Shame on The Sun for the misleading, volatile and divisive story filling the top of page 3 of the Jan. 20 Maryland section, headlined "Parents say Jewish community wants their school."
According to the article, an undefined number of 11 picketing black parents made general, unsupported accusations regarding the Jewish community's alleged support for closing Pimlico Middle School.
Their "suspicions" were denied not only by Jewish leaders, but also by spokesmen for the mayor and for the school system. The Sun displayed gross insensitivity in publishing this racially-charged non-story, and in adorning it with an inflammatory headline.
The Sun should not serve as a form for the unsupported accusations of a few people against an entire community. Both the black and Jewish communities deserve an apology.
Jay N. Bernstein
School of Success
I would like to commend Michael Olesker for his compelling Jan. 10 column, "Like its students, this school needs a second chance," concerning the proposed closing of Sharp Leadenhall Elementary School.
My firm (Yaffe & Company) has had a business/school partnership with the Sharp-Leadenhall school for the past five years. I am delighted that Mr. Olesker took the time to see for himself just how vital a school like Sharp-Leadenhall is to the community.
Nearly all of the students at Sharp-Leadenhall have already failed in mainstream classroom settings. A majority have failed at three and, in some cases, four different schools. These students are finally happy to be in school -- they enjoy learning and they feel comfortable with each other and with their teachers.
They are proud to be making progress. To consider placing them back into a situation where failure is inevitable would be unthinkable.
K? Again, many thanks to Mr. Olesker for his valuable article.
Rian M. Yaffe
The letter, "Good Medicine," from Thomas H. Mehnert, Jan. 8, addressed the subject of alternative medicine and supported the cause of Dr. A. Shamim of Laurel, a holistic health practitioner under fire from the Maryland Board of Physician Quality Assurances. As you know, he subsequently lost his license.
The letter incorrectly stated that I had testified on Dr. Shamim's behalf. I have not cast judgment on Dr. Shamim's abilities.
Instead, I have tried to offer opinions on the pros and cons of alternative medicine. . .
There are a number of alternative medicine practices that fall under the banner of "good medicine." Providers of such should not be discredited simply because positive patient outcomes were achieved via non-traditional means. Conversely, there are alternative medical practices that are a means to disastrous ends. Any medicine so practiced is bad.
The public has a right to high quality medical care delivered at reasonable cost. Along with that right comes responsibilities on the part of concerned citizens, health care providers, insurance industry representatives and government officials to work together to define what constitutes "good medicine." . . .
Some answers to future problems might rest in practices viewed as non-traditional. That is one reason the National Institutes of Health acknowledged "alternative medicine" as a legitimate part medical science, and will devote serious study to this area despite criticism. . . .
Neil Solomon, M.D.
Gays in Military
President Clinton is to be commended for his intent to end the ban on gays in the military. As one reads the list of reasons put forth by Gen. Colin Powell and others as to why the ban should remain in effect, the injustice of the discrimination is all the more evident.
The fear that AIDS will become more prevalent because of gays is ridiculous. Statistics show that the gay community has significantly changed its behavior by practicing safe sex.
During my army experience in Puerto Rico a significant number of straight men visited the local "house of ill repute" weekly. I am fairly certain that this type of activity has not changed. The risk of contracting the virus which causes AIDS will increase wherever people engage in unsafe sexual practices. It cannot be blamed on gays any more than on straights.
The fear that very religious soldiers would resign is likewise ridiculous. If homosexuality would cause them to resign, why would they not be equally outraged by the sexual promiscuity of fellow soldiers including officers or the drunkenness that is quite prevalent? The Bible speaks to these issues as well. Yet they have not been mentioned as offenses to the very religious.
During my Army days I became aware of a number of gay soldiers who could have easily been rejected for service if they had chosen to check the appropriate box. The fact that they chose to serve their country and did so without incident is to their credit. Gays are in the armed forces now, and to all accounts fulfiling the requirements more than adequately. The ability of gays to serve efficiently is the only issue that should concern anyone. The rest is no one else's business.
Bruce R. Eicher
No Gun Ban
After reading Vincent DeMarco's letter of Jan. 20 headlined "Fighting Guns," I felt that I'd like to express some differing opinions. I am not a member of the National Rifle Association, nor am I a hunter or serious collector. However, I have been in law enforcement most of my life, as a Maryland state trooper from 1963 to 1967 and then into federal service.
I have no problem with the present Maryland waiting period for handguns and semi-automatic assault rifles. In fact, it would be a good idea for first-time purchasers of the above weapons to attend a safety and operational course at local qualified indoor ranges as specified by the Maryland state police as part of the approval process.
However, I am against the banning of such weapons for any law-abiding American citizen who can qualify for ownership. Most assault weapons are legally owned and enjoyed by such citizens. They are not just for "use only for criminals and terrorists," as Mr. DeMarco stated.
The overwhelming percentage of such weapons used illegally are stolen or secured through fraudulent means. Perhaps mandatory "hard-time" sentences for stealing and using stolen or fraudulently acquired weapons should be put into place.
Since many of these weapons get on the street from gun shop break-ins, let's consider regulations that gun shops must have handguns and assault rifles secured in a proper vault or safe as well as an alarm system during non-operational hours.
We are all for reasonable safety measures, but banning the honest citizen from owning a gun of his choice is not going to put a dent in the crime figures.
Luke E. Flannery
Angelou Poem Shows Strength
The enthusiastic reaction to Maya Angelou's poetry at the inauguration of President Clinton proved that we are still capable of being moved and inspired.
She was stirring; her poem, a personification of the earth's diversity, strength, and endurance, its nurturance, but its cold disinterest, too. Her poem exhorted us to be one while also being self-reliant, its message leading us to a "Good Morning" of redemption and rebirth.
She stood there powerfully, her unmistakable voice as clear as the blue skies under which the crowds stood.
She held us all, hundreds of millions of people around the very planet she was giving voice to, telling us in poetry what no other form of language can express. This former mute now uses (oral) language, our most powerful and gentle tool, to remind us that words can hold together a person, a people, a nation, and a world with far more power than the arms and weapons on which less articulate people rely.
It's impossible to describe her without using some form of the word power: her stature, her voice, her intellect, her thoughts, her words, her presence, her care, all radiate power.
She was a perfect choice as speaker, at once showing our country and our age's diversity while also uniting the generation that was leaving power with the one that's assuming it.
Few public figures inspire us as this poet does. The only ones who come to mind are the ones with a touch of the poet about them.
May our new president have that power and that touch of the poet to inspire us as Maya Angelou did on a clear winter's day last month.
Richard E. Bavaria