SATURDAY MAILBOX

THE BALTIMORE SUN

No guarantee slots would save the Preakness

Now that the state budget crisis is over and can't be used as an excuse for slots, the political pressure is on to justify slots to save the Preakness by granting slots to Magna Entertainment Corp. ("Busch: Md. must look away from slots," May 26). But where's the explanation of how slots will actually preserve the Preakness?

Magna is disappointing increasingly impatient investors. Horse racing is not a growth industry, and its center of gravity is moving to Sun Belt retirement states, where most of its aging fan base now lives.

In this investor-driven economy, quick double-digit returns for investors rather than the long-term good of communities and employees are what rules. If slots don't pay off big, and soon, this public, out-of-state corporation will move its investment elsewhere anyway.

And with slots at the tracks, racing is destined to be a nostalgic, second-rate appendage to the year-round slots parlor.

With the proliferation of slots in surrounding states, there will be an inevitable ultimatum to up the stakes and allow Vegas-style gambling with another threat to leave.

Slots would not really save horse racing. They would open upMaryland to full-scale casinos.

If the governor and the Senate president think slots would save the Preakness, they need to specify the safeguards that would accomplish this goal.

If larger purses would truly save racing, as slots proponents contend, then why doesn't the state just subsidize purses, just as it would provide incentives to other industries?

And better land-use controls to prevent suburban sprawl and agriculture-friendly policies could also help horse breeders and also aid beleaguered farmers.

But let's not bet the farm on the one-trick-pony of slots.

Eric Waller

Baltimore

Gambling would add to the state's appeal

My congratulations to Michael Hill on his uplifting article "Charm City is a winner, the experts now believe" (May 29). Baltimore surely has been a wonderful place to live, and grow, even before Frommer's gave the city its imprimatur.

However, Mr. Hill sarcastically criticized NBC Sports for its coverage of the Preakness Stakes as melancholy because "the poobahs won't vote to allow a bunch of poor people to lose a lot of money in slot machines so it can help finance the Sport of Kings." As a supporter of slots in Maryland, I believe that this is the canard that has been utilized by many Democratic politicians, especially state House Speaker Michael E. Busch, to play political "hardball" against Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.

Slots are the tool being used to show that Mr. Ehrlich cannot get the state's business accomplished, and will be featured in all the negative attack ads in the 2006 gubernatorial election in Maryland.

But does it not dawn on people that slots in Maryland would not only be for Marylanders?

It is true that many Marylanders would gamble in Maryland instead of taking precious dollars to Delaware, West Virginia and New Jersey. But slots would also lure people from other states to Maryland to partake in Maryland gambling, and thus add more allure to the state and revenues to the state treasury.

Imagine what this could mean for other businesses in Maryland: restaurants, shopping malls, historic sites, the Orioles and the Ravens. We would all benefit.

Since Baltimore made the top 10 list of places to visit this summer without slots, imagine what it could be with them.

Metaphorically, Baltimore may be the "gem," but the state could be the "setting" in a tourist display par excellence.

If only the legislature would act.

John Reynolds

Dundalk

One new state law combats obesity

The Sun's article about the 171 Maryland bills Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. recently signed omitted mention of one that is incredibly important to the health of our children ("Governor signs public safety bills," May 27).

The legislation requires the Maryland State Department of Education to hire a permanent, full-time director of physical education.

It is amazing to me that given the extent of our childhood obesity epidemic, it took a legislative initiative to make this happen.

I understand that the schools are playing to the Leave No Child Behind requirements, but in so doing, they are in danger of leaving behind the whole child. The "sound mind in the sound body" concept is sound.

Children learn best when they are physically fit. (They also do better when they are well-nourished, but we'll save that for the 2006 Assembly.)

My congratulations to Mr. Ehrlich for signing the bill, to the Senate and House champions who moved the bill and to state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, in advance, for doing what must be done to implement the requirements of this new law.

Our children deserve no less.

Michaeline R. Fedder

Baltimore

The writer is director of advocacy in Maryland for the American Heart Association.

