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Poniewozik never mentioned that A Christmas Story was narrated and written by Jean Shepherd, who based the film on his memories of growing up in Indiana. Shepherd was the author of many books and is fondly remembered by millions for his brilliant radio monologues in the 1950s and '60s. He deserves credit for the movie.
Vince Treacy, WASHINGTON
A Stem-Cell Breakthrough?
Michael Kinsley's commentary about stem-cell research was disappointing, especially in that he let emotional rhetoric overshadow scientific evidence [Dec. 10]. Many cures and treatments have been derived from stem cells but none from embryonic cells. Ethically sound adult stem cells, which have been studied for 30 years, are a proven source of medical advances, so we haven't "lost years" of treatment development. Moreover, taxpayer dollars weren't used to fund the destruction of human life in that time. It was a moral stand President George W. Bush made. Let's move on with consensus on this new research.
Ronald Simpson, M.D.,University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, MOUNTAIN VIEW, ARK., U.S.
Kinsley is on solid moral ground in excoriating Bush for disallowing stem-cell research during the almost seven years of his regime. It is heartbreaking to think how many lives could have been saved had scientists been allowed more leverage in their approach to curing many of the diseases that ravage humanity. The Administration's posture on this issue is a symptom of a broader problem: the gradual incursion of personal religious beliefs into the fabric of our government. The integration of church and state is a dangerous trend threatening the personal freedoms that America has always respected.
Bill Gottdenker, MOUNTAINSIDE, N.J., U.S.
Treating Parkinson's disease is much more complicated than just using stem cells to produce more dopamine, as Kinsley wishes. Stem-cell growth and dopamine production can't always be controlled, and too much dopamine can cause involuntary movements and hallucinations. Embryonic stem cells transplanted or injected into the brain have produced mixed results in both animals and humans. Parkinson's affects the whole brain, and dopamine alone cannot cure it. Why should I hope for an ethical cure? My wife has been living with Parkinson's for nine years.
Steve Maloney, FRANKLIN, KY., U.S.
I am a high school student who avidly supports stem-cell research. I like that Kinsley brought to light the fact that the embryonic stem cells used in research come from fertility clinics, which otherwise would discard them. The advances scientists have made without government funding prove that with the necessary backing, we could be well on the way to curing Parkinson's and myriad other illnesses.
Jessica McLellan, MISSOURI CITY, TEXAS, U.S.
Facts About the FISA Bill
Joe Klein recently criticized the Restore Act, also known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), claiming that it "would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target's calls to be approved by the FISA court" [Dec. 3]. This is incorrect. The restore Act creates "basket" authorizations to allow widespread surveillance of foreign powers (like al-Qaeda) and their agents. To prevent a repeat of the Bush Administration's extralegal warrantless-wiretapping program, the court must approve the parameters of the group surveillance to ensure that warrants are still obtained for Americans' communications. But no court orders are required for surveillance of foreigners reasonably believed to be outside the country. The bill simply will not make our intelligence agencies get thousands of warrants for foreign terrorists. The restore Act's blend of Executive Branch flexibility, court approval and congressional oversight is calibrated to ensure that the fight against terrorism is conducted in an efficient and constitutional manner. We would hope that Klein, having studied the restore Act further, is no longer so confused as to continue to characterize our system of constitutional checks and balances as "well beyond stupid."
John Conyers Jr. and Silvestre Reyes, Chairmen, House Committee on Judiciary and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, WASHINGTON
Mending a Split City
After reading "Jerusalem Divided," I can't believe that no one has put forward the obvious solution: make it a federal district similar to Washington or Canberra [Dec. 3]. Palestine and Israel could base their federal government headquarters in the city, which could be ruled by a council made up of equal numbers of Christians, Muslims and Jews. That way, the important religious shrines and places of worship would be available to all, city services would be controlled by people who actually live there, and perhaps emergency personnel would be free to respond to anyone who needs their services without waiting for a police escort. This is surely a better plan than trying to figure out how to subdivide a city that is thousands of years old and whose residents refuse to settle into Jewish-only or Muslim-only enclaves.
Clayton Philbrook, MATINICUS, MAINE, U.S.