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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Baltimore Sun

Shelters secure refuge from cruelty

Kevin Lindamood and Jeff Singer got it right when they urged our community, including city leaders, to "Stick to the plan" (Commentary, April 3) to end homelessness.

Members of our community who find themselves without a home of their own, whether as a result of foreclosure, eviction or violence, are undeniably vulnerable.

The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that fatal attacks on people without homes have increased every year since 2005, totaling almost 30 in 2007.

Frightening in its own right, this statistic is particularly troubling when compared with the total of three fatal hate crimes committed in 2006 for all categories of such crimes (ones based on race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religion and disability) tracked by the FBI.

The April 3 guilty pleas of two teenagers in Edwardsville, Ill., for fatally beating a homeless man and the beating death of a man sleeping in an alley in Frederick on Valentine's Day this year confirm this horrific trend.

When the city announced plans to open a temporary shelter on Fayette Street, residents of the Albemarle Square community had the opportunity to become leaders in providing protection for hundreds of people during the most vulnerable time in their lives; instead, some residents used hateful language and turned their backs on those in need ("Dixon reassures group," March 31).

While the city is resisting "not-in-my-backyard" interests with respect to the temporary shelter, as Mr. Singer and Mr. Lindamood note, city leaders may also be contemplating a crackdown on begging, including anti-panhandling zones and other measures that would criminalize the same population that is in such critical need of our protection.

Let's put people in housing, not jails.

Antonia K. Fasanelli

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Homeless Persons Representation Project.

Turn big taxers right out of office

Once again, the General Assembly has adjourned. And thank goodness: If they had stayed in session any longer, we Marylanders would all be in the poorhouse.

The Democratic leadership, under the command of the governor, has increased state spending while sticking its hands in our pockets by raising fees and taxes. The Democrats say we should be happy with all the work they have done down in Annapolis for the past 90 days ("Democrats see victory as session concludes," April 8).

But most Marylanders are smarter than they think we are and can see right through their smokescreen.

We know when we have been given the shaft.

My advice to everyone who feels the same way I do is: Don't forget what your legislators did in the special session of 2007 and the regular session of 2008, and vote these tax-and-spenders out of office.

David J. Petr

Street

Get U.S. troops out of quagmire in Iraq

On Tuesday, Army Gen. David Petraeus again tried to convince Congress that there is a light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq ("Petraeus supports halt to Iraq pullout," April 9).

The attempt by General Petraeus to put lipstick on a pig would be hilarious, except that people are dying in Iraq and the war is a quagmire.

As we peace activists said in 2002, this war is wrong.

There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Yet the Bush administration got enough votes from Democrats to launch an invasion of that country.

The only solution now is for U.S. troops to come home while we get the United Nations involved in rebuilding the country and send the money allocated to the Pentagon for the war to Iraqi nongovernmental organizations as reparations to help rebuild Iraq.

Max Obuszewski

Baltimore

Early withdrawal does ensure defeat

While it is certainly true, as The Sun suggests, that "withdrawal delay offers no assurance of war's success" ("Never-ending war," editorial, April 9), it is also true that premature withdrawal ensures failure.

Further, anyone who believes that the end of the Iraq war will end Islamic terrorism doesn't understand what is happening throughout the world.

So far, we have only seen the "nose of the camel" in our tent.

We are indeed facing a "never-ending war."

Dick Tatlow

Marriottsville

Make profilers pay fine for misconduct

The taxpayers of Maryland must pay $400,000 because some state employees broke the law ("State settles bias lawsuit," April 3).

How about identifying those employees and their bosses, holding those people accountable to the law and making them pay the $400,000?

David J. Heston

Glen Arm

War on drugs a cure worse than disease

Mandatory minimum prison sentences have done little other than turn what is supposed to be the "land of the free" into the world's biggest jailer ("Declare peace in war on drugs," April 6).

If harsh penalties deterred drug use, the goal of a "drug-free" America would have been achieved decades ago.

Instead of adding to the highest incarceration rate in the world, we should be funding drug treatment.

The drug war is a cure worse than the disease.

Drug prohibition helps finance organized crime at home and terrorism abroad, which is then used to justify increased spending on the drug war.

It's time to end this madness and instead treat all substance abuse, legal or otherwise, as the public health problem it is.

Drug abuse is bad, but the drug war is worse.

Robert Sharpe

Washington

The writer is a policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy.

As a retired police detective, I heartily support Dan Rodricks' call for peace instead of more of the war on drugs.

This modern form of prohibition generates massive amounts of crime victims as drug addicts steal and rob to support their habit.

Meanwhile, my law enforcement colleagues spend less time than they could stopping drunken drivers and child predators because we are forced to spend time arresting nonviolent drug users.

Prohibition is chaos.

Drug legalization would mean regulation and control.

Howard J. Wooldridge

Frederick

The writer is an education specialist for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Surgical simulators a better way to learn

As a retired internist who now teaches medical students, I wholeheartedly agree with the writer of the letter "Practicing on pigs protects human life" (April 2) that we need to find ways to reduce medical errors. But experimenting on pigs is not one of those ways.

When students practice surgical procedures on a pig, not only are they practicing on an animal with an anatomy different from our own, but they are often unable to practice the techniques more than once.

For example, medical students at Johns Hopkins can practice removing a single pig's gall bladder only one time. But medical students at the University of Maryland School of Medicine can practice the procedure on a laparoscopic surgery trainer again and again until they get it right.

Simulators allow students to work at their own pace, make mistakes and correct them.

Moreover, no medical student is going to go straight from the pig lab into an operating room.

All surgeons - those trained on animals and those trained on simulators - get plenty of real-life practice in the operating room under supervision.

Cutting up a pig will not prepare them effectively for this experience. But practicing on a state-of-the-art interactive simulator will.

Dr. Barbara L. Blaylock

Rockville

The writer is a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

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