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AIDS Is a Threat to All AmericansThe...

AIDS Is a Threat to All Americans

The National Research Council's recent study for the National Academy of Sciences concluding that AIDS "will have only limited impact on much of the nation" is criminal.

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I am outraged and dismayed that this study would receive any credibility.

This group's suggestion that AIDS only affects "marginal" and "largely invisible" groups in this nation -- i.e., homosexuals and drug abusers -- and therefore will "disappear" on its own is ludicrous and ignores a worldwide body of evidence to the contrary.

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Internationally, heterosexuals form the largest AIDS population. HIV, like other diseases, most often reaches the general population through a common portal of entry: the poor and disenfranchised.

Here in the U.S., AIDS, as the study notes, first gained access to Americans via homosexual and drug abuser groups.

It is only logical that the greatest number of deaths to date have occurred in groups first stricken.

To take those statistics and conclude that AIDS is not a threat to all Americans is to say bungee jumping is safe because no one suffered injury today, or that Baltimore has no crime because last night no homicides occurred.

This flawed logic also dismisses the human value of the so-calle "socially marginalized" groups and puts the entire human population at risk by playing down the threat.

Make no mistake: AIDS is a killer with a voracious appetite for all people, regardless of race, creed, color, lifestyle or sexual preference.

Unchecked, AIDS will have a lasting impact on health care, because unlike other scourges such as bubonic plague, AIDS is the most costly disease to hit mankind, affecting even the unborn.

AIDS will continue to destroy in increasing numbers, producing staggering medical bills society must pay, unless public attention, funds, personnel, research talent and preventive education and treatment energies are directed toward its total eradication.

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I urge everyone to continue taking preventive measures and support local and federal efforts to fight this deadly foe.

Neil Solomon, M.D.

Baltimore

The writer is chairman of the Governor's Health Care Reform Commission.

Genocide Defined

The most appropriate comment about the Norplant debate that I have heard to date came from the principal of the Lawrence Paquin School, Dr. Rosetta Stith.

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She said, "I'll tell you what's genocidal. When girls don't go to school -- that's genocidal."

Carleton W. Brown

Elkton

Factual Language

As one who was present at both Archbishop William Keeler's meeting with Shimon Peres and his earlier address to the National Jewish Community Relations Council, I would like to express my appreciation for the fine quality of your reporting.

One matter, however, needs further response. This is the "general Israeli government view," as expressed by Avi Granot, that Archbishop Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, is in some way "politically inclined" when he merely articulates the feelings of his flock or is "viciously critical" when he speaks as a bishop of the difficulties facing his people as a "minority within a minority" in Israel and the territories.

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The patriarch has never, to our knowledge, in any way advocated or justified violence. On the contrary, his message has been to condemn violence and urge all involved to engage in peaceful negotiation and resolution.

It was precisely the growing concern of American Catholics over what we see as an unnecessarily negative and unhelpful "general Israeli government view" of the patriarch that Archbishop Keeler requested Mr. Peres to review.

Such a review may show that there exists a misunderstanding between our communities concerning the proper role of a bishop as one who speaks responsibly both to and, at times, for his people.

As the dialogue moves forward on this and other matters of mutual concern, we would urge more moderate and factual language in speaking of one another than that displayed by Mr. Granot in this instance.

Eugene J. Fisher

Washington

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The writer represents the Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

Uneven Sacrifice

Your editorial of Feb. 8, "Social Security and Shared Sacrifice," overlooked many important facts in defining "shared sacrifice" and unfairly classifies all retirees with income above $25,000 (single) and $32,000 (married) as wealthy and affluent.

Many retirees you so classify were required to forfeit as much as 50 percent of the pensions they earned after a life-time of employment in the private sector because of anticipated Social Security benefits.

You stated, "The present system stands fairness on its head. It provides the largest benefits to those whose income during working years were the highest and provides the smallest benefits to those who need it the most."

Those with the highest income paid the maximum in Social Security taxes while many now receiving benefits up to an average of $650 per month will receive much more in benefits, proportionately, when acceptable annuity standards are applied.

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Retirees now receiving Supplemental Security benefits have paid little if any contributions into the fund. Many of them also benefit from housing subsidies, food stamps and Medicaid benefits paid for by the taxpayers.

If the taxable ceiling is raised to 85 percent of the present $25,000-to-$32,000 level, it will mean that those just below that level would continue to be exempt while those even slightly above would forfeit about 30 percent of their benefits to taxation.

If sacrifices are to borne equitably by retirees, there is justification for lowering or eliminating the threshold.

The present combined personal exemptions and standard deduction of $8,700 for single and as high as $13,400 for married or widow(er) retirees (intended to rise in the future under indexing) would eliminate tax on those with modest benefits and tax those with income above those amounts at graduated rates of 15 percent up to the proposed 36 percent, based on ability to pay.

This would truly represent shared sacrifice instead of unfairly treating some retirees as sacrificial lambs.

This would also spark more interest by all citizens to see that the bases for calculating pension benefits for federal civilian and military retirees and members of Congress and their staffs, as well as on-going subsidies for certain agricultural and mineral interests, are openly scrutinized.

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This would go a long way toward serious consideration of all means of reducing the federal budget deficit.

H. Leveson

Baltimore


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