- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 4, 2002

Party after Hebrew U. bombing was no dud

Honest Reporting, a media watchdog group, complained Friday that "the media failed to report the mass celebrations in Gaza following the Hebrew University bombing. An estimated 10,000 Palestinian men, women and children celebrated in the streets with clapping, singing and distributing sweets." Honest Reporting specifically mentioned Washingtons "other" paper. So may I congratulate The Washington Times for including not only a description of the celebration, but also a photo showing happy faces exulting over the deaths and injuries to more than 80 innocent people, including many fellow Arabs ("3 Americans die in bombing in Jerusalem," Page 1, Thursday).

My only criticism is that the article did not show that Hamas claim that the attack was "retaliation" for the Israeli strike that killed one of its top men, Sheik Salah Shehadeh, is belied by the fact that Hamas has been conducting an uninterrupted campaign of terrorism anyway. In fact, Israel has uncovered plans for as many as 60 attacks planned before the mans death. It is very easy, after the fact, to call these attacks "revenge," but it doesnt mean they are.

RODNEY BROOKS

Columbia, Md.

High cigarette taxes do not significantly aid terrorism

Bruce Bartletts recent column connecting cigarette tax increases to terrorism grossly overstates the potential for smugglers to make profits from selling black-market cigarettes and ignores the many advantages of higher cigarette taxes ("Smoking taxes burn some holes," Commentary, July 22).

The idea that the 18 states that have raised their cigarette tax are going to encourage organized crime and terrorism is simply absurd. The tobacco industry and its allies raise the threat of a black market for smuggled cigarettes as a scare tactic to block excise taxes. They attempt to play on peoples fears to prevent these policies from being enacted.

A recent study found that cigarette smuggling and tax-avoidance purchases account for no more than 5 percent of total cigarette sales, including purchases by smokers who go over state borders to obtain lower prices. Big Tobaccos real objection to cigarette tax increases is that they have been proved to reduce smoking — especially among children — and the tobacco companies know that 90 percent of smokers start in their teens or earlier.

The real solution to cutting down on the minimal cigarette smuggling that does exist is for the low-tax states to raise their rates close to the national average of more than 57 cents per pack, cutting off the profits of smuggling cigarettes across state borders. As bonuses, these low-tax states would reduce smoking and long-term health care costs and also gain substantially more revenue from increasing their cigarette taxes than they get from sales to smugglers.

As state leaders across the country debate how best to balance budgets and fund vital programs, one solution — increasing the states cigarette excise tax — stands out as both good fiscal policy and good public health policy. It is a win-win solution that would raise substantial revenue and reduce smoking rates and smoking-caused health care costs. On top of that, an overwhelming majority of voters in states across the country support increasing cigarette taxes to help solve the budget crisis and reduce smoking.

WILLIAM V. CORR

Executive vice president

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Washington

'Sesame Street acknowledges AIDS epidemic

Suzanne Fields Op-Ed column of July 22, "When a Muppet becomes HIV positive," was misguided for several reasons.

Mrs. Fields writes that Sesame Workshop should "stick to" addressing letters and numbers and, although she hasnt seen international co-productions of "Sesame Street," that we are "imposing heavy-duty politics" on children.

In fact, "Sesame Street" has always addressed childrens affective development as well as their cognitive development. That means that while the show emphasizes letters, numbers, shapes and colors, it also addresses difficult issues and life experiences such as marriage and birth, death and loss.

We agree that children should be children, and our team of experts in child development on staff ensures that lessons are age-appropriate. Overseas, local teams set curricula, identifying topics that are most relevant to children in-country. In South Africa, the Ministry of Education, the South African Broadcasting Corp. and educational advisers tell us that people afflicted by HIV/AIDS — and the discrimination they face — are part of the lives of todays 3- to 7-year-old viewers of "Takalani Sesame." Most familiar with their experience agree.

Dealing with preschoolers real-life experiences in a local context, responsibly and sensibly, does not impose politics, and it doesnt replace the values children learn from parents and caring adults. Nevertheless, the media have tremendous reach and potential, and the workshop is committed to using them to help respond to a catastrophic situation. Here in the United States and in 140 countries worldwide, millions have supported our education approach for more than 33 years. We are confident that parents and caregivers, and especially children, will continue to do so here and in South Africa.

GARY E. KNELL

President and CEO

Sesame Workshop

New York

What Simon says not

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon is ignoring the issue that would put him into the governors mansion ("Simons campaign takes a hit," Page 1, Friday). Instead of pandering to Hispanic voters, he should provide leadership about the crisis upon which voters across the political spectrum agree — that immigration is producing chaos and must be brought under control. (For example, a recent Zogby poll shows 68 percent of Americans want the military to guard the U.S.-Mexican border.)

California Republicans should stop being delusional about getting any substantial number of Hispanic votes: It simply wont happen. Instead, the GOP should energize the millions of voters who probably will stay home on election day because they are disgusted by fearful politicians who willfully ignore mass, uncontrolled immigration.

Americans are being hammered daily by immigrations negative effects — declining quality of life, job displacement, increasingly congested roadways, overcrowded schools — and would vote for someone who takes their concerns seriously.

Mr. Simon should emphasize immigration, legality and order: Take a number, stand in line and emigrate the lawful way. One would think Republicans would learn that appealing to Americans inherent sense of fairness is always a winner.

DANA GARCIA

Berkeley, Calif.

Making motorcycling safer

Thursdays editorial "Common sense and motorcycle licensing" suggests toughening state motorcycle licensing requirements to combat the increase in motorcycle crashes and fatalities. The editorial did not mention that helmet laws and safety education programs are effective ways to help combat this problem. The National Association of Governors Highway Safety Representatives (NAGHSR) encourages states to adopt these lifesaving initiatives in the interest of public safety.

As of December 2000, 20 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico required helmets for all riders. Twenty-seven states require a helmet for specific riders, usually those younger than 18, and three states do not require a helmet. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that helmets reduce the risk of death by 29 percent in a motorcycle crash. A year after weakening their helmet laws, Arkansas and Texas both reported increased fatalities — 21 and 31 percent respectively.

Comprehensive rider-education programs are imperative in reaching older (40 and older) riders, for whom fatalities are increasing. States can undertake these programs to educate and train riders, particularly those who may be relying on informal "training" that may be outdated.

Strengthening helmet laws to encompass all age groups and educating riders, particularly older riders, are crucial tools in protecting the safety of all roadway users.

JONATHAN ADKINS

Communications director

National Association of Governors Highway Safety Representatives

Washington

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