- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 19, 2000

Tacky coverage of Reform Party fund-raiser

It was only upon my return from the Reform Party Convention in Long Beach, Calif., where I served as a member of the Reform Party National Committee, that I had the opportunity to read the Aug. 8 article "Reform Party gathering could include fisticuffs," which included comments about a fund-raiser held in my home on July 30.

The article stated, " 'We expect on Saturday night to be on that podium accepting the nomination for the president of the United States,' said a tanned [Patrick J.] Buchanan, wearing a white polo shirt and khakis and surrounded by about 50 well-wishers shoehorned into a living room.

"Even senators have roomier digs for fund-raisers, but these are the travails of sprouting political movements."

I would like to inform The Washington Times that although my house in a lovely residential area of Sterling, Va., is not a mansion, neither is it a hovel, as the tacky article implied. The reporter either intended to mislead your readers or cannot count, as there were about 100 guests, and they were shoehorned into the family room, not the living room, and overflowed into the kitchen.

This was a fund-raiser for ordinary citizens of modest means, not one of the big-dollar-corrupt extravaganzas of the Republicrats, which apparently reporters for The Times are used to attending. As for Mr. Buchanan, his lovely wife, Shelley, and his family having honored me with their presence, it merely proves that Mr. Buchanan's support comes from the "grass roots" people of America.

STELLA L. JATRAS

Sterling, Va.

An educational lesson about George Allen

As a professor in the state university system, I have a distinct, albeit indirect, interest in Virginians receiving the best possible elementary and secondary education. So I have been following this summer's news about Standards of Learning (SOL) and Stanford 9 achievement test results. Across the state, Virginia's students are improving markedly.

Are Virginia teachers merely teaching to the test and neglecting general aptitude? No, they are not. The Stanford 9 tests are not geared to Virginia's program. If the SOL test, instituted in former Gov. George Allen's administration, was undermining content and instruction, then our students probably would not be recording higher Stanford 9 test scores.

Mr. Allen made a courageous decision to confront sometimes-hostile teachers associations when he insisted on SOL. His decision is now paying off.

As someone who will one day teach the beneficiaries of SOL, I thank Mr. Allen and support his Senate bid with enthusiasm. I hope all Virginians will remember his promotion of Virginians' education when they cast their votes in November.

MICHAEL I. KRAUSS

Arlington

Mr. Krauss is a professor of law at George Mason University.

A case study concerning retirement and private investment

Texas Gov. George W. Bush's proposal that an employee be allowed to invest privately some of his retirement contributions as a way of dealing with the future of Social Security sent me looking into my records. I hope a case study of my experience will contribute to the debate.

I was a professor in a university that had a contract with the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association (TIAA) to accumulate funds that would provide for retirement income. In the 1950s, the board of directors of TIAA decided it would be advantageous to create two accounts: the existing account based on the annuity plan and a second account based on investments in stocks, called the College Retirement Equities Fund (CREF). Each of us was given the opportunity of investing part of our accumulations, up to 50 percent, in CREF.

I chose 50 percent. When it was possible later to invest up to 75 percent in CREF, I chose the maximum.

When I retired in 1978, I began receiving benefits as follows:

TIAA: $333.25 per month.

CREF: $344.25 per month.

Obviously, the choice to put 75 percent in the market was not a good one. In subsequent years, however, the picture changed. My 1990 benefits were as follows:

TIAA: $363.60 per month.

CREF: $1,129.42 per month.

Thus, the income from private investments was only slightly better than the annuity.

In the past decade, because of the rising market, my benefits from CREF increased significantly. This year, my retirement benefits are as follows:

TIAA: $332.95 per month.

CREF: $3,689.72 per month.

If I had left all of my assets in the annuity plan, my total monthly income would be $1,331.80 per month instead of the $4,022.67 I am now receiving.

Clearly, I am well satisfied that I put the maximum 75 percent in CREF.

ALEX N. DRAGNICH

Bowie

Mixed views about ABC reporter, Times editorial

Speaking of "slipshod journalism," the use of propaganda spewed by the charlatans of the Environmental Working Group as the basis for attacking John Stossel ("ABC at it again," Editorial, Aug. 9) is a prime example.

Similarly, to refer to an error that amounted to little more than an incorrect attribution the salient points of the report were correct is itself "grossly inaccurate," as are accusations of perfidy on the part of Mr. Stossel. Indeed, he is perhaps the only journalist on television worth the time to watch at a time when "journalist" has become a dirty word.

The demonization of this good man is a black mark on the credibility both of those journalists who participate in it and those who refuse to stand against it.

W.E. TINNEY

Cumming, Ga.

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David Boaz's letter defending John Stossel's brand of factually challenged reporting repeats the mantra of the ABC spin doctors that Mr. Stossel just "got two sentences wrong in a 10-minute report" ("Editorial too tough on ABC reporter," Aug. 16). Too bad Mr. Boaz of the Cato Institute and ABC have it wrong, and the editorial page of The Washington Times had it right. Mr. Stossel and ABC had no tests to support any of the allegations made against organic food in the show.

Even Mr. Stossel has admitted that his claims about pesticides were fabricated. More importantly, the report was rife with supposed revelations about the hazards of deadly bacteria on organic food that cannot be supported by ABC's tests. The Department of Agriculture scientists and the scientists hired by ABC have since confirmed that ABC's E. coli tests were not capable of determining a threat to public health, let alone justifying Mr. Stossel's claims that organic produce could "kill you" (See the Agriculture Department's letter posted at www.ewg.org).

Despite repeated inquiries by the Environmental Working Group, ABC has yet to address this major flaw, most likely because it proves the entire report to be devoid of factual substantiation.

Mr. Stossel is an ideologue posing as a reporter. This fact is made palpable by the clear tilt of those who rush to defend him such as well-known chemical industry apologist Elizabeth Whelan and chemical industry "special agent" Steven Milloy. Mrs. Whelan even went so far as to say that it was OK that Mr. Stossel didn't have any evidence to support his claims, because his "conclusions were factual." Go figure.

The bottom line is that Mr. Stossel had drawn his conclusions about organic food well before the broadcast, so he just faked one set of tests, lied about the significance of another and broadcast it twice to tens of millions of viewers even after he was repeatedly informed about these problems.

If this doesn't warrant his firing, there is little hope for integrity at ABC News.

BRENDAN DEMELLE

Analyst

Environmental Working Group

Washington

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