Selling food pays for additional aid

David Kohn contends that humanitarian aid agencies oppose reforms to U.S. food aid because the system "subsidizes" our bottom line ("It's time to stop a tragic waste," May 11) . Nothing could be further from the truth.

Most large aid agencies, including Catholic Relief Services, CARE and Save the Children, have been striving to improve our nation's overseas food assistance program.

We have worked toward minimizing or eliminating the practice of selling food aid to raise cash to pay for programs that fight chronic hunger.

We have also pushed for the flexibility to use cash to buy food in or near the country where it is needed, and we have fought the requirement to use U.S.-flagged carriers to ship the food overseas.

It is also incorrect to say that nonprofit aid agencies serving the poor in the developing world make "profits" from the sale of food in target countries.

The cash raised by the sale of food aid supports programs that specifically address the causes of hunger.

These programs include efforts to promote agricultural development, primary health care, clean water and basic sanitation - activities that help people living in extreme poverty to pull themselves up one notch and ensure a better future for their children.

Ken Hackett, Baltimore

The writer is president of Catholic Relief Services.

Nutritional charity begins at home

In David Kohn's ranting about wasteful food aid, he gets one thing right - the United States is wasting a lot of money on its foreign aid program, although not for the reasons he cites ("It's time to stop a tragic waste," Commentary, May 11).

First and foremost, as long as there are hungry senior citizens and children in this nation, not one slice of bread should be sent "over there," wherever that might be.

In many instances, we give food relief to countries that hate us and often oppose the United States in the United Nations.

Mr. Kohn opposes the policy of purchasing this food from our own producers, and would rather we spend that money outside our troubled economy to purchase food aid in the countries that need it.

There is a hint of lunacy here: If the countries that need the food have it to sell to us to give back to them, why must the United States play this costly, wasteful and crazy role of middle man?

If those countries have the food to sell, let them give it to their own people.

If we have to purchase food to give away, why not allow our own farmers to profit? What is wrong with that idea?

Under Mr. Kohn's plan, we not only would be penalizing U.S. taxpayers by having them fund our generosity but also would be unnecessarily harming our own food industry by spending those tax dollars outside of our depressed economy.

That is insanity.

Bob Di Stefano, Abingdon

Democrats finally act to stop war

For once, I have something nice to say to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the congressional Democrats: Thank you for defeating the $166 billion war funding bill ("House rejects more funds for Iraq, Afghan wars," May 16).

Ending the funding for this disastrous war is the only thing that the peace movement cares about.

In 2006, voters gave the Democrats control of both houses of Congress so that they would end the Iraq war.

I'm delighted to see that they are starting to earn their pay.

Douglas E. McNeil, Baltimore

The writer is the treasurer of Voters for Peace.

California ruling shows way forward

As a father and husband living in a committed same-sex relationship in Maryland, it's heartening to see progress on marriage equality for same-sex couples in California ("Calif. court OKs gay marriage," May 16).

The domestic partnership rights bills awaiting Gov. Martin O'Malley's signature are a first, small step toward the same sort of legal protections and equality needed by so many same-sex couples in Maryland.

Josh Sullivan, Columbia

State must uphold full marital equality

The headline "Calif. court OKs gay marriage" (May 16) gets it wrong by making it appear as though the court is legislating. It is not.

The court struck down California's marriage legislation because it unconstitutionally failed to treat all citizens equally.

It's time to separate church and state

If religious leaders want to teach that homosexual marriage is wrong, they can do so.

But the state should stay out of this business and allow every person the benefit of full citizenship rights.

James B. Astrachan, Baltimore

Plenty of evidence of 'reading failure'

Raymond Simon, a deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, defends the Reading First program, claiming that the recent study showing no difference between Reading First students and students in a comparison group was only an interim report and that, nationwide, Reading First students have made "impressive reading gains" ("'Reading First' helps build skills," letters, May 15).

But the recent report is not the first indication of failure for the Reading First program.

A number of studies have shown that since Reading First was implemented, there has been no change in the rate of improvement on reading tests given by the states.

Members of the administration have repeatedly claimed that national reading scores for fourth-graders are at an all-time high. But a look at the data shows that nearly all of the improvements in reading scores in recent years took place before Reading First was implemented.

Also, American fourth-graders did not improve between 2001 and 2006 on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study test. And there has been no reduction in the reading achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families on any measure.

The Sun was right when it labeled Reading First a "Reading failure" (editorial, May 7).

Stephen Krashen, Los Angeles

The writer is a professor emeritus of education at the University of Southern California.

Portable classrooms ignore other needs

I just read the letter that argues that portable classrooms are a "workable solution" to overcrowding ("Portable classrooms a workable solution," May 12) .

Unfortunately, these portable classrooms don't come with portable lunchroom space, playground space, gym space and bathrooms.

It's no solution to just pack as many children as possible onto a school site without accommodating their other needs.

Belinda Blinkoff, Baltimore

The writer is a member of Towson Families United and the parent of a child at Rodgers Forge Elementary School.

I agree with the writer of a recent letter that portable classrooms can be more modern than other school facilities. Heck, none of the schools my children have attended has had air conditioned classrooms other than the trailers.

However, there is less oversight of teachers and students in trailers, and security is an even larger concern.

The answer is more schools and smaller schools.

Susan Seim, Lutherville

Is NFL spying really a priority?

Our country is in an economic downturn. Gasoline and utility prices are soaring, and food prices aren't far behind. The dollar continues to lose value vs. the euro and other world currencies.

Every day, good jobs are leaving the country while illegal immigrants are coming in.

Millions of Americans lack adequate health insurance. We are still fighting a war in Iraq with no apparent exit strategy, while also dealing with the continuing threat of global terrorism.

And Congress wants to spend more time and taxpayer money investigating professional sports ("Specter's calls are empty," May 15)?

Give me a break.

Mark Haas, Timonium

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