Research goals cannot justify harming fetus
It is nearly impossible in a world in which the Ten Commandments are reduced not to the Ten Guidelines or the Ten Suggestions but to the Ten Laughingstocks to defend the old moral principle that the end does not justify the means -- that is, that something cannot be good merely because it has a good purpose, but rather must itself be good.
This is why it is so difficult to make a convincing argument against fetal stem cell research. Few people, least of all Cynthia Tucker ("Current policy on stem cells has no good defense," Opinion Commentary, Aug. 16), can understand why tiny, not-even-formed embryos should not be available for the taking if they hold the promise of curing whatever human ailment one fantasizes they will help, and never mind that their use to date has been far less promising, and far more disappointing, than the use of adult stem cells).
The key is Ms. Tucker's use of terms such as "unfeeling, unseeing" to characterize these tiny beings. But choosing to make human embryos our unwitting human donors when they cannot know or feel what is happening to them is a decision that can lead to terrible consequences.
There have been accusations that adult organ donors may not have been quite as dead as truly dead. But for those physicians and families eager for nice, fresh organs, what does it truly matter since the person is practically dead and will never know anyway?
And for the Terri Schiavos of this world, what does it matter if she is not fed or sustained by fluids? She doesn't really know what's happening to her anyway.
Those who argue against fetal stem cell research, however, believe that medical research must never use any person as a means to another person's good if it means harm to that person -- however tiny, unknowing or unfeeling that person may be -- to which he or she did not agree.
Blocking research and winking at war?
Thanks for Cynthia Tucker's column "Current policy on stem cells has no good defense" (Opinion Commentary, Aug. 16).
One has to wonder why so many people in this administration and their supporters object, on moral grounds, to stem cell research, which has the possibility of curing so many deadly diseases, and yet do not seem to see any immorality in our being led into a disastrous war on false pretexts in which thousands of people (Americans and Iraqis) have lost their lives and continue to die every day.
Where is the logic in this kind of thinking?
Dangers of mercury are well documented
Thank you for The Sun's coverage of the hazards of mercury contamination of fish ("Md. fish exceed safe levels of mercury, group reports," Aug. 4). It was sad to see an industry-funded think tank challenge the accuracy of the facts in the article ("EPA hasn't defined limits on mercury," letters, Aug. 14).
Anybody wondering about the validity of estimates of how bad this problem has become should read the work of the scientists themselves.
Environmental Protection Agency scientists recently published findings in Environmental Health Perspectives, a prestigious, peer-reviewed journal, which estimate that approximately one in six women of childbearing age have mercury in their blood at levels high enough to do permanent damage to their children. The EPA's Web site contains the same findings.
This is serious. This is shocking. We should respond with utmost urgency.
To question the accuracy of news accounts reporting such information is irresponsible and shows a hostility toward the health of many people.
The writer is director of the Maryland Public Interest Research Group.
Take steps to stop carnage on our roads
A headline in the Aug. 11 Sun read "Road deaths decline after five-year rise." In the article, which noted that road accidents caused 42,643 deaths nationwide in 2003, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials called America's roads and highways "safer than ever."
To put this in perspective: In September 2001, 3,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks. In October, November, December of that year and every month in the following year and the year after that and in every month in the present year, more people were killed on our highways than in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
You're just as dead if you're killed in an SUV rollover, are hit by a drunken driver or fail to use your seat belt as if you had died in the World Trade Center or Pentagon.
England, Germany, France, Canada, Norway, Sweden and other developed countries all have lower death rates per capita from motor vehicle fatalities than the United States.
We invest untold amounts of money and human resources in trying to prevent a repeat of the 9/11 attacks, but incredibly little in preventing motor vehicle deaths
Partial solutions to the death toll on our roads are as disparate as greater use of mass transportation, safer cars, safer highways and better law enforcement.
We should take personal actions and also urge our representatives to take collective action to reduce the needless toll on our highways.
Timothy D. Baker
Prepackaged debates don't serve the public
I am a college student and this year will be the first time I vote. At present, I am undecided on which presidential candidate I will support.
Obviously, the Democratic National Convention was a staged political rally selling Sen. John Kerry on image and rhetoric. The Republican convention will probably be no better. Both parties' conventions are funded through donations by major corporations, carefully scripted by party leadership and given prime air time by the major networks.
In the fall, voters will see television "debates," which are also funded through donations by major corporations, carefully scripted by party leadership and given prime air time by the major networks. Indeed, the Commission on Presidential Debates, which usurped control of the debates from the League of Women Voters in 1988, is overseen by members of the Republican and Democratic parties.
American voters deserve truly nonpartisan debates which address pressing national issues rather than an exchange of sound bites between President Bush and Mr. Kerry.
The Citizens Debates Commission, a panel of civic leaders including Jehmu Greene, of Rock the Vote, and Chellie Pingree, president of Common Caus,e has scheduled five presidential debates, in a variety of formats, to be held at universities and colleges this fall.
If Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush do not participate, they will be continuing a sham on the American people.
Electoral College is a check on power
Steve Chapman's column "The crumbling case for the electoral college" (Opinion Commentary, Aug. 17) missed the entire point as to why it is essential that we retain the electoral college as a part of our political process.
