For a little more than a century after the formulation of Mendel's laws, genetics has shown fantastic development ["The DNA Dilemma," Dec. 24]. Agriculture and medicine have been the great beneficiaries of those discoveries. Research on human genetics, slow in the beginning, developed at a meteoric pace in the past half-century. However, while these great developments have been very successful in detecting genetic defects (important in trying to treat or correct them as early as possible), practically nothing has been achieved in the more difficult detection of positive traits, like the capacity for art, science or other fields of expertise. Let's hope the 21st century will see progress in that direction.
Of all the diseases mentioned in the cover story, you forgot to mention the most important ones found in healthy people: misplaced ego, stubbornness and greed.
Isphanyar M. Bhandara,
South Africa's Mismanagement
The hopes and aspirations of millions of South Africans of all races have been crushed by the ongoing corruption and incompetence of the African National Congress (ANC) government, the perpetrators of which are hardly ever punished ["The New Struggle," Dec. 24]. Service delivery is abysmal, leading to almost daily demonstrations. The education system is in a worse state now than under apartheid. Personal security has declined to the extent that private-security companies now employ more people than the army and police combined. And national health care is characterized by incompetence and poor management resulting in those who can afford it having to pay for expensive private care. The poor do not have this choice. This is hardly what Nelson Mandela strove for, nor what the "Rainbow Nation" deserves.
Theo de Rijk,
Alex Perry makes a passing reference to The Spear portrait of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma but does not do justice to the artistic and political aspects of the controversy stirred by the protest art. The brouhaha has brought into focus the closing down of democratic space and in particular the freedom of expression actually guaranteed to all under the bill of rights that South Africa has had since 1994.
One should exercise no surprise at the record of the ANC government in South Africa: the example set by the kleptomania ethos of governments to the north is all pervasive and difficult to resist.
Darling, South Africa
Re "Who's Afraid of a Constitution?" [Dec. 24]: I respectfully disagree with Ayman Mohyeldin. A constitution should be a sacred charter written to protect the people from the regime; it should not be written by the regime. The new Egyptian constitution, written under the influence of right-wing puritanical Salafis, includes ambiguities and discrepancies that will later be exploited by them to further their cause.
Re "Qatar ... the Next Arab Superpower?" [Dec. 24]: There is nothing wrong with a country wishing to spread its influence through peaceful means. Qatar's Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani's timely financial help to Gaza is praiseworthy. There is no real problem between Israelis and Palestinians except for mutual mistrust. Besides, utter poverty makes men desperate. The Emir's initiative will help solve this long-standing and volatile issue.
Re "My, Oh Maya" [Dec. 24]: The science backing climate change is far too closely linked to market imperative and research dollars to be entirely objective. It is apparent, nonetheless, that any impending apocalypse on earth will most likely be of our own making and not the result of any cosmic collision. Perhaps this is what the Maya foresaw as they stripped their forests, denuded their arable lands and watched their few remaining fields fall fallow through want of labor.
Why Not Imran Khan?
Re "Imran's Game Plan" [Dec. 17]: TIME writers have been waxing lyrical about how American politicians should follow the example shown in the movie Lincoln and compromise in order to get things done. Yet this story states Imran Khan "may be just another politician who is as willing to make compromises and do deals as any in Pakistan in order to gain power." What is good enough for the goose should be good enough for the gander. Khan appears to give Pakistan as much hope as President Obama provided the U.S. in the 2008 election. Hope is never a bad thing.