Your June 15 article "Alaska's 'bridges to nowhere' " questioned the need for potential funding in the pending federal highway bill for projects in Alaska - the Knik Arm bridge and a bridge to connect Ketchikan with its island airport.
While citizens in Ketchikan have survived for decades by taking a ferry to their airport, there are times when wind storms, winter icing, and low tides make it impossible for the ferry to run. Ketchikan, Alaska's sixth-largest community, is not connected by road, so the airport is the main transportation link to the rest of the state and the lifeline in the event of medical emergency.
It is unfortunate, but true, that it costs more to engineer and build public infrastructure in America's only Arctic climate. But because it is clear that Alaska is going to remain a state with year-round residents, we should get on with the task of building the infrastructure that other states have enjoyed for decades.
US Sen. Lisa Murkowski
Mary Ruggie's June 30 opinion piece, "A third way to cut healthcare costs," was refreshing and timely. Alternative medicine's time has come. My small company was almost forced to close in 2002 because of healthcare costs, and we were forced to eliminate health insurance coverage as a benefit for our employees.
Most of my medical care for the past few years has been provided by alternative practitioners. I have found massage therapists, naturopathic physicians, medical intuitives, and energy healers who have provided these beneficial and effective services to be honest, courageous, and talented people.
Unfortunately, I think Ms. Ruggie is dreaming if she expects any support for alternative therapies to come from insurance companies. It's been my experience that insurance companies are about profit margins, not helping people heal. It would take multicompany self-insurance groups, as well as unified public demand, to bring alternative medicine into the mainstream and give it the prominence it deserves.
On the topic of healthcare costs, it is important for patients and legislators to keep their feet on the ground. Some so-called alternative therapies will be shown to work and will be adopted into medical practice, just as foxglove and quinine have been. Then they will no longer be "alternative." Distinguishing between forefront and fringe belongs to science, not politics or popular culture. It is useful to promote restraint by patients and doctors who make choices about expensive technology. It is not useful, however, to spread confusion by claiming that massage helps avoid lower back surgery, because these treatments deal with two very different groups of patients.
Cheap treatment is worthwhile only if it is shown to be better than no treatment at all. Let the buyer, and the voter, beware.
Kent Saltonstall, M.D.
Regarding your June 30 article "A shepherd's trials": It is such a delight to see an article that portrays a Roman Catholic prelate as more than a one-dimensional character. It is not easy being a Catholic Christian right now. Much of our pain has been self-inflicted and a small number among our leadership are trying to regain moral authority by comming down hard on politicians. Boston's Archbishop O'Malley, while conservative on the hot-button issues, truly has the heart of a pastor. A pastor listens first, then offers council.
Cape Coral, Fla.
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