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--Our cover portrait of Miami photojournalist Susan Pierres elicited contradictory reactions, proving that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. "Since most of the media treat older women as if they don't exist, I was amazed and heartened to find a vibrant, beautiful 60-year-old on your cover," wrote a California woman. "I'm framing this dazzling picture as something to live up to as I near Pierres' age." But another Golden State sister was less impressed, declaring that "Pierres has obviously overdosed on Miami sunshine." A Minnesotan agreed. "Pierres needs to wear sunscreen and a hat, get a new hairdo and then have a more flattering photograph taken."
Father of Us All?
Finding Toumai Man, the oldest hominid, in Chad [PALEONTOLOGY, July 22] fits in well with the theory of punctuated equilibrium developed by paleontologists Niles Eldridge and Stephen Jay Gould. [The theory explains why new species, rather than evolving gradually over millions of years, seem to suddenly appear in the fossil record, punctuating long periods of species stability, or equilibrium.] The Toumai fossil could have been a member of a peripherally isolated community that evolved into our oldest ancestors. You reported that several modern-looking hominids coexisted, and this also jibes with the introduction of members of an isolated community into the larger population. People derided the theory, calling it evolution by jerks. Gould's famous retort was that the alternative theory is evolution by creeps. DAVID J. MELVIN Chester, N.J.
Although the Chad fossil find is indeed important, as a paleontologist I can assure you I am not scrambling to digest its implications. The traits that Toumai exhibits are what may be expected in a 7 million-year-old ape inhabiting woodlands whose origin predates the human-African ape divergence. The fossil record is far too complete for any one single ape fossil to jar the expectations of any serious paleontologist. ESTEBAN E. SARMIENTO Department of Vertebrate Biology American Museum of Natural History New York City
I found the discovery of Toumai quite interesting, as I have always enjoyed meeting new relatives, no matter how distant. Although this ancestor does not resemble any relatives that I've seen before, your artist's rendition bears a striking resemblance to the storybook monkey Curious George, a childhood favorite. But where does the Man with the Yellow Hat fit into our family tree? JON HERSHEY Akron, Ohio
Musharraf on the Spot
People like Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf have only one thing on their mind: how to survive and stay in power, which Musharraf grabbed in a coup in 1999 [WORLD, July 22]. He nurtured the Taliban in his country until the very last minute. His change of course after Sept. 11 was out of compulsion, not conviction. He had no choice when President Bush gave him an ultimatum. He now depends on American support for his survival. How long will it take the U.S. to understand that with friends like Musharraf, it needs no enemies? AHMED I. FAROOQUE Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Crisis of Confidence