- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 15, 2005

Censoring scientific thought

Regarding the article “Evolution disclaimer ordered off textbooks” (Nation, Friday): What a pity.

The arguments cited in the story clearly show the religious nature of evolutionists in effectively censoring critical scientific thought. There is nothing in the statement on the sticker that should scare scientists, as it states that evolution (regarding the origin of life) is a theory.

Evolution (change), in fact, does not address origins. I have been a practicing scientist (in academia, business and government) for more than 30 years and have never seen true observations of the origin of life. There are inferences, but these fall in the realm of theory, not fact, so what is stated is, in fact, true. What is wrong with that?

Most disturbing, however, is that the sticker goes on to state, “This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.” This is exactly what scientists are, or used to be, trained to do. What is wrong with that? It is a very long stretch for a federal judge to see this as unconstitutional.

To my eye, the statement has nothing to do with religion, and banning it is nothing short of censorship.

RICHARD B. LAMBERT

Rockville

Belgium’s tsunami response

I read with astonishment the “Glass Houses” item (Inside the Beltway, Jan. 5). Was it really the proper time, as a huge tragedy was still unfolding, to treat with irony the efforts of a friendly country to help the disaster victims?

I am surprised that The Washington Times saw fit to repeat unfounded and secondhand allegations without checking the facts. The Belgian government expressed its outrage at the baseless accusations of Dr. Luc Beaucourt, who claimed to have been the only contact point for the Belgians stranded in the tsunami-stricken region.

Those claims clearly are false.

An official from the Belgian Embassy in Bangkok was sent to the ravaged coast of Thailand on day one and was joined quickly by other embassy personnel. That team, not Dr. Beaucourt, was from the beginning the official point of contact for Belgians.

Belgium’s response to the disaster was in many ways exemplary. B-Fast, the interagency emergency support system, received specific requests for aid from the countries stricken by the disaster and immediately freighted military planes with emergency relief equipment for UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders.

Those planes left for Sri Lanka and Indonesia. As a result, Belgium was among the very first countries to deliver first-aid equipment to those two countries. Flying back to Belgium, they carried European tourists.

Why Sri Lanka and Indonesia? Because those two countries bore the worst blows of the tsunami. In the meantime, a Belgian identification team was dispatched to Phuket, Thailand, to work with the Thai and international identification teams.

Has B-Fast “done some work”? Like many relief teams from many countries, it has done its best, and remarkably well. Also, like many peoples, the government of Belgium has responded generously to the call for aid, so far committing more than $39 million in U.S. dollars, while the Belgian population simultaneously is giving record amounts to the nongovernmental organizations involved in the relief efforts (more than $19 million in U.S. currency).

Relief and rescue operations should not be the object of mockery and irony — marks of disrespect for those who work tirelessly and assist, at times, at the peril of their lives.

Tsunami relief should neither be subject to humor nor seen as a beauty contest. Too many are grieving today. Poking fun at their friends and rescuers helps them not a bit.

SERGE WAUTHIER

First secretary

Embassy of Belgium

Washington

From ‘social security’ to ‘personal

As the debate about Social Security heats up, I have to agree with the point of view presented by Richard Rahn in his Thursday Commentary column (“Right questions in right order”). Here are some additional suggestions:

First, with the current system, high-wage earners see their FICA deduction end once they have met their annual obligation. I think these people should have the option of continuing to have the deduction taken from their wages but have this money go into personal accounts. It could be the employer’s 401(k) plan or an IRA-type plan.

The existing 401(k) and IRA caps would not apply to these additional deposits if the amount contributed did not exceed the regular FICA payroll deduction. Employers would not be obligated to match the employee contributions, but the government could sweeten the pot by offering an employer tax credit for matching. The program would be optional for the employees and the employers.

Second, President Bush’s plan for private accounts should provide all employees with the option of increasing their FICA payroll deductions, with the extra amount going directly into a private account. Again, 401(k) and IRA caps would not apply, and employer deductions also would be optional.

The important thing to consider with both of these ideas is that they could be implemented today without affecting the existing system. The movement toward “personal security” from “social security” could begin now, and the arguments from the naysayers could be sidestepped.

JAMES WEINGART

Arlington

The editorial “Solving Social Security’s problems” (Thursday) provides a candid examination of projected Social Security benefits over the coming decades. The Times demonstrates real courage in confronting the elephant in the room — that personal retirement accounts would provide Americans with a level of retirement income far below projected payments under the current system.

What’s more, there is no crisis for Social Security. A highly conservative projection by the Congressional Budget Office that assumes an economic dark age for the United States over the next 75 years with virtually no economic growth theorizes that the trust fund will be exhausted in 2052.

However, even under this doom-and-gloom scenario, Social Security payroll taxes would still provide a significant level of income to retirees after 2052. More telling, the projection figures cited by The Times reveal that in 2052, the current system would provide retirees with benefits that are 25 percent greater than a system with personal retirement accounts.

It is such disappointing performance by personal retirement accounts that would create a real crisis for Social Security and retired Americans.

JOHN GAGE

National president

American Federation of Government Employees

Washington

Women in a combat zone

In response to President Bush’s announcement that there will be no women in combat (“Despite pressure, Bush pledges ‘no women in combat,’ ” Page 1, Wednesday), I would like to say that I am a female soldier who returned from Iraq not too long ago. If I was not in combat, I would like to know what one would call being shot at on the ground by enemy forces. Was I just “hanging out” in a combat zone, or was I at war as well as the men? Many female soldiers have been injured and killed in official Army roles that are classified as noncombative. I think President Bush needs to take a better look at what is already occurring, and has been for years, before he says there will be no women going into combat.

SPC. DUSTY ARMSTRONG

Fort Campbell

Clarksville, Tenn.

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