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School FoodYour otherwise excellent editorial, "School Food:...

School Food

Your otherwise excellent editorial, "School Food: Seeking New Ways to Satisfy Appetites," Aug. 29, omitted important facts about school cafeteria operations in Maryland. Only two weeks ago you published two letters which pointed out similar shortcomings in a news article on city school cafeterias.

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Your editorial cites city "difficulties" in feeding young people nutritious and appealing lunches (the key to financial viability of food service programs). You again fail to mention the politically imposed hiring freeze which decimated the city's high school lunch program.

The Queen Anne's County superintendent attributes a private company's success in reducing annual losses in the county to "management expertise" and a "customer-oriented operation." The article fails to mention the source of the county's previous management problems.

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For years, neither the former Queen Anne's superintendent nor the school board ever made an issue of cost while a cook with no management expertise (the same superintendent's daughter) ran the program.

These guardians of the public trust then used the disastrous results to justify privatization, even though Queen Anne's food service employees, with the help of a state peer review team, were well on the road to financial stability. Interestingly, the dollars in "profit" returned to the schools were the same amount "saved" by cutting employee benefits.

Both the city and Queen Anne's County programs were undermined by the specific policy decisions of school and political "leaders." Your omissions focus blame on the victims, the school cafeteria employees themselves, who have no say in how programs are run.

The public would be better served by more coverage of public officials' failure to do their jobs -- and the looting of the public treasury that results.

For example, you have not reported on Mayor Kurt Schmoke's pocket veto of City Council legislation to monitor the city's half-billion dollars of private contracts. You did mention briefly a bid-rigging scheme by dairy companies in 20 states, including Maryland, to steal school funds by overcharging on milk supplied to school children. This might be a good place to start.

Gail S. Riley

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Maryland State Educational Services Council, NEA.

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Needed Housing

Contrary to the opinions of letter writer Julie Smith, passage of City Council Bill 429 will grant the dreams and wishes of Baltimore City residents for sorely needed new and affordable housing.

Congratulations to the city's Department of Housing and Community Development for its creativity and frugality in spending less than $2 million to assist the builder with 102 new houses close to a park-like setting. With passage of the bill, a few city residents can look forward to first-time home ownership and the city can gain much needed increases to its tax base.

Ms. Smith is accurate in that Cylburn Arboretum's beauty and tranquility must be maintained. Its valuable old trees, its birds, flora and fauna give much pleasure to those of us who live in and near Coldspring Newtown.

We see this city-owned arboretum daily and we want its loveliness preserved. Walk through nearby Coldspring Newtown and see that we have continued our own loveliness for more than 16 years.

It should be obvious to Cylburn Arboretum and those who come to our community from outside of the city that Coldspring Newtowners work diligently. We will have no environmental degradation to the arboretum or our own community, which our mayor has called "a jewel in the city's crown."

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Not only was this community among the first to recycle, but we have been in the forefront to have the vacant Callowhill building razed to curtail the pollution, vandalism and dumping that an empty pool and building can attract.

Is there any more productive and beneficial use of city-owned land than living space for happy people who are productive homeowners?

We are puzzled by the writer's statements -- "education inequity" and "districted for less challenging schools." Is it not the right of parents to want schools for their children that can best meet their educational needs?

It seems that Ms. Smith is preaching to the choir. Coldspring Newtown wants to continue in peace and harmony with nature and with Cylburn Arboretum. There can be no better neighbors than we are.

It is shortsighted to thwart new housing for this planned community. And make no mistake about it: City Council Bill 429 will pass and there will be construction on the site of the vacant Callowhill building. If not now, when?

Charles and Harriet Griffin

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Baltimore

Phony Service

Here's a good one for you about AT&T; automated operator service.

Occasionally my friends and family call me collect at times I am not home so my answering machine answers.

Remember, I am not at home. I'm in Florida, New York City or at work. My phone bill arrives and I am charged for all these collect calls. I call the AT&T; customer service folks, send them a copy of my bill at their request. They "investigate" and eventually remove these calls from my bill.

This goes on month after month and finally an AT&T; representative tells me I will need to put a block on all incoming collect calls which would effectively prohibit me from receiving any.

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I refuse. I do not want a restricted phone line. I did not do anything, I was not at home. It was a big corporation's machine communicating improperly with my little, simple answering mechanism. I am not even an AT&T; customer.

They still send me brochures, asking me to switch to AT&T; service. Right.