Secretary of state oversees charities

The letter "Little state oversight for nonprofit groups" (May 23) carried a misunderstanding about the regulation of charitable organizations in Maryland.

The letter states: "While some states, such as California, New York and Massachusetts, have staff dedicated to charity oversight ... Maryland has no office whose primary responsibility is charity oversight, despite the overwhelming presence of nonprofits in the state."

Actually, the secretary of state's office is responsible for registering, regulating and updating the financial information of charitable organizations, professional solicitors and fund-raising counsels doing business in Maryland.

In the past two years, we have increased the number of registered charities from 5,639 to approximately 6,800. Our Web site currently lists the status and financial information of these groups.

In addition to registering and regulating charitable organizations, my office educates the public on the importance of wise charitable giving.

R. Karl Aumann

Annapolis

The writer is Maryland's secretary of state.

Public broadcasting must be balanced

Bill Moyers' allegation that critics led by Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, seek to transform public television and radio into a Bush administration megaphone ignores a central issue: Recipients of CPB funds, unlike private communications media, are obligated by federal law to provide "strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature" ("PBS under siege from right," Opinion

Commentary, May 26)

After years of paying lip service to its oversight responsibilities, the corporation created the post of ombudsmen and monitored Mr. Moyers' show NOW.

Reacting to such small steps, Mr. Moyers poses as a First Amendment martyr.

Mr. Moyers claims of his own show that "only three times in three years did we err factually, and in each case we corrected those errors as soon as we confirmed their inaccuracy." Nonsense.

NOW's June 6, 2003 broadcast about the Arab-Israeli conflict, for example, was riddled with factual errors and misrepresentations.

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) pointed out mistakes regarding the diplomatic "road map," the misleading identification of a key source and omissions of context regarding Palestinian terrorism.

Mr. Tomlinson also has expressed interest in ensuring that National Public Radio's Arab-Israeli coverage meets the objectivity and balance requirement.

Contrary to Mr. Moyers' hysteria about an onslaught from the right, 11 Democratic members of Congress complained about NPR's tilt in a 2003 letter to its president, Kevin Klose.

It's a tilt CAMERA has confirmed in a series of studies using journalistic standards including accuracy, objectivity, balance and comprehensiveness - not any left-right test.

Bottom line: CPB has begun to take its oversight responsibility seriously.

No matter how much Mr. Moyers, NPR or others who would love to keep getting taxpayers' money without accountability object, the rest of us should applaud.

Eric Rozenman

Washington

The writer is Washington director for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

Attacks from right chill effort to inquire

Let's hope The Sun's excerpts from Bill Moyers' speech to the National Conference on Media Reform will be a wake-up call for the many who are unaware or indifferent to attacks on the media ("PBS under siege from right," Opinion

Commentary, May 26).

The manipulation and suppression of news mainly coming from the White House, the Pentagon, Congress and national corporation boardrooms misleads the public.

When those who courageously speak out against questionable policies or actions are called unpatriotic or worse, you know our democracy is in trouble.

Public broadcasting has a long, honorable history of not favoring political parties, and prides itself on analyzing and reporting news free from government and special interests.

Powerful and persuasive propaganda repeated often enough, and coming from supposedly honorable sources, discourages people from thinking analytically or seeking more information.

E. Kaufman

Cockeysville

Nuclear power cuts demand for fossil fuel

The reason new nuclear plants cannot be completed rapidly enough to replace the existing polluting plants is primarily because of the cumbersome regulations, red tape and NIMBYism provoked by activists such as author Michael Mariotte ("Nuclear power is wrong answer" (Opinion

Commentary, May 27).

Although nobody wants another Chernobyl or Three Mile Island-type incident, the real risks and problems of nuclear power have to be weighed against the very real specters of pollution, acid rain and smog that are the result of the status quo.

Mr. Mariotte notes that nuclear power production is not emission-free. But neither is any other form of power production, and certainly it takes energy to produce windmills, silicon panels and the hydrogen so happily touted as an alternative fuel. And I would breathe carbon dioxide while chopping down a tree.

