Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

October 22, 2005

Fair trade is tool in fight for justice

I buy my fair-trade hazelnut coffee from the American Friends Service Committee. So I read with interest Jay Hancock's column "Fair-trade movement gains speed, criticism" (Oct. 16).

And I was surprised to read this: "People on the left complain that fair trade doesn't help enough farmers, provides do-gooder camouflage for evil corporations and, even worse, generates big profits for people other than the Third World growers."

Yet Mr. Hancock does not actually quote any one from the left criticizing fair trade. As a social justice activist, I have only heard criticism of fair trade from the right.

Also upsetting to me, as an anti-apartheid activist, was his denigration of the movement for socially responsible investing: "For my money, the fair-trade movement is far more constructive than the `socially responsible' investment fad, which tries to wear the same halo. Social investing hasn't kept one cigarette from being smoked or one slots lever from being pulled."

Of course, Mr. Hancock offers no proof or statistics for his claim.

Most unbiased observers, however, credit the movement for divestment from South Africa as the means that brought down apartheid.

In the struggle for justice, we need to use all the tools we can - including fair trade, socially responsible investing and nonviolent civil resistance.

Max Obuszewski

Baltimore

Polygamist guilty of serious abuse

I was deeply concerned about The Sun's misleading article "Polygamist gives up parental rights" (Oct. 16).

The article noted that "critics contend the sect teaches and promotes sexual abuse of young girls through illegal marriages, incest and polygamy."

In fact, John Daniel Kingston, the father in the article, was sentenced to 28 weeks in prison for beating and belt-whipping a 16-year-old daughter from another marriage before leaving her alone in the Utah mountains. Her crime was trying to escape sexual relations with her uncle, Mr. Kingston's brother, whom she had been forced to "marry" as his 15th wife. The uncle served time in prison for the sexual abuse of a child.

This is not contention; it is fact.

In addition, another wife of Mr. Kingston's brother died at 15 of toxemia while giving birth.

The girl had been married that man - who is also her half-brother - at age 14. When it was learned that the same man later married a niece, he was fired from his job in the Utah State House.

Recently in Utah, another Kingston was found guilty of marrying his cousin, who was also his aunt, when she was underage.

These are not contentions; they are convictions.

I am pleased to say that a report I did on the Kingstons for the United Nations' human rights division and other human rights groups was partially responsible for Mr. Kingston being ordered to pay child support to Heidi Mattingly.

And by the way, Mr. Kingston could not even name his children in court.

When publishing articles about American polygamous organizations, please, in the future, publish the whole truth.

In America, abuse is a crime, not a religion.

Lorna Craig

Elkton

Redmer challenged abuses by insurers

After working with state Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer throughout his tenure, I was deeply saddened to learn of his departure ("Redmer resigns after 2 years," Oct. 12).

I first met Mr. Redmer hours before his confirmation hearing. He had met with me and with a state senator to learn of the preliminary results of my investigation into the low-balling of National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) flood claims.

Once he was insurance commissioner, I watched as high-ranking Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials attempted to pull the wool over his eyes about the NFIP, as they have many other officials and victims.

Much to his credit, Mr. Redmer stepped up and went beyond what any other commissioner had done to ensure fair flood claim settlements.

Mr. Redmer not only implemented his own investigation but also communicated with me regularly on these issues.

As soon as he learned the complex facts that FEMA and the insurance carriers had successfully obfuscated for years, Mr. Redmer led the charge in every way possible to right significant wrongs.

He had a strong voice on Capitol Hill and with his peers. His extraordinary efforts have changed the flood insurance industry. And while much work remains, Mr. Redmer has laid the groundwork for the inevitable collapse of the industry's wrongdoing in this area.

Had his critics on these issues known what I had learned in more than 6,000 hours investigating FEMA, they would agree that Mr. Redmer's performance was stellar, and his integrity was unparalleled.

It takes an exceptional person to stand up to his own industry and do the right thing, and Mr. Redmer did just that.

Steven J. Kanstoroom

Oxford

The writer is the founder of FEMAinfo.us, a Web site for disaster victims.

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