I have lived in Japan some 25 years, and though Pico Iyer's Japanese friends may suggest eating at Colonel Sanders', I have never met any food-loving Japanese older than 14 who would opt for KFC or McDonald's. Junk food is junk food, and to suggest that it is somehow different in different regions is to let delusions substitute for the real world. Luther Link, shimoda, japan
Know Thine Enemy After reading Bobby Ghosh's "The Enemy's New Tools" [June 25-July 2], I have a question. Once he completed his interview with terrorist Saif Abdallah, who makes improvised explosive devices, did Ghosh notify U.S. forces of Abdallah's location? If Ghosh sat in a room with him and his equipment, then he has knowledge that can lead to saving service members' lives. Abdallah's next "toy" might kill me or one of my soldiers, and that is unacceptable. Frank Slavin, Captain, U.S. Army, baghdad
Thank you for this extraordinary story, which gave chilling insight into the minds of those who hate Americans and kill our soldiers. Our media and politicians have a tendency to turn these people into stereotypical villains or just statistics, but that doesn't help us understand them. If we want to defeat our enemies, we must understand them. Your correspondent obviously puts himself in great danger when he meets people like Abdallah, and I would like him to know that I appreciate it. I hope folks in Washington and generals in the Pentagon are reading stories like this and learning valuable lessons about our enemies. Rupert Peters, San Jose, California, U.S.
Hometown Pride Your special report on Hong Kong dwelled on expatriates and returnees, perpetuating the misconception that the city's indigenous majority has no value to the city's development other than as its money-driven labor [June 18]. A city can never be great if the majority of its population is taught that everything good is foreign. The cosmopolitan city glamorized in your report is a city of cultural orphans brainwashed into becoming submissive to myriad foreign cultures that have been filtered through a colonial sieve. Pierce Lam, Hong Kong Gates 3.0
I used to think of Bill Gates as the perfect nerd, but I've changed my mind after reading your informative article [June 18]. It was the quote about his admiration for Steve Jobs' taste that finally broke the ice. Gates appears to be more sympathetic and quite different from my earlier impression. I won't dare criticize him for being wealthy, as I hope he succeeds in curing a lot of inequities with his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates 3.0 is entirely commendable and should be a model for many other celebrities. Sebastian Kiesel, Augsburg, Germany
Gates has unfairly used his company's position as the platform vendor. Since Microsoft is the only software company that knows everything about the Windows operating system, its competitors have no chance of developing a better word processor. In any case, I hate the awkward interface and design of Windows XP compared with the elegance and user-friendliness of Apple's operating system. Masatoshi Nishikawa, Tokyo
Fueling Instability Your article about an increase in investment in African oil fields set off tremors of anxiety [June 11]. I fail to understand why the West has not learned from past investment in Middle Eastern oil. The money earned from the West by Arabs and Iranians is the major reason for all the troubles in the West. Do Western governments believe that reducing their dependence on Middle Eastern oil and shifting the money into African hands will reduce their problems? That is a utopian dream. Africans with loads of money will be a far greater threat to Western civilization than anything we ever imagined. Cherif El-Ayouty, copenhagen
I enjoyed the cover story on Africa's Oil. Although West Africa has the potential to be the next Persian Gulf, its oil probably won't make the region an economic powerhouse. There should be a commitment by all stakeholders to redistribute oil wealth among Africa's people. The oil-rich states should stop channeling the proceeds from oil sales into the bank accounts of the ruling élite while the majority of their citizens suffer economic stagnation and social deterioration. That pattern fuels only political instability. Oluwole Akinbi, lagos
Charting Peace Thanks for finding a way to print the Global Peace Index of 121 countries in order of peacefulness [June 18]. Other reports I have read gave the positions of only a few countries. There must be many international readers, like myself in country No. 42, who were satisfied to see the whole list. Sheila M. Case, Gaborone, Botswana
Taking Poetry's Pulse Thank you for your article about the shameful little secret of modern poetry [June 25-July 2]. A poem can be a delightful read or a painful exercise in frustration, as with much of the modern stuff. Today's poetry often seems to use obscurity for its own sake, to be so profound that the meaning, if there is one, is too erudite for those outside of academia. I confess that sometimes it just sounds to me like nonsense phrases pretending to mean something important. Since I write free verse, I know it is possible to create that delightful moment of understanding without being obscure. Annabelle Reeve, Aberdeen, North Carolina, U.S.
Poetry is not in decline. it thrives outside academia, in popular song lyrics that millions of people, especially children, can recite by heart. One need only listen to the lyrics of today's hip-hop, rap, jazz and rock-music artists to hear poetry as it has been practiced since ancient times. Contemporary music lyrics can be vulgar, vivid, challenging, eloquent, passionate, inspiring and moreall the things that written poetry used to be. Many academics lament poetry's decline in readership. Who says poetry should be read? The presentation of poetry in written form has declined, not the art form itself. If you want to experience contemporary poetry in its most vibrant and living form, just plug in your iPod or check out Poetry Out Loud, the recitation contest for high school students. Poetry is alive and well; you just have to listen for it. Thomas A. Hauck, Gloucester, Massachusetts, U.S.
Thanks to Lev Grossman for pointing out that newspapers and magazines used to print poems on a regular basis. From my experience as a small-press publisher, I can guarantee there would be no shortage of submissions if this early-American practice were revived. (Kudos to Garrison Keillor for reading poems on NPR.) In this troubling yet promising new digital age, perhaps some of Ruth Lilly's philanthropy could be used to pay the poets a little royaltylike the one their songwriting cousins getif they are granted publication in places like TIME. John P. Travis, Portals Press, New Orleans