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Rest of U.S. shouldn't get bill for...

Rest of U.S. shouldn't get bill for quake

With the rest of the country, I watched with concern the aftermath of the recent California earthquake.

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Unlike most, however, I do not feel pouring out money for the victims in and around Los Angeles is the best way to express my concern.

Everybody knows that the California coast is prime earthquake territory. One of the costs of living in the Golden State is suffering with the occasional earthquake.

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The people of California should be the ones to pay that cost.

The state of California has an obligation to rebuild the freeways, schools and other public structures damaged or destroyed in the quake, but they should raise the money themselves.

I hope, but do not expect, that the federal government will turn down California begging for money.

You reap what you sow. If you sow your seeds in California, you should expect the ground to swallow some of them up every once in a while.

Fortunately, there are insurance companies to help equally distribute the cost of earthquakes. The purpose of insurance is for people to pool their money together to help the few who need it. If people neglect to protect themselves, then they must learn to be hurt once in a while.

Banks are also available to loan money to those who need to rebuild. Federally subsidized loans to the earthquake victims should be given sparingly, because in most cases the applicants could either get a loan from a bank or are bad credit risks. Government should not be undercutting the role of private industry.

California is an example of compassion gone bad. Hospitals are not allowed to ask a patient about their citizenship, so the taxpayers end up paying billions in free health care to illegal aliens. The taxpayers must also pay for the cost of welfare and education to the children of illegal aliens born in the United States.

In California they are fighting against themselves. They try hard to keep illegal aliens out but reward them once they safely cross the border.

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While I am against giving, but not lending, money to the state of California for the earthquake, they should be compensated for suffering disproportionately due to bad federal immigration laws.

California is also a most generous state in terms of welfare benefits and is consequently a welfare magnet. The Los Angeles riots were largely the cause of the hopelessness felt by an underclass of people dependent on the "compassionate" welfare payments from the government.

California's Gov. Pete Wilson is trying to correct these problems but is unfortunately labeled as an immigrant- and welfare-basher.

Let free enterprise run its course and everything will turn out for the best.

David Shackleford

Baltimore

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Tough love

The more arguments we hear urging "scholarships" -- a misnomer -- for the athletic poor, the less we understand the problem. But there is a simple solution.

Forget the misnomer and call it what it is: an athletic grant without any academic skills required. No classes, no exams, no degree.

Let sports-minded educational institutions field designated players for all sports just like the pros and forget any attempt at academic training.

Pyrrhic victories will pile up until the day we awaken to the fact that the ignorant rich are our leaders, and the gods of the arenas have triumphed over the mind of man.

It will take a couple of decades to avert that, but we can start now with pre-schoolers and a great deal of tough love.

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Walter Koehler

Baltimore

Double standard?

Isn't it interesting!

While some Republicans clamored for the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate the Whitewater venture of President Clinton, a Democrat, lawyers for other Republicans asked the courts to suppress the report of the independent counsel who investigated the Iran-contra scandal, a legacy of the Reagan era.

Morton C. Paulson

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Silver Spring

MADD's legislative program reasonable

In reference to an Associated Press story in The Evening Sun Jan. 31 regarding tougher drunken-driver laws, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in Maryland would like to clarify certain statements.

The opening sentence states that "Maryland has some of the strictest drunk driving laws in the country, but Mothers Against Drunk Driving will ask the 1994 General Assembly to tighten the screws a little more."

That assertion suggests that we are seeking unreasonable or unwarranted changes in the existing laws. But MADD's legislative goals are never fully or accurately explained.

We propose three initiatives, all of which have previously been introduced and killed in committee.

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They are: a "per se" intoxication standard for drivers with a blood-alcohol content of .10 percent; a ban on open containers of alcohol in a vehicle; and mandatory blood-alcohol testing in crashes that result in serious bodily injury.

Under our current law, a blood-alcohol level of .10 is only presumed to be an indicator of intoxication. Such factors as sex, weight, time and amount of last food intake and performance of field sobriety tests are considered in determining intoxication.

It is easy to see why attorneys love this presumptive law, since they can drag out the cases and run up billable hours challenging the blood-alcohol results on the above factors.

A "per se" law, however, eliminates all of these factors -- blood-alcohol content alone attests to intoxication. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have already adopted this level of evidence.

Although we recognize that some regular drinkers build up a tolerance to the visible effects of alcohol, and are able to pass sobriety tests at levels of .10 and beyond, volumes of medical research have established that everyone's driving ability is affected above .05.

Judgment is impaired, reflexes are slowed, visual acuity is reduced and coordination is impaired. At .05, the risk of causing a crash doubles, while at .10, the risk is several times more likely.

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Based on this data, 10 states have taken the next step and reduced their "per se" intoxication level to .08, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Under our current law, a driver may not drink alcoholic beverages while driving on Maryland roadways. This is merely an anti-consumption law and does not do enough to promote highway safety in the state.

It does nothing to eliminate the "rolling cocktail parties" where the driver can easily pass off drinks to the passengers since, under the law's current provisions, a policeman must actually witness the driver drinking.

MADD's open container proposal would prohibit any open container of alcohol in the passenger compartment of an automobile (with certain exceptions for commercial vehicles, motor homes, etc.). This is simply a common sense safety and deterrent measure. In most of our local jurisdictions, one cannot walk on a sidewalk with an open alcoholic beverage, so why should it be different when operating a vehicle on our public streets?

Our proposal for mandatory blood-alcohol testing of drivers in crashes that result in serious bodily injury does not deviate from current standards in that the police officer at the scene must still have "reasonable grounds" that there is alcohol involvement in order to request the test.

The blood-alcohol test results have to be performed within two hours of the incident in order to be admitted into court proceedings.

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MADD has seen instances of serious injury which resulted in death after the two-hour limit where the at-fault driver has escaped the charge of "homicide by motor vehicle while intoxicated" because the test was not performed. This mandatory testing provision already exists for crashes involving fatalities.

Lastly, the comments of Sen. Walter M. Baker, D-Cecil, and Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr., D-Prince George's, speak for themselves. Mr. Vallario is mistaken, however, in that the national MADD organization gave Maryland a B, not an A, on its drunk driving report card.

Their comments typify the mind-set of all too many of our legislators. Their concern is directed to the impaired driver who made a choice, not to the innocent victims of this crime who did not have a choice in the matter.

Drunk driving is the only crime that accepts alcohol intoxication as a legitimate excuse for killing or maiming someone.

As long as society tolerates and excuses this crime with "he/she isn't a criminal", "they didn't mean to hurt anyone" or "there but for the grace of God go I", innocent people will continue to have their lives turned upside down and the economic costs to society will remain immense.

Let us never forget that the drinking driver made a choice and should be held accountable for the consequences of that choice. That is the least society can do for the victim.

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Brenda S. Barnes

Annapolis

The writer is executive director of MADD Maryland.


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