Peer programs offer hope for the schools
It is important for readers to understand that Peer to Peer Enterprises are community-based programs - not ones based in or associated with a particular school ("Students end their protest at City Hall," May 16).
For instance, the Algebra Project has sites in several schools, but projects such as Unchained Talent and Wide Angle Youth Media and Kids on the Hill are not based in schools. They attract young people from across the city.
Although Mayor Sheila Dixon says the school system, and not the city, should pay for the peer-to-peer work, there is no way the school system will invest in groups that are not part of schools.
City schools CEO Andres Alonso is supportive of the Peer to Peer Enterprises concept.
But it is important to stress that most of the groups participating in the project are not associated with the schools and need the increased capital that the $3 million the project has requested from the city would provide to expand and to hire more young people.
Peer to Peer is a new way of doing business in Baltimore - a way to make sure that young people are part of the knowledge-based economy and productive now, rather than waiting until they are out of school.
The $3 million requested could hire 1,000 young people to teach and train up to 6,000 other young people.
That is a worthwhile investment.
Odette T. Ramos, Baltimore
The writer is a consultant to the Peer to Peer Enterprises project.
I was so impressed to learn about the Peer to Peer Enterprises program.
A coalition of 20 youth-based groups has banded together and proposed an initiative to hire 700 to 1,000 youth mentors and tutors. These student leaders would work with struggling Baltimore students by providing tutoring services and after-school programs.
They would serve as positive role models and help struggling students succeed.
This initiative would have multiple benefits.
First, it would surely help the school system improve its dismal test scores and graduation rate.
Second, it would address the school discipline problem by rewarding students who exhibit model behavior and strong academic achievement.
This program would also provide knowledge-based job opportunities for city youths, which would help boost the local economy.
This student-led initiative should be perceived by Mayor Sheila Dixon as a gift. But she has refused to fund the project.
Perhaps there are budgetary reasons that the city cannot provide the full $3 million the students have requested.
However, Ms. Dixon should be working collaboratively with the students to ensure that this project gets off the ground.
Instead, she has flatly refused to include funding for the project in the city budget and refused to have a formal meeting with its student advocates.
The students camped out for days and nights in front of City Hall. But they have received little more than a cold shoulder from Ms. Dixon.
This is bad policy and bad manners.
Vince Tola, Baltimore
Boost for sugar is good for city
I was amazed at Jay Hancock's column on sugar policy - amazed at its inaccuracies and amazed that Baltimore's hometown paper would run such a column ("Farm bill is sweet for Big Sugar," May 16).
One look at the Inner Harbor today is a painful reminder of the fall of American manufacturing. Once surrounded by iconic U.S. brands, Domino's Sugar now stands alone as a beacon of opportunity for the city's workers.
And the column's insinuation that the sugar policy in the new farm bill will benefit few other than Domino and its hundreds of Baltimore workers is laughable.
This bill helps keep Domino in Baltimore - that's good for the city's tax base and unemployment rate. It does so at little cost to taxpayers because sugar farmers don't get crop subsidies.
And it ensures that grocery shoppers don't have to depend on unreliable foreign sources for an essential ingredient.
U.S. food manufacturers pay less for sugar today than they did in 1980. They pay far less than their counterparts in other developed countries.
This might explain why U.S candy companies are announcing major expansion projects - not fleeing to Mexico (a country with higher sugar prices), as Mr. Hancock contends.
George H. Wedgworth, Belle Glade, Fla.
The writer is president and CEO of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida.
Quake underscores chemical dangers
On May 6, The Sun printed an article about Chinese unrest over a multibillion-dollar petrochemical plant planned for Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province ("Chinese stroll in protest of petrochemical plant," May 6).
Many citizens "illegally" marched and protested for hours in this tightly controlled area to protect their environment. Unfortunately, Chinese citizens do not have our constitutionally protected right to petition their government.
Less than a week later, their province lay in ruins because of a mega-earthquake that caused untold civilian loss of life and property damage.
Imagine if this happened after the planned chemical plant was up and running and the deadly chemicals went spewing into the earthquake-devastated area.
Let's think hard about such things before a liquefied natural gas facility ends up near heavily populated areas in Baltimore County ("Ban on plant struck down," May 20).
Gerald Loren, Annapolis
Saudi king's rebuff abases presidency
Last week, President Bush went to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia with hat in hand to ask him to produce more oil to help relieve the gasoline price surge.
This was not the secretary of energy or some emissary making an appeal. This was the president of the United States, our elected leader.
And what was the result? He came away empty-handed ("Saudi oil production unchanged," May 17).
Wasn't Mr. Bush aware that this would happen?
Is no one in Washington concerned that the leader of this great country was rebuffed by a supposed ally?
Well, I am concerned. In fact, I think it's a total embarrassment.
This is a great country we live in.
When will we have leaders who can live up to the greatness of the offices they hold?
Jack Ray, Baltimore
Clinton stresses her own first name
Sexism has undoubtedly played a role in this year's presidential campaign. However, I disagree with the writer of the letter that cited the use of Sen. Hillary Clinton's first name as proof of sexism against her ("Is sexism the cause of Clinton's woes?" letters, May 21).
Mrs. Clinton's own Web site says "Hillary for President"; her campaign signs and stickers often say "Hillary."
By contrast, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain don't use "Barack" or "John" in their campaign.
Mrs. Clinton's decision to use her first name was reasonable, as the name "Clinton" means someone else to many Americans.
But it is not sexist to refer to Mrs. Clinton by a name she chose to campaign with.
Joel Gallant, Baltimore
Heeding Gospels is a path to peace
There are indeed lessons to be learned from the actions of those faithful followers of the Gospels in Catonsville 40 years ago. But they are as difficult to master now as they were then ("Lessons from the Catonsville Nine," May 16).
Most Americans, including those who are Christians, seem to employ, now as then, multiple standards to measure the morality of war.
We are quick to condemn the war-making of other nations but less quick to render judgment on ourselves.
When the United States seems to be "winning" a war, hardly anyone or any religious institution raises a murmur about our own war-making. It seems that it is only when this or that war is prolonged, its objectives deferred and the killings multiply that this nation pauses to reconsider.
The lessons of Jesus Christ to the early Christians of the first century were unambiguous. Those besieged people knew from experience and for an absolute certainty that their countercultural faith - which demanded, among other things, that they love their enemies and embrace peacemaking - would lead them into inevitable discord with religious and civil authorities.
If American Christians of today had shown that kind of clarity of thought, the lessons articulated in Catonsville 40 years ago would have been learned, and thousands of American and Iraqi families would have been spared so much anguish and loss.
George B. McCeney, Glencoe