Thursday's paper presented an interesting juxtaposition of articles.
The Sun's article on the report from the Iraq Study Group delineates the catastrophe created by the Bush administration in its baseless launching and bungled conduct of the Iraq war ("Time running out in Iraq, panel says," Dec. 7).
As one who protested in Washington before and after the invasion of Iraq, I am part of a large group of Americans who has wanted to see justice done - which means no less than the impeachment of an executive who ignored the constitutional limits of his power and lied to the American public.
I wanted revenge, to be blunt.
And then I read about the power of forgiveness to heal ("Give Forgiveness a Chance," Dec. 7).
Then, as a Christian and a humanist, I realized that the Dec. 8 observance of the anniversary of John Lennon's murder with a "Day of World Forgiveness and Healing," as proposed by his widow, Yoko Ono, is exactly what many of us need.
We need a way to get past our grief over the thousands upon thousands of lives that have been lost and continue to be wasted in our fiasco in Iraq.
We need to reclaim a spiritual higher ground to be effective diplomats and reconcilers.
Perhaps we will never attain the true forgiveness demonstrated by the Amish people after five of their children were murdered.
But we must search the corners of our hearts and minds so that we can let go of this injustice and move toward peace.
The household arts aren't just for girls
Susan Reimer wrote in her column "Martha Stewart shares long-lost motherly tidbits" (Dec. 5) that "Books like this one [Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook] ... contain the kind of housekeeping wisdom our grandmothers taught our mothers, but we were too busy reinventing being female to learn."
Well, as both a feminist and an aging baby boomer, I somehow managed to get through college and graduate school and start my own business and still found the time to learn the home arts from my mother and from other sources.
Ms. Reimer also writes, "Now see if you can get your daughter to pay attention when you try to tell her this stuff. You are not going to be around forever, you know."
But guess what? I don't think these tidbits are only for passing down to our daughters. What about our sons?
I don't assume my sons will ever live with a woman who will tend to such things. I do assume that my sons will have lovely holiday dinners with friends and family and that, if they are serving as hosts, they will do so with good taste.
I have already shown them how to put candlesticks in the freezer to get wax off and they know how to set a table.
When I reinvented how I would be female, it included deciding that I would raise my children without sexual stereotypes.
And that is a good thing.
Susan A. Seim
The deaf don't live in a 'closed world'
The headline on The Sun's article on the Maryland School for the Deaf offers a negative connotation not supported by the article.
The headline "Closed world ponders a bold new opening" (Dec. 4) reflects a typical stereotype of the deaf world and does not use the proper words to describe our deaf world.
We live in a vibrant world. We are taxpayers; our students go to the public library and to McDonald's for a quick bite, just like other students.
The students at the MSD - not to mention the deaf community in general - do not live in a closed world that is cloistered away from the mainstream as The Sun's headline suggests.
The MSD is a diverse community offering excellent academic and athletic programs that maximize the abilities of deaf students.
The Sun's article offered a balanced perspective on the idea of admitting hearing students to the MSD.
It would have been better balanced with a better headline.
William J. Bowman
The writer is an alumnus and member of the board of the Maryland School for the Deaf.
Affordability quotas hurt housing market
The Sun's article "Housing bill targets income diversity" draws attention to the city's need for affordable housing (Nov. 30). Unfortunately, the City Council's proposal to address this problem may do more harm than good.
The bill ignores the fact that investors already consider the city's housing needs when they finance home construction.
They look at the availability of everything from luxury condos to affordable units when they decide what types of housing consumers will need most and what housing they will invest in.
Setting a quota for affordable housing would interfere with investment decisions the private market makes best on its own. And it may even deter new construction in the city - including investments in affordable housing. And that would be a loss to all of us.
The legislation also ignores the fact that Baltimore has a large amount of abandoned housing, which could be renovated into affordable units.
As proposed, the law provides no incentives for such rehabilitation, which is our best hope for a vibrant and safe city.
But the goal of mixed-income neighborhoods is noble, and the City Council could pursue it with some creative policies.
