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March 3, 1998


Shred Any Good Books Lately?

Randall Terry and his fanatical followers have invented a new technique of literary criticism. They rip up books that don't meet their standard of morality.

Terry, who once headed the anti-abortion Operation Rescue movement, has singled out Barnes & Noble, the nation's largest bookstore chain, for selling books by Jock Sturges and David Hamilton. Both are respected photographers whose work is displayed at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Said Sturges about his well-known and mostly sentimental scenes of nude families, "To find the work obscene, you'd have to find homo sapiens between 1 and 17 inherently obscene.''

The self-appointed censors have been circling above the nation for months, searching for prosecutors willing to sue Barnes & Noble despite previous failed attempts to pull books off shelves. Only one state Attorney General showed the requisite disregard for the First Amendment. Guess who.

Alabama's appointed Attorney General Bill Pryor is eager to dictate what citizens may read. He proclaims the need to protect children, and yet he stubbornly refuses to join other states in suing the tobacco industry for luring teenagers to cigarettes. He preaches morality, and yet he values political ideology above life itself.

Last week a New York Times editorial entitled "A Dixie Book Burning'' gave the state a big black eye. Apparently the editors saw Pryor's election-year hypocrisy clearly, for they referred to the Alabama Attorney General by title only, refusing to contribute to any national name recognition. The editors warned that his actions will "serve notice that legal entanglements await other bookstores.''

Meanwhile, sales of books by Jock Sturges and David Hamilton are up all over the nation.

-- Dan Silver

Life Forms by Dan Silver

Read more comics in the Life Forms Archive!

Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

I'm writing to you from Oxford, MS, home of The Oxford American -- a general interest/literary mag. We're putting together our 2nd annual double issue on Southern music, which comes with a free CD of songs by musicians profiled in our pages. Last year's issue/CD included Jimmy Martin, The Meters, Lucinda Williams, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Cassandra Wilson, etc., to give you some idea of the variety we're looking for. We've done a lot of research already, but we feel sure that there is much great stuff out there to which we are, at present, blind. . . which is why I am appealing to you -- and any of your staff willing to share his/her musical expertise -- for new ideas.

We are looking for great Southern musicians who, for whatever reason, are hardly known in mainstream America. Please help us get the word out on these artists. There are absolutely NO restrictions regarding genre, style, etc. We're just looking for great songs. We'll be donating $5,000 dollars plus 10% of newsstand proceeds to The Music Maker Relief Foundation of Pinnacle, NC-a non-profit organization devoted to providing elderly and indigent blues and folk musicians with basic needs for survival (and, when possible, to help them make money through their art).

Thanks for your help. Please E-us, or phone at (601) 236-1836, or fax us at (601) 236-3141 -- whichever is easiest for you. Direct any ideas or questions to me, Shannon Magness. The mailing address is PO Box 1156, Oxford, MS 38655.

Yours sincerely,
Shannon Magness
The Oxford American

Dear Editor,

March is Professional Social Work Month, and this year the profession celebrates its first 100 years!

The 100th anniversary provides a timely reminder that many of the things Americans take for granted today -- the minimum wage, child labor laws, Social Security, humane treatment for persons with mental illness, Medicare, Medicaid, the 40-hour work week, unemployment insurance, disability pay, protection for abused and neglected children -- came about because social workers sought to remedy the injustice they saw, and inspired others to do the same.

Social work developed in the middle of the 19th century in response to grievous injustices -- poverty, homelessness, children laboring in sweatshops, the plight of widows and orphans, the mistreatment of prisoners, the neglect of people with mental illness. As they helped individuals, social workers recognized the need for systemic remedies. They sought social justice for those who had no voice in public policy, and eventually gained better conditions in institutions, in the workplace, in the home and community.

The social work centennial dates from the summer of 1898, with the offering of the first classes in social work. Since then, social workers have led the way, developing private and charitable organizations, and fighting for the recognition of public responsibility for the needy. Then and now, social workers continue to meet human needs and address society's most intractable problems. On the profession's 100th anniversary, the Alabama Chapter, National Association of Social Workers joins with people across the state in saluting social workers...America's real heroes.

Sonia L. Long
National Association of Social Workers.
Montgomery, AL

Dear Editor;

Failure of the press to cover the suppression of the World Health Organizations findings that cannabis (marijuana) is much safer than tobacco or alcohol could easily be construed as demonstrating a bias on behalf of protecting a well funded liquor and tobacco industry.

A studious nationwide search failed to produce a single US newspaper that carried the New Scientist findings that detailed the repression of this report. Numerous Canadian and UK publications printed this information. Why not this or any other U.S. newspaper?

The highly respected New Scientist Magazine reported in its February 21st edition and on-line at that the World Health Organization attempted to hide the facts.

According to New Scientist, which published a special report on marijuana on Wednesday 2/18, a leaked document about the analysis concluded that marijuana posed less of a public health threat than alcohol or cigarettes, even if people consumed the drug on the same scale as the other substances.

It certainly looks conspiratorial even if it isn't

Mark Greer
Executive Director
The Media Awareness Project (MAP) d/b/a DrugSense
PO Box 651
Porterville, CA 93258
(800) 266 5759

The Harbinger, Mobile, AL