The Baltimore Sun

'Word choices' ease killing of embryos

I found it ironic that Tricia Bishop's article on the use of word choices to manipulate legislation and public opinion itself contained manipulative language ("Word choices," March 11).

For instance, Towson University health science professor Patricia Alt's statement that embryos are just "cells" is a blatant example of the sort of language used by those in favor of abortion and embryonic stem cell research in an effort to dehumanize embryos and fetuses.

However, basic biology teaches that a unique human being is created at the moment of conception.

The number of cells, or their level of development, does not affect their humanity. Ms. Alt's logic would imply that an infant or teenager is less human than a full-grown adult is.

Ms. Bishop herself uses manipulative language in her article. Those in favor of embryonic stem cell research are described in positive terms such as "friendlier" and "supporters." But those who do not favor such research are described negatively with words such as "opponents" or "foes" who would "ban" and "shun" the technology.

History is full of examples of the manipulation of words to dehumanize a certain segment of society so that the public will be more accepting of, dare I say, immoral actions and of their mistreatment or slaughter.

For example, the Dred Scott decision declared blacks "a subordinate and inferior class of being," Native Americans were often called "wild beasts," and Adolf Hitler called Jews "parasites."

Labeling embryos and fetuses as "cells" or "certain material" is just the latest in our tragic tradition of preying on the weakest and most vulnerable.

Jon Shoemaker


Misusing words to attract votes

Former state Sen. Paula C. Hollinger's statements in The Sun's article "Word choices" (March 11) throw a cloud over passage of the Maryland Stem Cell Research Act of 2006.

Her self-revealed motivation for replacing the word "embryo" with the words "certain material" in order "to get votes" - when she knew that "certain material" meant "embryo" - raises troubling questions.

How many legislators were tricked into voting for the bill?

How many voted for it thinking they could trick constituents into believing the bill was not about funding the killing of human embryos?

And if the killing of a human embryo can be hidden behind the phrase "certain material," who's next and under what phrase?

S. Wharam


The writer is secretary for the Maryland Legislative Lobby for Life Inc.

GOP deaf to will of public on war

While congressional Democrats try to figure out how best to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq quickly and safely, Republicans continue to support President Bush's vain pursuit of military "victory" with various parliamentary roadblocks ("Democratic bill offers timeline on Iraq pullout," March 9).

The new American majority spoke loud and clear in November by voting to take control of Congress back from feckless Republicans.

But the new "surge" of U.S. troops into Baghdad and the ever-mounting casualties prove that Mr. Bush and other GOP die-hards are stone deaf.

Grenville B. Whitman

Rock Hall

Latinos enrich Fells Point area

As a resident of the Upper Fells Point area, I'd like to reassure our Latino neighbors that they are a welcome and vital part of our neighborhood's community.

It is a shame that there are those who apparently are not as welcoming, as evidenced by the letter announcing the alleged curfew that seems to single out our neighborhood's Latino residents ("Dixon reassures Fells Point," March 7).

My hope is that the Latino community in Southeast Baltimore will continue to be a lively part of this area, and to enrich all of our experiences.

Michael Johnson


Sondheim sustains Mencken's legacy

In The Sun's splendid tribute to Walter Sondheim Jr., the point was made that Mr. Sondheim's remarkable life was intimately entwined with the history of Baltimore, illustrated by reference to his father's abiding friendship with H. L. Mencken ("Sage adviser, key figure in city's growth," Feb. 16).

The apple certainly did not fall far from that tree. Mr. Sondheim was instrumental in preserving the sage's home on Union Square.

In 1985, Mr. Sondheim, in tandem with Mayor William Donald Schaefer, acquired for the city title to H. L. Mencken's house. He saw to it that the house itself and Union Square as well were listed on the National Register of Historic Places and on the city's landmarks list.

And he arranged for the house to be refurbished, adequately funded and supported by the city and be opened as an invaluable house museum.

With the closure of the City Life Museums, the Mencken House was shuttered in 1997. But efforts are under way to fully renovate and refurbish the Mencken House and open it again to its worldwide public.

When that happens, Mr. Sondheim will be remembered again for just one more of his lifetime of endless accomplishments.

Henry R. Lord


The writer is president of the Society to Preserve H. L. Mencken's Legacy Inc.

Don't reverse rights of the rent owners

What intrigues me most about the current maelstrom over the Maryland ground rent system is that such a boring, innocuous and archaic property law concept is being characterized as a force of evil that threatens to destroy the very fabric of city life ("Ground rent bills assailed," March 5).

If you own your property in fee simple, it's a non-issue; if you bought only the "leasehold" interest, then twice a year you must fork over a very small amount of money to the now much-maligned owner of the ground rent interest.

Your property deed tells you whether your property is subject to ground rent. It's very simple: Pay the modest amount due every six months for as long as you own the property, and you will never owe a dime in costs, fees or penalties.

For the politicians to contemplate interfering with private property rights and obligations created in documents recorded in public land records 50 or 100 years ago is truly misguided.

Henry Peck


The writer is a real estate attorney who owns the ground rent on several properties.

Gingrich is master of dirty politics

So Newt Gingrich is against dirty politics ("Gingrich aims to renew politics," Opinion * Commentary, March 7)?

I remember that in his glory days as House speaker, Mr. Gingrich was the primary practitioner of the art. Indeed, I think many of today's politicians, including our own former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., learned smear tactics from Mr. Gingrich.

Has the leopard changed his spots? I doubt it.

F. Lamont Heppe Jr.


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