Jonathan Power's Nov. 13 column made much about Japan's attempts to ship plutonium home by boat from France. This substance, a metal somewhat like lead, is always described as a hideous menace.
As someone who has worked with the stuff, let me try to temper this assessment. Its reputation as "the most toxic substance known to man" comes from early animal experiments. However, more recent studies refute this.
For example, there were studies of workers who were exposed to plutonium during the Manhattan Project. Twenty-six highly exposed people, having been followed for 40 years, have been as healthy as non-exposed workers.
In short, scientific opinion about plutonium's toxicity has been changing. If we debate things such as nuclear energy using outdated information our decisions will likewise be outdated.
Joel I. Cehn
;/ The writer is a certified health physicist.
Your Nov. 10 editorial, "Facing Reality in Higher Education," unfortunately obscures reality by perpetuating three myths.
The first myth is that the regents and I have "spread the pain [of budget cuts] evenly" among the University of Maryland System's 14 institutions.
The impact of the cuts from our original appropriation in fiscal year 1991 to our fiscal year 1994 request is far from even.
In fact, the percentage change in budgets ranges from a decrease of more than 20 percent at one institution to an increase of nearly 9 percent at another.
The second myth is that the regents and I are "belatedly realizing that the budget problems are long term and structural."
The record clearly shows that we recognized the profound implications of the economic downturn from its inception in 1990 and that we have been working toward responsible and responsive changes since that time. (By way of example, I would refer you and your readers to my Nov. 15, 1990 remarks to the University of Maryland College Park Senate in which I stressed the need for "strategic redeployment").
The third myth is that I am considering turning Coppin State College into a two-year institution.
This particular notion was, by implication, erroneously attributed me in a Nov. 2 Sun news article (as we subsequently pointed out to your reporter). . .
As we continue to make tough choices, we intend to do so on the basis of the best information available and with as much informed input as we can muster in advance of delivering a plan to Governor Schaefer on Jan. 1. . .
Donald L. Langenberg
NB The writer is chancellor of the University of Maryland System.
No Gift Shop
Both the reporting and commentary on the zoning board's rescission of a permit to open a condom shop in Fells Point missed the essential issue involved.
The zoning administrator and the east district planner had approved a permit for the Rubber Tree to operate as a condom shop.
The zoning code, however, does not provide for such use, so the administrator and the planner arbitrarily decided that a condom shop can be subsumed under the rubric of "gift shop."
Their action was arbitrary, because it avoided established procedures for amending the code or granting a conditional use, both of which require public hearings.
The neighborhood residents and business people correctly protested the action of the zoning administrator, and the zoning board agreed.
To appreciate how important it is to challenge the zoning administrator in instances of this kind, one must realize that with equally spurious justification he could approve a permit for a brothel in any residential neighborhood by calling it a "convent."
Legitimate arguments can be made for having a condom shop in Fells Point or in any other neighborhood, but an entrepreneur who wants to open one should endeavor to get the zoning code appropriately changed.
A woman claims that Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, forced her to have sex with him 17 years ago. Anita Hill waited 10 years before charging Clarence Thomas with sexual harassment.
The timing in both cases raises the question of whether there were other motives.
There should be a statute of limitations for accusations of sexual harassment. Accusers' motives are less likely to be questioned if accusations are made within a year after the alleged incidents.
President-elect Bill Clinton believes in a place called Hope. If he is going to bring hope to grass roots America and implement the ideals of Thomas Jefferson, he'll have to look beyond Harvard.
For the last 70 years, the Harvard Department of Economics has replaced Jefferson's ideals of agrarian democracy with the urban economic principles of John Maynard Keynes of Britain.
Democratic presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt on have looked to Keynes, who believed Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard professors knew better what was right for America than the American people themselves.
Keynes believed the middle class should be taxed out of their savings to finance government "pump priming." If this increased the national debt, no problem; we owed it to ourselves.
Forty years of a Democratic lock on Congress, which taxed and spent, and Republican presidents who borrowed and spent, have given us a $4 trillion national debt, owed primarily to our former enemies in World War II, Germany and Japan.
While the Congress focused on ousting Republican presidents over cover-ups, it covered up the truth that it had lost control of the nation's economy.
This meltdown of federal finances has pushed on the states the cost of federally mandated programs. In Maryland, this created a $500 million budget crisis that the state government pushed on Montgomery County, the "cash cow" for Maryland during the past 20 years.
Political war is in the air. Montgomery countians may blame Governor Schaefer and Baltimore City. That's the wrong target. The enemy is Congress.
John C. Webb Jr.