Forcing foundation to sell just isn't fair
Lorraine Mirabella's article "Renewal project stalled in city" (May 29) describes a purported impasse between the Baltimore Development Corp. and one of Baltimore's most prestigious and philanthropic foundations, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.
In 46 years of generous giving to the Baltimore community, first Harry Weinberg and later the trustees of the Weinberg Foundation have given millions of dollars in service to the most poor and most vulnerable among us.
The foundation has funded a cancer center building at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and a state-of-the-art emergency department at the University of Maryland's hospital and provided funds for myriad other health-related projects. It has trained and funded the leaders of dozens of nonprofit groups.
Therefore, it is of great concern to me that there is talk of forcing the foundation to give up its downtown properties, to "sell, swap properties or work with the New York developer" on the "superblock" project, with the not-so-veiled threat that the city could condemn the properties if foundation officers don't give in to this demand.
Shale Stiller, the president of the foundation's board, reportedly declared that the foundation will move ahead with a plan to redevelop the block on its own, working with a local developer.
There is no reason to believe that it will not do so, and city officials would do well to respect the board's decision.
It is my sincere hope that this impasse can be resolved in a way that respects the rights and recognizes the incredible contributions of the Weinberg Foundation while facilitating long-term, collaborative development of this important downtown area.
The writer is a graduate of the Weinberg Foundation's training program for nonprofit managers.
Israel isn't moving toward apartheid
The anti-Israel diatribe by Fred Schlomka in Sunday's Sun was replete with errors, deceptions and inaccuracies ("Toward a third intifada," Opinion
Commentary, May 28).
To focus on the most egregious slur, Mr. Schlomka writes: "The Hebrew term hafrada, which means 'separation' or 'apartheid,' has entered the mainstream lexicon in Israel."
This inflammatory insinuation that mainstream Israelis support apartheid is blatantly and demonstrably false and represents a mockery of a vigorous Israeli democracy in which citizens of all ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds are free to vote.
Mr. Schlomka seems unaware that a substantial number of current members of Israel's parliament (the Knesset) were elected on Arab political slates and is ill-informed on basic language.
The word hafrada in Hebrew means "separation" but not "apartheid"; the former South African practitioners of apartheid were guilty of practicing heinous racial separation, or hafrada giz'it - and until 1994, the three officially designated nonwhite groups in South Africa were systematically deprived of the right to political participation.
Israel does not seek racial separation; it seeks to separate suicide murderers from its cities with a security fence.
And as Mr. Schlomka notes, Hamas could "cancel its 15-month truce" and decide to resume murdering Israelis at any time.
When will we end disastrous wars?
For God's sake, when is this war going to stop?
The Sun's article "CBS team fatally attacked in Iraq" (May 30) reveals more U.S. soldiers and reporters killed.
On the same day, 33 other people in Baghdad were killed in bombings and shootings.
The headlines about the war change from day to day. But the result is the same - more U.S. soldiers and civilians dead and wounded, more Iraqi soldiers, police and civilians dead and wounded, more families mourning.
We've put thousands of U.S. citizens in harm's way every day - even al-Qaida couldn't do that.
As awful as Saddam Hussein was, the war the United States launched now appears to have caused the deaths of more Iraqis than Mr. Hussein did.
And for what? For a horribly mistaken, misguided, botched policy by leaders who have no idea how to get us out of this terrible quagmire.
Our so-called policy in Afghanistan is failing, the Taliban is getting stronger, Iraq is a disaster and Osama bin Laden is still broadcasting.
And our president believes his major mistake has been to use unsophisticated rhetoric such as "bring it on" and "dead or alive" ("Bush says he erred in Iraq war," May 26).
We are not bringing democracy to Iraq, and we are threatening it at home.
When are we going to stop being mesmerized by repetitive headlines and shout, "Stop. We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore"?
Everyone shares the duty to serve
I would like to commend Dan Rodricks for his column "Draft might breathe new life into a listless U.S." (May 21).
On this year's Memorial Day, I observed how few homes in my neighborhood in Baltimore actually flew American flags. At the same time, the stores were jammed with shoppers eager to buy a bargain on one of the biggest sale days of the year.
