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SATURDAY MAILBOX

The Baltimore Sun

Public can create a cleaner harbor

The sight of a harbor littered with thousands of dead, floating fish prompts visions of a great curse or an apocalypse ("Algae bloom worries experts," June 10).

And indeed, much of the vitality of our city depends on the harbor, as is evidenced by the growth of neighborhoods bordering the water and the flocks of tourists who visit those areas.

So why is our harbor in such bad shape? Is a harbor covered with trash and dead fish the best we can do?

The trash filter at Harris Creek in Canton collects more than three tons of trash a month.

When you consider that there are 28 other major sites that empty into the harbor, most of which don't filter trash, you can start to imagine the volume of trash we put into our water.

On top of that, our city leaks raw sewage directly into the harbor because of our decrepit sewer system.

Combine that waste with our other runoff and you have a volatile concoction that shouldn't be swimmed in or fished in.

However, a body of water near an urban area does not have to be so dirty.

For instance, the next time you're in Chicago, stroll down Lake Shore Drive, where you'll find people swimming laps and enjoying beautiful views of Lake Michigan.

Do we deserve anything less?

Well, perhaps the answer is yes - unless we're willing to take action to clean our harbor.

Rains wash trash from the streets directly into the harbor. So if we help keep our streets clean, less trash will end up in the harbor.

We can also help reduce runoff by replacing impermeable surfaces such as concrete with grass and trees, which will help naturally soak up runoff.

Finally, we can raise our voices and demand better.

The repulsive site of a harbor covered with rotting fish should force us to realize that we deserve better.

Roman Hardgrave

Baltimore

The writer is a member of the board of the Baltimore Harbor Watershed Association.

Incentives alone won't save the bay

All the good programs that provide assistance to farmers will not clean up waterways or save the bay unless farmers use them ("Help farmers, help the bay," June 5).

And all the clean water laws in the world will not clean up the bay if farmers ignore them.

My organization, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, has reviewed the records of large livestock facilities in Pennsylvania that are required to obtain water pollution control permits.

These permits are supposed to ensure that operators properly handle and dispose of their animal waste in ways that do not cause water pollution. The deadline to apply for a permit is now months past.

Reviewing state files, we identified 129 livestock facilities that had not applied for a permit. We began notifying the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the livestock operations of the requirement to apply for a permit in October.

Our latest review in March showed that 34 of these facilities still had not applied.

Farmers do need help to improve their practices. But 20 years of asking them to participate in voluntary programs has not been enough to improve the water quality of the bay.

We also need strong laws and strong law enforcement to save the bay.

Jan Jarrett

Harrisburg, Pa.

The writer is vice president of Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future.

Senators spurned the climate treaty

In the editorial "Getting warmer" (June 4) The Sun criticized President Bush, saying, "Throughout his presidency, Mr. Bush has refused to participate in the Kyoto treaty to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, contending it would hurt the U.S. economy."

But the United States cannot legally participate in any treaty unless the Senate ratifies it.

The Clinton administration agreed to the Kyoto Protocol. However, the Senate, in a resolution passed before the Clinton administration could even submit the treaty, voted 95-0 against ratifying Kyoto.

Senators voted against the treaty because it is an economy-crushing and poverty-inducing scam that would cede our sovereignty over our energy policy to an unaccountable international body.

President Bush cannot "participate" in Kyoto even if he wanted to because he is bound by that pesky document we call the Constitution.

Mark Newgent

Baltimore

Four Seasons foes protect the planet

I take exception to Richard E. Hug's name-calling in his letter "Unfair to cancel Kent Island project" (June 10).

Mr. Hug criticizes Gov. Martin O'Malley for voting against the project despite the developer's compliance with all environmental requirements.

It's hardly surprising that a Republican would support the interests of a corporation over the environment.

Mr. Hug blames what he calls "eco-radicals" for derailing the project and costing the developer tens of millions of dollars. Worse, he also blames these same radicals for creating our energy crisis.

I'm surprised he did not blame them for the Bush administration's failed war in Iraq.

If the developer does lose millions of dollars as a result of the cancellation of the project, that is a business risk the developer decided to take. Moreover, the developer had to be aware that a wetlands permit ultimately could be denied and scuttle the project.

