The Baltimore Sun

State finally acts to save its turtles

Last week was a banner week for the Maryland diamondback terrapin. Thanks to the conviction and support of Gov. Martin O'Malley, state Sen. Roy P. Dyson and Del. Virginia Clagett, this native turtle is finally protected from commercial harvesting ("O'Malley signs environmental bills," April 25).

The life cycle of the terrapins make them completely ill-suited for commercial fishery use, as the rate of removal quickly outpaces the population's slow natural growth.

Terrapins take a long time to mature, lay relatively few eggs and have a low natural survival rate for eggs and young.

Indeed, a female terrapin may live 40 to 50 years and lay eggs throughout her entire adult life in order to leave behind just one surviving offspring.

There is a growing body of scientific literature on the population ecology of turtles that reaches the same conclusion: If we want our native turtles to continue to play a role in our ecosystem and be around for future generations to enjoy, we have to end all commercial harvest of the turtles.

As someone who works with terrapins and testified at the hearings on this bill, I congratulate the Maryland legislature for taking a historic step to protect this unique, iconic species of the Chesapeake Bay.

Marylanders must continue to speak up for our watershed and its inhabitants, and encourage lawmakers to listen to sound science and act to protect our natural resources.

Jack Cover


The writer is general curator for the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

Ex-felon voting law will aid Democrats

I was amused to see the headline "Felons gain right to vote" (April 25) on the front page of The Sun.

Under that article was a picture of five prominent Maryland Democratic politicians with two terrapins; the picture was titled "Saving the turtles."

I thought how fitting it would be if the phrase "Saving the turtles" had been changed to "Saving Maryland Democrats" and the caption under the picture had been changed to read: "Five Democrats are on hand to celebrate the signing of a bill to protect their species."

Maryland's prisons house about 24,000 prisoners, and about 77 percent of them are African-Americans.

Because black people overwhelmingly vote Democratic, it's a no-brainer why a bill that will restore the right to vote to some former felons was signed by our new Democratic governor, Martin O'Malley.

What's next for Maryland - voting booths in the prisons?

Murray C. Spear


GOP charge of aiding enemy just worn out

How much longer must we hear from Republicans that those who disagree with their party's disastrous prosecution of the invasion of Iraq will, as House Republican leader John Boehner put it, "embolden our enemies" ("House Democrats' bill orders Iraq withdrawal," April 26)?

This time, it's Mr. Boehner leading the charge. But this has been a consistent message from the Republican Party, along with questioning the patriotism of those who dare to acknowledge the reality of the situation in Iraq.

The only strategy Republicans offer, however, is doing more of what isn't working.

Whoever these amorphous "enemies" are, Mr. Boehner and others can be assured that, given the daily carnage in Iraq, emboldening them can hardly make matters worse.

David Schwartz


Saturating society with guns isn't safe

In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting, some reactionaries have expressed the belief that if we were all armed with concealed weapons, lethal events such as the mass murder at Virginia Tech could be prevented and would subside ("Calls for armed citizenry rely on belief in superhero fantasies," Opinion

Commentary, April 23).

But does anyone except some National Rifle Association officials and some hard-core vigilantes really believe this?

Logic and sanity would argue that saturating our society with ever more concealed lethal weapons would not likely tamp down our national horrors - any more than supplying all nations of the world with nuclear weapons would make our globe a safer place.

John Kloetzel


City can be proud of its firefighters

The Sun's implication that Baltimore's firefighters would allow their disappointment in Fire Chief William J. Goodwin Jr.'s policies to affect our commitment to the citizens of this city is completely off base ("An embattled fire chief," editorial, April 20).

The policies of the department's administration are the last thing on our minds as we respond to burning homes, mangled cars, heart attacks, victims of crime, spills of hazardous materials and other situations in which we place our lives in jeopardy for complete strangers.

More than 150,000 times a year, the citizens of Baltimore call and the men and women of the Fire Department answer.

The rank-and-file of the city Fire Department is a collection of diverse individuals of whom the people of Baltimore can be very proud.

The commitment of the administration of the city Fire Department is in question.

The commitment to the people of Baltimore of city firefighters has never wavered.

Ray Hudson


The writer is a Baltimore firefighter.

Halberstam foresaw the rise of Japan

In the mid-1980s, I was fortunate to attend an address on global economics by David Halberstam at a National Governors Association meeting ("Journalist chronicled the culture of America," April 24).

Mr. Halberstam was articulate and captivating, and jolted the state chief executives when he detailed how Japan was cleaning Detroit's clock and rapidly replacing the United States as the world's standard-bearer of industrial excellence.

Sadly, Toyota's ascension to being the world's top automaker ("For Toyota, a slow climb to overtake GM," April 25) shows that Mr. Halberstam's wake-up call has yet to be answered.

Steven V. Sklar


Finding new planet helps little at home

I see that if I could travel 186,000 miles per second for 20.5 years, I could reach the planet scientists have just discovered - the one that may support life of some sort and is not just a rock surrounded by poisonous gases, like a lot of other planets ("Newfound planet could foster life, astronomers say," April 25).

But even if we had the technology to get there, what would be happening that whole time here on Earth?

People would be starving, children would be dying of AIDS, the polar ice caps would be melting and many species of plants and animals would be disappearing from the planet because we are truly a consuming species.

It's hard to explain to a homeless 5-year-old that some so-called intelligent adults would rather search for life on the stars than feed a child at home.

Why do so many resources go into space exploration before we have taken care of our needs at home?

Edgar C. Ludwig


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