How very distressing to read about the current financial situation at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore ("Lack of cash, creativity lead to zoo's decay," March 30).
I'm a frequent visitor, and it is apparent to me that each year the zoo is suffering. The tigers are gone, the prairie dogs are gone, the hippos are gone, the flamingo exhibit is way behind schedule - and these are only a few of the zoo's problems.
It saddens me to walk by empty and deteriorating exhibits that were once home to animals we loved.
The zoo is a place that serves all of our citizens.
On every visit, I have seen visitors of all ages, races and sexes.
I've also seen Head Start groups, groups from community day care and after-school programs, elementary school groups, handicapped and special-needs individuals, groups of senior citizens and families with children of all ages among those who regularly enjoy our zoo.
The state and city need to get together and fully fund this wonderful institution.
Let's save our zoo and make it the great attraction it should be.
The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is facing serious challenges, to be sure: possible loss of industry accreditation and millions of dollars of needed repairs.
Perhaps this is the perfect time for everyone involved to consider the very future of the zoo.
I understand the allure of seeing magnificent wild animals up close, especially threatened or endangered species. But I also understand the costs - both financial and ethical.
Elephants, for instance, live in large matriarchal groups in the wild, traveling for miles each day together with their families. In the zoo, they are mere shells of their true selves.
Their basic social, emotional and physical needs are rarely met in confinement.
Yet millions of dollars are spent to keep elephants in captivity.
What would that money do in the wild? $1 million in Kenya, for one example, could underpin anti-poaching operations around Mount Kenya for the next 15 years.
Sparing countless animals from the cruelty inherent in deadly snares - now that would be real conservation.
The writer is a vice president of Born Free USA.
Why do people go to zoos? To see animals.
But the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore has lost both its tigers and some of the bears, and given away its hippopotamus. The zoo also thought about giving away the elephants until public outcry stopped that idea.
Visitation is down at the zoo because it got too expensive, and visitors haven't been getting very much for their money.
Still, I love the zoo and Druid Hill Park.
The park's total package includes wonderful historic picnic pavilions and other structures, a lake to jog around, tennis courts, a flying-disc golf course, hiking trails, a beautifully restored conservatory and rolling vistas over a magnificent campus of old-growth trees.
The park as a whole has the potential to be a major tourist attraction, with proper vision, planning and investment.
This could be an investment in the future of our city as important as investing in highways and subways.
Let's put William Donald Schaefer in charge of a "Do It Now" Committee to save the zoo and the park.
Now's there's a legacy for Mr. Schaefer.
Fran Gunther Minges
City's dropout rate has become a crisis
A national study of dropout rates put Baltimore's rate fourth worst among the nation's major cities, with just 35 percent of city students completing 12th grade ("Counting graduates," editorial, April 2). This situation is an emergency that will require a cooperative effort among parents, teachers, students and the business community to solve.
Years ago, a high school dropout could find work relatively easily at one of the many industries then operating in the city.
Today, Baltimore's economy, which is based on information technology, health care and other services, requires young people to have, at a minimum, a high school degree, and preferably some college education as well, to be successful.
The graduation rate must rise.
The very survival of our city as a functional entity is at stake.
Big profits of others serve as no excuse
A Sun headline on Wednesday read "Oil chiefs take no blame on prices: Executives tell Congress big profits are in line with other industries" (April 2).
My reply to those executives is: Two wrongs don't make a right.
Karen W. Gronau
Bush also posed as 'realistic idealist'
As a presidential candidate, Texas Gov. George W. Bush described himself as a "compassionate conservative," only to become a defender of torture.
He warned against the dangers of "nation-building," only to spend virtually his entire presidency doing just that.
In a major foreign policy speech on Nov. 19, 1999, Mr. Bush declared: "An American president should work with our strong democratic allies in Europe and Asia to extend the peace."
He affirmed his belief in "a distinctly American internationalism. Idealism, without illusions. Confidence, without conceit. Realism, in the service of American ideals."
In other words, like Sen. John McCain today, Mr. Bush ran as a "realistic idealist."
Both men professed what The Sun might call a "sensible view of America's future role in the world," and both "professed a reluctance to engage in war without the advice and aid of allies" ("The realistic idealist," editorial, March 30).
But what the expression "realistic idealist" really means in the case of these two men is that when you begin by idealizing the intentions of American foreign policy, you wind up looking at disaster and seeing only victory.
Too bad Mr. Bush did not take to heart the warning to the powerful that he quoted in that 1999 speech from the great Athenian statesmen Pericles: "Indeed, I am more afraid of our own blunders than of the enemy's devices."
Spiritual leaders model higher path
Yes, we all have friends and relatives whose views and opinions we think are wrong ("Most don't disown misguided friends," letters, March 26).
But these are not the people we turn to for spiritual guidance.
For my minister, priest, rabbi or imam, I want someone who speaks of love and peace and shows, by his or her example, a higher path to follow.
Bakers can replace artificial trans fats
The idea that artificial trans fat is some kind of traditional ingredient passed down from generation to generation is laughable ("Trans-fat ban has bakery worried," April 2).
What we're talking about are industrially manufactured oils produced by partial hydrogenation, a process in which healthful vegetable oil is percolated with hydrogen gas in the presence of a metal catalyst.
Unless a local bakery had a chemical lab out back, it is very unlikely that it would have used artificial trans fat until after World War II, when Crisco and margarine began to be widely used. Artificial trans fat was great for making Twinkies last for months, if not years, but now even Twinkies are trans-fat-free. In fact, Crisco itself now contains zero grams of trans fat per serving.
Happily, Baltimore's sensible law gives bakers such as Louis Sahlender and Sharon Hoehn Hooper a year and a half to rediscover the culinary traditions of their forebears.
Plenty of their colleagues in Baltimore bakeries never lost them in the first place.
The writer is a deputy director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.