Mr. Hug regurgitates standard Republican talking points by blaming eco-radicals for the energy crisis. Allegedly, their opposition to nuclear power, refinery construction and drilling in the Arctic has stymied energy production.

I wonder how Mr. Hug would feel if a nuclear waste storage facility were built near his residence. Or how about a refinery or two in his neighborhood?

I'm glad that the so-called eco-radicals are watching out for threats to the environment.

More power to them.

John Requard

Bel Air

Cloth sacks still better for Earth

Asking people to choose between plastic or paper bags is like asking them to choose between jobs and the environment. It's a false dichotomy the media love to perpetuate.

Yet The Sun's article on possible legislation to outlaw plastic bags in Baltimore and Annapolis ("Plastic might get the sack," June 8) devoted only one sentence to the real Earth-friendly shopping alternative - cloth sacks.

I've been using cloth and nylon bags for over 15 years, and I find them easier to use than paper or plastic.

Stores should charge a fee for the bags they dispense; this would help folks remember to bring their own.

Sav-A-Lot, which serves some of the poorest neighborhoods in Baltimore, charges its customers for bags and still seems to have plenty of business.

Why don't the other grocery stores follow suit?

Caroline S. Ingles

Baltimore

Perhaps animals are victims of terror

The letters "Animal activists can be terrorists" (June 9) were deeply disturbing.

If the writers want to look for victims of terror, they need look no further than the thousands of animals slaughtered every day. They might consider the animals that are subjected to excruciating medical experiments and gassed by the thousands because they are unwanted, the wolves hunted by helicopter, the seals that are clubbed to death.

If torturing and murdering large groups of sentient beings is not terrorism, perhaps I need a new dictionary.

Sadly, the letter writers seem to believe that such terrorism is justified against animals - just not against people.

They ignore the fact that virtually every animal has abilities humans will never have - they can fly, live underwater, run like the wind, burrow in the earth or build amazing structures without machinery.

The writers also chose to overlook Caroline Paul's comment in her column about her brother, who burned down a slaughterhouse, that told how the defenseless horses that were slaughtered there "screamed all day" ("My brother, the 'terrorist'? Yes, according to the government," Opinion

Commentary, June 3).

Her brother chose to stop what can only be described as a horrific cycle of death.

No one died when he burned down the slaughterhouse, although animals had died by the thousands at the hands of the people who owned it. So, who in this scenario was the terrorist?

Before we mislabel those who want to protect living creatures as terrorists, we need to think about what the word means.

And if, as I think most of us believe, terrorism is the wanton and senseless taking of life, we need to rethink our relationship with the animal kingdom.

We need to make sure we are not the terrorists.

Emily Chalmers

Baltimore

A double standard on racial crimes?

For the sake of argument, let's pretend a group of white Duke University lacrosse players had been accused of raping two white strippers who came to their frat house for entertainment.

I doubt anyone would have considered this a racially motivated crime.

Yet when the victims were reported by the mainstream media to be African-American, the situation became a racially charged event, with reporters and leaders of the black community flying to North Carolina at a frenetic pace.

Every major newspaper, television network and Internet news site covered this issue from top to bottom.

Now let's fast-forward to the event described in "Killings become the focus of race debate" (June 10) - a crime in which four African-Americans are accused of kidnapping and brutally assaulting, raping and murdering a white couple in Knoxville, Tenn.

And now Leonard Pitts Jr. ("Racial oppression is a one-way street," Opinion

Commentary, June 3) and others, such as the Rev. Ezra Maize, the president of the Knoxville chapter of the NAACP, would wish to have America treat this crime not as a racial issue but as a "right-and-wrong issue." Excuse me, but am I the only one who smells the stink of a double standard here?

I first heard about the Knoxville crime about a month ago on the Internet.

At the time, I hadn't heard one word about it from any of the mainstream news organizations, so I dismissed the story as some kind of racist drivel or right-wing urban myth - until I learned that it was true.

By taking a pass on this story, the news media are perpetuating a double standard.

And by applying a double standard in coverage, the media have provided fodder and ammunition for those seeking proof that the mainstream press is biased.

Kenneth Packard

Bel Air

NFLPA acts to help the retired players

The Sun's article "Help wanted for NFL's needy" (June 10) is misleading because it focuses on groups critical of the NFL Players Association. It is therefore unbalanced with respect to point of view and unfair to all of us who support the NFLPA and to today's players who have been generous to retired players.

