Save the Earth
Tom Horton (Sept. 10) issued another challenge to the people of Maryland to take a look at the Earth, the only home we will ever have, and really see what is happening.
The basic message was that if we keep destroying life on the land and in the sea, and using up the natural resources, human life on Earth will cease.
The end will come not by fire or ice or flood or war. Human life will not be destroyed by a Jupiter-like asteroid attack.
The form of life that walks on two legs will be the sole cause whichever way it goes. One of the commandments in the Hopi Indian faith is: "Thou shall take care of the Earth, and the life on Earth." Why did this never become part of the faith of other societies?
There are stories that bioluminescent bodies lived in the waters of the Chesapeake years ago. The bay has gone a long way downhill to the point where some species have vanished in our own time, and fishing certain other species is banned.
Fishing in coastal waters is in trouble. Who or what is responsible? We read that Russia cannot feed all its population, so people on land contaminated by the nuclear explosions are eating contaminated food in order to survive.
What happens if the oil fields in Saudi Arabia go pfitz tomorrow, and only salt water or air comes out? It takes 100 million years to create, and 100 years to burn up (in round numbers).
What happens if we continue to contaminate the oceans with toxic trash (as evidenced by what is washing up on the beaches), or contaminate our water tables and aquifers.
It is time for our legislators to act, and not just enjoy reading Tom Horton.
James M. Holway
Doug Struck's article on Aug. 28, "Beirut Sets About Rebuilding the Good Life," promoted the false image that Lebanon under the present conditions of occupation is secure and tranquil, when in fact the roster of general turbulence such as bombings, abductions, assassinations, detentions, extortion, vigilante "justice" by religious fanatics -- not to mention robberies, armed assaults and Syrian heavy-handedness -- continues to lengthen.
The extending of the travel ban on Americans to visit Lebanon by the State Department on Aug. 26 testifies to the fact that all is not well in the country.
Lebanon, unfortunately, remains under Syrian occupation a safe haven for Hezbollah and scores of other radical groups that have the freedom of operation and movement and are active, armed, hostile and a source of continued instability.
All the talk about the reconstruction of occupied Beirut and the recovery of Lebanon's economy is so far just that: talk.
The Syrian-installed Hariri government has only succeeded in raising taxes on an already impoverished Lebanese population.
It has confiscated large tracts of prime real estate in downtown Beirut for an alleged reconstruction scheme that will ruin the city's archaeological sites while enriching a handful of tycoons.
Without stability, without a sovereign state and without security and a government that can insure it, no real reconstruction can ever be implemented.
The writer is Washington representative of the Council of Lebanese American Organizations.
As a longtime city dweller, I have become familiar with many of the stories used by panhandlers to solicit money.
Last year's ploy was, "My family has to get to Washington for a funeral and our car broke down. Can you help with some money for the MARC train?"
The scam on the street this season, however, is so disturbing that I feel I have to share this experience.
Last week, downtown, a woman abruptly appeared out of nowhere and asked me for bus money to get to the House of Ruth, a shelter for battered women.
She looked awful -- black eye, torn clothes -- and she seemed desperate. I gave her the money and wished that I could have done more.
The woman then went into a 7-Eleven store.
A few days later, at an uptown spot far removed from the first location, I saw someone approached by another woman with a black eye and torn blouse, also asking for transportation money to get to the House of Ruth.
Shortly afterward, I saw this woman inside another convenience store, wiping blue-green make-up off her "black eye," and happily buying candy and other items for herself and her child. There had been no emergency.
Some terrible line has been crossed here. By faking emergencies of such seriousness and resonance, these women are eroding people's inclination to help a stranger in need.
A day is coming when all legitimate pleas for help will be ignored.
Paula B. Hatcher
I am writing this letter in support of Thomas Hensley's proactive stance on the newly written anti-smoking law, which was discussed in a Sept. 10 article in The Sun.
Mr. Hensley, the outstanding principal of Dulaney High School, has had a smoking cessation program in his school for the past three years. This program, held in lieu of suspension for students smoking on the Dulaney campus, meets on Saturdays and was initiated with total support from the student government association, the faculty and staff, the parents' organization and his school management team.
A health professional is paid from the school budget to help students, with parental permission, break the smoking habit. Students and parents who have participated in the program have given it high marks. Each person I have spoken with is very positive about the help given to young people to break this very unhealthy and costly habit. In fact, his model is being considered by principals of other Baltimore County high schools.
Tom Hensley is to be commended for the positive approach and tough stance he is taking on the smoking issue. He is enforcing policies given us by our legislators, our state Board of Education, our county Board of Education, and our superintendent and his staff.
Louis J. Sergi
The writer is director of Central Area high schools in Baltimore County.
I found Ian Johnson's Sept. 17 article on China's poverty very interesting. Despite all the things that would make a person give up (both children and adults), little Hu Bangjing continues to press on.
