Embryonic cells are taken from genuine people

Kudos to The Sun for its fascinating report "Scientists try to heal heart with stem cells" (Dec. 13). It confirms that several therapies are moving toward clinical use in cardiac patients using adult stem cells, which pose no moral problem for anyone.

But one sentence in the article is somewhat misleading. It says embryonic stem cells are controversial because they "are culled from fertilized eggs that opponents argue are potential humans."

We who oppose destroying human embryos for research recognize them as actual (though very young) humans.

And the embryos destroyed for stem cell research are not one-celled "fertilized eggs," but week-old blastocysts with 100 cells or more.

However, recent advances using adult stem cells for heart damage and other conditions suggest a future in which science and respect for human life advance together, producing cures we can all live with.

Richard M. Doerflinger


The writer is deputy director of pro-life activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Supporting those who live longer

As noted in The Sun, stem cell research to repair cardiac tissue is truly a medical advancement of unknown proportions ("Scientists try to heal heart with stem cells," Dec. 13). It will lead to longer life, and this is something we all want. However, there is another side of the coin that must be addressed.

People are living longer now, and seniors and other members of our society are faced with losing the safety net that they depend upon from Medicare and Social Security.

Young people should know that eventually they too will become seniors and that playing the stock market is a gamble and certainly no safety net when needed.

There are few fiscal priorities more important than fixing the Medicare and Social Security disaster to come.

Fred Tepper


Standards for ethics appear to be eroding

Reading yet another account of the controversial acquisition of LeapFrog SchoolHouse software by the Prince George's County school system, I am reminded of how far we have come when it comes to defining what is, and is not, a conflict of interest ("School software executive resigns after probe of sale," Dec. 15).

Before I moved to Maryland in the late 1980s, I was always taught that the appearance of a conflict of interest was virtually as important as an actual conflict of interest.

People in high office, especially those in positions of public trust, were expected to exercise judgment in their behavior and actions, and if they were involved in behavior that had the appearance of violating conflict rules, they were expected to suffer the consequences.

My, how our culture seems to have changed.

It is not important to rehash all the instances in which the superintendent exercised poor judgment in this episode -- The Sun's article reported them again. What is amazing is that he skated through the ethics investigation with hardly a reprimand for putting himself in a position in which the appearance of conflict of interest is overwhelming.

But maybe Maryland simply plays by different rules than the other places I have lived.

Philip H. Grantham


Consider the needs of homeless families

I was encouraged to read The Sun's article "City to seek homes for all" (Dec. 13).

I agree that providing immediate access to affordable housing with comprehensive services targeting drug addiction, mental health and job training could be successful.

Since homeless families with children represent 40 percent of the homeless population, I feel that their special needs also should be considered.

Yet many emergency shelters provide only one or two meals a day, and children need at least three meals a day to continue normal growth and development.

For children to have access to health care, parents need a permanent address so they can receive public assistance. Day care also may be essential for mothers to escape the vicious cycle of homelessness.

In a country as rich as ours, it is disgraceful that we allow families with children to live on the streets.

As the effort to eradicate homelessness is implemented, I hope the needs of the most vulnerable, the children, will be considered.

Katherine Weaver


President rewards incompetent officials

The president just awarded the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to three men who have demonstrated conspicuous incompetence ("Highest civilian honor given to 3 key to Iraq plan," Dec. 15).

Gen. Tommy Franks was Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's affable pawn who allowed the number of troops sent to Iraq to be reduced below the level needed to provide security, failed to plan for the occupation and neglected to properly equip his troops.

L. Paul Bremer III, the civilian administrator for the Iraq occupation, presided over a disaster of chaos and casualties. He backed the wrong politicians and drove the mid-rank Iraqi officer corps into the arms of the insurgents.

Former CIA Director George J. Tenet is universally acknowledged to have made terrible blunders in assessing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and in helping provide the administration's rationale for attacking Iraq.

Why, then, did the president select these three flawed, out-of-office individuals for such an honor?

Roger Kostmayer


A medal isn't what Rumsfeld deserves

A Medal of Freedom for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ("Its own reward," editorial, Dec. 17)? Considering the fiasco he's caused in Iraq and his squandering of the lives of our troops, Mr. Rumsfeld should be fired.

But I doubt that President Bush has the guts to dismiss one of the neoconservatives who have been running his show since he came into office.

Robert E. MacDonald


Parks should serve people, not pooches

To attribute human form or personality to things that are not human, including dogs, is anthropomorphic. That, I think, is what happens when city-dwelling dog owners demand dog parks, and accommodating politicians cave in ("Well-socialized dogs pose no menace," letters, Dec. 11).

I thought that public parks and open spaces were for humans -- children and adults -- not puppies and dogs.

Baltimore's dog park debacle was displayed at Robert E. Lee Park, which has been rendered unusable because dog owners disregarded human citizens.

Let's give the parks and open spaces to human citizens -- or have dogs pay taxes.

Larry Simpson


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