Thus a headline asserting "Help wanted for NFL's needy" becomes a story that attacks the NFLPA and its leadership, instead of attacking the problems facing retired players - one that seems to blame the NFLPA for these problems without also holding the NFL itself accountable.

Last week, the NFLPA Retired Players Association had more than 225 members from more than 30 local chapters represented at our annual convention in Atlanta.

We heard from NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw and from Troy Vincent, the union president, and we thanked them both for their leadership.

Like the active players and the NFL player representatives who just rehired Mr. Upshaw as their leader for another three years, most of us retired NFL players support what Mr. Upshaw, Mr. Vincent and the NFLPA's Executive Committee and active players do for us.

The NFLPA has a long history of helping retired players in many ways, and can proudly stand on its record.

Jean S. Fugett Jr.

Baltimore

The writer is steering committee president for the NFLPA Retired Players Association.

Change state's laws to aid homeowners

My heart goes out to Kwaku Atta Poku and his family for the loss of their home to an unfair foreclosure ("Help for homeowners," June 8).

It is perplexing that there is no record of Mr. Poku's paying off his mortgage.

Shouldn't Mr. Poku's bank have a record of Mr. Poku's withdrawal and purchase of a cashier's check, and shouldn't Mr. Poku's bank also have a record of who cashed the canceled cashier's check?

If the now-defunct title company paid off Mr. Poku's mortgage, shouldn't the title company's bank have a record of the mortgage payment check, with the mortgage company's endorsement?

Finally, if Mr. Poku's cashier's check was misplaced and never cashed by anyone, shouldn't Mr. Poku be entitled to get his money back from his own bank by placing a stop-payment order on the uncashed cashier's check?

All of the above questions could have been investigated prior to foreclosure and brought to the attention of a Maryland Circuit Court judge.

But even the most diligent of homeowners, and their attorneys, would require superhuman efforts to provide the proof of payments within the 15-day time limit mandated by current Maryland foreclosure laws and procedures.

These laws must change to better protect homeowners such as Mr. Poku and his family from unfair foreclosures.

John Ozlu

Rockville

The writer is a real estate attorney.

Pastor right to draw ethical line in sand

The heated national debate over bioethics, embryonic stem cell research and political action spilled into what might seem an unlikely forum last week ("Catholic Scouts shun lawmakers over ideas," June 9).

But it's not surprising that a local parish priest has drawn an ethical line in the sand, supporting the Catholic Church's stance on the sanctity of human life and the application of scientific advances in medical research.

And in restricting some legislators from participating in church-sponsored Boy Scout activities, the pastor of St. Ursula Catholic Church, Monsignor James P. Farmer, delivered a message to elected officials- a lesson in leadership and moral navigation surely not lost on either the Scouts or state Sen. Katherine A. Klausmeier and Del. Eric M. Bromwell.

Laura D. Johnston

Timonium

No public funding for private faith

Spokespeople for the Roman Catholic Church in Maryland seem to want to have it both ways. They will say that the church is a private institution beyond public criticism or regulation. Yet, on the other hand, church officials often insist that the church is an institution deserving of public funding for its schools.

For instance, a state representative for the Alliance of Catholic Women Inc. said in a letter concerning criticism of a Catholic pastor for banning legislators who don't march to the orders of the church on embryonic stem cell research from Boy Scout ceremonies: "Religious bodies and their leaders have every right to make their own decisions concerning matters of faith and morals, as well as their own administrative policies" ("Unfair criticism of a fine pastor," June 13).

I agree with that. But I wish the archdiocese and its lobbyists would then back off from insisting that Maryland taxpayers help them fund the schools that they control and that serve their religious interests.

I consider it outrageous that they have succeeded in getting three consecutive governors to devote millions of our tax money from the state budget to non-public schools - most of which are Catholic - and have gotten a compliant legislature to go along with that idea.

The constitutional principle of the separation of church and state works both ways.

Churches are free to do their own private and religious thing, but their representatives shouldn't expect the public to fund them as they do it.

Kenneth A. Stevens

Savage

Life after 50 can be fabulous for women

For all the moms in their 40s who may be sliding into despair after reading Susan Reimer's column about a particularly dark view of their lives in "MommyLit," I have healing news: It's a whole new world after 50 ("MommyLit: Book genre of fading dreams, but small joys," June 10).

