SIDS not the only cause of infant deathI read with...

SATURDAY MAIL BOX

November 16, 1996

SIDS not the only cause of infant death

I read with interest the Oct. 29 article, "Grief, Guilt & SIDS," which concerned the controversy over "risk reduction" or "prevention" in regard to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. One aspect missing was that there are disorders other than sleep apnea that cause sudden infant death.

My niece's 6-month-old child died and doctors called it SIDS, but when her next infant was born, hospitals in the area had started performing routine screening for a metabolic disorder present among Lancaster County, Pa., Mennonites. This infant tested positive. And when they tested a sample of blood from the infant who had died, she did too.

Suddenly it all made sense, why and how she had died. Whether she had slept on her back or stomach was irrelevant. Her parents now knew what they needed to do to prevent death in this second child.

If my niece and her husband had moved from the area, their second child would not have been subject to this routine testing and they would never have learned of the cause of their first child's death. If the same circumstances that led to the death of the first child had been replicated for the second child, he, too, would have died.

A word of advice is that any parents who both come from a small, homogenous cultural or ethnic group should learn if their home county is doing any specific screening of newborns for particular disorders.

Martha Miller-Varisco

Baltimore

Use $100 bills to nab drug dealers

I realize this letter is too little too late, but I wonder if our power elite is really serious about the drug problem in this country. They missed the best, cheapest opportunity to put a crimp in the illegal drug trade.

With the issuance of a new $100 bill, it seems to me the easiest way to hamper drug trafficking (along with other illegal enterprises) would have been to put a ''sunset'' order on the old bills. As the U.S. $100 bill is the most widely circulated currency in the world, with a six-month deadline drug lords, both within the U.S. and without, would be hard-pressed to exchange them all without arousing suspicion. U.S. law requires banks to record cash transactions of more than $10,000.

Could it be that too many of that power elite derive a significant source of their income from both the drug trade and other illegal activities?

And, more importantly, why is it that no one in the federal government thought of this; and if they did, why wasn't it implemented?

The purported rationale behind the new Franklin bill was to discourage counterfeiters. I think the republic has much more to fear than people with sophisticated copiers. While we spend millions on ineffectual drug ''interdiction,'' we ignore the easiest, least expensive opportunity in years. Other countries have done this repeatedly. Even the television series M*A*S*H* did a show on it, so it isn't rocket science.

Treasury Department, Justice Department, DEA, FBI -- why not?

Richard Liebno

Reisterstown

Creation of new species has yet to be observed

In his Nov. 6 letter attempting to explain relationships, Tim Cliffe asserted that ''ancient apes are the ancestors of both modern humans and modern apes . . . in exactly the same way . . . (that) my great-grandparents are the ancestors of both me and more distant relatives.''

Not exactly. Mr. Cliffe has overlooked a big difference. Somewhere in the hypothetical ancestral chain, parents belonging to pre-existing species A had to produce offspring belonging to new species B. There had to be at least one fertile pair of such offspring. There had to be a strong barrier to interbreeding between the pre-existing species, and the new species.

While the body of circumstantial evidence that modern humans and apes had a common ancestor is very large and compelling, the fact remains that the mechanism of speciation -- the emergence of a new species from a pre-existing species -- has not yet been established. A speciation event has not yet been observed. Although most knowledgeable scientists (including me) believe that speciation is a fundamental biological phenomenon, there is no tested, proven model of it.

Genetic selection, which changes the frequency of genes in the gene pool within a species, has been well documented in both the laboratory and the field.

The Darwinian concept of natural selection can be thought of as a hypothetical extreme version of genetic selection, which somehow results in a new species -- a self-propagating population with a qualitatively different set of genes from those found in the pre-existing species. And those genes produce an extensive number of characteristics that distinguish the new species from the pre-existing species.

There has been a lot of speculation about how natural selection might produce a new species from a pre-existing species, but none of these speculations on speciation has yet been verified experimentally.

Philip Filner

Owings Mills

There is a lesson in PTP employment

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