Re O for obesity, in your "The Year in Medicine: From A to Z issue [Dec. 1]: One way to fight rising obesity rates would be to tax fat. If I had to pay $10 for every pound I am overweight, I would quickly lose my 25 excess pounds. With a "fat tax," we could pay off our $10 trillion national debt in no time.
The U.S. government is considering a multibillion-dollar bailout for the Big Three auto companies [Nov. 24]. Why not help consumers at the same time? For three months, every time a new car is sold, the government should absorb half the list price, paying that sum directly to the car dealer. This discount available to the buyer could be reduced in stages during the rest of 2009. In return for this boost, the Big Three must agree to increase gas mileage and reduce car sizes. This scheme would keep most Detroit workers employed while avoiding the indiscriminate award of vast sums to the automobile industry. Most American-made cars are very good. New owners will presumably be pleased and for their next new car, be inclined to buy American again.
Spring Hill, Florida
The five top-selling cars in America are not "foreign." Many overseas carmakers build cars in the U.S. Why do these cars offer a better bang for the buck than GM's? The answer is with the United Auto Workers, who receive far higher pay and benefits than non-union workers in comparable jobs. As long as the labor bosses' power remains, Detroit's Big Three are doomed. President Truman stood up to the railroad unions. I hope Barack Obama will stand up to the auto unions.
So auto industry execs want us taxpayers to save them? This taxpayer would really like to be able to buy a Motown-made vehicle without feeling as if I was paying twice for it, once at the car dealer's and a second time through my taxes.
Thank you for highlighting the sad truth about the growing exodus of mothers from the Philippines [Nov. 24]. To many of us, it seems an irreversible phenomenon. Most overseas workers will tell you they had no choice but to leave. A mother's absence has consequences that are often felt intensely by children but not discussed. It's up to every Filipino not just those who are compelled to work abroad to think of ways to advance our society and keep our families together.
How ironic that those emigrant Filipina mothers are in turn often bringing up a generation of motherless kids in rich countries kids whose mothers return to work before their children are of school age; kids who spend long days with Filipina nannies as surrogate mothers. Few children rich or poor, in whichever country prefer gifts and toys to the presence of their mothers. In both cases, the mothers' drive to provide for their offspring financially seems to avoid the simplest of facts: parenting cannot be outsourced.
The depiction of the Philippines' experience with labor emigration captures what I have seen in many parts of the country. Most of the newly constructed concrete homes you find in rural areas are built from remittances; people point to the homes and describe them as "from Saudi," "from Dubai," "from Italy," etc. When you ask a youngster what she dreams of being, she will say, "A nurse, so I can go abroad." The outflow of Filipino workers is about supply and demand, globalisation and economic growth. I just hope that this phenomenon is temporary.
Is New Energy a Breeze?
I thought I had come to a typo in your article "Got Wind?" when I read about the Michigander who spent $16,000 to get a wind turbine that "can generate 1.5 kilowatts ... enough to power the average lightbulb for 15 hours" [Dec. 1]. And that, he admits, is on a day with "decent wind." A few nuclear plants can power more lightbulbs than that, and you don't have to sit around waiting for a breeze. Americans need to look at how France is getting nearly 80% of its electricity.
Piermont, New York
Somalia is yet another example of international failure [Nov. 24]. Had the U.S. been serious about fighting terrorists and stabilizing the world, Iraq would still be ruled by Saddam Hussein and Somalia would be under U.S. control. Somalia is the place that supports terrorism and threatens world interests by hosting the pirates that launch attacks on one of the world's busiest trade routes. Those are real threats. That the international presence in Somalia is about to cease entirely is outrageous.
I note that Peter Baron, the inventor of the straw that adds flavor to a drink, was forced to call it the Sippahh because his original name, Suckahh, did not go down well in the U.S. [Nov. 24]. It occurs to me that as an Australian, he was probably keen to call his new straw, containing friendly bacteria, the Buggahh. D.C. Cardwell,