- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Health compensation for veterans

While retired members of Congress fling mud over the merits of asbestos trust fund legislation (“Strange asbestos bedfellows” by Dick Armey, Commentary, June 12), America’s veterans are dying of mesothelioma and asbestos-related cancers. Without congressional action on S. 852, an asbestos trust fund bill, these veterans have no place to turn for compensation or relief.

Asbestos was once widely used by the military, particularly in insulation aboard Navy ships. Thousands of men and women in uniform were exposed unknowingly to asbestos. Even today, veterans who served before the 1980s are still being diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses from asbestos exposure.

Under law, veterans can’t recover from the government through the courts. Most of the companies that supplied asbestos to the government are bankrupt, providing pennies on the dollar to victims.

As a World War II-era Navy veteran, I have watched too many colleagues suffer asbestos-related illnesses without getting a dime of relief. Only a trust fund solution like S. 852 will provide fair and timely compensation for sick veterans.

JOHN PAYNE

Former state commander

West Virginia Department

Veterans of Foreign Wars

Clendenin, W.Va.

Parents and preschool choices

Michael Smith made several convincing arguments for why mandatory preschool is not in the best interest of children in “Preschool loosens parent-child bonds” (Life, June 13). There is an ever-growing push toward compulsory preschool attendance by day-care advocates as well as other segments of society that would benefit from any form of free child care or preschool.

Mr. Smith cites evidence from a report, “Day Care and Democracy in Eastern Europe” by David A. Scott, that showed that institutionalized children tend to have more emotional and behavioral problems. He also cites evidence from a recent Yale University study that showed that preschoolers are “being expelled from their school programs in ever-increasing numbers.”

There is even more recent evidence in the failure of Head Start programs to meet many important academic and behavioral goals for 4-year-olds enrolled in these federal programs. This evidence as well as many past studies have shown that day care programs often do not meet high-quality standards. However, the continual push for more compulsory preschool continues.

One strong motivation behind this push is obvious. With the rise in single parenthood and dual-income couples, there are more parents who would gladly avail themselves of federally subsidized day care or preschool and often believe they deserve government aid.

Parents who may feel guilty leaving their child in day care for long hours feel much more comfortable explaining to others that their very young child is in “school,” not in day care, when they are apart for 50 hours a week.

While mandatory, subsidized preschool may be more convenient for parents who work outside the home and may alleviate some of their guilt, I agree with Mr. Smith that it is not in the best interest of children and that “young children are better off at home,” where their “educational, emotional and psychological needs can be provided by their parents in a safe home environment.” At the very least, parents should be given a choice to decide for themselves what is in the best interest of their children.

JENNIFER WOLFF

Bowie

Democracy at home

One of the problems with preaching is that you may be called to account for your own actions. Such should be the case with our government.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been visiting our Middle Eastern allies and telling them that U.S. policies, which used to favor stability over democracy, have reversed and that they should get with the new program (“Rice calls for Mideast action,” Page 1, Yesterday).

Needless to say, leaders of these regimes are not amused. I think independent American voters should be even less amused.

Our elections are as rigged as those in these regimes, but most Americans seem not to know or care. It’s difficult to imagine how the present situation differs much from Colonial America, when King George III filled all political posts.

Unlike in the parliamentary systems adopted almost universally, party-registration laws and legally gerrymandered U.S. state and federal voting districts make it almost impossible for third-party candidates to get elected. In European democracies, parties garnering just a small percent of the vote have seated representatives.

The rallying cry in the Colonies was, “No taxation without representation.” Yet independent U.S. voters continue to be taxed. People under the voting age in their states who work and pay taxes have no representation. Residents of the District have no representative in Congress who can vote. Many convicted felons are denied the vote after they have served their sentences but are expected to pay taxes.

Taxation without representation is still the way politics in our nation is conducted.

STEVE SCHEAR

San Francisco

Durbin’s slur

Many Americans believe the war in Iraq and the war against al Qaeda in Afghanistan are wrong because they make America unpopular in the Muslim world (“Gitmo called death camp,” Page 1, Thursday). These Americans are disturbed that so many Muslims hate us.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-most powerful Democrat in the Senate, has compared America’s treatment of about 500 captured terrorists to the slaughter and enslavement of millions of innocents in Pol Pot’s killing fields, Stalin’s gulag and Hitler’s extermination camps.

Naturally, Al Jazeera has broadcast these remarks all over the Arab world. With spokesmen like Mr. Durbin, is there any wonder why they might hate us so?

SCOTT ABRAMSON

San Mateo, Calif.

Al Qaeda has no home in Sudan

Your article “U.S. probes reported Sudan link to terror” (Page 1, Friday) was a complete misrepresentation of reality. While I understand that some in the United States will go to any lengths to block Sudanese-U.S. cooperation in any area, including the war on terrorism, your report appeared to be looking for a problem where there is none.

For the record, al Qaeda does not have a base in Sudan, and my government is not cooperating with al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization regarding training, financing or other forms of material support. Our liaison in the area of intelligence has been complete and unqualified. We will continue to consult and cooperate fully with the United States and the international community to combat terrorism.

Your story was a rather transparent attempt to use rumors, biased and ill-informed sources and the emotionally charged issue of Darfur to undercut Sudanese-U.S. consultations and cooperation in an area of critical importance to both governments — the war against terrorism. Regardless, no amount of misreporting or misinformation will undercut the excellent lines of communication and cooperation that have been established over recent years.

AMBASSADOR KHIDIR HAROUN AHMED

Chief of mission

Sudan Embassy

Washington


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