The Baltimore Sun

FEMA learns lessons and responds faster

The Sun's editorial suggesting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has not applied the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina is simply wrong ("Lessons unlearned," Aug. 29).

FEMA's response to Hurricane Dean, as well as to the numerous tornadoes, storms and floods that have struck the nation this year, demonstrates that we have made significant reforms in our business processes and culture.

And these reforms are working.

After each disaster, senior FEMA leaders were in contact with our partners in state and local government.

Supplies were pre-positioned and available even before states asked for assistance. FEMA staff was on the ground within hours assessing damage.

And once a disaster was declared, financial assistance began to flow within hours to those in need.

In short, this is a new FEMA, which is moving forward.

And don't just take our word for it. Independent reviews show our reforms are improving our response and reducing waste, fraud and abuse.

A report from the Government Accountability Office issued this year said of FEMA: "They really have made a yeoman's effort to step back and look at what they've needed to do, and how they're going to do it."

State officials from Kansas, Florida, Hawaii and Texas have praised FEMA's efforts in the wake of recent events.

FEMA will continue to improve. But it is clear that we have come a long way.

To suggest otherwise ignores both the facts and the results.

John P. Philbin


The writer is director of FEMA's Office of External Affairs.

Obscene pay levels strain our system

Someone once said that only capitalists can kill capitalism. Reading The Sun's article "Getting by on $210,700 an hour" (Aug. 30) underscores the wisdom of that remark.

In that article, we learned that the top 20 hedge fund managers in the United States made an average of $657.5 million last year.

This kind of compensation makes the multimillion payouts to our top film and sports stars look like peanuts.

Just think, the annual income of only three of these fund managers would more than erase the state's entire $1.5 billion projected budget shortfall.

Something is really out of whack here: 47 million Americans are without health insurance, more than 12 percent of Americans are living below the poverty line ("Maryland is ranked as richest state," Aug. 29), bridges are crumbling, inner cities are abandoned - while a handful of money managers of secretive and virtually unregulated hedge funds are permitted to reap rewards even the word obscene fails to adequately describe.

If some semblance of reason does not reassert itself over the wanton greed that drives today's money managers, capitalism will indeed fail because of its own profligacy.

Howard Bluth


Bealefeld deserves to be city's top cop

The mayor should keep Frederick H. Bealefeld as the city's top cop ("Dixon may name a police commissioner soon," Aug. 30).

He knows the city, and all of his officers seem to like him. And Mr. Bealefeld wouldn't make the kinds of wholesale changes that would make a mess of the Police Department.

Gerald A. Yamin


Palestinian refugees have a prior claim

I certainly don't want to suggest Israel should deport Sudanese refugees ("Israel seeks to oust Sudan refugees," Aug. 26). But I do believe that before Israel addresses that situation, it should deal with the enormous problem of the thousands of Palestinian refugees created by Israeli policy.

The Palestinian problem is the longest-standing refugee problem in the world and involves the largest number of people.

U.N. Resolution 194 and the Geneva Conventions have for many years required that Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to their homes, but so far, Israel has not only refused to allow such a return but also refused to offer any reparations for the property the refugees lost.

Doris Rausch

Ellicott City

A legal way to boost donation of organs

As Thomas Sowell suggests, letting people pay for their organs would save thousands of lives every year - if it were legal ("The toll of squeamishness," Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 29). But there's no reason to think that it will be legal in the foreseeable future.

Fortunately, there's a legal, non-financial incentive that could put a big dent in the organ shortage: allocating donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

Giving organs first to organ donors would persuade more people to register as organ donors.

It would also make the organ allocation system more fair.

As long as there is a shortage of organs, people who aren't willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list.

David J. Undis

Nashville, Tenn.

The writer is executive director of LifeSharers, a nonprofit network of organ donors.

Why not let the poor sell their kids, too?

How heartening to read the courageous column in Wednesday's Sun in which Thomas Sowell proposed that poor people should not be denied the right to sell their organs to escape poverty ("The toll of squeamishness," Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 29).

However, his proposal is much too modest.

After all, in some of the same countries where organs are traded for cash, impoverished families also sell their nimble-fingered children into indentured servitude.

So, with the worthy object of lifting millions of Americans (there are 36.5 million at last count) out of poverty in mind, why not allow poor families to sell, with appropriate guarantees about education and other niceties, one or two of their children as factory workers or as little servants in the best households?

Some might balk at this idea.

But let's not be squeamish when it comes to helping people attain the American dream.

Brendan Cormack


Support children striving to succeed

As bells ring throughout Maryland and our children begin a new school year, let us all reflect on what we hope to have our schools achieve.

Certainly, mastery of the fundamentals should be a prime concern. A quality education should be at the top of the list.

A quality education should be one that teaches not only what the students want to learn but also what the students will have to know to function in a society growing ever more complex.

This includes the ability to read as well as a working knowledge of mathematics and an understanding of the scientific realm. We also dare not forget the value of the arts.

And if we hope to give our young people a quality education, every parent with a youngster in school must take a greater interest in what the school is doing for his or her children.

John Micklos


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