- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2001

FRC adopts human rights document the U.N. forgot

Chuck Woolery of the World Federalist Association disputes your description of the Family Research Council (FRC) as a "human rights organization" in your May 17 front-page article "U.N. panel now aims to banish private groups" ("Bush, Family Research Council hinder U.N. human rights work," May 19). We write to set the record straight.

There is no question that FRC is a human rights organization. We are concerned with issues from drug policy to the trafficking of girls and women to religious freedom that would make anyone´s list of human rights issues. Our emphasis is upon the very building blocks of the entire international system of human rights the right to life and the importance of the natural, traditional family. Even a cursory glance at international human rights documents will reveal that these rights are acknowledged again and again. For instance, Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first and fundamental human rights document, recognizes that "everyone has the right to life." Article 16 declares: "The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State." These provisions are echoed in subsequent human rights documents.

If the family is protected and the sanctity of human life is respected, society will be healthy. Thus, it would be the height of foolishness for the United Nations to design and implement policies that undermine either. The United Nations should be focused, inter alia, on the eradication of disease through the provision of vaccinations and clean water. It should not be trying to re-engineer the family, undermine the role of parents or ignore the sanctity of human life. Such actions are not in accordance with basic understandings of human rights.

We have, in fact, recently published a book by a variety of distinguished writers that evaluates the congruence of U.N. actions with the principles of the Universal Declaration, "Fifty Years After the Declaration: The United Nations´ Record on Human Rights."

Our vision of human rights the vision of the Universal Declaration is based upon the dignity and worth of each human being. It is, we submit, the foundation for any enduring system of human rights.


Human rights counsel

Family Research Council


Editor, "Fifty Years After the Declaration"


Stopping Middle East gunfire will not stop the violence

Your May 23 editorial "Middle East growing pains" misses the point. It is not enough that Israelis and Palestinians stop shooting at each other because the violence in this conflict does not consist of gunfire alone.

Even if the gunfire were to stop, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has made it clear that he will neither end Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories nor halt Israeli settlement expansion. What then for the Palestinian people? Will they go back to living under the iron fist of a foreign military controlling every facet of their existence? Will they surrender to home demolitions, land confiscations and military curfews?

Yes, the gunfire might stop, but without an end to the Israeli occupation, the real violence will never end.



Plague of blue tags infest District parking

Your May 21 editorial "Give us a break" placed a much-needed spotlight on one of the Districts many dysfunctional parking policies. Well, heres another that deserves attention: the overly liberal distribution of parking tags to indicate that a motorist is handicapped.

As everyone knows, downtown street parking is scarce during the day. A chief reason that no metered spots are available is that they are all filled with vehicles belonging to "disabled" motorists. I often see blue handicap tags hanging from the mirrors of every single car on the block where I work. Cars with those tags are not required to pay the meters and are not bound by time limits.

On any given day, one can observe hundreds of supposedly afflicted motorists traipsing merrily from office buildings to their convenient free street parking. Few, if any, show any visible disability as they hop into their sports cars and luxury sedans. There´s nary a wheelchair in sight.

Whatever the District´s criteria for handing out parking tags for the handicapped, it has nothing to do with disability. The program is a travesty and profoundly unfair, both to the legitimately disabled and to those who pay for parking.



Debunking the myth of frivolous lawsuits

The May 22 Commentary column by Joseph Perkins, "Picking up the tab for frivolous lawsuits," feeds into a false and very dangerous perception that our legal system is overflowing with frivolous and costly lawsuits by individuals a theory advanced by corporate "tort reform" proponents but contradicted by all reliable research.

Contrary to popular rhetoric, only 2 percent of injured Americans file lawsuits, according to the corporate-funded Rand Institute for Civil Justice. Moreover, these kinds of personal injury lawsuits are a tiny percentage of civil case filings in this country, and they have dropped 16 percent since 1996, according to the National Center for State Courts, which tracks this information.

Moreover, according to a report by the Consumer Federation of America, total product liability verdicts and settlements nationwide for manufacturers are about $4 billion a year. By comparison, Americans spend about twice that much about $8 billion on dog and cat food.

In fact, actual liability costs for businesses are minuscule and dropping. Ernst & Young and the Risk and Insurance Management Society´s annual survey of business liability costs (including all claims and payouts, property damage, workers´ compensation and all other liability costs), recently found such costs to be the lowest in a decade only $5.20 for every $1,000 in revenue in 1999.

Our legal system protects us all from injury and disease, whether or not we ever go to court. This is because the prospect of tort liability deters manufacturers, builders, chemical companies, hospitals and other potential wrongdoers from repeating their negligent behavior and provides them with an economic incentive to make their practices safer. Mr. Perkins´ proposed "solutions" to weaken the civil justice system greatly favor corporate wrongdoers over injured consumers and would be devastating for American families.


Executive director

Center for Justice & Democracy

New York

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