Here is a little girl who lives alone with two pigs, rarely gets enough to eat, and whose mother moved away to a nearby village to marry, and her husband's family will not accept the little girl.
My heart is touched that through all this adversity, the little girl continues to be number one in her class, continues to raise herself and work. She sees her mother only once a week.
I wonder why our students have so much trouble making the best grades they can. The majority do not have to live alone, or work and raise pigs.
Some of our students even have different outfits to wear every day, are well nourished and live with at least one parent at the age of 12.
We in Baltimore need to realize how blessed we are, and that there are many people in other places a lot worse off, who continue to strive for excellence.
Maybe if our students or adults were in Hu Bangjing's shoes for one week, we all would appreciate our situations a whole lot more and try even harder to be the very best we could be, regardless of how little we have.
A Sept. 2 column about the poor coming to Dundalk shows that you do not know the area which would be most affected by the Moving to Opportunity plan. It includes two large, empty distillery warehouses, one on Sollers Point Road, the other on Willow Springs Road, which are to be converted into apartments.
Ten percent of these would be earmarked for senior citizens, the rest for low-income families and for disabled people from the city.
As by law alcoholism and drug addiction rate as disabilities, you might understand the negative attitude of the residents in the immediate vicinity of these proposed housing complexes.
This neighborhood consists of neatly kept cottages and a
development of attractive new townhouses and single homes on Sollers Point Road, with prices ranging from $77,500 to $125,000.
Their value would drop dramatically with the conversion plan, as would the values of houses in the wider area; many of these are being remodeled by new young owners. After all, loiterers and litterers who show an interest in parked cars and pilfer mailboxes not improve a neighborhood. And as job prospects here are nil, the poor people would stay poor unless they steal.
If you pass through Yorkway or a part of Willow Springs Road in Dundalk, the difference in maintenance of the residences cannot be missed. Most of the rented properties of low-income inhabitants are very neglected, while privately owned houses and their yards are well kept.
Other streets in Dundalk show the same differences. Discarded mattresses, etc., in the alleys are as unwelcome here as anywhere else. It takes little time to ruin a neighborhood; it is almost always impossible to upgrade it within a reasonable time, as other areas of Baltimore have shown.
Our property taxes, however, would not be lowered, should we become a less desirable area to live.
The bottom line is this: We neither want our neighborhood "changed," nor do we want to lose money.
On Pratt Street just before Light Street, you can look up to your left and see that the Redwood Street side of the Southern Hotel predominates the backdrop to the Baltimore skyline, with its indentations and rich, old textured brickwork.
Take away the Southern Hotel and nothing of old Baltimore is left. All you would see would be the sterile, modern blank-walled Signet Bank and Bank of Baltimore towers.
Surveys Don't Add Much to Closing Costs
This letter is in response to the Sept. 7 article regarding survey costs. The article reported that the Board of Professional Land Surveyors has developed a new set of minimum standards for boundary surveying.
Accordingly, some Realtors and title attorneys are suggesting that these new standards, if adopted, would result in increased costs of surveys, making homes across the state "less affordable."
The article does not discuss surveying standards in depth, old or new, except to note that some surveyors now "make a cursory inspection for lot lines, checking against maps and records."
I will not discuss surveying standards here either except to point out that if you hire a surveyor, and he/she makes a "cursory inspection for lot lines," thus simply looking around for visual evidence of your boundary lines, without making measurements to confirm them, and then makes a map showing the improvements, etc., you should be skeptical about the product and service you have received.
I do want to address the closing cost issue, though. In February of 1990 I bought a house, and consequently the seller and I had to come up with a lot of money in closing costs.
When all the haggling was done, I paid $85,000 for the house. The total amount of closing costs paid by both of us was $11,284.01. (These figures are based on a VA loan. I assume they are reasonably representative of the general market.)
Therefore, we (buyer and seller) paid 13.28 percent of the sale price in closing costs. That did not include the price of a survey because I am a licensed surveyor and did the job myself.
If I were to charge for that survey, using today's standards and market value for the typical mortgage-related survey, the price would be approximately $200. Therefore, the price of the survey would amount to .24 percent of the sale price, and 1.77 percent of the closing cost amount.
If the state of Maryland adopts the new standards, I would have to charge more for the survey. In the subdivision where I now live, I would charge around $500 for the survey using the new standards. That would amount to .59 percent of the sale price, and 4.43 percent of the closing costs.
With these figures in mind, I am curious about the claim that the new surveying standards will dramatically increase settlement costs. Let's review my settlement statement to get some comparison values between land surveying fees, as noted above, and other closing cost items.
The real estate commission paid by the seller was $5,950. The total loan origination fee paid by the buyer and seller was $1,670. The VA funding fee was $1,031. Interest, insurance and taxes cost $1,171.76. Title charges were $787.50. Government-related charges were $593.50. And then there were some smaller items totaling about $70. All but the latter are more than I would charge for the survey today.
