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Week of March 21, 2001

Special Ed
Jesus, Zeus and Harry Hamm: Last week, everyone was able to read my little whine about 'The Specials' being ignored locally ["Letters," RFT, March 14]. Well, let's look at what I have since learned: Now, it seems, the little superhero flick has been pushed back to March 20. Perhaps now there is a tiny chance that some stores may still have time to get this flick on their shelves.

What caused this to occur? Had the gods -- Jesus, Zeus and Harry Hamm -- actually answered my prayers? Or is it just another confusing marketing decision by some Hollywood distribution group? Either way, it doesn't matter to me. All I hope is that my local store has updated their computer.

Thanks for giving this RFT reader a chance to cry like a little baby. Hopefully Blockbuster will help change my diaper and give me my ba-ba ... er
Adam Hackbarth
via the Internet

Talking Heads
Thick as a brick: Usually, you can expect to hear some weird talk from your "Street Talk" segments. Very rarely do you learn anything, though.

Mr. Frick Rionelli gives an interesting view of cell phones and their place in society ["What Do You Think About Cell Phones Now?" RFT, March 14]. He also illustrates why people that have dangerous occupations, like hod carriers, should take the most stringent of safety measures to avoid injury, especially to the head.

Keep a strong count on those bricks Mr. Rionelli, and guard against overloading. A brick to the head can do some serious injury.

Hope I'm not too late with that advice.
Leander McRae
St. Louis

Spring Training
We trained near the waste: I am a retired command sergeant major in the Army Reserve. My Unit (21st General Hospital) has been training at Weldon Spring for years, and I was wondering what effect the hazardous waste "fallout" has had on my troops [Jeannette Batz, "A Right to Answers," RFT, March 7]. Keep in mind that we all slept on the ground, drank the water and "humped" through the woods out there!
CSM Laura A. Gahan (Ret.)
via the Internet

Family Ties
Jason followed a path that typically leads to prison: I read the original article about Jason Laboube [Wm. Stage, "Death Trip," RFT, Jan. 31]. Then I read Ald. Craig Schmid's letter. Then I read the Laboube family's response. Finally I went back and reread the article. I thought I may have missed something.

I sympathize with the Laboubes. My father passed when he was 55, from natural causes. One brother died at the age of 43, from AIDS complications. Another died in Vietnam; he was 20. My sister died when she was 2, in a car accident. My son nearly died from something very much like a stroke. He was 8 at the time.

I, too, have experienced the seemingly senseless death of family members. I have stood and screamed at whatever higher power there may be for allowing these things to happen. So I know, firsthand, how it feels to lose a loved one.

But I'm confused as to how Jason's family thinks his situation is any different from any other drug death. His friend admitted that they left from Arnold for the city for the sole purpose of buying drugs. While the family downplays Jason's involvement in drugs -- "[He] had a problem with marijuana" -- the fact is that he was attempting to trade 100 hits of LSD to get more weed.

The family tries to portray Jason as a 21st-century Richie Cunningham, the father even posing for the paper's cover holding a picture of his son in a Boy Scout uniform. But the Jason who went to South St. Louis for a drug deal wasn't like that. He was following the path that typically leads to a career in prison: traffic stops, failure-to-appear citations and even a shoplifting charge.

At first blush, one wonders why the family believes the casual reader would draw any other conclusion about their son's life and tragic death. Then it dawns: This case is different to them because the victim is their son. Had they not known Jason, I believe they would have sat in their cozy Jeffco home and clucked their tongues over "another drug death"... just like I and most other St. Louisans did.

People tend to favor tough sentences for criminals and hold little sympathy for those who get burnt by their own fires. But when the subject is a family member, then suddenly prisons are too tough, sentences too long and deaths like Jason's too senseless.

Victims want revenge. Perpetrators want leniency. Seldom does anyone want justice.

A grade-schooler is mauled by a pack of stray dogs while his negligent mother assumes he is staying with friends. A little girl is hit by a stray bullet in a drive-by. Children are raped by parents and other trusted adults. These are senseless tragedies and deserve the paper's attention and space.

But a bad kid who is killed while trying to deal drugs? It's sad, it's tragic, but it's hardly newsworthy. Tragically enough, it happens all too often. Traumatic as it was for his family, Jason's death was in fact "just another drug-related shooting."
Frank Martin
St. Louis

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