"Green" activists would love to have us all believe that windmills, solar power and renewable fuels can easily replace our dependence on fossil fuels. But the numbers crunched by physicists simply do not support that, unless we are all reduced to a near-Stone Age standard of living and energy use or every last house is dependent upon both a large windmill and solar panels larger than the rooftop.

I fully support increases in energy efficiency and research into alternate energy sources such as hydrogen fuel cells.

But nuclear power, in spite of its inherent problems, is a necessary evil that must play a role in our reduction in fossil fuel use - unless we'd like to see The Sun scratched onto leaves and delivered by carrier pigeon from your cave to mine.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV

Baltimore

City is taking steps to curb congestion

The Sun's article "Baltimore among nation's worst for traffic congestion, study says" (May 10) portrays the congestion as a problem only in Baltimore City.

But traffic bottlenecks plague the entire region, affecting commuters on many of the area's major arteries.

Like many metropolitan areas nationwide, Baltimore has very limited opportunities to increase traffic capacity on the majority of its roadways. Yet the city's Department of Transportation has taken a proactive approach to easing traffic woes, by developing a multifaceted program for traffic management.

For example, in August 2003, the city launched one of the largest citywide advanced transportation management system projects in the country.

At a cost of more than $21 million, the city began replacing all of its 1,210 traffic signal controllers with state-of-the-art equipment. After they are installed, and we expect the work to be done by early next year, the city will embark on a major signal retiming effort to make better use of the new control equipment.

Commuters will then begin to see a reduction in delays, better management of traffic congestion and improved response time for incident management.

Alfred H. Foxx

Baltimore

The writer is Baltimore's transportation director.

Other transit needs aren't so expensive

The Sun's articles on May 27 concerning tolls and Bay Bridge holiday traffic made me wonder if the highway contractors' lobby has taken control of the newsroom. These articles seemed to be cheerleading for building another Bay Bridge and devoting all toll revenues to highways ("Rising road, bridge tolls eat up quarters," May 27).

By contrast, I'd note the recent experience of a friend of mine from out of town.

Alighting at Penn Station, he took the light rail to the University of Baltimore stop and waited for the northbound light rail to Timonium.

There was, of course, no train running north of North Avenue during double-tracking operations. Multiple southbound trains went by without anyone or any notice advising him of this.

Eventually, another light rail rider told him about the shuttle bus. Unfortunately, no bus ever materialized.

Finally he took a cab, which cost him $15, well above the $1.60 one-way light rail ticket.

I mention this to dramatize that a simple transit sign costs much less than building another Bay Bridge.

Paul R. Schlitz Jr.

Baltimore

Conflating disorders hurts health efforts

While I understand the point of addressing the purported mental illness of the guardian in "Guardianship rules get tougher" (May 27), as a licensed psychologist and teacher of abnormal psychology, I know of no diagnosis known as "bipolar schizophrenic disorder."

This is a common misrepresentation of two very different and distinct disorders that require very different psychiatric treatment.

One is bipolar disorder (a mood or affective disorder) and the other is schizophrenia (a psychotic disorder).

These are both legitimately researched and described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association and used as a standard diagnostic tool by many psychiatrists and psychologists.

By perpetuating the belief in "combination disorders" that have no basis, The Sun discounts the legitimate mental health disorders that require treatment and concern the psychological and medical community.

Larry Lynn

Baltimore

The writer teaches psychology at the University of Baltimore.

The use of religion puts peril into politics

What would our Founding Fathers think of us if they could see what we've done with the government they so carefully crafted ("Don't use broad brush on 'people of faith,'" Opinion

Commentary, May 25)?

These visionaries who, because of past experiences with the Church of England, sought to keep religion and government apart from each other would be very afraid for the future of our republic.

