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The Baltimore Sun

Zoo in decline needs to find new mission

The decline in visitors to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore might just represent an irreversible trend ("Zoo's blues," March 26).

Those who operate zoos care profoundly for the animals they oversee. But the zoo itself seems outmoded, rooted in a past in which the public's curiosity about what animals looked like could be met only by very limited means.

These days, we have many more ways to learn about and observe animals.

At least as critical as our improved access to information about animals is our change in our attitudes about the animals themselves - a change that zoos themselves have recognized by building better, more natural habitats and emphasizing the role of zoos in rehabilitation and conservation efforts.

But a visit to the zoo still feels uncomfortable: The big cats still look frustrated and bored; the monkeys often look doleful, reproachful.

And so I've moved from actively supporting and visiting the zoo to wishing that we could, as a culture, recognize the need to transform zoos into places where animals aren't kept as "collections" and "displays" but are preserved or rehabilitated, with a strong emphasis on supporting original habitats and fighting whatever threatens those places.

Why not take Baltimore's zoo in a completely new direction rather than lament the failure of the current model?

Deborah Shaller


Thirty years ago, I was among the many who made a yearly trek to Baltimore's zoo to see the animals.

That was way before I was aware that there are much better ways for children to learn about wildlife.

But even then, I found the neurotic behaviors of animals moving from side to side in their small cages disturbing.

Perhaps zoos' being in financial trouble is a good thing and it's time for a major re-evaluation of their mission.

Katie Moore


Bromwell betrays a breach of trust

I was appalled by state Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller's comments regarding the unfolding Bromwell corruption scandal.

The Sun quotes Mr. Miller as saying that new revelations regarding the depth and scope of former state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell's alleged corruption, racism and sexism (as revealed in secretly recorded FBI tapes) are "heart-wrenching" ("FBI's Bromwell tapes reveal sharp remarks," March 22)

How about "horrific"?

This is not about a sad old man who has gone off the deep end. This is about a very powerful local player who held office for more than 20 years and appears to have abused the public trust for much of that time.

Further, Mr. Miller says, "Let's hope this gets resolved as quickly as possible, because there's no benefit to it lingering."

I beg to differ.

Of course there is a benefit. So far, the public has seen transcripts from only a few of the conversations secretly recorded, and they paint a picture of state business as usual that is an obscene violation of public trust.

Someone sincerely interested in promoting the public trust ought to be out there insisting that we hear all the tapes and that we use them as a tool to uproot all corruption, instead of trying to sweep this under the carpet quickly.

Karen Houppert


Patriot Act enables FBI to abuse power

In the debates over the passage and renewal of the Patriot Act, FBI officials claimed they would respect the rule of law and follow the legislation's intended and proper use.

Clearly they have not done so, but there have been few if any ramifications for those at fault ("FBI chief tries to soothe panel," March 28).

The FBI's record, historically and recently, shows that it can't be trusted to self-police.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has had his chance to prove his agency could do so. But he clearly failed. There is no reason to give the FBI yet another opportunity to abuse the law.

Mr. Mueller should have presented his resignation to Congress for failing to fulfill his duties instead of asking for continuance of legislation the FBI has repeatedly abused.

Omar Siddique

Ellicott City

Moral equivalency distorts Mideast

So what does Ori Nir propose as ways to peace in his column "Breaking barriers to peace" (Opinion * Commentary, March 23)?

The only idea I could find was to "change the mindset of two populations," which "will require a reversal in attitudes and values." What an amazingly perceptive revelation.

Even more disturbing than this vapid why-can't-we-all-get-along approach is Mr. Nir's complete lack of distinction between Israeli and Palestinian attitudes and values.

In the column, the adversaries are deemed equal in hatred, vengeance, cynicism, bloody conflict experience, despair over irreversible stalemate and yearning for hope.

This sort of "moral relativism," which is espoused by left-wing Israel groups such as Mr. Nir's Americans for Peace Now, has little merit in general; in the case of Israelis and Palestinians, it is complete nonsense.

The long history of Arab efforts to destroy all Jewish presence in the area and Israel's vigilant defense and futile concessions for peace make the stark differences between the two sides obvious.

Linda Youngworth


If war bill is vetoed, bring troops home

Asking how the Democrats would get a two-thirds majority to override the expected presidential veto of the appropriations bill that gives the president the money he says is urgently needed to continue his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is the wrong question ("Congress, Bush in test of wills," March 29).

If Congress is serious about exercising its power under the Constitution, it would respond to the arrogance of a veto as follows: "If you do not want the blood money upon the terms it is our duty and prerogative to attach, we simply will not give you the money for the wars."

And in that case, we can bring the troops home next week - which is what rational, informed Americans desperately want now anyway.

Barry Kissin


'The Secret' scorns the laws of nature

Unlike other fads, The Secret is not merely a waste of time and money but a blatant contradiction of the laws of nature and a dangerous attempt to tamper with society's established system for succeeding in life ("Believe and Receive," March 25).

Positive thinking works only because it boosts self-confidence, which in turn enables one to work harder to achieve one's goals. However, The Secret presents positive thinking as a direct means to satisfying greed, even in matters outside of human control.

Working with such a backward ideology, believers in The Secret have only themselves to blame when they don't get what they want - which naturally leads to counterproductive guilt and self-punishment.

When will humans learn that no magic solution exists?

Gila Heller


The writer is a student at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community High School.

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