Letters To The Editor


November 16, 2003

Maryland needs EPA to take on mercury polluters

The Environmental Protection Agency's decision to drop enforcement lawsuits against hundreds of power plants ("EPA abandons air pollution cases," Nov. 6) will not only affect our health and environment, it will also be a serious blow to the fishing industry. Mercury pollution from power plants already hurts Maryland's women, children and fishermen, yet the EPA still refuses to write strong regulations for its emission.

A 2002 regional study showed that Maryland had the highest mercury content in its rain of the dozen states studied, and the Maryland Department of the Environment has posted health warnings for mercury covering every lake and river in the entire state.

Mercury's effects on the central nervous system are comparable to those of lead, causing severe neurological and developmental problems, especially to children and fetuses. We are exposed to mercury when we eat fish contaminated with mercury.

In addition to the health risk, these high mercury levels damage Maryland's economy. Maryland's recreational fishing industry brings the state over $480 million each year, but it is being seriously compromised by mercury warnings.

One major reason for this problem is that mercury emissions from power plants, the largest industrial source of mercury pollution, are totally unregulated. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is directed to require power plants to install the best available pollution-control technologies.

The EPA is already under court order to begin implementing these controls, but recent EPA decisions make it seem unlikely that the EPA will respond to this order with the strong laws we need to protect our health.

To protect Maryland's waterways and the health of our children, the EPA must set the strongest possible mercury standards, and not let dirty power plants rewrite our clean air rules to avoid cleaning up their pollution.

Gillian Ream


The writer is an environmental associate with the Maryland Public Interest Research Group.

Where wrong word can be hazardous

In his article "To win over Iraqis, speak their language" (Nov. 9), G. Jefferson Price III glosses over a fundamental truth that is frequently overlooked in an attempt to be "evenhanded" in reporting the Middle East: He admits that slipping into the wrong language in the wrong place could be dangerous. "To greet someone in Israel with the Arabic salam aleikum (peace be upon you) would not cause trouble," he wrote. "To greet someone in Syria or Iraq with shalom could lead to an unhappy visit from government thugs."

There is no "cycle of violence" in the Middle East. Israel did not declare war on the Arab world. On the other hand, Syria and Iraq - countries not suffering from "occupation" - treat even the use of Hebrew as a serious crime.

Benjie Gerstman

Beit Shemesh, Israel

Israel can have wall, just not the land

I agree with Aron U. Raskas in his article that Israel has a right to build a fence in Israel to protect Israeli citizens ("Israel rightly builds fence to save its citizens' lives," Opinion

Commentary, Nov. 11).

I sharply disagree with him, though, when he argues that Israel has the right to "appropriate" land for the fence "just as any local municipality would do in exercising its powers of eminent domain." The use of eminent domain is not a legal means for any country to seize land outside its borders. His statement that "the fence is not a political border; that will be set through negotiations" only hides a ploy to take Palestinian land.

One first step in solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem is for Israel to return all of the Palestinian land to the Palestinians based on the borders that before 1967 were recognized by everyone, including Israel. Israel should have every right to build a fence or wall between itself and the Palestinians. But building settlements on Palestinian land ever closer to the Palestinians only inflames the situation and requires Israel to have to defend not only Israel proper, but also the settlements on the land it's taking from the Palestinians.

Jay Ziegler


Our responsibility to Lee Boyd Malvo

In his article claiming that the insanity defense threatens "the core notion of human responsibility," Dr. Irwin Savodnik pronounced that "Mr. Malvo was not, and never has been, mentally ill" ("Inside Malvo's mind," Opinion

Commentary, Nov. 9). But entering an insanity plea is a legitimate legal tactic, one that is sometimes the most responsible choice; publicly diagnosing a stranger from afar is arguably neither legitimate nor responsible.

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