Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Money MattersThe Rush-bashing organization Fairness and Accuracy...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Money Matters

The Rush-bashing organization Fairness and Accuracy in Media is wrong and Mr. Limbaugh is right as usual.

FAIR contends the big guy was wrong when he stated that "banks take risks in issuing student loans" because the student loans are federally insured.

Since 20 to 23 percent of all student loans are in default, the banks have the expense to collect them, not the government.

The federal government insures only the principal. Banks are at risk for students loans.

Let The Sun keep score in FAIR's "reign of error" vs. Rush's "I told you so."

E. C. Chavatel Jr.

Hunt Valley

Farrakhan

Peter A. Jay's June 30 column states, "It's unwise to demonize [Minister Louis] Farrakhan to the point of ridiculing or condemning whatever he has to say. To do so is to make the common mistake of confusing legitimate and perhaps vital public objectives with the politics of those who advocate them."

None of the protesters of Mr. Farrakhan's condemnations of the Jews protested his legitimate and vital objectives to educate young black men.

If Mr. Jay has any evidence of any "ridiculing or condemning" of these commendable objectives by those who protested his condemnation of the Jews, he should make it known. Otherwise he will leave the impression that the confusion is his own.

Milton Layden

Baltimore

Radical Decision

Contrary to the whining interpretations of the rival amici curiae printed in Perspective July 3, the Supreme Court decision in the Kiriyas Joel case was a radical deviation from past policy and a major victory for religious minorities.

The court's opposition to the all-Hasidic school district was limited to its having been created by a special statue that deviated from New York's established policy of not allowing any village to set up its own school district.

The court went out of its way not to object to the provision of all other municipal services from the all-Hasidic village of Kiriyas Joel, since it was chartered through a general statute applicable any group.

The new "holding" is that if no preference is being given to one group (religious or non-religious) over another, any religiously oriented group can apply for a governmental privilege. This is not an analysis the opponents of Kiriyas Joel wanted to hear.

Heretofore the educational establishment has assumed that any substantial deviation in public school practice to accommodate a religious minority was prohibited by the Constitution.

Not only has the Supreme Court said that such accommodations are constitutional, they said they expect the local school district to make such accommodations.

In a city like Baltimore, whose substantial Orthodox Jewish community has been excluded from many services by the intolerance or indifference of the secular establishment, the recognition of a constitutional duty to accommodate religious minorities may result in radical changes.

Aaron Wolfe Kuperman

Baltimore

Sainted Word

While I appreciate his review of my book, "The Jew in the Lotus," your reviewer was mistaken when he called my rendering of the Hebrew word for "saint" as "hasid" a "definite howler" ("Seeking spirituality; coming home," July 3).

If I have howled, it is in excellent company: "Hasid" is used this way in the Talmud (Pirke Avot 5:10) and by Rashi and Maimonides -- as can be seen in the translation of Professor Judah Goldin.

However, I do believe your reviewer was accurate when he found The Jew in the Lotus" to be "full of vivid observations and provocative speculations."

Rodger Kamenetz

Baton Rouge, La.

Racist Flag?

Gregory P. Kane is absolutely wrong when he writes that "the United Daughters of the Confederacy insignia . . . contained the symbol of the Confederate battle flag" ("A Flag That Symbolized the Opposite of the American Ideal," Opinion * Commentary, July 11).

The flag that is shown in the insignia of the United Daughters of the Confederacy is not the Confederate battle flag. It is the "Stars and Bars," the first Confederate flag, which was adopted in 1861 by the Confederate convention in Montgomery, Ala.

Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois didn't know that, either. But it didn't stop her from denouncing this fine group of ladies who work as unpaid volunteers at such institutions as veterans' hospitals, homeless shelters, food banks and homes for battered women.

They have awarded millions of dollars in scholarships and have provided academic awards to our service academies.

Oveta Culp Hobby, who led the Texas chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in her time, was the first secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare under President Dwight Eisenhower.

Mr. Kane should get his facts straight before he starts berating those he labels as "latter-day sympathizers with the Confederacy."

Richard T. Seymour

Baltimore

It's No Surprise Keith Murphy Was Mugged

Michael Olesker's column June 30 lamented the fact that no one would stop and help Keith Murphy, the victim of a mugging outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards after a ball game.

While the lack of willingness to offer assistance on the part of any of the passers-by is indeed lamentable, I dare to ask the

question, what would Mr. Olesker have done?

The easy answer is to run around to try to find the closest police officer. Someone should have done that, and it's likely that someone did at least try to find the police.

But I've been to enough Orioles games to know that you can't always just look around and spot a policeman close by, up on his horse, waiting for just such a victim to rescue.

The harder choice is to insert one's self into a violent confrontation. Right. Most people are thoroughly unprepared to defend themselves against a physical attack from one person, let alone three as in the case of Mr. Murphy. In this day of the brazen street criminals who fear no one -- including the police and criminal justice system -- the presumption of your every-day, paranoid, law-abiding passer-by is that such street scum are likely to be armed and dangerous.

