Foster CareGeorgia Corso accuses Andrew Bard Schmookler...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Foster Care

Georgia Corso accuses Andrew Bard Schmookler in your August 30 letters column of missing the point in the DeBoer/Schmidt case: "Each case waits its turn to be heard and each case is equally important to the courts." Ms. Corso got the point but missed the mark.

Children experience time differently from adults: Even a few days of separation from loved ones can cause a child great distress. Prolongation of this distress can lead to profound and lasting psychological trauma. Children do not have time for the courts to treat their cases as "equally important."

Legal system delays harm hundreds of thousands of children each year. For instance, in Maryland, 1,300 children in foster care are waiting for adoption because their parents have demonstrated insufficient ability or interest in providing a stable home.

Maryland courts take more than a year on average to render a decision on petitions for termination of parental rights in such cases. This is only one example of how delays harm many children.

It is foolish and cruel for responsible, professional adults to maintain a legal system that gives children "equal" treatment when their need is greater. Children without permanent families are in jeopardy. Their pain can affect them -- and us -- for their entire lives.

Therefore, we need to fashion laws and rules that require that cases involving child custody, placement or adoption have higher priority in our court system. Had we such an urgent action principle, Jessica/Anna would have been returned to her father much sooner and with much less risk to her. In Maryland, the General Assembly has asked the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals to recommend action on family divisions of the Circuit Courts, which could coordinate consideration of such matters and reduce delays. We strongly endorse the establishment of adequately funded family divisions.

Iris Gordon

Baltimore

The writer is the chairperson of the Maryland Citizen Board for Review of Foster Care of Children.

Explorers

I read with interest Robert Park's Aug. 29 piece in Perspective, "What Went Wrong with the U.S. Space Program." Professor Park is a frequent and somewhat tedious critic of the Space Shuttle.

So he attributes most of NASA's problems to the Shuttle and suggests the space program would be better off if we kept the astronauts on the ground, spending our money instead on robotic spacecraft.

The truth is that human exploration of space is and must continue to be a key component of the nation's endeavors in space. We place men and women in space because exploration is an imperative deeply rooted at the core of human beings who cannot truly know something until they are physically there and who are not satisfied until they've made the journey. Human beings go into space because they are compelled to expand the scope of human experience. Such exploration adds to our knowledge. It satisfies our curiosity. And it responds to our sense of adventure. We go into space because we are alive and because, as humans, we seek to experience all that we can.

Professor Park's space program would discard all this. He would launch a bunch of small scientific spacecraft and gather a great deal of scientific data.

But exploration is about more than data. It is about human experience, about sending forth men and women to Earth orbit and beyond. The Space Shuttle enables us to safely reach orbit and return. It does not fly as frequently as we would like nor does it fly cheaply. But given the difficulty of going 17,500 miles per hour, the speed necessary to reach orbit, it works remarkably well, and will continue to do so well into the next century.

erence T. Finn

Washington

The writer is a senior policy analyst at NASA.

Nicaragua

The Sun still doesn't get it. In the Aug. 26 editorial concerning Nicaragua, it states that Mrs. Chamorro "can't govern unless she gets rid of the Sandinista infection."

The Sun neglected to mention that the Sandinistas were voted into office in 1984 in an election deemed honest and fair by virtually every world source except our government and, of course, The Sun.

The Sandinistas created a society that won the Red Cross

Award for eliminating many diseases wrought by neglect from the U.S.-backed Somoza dictatorship. Nicaragua also won the UNESCO Award for eliminating illiteracy in her people.

The Sandinistas brought light and hope to the people, but our nTC government created a unilateral, illegal, relentless and terrorist war against them with the contras as surrogates.

The contras were and are savage, out-of-control terrorist factions spearheaded by officers formerly loyal to Somoza, deposed in 1979 after 40 years of U.S.-backed, bloody, oppressive rule.

The contra terrorists would not have existed a week were it not for hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to create, train and sustain them.

During their bloody war against the Nicaraguan people, they were not able to gain even one foot of ground or take a single village.

U.S. policy of contra support was condemned by the World Court, boycotted by our government.

No, the "infections" are the contra terrorists and U.S. intervention. If in the next Nicaraguan election, the Sandinistas come back to govern, they must be allowed to govern in peace.

