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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Absurd to squander billions on the moon

Surely, NASA is jesting.

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At a time when the United States is stuck in a quagmire in Iraq and a regional war may be about to begin there, when Afghanistan has become the world's leading source of opium, when our trade balance has reached a historic low, when the national debt is at astronomical numbers and our children and grandchildren will be saddled with the results of our deficit spending, NASA is proposing to spend an estimated "hundreds of billions of dollars" to establish a colony on the moon ("For NASA, a plan to colonize the moon," Dec. 6).

This is absolute lunacy.

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According to John Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, "The goal was set by President Bush on Jan. 14, 2004."

I say, so what?

Other reasons for colonizing the moon cited in the article include "the pursuit of scientific knowledge about the origins of the Earth, the solar system and the universe."

But I would ask: To what end? Where is the payoff?

What do we have to show for all the space exploration missions?

Tang, Teflon and some rocks in the Smithsonian - and a lot of money wasted.

Meanwhile, real people here are suffering from hunger.

I say, enough. Stop this lunacy.

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G. Edward Horak

Catonsville

Moon base could be fortress for plunder

As a taxpayer who will be asked to fund NASA's plans for lunar colonization, I want assurances that the plan will benefit all of mankind, not just a select few people.

And while The Sun's editorial "Onward and upward: The moon and six packs" (Dec. 10) suggests a south-pole moon base would be the equivalent of a rest stop, I fear it could become a fortress for greed and plunder.

Whoever controls the "space lanes" to and from the moon may control Earth's future.

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And one difficulty human habitation on the moon would face is solar radiation. Space weather is unpredictable and our sun ejects massive and deadly bursts regularly.

A manned base at the lunar south pole would endure constant bombardment.

I believe a citizen watchdog group should be established to monitor this venture in the most cynical manner possible.

Science fiction drapes a veil of optimism over space travel. But this return to the moon isn't fictional. And those who control the means to mine the moon could become a dangerous new elite.

Tough oversight should be employed if this mission ever flies.

Rosalind Nester Ellis

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Baltimore

Bring troops home to curb the carnage

The death toll continues to mount in this horrific war. Young men and women are losing their lives or being maimed beyond belief. It is time to stop the war.

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group has spoken loudly and clearly. And the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate daily, leaving the outlook grimmer than ever ("No cutting Iraq goals, Bush says," Dec. 8).

The Iraq Study Group represent some of the best minds to have studied this issue.

Let's listen to them and make a positive move that will result in our troops returning home.

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I encourage President Bush to take action now.

Sylvia Carter

Columbia

Science shows bans on smoke save lives

I strongly disagree with Thomas A. Firey's column "Smoking bans are dangerous to a free society's health" (Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 6).

The point of restrictions on smoking in bars and restaurants is not to limit freedom but to save lives.

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As the 2006 surgeon general's report noted, secondhand smoke leads to more than 50,000 excess deaths each year in the United States, including 46,000 deaths from cardiac-related illnesses and 3,400 from lung cancer.

While people have the freedom to choose to smoke, they do not have the right to expose bar and restaurant workers and patrons to toxic chemicals that will damage their health.

The science on the lethal risks of inhaling tobacco smoke, which contains more than 50 carcinogens, has never been more clear.

What is not clear is why we should ignore decades of compelling evidence in favor of false choices and a faith in the market economy.

Dr. Michael J. Klag

Baltimore

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The writer is dean of the Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Slots can bridge gap facing state budget

Thursday's paper published two articles concerning Maryland's troubled financial condition.

"Influx at bases a test for Md." (Dec. 7) pointed out the enormous amount of money that is going to be required (over the next several years) to prepare our infrastructure (new schools, roads, sewer systems, etc.) to handle the big increase in the number of people who will be moving to Maryland as a result of the Pentagon's base realignment process.

The other article, "Maryland revenue falls short" (Dec. 7), detailed future projected deficits of more than $1 billion a year for the state of Maryland.

While there are different opinions about how to handle these problems, the fact remains that it is going to take millions and millions of dollars to address these issues.

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And speaking of millions and millions, that's exactly what is leaving Maryland and going to our neighbors in West Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania because those states allow slots machines and we do not.

When is our legislature going to wake up?

Imagine if we had slots in Maryland and those millions and millions stayed here.

We could earmark a large portion of the revenue they produce to cover the necessary upgrades to our infrastructure.

Then, by the time all these newcomers arrive, we would be ready for them.

I, for one, would love to know where the state of Maryland is going to get the millions, if not billions of extra dollars it will need, if not from slots?

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And, please don't even think about raising my taxes.

We are already one of the nation's most highly taxed states.

Steven L. Eisenberg

Owings Mills

Frostburg a center for service learning

Thank you for The Sun's thoughtful article on Frostburg State University ("Frostburg State tries to burnish its image," Dec. 7).

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Much research has shown that volunteering helps young adults learn job and social skills that are key to successful adulthood.

And Frostburg State's Center for Volunteerism and National Service not only provides worthwhile service and volunteer opportunities to students but imparts important lessons about what it means to be a responsible citizen.

I recently met with Frostburg students at the center, and I left feeling proud of these young Marylanders, who not only are helping others who are less fortunate or who need their help but expanding their undergraduate experience through sweat equity and service learning.

Don Mathis

Aberdeen

The writer is executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Harford County and chairman of the Governor's Commission on Service and Volunteerism.


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