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Letters: Baghdad, AIDS and 'Odin'

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

On Thursdays we take time to read from your email, and we'll begin today with reaction to our story about life in the Baghdad neighborhood of Amaria.

Killings and bombings are commonplace and the sectarian tension and violence is causing a split between Shiites and Sunnis. Kathleen Gault(ph) of Athens, Ohio was moved. She writes, "Once again I wept for the suffering of the Iraqi people that is a result of my country's preemptive invasion of Iraq."

Bob Warner of Briny Breezes, Florida adds, "This story was the most utterly disturbing of all that I've heard or read in the years of the Iraq conflict. I can no longer separate the news from the rest of my day. It's under my skin."

Yesterday we broadcast my conversation with Dr. Michael Saag. He's one of the top AIDS researchers in the world, and we spoke about the changes in AIDS care and treatment since the 1990s.

MICHAEL SAAG: In the early days a lot of our staff burned out. They just couldn't take dealing with the patients dying every day. Now, interestingly, our staff are burning out again but for a totally different reason. And it's mainly from workload. Patients are living longer, so our census continues to grow. That's a good thing, but out funding is flat.

NORRIS: Alice Thornton is medical director of the Blue Grass Care Clinic in Kentucky. She sent this comment. "Those of us that are working with HIV AIDS patients often feel as if our country has forgotten that we're still in an AIDS epidemic. Like Dr. Saag, we've experienced a cut in our Ryan White Act funding. That's despite the fact that our clinic population has doubled since 2001. Ideally one would hope that the number of doctors and nursing staff would increase when the patient population increases. Unfortunately this is not the case. Like Dr. Saag, we are thankful for dedicated staff. For otherwise, we would not be able to function.

NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty brought us a story about some influential black preachers who've withdrawn their support of Democrats. They're upset about the party's stand on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. "I found it disturbing" writes Erin Lemoyne(ph) of Los Angeles. "These men are pushing their congregations toward political alignment that does not reflect their own religious beliefs. The preachers' statements displayed base intolerance and ignorance of other community's basic right to live their lives. I have to ask what happened to the Christian beliefs of tolerance, acceptance and charity?"

Paul Russo(ph) of Malden, Massachusetts adds this, "It was a very enlightening story, however, I wish that just once someone would ask these holy men why, in their defense of marriage, do they not defend the sacred institution against adulterers, prostitutes and fornicators? After all, the Bible denounces those sins hundreds of times."

Finally a comment on this.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NORRIS: That's the sound of Donald Knaack's Odin, a new opera performed on hundreds of pieces of junk. We had a report on it a few days ago. And John Gagine(ph)of Juno, Alaska was not impressed. He writes, "I was driving my car when I heard the beginning of the story so I was not able to flee in horror. If the opera had been composed by an environmentalist protesting waste, at least it would've been conveying a message. Instead it appears that this story was about some artsy composer who thinks he is clever and ATC obviously agrees."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NORRIS: Well whether you agree or not, we want to hear from you. Write to us. Go to NPR.org and click on contact us at the top of the page and out of respect for Mr. Gagine, we can fade that out. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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