Otherwise, more Nicaraguans will die, adding to the 35,000 already dead, tainting our government's claim to be against terrorism anywhere else in the world.

Gerald Ben Shargel

Reisterstown

No Golf Course

In reply to your slanted Aug. 28 editorial, "Gestalt of Golf," you neglected to mention that the location of the proposed golf expansion in Baltimore County for an additional 21 holes is located on the Loch Raven Reservoir. We already suffer the presence of 18 holes of golf in this area, specifically known as the Pine Ridge Golf Course.

Baltimore County residents do not own or profit from the Pine Ridge Golf Course, nor do they wish to build on the watershed. The land around the watershed was deeded specifically for the purpose of guaranteeing that the citizens of Baltimore City and Baltimore County have a clean, pristine and abundant water supply.

Destroying 100 acres of trees which serve as a buffer for our water supply is not a priority probably the first 18 holes should never have been there!

Let's have more golf courses in Baltimore County, but not on our watershed.

Margaret DiNardo

Timonium

Restraints Urged for Hunters

In light of Tom Horton's Aug. 28 column urging state officials to adopt a conservative stance when setting this year's Canada goose season, it is indeed sad to see them take the opposite approach and risk the future of this wonderful resource.

Will we never learn to practice self-control?

Instead of lashing out with a letter of protest, I offer all waterfowlers this modest proposal: Join me in a voluntary, self-imposed ban on shooting Canada geese on the Eastern Shore this year.

Instead, take your 35 mm camera or camcorder into the blind or try your luck at Snow goose hunting with its liberal bag limits and larger population of birds. And by all means, if you must hunt Canadas, follow the earlier proposal for a 30-day, one-bird limit.

If you want your children to see our Canada goose population return to its former greatness, this will make perfect sense.

A little responsibility and self-control on all our parts might send enough young Canada geese home next spring to ensure steady growth of the flocks for future generations of Marylanders.

Remember, just because there was a great hatch of young birds on the breeding grounds this spring, those birds won't be able to reproduce for three years.

C'mon ethical hunters, join me.

ary N. Michael

Lutherville Your editorial "Troubled Maritime Industry" which appeared Aug. 29 is terribly misleading.

About the only thing that is accurate is that American shipping companies operate at huge disadvantages in terms of the requirements, as well as certain maintenance costs.

Your statement that U.S. crews are 50 percent to 90 percent larger is patently false.

I had occasion to ride aboard a Danish vessel in May 1992 on a voyage from Baltimore to New York. This ship was clearly state-of-the-art and was certified to carry a crew of 14.

However, in addition to this crew of 14, there were three Thai workers aboard who concentrated on deck work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a period of 84 days -- the turnaround time for this vessel. In addition, an electrician and a welder/engineer were aboard (who were not required by the certificate of inspection) as well as two cadets, making a total of 21.

The majority of diesel vessels in the U.S. Merchant Marine carry crews of 21 men, down from over 30 men only a few years ago. These ships were not automated to accommodate these crew reductions, unlike their foreign counterparts.

No one expects or wants American merchant seamen to exist on Third World market wages. Considering that many world-market sailors have their health care taken care of by their governments, and that they are exempt from their countries' income taxes, and that their relative earnings among their countrymen place them among the highest wage earners in their own country, it becomes even more unrealistic to compare labor costs of American seamen with labor costs of Third World seamen.

The issue that the United States government has to face is: Does America need or want a U.S. Merchant Marine? Sen. Barbara Mikulski, at a recent Senate subcommittee hearing, testified that as far as entrusting our defense to foreign nationals, she "was not content to rely on the kindness of strangers." She is absolutely right.

In addition to remaining "our fourth arm of defense," the American Merchant Marine represents an essential national asset, an opportunity to remain on a competitive footing with our trading partners and competitors, many of whom would love to see our Merchant Marine in shambles.

We have to save the American Merchant Marine, secure our national defense in an era calling for greater and greater mobility from our own continental United States, preserve American competitiveness in the world and secure American jobs and living standards.

But we cannot do this if we immobilize ourselves by turning into Cassandras.

Timothy A. Brown

Linthicum Heights

The writer is international president, International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots.

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