- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2000

VDOT crying wolf with work zones

Work-zone crashes and worker injuries are appalling, yet the article "VDOT presses brakes on work-zone crashes" (Metropolitan, March 20) misses the most obvious cause.

Anyone intelligent enough to have a driver's license can, and probably does, understand the basic dangers. More education will expend funds but is unlikely to accomplish much else. When seemingly endless miles of highway are marked "work zones" and clearly no work is being performed on the same stretches week after week, drivers become acclimated to the signs and largely ignore those, and then others. Some drivers slow upon first seeing a work-zone sign, only to resume speed when it is obvious no work is being performed. Other drivers wait to slow until they actually see workers or equipment in operation.

Instead of "crying wolf" with work zones, the various highway departments and contractors should cooperate with the driving public and post work-zone markings only where and when construction work is under way. Respect is required from both sides, for certainly no driver intentionally injures workers, but drivers do get frustrated when many of the roads appear to be in perpetual work-zone status when no work is being performed.

From a motorist's viewpoint, it is disappointing that the Virginia Department of Transportation has turned a cold shoulder to studying marking alternatives for real hazards in work zones, such as exposed edges of milled pavement and steel plating, which pose deadly hazards, especially to motorcycles.

RICHARD T. WOJCIECHOWSKI

Springfield

Researchers have fat heads on Miss America weight issue

Concerning the March 22 article "Weighty matters continue to elude Misses America," do the nutritional experts at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health have nothing better to do than conclude that Miss America winners are too thin?

Here is a suggestion: Maybe they could lend a hand to their fine medical colleagues who are searching desperately for the cures for cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses.

Life is about choices. If these beauty-pageant contestants choose to maintain a certain weight and body fat, so be it. It may come as a shock to these "experts," but plenty of American women do not compare their weight with that of Miss America or measure their worth on their bathroom scales.

TAMLA S. PRIDGEN

California, Md.

High and mighty try to ignore 'higher moral authority'

If there were ever any doubt about the anti-religious bent of some of our institutions, consider the case of an Ohio judge whose decision to sentence a man who repeatedly raped an 8-year-old girl was overturned by a higher court because the judge cited the Bible during sentencing ("Judge upheld in biblical reference," March 17).

In imposing a 51-year sentence on the man, Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Melba Marsh considered the facts presented at trial and the Gospel of Matthew, 18:5-6, "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

The 1st District Ohio Court of Appeals overturned the judge's sentencing decision because, it said, the judge's religious beliefs were a determining factor. What beliefs would those be? That it's wrong to rape an 8-year-old 10 times? That those who commit crimes and who sin should be punished? Does the 1st District Ohio Court of Appeals think the notion of what is right and what is wrong was formed out of whole cloth?

Heaven forbid that American jurisprudence be based on the Bible. Oops, I forgot, it is.

By the way, doesn't a witness in court have to swear to tell the truth while placing his or her right hand on the Bible?

The appeals court's ludicrous decision is just another example of our higher institutions trying to deny the existence of an even higher moral authority. Fortunately, in this case, the Ohio Supreme Court saw the idiocy of the appeals court ruling and unanimously reversed the decision, thereby keeping a rapist who preyed on a child in prison, where he belongs.

Of course, in sentencing the rapist, Judge Marsh could have avoided this whole controversy by invoking not the Bible, but the words of that Old West jurist, Judge Roy Bean, who said: "Hang 'em."

DAVID WARNER

Burtonsville

Aid to fight Colombian drug war draws mixed responses

I agree with Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman that mobilizing against Colombia's narco-driven civil war is a good investment; however, the United States must not carry this load alone ("Colombia's urgent need for help," Commentary, March 19).

Not to belittle the damage done here by illegal drugs, but other countries suffer as well, and they also must be hectored to join the battle. There is an urgent need for a Central and South American alliance similar to NATO, as we cannot be the only fighting force against Colombia's plague of poison.

The Clinton administration has achieved spectacular success demolishing and demonizing the lawful tobacco industry, and it is in the process of doing the same to the gun-manufacturing industry, other legitimate business. If our leaders would expend the same zeal building an international coalition against cocaine and heroin, a major victory would be secured.

With the North American Free Trade Agreement in place and America's enormous clout on the world stage, leveling South American drug empires is an achievable endeavor. Instead of policing the world, this country should pick fights where our welfare is at stake. Any foreign nation that ships death and destruction to our population is a confirmed foe and should be treated as such.

ROSALIND ELLIS

Baltimore

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The proposed U.S. aid package to Colombia is a colossal waste of tax dollars ("U.S. aid could fuel strife in Colombia," World, March 21). Even if every last plant in Latin America were killed by the toxic herbicides drug warriors spray, American youths would continue to get high. As long as there is a demand, there will be a supply.

Cut off the flow of cocaine, and domestic methamphetamine production will boom. Thanks to past successes at eradicating marijuana farms in Latin America, the corresponding increase in domestic pot cultivation has made marijuana America's No. 1 cash crop. Young people who cannot buy pot have been known to use a host of deadly yet legal chemicals to get high. I find it frustrating that the supposed champions of the free market in Congress cannot understand how basic supply and demand dynamics make the drug war futile.

At a time in our history when record numbers of Americans are using psychoactive drugs such as Prozac and Ritalin, it amazes me that we still have politicians claiming that a "drug-free" America is possible. No amount of tax dollars spent eradicating plants in Latin America is going to make the United States "drug free." Nor will funding civil war in Colombia win the drug war. For the same reasons that alcohol prohibition failed, the drug war has been doomed from the start.

ROBERT SHARPE

Students for Sensible Drug Policy

George Washington University

Washington

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I agree with Arianna Huffington when she says the plan to spend $1.7 billion on so-called drug-war aid to Colombia is "nuts" ("Latest priority in drug war," Commentary, March 15).

Why isn't the U.S. government making more of an effort to aid the millions of addicts who aren't receiving treatment? The aid package won't make drugs disappear from the United States, or Colombia for that matter. I'm an American taxpayer who will receive no benefit from this bill. It appears that this is an attractive plan to a few corporate profiteers and government officials in both countries. I think it is disgusting that the Clinton administration chooses to bundle this aid as part of a larger emergency-spending package that includes military health care and relief from natural disasters such as Hurricane Floyd.

This isn't about drug-war aid or caring about people, it's about already rich people getting richer.

ELLEN HERNDON ATKINS

Mineral, Va.

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