- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2002

Too sensitive about not-so-offensive team names

The continuous uproar over "offensive" names such as the Indians, the name of the athletic teams at Montgomery County's Poolesville High School would be laughable if it were not so fraught with misunderstanding, lack of knowledge and perhaps a lack of what used to be called good old common sense ("Poolesville teens remain true to name of school," Metropolitan, Dec. 30).
Two early explorers who visited North America used different terms to describe the peoples with whom they came into contact. Christopher Columbus called them Indians because he thought he had reached India. John Cabot, upon reaching Newfoundland, used the term "red skins" because the Beothuk people there used red ocher to cover their faces and bodies. For better or worse, these terms stuck in the language to describe the native peoples here.
In addition, while many assume that the peoples the explorers encountered upon their arrival were "native Americans," there is sufficient scientific doubt that they were the original settlers of North America, who came over the land bridge via what is now Alaska. As of yet, that has not been established firmly. Witness the finding of the Kennewick Man a couple of years ago, the remains of a man with Caucasian features who predates the American Indian.
As for the Poolesville Indians, lighten up, folks. We are only talking about sports, which should be considered a healthy and enjoyable activity.


Metro ads slamming bishoops contain harmful subtext

Catholics for a Free Choice President Frances Kissling's Dec. 29 letter to the editor, "Catholic bishops share responsibility for spread of HIV/AIDS," makes even less sense than her Metro ads, which accuse the bishops of killing people by "banning condoms." She writes, "Catholic hospitals Catholic schools and social service agencies are prohibited by local bishops from teaching about or providing condoms to HIV/AIDS patients, clients or students."
Ms. Kissling's statement makes the erroneous assumption that condoms will help reduce the incidence of AIDS. Despite widespread distribution in the United States, condoms have not stopped the AIDS epidemic here. During the Clinton administration, Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders promoted condoms as the savior of mankind. It was one big condom distribution gig, and it failed miserably.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) boasts that it has distributed more than 1 billion condoms in the developing world and that its support for the marketing of condoms increased sales by more than 100 percent between 1996 and 1998 in four African countries. Yet the AIDS epidemic rages out of control in many African countries.
Things are different in Uganda. In the late 1980s, about 20 percent of Ugandans were infected with AIDS. Then the Catholic Church played a key role in government programs. Chastity was strongly advanced, and the HIV infection rate fell by 50 percent. In the most vulnerable age group (15 to 19), HIV infection rates declined by 75 percent. Researchers from Cambridge University said, "The most important determinant of the HIV incidence reduction in Uganda relates to reduction of sexual partnerships and resulting sexual networks." They concluded that this "may be a more successful strategy than protecting sexual acts."
The bishops, in addition to their moral objection to condoms, know that condoms don't prevent HIV infection. They also know better than to advance the idea that those with HIV can use condoms to prevent spreading the disease. Hospitals are for treating sick people; they are not extensions of brothels. Catholic schools and Catholic social service agencies exist to uplift and help people, not to foster immorality.
Ms. Kissling has made a career of attacking the Catholic Church with what amounts to nonsense. It was disappointing to see The Washington Times give her space to promote practices that will cause further HIV infection.

Silver Spring

Slight oversight on Pakistani terrorist targeting

The Dec. 31 editorial "A message for Gen. Musharaff" exposes Pakistan's role in terrorism.
For clarity, you should have mentioned that the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir contains only a small percentage of India's total Muslim population. India, in fact, has more Muslims than Pakistan and more than any nation except Bangladesh.
There is no doubt there have been civilian casualties in India's war against terrorism. This is regrettable but understandable, as India's fight has been long strung out over the past 14 years. However, these deaths are minuscule in comparison to the terrorists' wholesale slaughter in villages of Hindus and Sikhs, the selected targeting of pro-India Muslims, savage car bombs and attacks on democratic institutions in India.

Fremont, Calif.

Editorial cites wrong 'George' as VMI graduate

In your editorial about the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), you refer to Gen. George S. Patton Jr. as a VMI graduate ("ACLU in the foxholes," Dec. 30). Gen. Patton attended VMI for one year and then received a senatorial appointment to West Point. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point, Class of 1909.
The Patton family has many distinguished graduates from VMI. Perhaps, however, you mixed up your Georges. One of VMI's most illustrious graduates is Gen. George C. Marshall,an outstanding World War II general and author of the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Europe after the war.
VMI's record of service to our nation is outstanding in its own right. VMI deserves our prayers as it battles the ACLU.


Confession could be good for Mr. Putin's soul

The difference of opinion about Russia's partial membership in NATO is amazing ("Attacks bring old foes together," Dec. 28). While U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Varshbow would like to consult Russia before NATO members have taken their own decisions, our former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger considers dangerous even a modest and circumscribed role for Russia in NATO councils.
There are pros and cons on both sides of the picture, but one aspect has so far been completely left out of the discussion the trustworthiness of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Putin is highly suspect. A former KGB official, he has been willing to sacrifice hundreds of his countrymen in Moscow in a time of peace, blaming their murder on Chechens in order to attack them as terrorists for their drive for independence. How can we be sure that he does not secretly desire to neutralize NATO?
Only a complete confession of and apology for Russia's mischiefs and crimes, past and present, can ultimately help Mr. Putin to be accepted as a trustworthy and sincere person. Though such an admission would be somewhat of a Pandora's box, the following are only a few examples of a myriad of questions that remain unsolved.
There is strong evidence that hundreds of our POW's from the Vietnam War were transferred to the Soviet Union in the 1960s. At the end of 1998, all became quiet about a letter which had been discovered by former KGB Gen. Dmitri Volkogonov, who had headed the Russian side of a joint U.S.-Russian commission on POWs under the Yeltsin administration.
As for the Baltic states, it is time for Russia to put an end to the myth that they voluntarily joined the Soviet Union in 1940. Also, it is time to cancel double import duties on Estonian exports to Russia, especially at a time when Russia is interested in joining the World Trade Organization.
At the 20th Party Congress in 1956, Nikita Khrushchev had the courage to reveal Stalin's crimes. However, the communist regime, in all its forms and consequences, has so far escaped similar condemnation. Mr. Putin could be the man to do it, provided he is convinced that it is his duty to disclose everything.


Defense Department responsible for military site cleanup

In his Dec. 28 Op-Ed column comparing the Spring Valley and Times Beach, Mo., environmental cleanup projects, "Spring Valley blues," Syd Gernstein bases his point on inaccurate information about the Spring Valley project. Given the concerns of the community and the complexity of this project, it is important to provide a more complete picture for your readers.
Spring Valley is a former military site. As such, its cleanup is the responsibility of the Department of Defense, not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Defense Department uses the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clean up former military sites. The EPA and the D.C. Department of Health are active partners with the Corps in the Spring Valley project, but the responsibility for that work and for the decisions made lie with the Corps' Baltimore District engineer, in whose district Spring Valley lies. This has been true since the Corps first became involved at the site in February 1993.
Furthermore, we have used chemical "moon suits," as Mr. Gernstein calls them, and we have ordered evacuations of Spring Valley households at certain times and certain places during the course of the project. We also have used protective metal structures over suspected burial locations and many other safety precautions appropriate to such a project. These decisions were not based on the affluence of the residents, but on ensuring their safety and the safety of our workers.
This type of long-after-the-fact criticism of decisions that were made with the best information available at the time is common with long-term projects. In the past 20 years, our knowledge of how to protect people from chemical hazards has increased greatly. In our commitment to protecting human health and the environment, we apply that knowledge as we address the hazards associated with past Defense Department activities in Spring Valley.

Deputy district engineer for Spring Valley
Baltimore District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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