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No freedom to soil the lungs of others

I'm thrilled that Howard County will have smoke-free bars and restaurants. But I'm tired of comments such as this one from Charles C. Feaga, who objected to the law: "It's the freedom issue with me" ("Howard forbids smoking in bars and restaurants," June 6).

Would he advocate that the restaurant owners should have the freedom to decide whether to wash the dishes or just let a dog lick them clean?

Should they have the freedom to spray asbestos throughout their restaurants?

Of course not - employees and patrons should be protected from all known carcinogens, and secondhand smoke is among the most offensive and most hazardous of these pollutants.

It is time for our state legislators to ban smoking in all workplaces in Maryland.

It is what the people of this state want, and it is long overdue that we protect all workers.

Brad Scott


The writer is a former member of the board of Smoke-free Maryland.

Let city join battle to save our lungs

As a nearly three-year resident of Baltimore, I am holding my breath as I await the possibility of smoke-free restaurants and bars in the city.

I am thrilled that Howard County's elected officials have taken a stand on the issue ("Howard forbids smoking in bars and restaurants," June 6), and I am asking Baltimore's elected officials to join the battle to protect the health of those in my community.

Holly Schmittle


Session must secure rate-reduction plan

In the special legislative session, everyone has to come to his or her senses to work on a real rate-reduction plan. Unfortunately, I have serious doubts that the current legislators will ever move past the politics of the issue.

This was especially evident in the quote in The Sun's article "Special session planned" (June 6) from Del. Curtis S. Anderson, who said, "I think if the only thing we do is get rid of the PSC [Public Service Commission], we'll have had a successful session."

But that would not be a successful session for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers.

Sure, the PSC failed in its duties. But so did the legislature, year after year, by letting this issue of energy deregulation pass it by.

This session is the legislators' last chance to do the right thing by those who elected them.

The first and most important goal of the special session should be to develop a real rate-relief plan for the citizens of this state.

I hope the legislators can figure out how to help BGE's consumers rather than continue their endless political banter.

Aimee Darrow


Treat electricity as a public service

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is basically a monopoly that supplies essential electric service to captive citizen-consumers ("Rate storms catch BGE off its balance," June 6).

Because it holds a monopoly over an essential service, it seems reasonable that BGE should be controlled by the consumer as a nonprofit entity - much as water, sewer and trash-disposal are currently controlled and regulated by our elected representatives.

William F. Seip


Overturn the effort to alter voting laws

Until this year's election, Maryland voters could vote only at their home precinct and only on Election Day. And we could get an absentee ballot only by requesting one and offering a reason ("State board OKs funds for early voting," June 8).

However, the Democrats in the state legislature changed these rules to suit themselves. Now we will be able to vote in some places in Maryland for almost one week before Election Day or by using an absentee ballot without having to give a reason that we need one.

This will open up all kinds of possibilities for vote fraud in Maryland in this election.

The Democrats made these unwise changes to our voting rules because they believe these changes will help them win in November.

This must not be permitted.

That is the reason that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s petition drive to hold a referendum on these changes in our voting laws must go forward.

Al Eisner


GOP still seeking to suppress votes

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s continued efforts to squelch early voting in Maryland ("The governor's anti-democratic scare tactics," Opinion * Commentary, June 4) must be seen in the context of a nationwide effort by Republican officials to win and maintain power by denying, suppressing and in some cases outright stealing Democratic votes.

In the most recent issue of Rolling Stone, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. makes a powerful case (extensively footnoted in the Web version of the story) that these tactics cost Sen. John Kerry the 2004 election.

The Democratic Party must stand up and fight back against this insidious erosion of the electoral process.

Here's one case where the party can do good and do well.

Nancy Hammond


How will we protest abuse of our people?

It saddens me beyond measure to learn that the United States might no longer join civilized nations in banning humiliating and degrading treatment of military prisoners ("U.S. to drop Geneva rule, officials say," June 5).

But it doesn't surprise me. This is just one more example of the arrogant shortsightedness that has defined the Bush presidency.

Even leaving aside moral considerations, there is still this self-serving question: If we do not forswear abuse, how can we protest when our own people are mistreated?

Some State Department officials oppose this decision on the grounds that it will weaken our ability to work with other countries. Let us hope that those officials succeed in their efforts to convince the Pentagon and the White House that we must act the way we want our people to be treated.

Bob Wirtz


Remove the stigma from mental illness

Kudos to Abigail Tucker for the heart-wrenching story of a woman dealing with her birth mother's mental illness ("A daughter's difficult journey," June 4).

Terri McLaughlin seemed to have only two alternatives: endanger her family or leave her birth mother homeless, with her illness untreated.

What other medical condition would bring a family to such an agonizing choice?

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says that one of every five families is touched by mental illness.

I hope that The Sun will bring its readers more reports that put a face on mental illness and shed light on the issues.

Increasing knowledge about mental illness can help reduce stigma and build public support for more and better services for people with brain disorders.

Gigi Casey Wirtz


The writer is a volunteer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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