When a real estate buyer or owner has property surveyed, the lines and corners are marked, and a plat recorded in the Land Records, they add something of value to the property. They know where to build a fence, how large an addition they can put on the house, where they can put the storage shed, etc.
The way the system works now with the low-cost mortgage surveys, the buyer pays for the survey, which is ordered for the lenders' benefit so they will be sure they are lending money on a property without title problems related to boundary lines.
However, what is accepted by the title and mortgage industry is less than a full survey.
Hence, the property lines are not actually marked, let alone verified as correct in many cases. Therefore, the home buyer/owner pays the survey fee, but all too often doesn't have a useful product when it is time to build a fence, for example.
Further, with these low cost surveys, the title insurance company will not insure for losses due to boundary line problems for the owner, but they do insure against these losses for the lender.
I'm in favor of the higher standards because I think property buyers and owners (the people paying the fee) will benefit from the increased level of service, even if the price is somewhat higher.
Moreover, I certainly don't see where surveying services -- using old or new standards -- have much to do with the high closing costs in Maryland.
William C. Craig
WonderBra Isn't the End of Feminism
Miracle of miracles! The WonderBra is here.
If one is to believe the reports in The Baltimore Sun, numerous women are rushing off to purchase this prop-up for their sagging or inconspicuous breasts.
Tim Baker (Opinion * Commentary, Sept. 5) is disappointed and thinks that feminism has been wasted on women.
According to Mr. Baker, it is ironic that women are capitulating in droves to the magnifying charms of the WonderBra, especially after feminists have fought the objectification of women by men for 30 years.
In his article, Mr. Baker forgets the raw and primeval nature of human mating.
Despite our intellectual evolution, the process of mating continues to be entangled in display, preening, flirtation, seduction and all of the other paraphernalia that animals employ to captivate members of the opposite sex.
True, as Mr. Baker bemoans, women suffer much anguish to look sensuous and attractive to men.
But men, too, sport weird fashions and put themselves through physical hell to attract women.
In the 18th century, the horrible powdered wigs that men wore must not have sat comfortably on their heads. Yet, for nearly a century, colonial men sacrificed their own hair at the altar of a fashion trend they did not dare to buck.
Today, things are not much better. Look at the countless outrageous remedies for male baldness. Look at the men who pump iron in athletic clubs all over the country, sweating and agonizing their way into "brawny muscle territory."
They are not doing it for health reasons alone. Big muscles spell brute strength and redoubtable virility, which men have flaunted for eons to attract women.
Not all shorts, jeans and underwear worn by modern men are comfortable. At the cost of comfort, many of these items have been designed to accentuate certain parts of the male anatomy, considered more essential to masculinity than the brain.
The male of the species is not above preening or strutting his stuff. Out on the streets of America it is not uncommon to run into young men who wear their jeans torn exactly in the way that will titillate, shock and scandalize.
Just as women are objectified by the lavish cosmetics industry, men too have been taken.
There is Grecian Formula for Men. There is Rogaine to rejuvenate balding heads. There are deodorants, antiperspirants, colognes, after-shave lotions, subtle perfumes and hair gels galore for men -- and men alone.
There are salons, peddling pedicures, manicures, dreadlocks and Afro hair-dos for men.
The bronze rugged look is for sale, and so is the expensive sporty look that will pauperize men in the wink of an eye.
In this capitalistic paradise, men are exploited everyday. The good-looking Marlboro man has hoodwinked many an American male into believing that cigarettes are cool, and beer commercials glamorize drinking enough to get numerous young men hooked on alcohol every year.
True, men objectify women, but the reverse has been going on for a long time. Ask the handsome men of this country -- they don't have it easy.
They are ogled at, giggled at and mauled by so much attention that even the most vain among them yearns for peace and solitude.
In offices across America, men with behinds that befit the description are called "hot-buns" by women who don't suffer the twinge of conscience when it comes to objectifying men. There are women who regularly indulge in coarse, private jokes about men. Crassness goes both ways.
Yes, it would be nice if human beings can elevate mating to a higher plane, above the enticement of the WonderBra. But unfortunately, in the game of sex, men and women are equally gullible and stupid.
Mr. Baker should not write about the Wonder-Bra as though this mere piece of padded cloth has heralded the death or weakening of feminism.
The invention of the WonderBra, for God's sake, is not in the same league as the discovery of the top quark.
It is disconcerting that many enlightened men don't understand the full scope and significance of feminism, which is now a worldwide phenomenon.
Feminists took a front seat at the Cairo Population Conference because empowerment of women is closely linked to population control, environmental preservation and ultimately the preservation of our planet.
Men have a huge stake in the mental, intellectual, and spiritual empowerment of women. Even women in WonderBras and men who love women in WonderBras cannot and should not dispute that.