Guilford seeking compromise with church plansJamal E....

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Guilford seeking compromise with church plans

Jamal E. Watson's May 21 article, "Church cuts scope of expansion plans," mischaracterizes the "negotiations" between Guilford residents and the First Baptist Church of Guilford as never getting off the ground because of community insistence on a seating capacity of 900.

To the contrary, community representatives proposed compromise, suggesting 900 seats as a starting point.

This figure is the church's own, which it gave the community in 1996. (First Baptist never bothered to tell the community that the figure had more than doubled when it applied for a zoning exception last year.) Having rejected compromise, it was the church's insistence that ground down negotiations.

First Baptist claims that its new proposal is scaled back, yet the size of the building complex is identical to last year's: 1,938 seats. Seating and parking reductions are due in part to wider parking spaces and, according to First Baptist representatives, a wider parishioner seating metric.

First Baptist makes a show of declining state funding for its community center, with its senior pastor, Rev. John L. Wright, exclaiming, "We don't need the money." This indicates no reduction in scope for its plans, only an unwillingness to deal with the strings attached to the money.

Guilford residents are on record as supporting First Baptist's growth to a size harmonious with its residential setting. Residents continue to seek and will support such a compromise.

Oliver Edwards, Guilford

Food, medicine aren't policy tools

The Clinton administration recently announced the end of sanctions on the sale of food and medicines to Iran, Libya and Sudan.

According to the White House spokesman Joe Lockhart, the president had decided that "food should not be used as a tool of foreign policy."

While this is welcome news, the administration did not include Cuba among the countries to be exempted.

For almost 40 years, the United States has maintained against Cuba what amounts to the harshest sanctions imposed on any country. Even in the case of Iraq, the sanctions have not been as severe as for Cuba.

Yet, after all these years, the embargo against Cuba has failed to achieve its main goal, which is, in the words of Sen. Jesse Helms, the North Carolina Republican, "to force Castro out of Cuba either vertically or horizontally."

However, prohibiting the sale of food and medicines has harmed the health of the Cuban people and caused considerable damage to the infrastructure of the Cuban health care system.

Regardless of what one may think about Fidel Castro and his government, one fact stands out above all else: Cuba has done more to improve the health of its citizens than any other country in Latin America.

This is evident to anyone who visits the island. Everywhere in the world, especially in nonindustrialized nations, people look to Cuba as a guide to solve their health care issues.

Recently, a delegation of physicians from Baltimore visited Cuba. Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, Baltimore's health commissioner and leader of the delegation said, "For a country that's basically quite poor, their health statistics are tremendous" ("Health system in Cuba praised," The Sun, May 15).

On April 29, Connecticut Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd and Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, along with House colleagues, New York Democratic Rep. Jose E. Serrano and Louisiana Republican Rep. Jamed A. Leach introduced the Cuban Food and Medicine Security Act. This bipartisan legislation aims to end restrictions on the sale of food and medicine to Cuba, as well as remove obstacles on the trade of agricultural products.

The time has come to end the use of food and medicine as weapons of foreign policy. People need to voice your concern about this issue.

Leslie P. Salgado, Columbia

The writer is chairwoman of the Howard County Friends of Latin America.

Capitalism's darker history

It is currently fashionable to cheer the advantages of individualism and market forces over collectivism (which is democracy) and government regulation. But the truth is it has been our government that has made our society better, not unregulated capitalism.

Before our government's intervention in our economy, unregulated capitalism brought us economic depressions instead of recessions (during economic downturns), sweatshop-working conditions instead of middle-class working conditions, child-labor atrocities instead of educational opportunities, and poverty for aged working-class people (and the disabled) instead of guaranteed Social Security and Medicare.

It was not unregulated capitalism that won at the Berlin Wall, but a very socialized capitalistic economy (driven by effective Democratic polities) that defeated communism at the Wall. So I would guess our effective socialized Western economies are not as bad as the government-bashers say, huh?

