- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

Welfare reform was great, but not bold enough

As one of the authors of the 1996 and 2002 welfare reform bills, I would like to correct two points in Donald Devine's "Welfare reform fantasyland" (Commentary, June 5).

Mr. Devine notes, "Everyone knew the number of families on welfare decreased from 3 million to 2 million families." Actually, before welfare reform was enacted, about 5 million families collected welfare checks. Now the number is down to 2 million.

Regarding the 1996 welfare reform law, Mr. Devine writes that "the first two versions of the bill reformed medical assistance, too, where the big bucks are." That's not so. Broad Medicaid reforms were included in the balanced budget and welfare reform bill that President Clinton vetoed in December 1995, but not in the separate welfare reform bill he vetoed in January 1996. Mr. Clinton, however, threatened to veto the entire bill if those Medicaid changes were included. Given his resistance, the House passed "only" the sweeping cash welfare and related changes that, incidentally, have led to unprecedented numbers of low-income families exiting welfare, going to work and rising from poverty. I find it puzzling that Mr. Devine minimizes the phenomenal success that led to a 60 percent caseload reduction. As that legendary Yankees manager Casey Stengel would say, you could look it up.


U.S. Congress

Michigan, 4th District


Announcing his majesty, King King?

When reporting on Afghanistan and Pakistan, not only The Washington Times, but also other publications and wire services wrongly refer to such personages as Afghanistan's former ruler Zahir Shah as Mr. Zahir Shah or Mr. Shah and to Afghan warlord Ismail Khan as Mr. Ismail Khan or Mr. Khan. Apparently Western journalists are unaware that shah and khan are not names, but titles: Shah means king, and khan is a broader honorific for a man of property or special dignity, similar to esquire. The proper form of address would be Zahir Shah (King Zahir), simply Zahir or, if you must, Mr. Zahir. (His full name is Mohammad Zahir.) When referring to a khan as a mister, one drops the honorific and uses the first name (e.g, Mr. Ismail).

To Afghan or Pakistani ears, calling Mohammad Zahir "Mr. Shah" sounds as odd as calling the United Kingdom's Elizabeth II "Mrs. Queen."

After eight months of reporting in the region, it is unfortunate that journalists still have not figured out the names and titles of the people they are covering. No wonder they haven't figured out the politics. (And they are still calling every social division a "tribe.")


Former director

Afghanistan Information Center

Freedom House

New York City

Not your average Mohammad's kind of bomb

With all the current concern about "dirty bombs," there are a few things, based on simple calculations, that should be kept in mind.

First, it's the explosion that kills, not the radioactivity. Although prolonged exposure can make you sick, you may not want to stick around long enough for that to happen.

Second, assembling the radioactive material is almost sure to kill any terrorist. After all, a square mile of contamination needs to be compressed into less than a few cubic feet. That's a several-million-fold concentration. The stuff would get so hot, it would melt most containers.

There are ways to get around such technical difficulties, but they are not easy. Then again, terrorists can spread radioactivity more slowly without using a bomb to disperse it and achieve almost the same psychological effects.



The Science & Environmental Policy Project

Arlington, Va.

Little island, big problems

The article "Greece, Turkey stymie EU's Rapid Reaction Force" (June 5) misrepresents the facts about Cyprus by ignoring a decade of history in which the roots of the division in Cyprus can be found namely, the Greek Cypriot ethnic-cleansing campaign against the Turkish Cypriots between 1963 and 1974, aimed at turning Cyprus into a Greek island. Therefore, the reference to the division in Cyprus as a 30-year-old phenomenon instead of a 40-year-old conflict is not a casual question of dates or statistics.

In the decade that preceded 1974, the Turkish Cypriots were almost completely wiped out as a people, and the island was divided (or rather shattered) into many pieces. It was Turkey's timely intervention after the Greek coup d'etat of July 1974 that thwarted a total catastrophe on the island. Ignoring or glossing over this history does not do justice to the Turkish Cypriots, nor does it help the efforts aimed at a settlement.



Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus


Traffic cameras are no secret, so slow down

An article about the District's traffic cameras questions whether they constitute a commuter tax because almost half of the fines they generate hit Maryland drivers ("Tickets seen as 'commuter tax,'" Metropolitan, May 22).

Indeed, most of these cameras are positioned along major commuter routes through the District, but should this not serve as a warning to out-of-state drivers to obey traffic laws and, thereby, not give the District the opportunity to ticket them? This would seem a more sensible approach to this "problem" than merely complaining about it.


Falls Church

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