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Forum, June 22: Obamacare: Fear of Snakes; Exchange Students

The Real Scoop on Obamacare

To the Editor:

I suspect that any British citizen who might Google any one of our daily newspapers in the U.S. on any given day would find many front-page articles damning our health care system, our economy and, given the frequency of gun attacks in our schools and communities, the general security of American life.

What must they think? Having read the May 22 edition of Britain’s daily Independent, which contained two articles deriding their National Health Service (NHS), John R. Lohmann (“Trouble With National Health,” June 18) warns New Hampshire voters not to vote for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Annie Kuster in November, lest they lead us down the road to an American version of the NHS.

Shaheen and Kuster do, indeed, support the Affordable Care Act, the forward-thinking, responsible and, for the most part, cost-saving national health system, which is the shining piece of legislation of the Obama administration. The ACA was modeled after the Massachusetts Health Plan, designed and implemented under the gubernatorial leadership of Republican Mitt Romney. My life experience has taught me that any new system as extraordinary as the U.S. Social Security System or as quotidian as a new bus route for a local school needs time to work out all of the bugs, the unforeseen glitches that any new design develops. The ACA is an extraordinary new system, which has brought change to this country, much of it for the good of all of us. It seems shortsighted and partisan to damn it and its supporters at its birth.

So, yes, do remember both Shaheen and Kuster when you enter the voting booth in November and give them a big thumbs up for their vision and responsible leadership by voting to keep them in office. And, as Mr. Lohmann ponders, if they should need health care, I think they’ll do just fine right here in the United States.

Judy McCarthy


Fear of Snakes Is Groundless

To the Editor:

Snakes are one of the most misunderstood creatures on the planet. According to recent research, 60 million years ago, the first primates evolved in the African jungle to fear snakes. Fat-bodied vipers were common and deadly; avoiding them was critical to the survival of our earliest ancestors.

That adaptation has been passed on from generation to generation, species to species, which arguably explains the reason for our present-day fear of snakes. There are 11 different snake species in Vermont. Only one is poisonous: the timber rattlesnake, which is found in small populations in the mountains bordering New York and rarely encountered.

There are no poisonous snakes in the Upper Valley. There is no need to fear or harm snakes here. Snakes are a benefit to our ecosystems, even to our health. Large milk snakes in the Upper Valley prey on rodents. Rodents carry pathogens. For example, the white-footed mouse is the principal reservoir host for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. In the Upper Valley, milk snakes help control the population of white-footed mice.

Scientists from the University of Maryland determined that the average adult timber rattlesnake eliminates between 4,000 and 6,000 black-legged ticks (the vector for Lyme disease) a year by feeding on mice and shrews. In the Upper Valley, an adult milk snake occupies a similar small mammal-eating niche. Both species prey primarily on white-footed mice.

Healthy snake populations are part of healthy ecosystems, and we get the added benefit of reduced cases of Lyme disease. In the immortal words of John Lennon, the next time you cross paths with a snake, “let it be.”

Jordan Levin

Environmental Science Class, Hanover High School

Warm Regards From Vermont

To the Editor:

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge some remarkable exchange students who were part of our community this year: Alice Hedman from Sweden (Barnard and Brownsville), Benjamin Nieto from Spain (Brownsville), Jasmine Behren from Germany (South Pomfret) and Justice Magere from Kenya (Sharon). These students arrived in Vermont in the fall as PAX exchange students.

They had smiling faces, full of excitement and trepidation, and were eager to embark on a journey that would alter the course of their lives. Equipped with courage, strength, determination and the love and support of their host families and community, these students learned to navigate a new culture, new school and new family while simultaneously learning to master a new language. Along the way they touched the hearts of many people. I am one of them.

I had the privilege of being their local PAX coordinator and witness to their personal growth and transformation. They will take some of the magic they experienced in Vermont back to their native countries. I thank all of you who played a part in their success — host families, students, guidance counselors, teachers, friends, parents, coaches — by opening your doors and hearts and making them feel welcome in our community. I believe these programs are the antidote to the fear and hatred that dominates our media. I believe these programs can make the world a better place — one person, one family, one community at a time. This is why I love my work.

I have already begun my search for special families in our community eager to open their hearts and homes to a PAX exchange student for next school year. I would be delighted to speak with anyone interested in becoming a PAX host family.

Molly Keating