Letters to the editor

The Dark Side of Blockchain

Your article on blockchain technology ["Building a New Web Block by Block," Winter 2022] was first-rate, but with one serious omission: Except for a brief reference to "illegal activity" in a quote from Professor Steve Hanke, the piece does not deal with a problem that deeply concerns those of us in the financial compliance community: the use of that technology as a conduit for money laundering and the support of terrorist financing. Law enforcement agencies of the U.S. and other countries are paying close attention to this growing danger. So is the U.S. Congress.

Michael Skol
New York

Sorry, Not Sorry

The story "AI to Detect Sepsis" [Winter 2022] asserts that a new artificial intelligence system developed at Johns Hopkins University makes patients 20% less likely to die from sepsis. "In 82% of sepsis cases, the AI was accurate nearly 40% of the time," the article reads.

Is it me? I know I am a dinosaur and possibly a bit too skeptical, having retired after a 39-year career as a surgeon who has witnessed and benefited, along with my patients, from amazing technological advances. But I have a hard time getting excited about 40% accuracy. Sounds like some data manipulation claiming this less-than-impressive accuracy makes patients 20% less likely to die. Going on to mention partnering with Epic and Cerner added to my skepticism, since many believe those electronic health record system vendors have been resistant to focusing on clinical care, choosing to emphasize upcoding to increase hospital reimbursement. Overdiagnosing sepsis will not only lead to increased charges and reimbursement but also complications due to overtreatment. My apologies for being so cynical. Sorry, but not sorry.

Edward T. Chory, A&S '76
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

False and Misleading

Your article "Fighting for Your Right to Know" [Winter 2022] about an alumna's legal efforts to publish controversial material is both embarrassing and ironic.

You describe Nabiha Syed's contribution to publishing the Steele dossier as "matching her fearless ethos," yet both the article and the alumna are silent on the recent revelations that the U.S. government colluded with U.S. technology companies, particularly Twitter and Facebook, to silence dissenting voices on public policy. The Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign financed the dossier. It has been revealed to be false and misleading. Buzzfeed should have been more responsible and skeptical before publishing political propaganda.

It would be interesting to hear Ms. Syed's opinion on the pressure the government placed on social media companies to censor speech over the past few years, yet the article doesn't even mention it. Maybe she and Johns Hopkins Magazine don't think it's something the public ought to know?

John M. Dusza
Madison, Connecticut

Moving Tribute

Thank you to Ariel M. Lyons-Warren, A&S '05, for her moving tribute to her dad and his teachings ["Teach Your Children Well," Winter 2022]. As father of three, grandfather to their eight, I can think of no higher honor than to be held by my children in the same esteem she held for her dad, who taught her the value of critical thinking and compassion.

Thanks for giving her the space to write that missive, and my deep condolences to Ms. Lyons-Warren on the sudden loss of her father.

Richard F. McGonnigal, Engr '69, Bus '80 (MAS)
Ormond Beach, Florida

A Reader's Reflections

I want to say thank you for including "How to Write About Suicide" [Fall 2022], particularly author Rich Shea's apparently well-researched and interesting point: It is not caused by grief, it's imitative. Shea quotes William Eaton, professor emeritus in the Department of Mental Health, noting the high number of suicides, 1,800, over the four months after Robin Williams' suicide in 2014.

For many years, I didn't know what to believe about my mother's death. I was 6 years old, and my family didn't talk about it. My father, my five brothers, and I actually became separated before her death on April 29, 1945.

In January of that year, our family had changed dramatically from the ordinary, happy family we were before the war. Dad was drafted, even though he had served in the First World War, was close to 45, and had a wife and six children to support. My brother Smitty, just 17, convinced Mom to sign the papers to enlist, ostensibly "to bring dad back home where he belongs."

Women were recruited with posters everywhere to work in the factories to support the men going off to war. My mother answered the call; she would work the night shift in an airplane factory, "building planes in the rain," the night shift allowing her to come home early morning, in time to fix breakfast and get the older boys off to school.

Our household changed in the most horrendous way one morning, when Mom received a telegram shortly after coming home from work. It informed her that her son, my oldest brother, Smitty, was MIA in the D-Day invasion. Mom collapsed and was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital to undergo shock treatments. By the time the second telegram arrived—if it ever did arrive—to let her know that it was a mistake, that her son was alive and well and would be returning home after the war, it was too late for Mom. Her memory was severely affected by the shock treatments. She came home like a robot.

It would be years later when one of my brothers and I requested our mother's death certificate that we found out the cause of her death was suicide via pesticides. My opinion is that my mother's suicide was indeed from grief. She didn't get the support that she so desperately needed at the time. Her support system crashed through a series of errors.

Mary Seldin, A&S '76 (MLA)
La Jolla, California

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The opinions in these letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the magazine's editorial staff.