a "short-term fix." But nothing has happened.
   As part of Rockingham’s move, the state appropriated funds to repair Rockingham and reopen it in its new location, hopefully this year. These funds have been frozen.
   In spite of the governor’s publicized interest in the education of New Jersey’s young children, there is no evidence that he is aware that thousands of youngsters visit Rockingham each year. Nor do we know whether the Division of Parks and Forestry plans to take any action. Do they realize that these children — and hundreds of adults — experience part of our history when they visit Rockingham?
   We need strong public reactions to this ruinous neglect. I ask other concerned citizens to write Gov. James E. McGreevey, P.O. Box 001, Trenton, N.J. 08625 and Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell, Department of Environmental Protection, 401 East State Street, P.O. Box 402, Trenton, N.J. 08625. Tell them of your concern about Rockingham and the need for immediate action.
   Rockingham is one of New Jersey’s greatest heritages. It must be saved.
Jack K. Rimalover
Jasmine Way
Nothing justifies acts of oppression
To the editor:
   As a Jew and a human being, I fully support Israel’s right to exist, but I also feel it is jeopardizing its long-term prospect if it continues to hold to the policies and doctrine of the Sharon government in its current war with the Palestinians. Israel is not only violating most basic principles of human rights and international law, but also creating a situation that may plunge the region, and perhaps the world, into war.
   While the Palestinians are not innocent martyrs, it is unproductive and patently wrong that Sharon is using these incidents to justify acts that parallel the oppression committed upon us by Germany and other countries over the millennia. It was not right then, and it is not right now. Even in the light of the senseless and horrific acts perpetrated upon innocent Jews during the Passover bombings, we cannot react with equivalent barbarism without losing credibility in the eyes of the world community, and sacrificing a part of our own souls as well.
   The Sharon administration is employing an age-old tactic of citing historic persecution of Jews, and past wrongs against Israel to justify equally unacceptable acts in the present. Similar rhetoric has been used to rationalize and encourage the atrocities committed in Rwanda, Bosnia and other nations.
   Although I have always been a strong advocate of civil rights and racial equality, I have disagreed with Nation of Islam leaders who cited the horrors perpetrated upon them in the past as a justification for their doctrine of hatred of whites, and especially Jews. Recently, even their leader, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, has denounced this doctrine and embraced a more tolerant doctrine. By the same principle, I cannot agree that our history of persecution somehow grants us special dispensation to violate basic human rights of other peoples in order to ensure our own security.
   Peace has been elusive in the Mideast for many reasons, including the use of Israel as a red herring by dictators in Arab countries to divert attention from the corruption and inequity in their own countries. The Palestinians have been used as cannon fodder by their "host" countries, and provided a steady stream of hate-filled martyrs to fight their war by proxy.
   This being said, Israel has had its own culpability in fanning the flames of misunderstanding and hatred. Sharon came to power in a series of provocative acts that appear to be deliberately designed to increase tension and close all options other than direct confrontation. The string of state-sanctioned assassinations of Palestinian leadership during supposed peace negotiations indicate that Sharon has deliberately and strategically pushed Palestinians to a point of desperation. He has used these and other provocative acts, which helped trigger this most recent wave of violence, in order to help justify his own brand of "ethnic cleansing."
   Regardless of who is "right" or "wrong" in this situation, our immediate objective must be a cessation to the violence. I pray that the Bush administration will have the courage to act quickly to force Sharon and Arafat back to the peace table. If our government fails to act decisively to stop the horror, we must use every peaceful means necessary to insist that they do.
Lee H. Goldberg
Mather Avenue
West Windsor
Protect New Jersey from unhealthy air
To the editor:
   Summer is just around the corner. Unfortunately, in New Jersey that means more than trips to the shore, and more bad air days. The past few summers, approximately one in three days has been an ozone alert day. That means it has been unhealthy to breathe the air.
   More than 30 years ago, Congress adopted the Clean Air Act to protect the public health from respiratory illnesses caused by soot, smog and toxic air pollution. Since then, we’ve made real progress toward making the air safe to breathe. However, we clearly have a long way to go. Every year, air pollution sends thousands of New Jerseyans to emergency rooms, triggers asthma attacks and causes hundreds of premature deaths. In addition, the severe environmental impacts of air pollution include global warming, acid rain and mercury contamination. All of New Jersey’s waterways have mercury contamination.
   The Clean Power Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate, would dramatically reduce pollution from power plant smokestacks and require the nation’s oldest and dirtiest power plants to meet modern standards. Sens. Torricelli and Corzine should be applauded for signing on as co-sponsors of this bill.
   If the Clean Power Act is passed into law, the reductions in smog and soot pollution required by the bill will prevent over 1,000 asthma attacks, over 9,000 missed days of work and over 700 premature deaths every year here in New Jersey. This would be one important step in solving our air pollution problem in New Jersey, and help us all breathe a little easier.
Sam Boykin
Field Director
NJPIRG Citizen Lobby
North Willow Street