Letters to the Editor, Dec. 29

Dec. 28, 2013 @ 12:09 PM

Unaffordable approach on drug crimes

There is a light at the end of the tunnel when pundits like George Will and politicians like Rand Paul join forces with Eric Holder and President Barack Obama in condemning the way we handle drug use.  Several states have legalized the use of marijuana, yet we have folks still serving mandatory minimum sentences for this “crime” committed years ago. Even today, it is possible to get a life sentence without parole for repeated offenses of selling cocaine.  These are non-violent crimes.  

No other civilized nation on earth imprisons people at the level we do.  Only 5 percent of convictions are taken to trial.  The rest are plea bargained.  A plea bargain is a reward for not requiring court time to convict.  There is no recourse after you plead guilty even if you did so out of fear of an unfair conviction.  For the same crime and similar circumstances, some prosecutors will drop charges for people they think a jury will not convict, but take a case to trial when they think a jury will convict.  The difference is the racism in the jury box and in our system of justice.  Incarceration rates for black and Hispanic vs. white cannot be explained in any other way than to point to institutional racism, since drug use is consistent across racial lines.

Institutional racism also explains why so little is being done to support men released from prison and burdened with employment discrimination.

We can’t afford this expensive (and immoral) approach.  

Larry Bumgardner

Durham

Go vegan for New Year

With New Year’s resolutions just around the corner, consider the popular trend toward a healthy, eco-friendly, compassionate meat-free diet.

According to Harris Interactive, 47 percent of American consumers are reducing their consumption of animal products. USDA projects this year’s per capita chicken and beef consumption to drop by 8 percent and 17 percent, respectively, from their 2006 peaks. Similar dramatic drops are projected for pigs and turkeys. Milk consumption has fallen by a whopping 40 percent since 1970.

A number of celebrities are going vegan. They include Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Z and Beyonce. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, PayPal founder Peter Thiel and Twitter founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams are funding plant-based replacements for meat and eggs.

Fast-food chains like Subway and Chipotle are responding to the growing demand by rolling out vegan options. Taco Bell has found that 43 percent of conversations about meat were negative. The Baltimore, Los Angeles and San Diego school districts, serving more than a million meals a day, have adopted Meatless Mondays.

How about dropping animals from the menu for this New Year’s resolution? Entering "Meatout Mondays" in a search engine brings tons of useful recipes and transition tips.

Chris Pickens

Durham