Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

November 24, 2007

Fort Detrick lab poses real threat

As a former resident of Frederick, I found The Sun's report about local residents and officials questioning the biodefense labs under construction at Fort Detrick very interesting ("Biodefense lab causing qualms," Nov. 19).

That report failed to mention, however, that in addition to the 1,425 researchers projected to work at the base, there are thousands of students who attend class right next door.

Frederick Community College enrolls approximately 5,000 full- and part-time students, and the Frederick County Career and Technology Center is also located on its campus.

What is being done to safeguard these students in case of a biological disaster?

For years, workers at the National Cancer Institute located at Fort Detrick lamented cuts in their budget from the Bush administration, while untold billions have gone to pay for war.

Now the president of the Board of County Commissioners says that the federal government made the decision to locate a new $1 billion biodefense facility at the fort in the interests of national defense.

Does this mean that ordinary citizens and their elected representatives shouldn't question the plan in the interest of public safety?

Prior to the last election, Frederick County's commissioners had a long history of allowing nearly any kind of growth or development.

But the current commissioners were voted into office by residents like myself, who opposed unplanned and unquestioned growth, whether to help cure cancer or to beef up our biodefense arsenal.

Gerard Marconi

Baltimore

Match students with right campus

Here's a suggestion for Chancellor William E. Kirwan, the head of the University System of Maryland, regarding his initiative to close the graduation gaps between the races: Fire or demote the administrators admitting too many under-qualified students to various schools in the system ("Md. aims to shrink college gap," Nov. 15).

The system should set up a policy that matches the academic records and SAT scores of an applicant with the Maryland public college that would give the student the best chance at success.

Admitting a student to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, for instance, when he or she should be at, say, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, is a recipe for failure.

Such a policy could actually improve the graduation rate and save the taxpayer millions of dollars that might otherwise be spent hiring new employees and installing new monitoring programs.

David O'Neill

Princess Anne

Theocracies infringe on individual rights

In his column "Refusal to accept a Jewish State" (Opinion

Commentary, Nov. 16), Irwin J. Mansdorf rightly rebutted chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat's specious assertion that "no state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity" by enumerating several countries that call themselves "Islamic Republics."

Mr. Mansdorf also alluded to the fact that many European nations declare Christianity their state religion.

I would like to add that in Greece, only a Greek Orthodox Christian could be the national leader. In Russia, tolerance of even non-Orthodox Christian denominations is a rarity.

In our own country, while we take pride in the separation of church and state, our politicians seldom forgo an opportunity to identify themselves as belonging to either the Christian or Jewish faith.

I truly believe that, in the 21st century, a person's faith ought to remain strictly personal and that no nation should express a preference for any particular religion.

In that regard, I would like to see the United States take the lead in emphasizing the need for a strict separation of religion and state so that truly secular democracies can emerge in which people of all faiths can live and work harmoniously without fear of being disadvantaged because of their religion.

As a nation, we are getting there, no doubt, albeit rather slowly.

And it may be a pie-in-the-sky wish, but I would also hope that some day soon the United Nations will formally encourage theocracies everywhere to become truly secular states that respect the rights of all citizens to follow whatever religion they choose.

C. Alex Alexander

Glen Burnie

McKeldin merits much more credit

Edward Gunts was 100 percent right when he stated in "Building a legacy" (Nov. 12) that it was then-mayor Theodore R. McKeldin who, in the 1960s, "launched the effort to redevelop the Inner Harbor."

This should not take anything away from the fame of former Mayor William Donald Schaefer, who later did a great job implementing the Inner Harbor project.

However, much too often the media have neglected to give Mr. McKeldin, a Republican, the recognition he deserves for his executive leadership as Baltimore's wartime mayor from 1943 to 1947, as mayor during the era in which efforts to develop the Inner Harbor began, from 1963 to 1967, and for his great state roads program and the progress he achieved in civil rights as governor of Maryland from 1951 to 1959.

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