RecyclingEditor: We live in one of Baltimore...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Recycling

Editor: We live in one of Baltimore City's curbside recycling zones and are very pleased with the service.

Every other Thursday we put out glass and plastic bottles, aluminum and tin cans, newspapers, flattened boxes and even telephone books, and these items are taken away by the city's contracted recycling hauler. This program has cut in half the trash that we put out for our regular collections.

Another way that the city could reduce the amount of trash going into landfills would be to recycle grass clippings in the spring and summer and leaves in the fall. This would make both economic and environmental sense.

$Reed and Kathleen Hutner.

Baltimore.

Safe Speeds

Editor: I recently drove from my home near Frederick to Hagerstown, then to Baltimore and back. I traveled with the general flow of the traffic varying between 65 and 70 mph, which the vast majority of drivers sensibly regard as a safe speed for I-70.

Some slow-downs to near 60 mph occurred at about five points along the way, where police cars were parked on the median, and on two occasions rear-end collisions nearly occurred as motorists braked violently to try and fool the police. At one point a police car traveling on the middle lane at 60 to 65 mph collected a long convoy of drivers behind him in only a few miles.

Highways like I-70 are mostly quite safe at 70 mph and any government official who thinks anyone will take any notice of a 55-mph posted limit is suffering the delusions of grandeur.

A recent paper called "Driver Speed Behavior on U.S. Streets and Highways," by the chief of the traffic safety research division of the Federal Highway Administration, Samuel C. Tignor, reports the results of extensive studies. These confirm that most drivers decide their own safe speed. Changing of posted speed limits, up or down, has "little or no effect" on actual speeds drive, they report.

The paper by the Federal Highway Administration safety engineers say there is "no evidence" in their studies that raising the speed limit to 65 on rural interstate freeways leads to increases in speed on the freeways or on other roads.

They say that accident rates are markedly higher for the small minority of motorists who drive very slowly or very fast relative to the bulk of traffic. They say that most posted limits are 15 mph or more below the maximum safe speed, making "technical violators out of motorists driving at reasonable and safe speeds."

The only result of absurd 55-mph postings on the interstates is to popularize the notion that the law is an ass, and that the officials behind them are idiots.

Peter Samuel.

Libertytown.

Inaccurate Gloss

Editor: While I agree with columnist William Pfaff's overall assessment of the Yugoslav state, I disapprove of his inaccurate gloss of Yugoslav history and politics. I also resent his air of Western superiority, which on this issue is simply not merited.

First, there are far more than the two "sides" that Mr. Pfaff suggests. Taking into account differing ethnic, religious, cultural, linguistic, regional and political loyalties, we end up with a wide spectrum indeed.

Second, Marshal Tito did not maintain unity in the post-war state through a federal structure. He did so with the help of a single-party police state that for decades was as violent and repressive as any in East Europe, including Stalin's Soviet Union.

Third, Mr. Pfaff seems to place most of the blame for the current crisis on a revival of Serbian nationalism, when there is in fact plenty of blame to go around. Tudjman and his Croatian nationalist government in Zagreb have done their part to inflame the situation. While they have apparently renounced territorial claims on Serbia (whose Croatian minority is very small), they most assuredly have not renounced any claims to Bosnia, where there is a very large Croat minority.

Fourth, Mr. Pfaff's "reasonable solution" of a confederation with centralized financial authority is in essence what the Yugoslavs have, as power has been progressively devolving to the republics over the past 20 years. The only problem is that the national economic market has collapsed, the financial structure is totally bankrupt and no one can even envision how to pry apart the often mixed ethnic-cultural territories and populations and re-cast them into self-supporting, viable states.

Mr. Pfaff closes with rather patronizing sentiment about how the Western powers should show displeasure over the prospect of ethnic conflict in Yugoslavia -- as if the West hadn't had its own share of ruinous ethnic warfare in this century.

We should instead ask ourselves how and even why the Yugoslav peoples should follow a peaceful, democratic division of their society, along Western lines, when the Western democracies abandoned Yugoslavia and the rest of East Europe to Tito and Stalin in 1945? Having permitted these two dictators to freely obliterate any trace of democratic structure and free enterprise, how can the West now berate the surviving populations for being insufficiently democratic?

Drage Vukcevich.

Laurel.

The Stigma of Mental Illness

Editor: Why do the mental health profession and mental health advocacy groups have to fight to get equal insurance coverage for mental illness?

Traditionally, outpatient treatment for mental illness has been reimbursed at 50 percent while other illnesses have been reimbursed at higher rates. Insurance companies have treated mental illness as "less medical" in a number of ways.

Recently, the Maryland Psychiatric Society fought to get equal coverage for mental illness in so-called "bare bones" insurance policies. Nationally, ongoing legal battles are aimed at getting major mental illnesses with clear biological/medical underpinnings treated as such (i.e. brain diseases).

Thankfully, psychiatry has moved past the days of witch hunts and hopeless banishment to asylums.

There are clear biological/genetic factors involved in mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar illness, major depressive illness, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder. Greater understanding has led to increasingly effective medication treatments.

Also, increased interest and understanding of post-traumatic illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorders, multiple personality disorder and other dissociative disorders has led to improved treatment all around. So has continued interest in psychotherapy, treatment of substance abuse, etc.

Psychiatric illness is shockingly common, often chronic and at times disabling. It can also be fatal. Why is it different from heart disease, diabetes, AIDS?

There is still stigma attached to those treated for mental illnesses. Prejudice, fear, ignorance and misconceptions abound even in this day of increased social awareness. Mentally ill people are quietly discriminated against in ways that echo racism, sexism, etc.

$Laszlo R. Trazkovich, MD.

Baltimore.

Absurdities

Editor: An atrocity and an absurdity occurred recently. It was an absurdity for the members of American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) to think they could obtain more funding for at-home care for the disabled by blocking entrances, exits and streets in the Woodlawn area for several days. However, the atrocity of the behavior of the Baltimore County Police Department far outweighed the absurdity of the situation.

While I am not a law-enforcement agent, common sense dictates to me that even protesters with permits do not have the right to endanger the lives of thousands of people. As the members of ADAPT blocked the entrances and exits to the government installation in Woodlawn, they caused a fire hazard; in general they caused a safety hazard to all who became trapped inside their buildings.

As a small aside, these demonstrators interrupted the business of the federal government. What have we come to in this country to permit a radical group, no matter how good their cause, to endanger the lives of innocent people and disrupt the work of the government while the police department merely sits by and watches?

Oh, forgive me, I have been most one-sided in my critique of the police. Law enforcement at the Woodlawn complex was prepared for the worst -- officers removed the outdoor smokers' benches just in case things got ugly.

Carol Sevel.

Baltimore.

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