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We (heart) Rats

Posted 10/25/2006

Chris Landers' article about rats ("Rats," Oct. 18) made me sick to my stomach--but not because I'm squeamish about rats. They're harmless enough. In fact, they're cleaner and friendlier than some of the people I've come in contact with in the city! (And if you think rats are about to take over the human race, you've been watching to many cheesy horror movies.) What I find disgusting and scary are the barbaric methods some people use to "control" rat populations--poisons, glue traps, rat fishing, etc.

While something needs to be done to control the rat population, we shouldn't resort to murder. We don't bump off people in New York, India, China, or other overpopulated places, after all. Improved sanitation, as Jason Morgan says, is the only civilized, effective way to reduce rat populations. Keep your garbage in tightly sealed containers, and don't leave food out in the open or in cardboard containers, which rats can eat right through. Keep your storage areas neat so that rodents won't seek shelter among them. If you do find a rat in your home, don't be cruel. Use live traps from Havahart ([800] 800-1819) or check for other humane solutions.

Katie Moore

What a miserable lot you at City Paper are to take such glee and one-sidedness in reporting on the killing of rats. Killing rats may seem funny to you very important overachieving investigative reporters at the weekly paper, but to the rats who feel pain and fear, who suffer when they rip their skin off or suffocate as they are stuck to hideously cruel glue traps, it is terrifying and excruciating.

People who take pleasure in killing any animals--be they rats, fish, kittens, or puppies--have had some dangerous numbing of their hearts, either that or they are simply spineless and too afraid to take their violent tendencies out on someone their own size. That's a shame because I'm sure there are plenty of decent people who would enjoy the invitation to have a go at them.

Anna Pennington

The rats article by Chris Landers was well-written and well-researched. It was, however, quite one-sided, leaning heavily on the side of rat eradication. Rats are, after all, one of God's creatures and have a purpose in the universe. Clearly, God intended rats to provide a small degree of control over the growth of human population--an objective that any sane person would embrace.

It would be good if you could try to achieve a little better balance in your paper in the future.

Mike Barnes

Editor Lee Gardner responds: We always try to be as balanced as possible, but the rats contacted for our story declined to comment.

Rat Patrol

Through negligence, the city itself is at least 75 percent to blame for our sizable rat infestation. Yet, there are two major, not too difficult steps the city can take to dramatically improve the situation.

It can be much more rigorous in enforcing its own garbage-handling codes, and it can empower its solid waste department to be a lot more proactive in helping keep the city's alleys clean. All solid waste collection crews must be equipped with push brooms and wide-mouth shovels for picking up refuse spilled from split-open plastic bags. It's a pathetic sight, but to its credit, the crew in my Waverly alley sometimes kicks spilled mess into a pile and picks it up by hand. It boggles the mind that the solid waste department did not decades ago think to equip its crews with brooms and shovels for such situations, which must occur daily in great numbers.

Going a step further, solid waste crews must be empowered to issue on-the-spot code violation warnings and citations. Being up close and personal with garbage code violations on a daily basis, they are best positioned to call them to account. So that the crews can keep a record of the residences and businesses they've cited, each city residence and business should be required by law to post its street number on the rear of its property. Such postings would probably facilitate the work of the police and fire departments, as well.

Your article states "the city can only do so much." In my opinion, there is much, much more the city can start to do right now to significantly reduce its rat population.

Herman M. Heyn

Granite Headboards

Photographer Frank Klein captured a moment that anyone walking down Pratt Street could see (Untitled Image, Oct. 11). This is unfortunate. Concrete mattresses and granite headboards are found everywhere in downtown Baltimore. The man in Mr. Klein's photo must know that there is an immense amount of empty space behind the wall he was resting by. We all know there are hundreds of boarded-up houses and unused buildings that a homeless person would be happy to sleep in. The people we throw away begin to pollute the streets, not because they are dirty but because they exemplify a horrible tendency. We tend to waste. Our society wastes food, space, and lives. Frank Klein's picture reminds us, without words being spoken, that we need to convene and think of some ways to fight homelessness. It is a challenge, but it is necessary for this city and society to become engaged in this struggle to value all lives.

Terrence Gooden

Tweak That Diagnosis

"Twas" a great oversight by Daniel M. Perrine in his response to the "Speed Bump" article ("Meth Acting?," The Mail, Oct. 11) to completely disregard amphetamine-induced psychotic disorder (DSM-IV 292.11) in his (patently dismissive) analysis of interviewee "Matthew" and his experience with crystal methamphetamine. Amphetamine-induced psychotic disorder, a condition resulting from "binge" and/or protracted use of amphetamine, can include delusions, hallucinations, or thought disorder symptoms. Consumption of crystal methamphetamine consistently over a five-day period (as described in the article) meets the criteria for "protracted use." Consequently, the idea that "Matthew" had difficulty recalling the events of that week is entirely plausible. Unfortunately, Mr. Perrine's lack of clinical insight doesn't end there--as he fails to consider amphetamine intoxication delirium (DSM-IV 292.81) as a factor. Amphetamine intoxication delirium is characterized (in part) by impaired cognitive functioning, one distinct symptom being "disorientation and memory loss."

