I commend The Sun for its excellent coverage of the Central Intelligence Agency operative's role in the murders in Guatemala of an American citizen and the husband of Baltimore-born lawyer Jennifer Harbury.
I have been following Ms. Harbury's two hunger strikes to learn the fate of her husband.
Your stories make clear the reason that neither our government nor the government of Guatemala has been forthcoming with information about his torture and death: The murderer is a colonel in the Guatemalan army and was on the CIA payroll at the time of the murder in 1992.
In addition, Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez was trained at the U.S. School of the Americas, whose graduates, as your article pointed out, include "Roberto D'Aubuisson, leader of death squads in El Salvador; 19 Salvadoran soldiers named in the 1989 assassination of six Jesuit priests and three soldiers accused of the 1980 rape and murder of four U.S. church workers; Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras and other leaders of the military junta that ran Haiti from 1991 to 1994; . . . and Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega of Panama."
I have a personal interest in Guatemala because my former pastor and his wife have moved there to live and work with Guatemalan citizens displaced by the Guatemalan Army's war against its own people.
My daughter is serving her third stint with them there, as a volunteer. They all see first hand the pain caused by the repressive and brutal government, especially to Guatemalans of Mayan descent who have been forced from their villages to live in squalid conditions in squatter settlements in the "ring of misery" that surrounds Guatemala City.
I pray that this new information that our own government, our own taxpayers' money, supports this reign of terrorism prompts many of us to urge our president and representatives to dismantle the School of the Americas and to end all support to the repressive army in Guatemala.
I wish to commend you for publishing John B. O'Donnell's excellent March 19 article, "Social Security, a retirement pot stuffed with IOU," and giving the real facts about the Social Security trust funds.
Politicians and most of the news media have been bombarding us in the last few years with contentions that it is necessary to reduce benefits or the fund will run out of money. This is clearly not the case.
In fact, reducing the benefits without also reducing the payroll tax by the same amount would increase the deficit.
The extra money saved by reducing benefits would be spent by Congress. It would cause even more IOUs to be placed in the Treasury, to be redeemed by the taxpayers when income finally falls behind payouts.
The truth of the matter is that if we increased the amount of payouts to the retirees, Congress couldn't get its hands on it and would write fewer IOUs, thereby reducing the deficit. The problem is the U.S. Congress, not the Social Security trust fund.
In 1950, there was a surplus of $1.7 billion in the trust fund. That surplus steadily grew to $355.6 billion at the close of FY 1993. According to Mr. O'Donnell, that surplus increased by more than $20 billion in FY 1994.
However, the money is not there because our benevolent congresspersons have already spent it, and the taxpayers owe it to the system.
If Congress really wanted to solve the problem, it would allow the Social Security Administration to invest the surplus every year.
A very simple fix would be to use the surplus to finance home mortgages. In addition to making money with the interest, you would have a positive cash flow as the home owners made their monthly payments back into the system.
But what do I know? I am just a taxpayer, not a tax spender.
Fred M. Glazier
Jeff Zenger, in his letter "Too Many Lawsuits" (March 29), personifies the type of individual who has little personal knowledge of Maryland's (or another state's) legal system.
If Mr. Zenger were killed by some foul, negligent drunk (usually a repeat offender) or any other bad driver, his loved ones would be lucky to receive compensation over and above the $500,000 cap on non-economic losses.
That includes the value of his life reduced to an economic analysis by some expert, any "pain and suffering" his loved ones went through upon his death and, if he were married, for the loss of consortium.
His economic losses -- medical bills, funeral bills and other related costs -- are not capped in Maryland. Yet, realistically a lot of insurance must be present for the collection of all the "damages" he may win.
If not, he gets little or zero. That is, if he's not found even 1 percent at fault. For his own death or disability, no less.
His own insurer would get mighty unfriendly if the other person were under-insured too.
And winning an award, particularly for gross injuries or death, is not guaranteed. Ask any reputable, skilled and ethical attorney . . .
Mr. Zenger (and the rest of you out there who know little or nothing about the state of the law right now) had better start praying for some divine intervention in the case of your meeting up with one of the aforementioned circumstances.