The disrespectful way many Americans observe Memorial Day is simply deplorable.
No wonder we are often seen as "increasingly myopic, wealth-obsessed, self-centered, cynical, and clueless to essential concepts of loyalty and teamwork, community and commitment," as Mr. Rodricks writes.
I support Mr. Rodricks' proposal for a National Public Service Administration that would stage a daily national drawing to decide what path each citizen - at age 18, with deferment optional until age 21, when it would become mandatory - takes as a public service: military, domestic or foreign humanitarian.
In this way, a new appreciation of the valor and sacrifice made by former generations of Americans could be forged. It is also a way to level the playing field.
The burden of defending one's country should not be disproportionately imposed on an underclass of the poor and racial minorities.
Unfortunately, the latter probably see the armed services as one of the few avenues open to them where they have a chance to improve their educational and economic status.
But the children of the affluent and middle class should be required to shoulder arms and provide other needed public service on an equal basis.
Our nation is at war, and everyone should be asked to make some sacrifices in support of our fighting men and women on the front lines.
Only then will our nation learn and respect the lesson of what it means to be "the home of the free and the land of the brave."
Legislators duped about deregulation?
Ah, we finally know who the guilty parties are for the pending Baltimore Gas and Electric rate increase: President Bush, Enron, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and the Public Service Commission were all indicted by state Sen. Paula C. Hollinger ("Let legislature solve state's energy mess," letters, May 27).
Only Ms. Hollinger and the rest of the legislature are innocent.
They were duped by the evil, right-wing, big-business conspiracy into believing that there would be new entrants into the electricity market, new investments in alternative energy and, of course, lower electricity prices.
According to Ms. Hollinger, we should give the legislators back the ball and let them fix this mess.
What was the legislature doing over the past six years?
Did it just pass the legislation and then move on and never bother to look back to see how things were going?
When did the legislators first notice that energy prices were rising?
How many competitors did they see coming into the BGE service area from 1999 to 2006?
Did it strike anybody that maybe there wasn't going to be any real competition and that maybe the rate cap set back in 1999 had something to do with this problem?
There is one truth here: Without the 1999 legislation, we wouldn't be talking about this issue.
If the legislation was faulty, those who voted for it should stand up and take the lion's share of the blame.
Ms. Hollinger and her colleagues should be embarrassed to write anything that attempts to deny blame and shift it to others.
Energy firm scorns the public interest
Let's see now - we're paying more than ever before to gas up our cars, and Exxon Mobil Corp. has crafted a golden parachute for its chairman Lee Raymond worth a reported $400 million.
We're about to experience a 72 percent jump in our electricity bills electric bills, and Constellation Energy CEO Mayo A. Shattuck III is in line for bonuses of millions of dollars for shepherding this "public" utility toward increased profitability and its merger with Florida's FPL Group.
Yet we're assured by Exxon Mobil and BGE that there is no connection between our increased costs and the spectacular largess awarded the executives of these corporations.
The contempt of these companies for their customers, and their faith in slick PR to continue to confuse and hoodwink the public, are truly wondrous to behold.
Defending a killer isn't true heroism
I read with great consternation The Sun's article "2 public defenders honored" (May 29).
I think the suggestion that these two public servants should be honored in the way soldiers who die for their country are honored or police officers who risk their lives every day are honored undermines and minimizes the deeds of the heroes who are truly worthy of that title.
According to the article, Donald Lee Ferebe was serving a life sentence for a 1994 murder when he allegedly ordered two gunmen to kill a witness to the murder. As a result, two people died.
The two honored public defenders were credited for saving a convicted murderer's life when they successfully argued about a procedural violation by federal prosecutors.
Based on the article, the public defenders did not free a wrongfully convicted man, which would be laudable; they simply won because of a loophole in the law.
I don't begrudge the work the lawyers did. They were simply doing their job - not as heroes but as paid public servants.
In mythology and legend, a hero is defined as someone of great courage and strength who is celebrated for his or her bold deeds.
Let's save hero worship for those who meet this definition, such as the brave men and women who responded to the 9/11 attacks or the soldiers fighting for freedom in Iraq.
