The nation's banks are now prepared for...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The nation's banks are now prepared for Y2K disruption

As the regulator of the national banking system, I know that many Americans are wondering if their banks are ready for the year 2000. I'd like to say, yes, federally insured banks are ready for Y2K.

They are ready because they have devoted more than two years and many billions of dollars to preparing for that problem. Federal regulators have been checking their progress at every step.

As a result, the safest place for bank customers' money is still in a bank.

But, now that the systems are ready, I am worried about the human factor: that people will make themselves vulnerable to theft or loss by withdrawing cash from the bank and putting it in their wallets or hiding it under their mattresses.

As we get closer to the New Year, Y2K rumors and scare stories will increase.

We already have seen cases in which scam artists have persuaded bank customers to give them their account numbers, under the pretense that their money was being moved into Y2K-safe accounts.

Federal regulators have been working to get the message out that a bank will never call to ask a customer for an account number -- the bank already has it.

Bank customers need to do their part to educate themselves about the Y2K issue. They should talk to a trusted source, such as their banker. Information also is available through the Web sites and the customer hot lines of bank regulators.

I believe the banking industry will pass the Y2K test with flying colors.

Banks have made a commitment to ensure that customers maintain access to their accounts and account information. That commitment is as good as money in the bank.

John D. Hawke Jr., Washington

The writer is comptroller of the currency and supervises the 2,500 banks in the national banking system.

Palestinians' hard line menaces Middle East peace

Two recent Sun articles indicate the difficulty Israel will have dealing with an intransigent Palestinian Authority ("Gun glut on West Bank," Sept. 12 and "Palestinians seek evacuation of Jewish settlement," Sept. 16).

By arming many more men, the Palestinians are essentially holding a gun to Israel's head, while demanding that Israel return to its indefensible 1967 borders and surrender Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator's insistence that not one inch of land is negotiable, and the implied threat from their heavily armed militia, is not conducive to the peace process.

Israel cannot be and should not be bullied into making concessions that will lead to its destruction. If the stand of the Palestinian Authority is nonnegotiable, then the chance for permanent peace in the Middle East is nil.

Nelson Marans, Silver Spring

Congress shouldn't attack president's pardon power

The president is absolutely correct to reject congressional efforts to make him explain his clemency for Puerto Rican terrorists ("Clinton within rights to grant clemency," Sept. 21).

Under Article II of the Constitution, the president's pardon power is absolute -- and the executive has no obligation to explain or defend his action.

Congressional Republicans who question the president or demand explanations should read the Constitution that they are always so eager to amend.

President Clinton has history and the Constitution on his side. Political or moral considerations could induce him to justify his action, but no legal or constitutional mandate requires him to do so.

Mitchell Misiora, Baltimore

Be wary of cult groups that offer total acceptance

Maryland's students are indebted to Gov. Parris N. Glendening for initiating the "Task Force to Study the Effects of Cult Activities on Public Senior Higher Education Institutions." Schools and students will benefit from its work. ("Cults can harm students, so colleges should monitor campus groups," Sept. 19).

Campuses are full of fertile young minds seeking independence and new seeds of thought. It is in that context that students become exposed to and recruited by thought-control groups.

Most groups are forthright and acceptable. We should be aware, however, that some groups are recruiting students to join them in exclusive thought patterns that will eventually separate the student from his or her family and friends.

These groups are dangerous cults. Their central theme is often drugs, weapons, health, UFOs, Satan or religion.

Be aware of persons or groups who offer immediate and unquestioning acceptance (even "love").

Often that is the snare before the hook. When people swallow that, they are ready to be reeled in.

Mary Sinclair, Lutherville

'Core Knowledge' program enables schools to achieve

I was pleased to see The Sun's well-deserved profile of Principal Tom Bowman at Thomas Johnson Elementary School and the success that the school has achieved in its reading scores ("One proud principal," Sept 5).

But, as important as it is for a school to have a strong principal, The Sun left out an equally critical component in the school's success: its curriculum.

Three years ago Thomas Johnson adopted E. D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge Curriculum, one of the country's few "research-based, proven-practice" programs. It lays out a specific sequence of content that schools should teach, especially schools with many poor children.

Like Thomas Johnson elementary, many other schools in Maryland and around the country that have implemented this curriculum have shown dramatic improvements on standardized tests and in the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program.

Core Knowledge deserves attention and praise for its contribution to raising academic standards and the performance of the children who need help the most.

Kate Walsh, Baltimore

The writer is program officer for education at the Abell Foundation.

'Reading by Nine' merits more prominent placement

The Sun should be applauded for its "Reading by 9" program, which is intended to make children skilled readers by the time they leave the third grade, and for publishing progress reports in its Sunday and Wednesday editions.

But I it found alarming that on Sept. 22 the "Reading by 9" report appeared on the last page of the paper's last section.

What kind of message does this send to children?

Wouldn't the Maryland section be a better place to regularly highlight this laudable feature?

Mark A. Kukucka, Kingsville

Child welfare workers deserved more credit

On behalf of the Child Welfare League of America, I congratulate The Sun for tackling such a complex and important matter as the abuse, neglect and abandonment of children ("Not quite home," Sept. 19).

The writer did an amazing job of helping readers to understand the severity of the abuse confronting many children and the challenges of providing treatment.

But the one thing the article could have done better was emphasize the critical role of child welfare staff.

Throughout the United States, child welfare workers perform small miracles daily, providing services to millions of troubled children and their families.

Helping innocent victims of such maltreatment is honorable work. These dedicated professionals and their support staffs deserve all of the credit we can give them.

Shirley Marcus Allen, Washington

The writer is acting co-director of the Child Welfare League of America Inc.

Letters to the Editor

To our readers The Sun welcomes letters from readers. They should be no longer than 200 words and should include the name and address of the writer, along with day and evening telephone numbers.

Send letters to Letters to the Editor, The Sun, P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore 21278-0001. Our fax number for letters is 410-332-6977. The e-mail address is letters@baltsun.com.

All letters are subject to editing.

Pub Date: 10/01/99

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