Or just stay at home all day; that way you don't have to buy insurance. You can write letters all day to the media decrying a subject about which you obviously have little information, knowledge or expertise.
And by the way, I'm not a lawyer, I'm just a disabled person with an attitude, a lawyer and huge medical bills.
Richard Reeves' March 24 article on the Clinton presidency,--
"Like a Million Car Radios Stuck on 'Scan'," contains some valid points.
However, I was struck by the absence of even the remotest suggestion that Mr. Clinton himself bears any responsibility for his less than stellar performance so far as president.
By all accounts, the president is highly intelligent and well-educated. These qualities, although desirable, are not sufficient in and of themselves to guarantee effective leadership and success in governance.
Charles A. Ferraro
The "Contract with America" calls for a risk versus profit approach in the evaluation of regulatory requirements. What this means is that before restrictions or regulations are put into effect against businesses for such things as air pollution, cancer-causing agents, child safety, etc., the government must first consider the cost to business.
This, of course, is difficult to measure and to put a dollar value on the health of children, the quality of water and air and the increase risk of cancers.
It is easy for businesses to show how taking the lead out of gasoline cost us money. But how do we cost out the benefit to children and the positive impact on IQ now that lead is out of gasoline?
Just imagine that if the "Contract with America" had been in place 10 years ago, there would still be lead in gasoline, cars would not be as safe, there would be a flood of potential unsafe drugs (remember the birth defects in the early 1970s) and no smoke-free environments.
While Maryland Republican Representatives Roscoe Bartlett and Robert Ehrlich glibly talk about a bucket with holes, I wonder how well they'll sleep at night knowing that what they are doing now will damage children in the future.
Maybe they draw comfort from the fact that many of these problems don't show themselves for 10 to 15 years, and they'll be out of office.
Citizens want a leaner, more effective government. Of course. But don't ever think we don't want our water, medicine, food and air safe. For once, err on the side of being too cautious.
Robert S. Ardinger
Your March 12 article, "Budget cutting to begin," talks about the Republicans who are on an aggressive move to cut the budget and are ambitiously introducing ways to downsize an already shrinking government.
This article states that the cuts would include summer jobs for youth.
The Contract with America, written by the Republicans, talks about reforming welfare and putting the recipients to work. We have yet to hear how the Republicans are going to cut the budget which includes summer jobs and other job programs that employ people and still reform welfare to the point of putting people to work.
Whenever a large group has been cut from the welfare system, it has been to the federal government that they come to find jobs. These jobs were created just for this purpose.
The Republicans have lost sight of the fact that programs are people. If you state that after two years a person has to get off welfare, then we should be prepared to train that person.
With a few exceptions, most people would rather have a job than live way below the poverty level on public assistance.
Repair or Sink the Constellation
Our government in Annapolis would have us believe that even though we are capable of doing the repairs on the U.S.S. Constellation, we can't afford to.
But can we afford not to? Once the U.S. Navy condemns this ship it will be gone forever.
The solution is simple. When the people of Maryland wanted a new stadium, we created a new lottery. Why can't these games be used to support the repairs on the Constellation?
Similar lotteries could be created to save and preserve the arts, the Chesapeake Bay, monuments, etc. The list is endless.
Timothy J. McHugh
When will the travesty end?
The Constellation, a noble ship with more than a heroic history, sits rotting while men probe and poke her. They gird her with corsets of steel cable and nylon, so that passers-by may stand and gawk as they watch her suffering.
Now we read of raising yet another $9 million to refurbish her once again.
No. Enough is enough. Stop it now. How much, if anything, is left of the original Constellation?
Do you remember the story of the farmer chopping wood as he tells a visitor, "This is the very ax that my great-grandfather used to clear the land for this farm." Yes sir, five new heads and 12 new handles, but it's still the same old axe.
The time has passed already for her moment in eternity. Let us set her asail with all flags flying out to the Baltimore Canyon.
There put a cannon ball through her below the water line and, while the Navy Band plays, watch her descend, in a sailor's burial, to her well earned rest.
George H. Snyder Jr.