The city could, for instance, add an incentive program to boost income diversity in new housing,
Perhaps a developer who created a mixed-income project could earn credits that he or she could trade with other builders.
Such incentives for mixed-income developments could encourage the construction of more affordable housing, while avoiding the possible unintended consequences of the proposed legislation.
Eric T. Roberts
The writer is a junior at Johns Hopkins University.
Rowhouse rider presented in public
There has been much controversy and confusion surrounding the 1820s-vintage townhouses owned by Mercy Medical Center in the 300 block of St. Paul Place and the Central Business District Urban Renewal Plan. There has been an outcry by some concerning the perceived lack of open and transparent government in the way a recent amendment was fashioned ("Houses stripped of protection," Nov. 26)
The facts are these. On Nov. 9, 2005, I was invited to meet with Mercy Medical Center officials and briefed on their plans to expand their services.
On June 20, 2006, I met with Mercy officials again at their offices. During that meeting, Mercy officials explained to me that they needed to begin the design of their proposed new tower adjacent to their current building. They requested an amendment to the Central District Urban Renewal Plan which would remove their properties on St. Paul Place from the "notable properties" listed in the urban renewal plan.
Mercy officials told me that the original Central Business District Urban Renewal Plan did not include their properties and that the properties were added at a Planning Commission hearing, without notice to hospital officials.
My review of the Planning Commission's minutes and the Planning Department file confirmed those assertions.
As its City Council representative, I honored Mercy's request to submit the amendment.
On Oct. 5, a public hearing of the Urban Affairs Committee was held concerning City Council Bill 06-0465 and my amendment was submitted and read aloud.
The bill was supported unanimously by the City Council after its second reading at its Oct. 16 meeting and approved at its Oct 30 meeting.
On Nov. 8, the mayor signed the bill.
My decision to offer the amendment on behalf of Mercy was not an easy one, and it was not taken lightly.
As a member of the City Council, I have established a record of support for organizations, programs and legislation that helps preserve historic sites and districts.
However, at the same time, I recognize the importance of Mercy Medical Center as a designated "First Responder Site" for Baltimore's fire and police departments in the event of a catastrophe and the overall public good of its service to the city and surrounding region.
It is regrettable that there was a rush to judgment without obtaining all the facts and that the introduction of an amendment at a public hearing was perceived as an affront to the process.
However, the City Council's legislative process was open and transparent.
Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr.
The writer is a member of the City Council.
Twisting the facts on charity, ideology
Thomas Sowell's column "Think liberals are more compassionate? Better get your facts straight" (Opinion * Commentary, Nov. 30) really made me angry, and not just because I am a secular liberal who gives to charity. I am angry because Mr. Sowell's argument is completely disingenuous.
Mr. Sowell states that conservatives are more "compassionate" because they donate more money to charity and volunteer more time to charitable causes.
As proof he cites a statistical analysis by Arthur C. Brooks.
But I have read an analysis by Mr. Brooks in which he states that "neither political ideology nor income is responsible for much of the charitable differences between secular and religious people."
It is religion, which is associated with conservatism, that makes the difference, as Mr.. Brooks states explicitly in his analysis.
Charitable giving is almost completely independent of political ideology.
Mr. Brooks goes on to say that secular liberals are actually more likely to donate than secular conservatives are.
Mr. Sowell twisted the facts, yet again, to prove a point that isn't even true.
No camp maintains monopoly on virtue
Thomas Sowell's column "Think liberals are more compassionate? Better get your facts straight" (Opinion * Commentary, Nov. 30) is another example of the childish partisanship that is crippling our system of government.
Mr. Sowell refers to the book "Who Really Cares" by Arthur C. Brooks and proclaims, "people who identify themselves as conservative donate more often to charity than people who identify themselves as liberal."
But statistics can be misleading, without being false in and of themselves.
And defining people as liberal, conservative or moderate is hardly an exact science, as people are notoriously bad at evaluating themselves.
Research that attempts to analyze the behavior of any group is only as credible as the criteria for defining that group.
And I see nothing but negatives in fueling the fires of partisanship in the way that Mr. Sowell has done.
