Job OpportunityHow does a 28-year-old (Joshua Steiner...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 15, 1994

Job Opportunity

How does a 28-year-old (Joshua Steiner) whose only experience has been as assistant to the president of the New York Public Library and as an editorial intern at Teenage magazine qualify for a $97,000 job as chief of staff to the secretary of the treasury?

William T. S. Bricker

Towson

Evil Weed

The time for divestment from tobacco stocks has arrived. Already Johns Hopkins University, Harvard and many others have divested.

Maryland Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland, the state medical society, own no tobacco stocks whatsoever.

In recent years the caucus of Women Legislators of Maryland has refused to accept tobacco industry donations. Its members recognized that this money was tainted, came with strings attached and was offered by an industry that, although legal, is not legitimate.

Divestment should be done primarily on moral grounds. The industry's continuing efforts to increase smoking rates among minors has been successful both in the U.S. and worldwide.

The effects of tobacco industry tactics in promoting this epidemic have been well documented in the medical literature and elsewhere.

The economic impact of a single institution divesting its tobacco stock is like a spitball hitting a battleship (although the divestment of the state and city pension funds may be more like a basketball hitting a battleship). The more important impact is that the role of the industry in promoting the epidemic becomes publicly recognized, with tangible results.

The day is fast approaching when all politicians will consider the acceptance of tobacco industry campaign contributions an embarrassing political liability. The death grip the industry holds on our political process will be loosened.

We have again seen the powerful tobacco lobby's influence on the health care bill in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. The original proposal to increase tobacco taxes by $2 dollars a pack was whittled down to 75 cents, and finally to a paltry 45 cents phased in over five years.

This was a shameful capitulation considering that the higher tax was supported by 75 percent of the public.

Industry spokespersons will try to compare their product to relatively harmless "pleasures" like fattening food and ask: "Where are you going to draw the line?"

They can't hide the fact that theirs is the only product that is always dangerous when used exactly as directed, killing one of every three long-term heavy users.

Joseph Adams, M.D.

Towson

No Offices

The Power Plant could not be a better icon for Baltimore's expanding tourist industry.

Baltimore can feature a cutting-edge virtual-reality sports center in the Power Plant offering conventioneers and tourists a year-round entertainment choice.

As much as this city should value Alex. Brown, and find an acceptable way to keep it, it should not do so at the expense of the tourist and convention industry.

The Power Plant should not become an office building.

Steve Jeweler

Baltimore

Insensitive

Your editorial "Politically Correct Pensions" (Aug. 2) not only runs the risk of being politically incorrect but also insensitive to the health and longevity of human rights.

In your argument against divestment of state and city pension funds presently invested in tobacco companies, you contend that divestment in South Africa in the 1980s was a "unique human rights issue" -- one not comparable to other divestment efforts.

When an issue deeply affects human welfare in another country, we call it "human rights" and often are counted on the human side. But where the rights to make money conflict with the rights of human beings to health and happiness, our own country, government and media too often side with the rights of big business.

One wonders by what distorted value system it is more important to discourage apartheid than to discourage the makers of a drug that is the cause of suffering and death to many millions.

Your newspaper voices its fear that once started "there's no turning back." Some of us might answer that an increase in the momentum of socially concerned divestment would be a definite force for good in a society that badly needs greater investment in positive human values.

Your editorial ends thusly: "This money must be preserved and protected. That is the only purpose for setting up a retirement program."

Just like pension funds, the sole purpose of tobacco companies is to expand, preserve and protect earnings. Do you feel the consequences to people's health are therefore irrelevant?

Richard C. Berman

Baltimore

Nothing Hidden

Your July 18 article, "Zoning dispute embroils Hunt Valley Church," gave an inaccurate account of our group's efforts to follow the county's development process.

The prevailing rules and regulations governing the proposed construction of St. Mary's were always fully addressed by the church, its architect and engineering team.

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