- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 5, 2006

Problems and solutions in Cyprus

The article “U.S. ready to trade with Turkish Cypriots” (World, Feb. 21) displays a degree of misunderstanding as to the laws and regulations that apply to the Republic of Cyprus, a European Union country, and to the overall realities regarding the Cyprus problem.

According to anonymous StateDepartmentofficials quoted in this article, easing the isolation of northern Cyprus through direct trade with the United States is the best way to reunify the island.

These anonymous officials are wrong. The best way to reunify the island is obviously to remove the Turkish occupation army, estimated at 40,000, and the 120,000illegalTurkish colonists, and to tear down Turkey’s barbed-wire fence across Cyprus.

Reunification, they say, is impeded by the economic disparity between the occupied north and the prosperous Republic of Cyprus, which controls the south. But since 2003 this disparity has been steadily disappearing. The relaxation of border controls (imposed by the 40,000-strong Turkish occupation army still stationed in the north) and economic development measures undertaken by the Republic of Cyprus have significantly increased the economic growth rate and per capita incomes in the north and conferred a host of other tangible economic and social benefits on Turkish Cypriots. The success of these integration measures undercuts the ostensible premise for U.S. direct trade, which is ill-advised for still other reasons.

If the United States really wants to be an honest broker for reunification, it should take its thumb off the scales. It should drop the direct-trade plans and other one-sided initiatives now being advanced behind the euphemism of “easing the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.” Instead, the United States should get behind the successful integration measures already under way between the parties on the ground and support a settlement based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation in a sovereign state, incorporating the norms of constitutional democracy, the EU acquis communaitaire, the longstanding U.N. resolutions on Cyprus and the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.



The American Hellenic Institute


Health-care troubles

Deroy Murdock (“Lawsuits sickening us,” Commentary, Feb. 26) correctly identifies one symptom of what’s wrong with America’s health-care system — high malpractice insurance premiums — but he completely misdiagnoses the underlying problem.

High rates for medical malpractice insurance are not the result of malpractice lawsuits or payments to injured patients, which are actually declining. A review of the insurance industry’s own data shows increased rates are the result of the insurance companies price-gouging doctors to make up for investment losses.

According to an analysis of filings by the 15 leading malpractice insurers with state insurance departments, claims payouts have been flat since 2000. At the same time, malpractice insurers more than doubled what they charged doctors. In 2004, malpractice insurers took in three times as much in premiums as they paid out in claims. Mr. Murdock conveniently skipped over the insurance industry’s malfeasance.

Mr. Murdock doesn’t get his facts right. He writes of a “barrage” of lawsuits, but according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the stable frequency of malpractice payments, combined with an increase in the number of practicing physicians, produced a 25 percent decrease in the average number of claims per physician between 1991 and 2003.

Despite the evidence, Mr. Murdock is not advocating for the sort of insurance reform that has been proven to reduce malpractice insurance premiums in states like California. Instead he is pushing the agenda of the insurance industry and calling for legislation that would take away the ability of people to hold insurance companies accountable when they refuse to pay for needed treatment.

High insurance rates are a symptom — the bigger disease is that our health-care system is dominated by insurance companies and HMO executives who value profits over patient safety.

We need to take back our health-care system from the insurance industry and give it back to doctors and patients, where it belongs.



Association of Trial Lawyers

of America


School vouchers and teachers

Thomas Sowell’s “Something for nothing: Part II” (Commentary, Friday) attacked teacher unions for opposing school vouchers in order to protect their jobs. But without their democratic unions teachers would be little better off than street sweepers (not that there is anything wrong with street sweepers). Few people would go to the trouble and expense of becoming teachers if they didn’t have some job protection from the sometimes arbitrary decisions of cheapskate school boards.

Private, mostly faith-based, school teachers earn less than public school teachers, rarely have job protection, enjoy selected student bodies and are generally selected on the basis of their religion.

It should be added that University of Illinois researchers Christopher and Sarah Lubienski reported this year that a large statistical analysis of school math scores shows that on average public school students score higher than private or charter school students. Another study released this year shows that student performance is directly related to family income and level of parents’ education.

Finally,25statewide referendums from coast to coast over the last 40 years, plus numerous opinion polls, show that the American public is strongly opposed to school vouchers.


President Americans for

Religious Liberty

Silver Spring

Putting pen to paper

In regard to “Compute this: Writing’s back” (Show, Friday): While handwritten letters may be the epitome of good manners, certainly there are times when a substitute is needed. Although not conveying the same passion, letters to the press, for instance, in one’s handwriting usually are met with rejection because of the difficulty of deciphering them and because the topic has already passed by the time the letter arrives.

Second, the group most noted for hand-writing letters, namely our senior citizens, in many cases have seen their formerly fine Spenserian script degenerate into an illegible scrawl.

And third, for those who no longer have a typewriter that functions, Microsoft Word has proven a reliable substitute with the letter signed and sent by conventional snail mail.

For letter writers and the recipients, the important concern is whether the letter reflects thoughtfulness and empathy for the sender and the receiver. The method of transmitting it then becomes unimportant.


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