Additionally, it's worth noting that the term "blackout" (its use criticized in Perrine's analysis) never appeared in the article to describe "Matthew's" experience. One can only assume Perrine conjured it up to further his (myopic) assessment of one person's experience. (Or perhaps Mr. Perrine washed down his analysis with a quart of vodka?)

As the outreach coordinator for Maryland's only crystal methamphetamine-focused prevention and education program, it really pains me to know that in this day and age, we continue to blame the addict; in this case by calling into question the validity of his claims. Regardless of the verbiage, it was the true story of one person's battle with addiction. And dismissing a very real emerging public health crisis as "hysterical BS" doesn't add anything useful to the discussion--nor does it serve any greater "social good." I don't know about Mr. Perrine, but as long as there's even one "Matthew" out there, in my opinion, we have a problem. And we need to respond in a supportive fashion--not only as individuals but also as a community.

Quick history lesson: In the mid-'80s, this same discussion was occurring over another emerging "street drug." Numbers failed to support the label of epidemic, and some even figured Baltimore was not at risk--on many levels, we refused to believe the hype. Sound familiar? That drug was crack cocaine. Hysterical BS, right?

John Flannery
PnP Project, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
Ellicott City

Diverse--to a Point

The Boy Scouts of America position statement on diversity states, "The BSA respects the rights of people and groups who hold values that differ from those encompassed in the Scout Oath and Law . . . ," blah blah blah ("On His Honor," Mobtown Beat, Oct. 11).

Oh, no, wait . . . that is of course unless you happen to be gay.

Richard Crystal

Support the Phillabaumer

What is a woman's purpose on this earth outside of her vagina's function to replenish the earth with human statistics of being dead or alive?

In my opinion, Lacy Phillabaum's youth afforded her the ability to seek the truth and to try as best she could to preserve truthfulness in a world that is a divine gift for humankind ("Burning Words," Mobtown Beat, Oct. 11). I believe Lacy Phillabaum sought a single purpose in life, and that was a civic cause to right the wrongs "white businessmen" were doing (and continue to rape the resources of the planet) to destroy this beautiful earth and nature's treasure chest of trees.

As I see it, journalists do have dual interests in their lives. They should report the news, but on their private time journalists should try to correct the problems in the world that become visible to a reporter and to readers of a newspaper.

I applaud editor Lee Gardner for allowing Lacy Phillabaum to work at City Paper. Mr. Gardner hired Ms. Phillabaum in the time zone that he found her, not a convicted ecoterrorist as he saw her. It is an act of self-preservation that prevents all of us from revealing our past. When people do reveal their past deeds (good or bad), they are discriminated against by individuals who exercise judge and jury intentions.

As an Afrocentric feminist, I discovered early on in my life a divine gift. I was born with the gift of "sight and touch"--a blessing that can clean or destroy. In my childhood, I discovered when people did something to me, they received terrible bad deeds or trouble for harming me. I do not have a trifling spirit in me. God is protecting me.

I can tell you that editor Lee Gardner is a good white people, but he has people around him at City Paper who want to get rid of him as editor of the paper. People in Baltimore City and elsewhere would like to get rid of Lee Gardner, but their deeds will be revealed to all. Lee Gardner's body is full of light, and prayers of women in his family are protecting him.

Personally, I do not blame Lee Gardner or CP managing editor Erin Sullivan for allowing Lacy Phillabaum to work at City Paper. Let it go. Ms. Phillabaum will survive in federal prison. She will be divinely protected in federal prison.

As I see it, we women of the world must venture out of ourselves, and change the circumstances in our communities and in all places in the earth. There is a price we will have to pay for doing deeds that must be done. If we women do not help save the planet and all the people in it, we will become endangered women, and the fire next time will consume us. I ask that my relatives in the Caribbean regions to fumy the cooking pots with particles from the earth.

Larnell Custis Butler

Box 'Em!

I'd like to comment on the unavailability of The Examiner in boxes in downtown Baltimore ("The Life Un-Examiner-ed," The Mail, Oct. 11; "Can't Stop, Won't Stop, Mobtown Beat, Sept. 27). I am an avid reader of The Examiner. I particularly like being able to read the entire paper during my lunch hour. However, I'd better make sure I get my copy in Harford County before I board the commuter bus to work, because by the time I get downtown, the boxes are empty. This is because The Examiner's newspaper people take the papers and distribute them to pedestrians and drivers. I think writer Michael Weese has a valid idea suggesting that unwanted home delivery papers be put in the boxes. I hope management takes note.

Delane Morris

Correction: Rochester Institute of Technology professor Christine Keiner is not working on a book about Baltimore's Rodent Ecology Project, as was reported in last week's cover story ("Rats," Oct. 18). She is working on an extended article about the topic.

Also, the comic strip identified as TNT by Vander L. Young Jr. in the fifth annual Comics Contest (Comics Issue, Oct. 11) was actually Work Place by Teon Reynolds. City Paper regrets the errors.

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