By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Not a fanatic: Wendy Grossman's article on my situation and on Falun Gong ["The Gong Show," July 11] reports on the Chinese government's persecution of me and my family, and I am grateful for that reporting. I find it unacceptable, though, to be painted as a fanatic for Falun Gong and as addicted to its practices.
Having practiced Falun Gong since 1997, I have benefited a lot, both physically and spiritually. I won two first-places in 1998 and 2001 in student symposiums at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH, and got my Ph.D. in physics in 2001. I also published more than ten papers in professional physics journals. My success proves Falun Gong is a very good practice for the body, mind and the society.
I began appealing to the international community to help stop the brutal persecution of Falun Gong in China. The real reason I have lost my visa status is that my passport was held by the Chinese consulate and denied renewal, which has resulted in my losing my postdoctoral position at UH and has brought me a lot of financial difficulties. Without this persecution, I would still be doing my research at UH and living a happy life.
The Chinese government is persecuting people who believe in truth, compassion and tolerance. In China, thousands of Falun Gong practitioners are hung and beaten, forced to do hard labor, deprived of sleep, shocked by cattle prods, injected with nerve-damaging drugs and tortured. In the United States, the Chinese government security personnel intimidate, injure and suppress Falun Gong practitioners and supporters, including many U.S. citizens.
For all of these reasons, I write to the Congress to let them know all of these things in order to stop the persecution of people in China and here in America.
Good book look: Your article about the effects of the brutal persecution by the Chinese government against Falun Gong practitioners in China and overseas, specifically Jason Wang and his family in Houston, portrayed their horrendously stressful situation in a realistic way.
Unfortunately, most of the Houston Press's references to Zhuan Falun, the book of main teachings of Falun Gong and Mr. Li Hongzhi, don't bear much resemblance to the actual content.
I have met Mr. Li, and he is one of the most down-to-earth people one could imagine. He refers to himself only as our teacher. He has warned us repeatedly against worshiping him and urges us to take as our guides the principles he teaches rather than his persona. There is never a charge to learn the exercises or participate in any Falun Gong activity.
The incredible peacefulness and benevolence displayed by practitioners during the Chinese government's campaign of slanderous vilification and attempted eradication of Falun Gong speaks to the power of Mr. Li's teachings of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. Practitioners in China put their lives on the line. This is for all of us. This is not just a Chinese issue. This is for everyone who ever had a thought not expressly sanctioned by government, for everyone who ever wanted to elevate his/her spiritual side, for those "inalienable rights" guaranteed by civilized nations. This is not something to make fun of.
Falun Gong and Mr. Li have been awarded more than 700 proclamations of support from governmental bodies, including two from Houston. He has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and was awarded the prestigious Religious Freedom Award. The peaceful journey continues. We invite everyone to read Zhuan Falun and investigate Falun Gong for yourself.
New respect: Your article on Falun Gong was informative and well written. I live in Montrose and have walked past the Chinese consulate several times and was horrified by the sickening pictures of the Falun Gong followers' dead, mutilated bodies.
However, before I read your article, I had no idea what Falun Gong was. I equated it with yoga, just some meditation. I don't believe in the principles of Falun Gong, but I also do not believe in murdering people for not renouncing their faith. I have respect for the Wang family for standing their ground.
If someone told me to renounce my faith in Christ or die, I would gladly die. I hope the Wangs will never have to make that decision.
Wasted resources: Thank God the pastor had a congregation that believed in him ["True Believer," by Richard Connelly, July 11]. Otherwise his life would have been ruined and his family destroyed. I am sure he suffered tremendously.
Investigators are eager to protect society, which is good. However, federal resources were wasted in this four-year investigation, resources that should be used to prevent terrorist acts and foreign aggression. Federal intelligence already has its hands full. Local law enforcement should handle pornography and the like.
The sex-offender program now in place has too many flaws. It does more harm than good. Lives and institutions are destroyed. Sex-offender registration banks and neighborhood notification create fear, anger, worry, paranoia and violence in communities. Thanks to the Houston Press for publishing the story.
William V. Mohan
'Rooing arbitration: I would like to thank you for the article regarding the pitfalls of binding arbitration ["Buyers' Remorse," by Wendy Grossman, June 20]. People in this country are learning the painful lessons imposed by this kangaroo court on a daily basis.
