Editor: Frank Oski's letter regarding the sensitivity level of weapon detectors at BWI Airport (July 23) highlights a problem inherent in all such systems.
All of these systems exhibit the characteristic that the higher the sensitivity, the more likely that the system will be able to detect a gun. It is also true that a system set for lower sensitivity is less likely to be able to detect that same weapon.
The nuisance alarm problem is further compounded by the fact that most people, particularly men, carry significant quantities of "background metal" which, when passed through a weapon detector, appear electronically like a handgun.
For maximum protection to the flying public, it is recommended that the weapon detectors be set at a threshold which could result in false or nuisance alarms caused by so-called background metal. This is particularly crucial in light of the existence of plastic or non-metallic-based guns such as the Glock 17.
A few years ago, a Washington reporter had little problem getting a Glock 17 through the weapon detectors at the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to demonstrate how lax their security was at the time. Experienced passengers usually remove all of their metal objects before walking through the weapon detector.
Since the anti-skyjacking program went into effect in 1972, skyjackings have all but disappeared. I don't think we want to revert back to the days when a flight to Atlanta could easily end up in Havana.
Richard A. Bajackson.
The writer is a security consultant.
Editor: Your front-page article "Mansion work costs state $1.7 million" came across as petty and unnecessary.
For previous officials to have allowed such a fine public and historically important building [as the Governor's Mansion in Annapolis] to deteriorate both physically and aesthetically is inexcusable. The governor should be applauded for insisting upon top quality materials and careful craftsmanship, neither of which are cheap.
The mansion is now a public treasure all Marylanders can take pride in. Instead of headlining the renovation costs, your time and space could have been better used by printing before and after pictures. Stressing the negatives may sell newspapers, but I get far more enjoyment out of reading about the good things people do.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer, whose projects as mayor did so much for the City of Baltimore and who as governor continues to work so hard to promote Maryland, should be more positively covered in your newspaper.
David A. Titman.
Editor: The "anti-crime" legislation recently passed by the U.S. Senate strikes me as oddly inconsistent. The measure includes a variant of the Brady bill, which is intended to keep certain firearms out of the hands of people who might use them to kill other individuals; but the bill also augments the list of crimes which carry with them a death penalty.
Just as children will be confused by a conflict between what their parents say and what they do, the citizens receive mixed signals when their government simultaneously discourages the taking of human lives by means of handguns and yet sanctions the death penalty.
This country needs to decide whether life is sacred or not.
Ironies of War
Editor: I can remember when one of the arguments for allowing women to have more political power used to be that then there would be no more wars, for women would never send their sons, nor those of others, into battle.
As they gained more and more power, however, the women themselves invaded the military schools and institutions and are now fighting for the "privilege" of serving in the front lines of our increasing number of wars. Ironic, isn't it?
Meanwhile on the home front, they are fighting for the freedom to kill their sons before they even see the light of day.
Helen F. Knipp.
Thomas Fits In
Editor: The Congressional Black Caucus took a commendable step by opposing the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.
The members probably realized he will likely continue his record of being anti-affirmative action and against other progressive efforts to remedy past and present discrimination. For the same reasons the Congressional Black Caucus opposes the nomination, a phalanx of far-right conservatives supports it. Clarence Thomas appears to be the darling of the political right.
It is also good news to hear that the Maryland chapter of the NAACP voted to oppose Clarence Thomas' nomination. After examining his track record on civil rights and affirmative action they found no reason to support him. I trust the national office will do likewise after a thorough check of his character, despite the temptation for symbolism.
President Bush stated that blacks should be happy about the nomination. Virtually no one believes the president is so naive as to think that. The people he really made happy are former Klansman, Louisiana legislator and aspiring governor David Duke; Representative Newt Gingrich, Roy Innis and other ideological brothers.
But who knows what the president believes when he states with a sincere face that he has a good civil rights record? Sure he does. He used racist scare tactics in the name of Willie Horton in his presidential campaign of 1988, vetoed the civil rights bill in 1990 and now gives us Clarence Thomas in 1991.
Ex-New Yorker Rediscovers Hometown Charm
Editor: Last winter I moved back to Annapolis after seven beleaguered years in New York City, where as a young journalist I had the feeling that I was living in a town that was growing increasingly toxic. New York, which once availed some pockets of charm, seemed to have lost its livability.
What a change, and how rich in soul I felt upon first returning to Annapolis.
It was where I was born and had grown to be a writer, romping with my brothers in the creeks of the bay and sulfur-sweet swamps; how lucky to be able to leave the big, rotting city and return to my roots and the roots of my parents and their parents before them. I thought of the richness of a life spent here each time I glimpsed the top of the stone that marks my father's grave as I passed by St. Anne's cemetery on the now-supersonic Rowe Boulevard.
A few times, however, while trying to make my way out of town from my home in the historic district I found myself caught up on exit ramps I didn't want to be on. It wasn't the confusion or lost time or missed appointments that inflamed me most but rather the feeling that I was helplessly caught up in some space age, futuristic maze. This is not, I thought, the way home.
I was not home long when I became aware that the building of many of these roads pushed toxics and silt into the creek beds -- as it did along the Rowe Boulevard interchange, for instance -- destroying marsh life, killing wildlife.
All this was brought to a head for me when I learned that the old Severn River Bridge will be imminently destroyed for a replacement that has been designed to "eliminate the historic references" of the old columns and parapets, completing the futuristic maze that surrounds our old historic town in circling highway ramps, like so many steel-banded octopus arms.
In order to build this new "20th-century" bridge, the Pendenis Pond shrub swamp will be bull-dozed into berms and retaining walls and a new "elevated ramp" will be placed there. No more children happily discovering the cool feel of the marsh between their toes as they adventure in the edge of the swamp. They will never take in the smell of our fertile Chesapeake Bay life, a smell they might have remembered all their lives. They will not know the dance of otters and osprey and the spread of a blue heron's wing, they will not come of age with the sights and experiences that can widen a soul, better a future, change a heart.
Is it too late to change such a disheartening course? Or are we intent to cover the last patch of land leading into town with a highway system that will allow commerce to grow and more tourists to come and stand on our streets dreaming of 1776, while destroying the dreams and future memories of our own children?
I hope not.