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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Md. can't afford to build the ICC

In "Road block?" (July 31), state officials and AAA Mid-Atlantic officials lament the loss of transportation revenues as Marylanders drive less as a result of high gas prices. This shortage of funds gives us still another reason to cancel Montgomery County's Intercounty Connector.

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The Maryland Department of Transportation admits that the ICC would not relieve congestion, and we know it would fuel more sprawl and lead to large increases in driving and greenhouse gas emissions.

We also know that it would destroy thousands of acres of forests with streams and wetlands, and this would have a serious impact on the Chesapeake Bay.

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And with declining transportation revenues, moving forward with the ICC is certain to require major cuts in other road and transit projects throughout the state.

The ICC is scheduled to siphon away well more than $2.4 billion in Maryland revenues, including $1.2 billion in toll revenues taken from Baltimore-area toll facilities and other tolls around the state.

Another $750 million would come from borrowing against future federal transportation funding, and $200 million more will come from other state and federal sources.

The total price tag for the ICC, with interest, is $3.1 billion.

Before MDOT spends another dime on the ICC and before we denude another acre of forest, legislators should demand to know what transportation projects MDOT plans to eliminate or delay because of the ICC. And Gov. Martin O'Malley should reconsider how to allocate resources in the face of the global energy upheaval.

In a world of high energy prices and climate change, we simply cannot afford a project conceived in the 1950s.

Instead, we need to invest in a more energy-efficient land-use and transportation future for our children and grandchildren.

It's time to cancel the ICC.

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Stewart Schwartz, Washington

The writer is executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Experiment a step to car-free future

The Sun's article "Parked" (Aug. 3) will surely be an inspiration to many, all the more so because of its naked, if not sweaty, truth and its humor.

I've spent quite a bit of time in Philadelphia and New York in the past three years and have fallen in love again with both cities.

Their greatest appeal is the ease of getting about on foot, by bicycle or, best of all, by public transportation. In either city, a car is a nuisance.

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And I've noticed - although I can't substantiate this claim with expensive or extensive studies - that there seem to be far fewer obese folks in those cities, particularly in New York.

All that walking is beneficial for reasons from personal fitness to environmental concerns to having a Zen experience in one's own community.

It is my sincere hope that Baltimore can follow suit, and become a more pedestrian- and biker-friendly city, one that encourages its citizens to leave their cars parked.

Reporter Jill Rosen's weeklong experiment may get us all one step closer.

Myra MacCuaig, Towson

Ignoring Iraqis simply shameful

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Does no one else share my shame that we have taken such poor care of people who have put their lives at risk to assist our troops in Iraq ("An Iraqi hero awaits thanks," Aug. 4)?

I would hope there might be an outpouring of generosity and support for all of those Iraqis who served, and often saved, our troops in Iraq - especially the disabled Iraqis.

That generosity should include benefits provided by our government, such as working legs for Saad Ahmed, as well as support from those of us who might live near these displaced Iraqis.

Suzanne O'Hatnick, Baltimore

Why stockpile deadly anthrax?

Here is a question I have yet to see asked: Why does the United States possess and continue to make weapons-grade anthrax ("Anthrax questions," editorial, Aug. 5)?

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Given the fact that this weapon is designed for only one purpose - to kill people - how can the U.S. government justify making and possessing such a weapon?

Wasn't Saddam Hussein's alleged possession of such biological weapons one of the reasons we gave for invading Iraq?

Olatunji Mwamba, Baltimore

Palestinian rage is barrier to peace

I would remind the letter writer who claims Israel never intended to negotiate in good faith with the Palestinians that then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was ready to cede 97 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians and make a deal on Jerusalem at the end of the Clinton administration ("Israel didn't want peace pact," Aug. 4).

Yasser Arafat's response was to launch another intifada, bringing additional misery to his people and plunging the region into chaos once again.

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The main impediment to peace in the Middle East is the hatred of Israelis that Palestinians teach their children.

Until that changes, no peace deal can be negotiated and no deal can last.

Gary Stein, Reisterstown

Wage floor impedes freedom to work

If raising the minimum wage would actually help low-income workers, I would be the first in line to lobby our legislators to do so ("Rethinking minium wage," editorial, Aug. 4). However, that idea not only defies 200 years of economic thought, it also defies common sense.

There is a supply and demand for everything, and labor is no exception.

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When the price of labor is held artificially high by a minimum-wage law, there are some workers willing to work for less than the minimum wage and some employers willing to hire workers for a lower wage.

However, even though the worker and the employer might find such an arrangement mutually beneficial, the minimum-wage law makes that transaction illegal.

How can this be good for the worker who would have a job if not for the minimum-wage law, or for our economy, whose output is smaller than it otherwise would have been because the worker cannot take that job?

Steve Harbin, Woodbine

Minimum wage is no cure for poverty

The Sun should rethink its editorial "Rethinking minimum wage" (Aug. 4).

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The editorial's account of history is flawed; the federal minimum wage began in 1938, not in the 1950s.

More important, it's untrue that the data are "compelling" that "a minimum wage is helpful in the fight against poverty."

Economists Joseph Sabia and Richard Burkhauser, in research published last year in the respected journal Contemporary Economic Policy, found that "minimum-wage increases (1988-2003) did not affect poverty rates overall, or among the working poor or among single mothers."

This finding is consistent not only with the fact that just a tiny fraction of workers (less than 5 percent) are paid wages as low as the minimum wage and the fact that 80 percent of minimum-wage workers live in non-poor households but also with the findings of other rigorous studies.

Donald J. Boudreaux, Fairfax, Va.

The writer is chairman of the economics department at George Mason University.

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Death denotes the end of an era

The death of Russian Nobel Prize-winning author Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn clearly marks the end of an era ("Laureate of history, sorrow," Aug. 4).

His life spanned the critical years of a turbulent 20th century: from the end of the first modern, destructive war in 1918, through the rise of totalitarianism in the 1920s and 1930s, which led to a second devastating world war, then through the end of the Cold War and the demise of Soviet Communism.

His lasting legacy is his warnings about the dangers of ideologies that assume man and social organizations can be transformed at a stroke.

I fear that failure to heed his advice will result in a 21st century that could be as catastrophic as the last one.

His voice will surely be missed.

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Paul W. Gery, Glen Burnie


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