Cigar sale limit aids public health
Congratulations to Sun reporter John Fritze for responding quickly and thoroughly to the inexplicable letter sent by a lawyer in the comptroller's office in opposition to Baltimore's proposed regulation limiting the sale of cheap cigars to packages of at least five ("Cigar letter called error," July 8). And thanks to The Sun for again expressing support for statewide legislation designed to decrease the use of cheap cigars in our community ("Smoking memo," editorial, July 10).
Comptroller Peter Franchot's support for Baltimore's proposed cigar regulation is appreciated as well.
Limiting the sale of cheap cigars to a minimum package of five puts the product out of reach for many young people who currently smoke these deadly products; even casual older users will think twice before buying a full pack.
Increasing taxes on cigars and eliminating candy flavors serves the same function in reducing the prevalence of cigar smoking.
Given the costs imposed on the state to treat tobacco-related illnesses and the devastation that disease and death caused by tobacco use heaps on our community, it is time for my colleagues in the General Assembly to act to further regulate small cigars.
Shawn Z. Tarrant, Baltimore
The writer represents Southwest Baltimore in the House of Delegates.
Use Cross Keys for care center
The impending sale of the Village of Cross Keys is yet another great opportunity for the Keswick Multi-Care Center to find an alternative site on which to build housing and offer services for the elderly while retaining an appropriate mix of retail and medical services in a self-contained community and avoiding an unpopular use of a pristine tract of land ("Upscale Cross Keys for sale," July 9).
It is a perfect solution.
Carl Hyman, Baltimore
Inflation isn't boon to seniors
Harriet Johnson Brackey totally misrepresented the effect of inflation on some older citizens ("Seniors' reasons to cheer inflation," July 6).
While she properly states that Social Security retirement benefits are adjusted for inflation every year, her conclusion that high rates of inflation this year mean hefty raises for seniors is false because some of the key commodities causing high inflation rates are excluded when the federal government calculates those raises through its cost-of-living adjustment.
For recipients of Social Security and federal pensions, the yearly raise or COLA is derived from what the federal government terms "core inflation" - the inflation rate after the rising costs of such volatile-priced essentials as food and fuel are excluded.
This mysterious exclusion of food and fuel costs, the very things whose costs are rising the most, helps the government keep what it pays out to pensioners low but means seniors have reason to fear, not cheer, rising inflation.
The recent Internal Revenue Service stimulus payments helped seniors stay afloat after the January 2.3 percent Social Security COLA was swamped by double-digit percentage price increases for food and fuel.
Now another stimulant should be provided - one that would make up for the amount seniors were shortchanged by the "core inflation" calculation that excludes such essentials.
James Hogan, Baltimore
Iran just seeks to defend itself
On Wednesday, Iran conducted missile tests off the Strait of Hormuz ("Iran missile tests raise tensions," July 10). Let's put this in context.
Israel recently conducted large-scale military air maneuvers that many consider a preparation for a possible pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
The U.S. has two aircraft carrier groups patrolling in the Persian Gulf.
President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney both refer to Iran as a continuing threat and seem to reject the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that said Iran gave up its nuclear bomb program in 2003.
Iran is surrounded by U.S. allies such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey.
So could it be that, just as Iran asserts, its missile tests are meant as a warning to Israel and the United States that if attacked by either country, it will defend itself and respond in kind?
Dave Lefcourt, Ellicott City
Mugabe damages democracy in Africa
The current political turmoil in Zimbabwe reflects a troubling trend in the political climate in Africa ("Mugabe foes plead to U.S.," July 4).
This trend, which began with the disputed Kenyan presidential elections this year, has African leaders hanging on to power, even when they have lost the elections, by having themselves sworn in and then turning to the opposition from a position of strength and asking for a government of national unity.
So it seemed like d?j? vu all over again when the African Union proposed a so-called government of national unity for Zimbabwe, one much like the unity government the international community pushed on Kenya.