James O'Conor Gentry Jr.
Building imperils a city treasure
There is presently a plan to break ground next spring for a new building on the grounds of Cylburn Arboretum.
This city park is unique. Located on Greenspring Avenue between Cold Spring Lane and Northern Parkway, it became, under the direction of former Chief Horticulturist Gerard J. Moudry, a treasure trove of unusual and interesting trees. In addition, it provides habitat for wildlife, including many species of birds.
To take away any part of the Cylburn to erect a new building, in a crowded city in which open space is limited and precious, would be a terrible blow.
This plan seems especially ironic in this centennial year of the Maryland Forest Service, when we are being encouraged to plant more trees.
I have been a volunteer at Cylburn for years and was a member of the board of the Cylburn Arboretum Association until I recently retired. Frankly, I love this place and deplore anything that could diminish it.
This building, whose plans include a large auditorium, would serve as a headquarters for the Horticultural Society of Maryland.
This is an organization that my husband and I helped to start. I am also a past president of the society.
While it would be nice to have a permanent location for the Horticultural Society, this should not come at the expense of destroying trees in a city park.
I hope that other people who share my concern will let their views be known and will work to protect Cylburn Arboretum.
Adelaide C. Rackemann
Parker protected refugees from war
Rob Hiaasen's article about the remains of Dorothy Parker reminded me of my encounter with this generous and open-minded woman ("Fans hope writer's ashes won't be left in the dust," May 28).
In 1938, when many German-Jewish immigrants sought refuge in the United States and remained in New York City where they had landed, Dorothy Parker organized vacations in Vermont for groups of German-Jewish children. I was one of the lucky ones.
A group of about 30 children took the train to Brattleboro, Vt. We were delighted to be outside of steamy New York in beautiful Vermont. Our host families met us at the station and took us to our new temporary homes.
Unfortunately, two girls and I had to stay with two "elderly spinsters." (They were probably in their 40s.)
We were as foreign to them as they to us, but they were very tolerant of our peculiarities.
We didn't know that shredded wheat was a cereal to be eaten with milk; we didn't realize that water that was pumped by hand was not to be wasted; our English was very deficient, and we rudely spoke German to each other.
One day, it may have been July 4, we were taken to Arlington, Vt., for a picnic and a celebration with the other children. Dorothy Parker, to whom we owed our vacation, addressed us and the host families. We applauded heartily.
I have, of course, no recollection what she said.
But I have since always thought of her first as a benefactress and then as a poet.
Racing ravages health of horses
I was heartbroken to hear about Barbaro's broken leg in the Preakness. I hope he is not suffering and will be able to recover and be happy in his new life.
As horrible as this incident is, Barbaro is lucky that he is famous and that his injury occurred in the public eye. If not, he might have joined the many racehorses that are shipped off to slaughter as soon as they become injured or are not fast enough to race.
Although "breakdowns" early in races may be rare, thousands of other racing-related injuries occur at other times, crippling horses and leaving them with an uncertain fate.
Just go visit any horse-rescue operation that takes in former racehorses, and you will find young horses with a variety of performance injuries, many of which are permanently debilitating and painful.
Horses frequently leave the track with fractured and shattered bones, bone chips, arthritis, bowed tendons and more.
Once horses become injured or are no longer useful, many wealthy racehorse owners depend on the sympathies of horse lovers who take in their unwanted animals.
When many racing meets close at the end of the year, owners and trainers declare an "everything must go" sale on their horses. Horse lovers from all over the country band together to try to find homes for these horses, many of which are still in perfect health, before trainers sell them at auction.
Yet many animals that have given everything for their owners are still sold and then forced to give their lives - and in the most horrible way imaginable.
Racing's elite may wish to pass this problem off as one of less-elegant races, or a few unscrupulous owners or trainers. But Exceller, the 1978 Jockey Gold Cup winner, died in a slaughterhouse in 1997. And Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner, died in a slaughterhouse in 2003.
These deaths are inexcusable. If the racing industry cannot keep its biggest stars from dying in slaughterhouses, it cannot pretend to protect its less-famous participants.
