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SarajevoI want to thank you for the...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Sarajevo

I want to thank you for the poignant series on Sarajevo, "Life Under Siege," by Dan Fesperman (Feb. 11-14).

For me, it was the most penetrating reporting of the terrible 22 months of this war. It brought us there to the midst of the conflict and its insanity.

There, the faces of real people were illumined in the midst of darkness.

There, we learned how they cope and try to make sense out of senselessness.

There, I felt I connected with the nobility of the human spirit.

As the survivors of the Holocaust did a half century ago, Sarajevans seem to find crusts of hope in the midst of hopelessness and the seeds of life when death is everywhere -- a learning that can touch the lives of us all.

This is award-winning journalism of the finest order.

Rev. Bob Traupman

Towson

Sickening Editorial

It is sickening to read of the massacre of civilians in the genocidal war against Bosnia -- followed by your editorial rebuking the victims for resisting aggression.

You say that the Muslim-led Bosnians continue to fight their better-armed opponents in the hope that President Clinton might deliver the military assistance he had seemed to promise.

How could the spinelessness that you term Mr. Clinton's "caution" inspire anyone to do anything?

The Bosnian resistance to what you term "an acceptable partition" is more likely driven by distrust of thugs who use gang rape camps as an instrument of their policy of destroying communities. This distrust may extend to the so-called peacekeepers who promised "safe havens" but fail to deliver.

Whether or not the Bosnians have adopted the best self-defense, the issue for us is whether the United States and its NATO allies should use their military power in Europe to oppose unprovoked aggression going on under their noses when there is no immediate payoff like the control of oil fields.

Your preference for not taking sides in the Balkans is like neutrality at a gang rape. This may keep you out of the immediate conflict, but it violates the standards for civilized conduct.

Carleton W. Sterling

Baltimore

Clever Critic

Kudos to film critic Stephen Hunter.

His film reviews are clever, articulate, filled with spice and they invariably hit the nail on the head with a "bam."

He is merciless when appropriate, and his scathingly brutal critiques are so crammed with wit and insight that they are treasures.

What character this feisty rascal possesses.

His novels are masterpieces of suspense and detail that put his colleague in Annapolis to shame, and his interviews crackle with his colorful and unique style.

We in Baltimore are indeed fortunate and proud to have a writer of such caliber on The Sun staff. Thank you, Mr. Hunter, for giving us so much pleasure, while teaching us the art of film watching.

Virginia A. Stein

Baltimore

Recycling Chance

Your Feb. 8 editorial said, "Another encouraging sign is the report that the owners of the Pulaski Highway incinerator in East Baltimore might replace the plant with a regional incinerator."

Huh? Are you advocating breaking the law? Or have you forgotten that the citizens of Baltimore fought long and hard to pass a five-year moratorium on building new incinerators -- specifically to prevent the above scenario from occurring?

Baltimore already has one regional incinerator right downtown (the RESCO plant). We certainly don't need another one.

According to the Northeast Maryland Waste Authority, if the outdated, polluting Pulaski incinerator was torn down (as well it should), the remaining waste facilities would be adequate to handle both Baltimore City and the Baltimore County's trash.

Instead of advocating incinerating surrounding counties' waste (using an outdated technology which causes air and water pollution and is incredibly expensive), why not offer an alternative that would create jobs, reduce the amount of waste going to landfills and help the local economy?

The Pulaski site would be an ideal location for a recycling facility, much like the state-of-the-art facilities in Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

It could also host a light manufacturer of recycled products. Just think of it, an industrial center that would accept, sort and process recyclables and then turn them into products that could be sold locally.

Ideally, this would be run by a community development corporation that would employ local people and invest much of the proceeds in neighborhood projects. Baltimore would then be a model for the rest of the country.

The people of this city have already made it clear that they will not accept more incineration. But "not in my backyard" is not a waste management strategy. We have a vision of Baltimore that calls for creative thinking.

We hope that you and the owner of the Pulaski incinerator will some day share that vision.

Dan Jerrems

Baltimore

Taxing Benefits

Why should Social Security recipients pay taxes on over 50 percent of their benefits?

Paying taxes on the 50 percent employers paid in during their working years, I can understand. Paying taxes on their past taxes, I cannot.

Social Security should be run as a separate program and not included in the budget. Funds paid into Social Security should not be available to the government to spend on off-budget (or in-budget) programs.

Properly managed, there should be funds available for every wage earner at retirement.

James B. Gerkin, Jr.

Catonsville

Uniting to Prevent Unwanted Pregnancies

After reading Cal Thomas's Feb. 9 column, "Speaking Truth to Power," it occurred to me that pro- and anti-choice forces are spending much time and money fighting each other when they ought to be working together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies worldwide.

In seeking this result, they would have a common interest far more important than the legal issue on which they disagree.

Worldwide, there are an estimated 400 million women who want to limit the size of their families but cannot do so for economic reasons.

Many more are unable to practice birth control because of lingering social and religious constraints. When family planning services become available and the status and education levels of women are raised, abortion rates go down.

The Netherlands, where abortion is legal and contraceptives readly available, has one of the lowest abortion rates in the world: less than 5 per 1,000 women.

In contrast, Latin America, where abortion is generally illegal and family planning services scarce, has abortion rates of 30 to 60 per 1,000.

Tragically, many of these clandestine abortions have drastic effects on women's health.

In the United States, about 6 million pregnancies occur each year. About one-half of these are unintended, resulting in about 1.6 million abortions per year.

According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 82 percent of these 6 million pregnant women are unmarried, 25 percent are under 20 years of age and 33 percent have incomes smaller than $11,000 per year. The social problems created by this situation are obviously enormous.

Over time we can drastically improve the quality of life for millions of people in the U.S. and the world by joining other industrialized nations in an effort to make contraceptives and family planning services available to all of the world's poor.

Few, if any, initiatives offer comparable payoffs in reducing human misery, anarchy and resource depletion.

On the local level we can ask state and local governments to increase their support of domestic family planning activities.

At the national level we can urge our government to participate fully in funding the international family planning services supported by the United Nations and private charitable organizations.

As one of 79 nations which signed the 1989 Amsterdam Declaration setting goals for population stabilization, the United States needs to double its yearly contribution to the U.N. in order to reach the target figure of 4 percent of the U.S. foreign aid budget.

The required total -- $720 million a year is less than 0.1 percent of our $1.5 trillion national budget -- less than $3 per U.S. citizen.

We spend more to celebrate Halloween.

Dan Lynch

Baltimore

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