Letters To The Editor


January 06, 2004

UMBC's fervor for chess adds to competition

The Sun's article on the University of Maryland, Baltimore County chess team's second-place finish in the Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship overlooked several essential facts ("Without 3 stars, winning streak ends for UMBC chess team," Dec. 31).

The article leads readers to believe that the eligibility of past players was questionable. However, the players representing UMBC at previous tournaments met all eligibility requirements in place at the time of those tournaments.

UMBC has consistently held its players to higher academic standards than those of the U.S. Chess Federation. And Alan Sherman, UMBC computer science professor and director of our chess program, has been a leader in the process of tightening national eligibility standards for college chess.

The article's conclusion that UMBC's recent second-place finish in the Pan-Am championship was caused by the departure of several older players from the team also does a disservice to our current players. The average U.S. Chess Federation rating for our top four players is actually higher than that of the group that won the Pan Am tournament a year ago, and their combined grade point average is 3.58.

We are very proud of our chess team. And the fact is that the excitement we feel about chess and the life of the mind at UMBC is now spreading to other institutions, producing a new level of competition, which we welcome.

We congratulate the University of Texas, Dallas chess team on its Pan Am victory, and we look forward to a rematch in April at the "Final Four" of college chess.

Lisa Akchin


The writer is an associate vice president at UMBC.

Still awaiting award months after Isabel

The Sun's editorial "Storm warnings" (Dec. 30) did not address the depth of the problem. I have flood insurance through a private carrier and suffered significant flood damage during Tropical Storm Isabel. More than 100 days after the damage, I am no closer to getting a check than I was the night I abandoned my house to the rising water.

I wrote to the Maryland Insurance Commission in the hope that it would provide some pressure on my carrier to be responsive. The response I received stated that because flood insurance is a federal program, the state commission does not have jurisdiction.

The commission provided a phone number at the Federal Emergency Management Agency that I could call to make my complaint. When I called that number, I was told that they have no oversight over private insurance carriers and I should contact my state insurance commission.

I consider myself lucky in that I have a house that is livable and can therefore try to obtain a fair settlement, but some of my neighbors cannot live in their houses and are under tremendous pressure to sign and get some money.

And at least the people of Baltimore County have a county executive who is trying to do something for them.

Richard C. Brown


Keep the politics out of insurance dispute

The Sun's editorial "Storm warning" (Dec. 30) left me somewhat perplexed.

It refers to Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. calling state Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer Jr. "aloof and uncaring to the victims of Tropical Storm Isabel." But as the county executive, what does Mr. Smith know about the insurance business?

If he were a true executive who had his constituents in mind, he would have called Mr. Redmer and shared his thoughts. Instead, being a Democrat, he found fault with the Republican insurance commissioner and his employees through the press.

Why not let Mr. Redmer and the insurance administration do their jobs and leave politics out of the matter?

Stephen L. Rosenstein


No pity for inmates' bad living conditions

It's an outrage that someone who has been arrested as a suspect for causing others death, pain, suffering or anguish should have to endure stinky jail cells, gross toilets and interior decorating that would give embolisms to the crew on a home improvement network ("A jail in crisis," editorial, Jan. 2). After all, we are all just equally poor victims who are not responsible for our actions.

But I would strongly suggest to everyone that they restrain and behave themselves and not commit crimes. Otherwise, this could result in being arrested and in then spending a very yucky weekend.

Then, after the demands of the American Civil Liberties Union are met, and inmates' constitutional rights are restored, we can go back to our usual behavior. I hope this won't take too long.

Blaine Mischel


Don't blame the slots for embezzler's sins

If the purpose of The Sun's article about the woman who stole to play the slots was to prove people are fallible, it succeeded ("Ardent bettors may add embezzling to problems," Dec. 28). If the purpose was to blame slot machines, then it was way off the mark.

The woman in the article was a thief. She stole because she lacked integrity and moral fiber.

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