Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

May 20, 2008

Selling food pays for additional aid

David Kohn contends that humanitarian aid agencies oppose reforms to U.S. food aid because the system "subsidizes" our bottom line ("It's time to stop a tragic waste," May 11) . Nothing could be further from the truth.

Most large aid agencies, including Catholic Relief Services, CARE and Save the Children, have been striving to improve our nation's overseas food assistance program.

We have worked toward minimizing or eliminating the practice of selling food aid to raise cash to pay for programs that fight chronic hunger.

We have also pushed for the flexibility to use cash to buy food in or near the country where it is needed, and we have fought the requirement to use U.S.-flagged carriers to ship the food overseas.

It is also incorrect to say that nonprofit aid agencies serving the poor in the developing world make "profits" from the sale of food in target countries.

The cash raised by the sale of food aid supports programs that specifically address the causes of hunger.

These programs include efforts to promote agricultural development, primary health care, clean water and basic sanitation - activities that help people living in extreme poverty to pull themselves up one notch and ensure a better future for their children.

Ken Hackett, Baltimore

The writer is president of Catholic Relief Services.

Nutritional charity begins at home

In David Kohn's ranting about wasteful food aid, he gets one thing right - the United States is wasting a lot of money on its foreign aid program, although not for the reasons he cites ("It's time to stop a tragic waste," Commentary, May 11).

First and foremost, as long as there are hungry senior citizens and children in this nation, not one slice of bread should be sent "over there," wherever that might be.

In many instances, we give food relief to countries that hate us and often oppose the United States in the United Nations.

Mr. Kohn opposes the policy of purchasing this food from our own producers, and would rather we spend that money outside our troubled economy to purchase food aid in the countries that need it.

There is a hint of lunacy here: If the countries that need the food have it to sell to us to give back to them, why must the United States play this costly, wasteful and crazy role of middle man?

If those countries have the food to sell, let them give it to their own people.

If we have to purchase food to give away, why not allow our own farmers to profit? What is wrong with that idea?

Under Mr. Kohn's plan, we not only would be penalizing U.S. taxpayers by having them fund our generosity but also would be unnecessarily harming our own food industry by spending those tax dollars outside of our depressed economy.

That is insanity.

Bob Di Stefano, Abingdon

Democrats finally act to stop war

For once, I have something nice to say to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the congressional Democrats: Thank you for defeating the $166 billion war funding bill ("House rejects more funds for Iraq, Afghan wars," May 16).

Ending the funding for this disastrous war is the only thing that the peace movement cares about.

In 2006, voters gave the Democrats control of both houses of Congress so that they would end the Iraq war.

I'm delighted to see that they are starting to earn their pay.

Douglas E. McNeil, Baltimore

The writer is the treasurer of Voters for Peace.

California ruling shows way forward

As a father and husband living in a committed same-sex relationship in Maryland, it's heartening to see progress on marriage equality for same-sex couples in California ("Calif. court OKs gay marriage," May 16).

The domestic partnership rights bills awaiting Gov. Martin O'Malley's signature are a first, small step toward the same sort of legal protections and equality needed by so many same-sex couples in Maryland.

Josh Sullivan, Columbia

State must uphold full marital equality

The headline "Calif. court OKs gay marriage" (May 16) gets it wrong by making it appear as though the court is legislating. It is not.

The court struck down California's marriage legislation because it unconstitutionally failed to treat all citizens equally.

It's time to separate church and state

If religious leaders want to teach that homosexual marriage is wrong, they can do so.

But the state should stay out of this business and allow every person the benefit of full citizenship rights.

James B. Astrachan, Baltimore

Plenty of evidence of 'reading failure'

Raymond Simon, a deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, defends the Reading First program, claiming that the recent study showing no difference between Reading First students and students in a comparison group was only an interim report and that, nationwide, Reading First students have made "impressive reading gains" ("'Reading First' helps build skills," letters, May 15).

But the recent report is not the first indication of failure for the Reading First program.

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