Rowan on NAACPCarl T. Rowan's Feb. 22...


Rowan on NAACP

Carl T. Rowan's Feb. 22 column, "The Third Deadly Sin," is the culmination of what should be an award winning series.

Mr. Rowan certainly must have suffered pains of anguish and disappointment in having to expose the failures within his beloved NAACP.

To witness the decline of what has been this country's most historical and successful civil rights organization certainly must have been a traumatic experience.

His articles not only informed the public of what went wrong but also of what is needed to resurrect this great organization.

There are many examples in history of courageous leaders coming to rescue people at the most critical time of their lives.

Mrs. Myrlie Evers-Williams, the newly elected chairwoman of the board of the NAACP, is certainly the right person at the right time.

We will all be looking forward to Mr. Rowan's forthcoming articles on the rebirth and rising success of the NAACP.

Walter Boyd


Pension Furor

While I am not a fan of Gov. Parris Glendening, I can't understand what all the furor is about the Prince George's County pension plan.

As a former state bureaucrat, I can tell you that the state government has many retired high-ranking military persons working for it.

There are physicians in the Health Department, engineers in the Department of General Services and other such places.

One of the top executives in the Department of Employment Security was a retired Marine general. Many retired Baltimore City firemen and police have been employed by the state. The funds to pay for these pensions all come from the same source, the taxpayer.

Under Maryland's retirement law, a retired employee of the state or any participating county or municipality (Prince George's County does not participate) cannot accept permanent employment with the state or any such participating municipality or county without having his or her retirement allowance suspended.

In other words, the state can hire a retiree from Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery County or any other political subdivision with its own, or no, pension system.

But a state employee cannot accept employment with Harford County, Cecil County or other participants without having his or her pension suspended. Nor can their retirees work for the state or each other without having their pensions suspended.

I once had an employee who was a teacher retired from Pennsylvania. If he had been a Maryland retired teacher, his pension would have been suspended. This is very unfair, and despite many attempts to get rectifying legislation, it is still in effect.

Regarding the early retirement, Maryland had, and still has for those grandfathered in, a similar provision. This only applied to elected and non-merit system people.

It was put there years ago, under the philosophy that anyone who could survive 16 years of Maryland politics should be allowed to retire if not reelected or reappointed.

Malcolm S. Barlow


Airport Design

Let me add to Edward Gunts' Feb. 12 critique of the Baltimore-Washington International Airport redesign. From my perspective as a human factors/environmental psychology specialist, your critic has not gone far enough.

The photos above the airline counters, irrespective of quality, are a waste of money because of placement.

When you are in line in front of the counters, you are preoccupied with luggage, tickets, small children, possible schedule changes or anxiety-inducing time pressures.

Under these circumstances, one's line of regard is directed almost exclusively straight ahead toward the counter. Anything diverting attention from the immediate focus becomes potential information overload, and as such will be ignored.

In fact, I have no recollection of noticing it during a recent flight out of BWI. I do, however, recollect with much pleasure the art displayed along the walls of the waiting lounge during a recent overseas trip out of Kennedy Airport.

Moral: Art in public facilities belongs in that setting in which there is leisure for attending to it.

As to the carpet, the appearance of which Mr. Gunts deplores, along with carpets in all the nine airports I traversed during a recent trip, it creates friction which makes rolling your luggage harder than on the old smooth floors. This adds to the discomfort and fatigue experienced by most of us during air travel.

Intent on architectural one-upmanship, most designers ignore needs and limitations of a traveler loaded down with luggage. This is especially true for handicapped and the increasing number of elderly passengers.

With ever-lengthening distances which must be traversed inside airports, priorities of design or re-design should focus on moving walkway installation and the provision of properly spaced seating opportunities.

Designers should long ago have incorporated the relevant research findings on behavioral settings and the architectural barriers which rob them of their user-friendliness.

Aleeza Cerf-Beare


Health Care Bills

As a Baltimore native and health care provider to the greater Baltimore community for over two decades, I feel compelled to respond to your Feb. 28 article by John Fairhall that refers to proposed legislation involving health maintenance organizations.

This article contains several distortions and errors. Two pieces of legislation involving patient access to health care have been introduced. They are H.B. 724 and S.B. 449. These bills are designed to allow the patient to seek and continue utilizing health care providers of their choice.

In addition, provisions have been introduced to require health management groups to reveal their criteria for selecting, retaining and terminating their providers. This will guarantee both the patient and the prospective plan that adequate standards have been met.

This bill does not force a plan to hire "every doctor in the state." It does permit patients to select their providers, with the assurance that the provider is competent to meet their needs . . .

#Kenneth L. Hatch, D.P.M.


Out of Somalia

Jeane Kirkpatrick raises a cry of alarm when she writes that U.S. Marines were sent ashore armed with sticky foam and rubber bullets and with their guns pointed backward, to cover the extraction of United Nations troops from Somalia (Opinion * Commentary, March 7).

U.S. forces, she suggests, are being sent into danger nowadays armed with non-lethal weapons on missions with no like prospect of success.

Mrs. Kirkpatrick's real target is U.S. involvement in peacekeeping, but whatever her view on this issue, she should not distort the real conditions under which the men and women of our armed forces are being asked to go into harm's way.

In Somalia, each Marine was fully armed and fully backed up by overwhelming firepower -- both on land and in the air. Mrs. Kirkpatrick's statements to the contrary are just wrong.

Mrs. Kirkpatrick says that the Marines were issued non-lethal weapons as part of a "campaign to tame American forces." In fact, the Marines commander requested the availability of non-lethal weapons to supplement the Marines' traditional arms as a way of enhancing their capabilities.

She asserts that Marines had to obtain specific authorization to use lethal weapons. Just the opposite was true. They had authority to use lethal force, but needed special permission to use non-lethal weapons. As it turned out, they did use lethal force but never used their non-lethal weapons.

Mrs. Kirkpatrick also claims that I said the Marines would enter Somalia with their guns pointed backward. She has it reversed. I said that the Marines would leave Somalia with their guns pointed toward shore -- as they did.

Finally, she says that our forces were operating under U.N. rules of engagement. That is simply not true. The rules of engagement were prepared by Gen. John Shalikashvili, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the advice of the commander in chief, U.S. Central Command, and the ground commander, and were approved by me.

As secretary of defense, I take no responsibility more seriously than to protect those in uniform who are asked to risk their lives for this country. I have never, nor will I ever, countenance any failure to arm them properly or spell out clear rules of engagement.

When we place our forces in potentially hostile situations, they must be led by competent commanders and be as well trained and equipped as we can make them. Our forces had those advantages in Somalia and they will continue to have them wherever they are sent in the future.

William J. Perry

Washington, D.C.

The writer is secretary of defense.

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