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Smuggling issue is just another tobacco smokescreenIn...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Smuggling issue is just another tobacco smokescreen

In response to The Sun's article "Getting a cheap smoke" (Oct. 3), I'd note that throughout the debate on raising Maryland's cigarette tax by $1 a pack, industry lobbyists spread fear about cigarette smuggling from neighboring states.

What the industry really fears is lower profits -- and that's why it focuses attention on nuisance problems like cross-border sales and smuggling. The tobacco industry has found that keeping the public and politicians afraid of crime is a good way to avoid higher tobacco taxes.

But research, experience in other states and the tobacco industry's own documents show that increased cigarette taxes reduces consumption, saves lives and increases revenue for the state.

Evidence from other states also shows that smuggling is controllable and cross-border sales have only a minor impact.

Big tobacco is the only legal industry that does nothing to control smuggling of its products. Companies such as Microsoft, for example, have worked to cut smuggling by incorporating security marketings in their manufacturing process. But tobacco companies continue to ignore the problem, or worse.

In December, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco was convicted in federal court of aiding a criminal smuggling ring. Philip Morris is under investigation on a similar charge.

We in Maryland know that raising the price of cigarettes will help people quit. It's a shame the tobacco industry continues to prioritize profits over lives.

Dr. Albert L. Blumberg Baltimore

The writer is president of Smoke Free Maryland.

A hate crime that The Sun didn't cover

In a Sept. 28 article in the Baltimore Press, I read about a story in the Easton Star Democrat concerning the brutal murder in Cambridge of a 33-year-old white woman by three black men.

The men reportedly forced this woman to perform oral sex on them, twisted her neck and stomped on her face until she was almost unrecognizable, then beat her to death. They wrapped her body in plastic bags and left her to decompose.

The Sun and Baltimore's local television media failed to report this appalling crime, even though it had been reported by the Associated Press.

If a black woman had been gang-raped and murdered by three whites, the story would have been plastered all over the airwaves and newspapers as a hate crime.

The Sun and other local media barraged us with coverage of the dragging death in Jasper, Texas. Why haven't they reported this crime?

Do they consider only white-on-black crimes racist acts or hate crimes?

Racism is not confined to any one race; it comes in all colors. But the media's lack of coverage of all hate crimes contributes to the belief that only white racism exists.

On the opinion page of the Baltimore Press, Les Kinsolving referred to overlooking this story as "racist dereliction of media duty." I agree.

Catherine Kates Baltimore

Factory workers' pay hasn't kept up with boss'

The average corporate top executive's pay is 419 times that of the average factory worker, up from a 1980 ratio of 42-1, according to two Washington think tanks.

Had worker pay risen at the same pace as executive pay over the last decade, the average production worker would earn more than $110,000 a year today, not the $29,000 the worker actually makes.

And the minimum wage would be $22.08 an hour, not the current $5.15.

The Institute for Policy Studies and the group United for a Fair Economy said the average annual compensation for a chief executive of a large company was $10.6 million in 1998, a five-fold increase from $1.8 million of 1990.

Last year alone, executive pay rose 36 percent, compared with 2.7 per cent for the average blue-collar employee.

Ernest R. Grecco Baltimore

The writer is president of the Metropolitan Baltimore Council of AFL-CIO Unions.

Brooklyn art exhibit: just a good steak ruined

Glenn McNatt's review of the controversial exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art reminded me of the apocryphal tale of the critic who praised a painting as an unparalleled expression of the emptiness of life, only to learn the "painting" was just a blank canvas ("Sick or art? It's designed to provoke," Oct. 5).

Sometimes a sliced-up cow is just a good steak ruined.

John Rambol Baltimore

Funding Brooklyn museum attacks religion, beauty

The real issue regarding the Brooklyn Museum of Art's controversial exhibit is not the exhibit, but the fact that it is funded or "endorsed" by the government.

This government has become so corrupt that it will not fund the promotion of religion, but will fund the desecration of it.

That is not genuine separation of church and state. If the government were truly neutral, it would neither fund nor restrict religious expression.

The solution is not for bureaucrats to become censors, but for govenment to stop funding private entertainment.

Greg Sinners Selbyville, Del.

Art that has shock and offensiveness as its purpose is nothing more than an empty shell. An artist who casts excrement on the mother of God, in the name of art, is showing desperation for approval from a world ruled by superficiality and lies.

Maybe the director of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Arnold Lehman (the purveyor of this dung) and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura can team up for another exhibition. Let's call it "Nonsensation."

In it, Mr. Ventura can blast faith, Mr. Lehman can amplify the message and they can enlist the aid of legislators and tax collectors to fund it.

The iconoclasts, committed to hurting beauty and goodness, will be very happy.

Lisa Basarab Baltimore

Will Giuliani close city's libraries next?

Reading about the show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, I noted that New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani was very offended by some of the exhibits he saw there. I am sure I would be as well.

As a result of his displeasure, the mayor proposes to withdraw nearly $7 million of funding from the museum.

I am sure many of the books in the New York public libraries would offend us as much as the Brooklyn exhibit.

Will Mr. Giuliani propose closing the New York public libraries?

John P. Kimball Baltimore

Bach Choir makes joyful noise indeed

Stephanie Shapiro's article on the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, Pa. was most enjoyable, particularly since I was privileged to sing with the choir in 1946, now many years ago ("A joyful noise from Pennsylvania," Oct. 1).

But I'd like to point out that the caption for the current choir's picture incorrectly identified the background church as Bethlehem's Central Moravian Church.

The church depicted is the rather ornate Asa Packer Memorial Chapel, on the campus of Lehigh University. It is the site of the choir's annual May festival.

However, the Central Moravian Church, which Ms. Shapiro accurately describes as "beautifully spare" will, as the article noted, be the site of the centennial performance of Bach's "Mass in B Minor."

Ms. Shapiro might also have noted that for years the festival orchestra was mostly made up of Philadelphia Orchestra members. Together with the choir, they made a glorious and joyful noise indeed.

A. H. Drummond Timonium

To our readers

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