Amtrak SafetyThe Dec. 28 editorial headlined "Amtrak's...


January 09, 1994

Amtrak Safety

The Dec. 28 editorial headlined "Amtrak's Troubled Railroad" made the good point that government underwriting is essential for Amtrak just as it is for air and highway travel.

Other observations in the editorial are interesting and appropriate to a thought-provoking opinion piece.

One statement, however, is a glaring error: ". . . lack of federal aid meant cuts in maintenance that led to . . . a recent raft of derailments."

These highly publicized, sometimes tragic accidents over the past year were all caused by motor vehicles and -- in one case -- a river barge improperly intruding on railroad property.

None of them has been attributed either to cuts in maintenance or any other failure on the part of Amtrak or any other railroad.

At Amtrak, safety is our first priority. We must find ways to force motorists to obey existing laws and exercise caution at grade crossings.

The barge-bridge accident in Alabama is under investigation, but focus is on rules requiring stricter guidelines for mariners.

homas M. Downs


The writer is president of Amtrak.

Ukraine Nukes

The Sun's Dec. 29 editorial "Ukraine in the Cockpit" ends with the following quotation: "A secure yet non-nuclear Ukraine should be a prime objective for 1994." I say "Amen" to this. I feel that additional comments are warranted here.

Ukraine has never developed her own nuclear bomb. It is true that she inherited part of the Soviet nuclear arsenal, which was on her territory, but she has no plans or desire to go nuclear.

Ukraine has already turned over to Russia the 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons to be destroyed there. Unfortunately, nobody knows what happened to them. Ukraine's Ambassador O. Bilorus recently said in Washington that they "disappeared without trace or possibility of on-site inspection."

Ukraine is not a threat to anyone, but she is worried about the mounting hawkish language coming more and more against her from Moscow.

Her efforts to obtain security guarantees from the West go unanswered. Left to herself and not having been able yet to organize a mighty conventional army to feel secure against a Russian threat, Ukraine feels more and more that nuclear weapons on her soil are the only guarantee of her territorial integrity.

The current U.S. policy of "strategic partnership" with Russia gives additional reasons to Ukraine as well as to other former Soviet nations to worry more then ever. They are afraid that such a policy would only encourage Russian aggression against them. Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski has dubbed this policy as "Yalta II."

Perhaps the forthcoming meeting of President Clinton with President Yeltsin in Moscow will shed more light on what is the true policy of the United States as far as the security of Ukraine is concerned.

Will it be identified with the independent Ukraine and other former Soviet nations, or will it side with Russia's attempts to re-establish a Russian Empire?

Wolodymyr C. Sushko


Bones to Pick With Peter Jay

I take issue with Peter Jay's column on the ill effects of government licensing practices ("The Power to Destroy," Dec. 30).

Instead of a balanced critique or an attempt to evaluate various licensing practices in an empirical manner, Mr. Jay follows a "reification of perceptions" approach that is, sadly, all too common in journalism today.

When Mr. Jay does use data to bolster his preconceptions, his logic is questionable. For instance, near the end of the article, he says, "It's worth remembering that as a rule the tougher the gun laws in an American city or state, the greater the rate of violent crime."

The implicit assertion in that statement is that licensing laws somehow contribute to violent crime. However, it is quite possible that other processes are accounting for the relationship between licensing laws and violent crime.

Perhaps toughened licensing laws in many of the cities or states cited were not a cause of violent crime but a response to an already critical violent crime problem. Who knows, without more information?

I'm not saying that all government licensing practices are effective or logical. Moreover, every American is entitled to his or her opinion.

However, I do think that the only way that we can make progress on any issue is to be informed of the issues before we pass judgment. Mr. Jay (along with many other journalists) has missed this point.

Chet Robie


Peter A. Jay makes a valid point in describing the "struggle" between the flesh and the spirit at Christmas, and how in modern times commercialization and retailing unfortunately have become the predominant influences of the season ("Flesh and ** Spirit Wage Yuletide War," Dec. 23).

zTC However, he gratuitously takes some unfair and unwarranted shots at lawyers (apparently the "politically correct" thing to do nowadays) by blaming them for the inevitable disputes over the appropriateness of religious celebrations in the public schools.

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