Unregulated capitalism economies, like communistic overregulated economies, steal financial assets from most citizens for the benefit of a few wealthy capitalists or a few wealthy bureaucrats, depending on which system you are talking about. I have always been amused by how much unregulated capitalism and communistic economics have in common, once you look past the simple-minded rhetoric.

The truth is societies win or lose collectively, not individually. We seem to support and appreciate this team-concept idea when it comes to teaching our children to share or encouraging sports team members to sacrifice individualism for the good of the team.

But when it comes to discussing the attributes of a good society, we seem to dismiss the team concept as a bad idea. That's too bad because societies are a lot like sports teams: those divided by selfishness and greed are disasters with political instability -- in other words, losers -- while those that work together for a common goal are successes with political stability -- in other words, winners).

Jim Fitzgerald, Columbia

Giving shelter cats a caring home

Each spring, thousands of animal shelters across the country take in homeless kittens as a result of normal breeding patterns of cats. Howard County's shelter is no exception.

To draw attention to this sad fact, we are promoting June as "Adopt a Shelter Cat Month." Whether potential adopters are looking for an kitten or an adult, they are likely to find the perfect companion at our shelter.

Nationally, as many as 10 million dogs and cats wind up in shelters each year. Up to 65 percent are killed because there aren't enough homes. Obviously, an urgent need exists to find people willing to adopt and to make sure more people spay and neuter their cats to reduce overpopulation.

Although the cats or kittens can be irresistible, the decision to adopt a feline should never be made impulsively. Before adopting, a person should consider:

Can I afford the cat?

Am I ready to make a long-term commitment?

Is everyone is my household in favor of adopting a cat?

Do I have at least an hour a day to devote to loving and caring for my cat?

Am I ready to take on the daily responsibilities of owning a cat?

Am I willing to understand basic cat behavior and commit to training?

If you can honestly answer "yes" to all six questions, you will more likely become a responsible cat owner. Thinking before adopting will save the animal from being returned to the shelter and will offer both cat and owner a long, satisfying life together.

Florence Wagner, Elkridge

The writer is with Animal Advocates of Howard County.

It's not the clothing; it's the children inside

The trenchcoat. A way to block out the sun, the cold, the other people in your life. A symbol of gothic ways, devotion, inner pain. A blanket under which to hide when life turns on you, or a silent way of saying "don't mess with me."

Is that really what a trenchcoat is?

After the shootings at Columbine High in Colorado, certain trenchcoat-clad students at Hammond High School were asked to remove them and never wear them in school again. One may agree with the school administration's decision to be rid of the trenchcoats. After all, it is out of respect for Colorado residents and fear of future carnage. But is it the clothing, or the people inside of it?

"The Trenchcoat Mafia" is the buzz phrase. An enigmatic and dark-minded group of adolescents with a taste for death has been overscrutinized. All that is known is that somewhere inside that trenchcoat something snapped. As much as those boys enjoyed their solitude, it is evident they needed to be heard. Their last battle cry was heard -- around the nation -- and it was horrific.

Some have said, "These boys were troubled. They were crazy. They should have just killed themselves and left the innocent people out of it." It's very easy to say they were nuts, or untreatable. It's quite possible that they were. But no human being comes into this world with the desire to kill, especially the desire to kill one's peers. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were slowly shaped and molded, like clay, by a society that refused to hear them.

As children, we are taught that certain things are ill-advised. Don't smoke, don't drink and drive, don't have sex when you are not married.

However, it is not stressed nearly enough that acceptance of all types of people is essential. When young people is growing up, they are emotionally and mentally undeveloped. When they are outcasts to the point that they are teased every day, it can make them crazy. Crazy enough to shoot and kill? Decidedly so.

Not everyone is a star student, an athlete, a leader, or a fanatical neo-Nazi, but we all deserve a chance to be heard, to be liked. Perhaps Harris and Klebold were horribly evil on the inside, but no one would have known. They saw the trenchcoat, not the person. And stopped listening.

Hannah Sanderson Columbia

The writer is a sophomore at River Hill High School.

Pub Date: 6/06/99

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