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READERS RESPOND

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Kathleen Parker trades in conspiracy theories

In her June 24 column "Iran's revolution now has a name and a symbol," Kathleen Parker writes that Neda Agha-Soltan might have been shot by one of her protesting comrades, not by an Iranian militiaman. She goes on to suggest that Ms. Agha-Soltan might have willingly participated in her execution and its haunting videotaping, in order to create a backlash against the Ahmadinejad regime.

In like fashion, entertainer David Letterman's recent smear of Gov. Sarah Palin's daughter was secretly undertaken on behalf of the Republican Party, to drum up sympathy for Ms. Palin. And conservative Gov. Mark Sanford was following liberal orders when he flew to Argentina to tango with his mistress, so that public opinion would stay with the Democrats.

I could sit in my basement and turn half-baked conspiracy theories into rambling blog posts. However, I would rather be paid to write a regular opinion column for The Baltimore Sun.

It works for Ms. Parker!

Alastair Mackay, Towson

Legislature shouldn't alter slots program

I must take issue with James Karmel's op-ed article "Help slots succeed" (June 25). His premise is that to help slots succeed, the legislature should reduce the gaming industry's taxes.

As a former legislator, having dealt with taxation of industries for 12 years, I say it is a rare case when taxes are the key to success. Taxes are simply another cost of doing business. The gaming industry's problem is the economy, not Maryland taxes. What is disturbing is to revisit the acrimonious debate on slots as it takes precious time from the 90 day session.

Nine people died in the Washington Metro accident, with the basic problem being the failure to adequately fund modernization of the system. This is an example of where legislative energy should be spent, not whether a $425 tax on a gambling machine is high.

Theodore Levin, Baltimore

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

Foster care an 'extremely toxic intervention'

The state's consent decree with child welfare advocates over Baltimore foster care is a step in the right direction because this settlement puts a new emphasis on the most important change Baltimore needs to make: Doing more to keep children out of foster care in the first place.

Most parents who lose their children to foster care are nothing like those whose cases, rightly, make headlines. And in typical cases, extensive research shows that children left in their own homes do better even than comparably maltreated children placed in foster care. That does not mean no child ever should be taken from her or his parents. Rather, it means that foster care is an extremely toxic intervention that should be used sparingly.

But for decades Baltimore has prescribed mega-doses of foster care. The proportion of the city's children in foster care is far higher than most others and more than triple the national average for cities.

Not only does that hurt the children wrongfully removed, it also steals time and resources from finding the children in real danger who really must be taken away - and that is almost always the real reason for headline-making horror stories.

Brenda Donald is the first Department of Human Resources leader in a long time to recognize all this - and that's another reason this settlement may work. And yes, it won't require additional money, if Donald is not stymied in her commendable efforts to reduce placements in group homes and institutions. These are both the worst form of care and the most expensive.

Richard Wexler, Alexandria, Va.

The writer is executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

Street racing and drag racing are not the same thing

I'd like to offer my comments on your recent editorial, "Shut it down" (June 23).

The use of deterrents such as cameras and rumble strips will not stop drag racing. Drag racing is a professional motor sport, and the racing takes place on a race track. The tracks are a quarter-mile long, have barriers on either side, with medians beyond that, and then a fence to protect the spectators from injury in case of an accident. The NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) is the largest sanctioning body in the country.

Cars that wish to race must be safety inspected before they are able to participate. Drivers also wear protective gear such as helmets and fire suits. Drag racing is a very safe form of motor sport.

Cameras and rumble strips would be effective, however, in preventing street racing, which is illegal in all states.

To call street racing drag racing does a great injustice to a very popular and legal form of motor sport. Please learn the difference.

Please inform your readers that if they wish to race their cars to do it at a sanctioned drag strip where all safety precautions are taken to keep everyone safe.

My heart goes out to the families of those recently killed by someone involved with illegal street racing in Baltimore. This is a painful example of the consequences of street racing.

Jackee Allen, Ironia, N.J.

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