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Negative ToneAs pleased as we are that...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Negative Tone

As pleased as we are that the Belair-Edison community made the front page of The Sun April 3, we are distressed by the negative tone of the three captions used in the article.

One's eye is caught immediately by the headlines, "Belair-Edison's efforts fail to stop flight to suburbs" and "Picture-perfect area falls victim to trend."

If that isn't enough, one turns to the continuation of the article and is greeted by, "Belair: Handsome Northeast Baltimore neighborhood losing residents to suburbs."

Luca Zacharias, president of the Belair-Edison Community Association, is quoted as saying: "I hate the perception because that's what is killing all of us -- the perception."

The perception that Belair-Edison and Baltimore City are unsafe and undesirable places to live is reinforced by articles in The Sun that continue to convey that message.

So much good could have been done if the headline had been, "Belair-Edison embraces and celebrates its diversity: Picture-perfect area attracts suburban residents"

Such a caption would have focused attention on the good work being done by the people in Belair-Edison and by organizations like St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center and Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc. to maintain the community's stable integration.

It would also have directed attention to Debbie Straka, David Sann, Kelley Ray and others like them who have chosen to move from the suburbs back into Baltimore City. They seem to me more newsworthy than those who leave.

Martin A. Dyer

Baltimore

The writer represents Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc.

Armed Thugs

I found your April 6 article, "Armed thugs feeling the crackdown," very interesting and rewarding.

For years now, the National Rifle Association and believers in firearm freedoms and the Second Amendment to the Constitution have pleaded for the enforcement of the more than 20,000 gun control laws currently on the books across the nation.

We have said that harshly punishing criminals who break existing laws, such as carrying a firearm without a license, would greatly reduce crime and protect the law-abiding citizen's right to own firearms and defend his home and family.

And you know what? We were right. A hearty "Right on!" to the prosecutors who are charging the convicted criminals with illegally carrying firearms, rather than plea bargaining away that serious crime. Let's continue to punish the criminals and make them pay for breaking the law.

We certainly don't need to target the law-abiding citizen with any more foolish, ineffective gun control.

After all, trying to solve the problem of crime by forcing the law-abiding citizen to practice gun control is like trying to solve the social problem of unwed mothers by forcing happily married, faithful couples to practice birth-control.

It's the criminals, stupid!

William Banks

Baltimore

Suspect Figures

On April 4, your paper published an Associated Press story that stated that 1.1 million Vietnamese troops died and 600,000 were wounded in the Vietnam war.

These were official figures released by Hanoi 20 years after the Vietnam war. Comparing the Vietnamese number to the U.S. numbers might allow your readers to question Hanoi's official numbers.

The United States reports casualties from the Vietnam war as 58,156 (including POW/MIAs), of which 47,359 are hostile deaths and 10,797 are non-hostile deaths.

The United States reports 303,704 wounded, of which 153,329 were hospitalized and 150,375 injured did not require hospital care.

The United States reports that for every death there were about six wounded, while Vietnam reports that more combat deaths occurred than wounded. Hanoi either understated its wounded or overstated its deaths by a factor of six.

Hanoi claims "officially" to have 300,000 MIAs, but the United States claims to have only about 2,200 MIAs. It appears to me that Hanoi has overstated and exaggerated its losses.

Michael Van Atta

Stewartstown

The writer is chairman of the Live POW Lobby of America.

AARP Grants

Great balls of fire! Someone in Congress, namely Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, has finally awakened to the fact that the multi-million-dollar American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has been receiving millions of dollars of taxpayer money in the form of federal grants.

In fact, as Senator Simpson reports, up to 19 percent of their $454 million revenue represents a federal government gift to this organization.

Surely several years ago, when AARP purchased prime real estate (two blocks from our nation's Capitol), and erected an extremely costly headquarters building, a very brilliant light should have been set off in the brain of some Congress member that the 19 percent grant money should be directed away from AARP -- perhaps back to taxpayers as a tax reduction or better still for deficit reduction. However, this would probably have been too practical for congressional thinking.

How true is Garrison Keillor's description of AARP as the "American Association of Rip-off Artists." For an annual dues of $5, they obtain a mailing list of 33 million members to con into supporting their vast enterprises and the large salaries, bonuses and perks received by the AARP executives.

This rip-off continues while Congress debates whether our country's budget for the school lunch program can manage with only a 4 percent increase rather than the requested 5 percent.

Please, give us a break! Certainly seniors, as well as all our citizens, would prefer the AARP grant to be discontinued and the money directed to our children's well-being or even perhaps to Congress's paying back some of the Social Security I.O.U.s it has been submitting in order to pay for its "pork."

With the public's confidence needing desperately to be restored, will Congress ever get the message?

Rita A. Stemler

Towson

Where Students Go

Your Education Section article April 2 on Maryland's high-ability students and their choice of universities provides an interesting glimpse of this complex and important subject.

It is, however, a glimpse that can be misleading without some additional details. Let me offer just a few:

* Maryland is a net importer of students when you look specifically at its public universities; "the trade deficit" occurs within the private sector. (Curiously, The Sun featured students who chose out-of-state private institutions over in-state public institutions).

* Maryland ranks 14th in the nation in the number of out-of-state students we attract to our public institutions (despite a tuition policy that requires out-of-state students to pay the full cost of their education).

* That Maryland loses high-ability students to the Ivy League is not surprising; what is surprising is the increasing number who choose University of Maryland System (UMS) institutions over the Ivy League (especially given the relative affluence of Maryland families).

* The UMS institutions have made concerted efforts (some cited in your article) to provide programs geared toward high-ability students, from enhancements of undergraduate programs to honor dorms and curricula. Many of these programs have achieved national recognition.

* One measure of our success in attracting high-ability students is a 10 percent increase in SAT scores of incoming freshmen since 1981 (during a period when the Maryland average rose less than 3 percent and the national average only 1 percent).

We are, of course eager to attract still more of Maryland's high-ability students and, as you suggest, to attract state funding levels comparable to those at the public universities with which we compete.

However, we are also eager to fulfill our historical obligation to serve a broad spectrum of Maryland's citizens -- whatever their demographics or income level.

It should be noted that there is a direct correlation between income level and those measures most often associated with being "the brightest." In our zest to attract "the best," we must not abandon our commitment to serve the most deserving.

Donald N. Langenberg

Adelphi

The writer is chancellor of the University of Maryland System.

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