In the past year alone, they would have witnessed legislative intervention in the areas of same-sex marriage, the teaching of creationism in public schools, abortion, controversies concerning religious objects displayed on government property, stem cell research, the right to die and the appointment of certain judges. The commonality among all of these issues is religion and politicians who base their legislative decisions upon their religious beliefs.

Each time they do this, they chip away at the foundation of our democracy - whether by abusing the concept of limited government, interfering with states' rights, trying to eliminate a checks-and-balances tool or blurring the lines between church and state.

Barbara Blumberg

Baltimore

Fulton always fought for public welfare

The recent passing of Del. Tony E. Fulton is a loss not only to the people of Baltimore but to all Marylanders ("Tony E. Fulton, city delegate, dies of cancer," May 22).

In his many years serving in the General Assembly, he was always dedicated to his responsibilities to his constituents and to the welfare of the citizens of Maryland.

Mr. Fulton was a man who was willing to stand up for what he believed in, and advocated initiatives to support and enhance the safety and education of Maryland's children and to end crime on the streets of his beloved hometown of Baltimore.

His name was found on legislation advocated on both sides of the aisle - legislation that funded schools, increased penalties for firearms offenses, ensured voters' rights and offered better health coverage for Marylanders - and he backed numerous other initiatives he believed were best for the people of Baltimore and the state.

Mr. Fulton was not only a colleague to his fellow lawmakers, but also a friend. He was concerned not with what was politically expedient but what was right.

He was, quite simply, a good man, and he will be greatly missed.

George C. Edwards

Grantsville

The writer is the minority leader of the House of Delegates.

Use stem cells to save lives

Steve Chapman's argument against the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research is both incredibly maudlin and poorly reasoned ("Raising the stakes in the stem cell debate," Opinion Commentary, May 30).

Using the example of a cute, 1-month-old baby makes no sense at all.

And no one is advocating using every frozen embryo in stem cell research. There will always be more than enough frozen embryos to satisfy the desires of anyone who wants to conceive a child in this way.

Like most of the opponents of embryonic stem cell research, Mr. Chapman doesn't address the reality that the great majority of frozen embryos wind up unused and thrown out. If he feels so strongly about this, why isn't Mr. Chapman out picketing the garbage cans where these unused embryos wind up?

The crux of his argument is that a frozen embryo is human life, and it is here that I disagree with him. Such an embryo, while frozen, will never become life, nor will it become life even if it is merely unfrozen. It will never begin the process of becoming a human being until it is placed in a womb. Not ever, not nohow.

If this embryo is used in medical research, no beating heart would be stilled, no little fingers and toes destroyed.

And by what logic can a society that permits the abortion of a fetus in the womb refuse to permit the use of a microscopically tiny cluster of cells that is not nearly as far along in the process of becoming life?

I believe that using the embryonic stem cells we can get from those excess frozen embryos that would otherwise be thrown out will, in time, lead to medical breakthroughs as important as the discovery of antibiotics.

Indeed, I believe that learning to use these stem cells, which are the building blocks of human life, will lead to cures for conditions such as paralysis, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and other illnesses that affect tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of millions of people throughout the world.

Let us make the vitally important decision to support the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research, where they hold such enormous promise.

Let us act to relieve the suffering and extend the lives of people who need our help.

And let this not be delayed by the nearly medieval sophistry of those who, regardless of their sincerity, cannot tell the difference between an acorn and an oak tree.

Victor Wilkotz

Marriottsville

The religious right in America has gone to great excess in its fight against stem cell research ("Our nation needs a moral home base in stem cell debate," Opinion Commentary, May 25). Its members are certainly entitled to their opinion, but they are not welcome to ram their belief system down the collective throat of the public at large.

We who are for stem cell research are hopeful, rationally and emotionally, that what is learned from this research might help Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and paraplegic patients live healthier and happier lives.

We want only to prevent suffering and multiply fullness of life for loved ones and friends, as well as for people we don't know personally.

I have seen and felt the tragedy of loved ones destroyed by Alzheimer's, MS and ALS.

And my God is open to, and fully approves of, ending that tragedy.

Stephen Siegforth

Baltimore

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