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Letters to the Editor

Re: "City needs memorial to MOVE victims," letter, Monday: Temple professor Burton Caine says of the MOVE disaster: "The third tragedy was that the only person to go to jail was Ramona Africa, the only adult to escape [the MOVE house on Osage Avenue], who was convicted on a trumped-up charge."

Judicial system found Africa guilty

Re: "City needs memorial to MOVE victims," letter, Monday:

Temple professor Burton Caine says of the MOVE disaster: "The third tragedy was that the only person to go to jail was Ramona Africa, the only adult to escape [the MOVE house on Osage Avenue], who was convicted on a trumped-up charge."

Any professor of law worth his salt should know that a criminal defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but not afterward. I remind Caine of this principle because I was the assistant district attorney who drafted the criminal complaint against Ramona Africa.

Before I even filed it, Bernard L. Siegel, then deputy district attorney for investigations, was summoned to review and approve it. Is Caine saying that together we "trumped up" the felonies - riot and conspiracy to riot - on which Africa was subsequently found guilty by 12 jurors? Did that panel of citizens violate its sworn duty? Did the trial prosecutor, Joseph McGill, trump up the evidence? Did the Common Pleas judge, Michael R. Stiles, trump up his denials of post-verdict relief?

It is interesting to note (1) that Africa was jailed throughout the legal proceedings against her; (2) that she was sentenced to spend up to seven years in state prison for her offenses; and (3) that she was ultimately released - not paroled - on the seventh anniversary of her arrest, having served out the full maximum. During all that time, where was Caine or his claim about her innocence? Why did an appellate reversal never ensue for Africa, if she had, in fact, been "convicted on a trumped-up charge"?

George Shotzbarger


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A statue for slain officer

In response to the letter regarding a monument being erected in memory of the innocent MOVE victims at Osage Avenue, I find it interesting that professor Burton Caine doesn't feel that it would be appropriate to erect a monument to Sgt. James Ramp of the Philadelphia Police Department, who was gunned down by members of MOVE in a horrific gun battle on Pearl Street on Aug. 8, 1978.

Joseph Logue


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Spending a problem in the suburbs, too

Commendations to you on your editorial Sunday "Higher taxes are no solution," in which you eloquently outlined the problems of government in the city of Philadelphia.

Frugality seems to be the forgotten issue in the suburbs, too. In Lower Merion Township, it appears that unnecessary spending is a factor that ultimately leads to increases in taxes. We have a very active commissioner but an unreachable township board, where transparency is a problem and any suggestions for lowering or maintaining the status quo are disregarded.

Sallee Rush


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Santorum's view is haves, have-nots

You report that Rick Santorum is considering a presidential run, and quote Santorum as lamenting that the recently enacted health-care plan will "dumb down and flatten us. We will no longer be a people or a country of peaks and valleys but of numbing middle ground" ("Santorum has some advice on tea party," Tuesday).

If a peak is having a good job with health insurance and a valley is being unable to afford or even to obtain health insurance because of a preexisting medical condition, I think most of us will find the middle ground exhilarating.

The mind-numbing vision is Santorum's - that of a nation where it is acceptable for there to be haves and have-nots for access to health care. For a person who prides himself on his Christian values, Santorum comes up seriously short in loving his neighbor as himself.

Suzanne Fluhr


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Another way to save Olympia

Your Sunday article "Olympia facing a sunken future" spoke about the lack of funds for the upkeep of the Olympia, Commodore George Dewey's flagship in the Spanish- American War. You noted that unless money is found to repair its thinning hull, the Olympia might have to be sunk off Cape May and made into an artificial reef. The ship is the world's oldest steel warship still afloat.

I have a permanent solution that does not require the hull to be fixed and may be cheaper, too. At the Yokosuka Naval Base sits the Japanese battleship Mikasa, with its hull resting in concrete. It played a pivotal role in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905.

The Mikasa weighs more than 15,000 tons, nearly three times the Olympia's weight. The Mikasa was placed in concrete after World War II not only to preserve it but also to comply with the surrender agreement that Japan could not have operational battleships. After 50-plus years, the Mikasa and its concrete base are still doing fine.

I believe this would be cheaper than repairing and maintaining the Olympia's hull.

Wayne L. Johnson

Alexandria, Va.

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Real meaning of Memorial Day

Despite what some may think, Memorial Day was not established to gauge the profitability of Shore merchants, or as an excuse for automobile or furniture sales. While it provides a respite from the workweek and a pleasant three-day weekend, Memorial Day is a day to remember those men and women throughout the generations who sacrificed their lives for our freedom and the way of life we enjoy today.

So take a moment to remember our heroes and fly your flag. Show you care. If it were not for our veterans, that afternoon barbeque might not be the event you so enjoy.

Terence G. O'Hara