Drone operators should not receive combat awards

Re: "Lawmakers, veterans panning new medal," Feb. 28

Recent articles are misleading when they allege that console operators and cyberwarfare members are not eligible for awards or competitive promotion and are not being recognized for their service. Members serving in cyberwarfare and as drone operators are already eligible for meritorious service awards and outstanding performance evaluations that are the basis for promotion.

What's next? Purple Heart awards for paper cuts?

Justification for this award was based on keeping up with new technologies, which further demonstrates a lack of respect and understanding of the military awards program, since advances in technology have nothing to do with award worthiness.

Having served for over 40 years in the Department of Defense, first as a special agent in counterintelligence and then as a staff judge advocate at every echelon from post to worldwide command, I can state that the morale of service members -- both active and former -- will be harmed, since Defense Secretary Leon Panetta apparently does not understand or respect the difference between meritorious service awards and those for heroism/valor.

Another insult is the precedence given this new decoration, even before the Bronze Star for Valor, which was created in 1944. This defies logic. It will not only demean the value of all awards it precedes, but destroy the distinction between awards for valor and those for meritorious service.

Military pins, insignia and patches are already provided for service members to wear on their uniforms to show they have unique skills -- such as airborne, submariner, Pentagon staff, etc. -- without demeaning combat decorations.

Will his new award mean more than my Legion of Merit?

-- Steven Chucala


Keystone will reduce air pollution worldwide

Re: "GAO: Asia's power plants destroying U.S. waters," Washington Secrets, Feb. 27

It must now be evident to even the most casual observer that China is the world's dominant air polluter. China's appetite for energy appears to be insatiable, and it appears to be consuming it without regard to overall world pollution.

In this country, air polluters were labeled as environmental criminals. We have increasingly clean air because we developed and implemented both the policy and technology to get the desired results.

It is time to protect our Earth from environmental criminals such as China. One step is to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Oil from Canada may result in a slight marginal increase in some products of combustion, but any refined products from this abundant energy source will certainly be required to meet our environmental regulations.

It would be much better if Canadian oil was consumed in our country, where successful controls are in place, rather than being shipped to China, where its seemingly unrestricted and criminal usage would increase the world's air pollution.

-- Mike Adelman


Lawmakers should vote for smart meter opt-out

As a resident of Maryland, I am very concerned about the ability of smart meters to invade our privacy. The utility can use them to monitor, collect and transmit personal data about our daily activities, a type of surveillance that many of us reject as illegal. The utilities say they will protect our data, but there are no guarantees that it will not be sold to marketers or stolen by hackers.

Smart Meters emit radiation, but they have not been adequately and independently tested for long- and short-term health issues.

There are also safety issues. Smart meters have not been proven safe by independent groups, and numerous fires have been reported.

If the various jurisdictions insist that the smart meter installation program continues, we should have the option to opt out for the reasons stated above -- and without paying a fee. For a no-cost opt out, Maryland citizens should encourage their legislative leaders to vote "Yes" for HB 1038.

-- Suzanne Sweet