Never in history has our corporate world been held in such low esteem by the public, and this kind of so-called justice is fueling the fire of those honest citizens who have trusted their builders to deliver what they promised. Trust in others is a God-given trait in humans, and it is systematically being destroyed by practices such as binding arbitration, which is nothing more than a process created by businesses to allow them to negate their obligations to their customers.
I applaud you for your courage to tackle this subject and give the real facts to the public. We need many more like you to expose this practice for what it really is: a bulletproof shield for unscrupulous businesspeople.
BBBe smart: Reader Cindy Schnackel of Edmond, Oklahoma ["Breaking the Mold," Letters, July 11], suggested that traditional sources of consumer information such as the Better Business Bureau are ineffective about home builders. Her suggestion serves only to deprive consumers of one avenue that they might use to educate and protect themselves.
And, before Ms. Schnackel or her organization attempts to portray this as a shameless plug for BBB-member home builders, consider some stats:
We have 313 files on various home builders in our seven-county service area. Only about one-third are BBB members. Ninety have "satisfactory" ratings as far as complaint handling. Another 78 are rated "unsatisfactory." The remainder have limited file information.
We just parted company with a large local builder that refused to use the bureau's forum for mediation and arbitration. Considering that we will have meaningful complaint information (or lack thereof) on virtually all of these businesses, is it really wise to ignore the BBB as a source?
No, we are not the final word on customer experiences, but we are a fine place to start and maybe get a little bit of consumer information. Maybe that's not available in Edmond, Oklahoma, but it damn sure is here!
Dan Parsons, president
BBB of Metropolitan Houston, Inc.
Sit on It
Cut the crap: I can't even imagine writing 2,000 words about the "Chron's" editors [News Hostage, by Richard Connelly, July 11]. What is it with the Press? Have your writers nothing better to do than constantly criticize the "Chron," regardless of what it does or doesn't do?
So what if they have some columnists that suck -- so do you. You might just take a few pointers from the "Chron" and limit your sleaze to a few columns instead of half your paper.
Editor's note: You were imagining that much writing. Counting the headline, the column item contained only 456 words of sleaze.
Focus on the arts: One man's misfortune may be thousands of readers' good fortune.
It's great that Mr. Cohen is shaking things up at the Chronicle. I doubt the Hearst Corporation sent him here with a mandate to do nothing.
Now, if he'll only do something about making the fine arts area an aggressive and progressive journalistic leader.
Who knows? Maybe the Chronicle, with the seventh-largest daily circulation in the country, will become a great newspaper.
In the Bags
No CEP fan: Margaret Downing's latest story on Community Education Partners ["Million-Dollar Babies," June 27] confirms that CEP is a scumbag company enabled by scumbag politicians financed by scumbag governments.
It also confirms that public education reporting in the Houston Chronicle has been and remains journalistically incompetent, professionally corrupt and intellectually dishonest.
George H. Scott
Hey, Revere: Dismount!
No name shame: Brad Emmons ["The British Are Coming!" Letters, July 11] might be delighted to learn that the corporate name BP no longer indicates British Petroleum, and hasn't (officially) for well over a year now. When half your workforce worldwide is American, the name "British" might be construed as deceptive.
If BP stands for anything these days, it's feel-good stuff like "Big Progress": We're the largest solar-power company in the world and North America's biggest producer of clean-burning natural gas. The prideful Americans at BP were happy to be a part of Power of Freedom, and we're looking forward to just as big a party next year.
Yeah, there was some good-natured ribbing around the office. A Londoner commented, "We've reason to celebrate, too -- it's when we got rid of your lot."
As far as I'm concerned, BP is one of those low-key corporate good guys who don't get near enough recognition for the progressive stuff they do. It's enough to make this rabid liberal proud to be a BP employee.
L. A. Johnson
Texas terrors: The plight of Mr. Termine ["Med Check," by Jennifer Mathieu, July 4] reminded me of something an attorney friend in Dallas told me more than ten years ago, soon after I moved from San Diego to Houston: "Texas is 100 years behind the rest of the country; California is 100 years ahead. No wonder you're confused!" He was referring to the legal system, where who you know (and which judge your attorney has in his pocket) and how much money you spend for an attorney usually determine the course of child-custody cases -- not the best interests of the child.
I was appalled to discover that the same remark applied to indigent health care. I didn't receive dental care for more than five years and was forced to spend funds earmarked for my move (about $900) on a root canal out of fear that the infection would kill me before I'd get Medicaid coverage for it.