Jim Couture

Pikesville

Turkey Should Not Get the Trojan Gold

The revelation in The Sun, Aug. 27, by the Moscow Ministry of Culture that the Schliemann collection of Trojan gold which had disappeared following World War II has been located in the state treasury in Moscow is great news to all and especially to the lovers of history and archaeology.

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The treasure of King Priam who ruled Troy when the Greeks under Agamemnon defeated the Trojans and took their city after a 10-year siege during the Trojan War around 1,200 B.C. was the prized possession of the Berlin Museum of archaeology. The treasure disappeared when the Soviet Army entered and occupied the fallen city in 1945.

The treasure was discovered in 1873 by the German-American archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann and his Greek wife Sophia in the ruins of the ancient city of Troy. The Schliemanns used Homer's account of the Trojan war, the "Iliad," in their search to locate the ancient, buried city in what is today Turkey and bequeathed the priceless collection to the Berlin museum.

There is excitement in the air and a great sense of anticipation as the world will again get to admire this great archaeological find. It will be first displayed in Athens as Russian President Yeltsin announced in July.

The priceless assortment of gold chains, golden and silver pitchers and thousands of gold coins will once and for all convince any skeptics regarding the historicity of the "Iliad" which is the epic account of that war and Homer's masterpiece of pre-classic Greek poetry. Troy and the Trojan war, long disputed as a myth, was first made reality by the discovery of the relics by the Schliemanns.

In Berlin the city's Culture Department spokesman stated that international law gives Germany clear ownership of the treasure. He also stated that Germany "would consider it an affront" if Russia did not return it. Greece does not claim the collection but President Yeltsin promised that the treasure will go on display first in Athens.

In Turkey, in a most ludicrous statement, it was announced that "we claim the treasure; display in Athens or return to Germany is unacceptable."

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As anyone who has visited Troy in the last few years can testify, the Turks have totally neglected the site. Hardly do the cab drivers know where to take you, the excavation area is practically obliterated and overgrown with weeds with the bright orange color of the poppy in evidence; the tumuli of Achilles and Patroclus can no longer be seen due to the lack of even elementary care of the area. On top of that Turkey has established a new military encampment in the area making it very difficult to visit the site. So much for love and respect that the Turks show about history and archaeology.

The treasure should be returned to Germany lest it be sold as trinkets in one of the bazaars in Istanbul.

Turkey is not entitled to the collection. It is true that they occupy an area in which some of the greatest civilizations, such as those of Greece and Rome flourished. The Turks, however, cannot claim or identify themselves with those civilizations because they are Asiatic. Their presence there is alien to the culture that created the superb architectural monuments and the priceless artifacts such as the Trojan gold.

It is the remains of that civilization that young and old alike in our day, and always, have wished to visit, admire and pay homage to. It is not Turkey's; it will never be.

Nicholas P. Krial

Aberdeen

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Doctor Bashing

If, as Daniel Greenberg suggests (Opinion * Commentary, Sept. 7), 42,625 applicants are competing for 16,000 first year medical school slots because they think that a medical career is an easy way to make a lot of money, then the 16,000 of them that are successful are in for an unpleasant surprise.

An M.D. degree (even after that grueling internship and residency are over) is not like a stock certificate where you can sit back in your easy chair and watch the dividends roll in. Most physicians do indeed make more than an adequate living, but they work hard for every dollar they make.

There are large differences in incomes in the United States, and one could argue ad nauseum as to which talents should receive the greatest rewards. Doctors are certainly not on the bottom of the income pyramid, but they are not at the apex either. While $150,000 per year would seem like a lot of money to a factory worker, or even a newspaper columnist, it would be mere pocket change to a Michael Jackson, a Michael Jordan or a Michael Milken. In fact, even that $500,000-a-year specialist will not earn in his lifetime as much as Mr. Milken used to make in a good afternoon peddling junk bonds.

Health care costs are out of control, and sacrifices will have to be made to get them under control again. Those sacrifices will have to be made by the whole health care industry, not just by doctors. If doctors must accept limits on their income, then so must executives in pharmaceutical companies, hospital management companies and for-profit HMOs. Investors in these companies will also have to be satisfied with a lower rate of return on their investments.

Meaningful health care reform will require much discussion and eventual hard choices. Gratuitous "doctor bashing" adds nothing useful to the debate.

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Robert J. Yaes, M.D.

Timonium


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