Ethiopian JewsEditor: I commend you for your...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Ethiopian Jews

Editor: I commend you for your recent coverage of the selfless efforts of the government and people of Israel to rescue, welcome and acclimate the thousands of Ethiopian Jews who had to flee their native county.

In particular, your editorial of May 28 cogently recognized the difficult yet crucial mission faced by the state of Israel since its inception.

ron U. Raskas.

Baltimore.

Other Side

Editor: The View From Wall Street article by Thomas Easton on June 3 regarding Woodward & Lothrop is a disappointing example of the author's pre-determined views and a disregard for the other side of the story.

If Mr. Easton had chosen the balanced view, here are some of the facts he could have highlighted since they were offered to him:

* In one of the most difficult years for retailing in the Northeast, Woodies/Wanamaker's store-for-store sales performance was comparable to or better than many of its major competitors.

* Its gross margin percentage was maintained at previous-year levels.

* Its selling, general and administrative expenses were $18 million under the previous year.

* Its interest expense was $13 million less than the previous year.

* It spent $54 million in capital in a continuing $200 million multi-year program to improve selling facilities and systems.

* It opened two new concept free-standing home furnishing stores in 1990 and will be opening a new full-line Wanamaker store in Wilmington.

* Its major investment strategies to remodel existing stores fully anticipated business interruption and potential impact on its financial results over the short term. More important is its confidence in the long-term success of its finances.

* It recently (in May) augmented its senior management team by the appointment of Robert Mang (formerly of Bon Marche, Seattle) as president.

* It is the better-quality, full-line "hometown" store in the greater Washington and Philadelphia market places with over 100 years of delivering goods and services to customers that it knows well.

So as Mark Twain might have said to Mr. Easton: The report of Woodies' and Wanamaker's death is an exaggeration.

Certainly the 11,000 dedicated and hard-working employees of these two great companies (as well as thousands of our local customers) would dispute Mr. Easton's observations.

Robert J. Mulligan.

Alexandria, Va.

The writer is a vice president of Woodward & Lothrop John Wanamaker.

Interpretations

Editor: Ray Jenkins ("Pope Scoop," May 19) does a serious injustice to Richard John Neuhaus -- and to Pope John Paul II, whose new encyclical, Centesimus Annus, Mr. Jenkins purports to defend.

It is ludicrous to suggest that Neuhaus is "one of a small band of conservative theologians who seem ever ready to give absolution to anything done in the name of 'the market economy.' "

Mr. Neuhaus' Wall Street Journal piece on the encyclical in fact emphasized the pope's challenge to libertarians and celebrated the encyclical's call for a "new capitalism" more attentive to the life of the spirit.

I would be happy to send Mr. Jenkins pieces from the New York Times, the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times which suggest that Mr. Neuhaus is far closer to the truth of the encyclical than he is.

But then it is not even clear from his essay that Mr. Jenkins ha read Centesimus Annus. Mr. Jenkins, who tells us that he has "followed the writings of John Paul II on these issues for quite a few years," then allows as how, on that basis, he could "tell from reading [Neuhaus'] article . . . that the Neuhaus interpretation was highly selective." Oh, really? How interesting.

Perhaps Mr. Jenkins could read the encyclical itself, and then tell us some more about interpretations.

George Weigel.

Washington.

The writer is president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Religious Resources

Editor: Thank you for publishing the Peirce report, "Looking at the Future, Baltimore and Beyond," May 5.

Neal Peirce and his colleagues have helped us understand better the challenges and possible next steps in the future of this community.

I suggest supplementing what they have written with a fuller vision embracing also the contributions our religious community makes to the metropolitan region. Here I think first of churches, synagogues and other places of worship as centers of moral renewal and, often, beneficial neighborhood activities.

A fuller vision would underscore as well how our Catholic schools are helping little ones, especially from minorities, prepare to be well-educated useful citizens at a tremendous annual savings to the taxpayer.

A fuller vision of Baltimore would include the extraordinary contribution of private welfare agencies, such as Associated Catholic Charities. The latter's efforts improve the quality of life among the city's neediest and most neglected citizens. Outreach to the hungry and homeless, often the first step to bringing them back to a sense of personal dignity and a fuller place in society, is joined with services for the aged, for youth with special needs, including infants with AIDS, and for expectant mothers looking for support at a critical time in their lives.

A fuller vision for our future planning should draw on all the religious resources of this community -- Christian, Jewish, Muslim and any other in laying a foundation of solid hope for better appreciating and sharing God's blessings in our lives.

I invite The Sun to work with us in developing this fuller vision as together we seek to enhance our life as a community preparing to enter on a new century.

William H. Keeler.

Baltimore.

The writer is the Catholic archbishop of Baltimore.

AIDS at the Maryland Pen

Editor: Regarding the recent outbreak of AIDS hysteria at the Maryland Penitentiary and within the Division of Corrections: the concern shown by corrections officials about the minimal risk of contracting HIV during a dental procedure at this particular time is amazing. Where was their concern five years ago when we were beginning to learn specific details about how HIV infection is transmitted and how people could protect themselves?

I worked with corrections officials and the late Dr. B. Frank Polk to develop a training video for correctional officers in 1986. The intent of the video was to answer questions about the risk of HIV infection in relation to their duties and to teach basic HIV precautions for use in handling prisoners.

At the time, I was told that we could not mention homosexual activity or IV drug use within the institution, although there was a tacit admission that these activities were a "fact of life" in the prison setting. I was also told unofficially that educational programs for prisoners were not to mention the need to clean IV drug paraphernalia. Nor were they to suggest the use of condoms or discourage the sharing of needles.

Recently we learned that a dentist who was treating those prisoners died of AIDS. Suddenly the belief is that he posed more of a risk to them than they did to him. If, as statistics estimate, eight percent of the state inmates tested positive, does it not stand to reason that the dentist himself was at much greater risk than his patients?

Will the Maryland Division of Corrections change its approach to be more concerned about how HIV spreads among the prison population and its staff? Or will the department simply seize this as an opportunity to deflect attention away from the fact that for several years it tried to ignore the HIV problem, hoping it would go away?

avid McDonald.

Baltimore.

Mayoral Choice

Editor: It is interesting that Michael Olesker thought mayoral candidate William A. Swisher's charge that Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is paying "$670,000 for [15] bodyguards" is petty. In the same June 4 edition, your front page story notes that Mayor Schmoke proposed to save $220,000 by demoting up to 26 fire officers.

Better to transfer half of those bodyguards back to regular police duties to protect the firefighters or elect Mr. Swisher mayor.

!William T. S. Bricker.

Towson.

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