- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2007

We can win Latin America

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Op-Ed (“Losing Latin America” Wednesday) is a timely warning that an opportunity exists for a far more desirable outcome, namely “Winning Latin America.”

Clearly, we can all agree that having 400 million partners fully engaged in developing their own economic future under the mantle of freedom and democracy is an infinitely better outcome than accepting the existence of 400 million neighbors living in permanent material poverty and human stagnation. For that essential reason, we cannot remain complacent and miss a fresh opportunity to “build new bridges to our friends in the region.”

In that regard, two words should guide our actions: new and urgent.

Fortunately, solutions that meet both criteria do exist. As an example, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab “One Laptop Per Child” project, whose aim is to provide affordable computers for children in the developing world, is ready to start this year.

It will immediately empower each child by giving him or her access to educational material and thus complement the work of hardworking teachers. And while this single effort will not solve the knowledge gap in Latin America, it will certainly release hundreds of thousands of Latin children from the prisons of ignorance.

From our side, what are needed now are more forward-thinking champions such as Mrs. Hutchison behind this type of fresh initiative. Indeed, failure to find such support will guarantee the permanence of the “dark cloud over the future of freedom.”

ENRIQUE HUGO BARGIONI

Miami Beach, Fla.

Health information technology and its benefits

There is great interest among many private practice physicians in new technologies that may help increase patient safety and quality of care, but many barriers to adoption remain (“Paper still rules patient records,” Business, Monday). Physician concerns about ensuring the privacy and security of patients’ electronic records, the high cost of health information technology, multiple competing systems and limited guidance in choosing a system make purchasing health information technology difficult for doctors.

Currently, about 20 percent of physicians in practices employing 20 or more doctors have some form of health information technology, and the rate drops among smaller practices. With systems that don’t currently talk to each other and no national standard for interoperability, physicians are wary about spending $44,000 to implement a system that disrupts an established workflow and may become irrelevant in the near future.

Add the cost of health information technology to the steadily increasing cost of practicing medicine, as well as deep cuts in Medicare reimbursements to physicians, and making a decision to invest now in health information technology is one many physicians cannot do. The health information technology field is still young, and while physicians are optimistic about the benefits, more work needs to be done before widespread adoption is possible.

DR. WILLIAM G. PLESTED

President

American Medical Association

Chicago

Connolly responds to TWT

In Sunday’s Editorial “Virginia transportation tantrums,” in discussing the transportation funding bill passed by the General Assembly last month, I was lectured on responsibility because I had the audacity to suggest that this bill had flaws.

Unlike The Washington Times, I bear the responsibility of making sure my constituents’ best interests are protected, especially when Richmond fails them time after time.

My strongest objection to the bill is the devolution provision, which stipulates that if localities take advantage of new authority to raise funds, they must also assume funding and oversight of new road construction — tasks which have been the purview of the commonwealth since the 1930s.

In Fairfax, this would cost roughly $100 million a year — a cost that this bill does not even begin to cover. With the transfer of funds that the state would otherwise use for these roads shrinking to virtually nothing over the next 15 years and the current bill providing Fairfax with only $48 million a year for new roads, Fairfax County would be left with an annual shortfall of $62 million.

This is equivalent to 3 cents on the tax rate, which the board has fought to cut by 34 cents since Fiscal Year 2001.

Quite frankly, I fail to see how responsible it would be to allow my taxpayers to get so blatantly fleeced as members of the General Assembly trumpet this raw deal as a solution.

To suggest that this is somehow a “dump-your-problems-on Richmond” attitude is to ignore the nearly 80 years the commonwealth has built and maintained new roads in Virginia.

Richmond, having failed time and again to adequately address the transportation funding crisis, is dumping its problems on localities. That is irresponsible.

Moreover, far from just “kicking and stomping,” I have been working with our representatives in Richmond from both parties to improve the bill and make it a viable option for address our region’s transportation needs.

I am responsible for addressing the needs of my citizens and responsibility does not entail falling back on stale ideology with no regard for the facts or the consequences. Rather, it entails working to reach consensus and find solutions, which I shall continue to do as this bill moves forward.

GERALD E. CONNOLLY

Chairman

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors

Fairfax

The cross at William & Mary

As an alumnus of the College of William & Mary, I was pleased with the Committee on Religion in a Public University’s recommendation to once again return the Millington cross, also known as the Wren cross, to the historic Wren Chapel (“College returns cross to chapel,” Page 1, Wednesday). I was also very pleased with college President Gene R. Nichol’s acceptance of the council’s unanimous compromise.

This compromise allows for the historic cross to be once again displayed in the Wren Chapel on a daily basis and it mandates that the cross will be prominently displayed in a glass case. Although I am somewhat uneasy about this second change, since it seems to be an attempt at making a historic Christian chapel into an interfaith chapel (or an attempt to make the cross merely a museum piece), I also realize that this small concession will be remembered by no one and was only included in the agreement to allow Mr. Nichol to save some face in this matter.

This agreement will end the negative press that the college has been suffering from and will allow William & Mary to once again concentrate on educating our students in its usual outstanding manner. And at the same time, it will protect our precious Christian heritage, which is the key for understanding the spiritual motivations for the founding of the college.

I hope that this difficult time in the history of the college will be a lesson to other would-be cultural engineers that our historic universities are national treasures and not social laboratories to be used for introducing the latest in radical secular innovations. I also hope that future college presidents, both at William & Mary and elsewhere, will learn that our Christian heritage is not something that should be censored. Censoring our past only hides what our colleges were really like and obscures an important element of why they are the way they are today.

And finally, I hope that our nation’s college administrators will learn that in whitewashing the overwhelming impact that Christianity had on our development of human rights, social justice, our system of laws and our charitable institutions, we erase an integral part of our national past. Such important strides in how we have grown to be a more loving and caring nation toward people of all races, creeds and colors are Christian legacies we dare not forget.

DENNIS DI MAURO

Herndon

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