Robert Cott’s “Occupier’s expenses paid by the people they deride” (May 2) is about 1 percent accurate and 99 percent misleading.

First of all, his assumption that those occupying are on food stamps, public housing, use EBT cards, etc., is at best a malicious statement.

Maybe none of the occupiers are in the 1 percent.

But not all of them fall into the categorites that seem to be etching at Mr. Cott’s value system.

More critically, I Googled exactly what he did and, as he apparently did, I clicked on the first item in the list.

It was a posting by the Tax Foundation, a respected group. However, I read the entire report as I suspect Mr. Cott did not.

Mr. Cott cites “the top 1 percent of wage earners in American pay 37 percent of all taxes.” He italicized “all.”

However, the report he cited refers to 2009 data and it doesn’t say all taxes. The report is only on income tax paid.

To avoid restating a heap of other data noted in the Tax Foundation’s report, I’d like to cite just one: “During 2009, the bottom 95 percent (AGI under $154,643) paid 41.3 percent of the total collected, a larger share than the 36.7 percent paid by the top 1 percent (AGI over $343,947).”

So, Mr. Cott ought not have brought to light his cherry-picked piece of data on which he built an indefensible argument.

Mark Schwartz

South Portland

Students bring a vibrant presence to Biddeford

The opening of the University of New England’s student art show April 27 gave me a glimpse of what Biddeford could look like in the very near future. Throngs of students came downtown for an event and to support their classmates at … an art show!

Engine was very pleased to host art department chair Stephen Burt’s six students, who put a ton of work into curating and hanging their own show. I’d like to thank the students and also the faculty and administration at UNE for attending the event and supporting these young people.

I saw a ton of smiles on the faces of some wonderfully mature 20-somethings, and heard lots of positive comments about downtown Biddeford.

I met parents and grandparents. Some of them, I am sure, had dinner out in downtown Biddeford. Engine is simply building on the wonderful work that Mark Nahorney and the fine folks at the City Theater have been doing to attract students downtown.

Plenty of visual arts plus performing arts plus cultural heritage events make for a vibrant and healthy community. As we develop downtown and the mills, let’s keep the university — and our youth in general — in mind and look for opportunities to engage them in this renaissance.

Tammy Ackerman,

Engine executive director and coordinator, Biddeford ArtWalk


School administrators need to update views on Internet

The May 1 editorial, “Portland parents helped by school laptop limits,” betrays a deep misunderstanding of the way people use the Internet in 2012, and a disturbing hostility toward high school students.

I believe reactionary, ham-fisted policies like the broad filtering of school laptops at home stem from fear. If the Internet seems like a big, scary, dangerous unknown to school administrators, the answer is not to eliminate access to a huge chunk of it. It’s for those administrators to educate themselves and the students they serve to become savvier digital citizens.

If we removed all the books from our school libraries that seemed “dangerous” or “sexy” or weren’t explicitly educational, what would that look like? It would come dangerously close to censorship, and so does this policy.

I was laughing today at the irony of the school department’s implication that Facebook, for example, is purely for entertainment and serves no educational purpose. Looking at my Facebook wall, I saw posts from the Portland School Department, the Telling Room, Blunt Youth radio, my son’s high school and more — all aimed at informing kids about educational programs or events.

When I think about the many students in Portland whose only computers are their school laptops, it makes me angry. Having access to a computer in 2012 should not be an elite privilege. Like it or not, it’s become an educational necessity, and many of the sites that will be filtered — blogs, social networks, video streaming sites — should be part of that access.

Liz Woodbury


Chemical sensitivity disease increases with chemical use

May is MCS Awareness Month. If you’ve never heard of multiple chemical sensitivity, you’re not alone. I didn’t know about it until I started developing symptoms myself.

Multiple chemical sensitivity is a condition in which a person develops severe and debilitating symptoms from exposure to chemicals and fragrances. Some of the products that cause these reactions include perfume/cologne, fragranced laundry detergent, fabric softener and dryer sheets, fragranced soap/shampoo, tobacco/wood smoke, air fresheners and cleaning products made with harsh detergents, solvents or fragrances.

Multiple chemical sensitivity is increasingly prevalent in today’s society because we continually choose to manufacture our products and conduct our industries using incredibly hazardous chemicals. We continually choose convenience and the dollar bill over people and health. Multiple chemical sensitivity is caused by chronic exposure to these chemicals. There was no multiple chemical sensitivity before we began using them.

Many people with multiple chemical sensitivity become chronically ill and have to isolate themselves from friends, family and society to be well.

Although some people do recover, it takes an incredible amount of time, research, money and diligence to do so. Sadly, there have been many deaths and suicides as well.

Multiple chemical sensitivity is a societal disease — meaning it is man-made — and if we created it, we also have the power to put an end to it. Every person who stops using fragranced products is making a difference.

This is what it’s going to take. One by one, people have to start caring enough to make changes in their lives.

For many, these changes require very little effort, yet are incredibly large in effect.

Carrie Johnston