The Baltimore Sun

Rules reinforce the digital divide

One important fact that has been almost completely missing from the debate over the Internet regulations sought by Google and other Internet companies ("Net danger," editorial, May 20) is how those proposed regulations could impede the universal broadband-service access all parties to the debate say that they support.

While the U.S. has made great strides in making high-speed Internet service available and affordable to almost every household, there are some substantial obstacles staring us straight in the eye.

For example, data show that African-Americans and Hispanics subscribe to broadband services at lower rates than white people do.

And while cable and DSL services reach an estimated 95 percent of the country, new fiber-to-the-home networks now reach only about 13 percent of the nation's communities - and most of these communities are high-income and suburban, leaving many poor and minority neighborhoods at a disadvantage.

Equally vexing is the strain on broadband capacity posed by the rapid rise in video sharing over peer-to-peer applications that enable less than 5 percent of Internet users to consume more than 95 percent of residential bandwidth.

Broadband companies are responding to these challenges.

But billions will need to be spent to upgrade the nation's broadband infrastructure and overcome the remaining digital divide - and the proposed Internet regulations are sure to forestall such an investment.

Anthony W. Robinson, Largo

The writer is the president of the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Don't try to protect us from ourselves

The Sun's article "Cheap cigars facing city ban" (May 29) notes that "Baltimore could be the first municipality in the country to attempt to improve residents' overall health by limiting their access to the potentially cancer-causing cigars."

Is this the job of our government? I don't believe that it is.

Our government's job is not to protect us from ourselves, although there are many who believe that it is. Our government is here to provide us with law enforcement, routine day-to-day services and the infrastructure a civilization needs.

If I am not harming anyone but myself with my actions, then I am the one who suffers their consequences.

Our government has no business involving itself in my day-to-day life by creating laws designed to protect me from myself.

Clay Seeley, Owings Mills

Time for Democrats to unite for fall race

Hallelujah. Someone in the media finally noticed that Sen Hillary Clinton apparently can't count. Thank you, Paul Rogat Loeb, for stating the truth ("Clinton's vote claim doesn't add up," Commentary, May 29).

Mrs. Clinton's claim that she's winning the popular vote is as pathetic as her argument that the Democratic Party should ignore its own rules for choosing a nominee.

Tick-tock, Mrs. Clinton. It's time to sit down and start reuniting the party.

Lisa D. Singer, Baltimore

The writer is a volunteer for Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

Veto leaves county facing a big bill

The letter from the secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment regarding the governor's veto of a fly ash bill contained inaccuracies, yet came to a hopeful conclusion ("Let county collect from the polluters," May 28).

The bill, which was introduced by the Anne Arundel County delegation and received bipartisan support in the legislature, would have required the polluters - Constellation Energy and BBSS - to reimburse Anne Arundel County taxpayers for the cost of the investigation that led to state action.

Reimbursement would have come from a $1 million court-ordered fine paid to the state, not from the state's General Fund.

Regrettably, the veto saddles Anne Arundel taxpayers with a $104,000 expense for testing residential water wells for contamination.

The issue here goes beyond recouping past expenditures.

Denying reimbursement to local governments for such investigations could have a chilling effect on the willingness of counties to pursue environmental concerns.

Fortunately, as Secretary Shari Wilson suggests, plans for a "statewide solution" are in the works.

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold looks forward to supporting legislation that will ensure that penalties imposed on polluters include reimbursement of local costs incurred in enforcing environmental protection laws.

Such a measure is necessary to protect both Maryland's taxpayers and Maryland's environment.

Frances B. Phillips, Annapolis

The writer is the Anne Arundel County health officer.

Use slots revenues to pay energy bills

Given the increases in the cost of electricity, water and gas for our vehicles, if Maryland voters support slots, all of their proceeds need to go to help Maryland citizens pay for all these cost increases ("Eyeing slots help, Chuckas takes Md. Jockey Club reins," May 30).

Jake Mohorovic, Dundalk

The writer is a former member of the House of Delegates.

Foolish to deny Iran poses a serious threat

Steve Chapman's column "Mythmaking for the next war" (Commentary, May 27) might just as easily have appeared under the byline "Brothers Grimm."

He chides Sen. John McCain for believing that Iran continues to work on creating a nuclear weapon. This belief has now also been echoed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which on May 26 issued a report stating that Iran's suspected research into the development of nuclear weapons remains "a matter of serious concern" ("Iran said to stonewall on nuclear program," May 27).

The report indicated that Iran's military has been intimately involved with its nuclear program and presented evidence that Iran is enriching weapons-grade uranium and is experimenting with explosives and warhead design.

Mr. Chapman then dazzles us with a Clintonesque voyage through Semanticsland, claiming that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never vowed to "wipe Israel off the map."

Does Mr. Chapman also have alternate translations for these other gems from Mr. Ahmadinejad: "The main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime," "[Israel] is an illegitimate regime; there is no legal basis for its existence," and, "We ask the West to remove what they created 60 years ago, and if they do not listen to our recommendations, then the Palestinian nation and other nations will eventually do this for them"?

Steve Krueger, Baltimore

Is Iran a military "pipsqueak," as columnist Steven Chapman contends, and is Sen. Barack Obama correct when he claims that "Iran does not pose the sort of threat the Soviet Union did"?

Mr. Chapman repeats the oft-quoted delusion that the "National Intelligence Estimate, issued last year ... concluded that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003."

Iran has done no such thing. It halted its weaponization work, but that is easily restarted. Iranian uranium enrichment continues at an accelerated pace, with more advanced and more numerous centrifuges but without a single civilian Iranian nuclear power reactor that could utilize its output.

And now there's nothing to stop Iran from achieving its obvious goal of acquiring nuclear weapons.

Some in Israeli intelligence, even some who worked on that infamous NIE report, think 2009 may be the year Iran produces its first nuclear weapon.

When it is wheeled out to be mounted on one of a ready fleet of missiles, to be soon followed by others, Israel will not be able to rely on words from wishful dreamers such as Mr. Obama and Mr. Chapman.

Israel cannot do nothing.

Mr. Obama is correct about the Iran-Soviet Union comparison, since the threats from Iran and the Soviet threats are indeed different.

The Soviet Union had mutually assured destruction to deter it; Iran has religious fanaticism to encourage it.

And Mr. Chapman is correct when he states, "bad regimes sometimes have understandable motivations."

Iran's motivations to obliterate Israel have been made understandable to clear thinkers, including Sen. John McCain.

Steven M. Land, Pikesville

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