He saddles liberals with the distinction of having a sense of moral superiority, as if there is a shortage of conservatives for whom "liberal" is a dirty word.
And wasn't the "Moral Majority" a conservative organization?
There is no monopoly by either camp on arrogance and intolerance. Nor is there a monopoly on humility and empathy; they are just harder to find in Washington these days.
Mr. Sowell concludes liberals have "failed the test of moral superiority" because someone wrote a book claiming they give less often to charity than conservatives do, and clearly implies that conservatives are morally superior.
We can disagree on political issues.
But, please, let's agree that political ideology is not a predictor of moral character, for all that does is push us farther apart.
Wayne C. Keyser
A culture in denial over Lyme infections
Thanks for the editorial on Lyme disease and the Infectious Disease Society of America's guidelines ("Missing the mark," Nov. 30).
I have a son whose bipolar symptoms are very much related to Lyme disease and associated infections. Even though I wrote a book on the subject, and he has tested positive repeatedly not only for Lyme but for associated infections, he persists in the belief that he doesn't have Lyme disease.
Until there is a change in the culture, my son and thousands like him will either remain ignorant about the care they need or refuse to accept it.
Thanks again for a timely and right-on editorial.
Penn Valley, Calif.
The writer is a member of the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society.
Lyme guidelines scientifically sound
There is nothing more heartbreaking to conscientious doctors than to read the charge, as made in The Sun's editorial "Missing the mark" (Nov. 30), that they are not meeting the needs of their patients.
But to the 8,000 members of the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA), the controversy about Lyme disease and the IDSA guidelines raised by a handful of doctors has done a grave disservice to patients.
First, some facts:
The IDSA guidelines are based on established national criteria for evidence-based medicine. This means the panel of Lyme disease experts who developed the guidelines did so by reviewing all valid, peer-reviewed scientific literature on the subject.
Contrary to the statement in the editorial that the IDSA guidelines claim no antibiotics should be prescribed "beyond initial preventive doses," the guidelines do recommend treatment for up to 28 days with antibiotics for those who have clinical signs confirming the disease. The guidelines also include recommendations for retreatment if objective signs of the disease are established and symptoms persist.
The guidelines clearly acknowledge that their recommendations do not and should not take the place of the judgment of individual physicians. We know that every person, every patient is different and that each doctor must do what he or she thinks is best for the individual.
Those who have been diagnosed with so-called "chronic Lyme disease" (i.e., who did not recover after the initial course or courses of antibiotics that cure the disease in the great majority of patients) often have generalized symptoms that may be caused by many diseases other than Lyme. To automatically assume they continue to suffer from Lyme disease, without considering other options, is simply not good medicine.
Also, a small percentage of people do have persistent symptoms such as fatigue and musculoskeletal aches after Lyme disease. But there is no evidence that continued treatment with antibiotics leads to substantial improvement.
Medicine is always evolving, which is why we review the literature at regular intervals and update our guidelines.
When we do, we are obligated to base our guidelines on the best information available.
As new information becomes available, we will respond accordingly.
For the time being, however, our guidelines are based on the best scientific evidence that is available.
Dr. Donald Poretz Alexandria Va.
Dr. Paul G. Auwaerter Baltimore
The writers are, respectively, the president-elect of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Respect the needs of dying patients
Reading Linell Smith's article "Making the end of life better" (Dec. 3) threw me into d'j? vu all over again.
I have borne witness through the years to the many episodic clarion calls to make "death and dying" better.
But better than what? Life is a process ending in death. That cannot be denied. And whatever happened to the earlier calls for "death with dignity?"
And, in a broader perspective, the idea of palliation suggests that caretakers, families and friends mitigate the patient's discomfort and pain.
It is the art and essence of palliation when the doctor provides a blanket when the patient is shivering, a cold wash cloth to cool the patient's feverish forehead or a cup of water to assuage the patient's thirst.
But end-of-life palliation is really a continuum combining three phases of care.
In the first, the doctor, on meeting the patient, calms and comforts the patient by carefully explaining the problem and its treatment.
In this second phase, the doctor shares and accepts the patient's desire to end or continue treatment, while keeping the family current with reports about the patient's progress or lack thereof - all with quiet compassion.