Short of someone with police/security or self-defense training (and better yet, armed with a handgun and the knowledge to use it), I cannot imagine many people, let alone perfect strangers, having the nerve, ability and self-confidence to think that they could successfully intervene in such a scene without putting their own life in serious peril.

Aside from the perceived risk to personal safety, the conditioning which Americans have undergone for too long -- both deliberately and as a consequence of our legal system -- has taught people several lessons that worked against the defenseless Mr. Murphy:

* You cannot carry a dangerous weapon with which to protect yourself or others from bodily injury because the state knows what's best for you.

That's what the police are for. They'll likely arrest you as a common criminal for weapons violations even if you rescue the perceived victim without harming anyone.

And to put the cherry on top, you might also be charged by your local politically-correct state's attorney's office with criminal assault, battery, attempted murder and the like.

* You cannot intervene in a violent confrontation between others because you don't know what you're doing. That too is what the police are for, and if you were to hurt someone (either the alleged attacker or the intended victim) in your efforts to be a good Samaritan, you'll likely be sued in civil court by someone and spend the rest of your life paying not only damages but your own lawyer's bill as well.

In short, even if we throw caution to the wind and try to help someone in Mr. Murphy's predicament, the widely held public attitude is that no good deed goes unpunished.

It just isn't worth all the risks.

That isn't the way America and its people used to be. But as a people, we've become weak and soft. Except, that is, for the fearless thugs who have no sense of the value of a human life and who walk the streets among us feeling that they are invincible. If that seems like an overly broad and critical assessment, tell me who is winning the street war on crime, them or us?

In spite of our vulnerability to criminals, our government likes us this way because we're meek and easier for them to manipulate, control and dominate.

It's all about power. I don't know who said it first, but there's a saying to the effect that we should fear any government that fears its own people.

To the extent that people today arms themselves and fights back (whether it's a downtown shop owner trying to save a life and a life's investments from an armed robber, or some like Randy Weaver or the Branch Davidians trying to protect themselves from government agents gone amok), the full weight of today's government is brought to bear upon them to teach them, and us, who's the boss.

A strong-willed and independent populace is what our current government fears the most as they try to re-engineer our society and culture to their own liking.

By and large our government doesn't fear us these days because of the jellyfish which we've become.

As a result, criminals don't fear us either, and no one would stop to help Keith Murphy.

Michael B. Grugan

Baltimore

Include Teachers in Recertification Plan

I have been following The Sun's coverage of the Maryland State Board of Education's handling of the teacher recertification process with a great deal of interest and a certain degree of disappointment.

The Sun has continued to take its traditional anti-teacher stance in its editorials, columns and news pieces. It has repeatedly noted Maryland teachers are automatically recertified by merely filling out a form and sending in $10. This is misstating the facts.

In reality, a teacher must, during a 10-year period, take at least six credits in graduate work in order to qualify for certificate renewal.

While it certainly is not extremely challenging, The Sun, by systematically ignoring this requirement, has created a perception in the minds of its readers that is incomplete and misleading.

True excellence in our schools will not become reality until all parties that have a stake in education take full responsibility for their roles in the system. This includes politicians, educators, families, students, as well as teachers.

There is no doubt that a revision of teacher certification requirements should be part of a comprehensive restructuring of the education system in Maryland.

By supporting the state board's program, The Sun missed an opportunity to truly examine what the state has in store for its teachers and to explore a variety of viable alternatives.

By not bringing a substantial segment of the teaching profession into the recertification design process, the state board has perpetuated the paternalistic relationship that has existed in education for decades, one that is evident in no other system of professional licensing or certification of which I am aware.

Once again, instead of being empowered to help provide a solution, teachers are being told that they are the problem and that what the state has decided will be good for them.

The unions and other professional education organizations would probably buy into change, if only we would be for once allowed to take part in the change process. I have no doubt that a program in which teachers had decision-making power would be tough but fair.

Under the new plan, a teacher who is rated as unsatisfactory a certain amount of times will automatically lose his or her license to practice in the profession. This is far different than losing one's job. This individual, who might be evaluated by someone with whom the teacher has had a personality conflict, is then unable to seek employment elsewhere.

What law firm, when dismissing an associate in whom it has lost faith, is entitled to strip the attorney of his or her membership in the bar? What hospital can remove a nurse's license because he or she did not get along with a hospital administrator?

Losing one's job and one's license should be a two-step process with a system of due process, rather than one fatal blow. There is no doubt that a school system should be able to remove a teacher or administrator who is not doing a satisfactory job. However, this is a far different issue than the right to earn a license or certification.

It seems obvious to me that a broad-based commission of teachers and others could have come up with a far more visionary plan than the one being foisted upon us by the State Board of Education.

