LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Nothing nefarious about check-cashers

The Sun's editorial "Lowering the 'ghetto tax'" (July 23) seems to have gone out of its way to slander check-cashing services by referring to "high fees charged by street-corner check cashers."

However, studies by both the Federal Reserve Bank and the industry indicate that most people use check-cashers because they perceive the value of their services as good.

Surveys have also found that about 60 percent of the customers at check cashing services have, or have had, traditional banking relationships.

My two money-service businesses are in areas with banks nearby and my customers use my services for a myriad of reasons. But as almost all my customers arrive at my stores by car, they could easily obtain services elsewhere.

And my fees are regulated by state law and are, on average, less than half of the amount I am legally allowed to charge.

The phrase "street-corner check casher" suggests we are fly-by-night operations, akin to hawkers of fake Rolex watches or bootleg DVDs.

But check-cashers are licensed by the state and regulated by the same agency as banks. In addition, we must register with the U.S. Treasury Department. We must comply with complicated anti-money-laundering laws.

We all operate out of stores we own or rent. We have employees and pay taxes. We couldn't operate without good credit and ample cash flow and good banking relationships.

Does any of this sound like a "street-corner" operation?

The editorial could have avoided defaming an entire business sector by simply stating that having more banks in poor neighborhoods would provide increased opportunity for residents to obtain mainstream banking relationships.

Neil Goldstein

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Maryland Association of Financial Service Centers.

Candidates' use of kids is shameless

I was outraged to read the article "Second generation puts dad's campaign first" (July 25). It clearly demonstrates that, in their effort to attain political gain, our politicians will exploit anything.

And they do this with the help of the media - since, after all, the media pocket the money spent on political ads.

I am not a Republican but I agree with the spokeswoman for the Maryland Republican Party who said, "the mayor using his children as a political prop is not only disingenuous but a little too politically opportunistic for people to handle."

Of course, the same article proves that exploitation of children is not the trademark of one party or individual.

Here is what First Lady Kendel Ehrlich said to her son: "Let me put this in context for you. If we don't win, we don't live in this house any more."

A. Montazer

Reisterstown

Maybe lawbreaking leads to the leaks

The leaks from the National Security Agency (NSA) are one result of the Bush administration directing what many people think are criminal activities (i.e. warrantless eavesdropping, domestic spying) through the NSA ("NSA strives to plug leaks," July 23).

This administration has acted like an authoritarian government, confusing loyalty to President Bush with patriotism.

If the Bush administration would simply obey federal law, employees would have no information to leak about criminal conduct.

Richard L. Ottenheimer

Pikesville

Arab hatred keeps conflict churning

As the decades roll on and violence continues throughout the Middle East, one single underlying factor remains. And that is the culture of hate that the Arab nations have for Israel.

The blame for this should not be on the Arab "peoples" so much as on Arab leaders who have systematically nurtured a curriculum of lies and hatred to deflect attention away from their own oppressive and stagnant regimes and monarchies.

Only when the Arab nations teach their children love, respect and tolerance for all people will there be a real change.

Michael Barrash

Baltimore

Politicians pander while Israel attacks

It was deeply disturbing to learn of the parade of Maryland politicians who attended a rally in support of Israel, even as that country indiscriminately kills women and children in Lebanon ("Supporters of Israel rally at city Holocaust Memorial," July 26).

Israel has reacted to the attacks on it with disproportionate and inhumane force.

I am ashamed that our politicians have chosen to condone this massacre. And I think that, in spite of my belief that it would be better for the Democrats to run our state government, I will have to sit out the upcoming elections.

Connie Phelps

Baltimore

Holocaust Memorial is place for peace

The pro-Israel rally at the Holocaust Memorial was nothing short of exploitation ("Supporters of Israel rally at city Holocaust Memorial," July 26). The Holocaust cannot and should not be used, explicitly or implicitly, to justify or excuse Israel's recent actions.

The Israel lobby should be ashamed that it chose the Holocaust Memorial to hold its rally to support Israel's "right to defend itself" and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Mayor Martin O'Malley should be ashamed to have used the tragedy in the Middle East to pander for votes.

The disproportionately deadly force Israel uses against Lebanon and Gaza goes far beyond self-defense: it is collective punishment against a civilian population, a violation of the Geneva Convention.

Rather than breaking the back of Hezbollah, which is Israel's stated goal, strikes against civilians have only served to further sow seeds of discontent and rage against Israel throughout the region.

The Holocaust Memorial is a sacred place that should only be used to work for peace, not to encourage and support Israel's bloody rampage in Gaza and Lebanon.

Kristin Bricker

Baltimore

Islam condemns killing the innocent

The writer of the letter "More Muslims ought to condemn killing" (July 17) argues that more Muslims should condemn suicide bombings.

I would invite him to type in "9/11 condemnations" in Google to see just how many Muslims and Islamic organizations condemn killing innocent people. The list is endless.

The question we should be asking is why it doesn't make headlines when Muslims condemn terrorism.

It is a sin to kill the innocent and Islam is very clear that eternal damnation is the punishment.

Arun Chopra

Salisbury

City isn't closing door to treatment

Baltimore's goal for serving people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction is long-term recovery, not temporary and costly respite care. And Baltimore has not abandoned people needing treatment ("Closing detox center shuts a door to help" letters, July 20).

On the contrary, access to treatment for uninsured Baltimoreans has vastly expanded over the past 10 years. In 2005, more than 23,000 uninsured Baltimore residents received substance abuse services.

Baltimore funds drug abuse treatment involving short- and long-term stays, inpatient and outpatient settings and various medical treatments.

And despite the closing of one detoxification center, the city continues to fund detox programs for more than 3,000 people each year.

The recent shift in funding will result in 170 more people receiving highly-effective, long-term residential treatment and specialized outpatient treatment for 140 patients who have not been helped by traditional methadone treatment.

Adam Brickner

Baltimore

The writer is president and CEO of Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems Inc.

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