Finally, when the end is near, what is left for the patient is the third phase: The patient feels the warmth of the staff whose goal is to make the patient as pain-free as possible, either at home or in a hospice.
Palliation has no room for platitudes and intellectualizations or for hovering to reflect caring.
Each of us determines our own quality of life, even when dying.
Let us comfort the dying patients within their own orientation, not ours.
Dr. Nathan Schnaper
The writer is a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Smoking bans safeguard workers
It's unfortunate that Thomas A. Firey, like other opponents of smoke-free legislation, glosses over aspects of Maryland's history ("Smoking bans are dangerous to a free society's health," Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 6).
In 1995, the Maryland legislature considered legislation that would have protected all Maryland workers from secondhand smoke.
Prior to the debate on this legislation, the Restaurant Association of Maryland issued a position statement in support of the regulations which stated that "the most healthful environment for our employees and all of our patrons would be a non-smoking environment."
But under pressure from the tobacco industry, RAM reversed its position, joined the tobacco lobbyists and pressured the legislature into passing a bill that exempted the hospitality industry from having to protect workers from secondhand smoke.
The result: Hospitality workers are now the only workers who have to face exposure to secondhand smoke in indoor workplaces every day.
Indeed, during an eight-hour shift, some restaurant and bar workers can breathe in an amount of secondhand smoke equivalent to having smoked almost a pack of cigarettes and those breathing secondhand smoke in a work environment actually inhale higher concentrations of several toxins and carcinogens than smokers do.
Restaurant and bar workers have a higher rate of exposure to secondhand smoke than any other category of workers, and food service workers have a 50 percent greater risk of dying from lung cancer than the general public.
Moreover, nationwide, only 43 percent of food service workers are covered by smoke-free policies, compared to 76 percent of white-collar workers.
In other words, smoke-free initiatives are less about freedom of choice than about equal protection for hospitality-industry workers.
In addition, my right to do anything, especially something that poses a serious health risk, ends when exercising that right affects the health and well-being of others.
Secondhand smoke contains more than 50 known carcinogens and is a known cause of cancer in non-smokers, which causes as many as 53,000 deaths every year.
And despite our best efforts, we cannot protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke through the use of separate dining sections and ventilation systems.
The American Society of Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning Engineers has concluded that "acceptable air quality cannot be achieved where smoking is permitted" and the U.S. Surgeon General has found that "there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke."
For all of these reasons, 16 states and 250 local jurisdictions - including Howard, Montgomery, Prince George's and Talbot counties - have passed legislation to protect everyone from secondhand smoke, including those who work in and patronize restaurants and bars.
The city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland are behind the curve on this issue.
It's time that we get with the program.
The writer is director of advocacy for the American Lung Association of Maryland.
I have several objections to Thomas A. Firey's column regarding a smoking ban.
Mr. Firey does not seem to realize that limited education, language skills, job skills, transportation, child care needs and other realities limit the "choices" available to many workers.
And that working in the service industry, including restaurants and bars, is a reality for many people who do not feel that they have any real choice at all about where they will work.
And even if there were unlimited choices available for all, government would still have a responsibility to protect the common good, including mitigating the risk of injury in the workplace.
In citing examples of inherently risky, heavily regulated professions as coal mining and commercial fishing, Mr. Firey notes that no one is attempting to ban them.
But no one is attempting to ban smoking, either - just to regulate where it can take place.
Smokers still smoke in New York, California and the other states that limit indoor workplace smoking; they just can't inflict that choice on others.
What is best for business profits is not always what's best for the health and safety of employees and patrons.
But in any event the data overwhelmingly shows that smoking bans do not cause significant economic harm to bars and restaurants.
And I would suggest that those entrepreneurs who are not insightful enough to see the environment changing focus instead on the quality and presentation of their food - which people will actually be able to taste once the smoke clouds circling above are gone.
And the elimination of cancer-causing pollutants is one of those instances in which government involvement is needed.
Stephen H. Martin
The writer is vice president of a health communications consulting firm.