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Disturbing ArticleI recently read a most disturbing...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Disturbing Article

I recently read a most disturbing article.

It seems the Bureau of Labor Statistics has decided to lump Baltimore and Washington together for the purposes of computing the Consumer Price Index.

There did not appear to be one advantage for Baltimore in this; everything favored Washington.

Any company with intelligent officers must know the two cities are close together. However, they are very distinct and should retain their individuality. I have lived in both and can attest to this.

The cartographers at Amtrak have decided to leave Baltimore off the map also. This is astounding, given our size, the railroad history of this city and the fact that Penn Station is on the National Historical Preservation list.

This city's history should not be allowed to be pushed into oblivion by federal bureaucrats or marketing consultants.

Where are our elected representatives? We must demand that our senators, representatives, governor and mayor go to Washington to correct this.

I, for one, do not wish to be pushed into oblivion quietly.

Jerome P. Reichmister

Baltimore

Personal Choice

In response to the April 3 commentary, "The doctors strike back," I think it would be interesting to see the results of a poll on this issue.

Tim Baker makes it sound as if most people would choose a health maintenance organization rather than traditional fee-for-service medical care.

I would find this difficult to believe. I think that a majority belong to an HMO because it was chosen by their employer, either as the only option or as the only reasonably priced option. Yes, HMOs are cheaper but is cheaper better, or do you get what you pay for? I suspect the latter is true.

I think, that given the option, most people would prefer to have decisions about their health care made by a physician whom they trust rather than a faceless clerical person over the phone.

HMOs approve or deny benefits based upon stringent guidelines as set forth by cost-conscious business-types. These decisions are often made by a phone call to member services; this leaves no room for individualization. Also, some primary care physicians in HMOs are motivated by bonuses given to them if they save money for the organization. This encourages them to be overly conservative when it comes to ordering diagnostic procedures.

Another difficulty that I have encountered with HMOs is that the majority have a complicated set of rules for the member to follow in order to have their services covered. If a member does not get preauthorization or a referral slip, the HMO can deny payment. This can and does result in the HMO not paying for services that were needed. No wonder they can save money.

I am fortunate enough to have an opt-out clause in the HMO my employer chose for me. This gives me some degree of autonomy; I just have to pay a little more out of pocket.

My health care is my responsibility and choosing my provider should be my right.

Donna L. Disney-Vavra

Baltimore

Unsafe Business

Mark Guidera's story March 20, "Road warriors make deals at the wheel," a narrow-minded description of conducting business from an automobile, overlooks one pertinent fact:

The automobile is a specifically designed mode of transportation and therefore is moving while in use. First and foremost, someone must control this movement.

Clearly, conducting business by talking on the telephone, dialing the telephone, reading or writing notes while driving must subtract from one's abilities to control the movement of this automobile.

Personally, I find that driving requires 110 percent of my attention when I am behind the wheel.

Perhaps Mr. Guidera's article left out other information as well: These road warriors have chauffeurs or they do business only from parked vehicles.

I feel very uncomfortable with the notion that The Sun condones behavior behind the wheel of an automobile which adversely effects my safety on our highways.

Street Thoma

Jessup

Missing Books

As a researcher and writer, I rely heavily on the Enoch Pratt Free Library for information and materials. It is very frustrating to search for the book I need only to learn that it is missing.

The losses are not limited to steamy romances and popular fiction; they include rare and valuable works.

It's a waste to have to drive elsewhere to use a book that Baltimore city taxpayers have purchased and that should be available for now and generations to come.

Margaret Pagan

Baltimore

Humans -- Not Oysters -- Must Clean the Bay

Recently you published a letter from Nancy L. Centofante, M.D. (The Sun, March 25) who questioned whether land use and other environmental regulations will significantly improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

She argued that pollution from cities and farms is less than at earlier times in the bay's history and would be taken care of if disease had not destroyed the oyster population that previously filtered the waters. Her solution was to restore the oyster population, and thereby water quality, using aquaculture to produce disease resistant varieties of oysters. We wish the answer were so simple.

At the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, we certainly support increasing the bay's oyster population, and agree that it serves a crucial filtration function. However, that alone will not give us a clean, healthy bay with a diverse and self-sustaining population of fish and wildlife. The problems with Chesapeake Bay are caused by the cumulative impact of every one of the nearly 15 million people who live in its watershed. Restoring and maintaining the Chesapeake Bay will only come by the hard work of all of us on many fronts.

Dr. Centofante essentially contends that there is less sewage and silt washing into the bay today than at any time since the American Revolution, when there were far fewer people in the watershed. That is not the case. Not only has the population increased, but the per capita impact has also been elevated. Even as farm acreage has shrunk, the tonnage of "nutrients" -- nitrogen and phosphorus in commercial fertilizers and animal manure -- doubled and even tripled per acre of cropland in many parts of the bay's watershed. While we may have fewer dairy cows in total, they are being concentrated on less and less land with consequent disposal and runoff problems. And the number of beef cattle, hogs and poultry has increased substantially.

As for the contention that we no longer have manure from carriage horses washing off the streets, Dr. Centofante need only look at studies of urban runoff to see that storm water carries a lethal brew of toxics and other pollutants from our automobiles, homes and businesses. Add to that studies showing that as much as 40 percent of the excess nitrogen in the Bay comes from airborne pollution -- much of it from auto mobile exhaust, and we can see that our current population and activities are seriously straining the bay's health.

Equally as troubling, we are losing the natural habitat that not only supports our fisheries and wildlife populations but also filters pollution before it reaches our creeks, rivers and the bay. We have lost 40 percent of the region's original forests and 60 percent of its wetlands. In Maryland the story is even worse, since we have lost over 70 percent of our wetlands.

In light of the current problems facing the bay, plus the need to accommodate the almost three million additional people who are expected to come to the watershed in the next 10 to 20 years, we must pay close attention to protecting our natural resources and managing our growth, including reasonable land use and environmental controls. This must be done in a fashion that preserves private property rights at the same time as we protect the health of our residents and of the bay. This is no small task, but we cannot shrink from it. . . .

William C. Baker

Annapolis

The writer is president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

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