Fairer MAIF rules could curb costs

Eileen Ambrose's column "Auto insurance bound to rise" (May 5) suggests a number of ways to weather the rising cost of auto insurance during this economic downturn.


She does not mention, however, another answer to the problem - an easy legislative step Maryland can take to make auto insurance more fair for all residents.

One key to keeping premiums low across the board is reducing the number of uninsured drivers on our roadways. Uninsured drivers cause property damage and injury and cause all of our insurance premiums to increase.


In Maryland, drivers have two choices if they are deemed "uninsurable": They can come to the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund (MAIF), the state's insurer of last resort, and be forced to pay their premium, in full, at the inception of a policy, or they can forgo insurance altogether and take their chances on our roads.

It is a disgrace that unlike other drivers, those using MAIF are not allowed to pay for their insurance through installment payments. No other state has such a foolish policy.

It is time for the General Assembly to abolish this archaic restriction that benefits only the insurance premium financing companies.

This industry charges 26 percent interest on fully secured loans to pay for MAIF insurance. When this is combined with the other upfront charges of the financiers, it exploits working families until, in disgust, some simply leave the insurance market.

And uninsured drivers continue to run up the cost of insurance for all of us.

Although as ordinary citizens we have little control over rising gas costs or skyrocketing food prices and health care, we can voice our distaste for the current insurance law and our interest in seeing the system changed to make it fair to all those insured through MAIF.

M. Kent Krabbe, Annapolis

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund.


Portable classrooms a workable solution

In articles about school overcrowding, parents regularly decry the use of portable classrooms at crowded schools ("In Towson, pleas for 5th school," May 4).

The use of portable classrooms always seems to exemplify the dire straits a school is in. But portable classrooms seem to me to be a perfect solution to school crowding.

They are usually more private and more modern than most school buildings.

They demand no more land and very little additional infrastructure for new classroom space.

And that means that vital taxpayer funds can be used for education rather than to build school facilities.


Also, any new school would require the relocation of at least some children from their current school. Many parents surely would not like the disruption involved in relocating their kids to a new school, perhaps one farther from home with a whole new set of issues to confront.

And, finally, when the current baby bulge has dissipated, those temporary classrooms can be removed, and the county would not be left with excess property.

Christopher P. Brown, Baltimore

Tough talk wrong approach to Iran

Sen. Hillary Clinton's talk of obliterating Iran should check anti-war Democrats' support for her ("Democrats spar as key votes near," May 5).

Her saber-rattling rhetoric belies her campaign calls for a quick end to the war in Iraq.


The U.S. is now engaged in a proxy war with Iran in Iraq. Mrs. Clinton apparently finds the prospect of a direct war with Iran acceptable.

Apparently she hasn't learned anything over the past five years. But war is the problem in the Middle East, not the solution.

John Bailey, Edgemere

Would McCain pick activists from right?

The Sun's editorial "Challenging justice" (May 7) correctly portrays Sen. John McCain's speech on federal judicial appointments and accurately observes that there are activist judges on both ends of the spectrum.

One major question is whether Mr. McCain, if elected, would select conservative activists for the federal courts or choose consensus nominees.


Carl Tobias, Richmond, Va.

The writer is a professor of law at the University of Richmond.

Farfel's work shows care for community

I take issue with the comments made by Dr. Herbert Needleman and others regarding Mark R. Farfel's 2000 soil study.

In The Sun's article "Researcher faces outcry" (May 1), Dr. Needleman stated that he's "convinced that Farfel is an ethical scientist who might have grown distant from community sensitivities."

As a faculty member of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, I have long known Mr. Farfel to some extent. But over the last several years, I have learned about his many community contributions.


And now, as I do my work in East Baltimore as director of the community outreach for the Johns Hopkins Center in Urban Environmental Health, it is evident that Mr. Farfel was ahead of his time when it came to dealing with community sensitivities.

To address the disconnect between researchers and the community, he established the Environmental Justice Partnership with funds from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Today, EJP is a viable, independent, community-led nonprofit organization looking out for the needs and concerns of East Baltimore residents.

In short, Mr. Farfel has exhibited a philosophy that those who are interested in working with Baltimore's communities should be proud to emulate and expand.

Dr. Michael A. Trush, Baltimore

Visionary leader merits more respect


It is disgraceful that The

Sun invaded former Gov. William Donald Schaefer's privacy by revealing the vulnerabilities of his advancing age, with a picture of him that again shows him at less than his usual dapper self ("The object of their affections," May 7).

Mr. Schaefer is a visionary, and the great love of his life, the city of Baltimore, is much better for his vision.

The headline on Wednesday's column should have read, "Charlestown Retirement Community gives a hero's welcome to new resident William Donald Schaefer."

Jan Roth, Fallston

Israel can't condone the rocket attacks


The writer of the letter "Israeli attacks cause the carnage" (May 3) excoriates Israel because an innocent mother and four children were killed when an Israeli tank entered Gaza and tried to end the Hamas rockets firing at Israel.

The letter writer misses the point about what's going on in that part of the world.

I agree that a two-state solution is the best possible way out of this mess. But the fact is that Israel did pull out of Gaza completely, and now Gaza is a test of what would happen if it pulls out of the West Bank.

If Gaza is used as a base for Hamas rockets firing on Sderot, what can Israel expect if it pulls out of the West Bank - with Tulkarm just six miles from Netanya, with Qalqilya just across the security fence from Kfar Saba, which is seven miles from Caesaria and just 12 miles from Tel Aviv, putting that city easily with rocket range?

Let's suppose that the same situation existed along the Rio Grande with rockets being fired on Brownsville, Texas, every day.

What would happen if the government of the United States failed to respond?


Jack Tucker, Pikesville

Revealing racing as a ruthless sport

Thanks to Jean Marbella for her thoughtful, edifying column on Eight Belles' tragic end ("Horse racing is beauty, tragedy," May 6).

A majestic being pushed unnaturally beyond her limit, Eight Belles was a helpless pawn consumed by a bestial, regressive pastime.

Simply put, the horses are run to death, as Debbie Frank, whose farm is home to Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation Inc., suggests in Ms. Marbella's column.

I can only hope that the ignominious, ruthless world of horse racing will now be viewed in its proper light.


Tracy Stott, Baltimore