The Sun, with its great resources in the community, can do a great public service by investigating other options rather than blindly supporting this ill-conceived plan.

Paul S. Schatz

Bel Air

D8 The writer was Maryland Teacher of the Year in 1987.

Ocean City Isn't Losing Business

In your July 3 article entitled, "Ocean City hopes to turn tide for ailing downtown" and written by Lorraine Mirabella, inaccurate figures were used to support the idea that the resort is in trouble.

While it is true that revitalization of downtown is a major topic of discussion, and it is likely that something major will happen in the next few years, the number of visitors coming to Ocean City is still increasing.

The weekend population figures used in your story come from a 20-year-old formula called Demoflush. The formula tries to estimate weekend population figures through a calculation aimed at determining how many times the toilets are flushed.

Another local newspaper, The Maryland Times-Press, makes that highly controversial calculation, which few people take seriously anymore for several reasons:

* The amount of water used to flush the average toilet is less than what it was when the formula was originally created in the 1970s because newer toilets are more efficient.

* The Ocean City water-treatment plant also serves fast-growing West Ocean City, which, if the calculation were accurate, would show increases, not decreases.

* And, the most important reason, every other method of estimating population shows the number of visitors coming to the resort is either increasing or stable.

Those calculations include the number of vehicles crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which has increased every year (from 1991 to 1993, the increase ranged from 3.1 percent to 3.8 percent annually); room tax revenue, which, contrary to the statement in your story that it was down in 1993, rose by 11.2 percent in 1993; retail sales, which in 1993 increased by 0.9 percent; real estate sales volume, which was up by 2.3 percent last year; the number of people riding the Ocean City bus system, which continues to set records every year; and the average daily traffic on Route 50, which also continues to climb.

Additionally, the room tax revenue calculation was altered in January 1993, which makes comparisons to previous years difficult.

Before 1993, room tax had to be paid during the month that any payment was made on the room.

Because of this, the room-tax figures were skewed toward the off-season, because that is when many people made deposits on the rooms they were not going to use until the summer, and the tax on that portion of the payment had to be paid at that time.

Beginning in 1993, the room tax did not have to be paid until the room was actually occupied, providing for a more accurate calculation.

Other problems with your story include unsubstantiated commentary, such as "thinking the town will thrive simply preserving the status quo can only lead to dire consequences."

Also, we are not in Wicomico County, we are in Worcester County.

It would be proper to say that Ocean City is looking for ways to improve itself, but to say that the resort is in serious trouble is a mistake.

Brian J. Magee

Ocean City

H

The writer is the editor of the Maryland Coast Dispatch.

O. J. Coverage Feeding Frenzy

Not to split hairs (pun intended), but I feel the recent media coverage of the O. J. Simpson matter is a bit much even for this avid reader of murder mysteries.

While it may be argued that hours-long coverage of the Simpson hearing provided the public a sort of Rudimentary Law education as to courtroom procedure (and assuredly an enthralling change from the soaps), the sight of the three major network anchors concurrently hovering over these proceedings like a troika of avenging angels is to me absolutely astounding and not a little appalling.

Obviously, this story, in some quarters, is the meat of kings, and while such overkill coverage may prove dyspeptic to certain viewers, these hearings are apparently that for which the networks, and the print media as well, have long hungered.

Television's larder and those of others might be bare indeed if their executives could not share this pitiful porridge by limiting their covereage and scheduling it at different hours.

In magazines and dailies, a gallery of Simpson portraits reflect a repetition that is state of the art.

"Is there a feeding frenzy?" they ask plaintively. You betcha.

Surrounding print and visual media, a blatant, unthinking competition for news in this case has relegated some responsible anchors and editors to the realm of questionable journalism.

The tragic deaths of two innocent people and the numbing fall of a very well-known sports hero are not the only disasters in this sad tale.

What we are also losing is balanced, objective and reasonable media coverage. In its place we have a plethora of speculation, supposition and at times totally erroneous information.

Ideally, responsible news coverage takes a subject in perspective as viewed against the backdrop of events taking place here at home and abroad.

The story of O. J. Simpson is not unique or unprecedented and should not warrant this firestorm of publicity.

There have been other idols with feet of clay. There have been other murders shrouded in mystery.

But there used to be some journalistic respect for and knowledge of the legal jeopardy which excessive and sensational reporting presents to a case.

Previously, among the elite press, there had been no widespread, klieg-light, mini-series approach to a news event that involved a possible trial.

With the present Simpsonmania afoot in the press, the public is poorly served (unless pandering to voyeurism is considered a service); the hope of a fair trial, whenever it occurs, is surely jeopardized, and, lastly, public confidence and belief in the truth and restraint of American journalism are unnecessarily but understandably diminished.

If a lust for higher ratings and increased circulation is so pervasive that it obliterates objectivity and moderation in reporting a story, then indeed the twilight, not the dawn, of our Great Age of Communication has commenced.

Lois L. Jones

Baltimore

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