Black market fears were raised unduly by story's...

Letters to the Editor

May 15, 1998

Black market fears were raised unduly by story's placement

Your front-page article "Cigarette black market feared" (May 10) plays straight into the tobacco companies' hands. While the article in its entirety is balanced, its sensationalistic coverage is dangerously considered.

Many readers do not read news articles in full: They skim the front page for the gist of the main stories, then move on to another section of the paper. This front-page story leaves one convinced that if [cigarette] prices rise to the level they're contemplating, organized crime is going to have a field day.

A reader who does not read the whole article will miss the story's counterbalance, introduced in an unfinished sentence on the front page: "There is extremely compelling evidence that tobacco companies themselves are the engineers of cigarette-smuggling wars."

Your article discusses the Canada-U.S. smuggling scheme, along with the tobacco companies' "hint" that higher U.S. taxes will lead to a similar operation ". . . this time by Mexican smugglers." Pity you did not mention that in July, British American Tobacco and Philip Morris purchased Mexico's two cigarette companies for $2.1 billion.

As former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop remarked April 20 to the U.S. Senate's Democratic Caucus, U.S. tobacco companies are setting up "potential black-market mechanisms in Mexico by buying out Mexican tobacco companies."

The Sun has a responsibility to inform readers in a fair manner. Scaring readers with front-page horror stories about black-market thugs might sell newspapers, but it is terribly misleading.

Tamsyn Seimon


Story gave curious teens key to online pornography

The article "Online Smut: Too easy for kids to find?" (May 4) was very informative about a problem with the computer generation that must be dealt with.

However, in this day and age when we are told to encourage our children to read the newspaper, The Sun feels free to make this access to online pornography easier by publishing keywords used to pull smut off the Internet.

Tell me what curious teenager who read M. L. Lykes' article didn't rush right to their home computer to see photos (patched together) of a nude "president" and "first lady" and a naked White House intern?

Jonathan West

Bel Air

Focus attention on curbing medical waste incineration

The Sun should give more coverage to the controversy over medical waste incineration because we have the largest medical incinerator in the country.

The City Council recently voted to rescind the Hawkins Point facility's permit to receive medical waste from a 250-mile radius and instead allow waste from only the eight surrounding counties. The mayor is threatening a veto. Citizens of the metropolitan area should be concerned.

Medical waste is the second-largest source of dioxin in the environment (municipal waste is the largest). It is an important source of mercury emissions as well as carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter.

Some claim that this facility at Hawkins Point is state-of-the-art. If so, emissions data should be readily available to the public. I was unable to receive up-to-date information when I tried. Moreover, it is located in an area of the state that is already highest in exposure to toxic emissions (see the Environmental Defense Fund's Web site).

By making our back yard available for other cities' medical waste, we reduce the incentive for hospitals to decrease their waste.

Baltimoreans already have to breathe some of the dirtiest air in the country. If the mayor is considering a veto of the City Council ban on imported medical waste, then we ought to see this important public health issue given more attention.

Dr. Gwen L. Dubois


The writer is past president of Baltimore Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Hopkins deals fairly with Eastside neighbors

The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions have demonstrated a strong commitment to the revitalization of East Baltimore and are concerned about several unsubstantiated and misleading allegations in an April 26 article ("Homeowners angered by Hopkins bids").

If the reporter had provided the name of the person who made the allegations, we could have provided correct information before the damage was done.

Hopkins never offered the woman who complained to The Sun $500 for her home on North Wolfe Street. According to our records, she called our real estate representatives in September 1997 and offered to sell her house to Hopkins for $30,000. During that same phone conversation, she was told that we could offer $5,000, which is the market value for homes in the location and condition of hers.

Rehabilitating neighborhoods in East Baltimore is a priority for Hopkins, and its community partners. Representatives from Hopkins help families with relocation to ensure that the transition will be as trouble-free as possible.

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