Letters for the week of March 22-28, 2006

A correction of our mathematics. A correction about the shopping center. A correction regarding JFK University. A correction about placebos.

“Safeway Gets a Makeover,” Cityside, 3/1

Back to Math Class!
Although I’m delighted to see such specific comparisons between retailers as Mr. Kauffman cites in his article on Safeway, Berkeley Bowl, Whole Foods and Andronico’s, it would be more effective if the basic math were presented accurately.
P. 2: Safeway, “which operates 1776 stores nationwide,” has replaced or renovated 213 of them into “lifestyle” stores and by year’s end expects another 260 to have made the transition — “43% of the total.” Well, not quite: 213 + 260 = 473. 473 = 26.6% of 1776.

P. 10: “Overall, Andronico’s charged 34% more than Berkeley Bowl and 13% more than Whole Foods.” Well, not quite: Andronico’s charged 35.15% more than Berkeley Bowl and 7.35% more than Whole Foods.

To his credit, the author did manage to add up the 4 price columns correctly — he just seems to flounder when moving from 4th-grade math to 6th-grade math and having to do all those complex percentage calculations (multiplication AND long division!).

P.S. Do your editors know how to (gasp) “work” a calculator?
Steve Nickerson, Concord

On the first point, Mr. Nickerson is right. The 43 percent figure was in error. However, the price comparison between the three high-end stores was accurate, although our chart did not include all the information our computation was based upon. The pricing differences we alluded to were based upon all of the items in our so-called Yuppie Food Basket, including several items not comparable with Safeway products. The overall prices of our entire Yuppie Food Basket were Andronico’s ($92.65), Whole Foods ($81.86), Berkeley Bowl ($69.04). Our chart only displayed those items available at all four stores, including Safeway.

Urban Renewal
Thank you for your coverage of the recent Safeway grand reopening. As a point of clarification, South Shore Center announced its new name in October 2005. The new moniker is Alameda Towne Centre. Thank you in advance for referring to it as such in future articles.

Shannon Guggenheim, Alameda Towne Centre

“Mr. Spookchaser,” Cityside, 3/1

Our Consciousness Program Has Been Transformed
I read your article on Loyd Auerbach with great interest. It is always delightful when one of our faculty is highlighted in the press. However, I wanted to call attention to your mention in the article of “JFK University’s now sadly defunct Interdisciplinary Consciousness program.” As director of that program, I can assure you that the program is alive and well. We have simply given the program a new name, “Consciousness and Transformative Studies,” to reflect the transformative nature of the program content. The name change occurred this January.

With the wide distribution of the East Bay Express, it is distressing for us to think that your readers may be under the impression that our program is defunct, especially since many of them meet our target student profile. Is there a way that the East Bay Express could print a correction? Or better yet, perhaps you’d be interested in learning more about what this program has to offer. For example, our courses include studies on dreams, indigenous science, quantum theory, archetypal mythology, and non-ordinary states of consciousness, as well as Psi phenomena.
Marilyn Fowler, JFK University

“A Fresh Front in the AIDS War,” Feature, 3/8

Controls Yes, Placebos No
Ron Frezieres was misquoted regarding the difficulty of recruiting for contraceptive trials: “That’s because the stakes of being in the placebo group or testing a product that isn’t very effective are high — essentially, the women risk getting pregnant.” Contraceptive trials do not have a placebo group; participants receive either a commercial spermicide or the experimental microbicide. The reason recruitment is slow is because women need to commit to at least six months of study participation and spermicides don’t offer the same level of pregnancy prevention as hormonal methods.
Kiri Knutson, California Family Health Council

Ms. Knutson is correct; we did indeed misstate the nature of the study’s control group.

Criminal Ignorance
Thank you for your important article regarding the few brave souls who have pushed on to develop microbicides and anti-viral gels. However, the real tragedy is that these are not new ideas at all. It is really criminal neglect that they have been passed over by drug companies for decades, while men and women in the millions have become infected and died of HIV. The reason that so many of these “new” drugs can be so readily made into foams and gels is that their essential ingredients are the constituents of foams and gels that we use and consume everyday. As early as 1984 it was demonstrated that carrageenan, the natural ingredient that acts as an emulsifier and allows the “whipped cream” that anyone can buy in a can to stay “whipped,” blocks the HIV virus from attaching to and invading cells in the mucus membranes of the anal and vaginal tracts. But it is difficult to get large and costly studies financed, so these fairly simple solutions have languished on laboratory shelves while HIV has taken its relentless toll. However, I applaud you for taking one more step in getting this subject out into the general consciousness and perhaps eventually getting these useful substances into general use, and saving lives throughout the world. They are ideal for developing countries since they should be able to be produced cheaply and more importantly — sold cheaply!

Richard Kerr, San Francisco

In our March 15 review of Our Lady of 121st Street at the SF Playhouse, we misstated the name of Hansford Prince, the actor who plays the character Rooftop.

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