With images still fresh of protesters massed on France's streets and faces painted with non in opposition to the youth job bill, could it be possible that reform is afoot in labor, health care, housing and anticrime policy? Although readers look forward to positive change, their hopes are tempered by scepticism
As a French student, I appreciated your article about France's reforming behind the scenes [May 1]. I have to say it gives me hope to see an American magazine offering such a nice vision of France. Your report revealed the extent to which the French are struggling to find the positive aspects of social and political reform. But they prefer to stage demonstrations in the streets without forming any clear plans for the future. That is a very paradoxical situation. May the kind of cool reforms you described continue in France and the rest of Europe.
Reform is possible in France, even if the sound defeat of the Prime Minister's youth job bill seems to suggest otherwise. I didn't take part in the protests, and I wanted classes to start again, so I was grieved to see how the media lumped students together with destructive demonstrators. Necessary reforms may be forestalled again if French officials let a minority of students and unionists decide the fate of legislation. Today people react to policy changes with sensational demonstrations, and politicians bow to the pressure for fear of losing in the next elections.
Thank you for your very friendly and optimistic cover reporting on the French government's efforts at reform in the face of citizen resistance. Unfortunately, we are very, very far from solving the problem of populist reaction against change.
Le Cannet, France
The Nile's Bounty
Re "The waters of life" [May 1]: as a retired U.N. and World Bank consultant who has worked in Egypt and Ethiopia, I found your story on the increasing cooperation between Egypt and its southern neighbors extremely interesting. You reported that Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, said, "While Egypt is taking the Nile water to transform the Sahara into something green, we in Ethiopia which is the source of 85% of that water are denied the possibility of using it to feed ourselves." But Ethiopia has several major river basins besides the Blue Nile, as well as fertile land, and if it were to exploit those resources, it would be able to not only feed itself but also become a granary for Africa. When I reminded an Ethiopian diplomat in Cairo not long ago that Egypt, according to Herodotus, "was a gift of the Nile," he retorted, "But the Nile is the gift of Ethiopia."
M. Riaz Hasan
Bolten's Uphill Battl
time reported on new White House chief of staff Josh Bolten's "recovery plan" [May 1]. The trouble is that Bolten's campaign is designed to elevate the President's poll numbers rather than solve the ugly problems the Administration has created for the country. It is hard to imagine any American finding valid reasons to defend George W. Bush's performance. There are new revelations almost every day about questionable conduct and incompetence among the President's staff and appointees. Let's hope they never again have the guts to lecture us on patriotism, character, integrity or family values. At a time when the world needs leaders, that crowd has disgraced public service.
Pearisburg, Virginia, U.S.
Can Bolten rescue the Bush presidency? No. To save it, he would have to remove the root cause of the problem, the President himself.
Luckily for Bush, he can revamp his Cabinet whenever he pleases. But the American electorate barring an impeachment unfortunately has to wait four years to be able to replace the occupant of the Oval Office.
Stanley Richard Olivar
Vista, California, U.S.
Escaping from North Korea
time's story about the trials of North Koreans fleeing their country made for riveting reading [May 1]. Instead of hounding desperate refugees, the Chinese government should focus on prodding Pyongyang to open up and reform. Ultimately, only improved economic conditions under a more open system in North Korea can effectively stop the flow of refugees. If China really wants to stem illegal border crossings and help the North Korean people, a great step in the right direction would be spurring its basket-case neighbor to embrace reform and globalization rather than just providing generous aid to prop up the regime. If that happened, the underground railroad created by American Christians would eventually grind to a halt, a result that I am sure they and other activists would warmly welcome.
Although the human-rights violations being committed in North Korea are sickening, they are unfortunately nothing new. The world has known for decades about North Korea's Stalinist-inspired gulags, in which individuals found guilty of such crimes as reading a foreign newspaper and singing a South Korean pop song are doing the hardest imaginable time. Three generations of a family can also be found guilty by association and imprisoned. The administration in Seoul refuses to intervene in North Korea or even acknowledge the obvious brutality of that regime's policies. It has been said that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Whereas officials in Washington have at least repeatedly spoken out against Pyongyang in no uncertain words, those in Seoul have exhibited criminal indifference to heinous and unnecessary suffering. Good people doing nothing? They cannot even be called good.
Hancho C. Kim
Re your thought-provoking report "Battle of Wills" [May 1] on the political turmoil in Nepal: The country is one of the poorest in the world, and its people have suffered a lot. Their anger is targeted at not only King Gyanendra but also the entire edifice of monarchy, an anachronism in the present day. Gyanendra should follow the example of contemporary royals who are confined to being figureheads within democratic monarchies. I remember that when King Jigme Singye Wangchuck of Bhutan volunteered to give up absolute power as monarch, he said, "The country is more important than the King." And prospects for political stability would increase if the army submitted to the supreme authority of parliament.
