Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five



Schools wrong to bus children to political rally

I am outraged that various school districts in Maryland are using public funds to bus people to Annapolis for a political rally and giving students service credits for participating ("Students offered credit for rally in Annapolis," Feb. 5).

I understand that the Thornton Plan is an important funding package for our schools, but what does rallying for it have to do with community service?

This is a very slippery slope that the principals of these schools are going down. If we set this precedent, then my child should be able to get community service credit for going to an anti-abortion rally or a rally for slots, which also has to do with the education budget.

To use public funds to bus people to Annapolis is reprehensible, especially in Baltimore as city schools are laying off hundreds of workers and are millions of dollars in debt.

Why not encourage an e-mail or letter-writing campaign? Because the students don't see the value of the Thornton Plan and wouldn't participate. So what do some schools do? Bribe them with two hours off from school and a bus ride to Annapolis.

The example that our school administrations are setting is the wrong one for our children.

Sue O'Neal

Ellicott City

Area school systems aren't playing politics

As an educator at a public school in Baltimore County, I was extremely distressed after reading the article "Students offered credit for rally in Annapolis" (Feb. 5).

If anyone is putting "politics over education" it is the governor - who is seeking legal loopholes not to fund the education of future citizens of Maryland - and not the school systems offering service hours to students who attend the rally.

Barbara Tyler


Snipers show havoc weapons can wreak

Perhaps for the governor the assault weapons issue doesn't elicit immediate and clear reaction ("Governor is undecided on assault rifles," Feb. 4). For others it does.

For me, it flashes back to the harrowing anxieties of 2002 in Maryland, when shots were fired from a military-style assault gun at innocent citizens. Those bullets, fired by snipers Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, injured three people and killed 10, six of them in Maryland.

During that siege, many of us thought twice before going to a filling station to pump our own gas or dashing into the convenience store for a quart of milk or a loaf of bread.

As a mother and grandmother, I was chilled to read that at one point the snipers used a laptop computer in contemplation of possible carnage at schools in Baltimore County.

Only in a very primitive society would inhabitants countenance the use of "killing" weapons - instruments of death designed only to be used on humans.

Sally Gray


Hunting will leave bear cubs orphaned

The Ehrlich administration is going forward with a plan to allow the hunting of 400 black bears in a state overpopulated by people ("DNR plans for fall bear hunt released," Feb. 5).

At the same time, the state's first family is preparing for the birth of a new child. Maybe they can explain to their children why a cub will be growing alone because its mother has been slaughtered by hunting sanctioned by this state.

Robert H. Paul


Past drug experience may motivate cadets

I understand that the Maryland Police Training Commission doesn't want to send the wrong message ("Drug past of police recruits debated," Feb. 6). But perhaps those who experimented with drugs know firsthand the evils they seek to combat, and perhaps the experience is their motivation to fight the ubiquitous scourge of drugs in this city.

Drug testing of police recruits is sound rational policy; arbitrarily banning applicants for youthful indiscretions is a social and economic waste.

Philip M. Wright


City's port is still key economic asset

This past year, despite winter blizzards and Tropical Storm Isabel, the Port of Baltimore climbed to No. 8 nationally in total value of cargo. And as The Sun's Meredith Cohn points out in "Port has mixed report card" (Feb. 3), the port is an economic mainstay of our region that directly employs nearly 16,000 people and provides positive economic impact to 100,000 more.

However, Ms. Cohn is mistaken when she states that the tonnage of container cargo shipped is down slightly. In reality, Baltimore's container business grew by nearly 10 percent, thanks in part to Mediterranean Shipping Co. bringing new services to the port and becoming the largest container carrier in the port.

Furthermore, the port has added three more transtainer cranes at Seagirt Marine Terminal and will add three more in April, allowing us to continue this positive trend.

While port security will remain a crucial priority, the port will continue to focus on our strategic plan for dredging (which is vitally important to accommodate larger, new-generation container ships and the well-paying jobs that accompany them), infrastructure improvements and technological upgrades.

The Port of Baltimore remains an integral part of Maryland's economy, and is prepared to retain and attract new business.

Helen Delich Bentley


The writer is a former congresswoman and a consultant to the Port of Baltimore.

Give Israel credit for settlement policy

The editorial "Relocation of Gaza Jews" (Feb. 4) was skeptical of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to dismantle Jewish settlements in Gaza.

But this effort by the Israeli government is certainly an initial step toward implementing the "road map" to peace. And the planned pullback from territory offered to the Palestinians by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak nearly four years ago is admirable given that the Palestinian Authority still does not even recognize Israel's right to exist.

Israel's government accepts a two-state solution. The problem is that Yasser Arafat is still at the helm of the Palestinian Authority, and for him, a two-state solution represents the failure of his goal of attaining a future Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

With Hamas now proud of its female homicide-suicide bombers, Hezbollah threatening to kidnap more Israelis, and the Palestinian Authority unwilling to crack down on terrorists, it takes much courage and faith for Israel to begin to dismantle settlements.

Marc Okun


Intelligence services used as scapegoats

All too often, the intelligence services in this country and abroad are made the scapegoat for failings of political leaders ("CIA mostly right, Tenet says" (Feb. 6).

But if a football team is not making the grade, not only do they get rid of the bad players, they get rid of the manager.

Our manager is, of course, the commander in chief, President Bush.

Pauline McKibbin


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