Surveillance bill a threat to liberty

I was impressed by the balanced approach of reporter Siobhan Gorman's article on Sen. Arlen Specter's surveillance bill ("CIA, NSA back surveillance bill," July 27).

Some commentators have presented a fairy-tale version of the bill as a compromise between the White House's desire to continue its warrantless surveillance of citizens and congressional opposition to this outrage.

But the bill in question is no compromise. Rather it would be a legalization of the unconstitutional, warrantless surveillance on Americans that also includes some rather nasty bells and whistles such as :

Diminishing the oversight role of the court which oversees the NSA's domestic spying.

Allowing for a new, unconstitutional process by which surveillance could be challenged only in a secret appeals court, composed solely of judges hand-picked by the Bush-appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Excluding Congress and the courts from knowing the names or number of Americans monitored by such surveillance.

I implore all Americans to speak out for their dwindling civil rights and pray that this administration does not lead us even further toward the Orwellian society it seems determined to create.

Rebecca Harris


Replace John Bolton with a real diplomat

John R. Bolton's negative attitude, arrogance and confrontational manner make him unsuited to represent the United States and our interests at the United Nations ("U.N. seeks Senate OK," July 28).

If we are to survive, we must stop making enemies around the world unnecessarily.

And one sensible thing to do would be to appoint a smart, diplomatic ambassador to the United Nations to replace Mr. Bolton.

Melvyn Thorne


Tax district benefits all of Charles Village

As an owner of a family business in Charles Village, I am pleased with the ruling of Judge Albert J. Matricciani Jr. ("Charles Village district property tax upheld," July 27).

Hundreds of hours of volunteer effort and community involvement go into the Charles Village Community Benefits District, which provides additional clean up, security and marketing efforts to enhance the image and vibrancy of our community.

The benefits district also helps coordinate the efforts of several community associations, business organizations and volunteers, as well as coordinate efforts with various city agencies.

The surtax is a small price to pay for all the great things that the district provides.

Richard Burnham


The writer is co-chairman of the Old Goucher Business Alliance.

What if N. Korea hit U.S. with missiles?

Those who feel that Israel's response to Hezbollah is excessive ("Israel halts airstrikes," July 31) should ask themselves what we would do if North Korea fired missiles that hit Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Eugene H. Schreiber


Trains are critical to economic future

The Sun's excellent editorial "Reviving rail" (July 20) made a number of good points. And, as it stated, "The nation's economic future depends on ... an energy-efficient and reliable freight rail system."

And the electrification of rail lines would greatly improve the efficiency of the railroads.

Electric trains are so much more efficient than diesel trucks that we could save 5 percent of our petroleum use by moving half our existing truck freight on electric railroads.

This would also make our highways safer by getting those 18-wheelers off the roads.

The federal government has poured billions into subsidies for highways, airways and waterways while freight railways received little or nothing.

It is time to level the playing field.

George Tyson


Hospitals unite to battle bacteria

MRSA, a bacteria resistant to antibiotics that infects 120,000 patients a year, is a serious concern to Maryland hospitals. That's why the Maryland Patient Safety Center, a collaboration of the Maryland Hospital Association and the Delmarva Foundation, has developed an initiative to prevent MRSA infections ("2 hospitals to test for bacteria," July 22).

And it's important to note the two hospitals involved in this project, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Franklin Square Hospital, will partner with other Maryland hospitals to share valid strategies later this year.

As more ways are found to combat MRSA, those results will be disseminated statewide.

And contrary to the assertion in The Sun's article, the Maryland Hospital Association didn't oppose a bill in the 2006 General Assembly that would have forced hospitals to screen all patients for MRSA.

We did, however, express concern about prematurely codifying clinical guidelines in law. What happens if the guidelines change? Maryland would then have been stuck with an obsolete and ineffective mandate.

A better approach was offered by Del. Shane E. Pendergrass.

That bill -- which the association supported as it became law -- will require additional public reporting of hospital infection rates, including MRSA infections, through the Maryland Health Care Commission, as that information becomes available.

Calvin M. Pierson


The writer is president of the Maryland Hospital Association.

Too little, too late to fight infections

The infection-prevention efforts by Johns Hopkins Hospital and Franklin Square Hospital are too little, too late, and The Sun's apparent praise of these hospitals is wrong-headed ("2 hospitals to test for bacteria," July 22).

For many years now, products have been available to hospitals that allow cheap, quick and effective infection-testing to be performed upon a patient's admission -- which could drastically reduce infection rates -- yet only now are we seeing such testing implemented.

And does it strike anyone as coincidence that these two hospitals are applying these prevention measures after the state legislature almost passed legislation that would have required such practices?

Joanne Lynch Suder

James Hittinger Baltimore

The writers are attorneys for plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases.

If Shattuck becomes NFL commissioner

If Constellation Energy Group CEO Mayo A. Shattuck III becomes the next NFL commissioner, we can be pretty sure what will happen next ("Shattuck a finalist for top NFL post," July 31).

First, ticket prices at all stadiums will go up 72 percent.

Second, Mr. Shattuck will begin an immediate search for some organization to merge the league with -- say a South American soccer league or a Thai kick-boxing or Chinese ping-pong organization.

Third, he will negotiate a golden parachute for himself.

Homer H. Morris


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