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Electricity debate isn't helping needy

The electric utility rate increase debate has spiraled out of control. It is driven by ego and political brinkmanship without due regard for ratepayers ("Rate-limit plan unveiled," June 13).

Regardless what rhetoric is issued by the various parties vying for an edge in this brawl, the bottom line is that ratepayers and taxpayers will be footing the bill. Pay now or pay later, the bill is coming due.

There is no avoiding the increased cost for electricity, and now we will bear the extra cost of a special legislative session.

But we know there are those among us who will be challenged to meet additional demands to our monthly budget. Meanwhile, those in a position to influence the debate stumble along with only their own fates in mind.

It is time for a plan that supports those who are in the greatest need.

A rate increase and a fee to support a loan for Baltimore Gas and Electric are both frustrating and repugnant in a time of record profits for the energy industry.

Any fees the legislature adds to the rate increases we will face on our electricity bills should go directly to a mechanism like the Fuel Fund that would support those who face demonstrable hardship because of the higher monthly electricity bills.

Aaron Schneiderman


Legislators can't see past next elections

Does anyone see the legislature's plan to cap the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. rate increase at 15 percent for 11 months as anything but a transparent attempt by legislators to buy time - for themselves ("Rate-limit plan unveiled," June 13)?

Once again, Maryland's legislators appear to be most concerned with their future, not ours. The plan to reduce the increase for 11 months, and "trust us to come up with a real solution" next year, tells me that our legislators cannot think past the next election.

Their idea seems to be to moderate public outrage until after the election, then push through a real rate adjustment next winter.

Karen L. Stott


Focus on a retreat from war in Iraq

The front page of Monday's Sun mentioned that the Bush team was meeting at Camp David to discuss the Iraq war. Unfortunately, the proofreaders allowed an apparently garbled sub-head to sneak through. It read: "Top advisers gathering at Md. retreat to set goals" ("Bush team at camp to discuss Iraq war," June 12).

Clearly, the right headline should have been: "Top advisers set goals to retreat at Md. gathering."

What will it take for this administration to face reality and put a stop to the daily slaughter of young American men and women who are lost for no conceivable reason?

We stay the course, stumbling blindly on. Why? We've done about all the damage to America's influence, to Iraq and to our reputation as a moral leader in the world that we can handle. More dead U.S. servicemen and more ruined lives will not alter the situation.

As was said about the war in Vietnam, "Let's declare victory and get out."

Sig Seidenman

Owings Mills

U.S. opened the door to al-Zarqawi in Iraq

The Sun's front-page article on the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi quotes James Phillips, a scholar at the Heritage Foundation, as saying: "Part of his mystique was that he was able to operate in Iraq for so long despite the presence of the U.S. military" ("A mostly symbolic blow to al-Qaida," June 9).

But what Mr. Phillips omitted, perhaps because it is embarrassing to the United States, is that Mr. al-Zarqawi couldn't operate in Iraq before the presence of the U.S. military.

Once again, our actions have created a problem that didn't exist before them.

Dean Pappas


Other nations owe a debt to East Timor

Michael J. Boyle writes that before the current crisis, East Timor was "viewed as a U.N. success story" because it backed a 1999 intervention to save the "impoverished island from the grips of the Indonesian army" ("Finish job in East Timor," Opinion * Commentary, June 6). He then rightly lists many of the factors that have contributed to the present violence. Yet he omits critical information.

The Indonesian army was not the only guilty party in the decades-long occupation. The United States and Australia began to provide political and materiel support as Indonesian troops invaded in 1975 and continued to do so until their final paroxysm of destructiveness in 1999.

Similarly, the problem is not merely that the "United Nations failed to get East Timor's fragile economy on its feet." Australia's refusal to remit billions of dollars in petroleum revenues that rightfully belong to East Timor under customary international law has surely aggravated Timorese poverty.

Taken together, these facts suggest that the international community's failure has been one of default on tremendous debts it owes to the people of East Timor, in repayment for the suffering it has enabled, in the past and the present.

Such facts are important to keep in mind as we seek to understand today's bloodshed.

Max Ajl

New York

Smart Growth sullies suburbs

The atrocious infill development described in "Outrage over infill in suburban areas" (June 10) exemplifies the unconscionable way Baltimore County politicians have condoned a development process that allows the decline of their constituents' quality of life and betrays the environment.

Elected officials defend such negligence by pointing to how the process prevents their intervention. Simply put, this is a cop-out. As our leaders, they hold the power to legislate reform.

Smart Growth has become a statewide farce, employed by politicians and developers to rationalize the urbanization of suburbia against suburbanites' wishes.

Corinne Becker


The writer is president of the Riderwood Hills Community Association Inc.

Penny helps kids grasp mathematics

Steve Chapman's column "A penny saved is nothing but a waste of time" (Opinion * Commentary, June 12) is a forceful argument for the elimination of the penny from the roster of U.S. coins.

However, he does not understand that dropping the little brown coin from our change purses would be a foolish mistake, because it would contribute to the continuing dumbing-down of American culture and brainpower.

Because our monetary system is based on the decimal system, the concept of 100 pennies to the dollar is a powerful learning tool in elementary classrooms.

As a former third-grade teacher, I am convinced that dropping the penny would serve to make mathematics more difficult for young minds to handle.

A visit to any primary school in the United States will confirm how useful pennies, dimes and dollars are as learning tools.

So, making this drastic change would once again prove the power of (my) American version of an old maxim, "Penny wise, nickel foolish."

Paul S. Schatz

Bel Air

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