For so many of us, the anticipated feelings of emptiness, identity dislocation and spiritual unmooring we thought would come after our children left home never happened.

And amid the realities of loose skin and creeping infirmities, we are experiencing an exuberant renewal.

We are discovering opportunities we would have overlooked before, redirecting our creative energies, applying hard-earned wisdom in brand-new ways, and pursuing daring adventures in our professional lives.

Becoming 50, in short, is liberating.

We know who we are and have come to terms with it. When we bump into our weaknesses, we greet them with a familiar nod and move on to spend time with our not-insignificant strengths.

While we seek to be attractive, we are freed from the voyeuristic sexualized scrutiny younger women contend with.

For many of us, turning 50 is a fabulous time of life.

Yet this realization comes as a private, unannounced surprise to each of us.

Each time I share my "discovery" with my friends of a similar age, they lean in and smile, and say, "Me, too!"

Wouldn't it be wonderful if more women could anticipate this pleasure?

It's time the word got out.

Nina Beth Cardin

Pikesville

Reaching roots of city violence

The solution to the epidemic of violence afflicting Baltimore is far more complicated than the simplistic formula of "hire more police" being proposed by some of our mayoral candidates.

To address this chronic problem, it is crucial to understand two points: First, the vast majority of perpetrators and victims of violent crime in the city are males ages 16 to 25; second, an overwhelming number of these individuals have lived lives plagued by chaotic environments and dysfunctional families.

Few of these young men who shoot or are shot are new to the criminal justice system - in fact, many participants in violent acts are tragically easy to predict by their history of escalating involvement in the very dangerous drug trade that affects too many neighborhoods.

They often grow up in homes in which both parents are absent at one time or another (as a result of incarceration or illness related to drugs) during most of their childhoods - and they often shuttle between different family members' residences or in and out of foster care.

Few have solid support structures: Positive role models are often absent, recreation facilities are unavailable, schools are inadequate, and the neighborhoods in which they live are so unsafe that they can't play outside while growing up.

With this in mind, it is obvious that simply increasing the number of police officers on the streets will not suffice.

If the 2,900 valiant sworn officers already on the force can't stem the rising tide of murders on our streets, adding another 50, 100 or even 200, as some candidates propose, will clearly not solve the problem.

So, what to do?

In the short term, to address the current corps of violent offenders, all the force of the law should be brought to bear on them, which involves true cooperation (not just lip service and political gamesmanship) between law enforcement and prosecutors at the federal, state and local level.

Such an approach, combined with incentives (such as job placement and education programs) for gang members who came forward voluntarily, worked very well in Boston in the 1990s in reducing gang-related violence.

But this anti-gang strategy will help only temporarily.

To truly solve the problem will require extensive investment in addressing the roots of the epidemic, and it will require investment from the state as well, because the city doesn't have the resources to do it alone.

What might prevent young people from turning to violent crime?

We know only a few effective answers to this question, but they are good starting points.

First, we need to work to help ensure that our city's children have parents to care for them.

One important component of this is to invest in funding "drug treatment upon diagnosis."

Currently, there are not enough drug treatment slots available to provide care to all addicted individuals who are ready for treatment.

If we had appropriate access to treatment, many more adults would be good parents to the city's children, and the drug markets - the engine driving much of the violence in the city - would decrease in number.

In the same vein, we need to invest in providing much-needed support structures for children in the city.

Many more after-school activities and recreational facilities are also needed. Safe places must be available for kids during the summer months, perhaps in the form of camps with both physical activities and educational enrichment.

Schools also need to be improved - and having more parents free of drug addiction could lead to increased parental involvement, which would go a long way toward improving city schools.

At-risk families must also have access to intensive case management to ensure that their housing situations are adequate and that parent and family counseling is available to give them the best chance possible to raise successful children.

All of these actions are necessary to permanently stem the rising tide of homicidal violence in Baltimore.

Partial efforts and proposals simply to increase the number of police officers are, frankly, just more of the same short-sighted, fragmented policies that for 30 years have delivered the results we struggle with today.

Peter Beilenson

Baltimore

The writer is health officer for Howard County and a former Baltimore health commissioner.

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