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It would take something really bad to make me have any sympathy for Gary Bauer, but Dan Savage's piece on him ["Stalking Gary Bauer," Feb. 9] managed to achieve that. I guess I've read a more puerile and silly newspaper article on a candidate before, but I can't remember when.

Aside from being poorly written and laden with clichés and grammatical errors, it purported to celebrate as clever and subversive a blatantly immoral act: Savage's efforts to spread his flu germs among Bauer and his campaign helpers by licking door knobs and handing out slobber-laden pens. What is the moral difference between those acts and physical assault?

They may have been Savage's best effort at political activism, but bragging about them will only increase support for the efforts of Bauer and other members of the far right to repress gays. Can The Independent not find better quality material than this?

What a perfectly inane and senseless article by Dan Savage about Gary Bauer. We are not Bauer fans and consider ourselves liberals, but we found Savage's description of attempting to give others his flu dreadful. Moreover, his pretense in order to obtain this story was degrading for a journalist.

Editor's note: After we reprinted his story, which originated in the online magazine salon.com, Dan Savage responded to a barrage of criticism, telling The Associated Press that he did not actually try to spread flu germs to Gary Bauer when he volunteered for Bauer's Iowa campaign. Had we known this, we would not have printed the story in the form it appeared in our news section. The Independent apologizes to readers who were misled by Savage's story.

I thought John Manuel's story, "Where Did the Trees Go?" [Feb. 2], was very informative. I have witnessed the deforestation of many other counties in North Carolina in recent years. The sight of clear-cutting is ugly, and I see more of it on my drives than ever before.

I have come to one conclusion that the article didn't mention: The demand for wood products will never abate if the populations of this country and state continue to grow. I have met many people who have moved to North Carolina to get away from the crowded Northeast and California. Clear-cutting will continue until the root cause of the demand is addressed.

I would like to see Manuel write an article addressing the origins of the demand for wood products and suggesting some solutions--such as zero population growth.

First of all, let me thank you for your consistent efforts in publishing such an interesting, informative paper. In particular, I must laud the work of your best writer, Derek Jennings. The column titled "Black to the Future" [Feb. 24] was one of his best pieces yet. Jennings' writing is always fresh, distinct, clear, poignant and full of feeling. How lucky we are to have such a great, forward-thinking writer here in the Triangle.

I was stunned by his statistic that of the 14 million AIDS-related deaths our world has experienced, a staggering 11 million were Africans.

The tone of Jennings' column was a positive one. By acting now, we are affecting the history that our children will be studying. I am not a black man; I am a white Republican who appreciates free and progressive thought.

Regarding "The right to health" [Front Porch, Feb. 9], the citizens of this country already have the right to health care, contained in the U.S. Constitution. Recall that the people are granted all the rights and responsibilities--and any not explicitly delegated by the people to the federal government remain with the people. The Constitution does not give the people the right to compel others to provide and fulfill their "rights," however; that's called theft.

Suppose health care becomes a constitutional right. Who will be responsible for fulfilling such a right? Might the implied legislative solution empower the government to imprison, fine or execute doctors whose prices are too high? Or perhaps establish wage and price controls? Or have the governor declare a state of emergency and use the National Guard to take over the health-care system?

I think it's obvious that all of these legislative solutions would cripple health care for a very long time. Imagine the forms, procedures, courts, clerks and buildings required for government to manage health care in North Carolina. Imagine the state taxes necessary to pay for it. Imagine people who need health care moving to this state to claim their rights. We would not have growth or traffic problems anymore, since younger workers would flee elsewhere for better living conditions, leaving the sick and retired.

I challenge anyone to conjure a legislative solution that would not have a similar effect.

I don't deny that there are problems with our health-care system, but I believe that less socialism, not more, is the better solution. Limited government and free-market capitalism are far from perfect, but they are still the best way to provide products and services to customers.

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