Leaches in the Mist

Plus: Percentile Dysfunction, More Math Wrath, Double Dribbles

Leaches in the Mist

Could it be the car wash? If the gas station tanks do turn out to be secure (no underground leaks), it may be that the benzene is getting into the soil of David Rosenfield's property via the fine mist being sprayed from the car wash ["Gas Man," by Jennifer Mathieu, February 21]. Benzene and the other chemicals will be emitted into the air at the pumps and "captured" by the water particles, particularly when the wind is blowing toward the car wash. So that may be the source of the contamination, which can build up over time as the water leaches through the soil, leaving the hydrocarbons behind.

Please thank Rosenfield for his persistence. Individuals like him can make a difference for all of us in the long run. Thanks to you, as well, for writing the article.

Monica Rokicki
Houston

Percentile Dysfunction

Heritage of halves: If people ever tell you they are one-third Native American -- or one-third any other racial or ethnic group -- either they do not know what they are talking about, or they are flat out lying ["Tribal Warfare," by Wendy Grossman, February 21]. In either case, you know Carroll Cocchia and her ilk have only a passing relationship with credibility.

The absolute requirement of everyone having two biological parents means that the ethnic fraction can have only a denominator with a power of two -- your parents each represent one half, your grandparents one quarter, and so on.

If I read the story correctly, Cocchia's Native American heritage comes out to 9/32, or 28.125 percent. While that's substantial, it obviously indicates she is not much in touch with the facts of her own heritage.

What other facts is she not in touch with? Your story did a good job of suggesting the possibilities.

Dale Napier
Houston

More Math Wrath

Jail bandits:I find it abhorrent that Harris County has its own version of a one-armed bandit at the downtown jail facility ["Quarter Masters," by George Flynn, February 14]. Your writer is giving the county the benefit of the doubt by claiming the fee to be 25 percent. Actually, one could make a convincing argument that it is 33 percent, as the 25-cent charge is one-third of the proceeds one receives (75 cents).

In any case, I hope your publicizing this will cause sufficient embarrassment to make them change the way they are doing business.

In a similar vein, County Commissioner Steve Radack proposes to have motorists on the toll roads toss extra change into collection baskets to help pay for indigent health care and trauma centers. Talk about putting a Band-Aid on a broken bone! The region is experiencing a health care crisis, and this is his idea of how to handle it? I pray the voters will remember his insensitivity at election time.

Mark Setterberg
Houston

Poverty penalty:A weary disgust probably best describes my feeling at this story. My first question was this: How do other counties handle the disposition of articles not allowed inside their jails? That could also extend to the price of phone calls and other so-called jail amenities. What is done with that money? Considering its source, it might best be applied toward providing defense counsel for those who cannot afford it.

It is my understanding that a large proportion of the inmates in these facilities are there because they cannot afford to "pay out" or make bail. Their incarceration, then, is as much a penalty for their poverty as for their alleged offense. To further punish them by exacting a form of "ransom" from their friends and loved ones to have contact with them seems draconian and mercenary. The words "cruel" and "corrupt" also come to mind.

The medieval character of Texas's criminal justice system is shameful and grievous. In that respect, we are an embarrassment and a disgrace to civilization.

Beth Henry
League City

Double Dribbles

Blame it on Mom: What exactly were the merits of this story ["Foul Out," by Wendy Grossman, January 31] that made you include it in your recent publication? Student basketball player talks in class (like this has never happened before). Student gets in trouble (wow, I'm amazed). Student refuses to apologize. Student gets reprimanded (good for them!). Angry mother sees a conspiracy (mother needs to get a life). Oh! Her mother is on the NAACP board? So who is really abusing their power here?

Schools are for educating students, not preparing them for careers in the NBA, NFL, etc. Disruptive kids limit their classmates' learning experience and shouldn't be allowed to play sports. Frivolous lawsuits prevent taxpayers' money from being spent on education. It's a shame this student's mother doesn't know that!

I will certainly support the school board on this one!

Jerry Gallman
Sugar Land

Lockup Legacy

TDCJ's old ways continue: I think you did a great job with this article ["Hanging Up," by Scott Nowell, January 17]. The public seems to think that TDCJ has been playing by the rules since the Ruiz years, but many of us know that the attitudes prevalent then still remain today. Too many of today's TDCJ leaders were young in the ranks in the '70s and '80s. They follow their old masters and seem incapable of taking advantage of what new research tells us about the criminal mind and how "victims of poverty" should be treated. Thanks for your fair presentation.

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