Vinod C. Dixit
Up from the Ooze
Scientists are hailing Tiktaalik Roseae, or the fossil "fishapod," as evidence of evolution [April 17]. Yet in the same article, they admit that the elongated fin of the fishapod would have been "worse than useless" on land and that the appendage is only "anatomically" and not functionally intermediate between lobed fins and legs. If some level of function does not follow anatomical form, then natural selection has nothing to work upon to produce legs from fins. That article presented more evidence of the grip that evolution has on the mind of scientists than it did for the theory.
Diamond Springs, California, U.S.
The fishapod article and accompanying Viewpoint used straw-man arguments in an attempt to discredit intelligent design and creationism. They even went so far as to insinuate that without a belief in amoebas-to-man evolution, we are doomed to succumb to a pandemic. Nonsense! One doesn't need to believe in unobservable and unrepeatable macroevolution to have a comprehensive working knowledge of genetics. Creationists and proponents of intelligent design are quite at home with the concepts of Mendelian variation within species and natural selection. They simply object to wild extrapolations beyond observable limits of genetic variability. Don't hide behind the cloak of science when it's clear that you're an evolution evangelist.
Opus Dei and Faith
Thank you very much for your objective reporting on the controversial Roman Catholic society Opus Dei [April 24]. I have been a supernumerary member for 13 years, and I am still struggling to do my work well in order to please God. Are we conservative? Well, if you consider Opus Dei's efforts to conserve the core values of Christ's ministry, then yes, that is indeed true. But terms that are more descriptive of the character of Opus Dei are faithfulness and fidelity to the teaching of the Catholic Church. Studying Christ's teachings as expounded by the church and trying to live my life as a good Christian as well as smiling through the irritations of each and every day are more than enough self-mortification. Those I consider my cilice [a chain] and discipline [a small whip].
Regina M. Rendal
Negros Oriental, the Philippines
Opus Dei seems to combine extreme navel gazing with self-loathing. It also seems preoccupied with gaining power over others and amassing wealth. Just the description of founder Josemaría Escrivá's enthusiastic self-flagellation was enough to turn me off.
Doris Wrench Eisler
St. Albert, Canada
I was an Opus Dei member in central America during the '80s. In those chaotic times, I was attracted to the idea of sanctifying daily work and giving my life more transcendental value without sacrificing my dedication to studying medicine. With time, I came to realize that those noble goals got marginalized in the face of the group's ambitions of expansion, influence, power, élitism and worship of its founder. In those eight years, I lost one of the most fundamental possessions a human being has: freedom. After I left, I realized I also lost something else: my faith.
Carlos Valladares, M.D.
A General Disagreement
I don't care how many generals have joined Lieut. General Greg Newbold in criticizing Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. Iraq's actions were not "peripheral to the real threat," as Newbold claims. Saddam Hussein wanted to be the venture capitalist of Islamic extremism and fuel its fire. Iraq today may be a down-and-dirty training ground for terrorists, but Saddam's Iraq was their five-star hotel and bank. Things in Iraq aren't ideal, but they were worse before.
Kenneth A. Rumbarger
Trooper, Pennsylvania, U.S.
After reading Newbold's essay [april 17], I was about to write a scathing letter asking why the General waited so long to make his views known. Then I realized that I never made my views known either. I strongly opposed the Iraq invasion, but like many others, I chose inaction. I stayed silent and let others protest. I'll never know if I could have made a difference, but I regret not trying.
Rosemary Garro Tanfani
Fair Oaks, California, U.S.
While Newbold may have heard The Who, he clearly did not listen to them. If he had, he would have been in tune with the thousands who protested before the war. And he would have noted the voices that tried to break through the wall of sound erected by the Republican Party. If the good General wants to say he was fooled again, he has certainly earned the right. But there were many here among us who were not fooled again. We were just part of a nation that was led by fools again.
Bloomington, Illinois, U.S.
This administration repeats lessons from our recent past. Both the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Vietnam War were also partly caused by something called groupthink, in which decision makers consider advice only from those who back one set of ideas. George Bush was elected in part as the education President. One of the hallmarks of an educated person is willingness to critically evaluate evidence for and against hypotheses: in this case, that Iraq had wmd and was supporting al-Qaeda. For that, I give him an F in critical thinking and in leadership.
St. Cloud, Minnesota, U.S.
Unbearable and Unmissable
As upsetting as I expect it will be, I still would like to see United 93 [April 17]. That plane's story was the only relatively "good" news on that horrible day. When passenger Todd Beamer said, "Are you guys ready? Let's roll!" and led those heroes forward in their charge toward the terrorists in the cockpit, he was partly inspired by a Teddy Roosevelt quotation that his wife later found on his desk at home. That speech praised the person "who strives valiantly � spends himself in a worthy cause � and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly." This movie honors the passengers' courage, and I will try to honor them by seeing it, no matter how painful it will definitely be.
Plainview, New York, U.S.