September 27, 2013

Letters to the editor: Alleged Maine ties to violence overplayed

Reading the headlines surrounding the possible involvement of a Somali-American Maine resident in the bloody terror attack at a Nairobi, Kenya, shopping mall, one might think this is the first time that a Mainer has been linked to terrorism, but that would not be true.

click image to enlarge

A security officer helps a wounded woman Saturday outside a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, during an attack that left dozens of people dead. A reader criticizes the “overhyping” of allegations that a Somali-American Mainer was involved in the raid.

2013 File Photo/The Associated Press

In the 1970s, Sanford native and Vietnam veteran Raymond Levasseur was involved with a radical leftist group responsible for numerous bombings and bank robberies across the eastern U.S. Levasseur was so notorious, he made the FBI 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list in 1977.

In the 1990s, Lewiston native Michael Fortier offered aid and comfort to his Army buddies Oklahama City bombers Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

Despite knowing that right-wing extremists McVeigh and Nichols were planning to bomb a federal building housing a day care center full of children, Fortier kept his silence. Only testifying against his former comrades kept Fortier from a long prison sentence.

So we know that Maine is no stranger to political violence.

The overhyping of the Maine Somali community's alleged links to terrorists half a world away is not good for anyone, with the exception of those already poisoned by xenophobia and Islam phobia, who can now say smugly, "I told you so."

I'd ask those people that since both Fortier and Levasseur were Caucasians, Franco-Americans and veterans, should their conduct cause us to look with suspicion and hatred at our neighbors who might be one or all of those things?

The simple answer is: Of course not. The notion of that is laughable.

Then that same benefit of the doubt should apply to the Somali community as well. In a perfect world, it would.

Here and now, in this nation's seemingly permanent climate of ugly nationalism, sensationalism, ignorance and fear, I have my doubts.

Jeremy Smith

Old Orchard Beach

Biotechnology has key role in providing better foods

Avery Yale Kamila is back at the Portland Press Herald to continue her negative ranting about food biotechnology ("Natural Foodie: It's been a bumper year for anti-GMO action," Sept. 11). But to provide readers with a bit of balance on the subject, here's some of the rest of the story.

First, based on strong scientific evidence there is consensus among international scientific and governmental bodies that foods produced by biotechnology are as safe and pose no greater health risks than foods produced by conventional means, which we've been consuming for centuries.

Modern food biotechnology allows scientists to improve food traits and production practices with increased speed and precision.

For farmers, biotech crops can produce higher yields and require less land to produce the same amount of product. They can use fewer chemicals, such as pesticides and herbicides, while still maintaining healthy, high-yielding crops.

Also, drought-resistant biotech crops are coming to market that will survive longer periods of drought and allow growing in less arable areas.

For consumers, food biotechnology aids in growing more food for a burgeoning global population.

Also, nutritionally enhanced biotech foods are well along in development such as cooking oils with beneficial fatty acid profiles, fruits and vegetables with higher amounts of vitamins, minerals and protein; soy and peanuts with fewer allergens; and products that stay fresh longer (www.foodinsight.org).

Food biotechnology is an important tool in the continuing quest to find ways to feed our planet's 7 billion population, which is projected to reach 10 billion by 2050.

(Continued on page 2)

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