Is a contract valid only when The...


Is a contract valid only when The Sun thinks it's wise?

Why doesn't The Sun give give readers the facts about the tobacco lawsuit, and how the state's case came to be pursued by Peter Angelos' law firm ("Tobacco no hazard to his wealth," editorial, Oct. 19)?

When the state put the case out for bid, at least six law firms, including out-of-state firms, submitted bids.

The state insisted that the firm taking the the case commit at least $5 million, which knocked one or two firms out of the bidding. Then it raised the required commitment to $10 million and a few more bidders dropped out.

Since the tobacco industry had won most, if not all, previous lawsuits, and since the litigation could have taken years to resolve, the state then insisted that the firm taking the case commit unlimited time and money.

The remaining bidders withdrew, leaving only the Angelos law firm.

The agreement called for Angelos' firm to receive 25 percent of whatever settlement was won, with no financial risk to the state.

All of the risk, which could have been tens of millions of dollars, was taken by the one law firm willing to take it.

Now that the case has been settled for $4 billion, how can The Sun forget the circumstances, the bidding and the state's demand for an unlimited commitment?

In some states, tobacco litigation was handled by the state attorney general's office. In others states, fees up to 40 percent have been paid to private law firms that handled the case.

Does The Sun support the sanctity of a binding contract, or only those contracts with which it agrees?

Jerry Menapace, Bel Air

Maryland is working to limit tobacco sales

The Sun's article "Law limiting tobacco sales neglected," (Oct. 15) did not fully address Maryland's efforts to comply with the Synar Amendment, which requires states to reduce the sale and distribution of tobacco products to minors.

To comply with that law, a state must prohibit the sale of tobacco to minors and conduct annual and random unannounced inspections of tobacco vendors to ensure the law is being enforced.

In collaboration with the state comptroller's office, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) conducted random inspections of tobacco retailers in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

In these years, retailers' non-compliance rates declined from 54.5 percent to 35.4 percent.

DHMH also contracted with the federal Food and Drug Administration to conduct an additional 4,600 compliance inspections of tobacco retailers annually.

Because of such efforts, tobacco retailers are increasingly aware of the law and willing to work with the state to reduce youth smoking.

Maryland's leadership in tobacco use reduction is clearly demonstrated by the state's dedication of a large portion of tobacco settlement dollars to a multi-faceted public health program that targets at-risk tobacco use populations.

Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Baltimore

The writer is secretary of Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Don't 'flip' tobacco funds into real estate fraud

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. plans to use tobacco settlement funds to investigate fraudulent real estate practices and help those who have been victimized ("Curran to widen housing inquiry," Oct. 22).

I fail to see any relationship between real estate and tobacco.

I thought the settlement funds were to cover the state's costs for treating tobacco-related illnesses and smoking cession programs.

The attorney general himself is apparently engaged in another form of "flipping."

The tobacco industry and others should sue the state for misuse of funds.

Bill Brigerman, Baltimore

Attorney general right to propose handgun ban

Right on.

Forgive me for using a dated expression, but I couldn't think of a better way to express my thoughts when I heard Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran's recommendations for a ban on private ownership of handguns.

The governor's child-proof gun proposal is a good interim proposal.

But, ultimately, we need comprehensive, enforceable laws limiting gun ownership to legitimate sportsmen, antique firearms collectors, the military and law enforcement.

Congratulations to the attorney general on his courageous stand against handgun violence. I believe his (and my) views will prevail in the future.

Matt Fenton, Lutherville

The writer is a board member of Marylanders against Handgun Abuse Inc.

Three cheers for state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran and his "farewell to arms." Finally, a public official who has the courage to take a stand.

I support him 100 percent.

Barbara Mann Hanst, Rodgers Forge

Don't ban handguns, carry them concealed

I must give Attorney General J. Joseph Curran some credit for being honest about his intentions to ban handguns.

That's unlike the governor, who would like to sneak a handgun ban through under the guise of allowing only "smart guns" (which currently don't exist) to be sold in the state.

But I wish Mr. Curran would look at the research showing that the 35 states which have passed laws allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms have had a significant reduction in violent crime.

Joseph C. Weaver, Perry Hall

In the editorial "Good news and bad from the crime front" (Oct. 20), The Sun acknowledged that Richmond's "Project Exile" has worked well in reducing crime.

The National Rifle Association has been trying for years now to get the entire nation to look at this program.

Now I hope The Sun will look at another effort that is in place in Virginia and many other states, and also supported by the NRA: laws allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons.

David A. Titus, Baltimore

It's Tufaro, not O'Malley, who's offering the solutions

In his column "Smart way to end violence: enforce existing gun laws," (Opinion Commentary, Oct. 24), Barry Rascovar rightly argued that adopting Richmond, Virginia's successful Project Exile program would be the best way to limit gun violence in Baltimore.

But to say, as Mr. Rascovar did, that "both mayoral candidates . . . have latched onto . . . Project Exile" is a misrepresentation.

Nowhere in his famed 41-page crime position paper does Mr. O'Malley mention that project or the federal sentencing guidelines that are its backbone.

But a detailed breakdown of Project Exile is the crux of David Tufaro's position paper on crime.

Similarly, Gerard Shields wrote ("Man who aided Philadelphia offers to assist transition," Oct. 22) that Martin O'Malley "jumped at the offer" to meet David Cohen for his transition team.

Mr. Cohen was the chief of staff for Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell who turned a $230 million deficit into a $70 million surplus primarily by allowing private companies to compete in the delivery of city services -- a practice that Mr. O'Malley is on record against.

As a Republican, I am pleased our mayoral candidate is offering viable solutions to our city's woes.

But please be clear: the person bringing these ideas to Baltimore is David Tufaro, not Martin O'Malley.

Michael Stefanowicz, Baltimore

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