The Baltimore Sun

A misplaced lament for smoke-filled bars

Ah yes, the smoke-filled bar ... so sexy, so alluring ("Up in smoke," Jan. 30). Is there anything more appealing than nicotine-brown teeth and fingers?

As a teenager, I nearly took up smoking when I watched as Paul Henreid lit two cigarettes simultaneously and coolly passed one off to Bette Davis in Now, Voyager.

Today, I am a huge fan of old movies as well as the truth and trivia that surrounds the stars of classic Hollywood.

One of the things The Sun's article failed to point out - a fact that makes the iconic image of Humphrey Bogart with cigarette dangling from his lips so very sad - is that he died at the relatively young age of 57 from throat cancer.

I am amazed that The Sun wasted so much of its ever-shrinking newspaper space on this article.

Why not tackle some underreported health issues instead?

Diane O'Connor


The writer is executive director of Lupus Mid-Atlantic Inc.

Pupil payment plan sends wrong signals

In Dan Rodricks' column "All kids deserve reward for grades" (Jan. 27), he advocates for city schools CEO Andres Alonso's weird idea to pay children who pass a test after having first failed it.

It's a great idea, except:

What about the kids who deliberately fail their tests so they can retake them and make money?

What about the extra time and energy demanded of teachers of repeat test-takers?

What about the good students who do their work, pass their tests and see the goof-offs handed money instead of getting rewards themselves?

I'm afraid the list of problems could go on and on.

Perhaps Mr. Alonso needs to come up with a proposal to reward all students who pass their tests the first time.

I'd vote for that one, if the school system needs to use up some extra funds.

Judy Chernak


Debate on windmills all about aesthetics

After the ground ecology issues are cleared away, after the bird migration questions are answered, the real issue of windmills in Western Maryland will remain: They will be unsightly ("Wind farms hit opposition," Jan. 29).

They mar the mountain view along Route 219 in Pennsylvania, which I have seen, and I'm sure they do the same thing in West Virginia.

The windmills could be 400 feet tall, and can't be overlooked.

However, a building of that height would be 80 to 100 feet wide as well, and a hundred of them would look like midtown Manhattan on a Garrett County hill.

Windmills do not look that way.

And while they are prepossessing, their unsightliness can't hold a candle to that of the hewn-off hilltop just east of Cumberland, where perfectly legal quarrying goes on.

Frankly, I'd rather see windmills atop every hill in the state than such huge gouges in the earth. Surely those quarries upset the ground ecology, too, even if they don't disturb migrating birds.

Thaddeus Paulhamus


Threatened tenant needs more help

It is unclear from the article "'It's not safe here. ... My life has been threatened'" (Jan. 29) that we are getting the whole story about this public housing tenant's safety issues in her apartment.

But one thing is clear: The Housing Authority of Baltimore City has not done everything in its power to solve the problem.

The Sun's reporter was able to see that something was amiss just by making two fairly short visits to the residence, and by verifying that there are people who have gained improper access to the apartment.

The reasons that this initially happened are not really important. What is important is that the housing authority now does what it can to help her correct the problem.

Shirley Gilbert has made an effort to better herself. Feeling safe in a clean environment is pretty basic to that effort.

I hope she gets some help from the housing authority right away.

Ginger Segala

Ellicott City

Other data show cell phones risky

The writer of the letter "Data don't support limits on cell phones" (Jan. 26) mentions several studies that, he contends, show that driving under the influence of talking on a cell phone is a "no-risk activity."

One can find studies that support or refute almost any argument on almost any topic.

In this case, a University of Utah study found that the elevated risk of driving while talking on a cell phone, either hand-held or hands-free, was equivalent to driving at the legal limit of alcohol intoxication - 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content.

Few people would agree that drivers at this level of impairment should be considered "no-risk."

More important, one need only look around while driving or stopped at a traffic light to witness drivers totally absorbed in animated cell phone conversations while trying to drive with one hand and see that using cell phones while driving is a danger.

John Andrews

Bel Air

Tax rebate ceilings undermine stimulus

The House's proposed economic stimulus package, which phases out tax rebates to families earning more than $150,000 per year and eliminates them for families earning more than $174,000, appears to be as much a plan to redistribute wealth as to boost the economy ("The deal: Billions in rebates," Jan. 25).

Congressional insistence on continuing this policy of soaking the so-called rich, and grouping large numbers of upper-middle-class families together with the relatively few truly wealthy, will reduce the effectiveness of this plan as an economic stimulus.

The government is concerned about a fall-off in consumer spending, particularly on higher-end items such as computers and cars.

But the people who may be denied the tax rebate are those who are most likely to spend the money on such items.

Mark Haas


Sen. Hooper worked to aid the disabled

State Sen. J. Robert Hooper was a gentle leader who supported people with disabilities whenever he had the chance ("Ex-Harford senator dies of cancer," Jan. 25). I came to know Mr. Hooper in my work with the Maryland Department of Disabilities.

He once shared with me the story of a young employee of his who had an intellectual disability. Seeing potential, Mr. Hooper thought he'd try to teach the young man to read. Succeeding with that, Mr. Hooper figured the employee could learn to weld, so he taught him to do that, too.

When he told the story, Mr. Hooper's eyes became bright and animated - he understood the essence of the idea of teaching someone to fish rather than just giving him a fish.

Mr. Hooper's presence in Annapolis will be missed by many.

But his loss will be most deeply felt in his Harford County community.

Diane McComb


The writer is a former deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Disabilities.

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