Lord Acton knew of what he spoke when he uttered his oft-quoted phrase, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." You need look no further than the politically corrupt states of Maryland and New Jersey to understand why.
In Maryland, control of the state is in the hands of the Democratic Party and will no doubt remain so during our lifetime. All most politicians have to do is campaign in Baltimore City, Prince George's County and Montgomery County to get enough votes to stay in power.
The small towns or remotely located parts of the state are totally irrelevant and have no say in the election process.
Republicans finally placed a member of their party in the governor's office, but only because his predecessor was so bad he was thrown to the wolves by his own party.
Also, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. poses no threat to the Democratic chokehold on the state because he is weak and ineffectual since he has no clue how to work with the state political machine, which is totally controlled by Democrats.
In New Jersey, the same party can do anything it pleases. For instance, it replaced a crooked politician (former Sen. Robert G. Torricelli) on the ballot for the Senate in a way that totally ignored state law -- with the blessing of the state's high court -- to keep that Senate seat in Democratic hands.
The current governor is being forced out of office and those in power in the state are once again greasing the skids to award the position to Sen. John Corzine.
Like Maryland, New Jersey. is a state where voters are concentrated in a few areas that can be worked to keep corrupt politicians in power.
On the national scale, if you eliminate the Electoral College, future candidates need only mine votes in populous states like New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Illinois and California and ignore the rest of the states.
Then candidates will go to the big cities and promise more goodies to the gullible voting blocs and pay no attention to small cities and towns or remote areas. Is that what we really want?
The political system is messed up enough without eliminating the Electoral College, our lone check and balance against unrestrained power.
August deadline not part of decree
The recent letter by the city Director of Public Works suggested that the Aug. 31 deadline for community input into the proposed pumping station by the Stony Run in Wyman Park is federally mandated by the consent decree between the city and the federal government, and thus presumably out of the control of the Department of Public Works ("DPW's projects seek to protect city's watershed," letters, Aug. 12).
It is significant, however, that the only "milestone" dates that are in fact contained in the consent decree for the are Dec. 30, 2005, which is the date set for advertising for the construction proposals, June 30, 2007, which is the date for "practical completion" of the project and June 30, 2008, which is the date set for the elimination of the sewage overflow problem.
There is no August 2004 date in the consent decree for the Stony Run project. Instead, that date was arbitrarily selected by the DPW and its contracted engineering firm for purposes of DPW's own internal time line on the Stony Run/Wyman Park project.
While the DPW has been fully aware of the ramifications of the consent decree, which was entered into in September 2002, the DPW chose to present, for the first time, to the affected communities its decision to construct a sewage pumping station on a quarter-acre footprint along the Stony Run in Wyman Park on April 29, 2004.
At that time, the neighborhoods were given the "opportunity" to pick one of what were then three predetermined locations for the pumping station in the park and told that they had until August to make their choice. How does that constitute community input?
The affected communities have been given no opportunity to engage in any meaningful dialogue with the DPW on this matter.
In fact, it isn't even clear that a pumping station is required because less drastic measures could correct the sewage overflow problem. Yet the DPW wants to rush through on its own time line to the detriment of the communities and the park.
That is not fair and it should not be allowed.
Kathleen A. Talty
The writer is chairperson of the Stony Run Community Task Force.
Make cruise terminal much more efficient
Reading The Sun's article "Snazzier cruise terminal is sought" (Aug. 13), I think the planners are getting it wrong. As a frequent cruiser, I can say from experience that what will impress cruisers more than a "snazzy" terminal is efficiency.
I have sailed from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and from the Dundalk Marine Terminal in Baltimore.
Both facilities are located in industrial areas that commonly surround ports. While the embarkation and disembarkation facility at Port Everglades ismore modern, it certainly is not "snazzy."
The main difference between the two facilities is how long it takes to embark and disembark passengers.
Port Everglades is a model of efficiency. I The Dundalk Marine Terminal, on the other hand, is a model of chaos.
I cruised from Dundalk in April. Nothing seemed to go right. It took approximately four times as long to get on and off the ship at the Dundalk Marine Terminal than at Port Everglades. In Baltimore, I experienced long waits at every point in the process, both coming and going.
I have talked to other cruisers sailing from Baltimore, and they all have experienced the same problem.
My suggestion is that Maryland planners survey cruisers using the Dundalk Marine Terminal, find out what is going wrong there and then go to Port Everglades to find out how to do it right.
Ensure all women get mammograms
The citizens of Baltimore should be outraged by the findings reported in The Sun's article, "In need of critical coverage" (Aug. 6) about a new local study that indicates the poor and minorities in our area receive inadequate health care. People come from around the globe to seek care in Baltimore's fine medical institutions and yet the city's own citizens are underserved.
At Delmarva Foundation, we also did a study that was cited in the article showing that access to annual mammography screening often depends on the color of your skin, the level of your income and on which side of town you live.
The women in our study had publicly-provided health car coverage, so cost should not have been a barrier to screening. Why then do few African-American women between the ages of 50 and 67 in West Baltimore and South Baltimore receive yearly mammograms?
