Risky Business

Ten and injured: The story on youth football was insightful and informative, but it forgot to mention the most damaging effects on children ["Tough Guys," by Daniel Kramer, November 9]. My son, who is ten years old, received a mild concussion on September 16. Two months later, he still suffers from a debilitating concussion, with headaches from morning to night. He can only attend one class a day at school, because as he says, "I feel like my head is going to explode." It seems there is nobody with answers for us -- not neurologist, psychologist or neuropsychologist. Our family unit is suffering from lack of support and places to turn to. Hopefully, our son will recover sooner rather than later, but nobody knows anything about post-concussion syndrome apparently. I love football and so does my son, but if I knew what I know now, he would not have played.

Michelle Guzman




An omission: First of all, I'd like to commend reporter Steven Devadanam for recognizing the hard work that goes into high school sports broadcasting ["Making the Call," November 9]. However, I'd like to know how he could write a story on the popularity of high school sports broadcasting without mentioning High School Sports Live, which airs every Friday night at 11 p.m. on Channel 55, and at 6 p.m. Saturdays through Mondays. High School Sports Live was created by sportscaster Todd Freed and has been on the air for the past six years. It covers all kinds of high school sports (football, basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball) for both males and females. As of last week, an incredible play by high school football player Sam McGuffie, captured by the crew at H.S. Sports Live, had received 6,000 hits on YouTube. A penalty on Devadanam and his editor for the omission.

Loli de Llano

Backyard Blues

Get a guild: The NIMBY article is indicative of a general trend in this country: People are more willing to go to the authorities and make their problems political problems than they are to handle them themselves ["Bad Vibrations"," by John Nova Lomax, November 2]. Some of the venue operators interviewed mentioned that people may have personal reasons for wanting to shut down a venue, whether it's related to the venue or the event being held there. While I agree that there are such drama queens (and lament their hateful ways), I believe that in a broader sense, people are simply unwilling to try dealing with other people, since our systems of governance, from the federal government down to the city and even corporate levels (ever get called in on a petty complaint to HR?), are simply too interested in being involved in any sort of conflict. In fact, it is the creation of conflict that often allows politicians to gain office.

Divisiveness and accusation are the tools of our politicians and the systems they create, so how can we expect their laws to be any different? Of course they're going to write a law that pits individuals against organizations -- what easier way to cause drama than to allow some tight-fisted, red-faced blowhard to run roughshod over a scene which, for the most part, operates for the love of community and creativity?

The only way to combat this divisive system is to set up a guild to politically represent the interests of the various nightlife areas in Houston. San Francisco had to do the same thing when the dot-com boom pulled a bunch of sorry cultural nonparticipants into the city, who then proceeded to complain about the very things that made the city what it is. The SF Late Night Coalition (www.sflnc.com) was created to represent the interests of culture-creators, interest-generators and the venues that made the creation and consumption of art possible.

In this country, we have a right to face our accusers, but the cost of doing so is very high. Spread the cost out across the community under attack, and we'll be able to afford a real defense (and maybe even get some respect from the city!).

Conor Todd

Oh, God!

Betraying atheists: I am a member of a prominent atheist organization that resides within the Seventh Congressional District, where Democrat Jim Henley is challenging John Culberson, the incumbent Republican. I wondered about your article's claim that Henley is not the traditional Democratic "clone" of Bill Archer or John Culberson, who runs in this District ["Getting Schooled," by Rich Connelly, November 2]. The West University paper has characterized Henley as being as conservative as Culberson on hot-button political issues. Then, your paper reiterated a grievous point already made about Henley: It states that he was -- and probably still is -- a devout Southern Baptist minister. Of course a Democratic candidate flaunting Christianity in this District will go over well with the Republican voters, who are all devout Christians.

Unfortunately, Henley, the Democrat, then represents the Christian ministry that is directly responsible for the vicious harassment and persecution of atheists in America and for the horrifically brutal murders of the three Murray O'Hairs, founders of the American Atheists. Thus, during early voting, I did not vote for either of these two Christian bigots, since neither Henley nor Culberson is of any use to atheists. The Democratic Party in the Seventh District should be ashamed of itself for climbing into the bed with the Texas Republican Party on the issue of making America a "Christian Iron-Curtain Country -- One Nation Under the Iron Rule of Jesus Christ."

Henning Fernstrom

Cruel Intentions

More than she can stomach: The methods used to turn duck and goose livers into the "delicacy" known as pt de foie gras are anything but delicate ["Montrose Vindaloo," by Robb Walsh, October 12]. Foie gras is a French term meaning "fatty liver," and it is produced by force-feeding birds.

The ducks and geese force-fed for foie gras are compelled to consume much more high-energy food -- mostly corn -- than they would eat voluntarily. This damages their liver and often kills them.

The Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Welfare for the European Union found many examples of abuse as a result of force-feeding, including:

Birds are routinely confined to small cages or crowded pens.

Birds are force-fed tremendous amounts of feed via a 12-to-16-inch plastic or metal tube, which is shoved down their throats and attached to a pressurized pump.

The force-feeding may be performed twice daily for up to two weeks for ducks, and three to four times daily for up to 28 days for geese.

Force-feeding causes the liver to increase in size about six to ten times compared to the normal size for a bird.

Increased liver size forces the abdomen to expand, which makes moving difficult and painful. An enlarged abdomen increases the risk of damage to the stretched tissue of the lower part of the esophagus.

Force-feeding results in accumulated scar tissue in the esophagus.

The liver can be easily damaged by even minor trauma.

Ducks and geese are social animals who suffer when confined in individual cages. The confinement also can lead to lesions of the sternum and bone fractures, as well as foot injuries from the cage floors. Ducks and geese also suffer when they're not allowed enough water to swim and preen, which they do naturally in the wild.

Originally, all foie gras came from France, but now the United States has gotten into this cruel niche industry. Next time you go into a store or restaurant that sells foie gras, please let them know that a product that comes from force-feeding ducks and geese is more than you can stomach.

Kerri Milam

The Joke's on Us

America is Kazakhstan: I went and saw Borat opening day, and while I heard a lot of people laughing, I'm not sure if they got the joke ["On the Road," by J. Hoberman, November 2]. They were amused at what he was doing, but not what he was thinking. The film really shows us that while a lot of Americans have come a long way, there are still a lot of us who haven't. America through Borat's eyes is the Kazakhstan that he is from, if you think about it and watch the film.

Marvin Campos

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