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The Baltimore Sun

Faulty school repairs waste tax dollars

The Sun and reporter Sara Neufeld should be complimented for the excellent, comprehensive reporting on faulty repairs to Baltimore's school buildings ("Work paid for, undone," June 6).

Such information should definitely be brought to the attention of the public, because it is our tax money being wasted.

It's difficult to comprehend how these numerous faulty repairs could have gone on for so long without routine inspections of the quality of the work.

Someone should be charged or reprimanded for negligence in failing to properly inspect these repairs.

The city schools should also establish inspection teams to check on all ongoing school building repairs.

It was encouraging to see that the city school system's recently appointed chief operating officer, J. Keith Scroggins, has pledged to take action to rectify the problem.

I hope David Lever, executive director of the state's public school construction program, and state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick will also take very firm action to correct this malpractice.

Quinton D. Thompson


Tax increases also prompt pain

Surely the "doomsday budget" being concocted by our leaders in Annapolis is nothing more than a political ploy ("Miller, Bush plan 'doomsday budget,'" June 7).

It is true that the proposed 10 percent spending cuts in this budget plan would be painful to those who depend on the services that would be reduced.

I just hope our leaders remember a similar concern when they contemplate raising my taxes. A 10 percent reduction in the money I have available for my own family's budget would be equally painful.

Craig Schleunes


Is energy market really 'free' at all?

Our current energy problems have a familiar ring: Energy companies' profits soar while costs to consumers skyrocket.

Some energy analysts would have us believe that this situation is just the free-market economy at work.

But is the energy market "free" when energy companies can manipulate consumer prices by reducing production - e.g., by not building new oil refineries or by shutting them down for maintenance at peak travel times?

And is the electricity market free when Constellation Energy not only owns the bulk of the means of production of electricity in Maryland but also owns the primary supplier of electricity in Central Maryland, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. ("BGE trade with parent under scrutiny," June 8)?

How free is BGE, in this situation, to shop around for the best prices for Maryland consumers?

It's great to see that the Public Service Commission will be examining such questions.

Albert Fowler


PSC needs to act to help consumers

We consumers demand and deserve "truth in lending" and "truth in advertising." So why can't we have "truth in government"?

And why is Maryland's taxpayer-supported Public Service Commission not more truthfully titled the "Monopolistic Cartel Service Commission" ("BGE trade with parent under scrutiny," June 8)?

Sure, America's free-enterprise system has made us a world leader in many fields. But too much of a good thing may be killing us in this case.

Were our power companies, on which our lives literally depend, on the verge of financial failure, the people would and should demand that they be stabilized with our tax dollars.

But similarly, when taxpaying, working people are on the verge of financial failure as a result of the prices charged by energy companies that are reporting their highest profits ever, government must protect its citizens from these robber barons.

Elliot Deutsch

Bel Air

Some fields of study don't boost earnings

Brian Till complains of being misled into thinking that graduating from college would ensure prosperity ("A misled generation graduates to a future behind the counter," Opinion * Commentary, June 6).

This complaint, and his respect for the work of Haverford College commencement speaker Barbara Ehrenreich, suggest he didn't study economics.

If he had, he should have learned that a person's job prospects and wages depend on his or her ability to create value for an employer, and ultimately for its customers.

Education improves one's prospects only if it increases the value employers attribute to one's labor.

Mr. Till (and Ms. Ehrenreich) should have been aware that some fields of study provide college graduates with hardly any job skills beyond those a high school degree establishes.

And some are so infamous for their anti-business, anti-capitalist ideology that one would expect them to be a detriment on the job market.

John B. Egger


The writer is a professor of economics at Towson University.

Libby goes to jail as Clinton gets rich

Maybe I'm just living in a fog, but I am having a lot of trouble understanding our American judicial system.

Last week, we saw former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for lying to a grand jury on charges that had to do with someone's memory going back a couple of years ("Libby draws 2 1/2 -year sentence for lying during CIA leak case," June 6).

On the other hand, former President Bill Clinton, who lied to a federal grand jury on specific charges brought by a federal prosecutor, now walks around getting six-figure gratuities for seminars on America's political system.

Maybe it is just me, but I am having a lot of trouble reconciling the equitableness of the disposition of these two cases.

Irv Cohen


Risk of cooked meat still open to debate

The Sun's article "Should you ban the flames?" (June 1) offers contradictory and inaccurate information.

For 15 years, the food industry and government have stressed the need to cook meat and poultry to proper temperatures. Yet this article could alarm readers about thorough cooking.

Apparently, the writer seeks to protect readers from the theoretical risk of consuming very well done meat and poultry - a risk the article shows is itself under debate by scientists.

Suggesting that red meat consumption generally is a "known cancer risk" also is misleading.

A 2004 study of 725,258 people (possibly the largest of its kind) published in the proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research by Cho et al. at the Harvard School of Public Health found "the data do not support a positive association between higher red meat and fat intake and colorectal cancer risk." The study also found that processed meats that contain nitrite were not associated with colon cancer. This underscores a 2000 U.S. National Toxicology Program finding that nitrite is not a carcinogen in rats and mice.

Randall D. Huffman


The writer is a vice president of the American Meat Institute Foundation.

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