Carbon dioxide is your friend
Jeffrey Sparshott’s otherwise excellent article “Putin Cabinet approves signing of Kyoto protocol” (Business, Friday) unwittingly promotes the alarmist view that carbon dioxide emissions (one of the “greenhouse-gas emissions” he mentions)are necessarily “pollution” and, consequently, that the United States is the “world’s heaviest polluter.”
A clear, odorless gas that is nontoxic to humans at many times current atmospheric levels, CO2 neither fouls the air, impairs visibility nor contributes to respiratory disease. More important, CO2 is the basic building block of the planetary food chain, and rising concentrations help most plants grow faster and bigger, use water more efficiently and resist pollution and other environmental stresses. The ecological benefit of an atmosphere richer in CO2 is well-nigh universal, because all animals depend, directly or indirectly, on plants as a food source.
Empirical studies suggest that the 100 parts per million increase in atmospheric CO2 content over the past 150 years has increased mean crop yields by significant amounts: for example, about 60 percent for wheat, 33 percent for fruits and melons, and 51 percent for vegetables.
Were it not for the extra CO2 put into the atmosphere by fossil fuel combustion, many people now living might not exist or many forests now standing might have been cleared and turned into farmland — or both. Far from polluting the planet, CO2 emissions are greening the Earth, enhancing biodiversity and global-food availability.
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Frost suits Texans fine
When I first heard that my district had been redrawn and that Rep. Pete Sessions would be running against my congressman, Martin Frost, whose exchange of volleys with Mr. Sessions you recently covered (“War of words,” Inside Politics, Nation, Friday), I had to do a search of Mr. Sessions’ accomplishments because I had never heard of him.
So far, he has made national news by berating Rep. Jim McDermott for leaving out the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. He upset constituents in a historic black neighborhood by refusing to name a post office after one of their community leaders. Now he’s looking up the police records of folk musicians from the 1960s.
Sorry, Mr.Sessions. We need a representative who knows his constituents and works hard for us. Mr. Frost has made a world of difference in our neighborhood by bringing our federal tax dollars back home in the form of things we need: transportation bills to fund our bus and rail system, and new exits off the highway that give our residents easier access to Interstate 30.
If Mr. Sessions had been our congressman when the mother of Amber Hagerman asked for help to establish a plan to locate missing children, the bill probably still would be lost in committee somewhere.
Mr. Frost knows how to get things done. He’s got the vote of our neighborhood association, along with everybody else in the new district who wants to keep good things happening in Dallas.
North Cliff Neighborhood Association
Global public health efforts go unmentioned
In “Doctor urges stronger TB fight” (World, Sept. 23), Dr. Marcos Espinal, head of the World Health Organization’s Stop TB program, says the elimination of tuberculosis is achievable in the world if President Bush “has a vision” and the United States “would spend about $200 million a year” to this end. But why no acknowledgment of the act to fight malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis that Mr. Bush signed in May 2003 or the U.S. pledge of $1.65 billion to the global fund through 2008 to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria? Dr. Espinal is more generous when he states that 60 percent of U.S. TB cases are foreign-born persons when in fact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the number as 53.1 percent for 2003.
Cottage Grove, Wis.
National forests: A dubious proposition
Steve Chapman’s defense of property owners in New London, Conn., is certainly to be admired(“Confiscating homes,” Commentary, Sunday), but where did he get the idea that creating national forests is a matter of the gravest public need — or that it is authorized by the Constitution? Yes, public parks and forests are established from time to time, but only through dubious constitutional means. One instance was the National Park Service’s acquisition of the land that became Shenandoah National Park. In that case, a scheme in the Virginia General Assembly to condemn the property of mountain people caused many simply to be run off their land.
Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution is clear about the purposes that are allowed in the use of eminent domain. They are neither recreational nor environmental. The article states that “to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of Government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards and other needful buildings.”
Clearly, then, strictly speaking, even the U.S. government doesn’t have the right to condemn. That right rests with the states. And even the states are restricted to the use of eminent domain for the purposes of defense and “needful” building construction. The 10-miles-square provision is telling: It’s difficult to contain a national forest in that space.
LERI M. THOMAS
Race, class and charter schools
It seems to me that the single most potent criticism of pro-charter school arguments appeared in your pages (“Study shows charter schools better,” Nation, Sept. 18): “Student performance in charter schools was significantly lower than [in] regular nearby schools in just five states with about 30 percent of national charter enrollment, mostly minority children from poor families.”
If, according to what I’ve read, poor minority children were the ones who were supposed to benefit most from access to charter schools, this should be cause for serious alarm. Richer, non-minority students may do better in charter schools than in nearby public schools, but this could be because of differences in class size - charter schools often have much smaller classes than nearby public schools - or other factors.
As your statistics show, charter schools that enroll relatively affluent white students have more resources and better teachers than charter schools attended by poor minority students. This is absolutely the case in public schools.