I think we need to question an industry that injures countless horses every year.
And I think it is horrendous that this industry's solution is often to sell horses to slaughter as soon as they are no longer profitable.
The writer is a former Humane Society employee and a volunteer for horse-rescue operations.
Trapping animals, shooting suspects
It is thought-provoking to consider that when our society is faced with dangerous wild animals that have escaped from captivity or roamed into areas populated by humans, we typically read that specialists are called in and the animals are captured with nets or traps or perhaps tranquilizer guns. These animals are then captured and caged and returned to an appropriate environment.
This happens often with the black bears of Western Maryland. And this was the case in April 2005 when nine escaped bison roamed the streets of Reisterstown, and were finally captured by police and firefighters ("Police round up the unusual suspects," April 27, 2005).
In comparison, what is so threatening about an 18-year-old human with scissors ("Shootings of disturbed suspects spur debate over police tactics," May 23)?
And why, as a society, do we deal with these two situations so differently?
Ignoring warming could be more costly
Margo Thorning's column is flat-out wrong in claiming that there is no scientific consensus on global warming ("Can we afford to heed Gore?" Opinion Commentary, May 30).
The vast majority of scientists accept human-caused climate change as fact.
For example, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, believes there is "no question" about global warming and that not acting to stop it is "risking the ability of the human race to survive."
Ms. Thorning's assertion that environmental regulations will harm our economy is equally erroneous.
For example, a University of California-sponsored study released in January predicts that cutting California's greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent could add $60 billion to the gross state product by 2020.
Indeed, clean energy technologies such as windmills and solar panels create more jobs than other energy sources - 40 percent more jobs per dollar invested than coal and five times the jobs per dollar invested than a nuclear reactor.
While the price of fuel for coal, natural gas and nuclear power has risen over the past several years, the cost of electricity from wind systems has dropped by more than 80 percent and the cost of solar electricity has declined consistently as well.
And as demand for these technologies continues to grow, their prices will fall even more.
The writer is media relations manager for the Network for New Energy Choices.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." This age-old formula of Ben Franklin's seems to have escaped Margo Thorning when she asked whether we can afford to confront global warming.
The premise of her argument would be laughable were it not so dangerous.
Would she argue that a 40-year-old man cannot afford to give up smoking because the cost of treatment (patches, gum, etc.) might initially be more than the expense of a pack of cigarettes a day - even though he will probably ultimately save tens of thousands of dollars in health care costs?
Just as a tobacco lobbyist would certainly argue that the 40-year-old can't afford to give up his habit, Ms. Thorning suggests that Americans can't afford to achieve a better, less energy dependent lifestyle.
Big corporation supporters such as Ms. Thorning like to point out that the benefits of prevention are not immediately clear. They use this as a justification for refusing to adapt.
And if we manage to keep the Earth from overheating, we may never know how many hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters we have averted.
But as we learned in New Orleans last year, the costs of not acting are all too clear.
Margot Thorning, the senior vice president and chief economist of the American Council for Capital Formation, criticizes those who warn of the dangers of global warming.
She clearly has the right to do so. It is nonetheless instructive to know that the organization in which she has a leading role has, since 1998, received more than $1.3 million from ExxonMobil.
I can only wonder whether her motivation is to protect our economy - as she professes - or to protect the oil industry.
I suspect the latter.
Stanley L. Rodbell
Margo Thorning asks if we can "afford" to confront global warming. She argues that Americans aren't willing to pay the economic costs of trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The truth is that we will either pay manageable costs to control the warming trend, which will be more or less equally distributed and spread over a reasonable space of time, or we will pay unmanageable costs that, suddenly and with extreme force, hit some people in some places - and most of us will be among the "some people in some places" at one time or another.
Last year it was New Orleans. This year it will be someplace else.
We will see more hurricanes, or floods, or droughts.
There will again be massive devastation and disruption, economic loss and widespread human suffering.
But apparently many Americans are willing to take that option rather than drive one less mile or give up unnecessarily huge vehicles, turn their thermostats down one degree or spend a few dollars on insulation.