A recently published Yale University study shows that breast cancer tumors in black women are more aggressive than tumors in white women. Those findings make it even more important for black women to come in earlier to be screened for breast cancer.
Medical providers, community leaders and consumer advocates need to work together to lift barriers.
Physicians need to be vigilant about educating their patients about the importance of routine mammograms. Clinics and hospitals should make their hours more convenient and community advocates and health care leaders need to encourage women to get screened regularly.
We know that routine mammography screening is the best method we have for detecting breast cancer early.
We need to ensure that low-income and minority women get this critical benefit so we can save more lives.
Dr. Michael C. Tooke
The writer is chief medical officer and senior vice president of the Delmarva Foundation.
Put railroad heritage in front of station
Baltimore has an excellent replacement available for the controversial Male/Female sculpture currently located in front of Pennsylvania Station ("Take this art -- please," editorial, Aug. 13).
Ironically, at one time the city was seeking a new home for the statue I have in mind.
That statue is the handsome likeness of John Mifflin Hood, early president of the Western Maryland Railway, which is currently located in the park at St Paul Place directly west of Mercy Hospital.
The Hood statue is unique in several ways.
First, railroad managers and their boards of directors were a conservative lot and surprisingly few statues were ever commissioned to honor even the more noteworthy men of the industry.
Second, Mr. Hood played an important role in shaping the Western Maryland Railroad (it became a "Railway" after 1911) into a strategic "bridge line" that linked the Port of Baltimore with western points.
During his stewardship, Western Maryland passenger trains also used the Pennsylvania Railroad line from the west, stopping at Pennsylvania Station, to reach the Western Maryland's Hillen Station in downtown.
The heritage of the Western Maryland Railway is unfortunately underserved in the region. Despite its economic and cultural importance to the city, the name has all but disappeared.
Historically, the venerable Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the self-proclaimed "Standard Railroad of the World," the Pennsylvania Railroad, often overshadowed the Western Maryland Railway. Recently the college in Westminster that once bore the proud name of the railway (Western Maryland College, which is now called McDaniel College) was rebranded to eliminate one more link to our industrial past.
As we depart the industrial age and enter the information age, contributions like Mr. Hood's are all but forgotten.
Should current tastes and pressures succeed in relocating the Male/Female sculpture, let's use this as an opportunity to honor one of our important citizens and our worthy industrial and rail heritage more appropriately.
Frank A. Wrabel
The writer is a member of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society.
Animal abuse is wrong lesson
Of course it's hard for children to say goodbye on auction day to the animals they've raised, even though they've known all along that the animal would one day be sold for slaughter ("Hard lessons in livestock," Aug. 13).
Farm animals, like people, bleed, feel pain, run, walk, eat and desire to be free of terror and stress. The animals these children have nurtured have come to depend on and cherish the affection and attention the youngsters have regularly bestowed on them.
And the children have become attached to their animals; they've grown fond of them, concerned about their well-being. It's only natural the children would feel that they are betraying the poor animals in the end.
But of course, the children are taught to be tough and to suppress their feelings, and not to think too seriously about the cruelty of eating meat.
Then you have to wonder: Do these 4-H animals have it better than other farm animals, who, after all, never experience any kindness or have anything less than an unnatural, brutal life full of terror?
What's better: To have the relatively peaceful life of a 4-H animal for a while and then be turned over to the slaughterhouse, betrayed?
Or to live your whole life in close confinement and never be betrayed, never having known anything other than the misery of a factory farm life?
But, it's really a moot point, since 4-H animals are a minuscule portion of the meat industry. The overwhelming number of animals go to their death in factory farms.
Still, I think I'd rather be a 4-H animal than a normal, factory-farmed animal; at least not all of my life would be vicious and cruel.
It's no surprise that 4-H participants are heartbroken upon auctioning off their animals.
Just like cats and dogs, animals raised for food are smart and sensitive individuals who form trusting bonds with those around them and 4-H participants should not be deceived into thinking that their love for these animals ends in anything other than complete betrayal.
At slaughterhouses, chickens, pigs, and other animals are hung upside down while their throats are cut and their bodies hacked apart, often while they are still fully conscious, simply to satisfy our desire for their flesh.
The arbitrary line we draw between who we eat and who we pet is just that -- arbitrary.
If we wouldn't eat cats and dogs, why eat other animals?
The writer is a staff writer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The hardest lesson of all in reporter Sandy Alexander's article about animal auctions is the fact that we allow our children to be brainwashed to see animals as commodities instead of companions.
Instead of teaching our children to value the love they have for others, we force them to twist that love into something sinister and profitable.
Instead of teaching children how they can eat and live without murdering their fellow creatures, we make them believe that factory farming is their only option.
Worst of all, instead of fostering their natural sense of wonder at the connections between life, we force them to sever those ties and see the world through the same destructive lens that allows us to commit unspeakable acts of cruelty.
As a teacher, I know the power adults have to shape the hearts and spirits of children.
It's time to throw out the old curriculum of atrocity, pain, and murder, and teach kids new lessons about compassion and peace.