Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

August 14, 2004

Disney's script distorts life at Naval Academy

The Sun's editorial "Annapolis, Pa." (Aug. 6) discusses the decision by the Walt Disney Co. to film the movie Annapolis in Philadelphia rather than in Annapolis and Maryland. The Sun stated that it was "the Navy that sank Annapolis," and asked, "What's the Navy thinking?" I will tell you.

The producers of the film are still working on the script. The Navy has provided extensive notes detailing our objections and provided comprehensive access to the Naval Academy for research by the filmmakers. We are continuing to work with Disney toward the goal of filming at the Naval Academy. But let me give you a general idea of the reasons for our reservations in supporting this script.

The Sun points out that our objection to the script stems from a scene in which a plebe punches an officer (actually a first-class midshipman). The punch itself was not the core of our objection, but the fact that the plebe involved does not suffer any consequences for his action.

In the script, a physical assault is "put on hold" by the superintendent and senior leadership of the academy until the plebe can compete in a boxing match. This would not happen at the academy. In the script, similar incidents of hazing, fraternization and other misbehavior occur while senior leaders are standing by watching -- and, by their silence, condoning such actions.

It is this inaccurate portrayal of the academy that is at the roots of our objections to the script.

The editorial makes oblique references to highly publicized incidents that occurred in the past that were a great embarrassment to the academy. Since those occurrences, the academy has taken extensive time and trouble to eliminate the atmosphere that spawned those despicable incidents. It has succeeded.

Would The Sun have the academy encourage the impression that this atmosphere still exists just for the sake of a movie?

Probably the most telling thing about the script occurred when it was shown recently to a couple of distinguished graduates of this year's class at the academy.

Their response was, basically: We were top of our class in high school, varsity athletes. We could write our own tickets. We wouldn't have attended the Naval Academy if it was really like the way it is portrayed in that script.

That's the core of the Navy's objection to Annapolis.

Cmdr. Bob Anderson

Los Angeles

The writer is director of the U.S. Navy's Office of Information West.

Bears shouldn't pay the price for sprawl

The editorial supporting the hunt of black bears was a disappointing departure from The Sun's past, principled stand against such a hunt ("Maryland's bear season," editorial, Aug. 3).

As The Sun knows well, we human beings nearly hunted the Maryland bear to extinction before reintroducing it to the wilder portions of the state. Now we're reneging on the promise we made to future generations by allowing development to creep farther and farther into the bears' habitat, and planning to kill them if they dare to stick around.

The question is not whether the bears will invade the Washington and Baltimore suburbs, as the editorial implies, but whether the suburbs' relentless, land-hungry expansion will further invade the areas we ought to protect for wildlife.

Is it really fair to ask the tiny population of black bears -- and most of God's other creatures -- to pay with their lives merely to save us the trouble of planning our own habitat?

Parris N. Glendening

Annapolis

The writer is a former governor of Maryland.

Don't wait for attack to control the bears

The two letters to the editor in Monday's Sun from the anti-hunting lobby, which took the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to task for promoting a bear hunt, bordered on the absurd ("Still no reason for Md. to allow killing of bears," letters, Aug. 9).

They suggest that there really isn't a bear problem and that hunting be ruled out as an option. But by fighting to stop hunting as an effective means of wildlife management, these so-called animal protection groups get in the way of effectively dealing with the potential problem of an increasing bear population in Maryland.

Should we wait for the first bear attack on a pet or child before we do something?

We should commend Mr. Ehrlich for his vision and let DNR do its job and use all means available, including hunting, to manage the wildlife in our state.

Mike Parrish

Phoenix

EPA hasn't defined limits on mercury

The Sun's article "Md. fish exceed safe levels of mercury, group reports" (Aug. 4) is an example of how a seemingly straight news article can be misleading, particularly for those who read only the headlines.

The report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) implies that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has determined that more than half of all freshwater fish sampled from America's lakes are unsafe for women of childbearing age. But that is the PIRG's spin on the data; the EPA made no such statement.

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