"More than DNA is needed to make a human being." -Gregory Mayer

Spend on human needs

Why is it easier for us to wash cold, hard, lifeless stone than to bathe a flesh-and-blood fellow human being?

A recent news story revealed that taxpayers are spending $5.3 million to wash the outside of the Capitol building. The scrubbing of granite has evoked no cries of protest from any elected or appointed leader, and apparently poses no threat to tax relief.

Contrast this with what transpired in passing a $9 million bill to care for Wisconsin's low-income disabled and elderly. The state's recent increase in reimbursement for personal care services came only after 10 years of neglect by the state, five years of lobbying by a broad grassroots network of patients, families, care providers and small advocacy groups, and more than 100 home care providers went out of business in a three-year span. For years, we were told that there simply was no money to spend on this care, and that every extra dime was going to tax relief. Passage of the bill involved stalls, denials, legislative floor fights, parliamentary tricks, political maneuvering and some harsh words. It required two hard-working champions, Rep. Mark Meyer and Sen. Rod Moen, to stand alone, offering committed, passionate leadership and to endure significant political heat. After the bill -- which amounted to .0003 percent of the state's Medicaid budget -- passed, it and its supporters were immediately subjected to criticism, accusations and threats.

We all should wonder, "Why? What are our priorities?" And when the politicians come asking for our money and votes, we should ask: "What's more important to you, clean rocks or healthy people?"

Russell King

President and Executive Director

Wisconsin Homecare Organization

Genome breakthrough

The near completion of the Human Genome Project is a notable scientific achievement (news article, June 27). Several things should be kept in mind, however, while this event is justly celebrated. First, a genome is not a blueprint. A blueprint is a two-dimensional scale representation of a three dimensional object: It shows that the window should be so big and this far away from the door.

The genome is rather more like a recipe: If you get the right ingredients, mix them in the right order and amounts, and put them in the right environment (e.g. an oven), you get a loaf of raisin bread. Just as there isn't a line in the recipe about the raisin in the upper left corner of the third slice, there isn't a gene for your chin. Rather, lots of genes working together in the right environment result in a chin.

The second thing to keep in mind follows from the first: Few diseases are caused by a "gene." Most diseases, in fact, are caused by the invasion of the body by another organism (bacteria, viruses, protozoa). Our susceptibility and resistance to disease may often have a genetic basis, but these too are usually the result of multiple genes in interaction with the environment. Even when a disease does have a singular genetic cause, finding the gene does not necessarily lead easily to treatment or prevention (e.g. cystic fibrosis).

Finally, while the Human Genome Project has generated a vast amount of data, it is not a conceptual breakthrough. A good analogy is found in the history of astronomy. Johannes Kepler made and compiled a mass of information on planetary positions, from which he derived his laws of planetary motion. These laws were merely unexplained regularities, however, until Isaac Newton introduced the concepts and principles (notably gravity) needed to explain them.

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In the case of genomes, the central explanatory principle is evolution, evident in the wreckage of former genes, the great similarities across organisms, and the trail of modifications and duplications traceable in their sequences. While we may expect genomic data to lead to important augmentations to evolutionary theory, evolution per se has been known for over a century and we need not wait for another Newton for its discovery. The genome project has been carried out by the Keplers, not the Newtons, of biology.

More than DNA is needed to make a human being. Sequencing a human genome tells us only a little about what it is to be human. It is not the end, nor even the beginning, but an important step along the way.

Gregory Mayer

4020 Kinzie Ave.

Caledonia needs bus

This is in regard to last the article concerning the No. 10 bus ending its scheduled route in Caledonia.

The Caledonia Town Board is ending a service with a route and schedule for Laidlaw on call system. Caledonia now has a post office on 4 Mile Road, Green Tree Shopping Center and two medical clinics. The No. 10 bus is used by Racine residents to shop, visit at Siena Center, get to jobs and return home. It also serves youths going into Racine and home.

This service went into effect approximately 20 years ago. It took four years of petitions, meetings and hard work by a group of caring, dedicated people. I have heard how good it will be for seniors to have door to door service in bad weather, also how Caledonia is becoming a two- and three-garage community. Well, pardon me! Not everyone has two or three cars with big, luxurious homes. Some people have moderate homes and one car. These people could use a bus with a schedule. The cost of Laidlaw will be higher for the rider. The No. 10 bus is not perfect with its hookup with buses at Shorecrest. It could have had the scheduling improved.

The Caledonia board's favorites are not in the best interests of everyday working people. The bus was established for everyone: young, old, families, handicapped, etc. Laidlaw will not run past 7 p.m. on Saturday and not run at all on Sundays.

This decision by Caledonia's board is sad for the residents of the east side of Caledonia.

Shirley Dandeneau

4330 N. Green Bay Road

280 words.

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