Lobbyist for kids puts partisanship above public healthI...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

May 25, 1999

Lobbyist for kids puts partisanship above public health

I find it ironic that Vincent DeMarco, in his role with the Maryland Children's Initiative, has spent $20,000 on a radio advertising campaign attacking the Republican state senators involved with the extended debate on the tobacco tax.

Four Democrats played a prominent role in extending this debate. Mr. DeMarco's failure to criticize these Democrats is telling.

He apparently cares more about being a mouthpiece for the Democrats than being an effective advocate for children.

His actions threaten the bipartisan coalition in Annapolis that has worked closely on the issue of underage smoking.

I wonder how the contributors to the Maryland Children's Initiative feel about their money's use in a political campaign, rather than for legitimate anti-smoking program development.

While this tobacco tax increase was promoted as a health measure to reduce underage smoking, it unfortunately became a money-grab.

In order to secure their vote for the tobacco tax, the expected additional revenues from the proposed tax were offered to fund various public works projects beneficial to individual legislators.

The governor's proposal did not allocate any of the tax revenue to anti-smoking campaigns. It was the extended debate that generated an agreement to provide $21 million per year to smoking prevention programs.

During this debate, numerous amendments were offered to increase enforcement and penalties for underage smoking violations.

Yet, time and time again, supporters of the tax defeated these amendments.

Where is Vincent DeMarco to let the public know about these proposals?

Obviously, partisan politics is alive and well when Mr. DeMarco and his nonprofit organization can spend $20,000 castigating only the Republican senators involved with the extended debate on the tobacco tax.

Nancy C. Jacobs Bel Air

The writer is a Republican state senator representing the 43rd Legislative District.

Behavior at Preakness considered a disgrace

The Sun's May 20 story on the Preakness-day crowd, "Pimlico infield party, man's troubled past lead to near-tragedy," said: "Whooping women removed their tops and climbed onto men's shoulders, cheered on by groping mobs. Wandering drunks vomited and passed out."

Ah, yes, the pride of Baltimore. As a horse-racing fan of 25 years, I am thoroughly disgusted by what takes place each Preakness Day in my hometown.

My dad trained and raced thoroughbreds in Maryland and Virginia. I witnessed first hand the dignity and grace of this sport of kings. Going to the race track was a special event.

The world's eyes turn to Baltimore to see the "best in racing" on Preakness Day. It is horrible that the day has become a miserable excuse to pack as many drunken idiots as possible into the infield, most of whom have no interest in racing and wouldn't know a proper thoroughbred if it bit them in the backside.

You want to drink, go to a bar. You want to drink to excess, I suggest Alcoholics Anonymous.

You want to watch racing, then come to the track.

Dan Collins Owings Mills

Elections, possible peace leave Israel still divided

The Sun's claim that Prime Minister Ehud Barak must combat religious and ethnic fragmentation within Israel in order to make peace with the Palestinians mis-states the relationship between Israel's internal and external conflicts. ("Changing of the guard in Israeli politics," May 18).

The Arab-Israeli conflict has dominated Israeli politics for the state's entire existence, leaving religious-secular tensions simmering on the back burner.

The Oslo peace process allowed Israelis to begin to consider the national agenda after a final Arab-Israeli settlement. It is in this environment that religious differences have emerged with great force.

Mr. Barak may be able to paper these conflicts in the short term, but progress with the Palestinians will only clear additional room for fights over religious identity, ethnic power and the future of the Jewish state.

Jeremy Pressman Somerville, Mass

I found it extraordinary that even as Ehud Barak crushed Benjamin Netanyahu in the Israeli election, the Labor Party itself lost two seats. And despite all the talk of a great secular victory over the religious parties, the (ultra-orthodox) Shas gained seven seats.

Remarkably, 15 parties now have seats in Israel's 120-member Knesset. Mr. Barak has his work cut out for him forming a government in the coming weeks.

Howard K. Ottenstein Baltimore

`Ultra-orthodox' deemed a derogatory distortion

I keep seeing the term "ultra-orthodox Jew" in The Sun. Who are these people?

I am an orthodox Jew, and I have never met anyone who would call himself "ultra."

We have Modern, Charadi (fearful), Chasidish, Misnagdish, Sefardi, Ashkenazi and Yeshivish orthodox Jews. But we have no ultra-orthodox Jews.

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