LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

THE BALTIMORE SUN

You bike, you stay fit, you save money

The Sun rightly pointed out the inherent silliness of Dr. Karl T. Ulrich's working paper which posits that bicycling could have a negative impact on the environment because of the longer life spans enjoyed by those who are physically active, which lead them to consume more and, by extension, pollute more ("You bike, you pollute," editorial, July 25).

And in his puckish analysis, Dr. Ulrich fails to mention another impact of cycling: its effect on obesity and its associated health effects and costs.

Obesity is influenced by a variety of factors and physical activity is a principal factor.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 65 percent of U.S. adults age 20 years and older are either overweight or obese. This leads to increased chances of suffering from hypertension, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

In 2000, the U.S. Surgeon General estimated the total cost of obesity at $117 billion, mostly for costs related to the diseases mentioned above.

Bicycling provides exercise, virtually no-cost transportation and reduces emissions while lessening congestion on our roads. And it's fun.

No matter how you look at it, exercise and reducing our dependence on our cars for transportation is nothing but a plus.

Stacey Mink

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of One Less Car, a bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group.

It's time to bury the Wal-Mart law

Now dead and buried by U.S. District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz's ruling, the Wal-Mart bill deserves no special celebration ("Wal-Mart bill is celebrated, despite ruling," July 21).

Instead, we should be celebrating the judicial reinforcement of the federal firewall against state efforts to dictate the amount and type of fringe benefits offered by employers.

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce was an early and steadfast opponent of the bill and the first group to publicly identify the flaw that proved to be its downfall: its violation of the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Unfortunately, the General Assembly did not listen to the expert advice we obtained and provided to every member.

Thankfully, the Wal-Mart law cannot be fixed, tweaked or brought back to life.

A legislature serious about addressing access to health care should start by assisting small businesses, who employ most of the state's uninsured.

True solutions to this problem will include meaningful medical liability reform, increased competition in the small group insurance market and promoting consumer-driven health care alternatives.

Terry F. Neimeyer

Annapolis

The writer is chairman of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

When will we learn to share the Earth?

I was sickened when I read The Sun on Monday.

First, I read on page seven that citizens of LaJolla, Calif. want to displace seals from a beach ("Groups clash in court over seals on beach," July 31).

Then on page eight I read that thousands of sea lions in the Pacific Ocean near San Francisco are suffering from toxic algae and, as a result, are attacking their young ("Thousands of sea lions suffering as toxic algae flourish in the Pacific," July 31).

When will we learn to share and protect this planet?

When no one can breathe, when no natural habitat for animals exists, when we can no longer swim in natural bodies of water?

I pity our poor children.

Jacquelyn L. Fried

Baltimore

Charges don't cancel teacher's inspiration

As one of the thousands of Park School students who have been privileged to call Stanley Virgil Ashman his or her teacher over several decades, I was deeply distressed by the reports last week of his alleged relationship with a teenage student during the 1970s ("Officials find no abuse report," July 26).

Whatever the facts in this case turn out to be, Mr. Ashman was a sensitive, challenging, inspirational teacher of the highest caliber.

I trust I speak for many of his former students when I say that I will always remember him fondly and respectfully as an intellectual mentor.

And however this case concludes, his contribution to generations of Park School students will endure.

Ruth Halikman Franklin

Washington

Destroying Lebanon is no way to save it

Michael Oren's column "This time, Israel is fighting for all the right reasons" (Opinion * Commentary, July 30) was very misleading .

Mr. Oren complains that "at least 19" Israeli civilians were killed by Hezbollah but makes no mention of the hundreds of Lebanese civilians killed by Israeli attacks.

Additionally, Mr. Oren doesn't mention that Israel has killed more than 4,000 Palestinian civilians since Sept. 2000, including about 400 this year.

Mr. Oren claims that this war is "about the existence of the Jewish state." But actually it is Israel that is destroying both Lebanon and Palestine, although both have stated a willingness to live peacefully with Israel if Israel withdraws from the occupied territories.

Mr. Oren also claims that Lebanon has been "languishing for years under Syrian occupation." But in fact Syria was invited into Lebanon and left peacefully last year when it was asked to do so.

Lastly, and most shocking, this column makes the outlandish, Orwellian argument that "the only way to save Lebanon is by bombing it."

I wonder if Mr. Oren would say the same thing about Israel, or if the thousands killed and injured in Lebanon feel like they are being "saved"?

I don't think so.

And next, I suppose Mr. Oren will claim that "war is peace."

Paul Noursi

Vienna, Va.

Hamas, Hezbollah hold key to peace

If Hamas and Hezbollah laid down their weapons today, there would be peace in the Middle East ("Israel to expand ground offensive," Aug. 1).

If Israel laid down its weapons today, there would be no more Israel tomorrow.

Ed Hershon

Reisterstown

Church doesn't pay for retirement needs

The Sun's article "Church faces huge shortfall for care of retired in orders" (July 28) could create the impression that the Roman Catholic Church as an organization takes responsibility for the financial needs of women and men in religious communities, especially their retirement and health care funding.

It is important for the public to know that the church does not assume that responsibility: It is up to the religious communities themselves to finance this aspect and all other aspects of their members' lives.

Once a year (in December) the U.S. Catholic Church allows parish collections to be given to a national fund established to assist the religious communities with this challenge of providing care for their elderly and ill members.

On that day, grateful individual Catholics can show their gratitude for the lives of service these women and men have lived for the benefit of others.

Sr. Mary Jeremy Daigler

Parkville

The writer is a member of the Sisters of Mercy.

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