California supplements Medicaid; I'll get a much-needed crown for another tooth, which broke apart four years ago, through Medi-Cal. My husband survived a heart attack and two strokes but almost didn't survive the substandard health care he received through Medicaid.
John, your determination is admirable, but as they say in sports, a team can beat the other team, but not a (biased) ref. You've expended precious energy fighting Texas's backwardness that should have been used to fight your illness. Please see if Brett's company has a California office to which he could be transferred, or if he'll seek employment with a similar company here, and when you're well enough to travel, come to California. The differences will astound you.
Tamara T. Jessup
Improve mental health care: I enjoyed reading your article very much ["Common Cents," by Margaret Downing, June 20]. I found it well researched and provocative. I am delighted to see a journalist educate the general reader on the (usually) poor treatment of those with psychological disorders.
I have Bipolar I Disorder and had my first manic episode in New York in 1994, when I was 24. As if staying awake over three weeks and hallucinating weren't scary enough, my landlord (a psychiatrist) evicted me and my ex-husband backed him up. City emergency psychiatric ward doctors "diagnosed" me as schizophrenic and shot me full of Haldol, Thorazine, etc. My father eventually caught wind of what was happening and brought me back to Houston. He presented me to a good psychiatrist who bothered to run the usual tests before medicating. I haven't been in a hospital since.
But I'm one of the lucky ones. By the time I went psychotic, I already had my BA and a good-paying editing gig; I could afford one of the best psychiatrists in the city, as well as the medications, which run me over $1,000 a month. My insurance didn't -- and still doesn't -- acknowledge psychiatric disorders. But I was able to pay, and knew to stay on the meds, so I was able to keep working. (I considered taking my $500 a month, but even with $1,500 to $2,000 a month going to my psychological care, I was still doing better than I would have had I relied on Texas. As your article points out, you can't take care of shit on that kind of money.)
Several of my bipolar friends aren't doing as well. One is a professor, but he is rapid-cycling and therefore difficult to medicate. Another is in a creative writing program, but he compulsively self-mutilates. I don't think the third will make it too far into her thirties; she refuses the meds, drinks habitually and every year makes one or two suicide attempts (she favors cutting her throat). Compared to the people you wrote of, these aren't such extreme cases. All three of these people at least have money and family to rely on.
Bravo! I truly enjoyed "Common Cents," and I think the information you are disseminating is critical.
Name withheld by request
Justice or Racist?
Blatant bias: The letter writer negating racial bias in the Carlos Coy trial really steamed me ["South Park Fallout," Letters, July 11]. Ideally, we are one nation under God. However, one must wonder what rock the letter writer has been residing under if she thinks the powers that be have adopted this "moral clause."
I suggest that she seek an education in sociology if she's too blind and ignorant to see the wheels of racism steadily turning.
Shari C. Wright
Bad bureaucracy: One area not touched upon in John Nova Lomax's column was the potential effect the copyright law will have on new, young talent [Racket, July 4].
Before the monopolization and homogenization of commercial radio, independent recording artists could get airplay. They could walk their material into a radio station and, some abuses aside, could expect a fair shot at having a song or two played. Within the past few years it looked like Internet radio would take over that role.
It is my belief that the proposed fees are not applicable to indie-only broadcasts where permission is obtained to use the material. But my fear is that the copyright office will be influenced to set up an enforcement bureaucracy that will in effect harass broadcasters out of business. The result will be one fewer outlet for new talent.
Enough of the '80s: Thanks for the whitewash bullshit story on Houston's worst DJ, Mike Snow ["So Retro," by Craig D. Lindsey, July 11]. Once again you take one of the worst things about the downtown scene and try to put a good spin on it.
I have a larger selection of CDs between the seats of my car than he plays on any given Wednesday. I can set my watch by when he plays "Just Like Heaven" and Peter Murphy's "Cuts You Up" (which, by the way wasn't even in the '80s -- it was 1990). This situation is indicative of the problems with this city's music scene. Why are people still stuck in the '80s?
I know that this town is going to hell in a handbasket because of our dependency on the energy business (just like in the '80s), but why do we have to let our social scene go down the drain as well? Some clubs (like the late Metropol) have tried to start a new music revolution in this town, and now it's up to us to help move it along. Tell your local club promoter, "Enough with the '80s, let's hear something new!"
The July 11 feature "The Gong Show" reported on a Falun Gong practitioner in Houston and his family and their problems with the Chinese government because of their religious beliefs. To clarify and correct some points in the article: