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Human CostsEditor: While debate rages about the...

Human Costs

Editor: While debate rages about the proposed state budget cuts and how to manage the current deficit, we need to bring into sharper focus the human costs of these budget decisions.

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It is well known that as unemployment rises, more people will enter poverty as they lose their income and their financial resources diminish.

Poverty carries with it a host of problems. When a breadwinner loses a job, the family unit becomes unstable. Stress is more likely to occur and be taken out on the children or on other adults in the home. When people are out of work, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse and crime all increase.

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As programs such as those for the elderly, children and the poor are curtailed or eliminated, fewer options exist for those needing help. A downward spiral may begin for some families and will continue for others who already are struggling. Such a spiral can take years, if not generations, to reverse.

These are painful issues that elected officials and the people of Maryland must consider in our current budgetary struggles. The human costs will soar if programs are eliminated (such as general public assistance), or reduced (such as aid to local governments and human service agencies).

At the University of Maryland School of Social Work, we have more than 1,000 students and faculty who intern and work

throughout the state. They already are witnessing the harm that these cuts are causing our most vulnerable citizens. The situation is grave. We must find a bold way to address Maryland's fiscal crisis, and we must do so with justice and compassion for those most in need.

Jesse J. Harris.

Baltimore.

The writer is dean and professor of the School of Social Work, University of Maryland at Baltimore.

Cancer Deaths

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Editor: As many in the state know, Maryland now has the dubious distinction of ranking first in the nation in its cancer death rate. The reasons for this are several, as were pointed out by a recent Grand Rounds panel at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

However, several of the reports on the meeting missed the good news about this epidemic: Most of the major cancers killing people in this state either can be prevented by modifying individuals' behavior or can be detected early enough for curative treatment by simple screening tests.

The four biggest cancer killers in Maryland are, in order, cancer of the lung, colon, breast and prostate. A person's chance of getting lung cancer is virtually non-existent if he or she stops smoking or never starts. Similarly, though not as definitively, by shifting individuals' diets toward foods that are generally high in fiber and low in fat, colon cancer can be prevented.

We have not yet been able to define specific behaviors that lead to breast or prostate cancers. However, a few regular and simple screening tests -- including self breast exams and mammography to detect breast cancer, and rectal exams to detect prostate cancer -- can catch these cancers in a stage when cure is likely. In addition, regular pap smears can eliminate needless suffering and death from cervical cancer.

Peter Beilenson, M.D.

Baltimore.

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The writer is chief resident of the Preventive Medicine Residency Program, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Not the Problem

Editor: Congratulations on the quality of Barry Rascovar's Opinion * Commentary piece Oct. 6.

Not only did Mr. Rascovar demonstrate his clean and objective grasp of the current economic situation in Maryland, but he fairly and directly noted that, contrary to recent recollection, it was Gov. William Donald Schaefer who first recognized the problem and began to educate the legislature and the citizenry on the dangerous economic conditions developing, as early as last November.

His column takes the first step in attempting to correct several misconceptions, pointing out that the governor was not the architect of the current problem and that he is aggressively seeking equitable solutions to the current dilemma.

Timothy D. Murphy.

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Baltimore.

PB

The writer is member of City Council from the Sixth District.

Good Television

Editor: "LBJ: An American Experience" was an exceptionally illuminating historic examination of Lyndon B. Johnson's life and extraordinarily good television. If and when this four-hour documentary is reshown, I recommend that it be watched by those who missed it the first time around.

That leads me directly to your newspaper. In his preview, The Sun's television critic, David Zurawik, essentially told people not to tune in. His chief reason: the producer had not interviewed Bill Moyers, LBJ's one-time press secretary. Any halfway knowledgeable producer, according to Mr. Zurawik, would have known a Moyers interview was indispensable. Mr. Zurawik himself had interviewed Mr. Moyers (now a PBS commentator) when researching a magazine article on Johnson two years ago, he wrote.

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Would Mr. Moyers' participation have added to the program? Perhaps. But so what? Even without him, this was great television.

Mr. Zurawik wrote a smart-alecky, immature review of a very good bit of television work.

Bruce L. Bortz.

Baltimore.

Redistricting

Editor: In a recent letter to the editor, I was criticized for implying that Rep. Helen Bentley would not be in the House of Representatives much longer. If my comments were misinterpreted as meaning that a 68-year-old woman is not capable of serving in Congress much longer, I apologize. In fact, there is a long history of senior members of Congress serving long, distinguished careers.

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However, my comments were not targeted toward Mrs. Bentley's age, but her often-stated political ambitions. On many occasions she has threatened to run against both Maryland senators.

My point is: Why is the General Assembly carving up Anne Arundel County in little pieces just to serve the needs of a Baltimore County politician who may very well leave her House seat in a few years to run for the Senate?

Anne Arundel County is the fourth most populous county in Maryland. It should not have its representation divided for a decade to serve the needs of a few.

Maryland will live with the fall-out of this process for the next decade. The guiding force in redistricting should be the long-term interests of the state.

Tom McMillen.

Washington.

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The writer is Member of Congress for the 4th District of Maryland.

Caring Police

Editor: There's a song where part of the lyric says, "let me tell you about love." Well, let me tell you about love!

Let me tell you about a young State Police corporal who came and spent two hours with two classes of young children to tell them about his job as a member of the S.T.A.T.E (Special Tactical Assault Team Element), because he had promised to be there on Oct. 3.

On his own time. Two days after massive firings of his fellow officers had been announced. Not knowing if his job was next. But he had promised 47 children.

That's love. That's responsibility. And that exemplifies, in my mind, what is the very best about our State Police officers -- caring and commitment.

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Cpl. Keith Runk is the trooper in question. For two years, Keith has been an active member of Project L.O.V.E (Love Officers Very Easily) at Joppa View Elementary School in the Perry Hall-White Marsh area. Project L.O.V.E. involves law enforcement officers from the State Police and the Baltimore County Police Department (Precinct 09).

These officers become actively involved in working with a class of young children. This involvement encourages children to really know, love and respect our officers.

We were able to send lots and lots of love and best wishes to our troopers through our caring about one officer. Not only are my third graders aware of this disastrous state of affairs on the firing of law enforcement officers, but they have experienced first-hand how it affects someone they care about.

Pat Schuster.

Perry Hall.

Benign Neglect

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Editor: Why don't the governor's cuts in the budget of the Department of Natural Resources include its unwanted "improvements" to North Point State Park (formerly Black Marsh State Park)? Here is one place where cuts would actually benefit the quality of this natural area park. There's a lot to be said for benign neglect.

Joy G. Wheeler.

Towson.

What about the Children?

Editor: In an Oct. 2 article your reporter Ellen James Martin quotes for-profit child care entrepreneur Kenneth Looney as equating good child care with long hours convenient for parents. He is critical of other child care providers who are not open until midnight.

The most important voice in this debate received no hearing in your article. What about the children? Their needs should rank first in the planning of any child care arrangement. Of course, two-year-olds can't write to the newspapers or call a reporter to demand consistency, stability, attachment to loving parents and few caring adults, the chance to be home in their own beds after a long day.

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In this world we all need to think longer and harder about what "care" really means for young children.

Anita R. Prentice.

Baltimore.

QC

The writer is president of Downtown Baltimore Child Care, Inc.



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