November 6, 2006

The Autism Clause
Your article on the battles between parents of autistic children and the New York City Board of Education brought up some interesting points [“The Autism Clause,” by Alyssa Katz, October 30], but because you left out one important factor, you seemed to create bias against the schools and parents. As the parent of a child with autism, I have been told over the years that the Board of Ed is unable to grant me the services I’m requesting for my child. Apparently my demands are appropriate, but the Board provides the services only when sued for them. In other words, if the Board of Ed turns down all 1,000 children needing specialized services, and then loses, say, 250 cases that are brought against it, it would still cost less. It saddens me for the kids whose parents are unable to fight for their rights.
—V. Harris, Manhattan

To End All Diets
I read “The Fast Supper” [by Julian Dibbell, October 30] with interest. There is another group that practices a more moderate and more doable version of Calorie Restriction—we are a CR support group on Yahoo with almost 2,500 members and growing. We believe that a BMI that ranges between 18 and 22 is healthier than an extremely low one. There are many side effects to low BMIs. Sex drive, which you mentioned, is one; some others are constantly feeling cold, discomfort when sitting, persistent hunger, irritability, and depression. With these side effects, life will seem long indeed. We believe CR need not be extreme to gain the benefits of better health and a longer life. t. francesca skelton, Washington, D.C. just because you are going to live forever does not mean it is worth it. Your article was truly frightening. These people are starry-eyed, delusional, and starving themselves so that they can live to see some questionable future where they will always be hungry. A life not lived in full is a life not lived at all.
—Kristen Konzet, Valley Stream, N.Y.

I am an internist struggling with an overwhelming wave of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in my patients. Whole days go by when I do not see a woman weighing less than 200 pounds or a man weighing less than 250. There is a pervasive sense of hopelessness in these people, coupled with the childlike belief that medical science can remedy all ills (who needs a healthy lifestyle when you have Zocor?). Rigorous approaches like CR do not have a prayer of gaining any sort of popularity until American society grows up and starts taking responsibility for itself.
—Nancy Somer, Maplewood, N.J.

We are appalled by this cover article. To glorify a diet that virtually starves you and could well lead to the most deadly disease afflicting young women, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa: What a travesty. How about a story on building self-esteem? Eating disorders are “body-control experiments” that go terribly wrong.
—Hazel and Arnold L. Manheimer, Manhattan

Let the supermodels exist on coffee, cigarettes, and watercress. It is pitiful that in a world where millions of people are starving by no choice of their own, there exists a group of self-serving individuals whose main goal is to reproduce such conditions in their fashionable Soho apartments. I suggest a one-way plane ticket to Somalia, Afghanistan, or Haiti so that they can truly experience what it means to be hungry beyond one’s control.
—Alberto Gancitano, Crompond, N.Y.

Good Words
someone has to say it: Maura B. Jacobson is the best crossword editor in the country, and that includes Will Shortz [“Crossword”]. Her mastery of theme is exemplary. How she devises such wonderfully idiotic topics and finds the words to complete them is wondrous indeed.
—Nancy Kovel Dedera, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Figures in “The Imperial City: Vanity Kills,” by Kurt Andersen (October 30), based on the L.A. Times’ media kit, suggest the paper’s college-graduate readership is 19 percent. Scarborough Research puts the figure at 38 percent. A comparable figure for the New York Times is 69 percent.

November 6, 2006