U.S. government isn't decreasing food aid budget
The Sun's thoughtful article on U.S. efforts to supply food to the needy in Afghanistan, Sudan and other countries in crisis raises awareness of this important task carried out by U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) and other U.S. agencies. But it might have failed to fully explain just how significant and complex our contribution to fighting hunger is ("U.S. is slashing world food aid contributions," Dec. 19).
In 2004, we have provided more than $2.1 billion in food aid - a figure that included $945 million in food and money provided through the U.N. World Food Program, or half of all emergency food aid to the WFP.
What the article characterized as the cancellation or delay of food orders is really temporary deferrals in some start-up development programs that we have imposed to meet the more pressing needs of food emergencies.
The United States is not cutting food aid. Indeed, in the last four years, we have significantly increased the basic food aid budget from $800 million a year to $1.2 billion - and this amount is often augmented by supplemental funds to address famines or crises.
If there are some shortages in funds for food programs, this is the result of increased demand for aid, an increase in shipping costs and the ways the U.S. government's budget cycle affects the flow of funds.
Every year, our first priority is to allocate the necessary food to emergency situations. Once that is covered and we know people are not going to die from lack of food, we focus on development projects.
These development projects use U.S. food to feed school children, people with HIV/AIDS, the vulnerable and the malnourished so they can help themselves.
Like anyone who has to live within a budget, the U.S. AID is prudently tackling the most dire situations first - giving people food who need it for survival.
But we do not intend to cut food aid.
Andrew S. Natsios
The writer is the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
State should support stem cell research
Because of the vacuum created by insufficient federal support for stem cell research, states across the country are forging ahead with their own initiatives to promote this area of medical science ("Stem cell funding sought," Dec. 19).
Now is the time to protect Maryland's significant investments in this field, which holds such promise for the millions of people with spinal cord injuries, diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other costly, devastating diseases.
Our state cannot match California's enormous outlay of $3 billion over 10 years for stem cell research, but we can provide some financial incentives.
Just as important, Maryland lawmakers should send a clear message to state researchers and biotech companies that their work is welcome here.
Maryland lawmakers and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. must take a leadership role in supporting this research now rather than risk losing world- class scientists from Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland and our emerging biotech industry to more favorable research environments in California or even abroad.
Margaret Conn Himelfarb
`Reform' may ruin Social Security
Beware. President Bush - who has demonstrated his profound ignorance of economics by running up more national debt than any previous American president, who believes that reducing taxes for the rich will solve the deficit problem, who has presided over an embarrassing weakening of the dollar, who has further burdened a financially strapped Medicare program with a horribly expensive prescription drug plan - yes, this fiscally challenged president is now going to come to the rescue of Social Security ("Fix Social Security now, Bush says," Dec. 17).
We can only hope he does not destroy it to save it.
John D. Venables
Will Bush supporters answer call to duty?
Given the results of the recent election, the National Guard's inability to meet its recruitment quota appears odd ("Guard acts to step up efforts for recruiting," Dec. 18).
Surely, President Bush should be able to find 50,000 to 100,000 volunteers among the 60 million voters who supported him who are willing to enlist in the Guard and make the necessary sacrifices - including perhaps their lives - to support him in winning his war in Iraq.
Philip J. Avillo Jr.
Dimming bright spot in the daily paper
My family and I have subscribed to The Sun since 1928. In those past 76 years, a lot of changes have taken place in our newspaper, some of them good and some of them bad. But I was shocked to find last week that about 30 percent of the comics section had been deleted and what was left was so compressed I need a magnifying glass to read the print.
Not only that, but The Sun removed some of the best strips and replaced them with junk such as "Pearls Before Swine" and "Get Fuzzy."