- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Yes Virginia, you have cesspools

The article “Neglected rest stops defile state” (Metropolitan, Sunday) was right on the mark. As a 20-year resident of Virginia, I consider it a personal embarrassment that the so-called rest stops along the interstate highways in this state are so despicable.

Therefore, I was shocked to read this quote from Virginia Department of Transportation Special Operations Director Charles Kostro: “I think overall Virginia compares well to other states.”

Either Mr. Kostro does not travel outside Virginia or he does not use the cesspools (aka rest stops) in Virginia. If it’s the latter, one could hardly blame him. Within the past seven months, my wife and I have traveled to or through 16 states, and all of them (including those in New York) are polished palaces compared with those in Virginia.

By far, the worst I have encountered is the one on Interstate 95 northbound just north of the North Carolina border. It often does not even have running water. As one could imagine, this causes conditions that make Third World countries look sanitary. Sometimes the stench is so bad that I can’t even tolerate standing in line — outside — to use the men’s room.

MICHAEL A. CHIARITO

Woodbridge, Va.

‘Ripe’ moment in history

Bennett Ramberg, in his Op-Ed column “Dealing with the rogues” (Monday), observes that the situation must be “ripe” for positive changes to occur to advance the possibility of negotiations with Iran and North Korea and between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

World leaders, he says, must perceive “contextual changes” and take advantage of them. This is a classic definition of diplomacy — observed by, for example, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — in which the diplomat recognizes opportunities for change and simply seizes them.

But not only the imperatives of fundamental changes in a situation can create positive movement. A strong initiative in an otherwise “unripe” context can enable change.

For example, President Bush enabled democracy in Afghanistan and is enabling democracy in Iraq out of whole cloth.

Because he is decisive and recognized as unyielding, he is uniquely well-suited for his moment of history, when his administration can create change: He has leveraged the military and soft powers necessary for change. He is not afraid of opposition, including from sectors of world public opinion, on, for example, the Iraq initiative.

Mr. Bush has created a “ripe” moment in history. Through his keen insight and the courage of his vision, recalcitrant corners of the world oppose him at their peril. Mr. Bush creates the context with deliberate action, thereby creating the prerogative of change.

ONA BUNCE

Falls Church

Questionable ‘cure’

At a press conference in South Korea, a 37-year-old woman who had been paralyzed for 20 years gets up out of her wheelchair and walks past reporters (“Stem-cell results claimed,” Nation, Tuesday). Doctors explained how therapy using adult stem cells, ethically extracted from umbilical-cord blood, enabled the woman to rise and walk.

Regarding the amazing breakthrough, Daniel Perry, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, however, wants to know if the experiment was “disseminated in a forum more scientific and analytical than a press conference.”

Scientific skepticism, of course, has its place. Yet one senses in Mr. Perry’s response almost a reluctance to admit that adult stem cells can actually produce astounding cures. Maybe that’s because he’s been trying to convince federal funders that such cures are much better pursued through controversial and unproven research that creates or clones and then destroys human embryos.

Even more troubling is the equivocal response of Dr. Robert Lanza of the Advanced Cell Technology, who offers, “I think they are consistent with what we believe to be the potential [of stem cells] … it’s what we’ve been trying to convince President Bush and others of.” Dr. Lanza, of all people, knows full well that Mr. Bush has long embraced adult-stem-cell research, funding it to the tune of more than $190 million. Dr. Lanza seems intent on linking in the public’s mind such successful and ethical adult-stem-cell research with the unethical and unsuccessful embryo-destroying stem-cell research for which his company craves government funding.

It’s appropriate to seek scientific verification of reported miraculous cures, and the scientific literature has abundantly documented the amazing successes of adult-stem-cell research. Meanwhile, when one hears good news of cures reminiscent of the biblical “the blind receive sight and the lame walk,” genuine rejoicing seems in order.

JONATHAN IMBODY

Senior policy analyst

Christian Medical Association

Washington Bureau

Ashburn, Va.

‘Highway robbery’

I see that Virginia Delegates David B. Albo and Thomas Davis Rust want to raise road money by increasing the fees on “bad drivers,” (” ‘Abuser fees,’ ” That’s Politics, Metropolitan, Monday).

If this is a feeble attempt to make up for the years of theft of road money from drivers, it won’t work. And that’s not all. Where extravagant fines have been tried in other areas, the results have been disappointing. What happens is that with the higher fines, drivers now find it worth the cost to hire lawyers and fight the charges in court instead of just paying the fines. This, in turn, ties up the courts and costs taxpayers more.

In addition, motorists who can’t afford these greatly increased fees simply won’t pay them and will not have driver’s licenses anymore. The result will be more unlicensed drivers on our roads, people who are more likely to flee a traffic stop and thus endanger us all.

So Delegate Albert C. Eisenberg was right when he said the amount gained would not be much. But he was wrong when he said higher gas taxes were the answer.

In fact, drivers pay plenty in gas taxes. As user fees, these funds should all go to roads and related support areas. Instead, our legislature has been diverting highway transportation fund money for years.

Until this travesty is ended, it seems only right that the projected general-fund surplus be spent on roads to make up for some of the “highway robbery” that has occurred over many years.

MICHAEL MCGUIRE

Falls Church

Can’t have it both ways

So let me get this straight. New Jersey law schools have restricted on-campus recruiting because they disagree with the military policy on homosexuals (“Enforcement blocked on recruiters law,” Nation, Tuesday). At the same time they accept Department of Defense funding? Now they are challenging the Defense Department’s threat to withdraw funding in response to the recruiting restriction because, the article says, this would “compel them to take part in speech with which they do not agree.”

Aren’t they already taking part in speech by accepting Defense Department funding? If they are so vehemently against the military’s policy on homosexuals, why are they accepting “dirty” money?

The way I see it, the Defense Department is merely correcting a “values oversight” on the financial side of the law schools’ house. It’s unfortunate that two judges in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals can’t see that. Instead they’ve ruled per the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too-at-taxpayer-expense precedent.

PATRICK MCGINN

California, Md.

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