Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

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Longer versions of the commentaries summarized below and unprinted letters are available at www.gazette.net/speakout. Look for "Open forum" before the headline.

The New Hampshire Avenue corridor is a populous multicultural raceway that runs from the District border to University Boulevard.

While the area holds many empty and dilapidated commercial properties, new businesses are coming and the place remains a bargain for developers who are good at spotting diamonds in the rough.

The corridor and nearby environs host clusters of business and residential areas looking for a transportation and design solution that will stitch them together into a coherent whole. This solution is now in sight, centered in the Langley Park-Takoma Park crossroads, and propelled by three main drivers:

´The sector plan, now in development. The visioning includes green spaces, Mexican-style public squares, Spanish-style ramblas dotted with ethnic food restaurants, places to stroll, and places made convenient to encounter those different from yourself.

´The proposed Purple Line that will zip people from east to west connecting the area's mini centers and potentially bringing in new development.

´A transit center to provide shelter and safety for bus riders and a link to the Purple Line, which will have a station at the Crossroads.

Doug Barry, Takoma Park

The writer is a City Councilman and mayor pro tem.

County Executive Isiah Leggett recently unveiled a program to boost relationship with the people from Africa who now live here.

An advisory committee — comprised of lawyers, doctors, teachers, business men and women, journalists, non-profit organizations, religious leaders, mothers, scholars, musicians and a traditional ruler — will advise him on the needs and concerns of Africans in the county. At a meeting of the group, he urged them "to be the eyes, ears and mouth for the county by bringing the concerns and needs of the African community to the county executive."

By making known the county's programs and resources to the African community, committee members could help identify and recommend candidates for county positions to the county executive. Through such means, Mr. Leggett and his staff would be in a better position to comprehend and respond to the changing face of the county.

It is important to maintain harmonious relationships with all the members of the community, especially in this age of globalization. It is also the responsibility of both to be willing to do whatever it takes to work toward harmony and to strengthen the community bonds, especially through understanding and participation in communal activities.

Eucharia Mbachu, Silver Spring

The writer is the founder of African Women and Children.org. She also writes for different African news agencies in the United States.

A federal government panel has recommended against doing prostate cancer screening for men over 75 years of age due to concerns regarding its potential harm.

Prostate cancer was the most commonly occurring cancer in Montgomery County, according to the latest Cancer Report published by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The county had the second highest number of new cases in the state.

A good screening test is able to detect disease at an early stage and early treatment should result in reduction of risk of death. But there is debate whether early diagnosis does always help reduce the risk of death. The reason is that some of the early, slow growing prostate cancers may not cause any symptoms or even death.

The concerns about doing prostate cancer screening is related to potential harm of further tests and treatment, which a doctor usually obtains after having abnormal screening test. Potential side effects of the treatment are impotence, urinary incontinence and death. Therefore, it is important to have guidelines for doctors and patients to weight risks and benefits of screening test before they have one.

So, what is the bottom line? First, men should discuss the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening with their doctors, especially if they are older than 75. The benefit of the screening should outweigh the risks if they have the test

Shrey Desai, MD, MPH, Silver Spring

The writer is an internist who is also trained in the area of public health. He works at Johns Hopkins University.