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The Baltimore Sun

Plan could stem Columbia's decline

Downtown Columbia has been losing business to surrounding, newer developments for years. It is past time to reverse the damage to what was once a hot spot for businesses wanting to locate in the Baltimore-Washington corridor ("Views of the future," July 11).

A deteriorating core of a community is dangerous to its economic health.

We need to replace the outdated buildings with architecturally distinguished ones.

We want more places to eat, and we need more housing options for the downtown work force, as well as others who want to live and work in the community.

We must transform Columbia's downtown.

The plan unveiled by General Growth Properties last week is a welcome sign that positive change is in the offing.

Caroline Sherman, Columbia

Walkable city good for health, Earth

With gas prices putting a strain on everyone's budget and many people concerned about the effects of physical inactivity on our bodies and of our dependence on cars on our environment, the General Growth Properties plan for Columbia's Town Center could hardly be more timely ("Views of the future," July 11).

The plan demonstrated a nice distribution of residences and a high degree of connection between the shopping and cultural attractions of downtown.

We all agree that a more beautiful and exciting downtown is a good thing. But making downtown walkable should be more than an amenity; it should be a mandate.

Compact development and connections among residential areas, shopping, entertainment venues and public spaces will make walking possible, pleasant and even necessary - and that will be good for our budgets, our bodies and our planet.

Linda Odum, Columbia

Land conservation a critical concern

Land conservation groups such as the Trust for Public Land are critically important if Maryland is to retain a good quality of life ("Saving the shoreline, one parcel at a time," July 14).

By 2050, Maryland's population could swell by more than 3 million. In this context, land conservation will be essential not just to provide playgrounds and ballfields but to preserve wildlife habitat and sustain the Chesapeake Bay.

I observed firsthand the importance of the Trust for Public Land in 2006 when I was chief of staff at the state Department of Transportation.

The state wanted to preserve a 9-acre site that was part of the scene of the Battle of North Point in Dundalk, but an outside party was needed to negotiate a purchase. Thanks to the trust's work, that historic property was saved from development.

And, quite frankly, I was disappointed that the representative of the Home Builders Association of Maryland quoted in the article did not recognize the valuable work of this organization.

Like school overcrowding, land preservation is an issue on which home builders must be more engaged to preserve Maryland's quality of life.

David Marks, Perry Hall

Earlier battles took greater toll

Without trying to dismiss or diminish the significance of casualties for our military forces in Afghanistan or anywhere else, I don't think the loss of nine U.S. soldiers in a clash with Taliban forces is the bloodbath that the article "Afghanistan attack kills 9 U.S. soldiers" (July 14) seems to imply it is.

When compared with U.S. casualties in other battles in other wars, it was a relatively minor military engagement.

In the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, for example, more than 2,000 American military personnel were killed.

In the battles for Iwo Jima and Okinawa and other Pacific islands, and in the D-Day landings in France, our killed-in-action figures were in the thousands. I'm sure that veterans who served in Korea and Vietnam recall battles involving similar numbers of casualties.

And let us not forget that Islamist terrorists killed about 3,000 Americans in about an hour on Sept. 11, 2001.

Richard Seymour, Baltimore

HBO series reveals the war's realities

Bravo to Baltimore's David Simon, co-creator of the HBO miniseries Generation Kill ("'Kill' shows savagery, cynicism of war," July 13).

The series' portrayal of soldiers in Iraq is accurate in a way that the reporting about the war by reporters, anchors, embedded writers, pundits or politicians describing the war has not been up until now.

The series should be required viewing for reporters and politicians.

Dave Eberhardt, Baltimore

Occupation isn't key to suicide

While one can understand the compassion and concern expressed in the column "Saving the doctors" (Commentary, July 7), the data do not support Dr. Claire Panosian Dunavan's assertion that "medical doctors are more likely to commit suicide than any other professional group."

In the abstract of their study "The suicide mortality of working physicians and dentists," published in the journal Occupational Medicine in 2008, Martin Petersen and Carol A. Burnett report, "For white female physicians, the suicide rate was elevated compared to the working U.S. population. ... For white male physicians and dentists, the overall suicide rates were reduced. ... For older white male physicians and dentists, however, observed suicide rates were elevated."

The factors that contribute to the decision to commit suicide are not always clear.

Statistics that aggregate by occupation may obscure rather than clarify our understanding of the deceased's motivations.

Morris Roseman, Baltimore

The writer is a retired clinical psychologist.

Right to enforce the city's curfew

Kudos to the Baltimore police for stepping up juvenile curfew enforcement ("A question of curfew," July 12). And shame on the parents and civil libertarians who whine about it.

Parental discretion is not the issue here - it is the lack of parental responsibility and common sense that is the crux of the problem.

Who lets a child as young as 8 years old outside to play or thinks it's OK for an 11-year-old to walk the city streets to a friend's house by himself at midnight?

If the adults in charge of these kids were acting responsibly, the youngest kids would be in bed well before midnight and the teens would at least be home, safe and accounted for.

Claire Corcoran, Baltimore

Current woes likely to last for years

After seeing more than 4,100 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, more than 30,000 American troops wounded there, more than $500 billion spent on an unprovoked war, more than 45 million Americans without health insurance, a federal budget deficit of more than $400 billion and prices of more than $4 per gallon for gas, I wonder: How long will it take this country to get over the Bush administration?

Dennis Nugent, Severna Park

Many immigrants created the canal

Kudos to the Allegany County chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians for its successful efforts to erect a monument to the immigrant laborers who endured great hardships to help construct the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal ("Standing strong for those long gone," July 13).

However, by mentioning only the Irish immigrants who worked on the canal, the article creates the impression that only the Irish contributed to this 19th-century engineering marvel.

Other immigrants also worked on the canal, including Germans, who paid a heavy price - indeed, in an 1839 labor dispute, a group of striking Irish laborers attacked a work camp of Germans near Williamsport, killing several.

Our nation owes a great debt to earlier generations of both natural-born Americans and immigrants for their sacrifices to build what is today one of our great national parks.

Charles W. Mitchell, Lutherville

The writer is a regional historian and author of "Maryland Voices of the Civil War."

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