After reading your forecasts for the future and Lev Grossman's article "The Quest for Cool" [Sept. 29], I've concluded that I have never been cool, I have no desire ever to be cool and those who think they are cool really aren't.
The whole world is going to be more technologically savvy than ever. Indeed, innovative gadgets will govern our lives. But there is always a price associated with these new devices. Air pollution will reach its zenith. There will be climatic disturbances leading to famine. Bioterrorism will be on the rise. Does the future truly look bright for coming generations?
Is it not painfully obvious, even tragic, that our obsession with "what's next" denies us a full appreciation of the special moments that are happening now?
John R. Thurston
Eau Claire, U.S.
The professional trend spotters you interviewed tell us that burlesque will be cool and cell phones will be the means for transactions of all types. If this is the cool future, then send me back to the square past! Of course, almost 40 years ago, Paul Revere and the Raiders sang that "kicks just keep getting harder to find." The youth of each generation has its moments of temporary insanity, but for any society to thrive and move forward, there must be awareness of and respect for the past. If we Americans keep pushing the envelope in an increasingly outrageous quest for the ultimate in cool, then I'm afraid our future will take us down the same path of decadence chosen by great societies that are now only history.
Royal Palm Beach, U.S.
If we Americans do not show a collective willingness to decrease our dependency on foreign oil, if we do not immediately start to shore up our public education system, if we fail to ask big corporations and multimillionaires to pay a fair percentage of taxes and if we do not join the international community in both economic and military planning, then we will find ourselves, quite simply, dead in the water. All conceivable future advancements will amount to nothing if we fail to address the problems that are here and now.
Pakistan's Balancing Act
The article "Is Pakistan a Friend or Foe?" gave an unfair perspective on Pakistan's role in helping the U.S. battle terrorism [Sept. 29] and did not give enough credit to how Pakistan, with its meager resources, has managed to help the U.S. Every country in the world has some radical religious elements. That the Pakistani people discuss their future goals in a civilized manner shows how that relatively young country is evolving into a nation. The U.S. and the rest of the world are deeply in debt to Pakistan for clamping down on the Taliban's resources, an act that was instrumental in the U.S.'s swift victory in Afghanistan. Pakistan has also suffered from terrorism, and its people understand what the U.S. has gone through since 9/11. It was out of principle and friendship that Pakistan gave the U.S. a helping hand.
Muhammad Mansoor Alam
After President George w. Bush enunciated the U.S. policy that nations were either with America or against it in the war on terrorism, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had no alternative but to fall in line. He decided to make the best of a bad bargain. Pakistan supported the U.S. because doing so provided an opportunity to get billions of dollars in aid. Pakistan had a completely mercenary approach, and the Americans should realize it. Then there would no problem in understanding whether Pakistan is friend or foe.
The questions about Pakistan's links to terrorism raised in your article should be investigated. I am bothered by the U.S.'s hesitance to confront Pakistan regarding its reluctance to curb Muslim fanatics. It appears that the U.S. government has overestimated Pakistan's contribution in the fight against terrorism and should re-evaluate its ties to that nation. Pakistan must give up the idea that tolerating fanatics is necessary for domestic harmony. That may be expedient for Pakistan, but it could prove catastrophic for the U.S. The least Washington can do is make all aid to Pakistan strictly contingent on that country's progress toward the complete elimination of those who support terrorist acts. If Pakistan truly opposes terrorism, then it must respect America's concerns.
Your article tried to create misgivings and doubts about Pakistan's sincerity in fighting terrorism. Pakistan is a key ally of the U.S. in its war on terrorism, providing valuable logistical support as a frontline state in mopping up the remnants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. No nation has done more or paid a heavier price than Pakistan in fighting the scourge of terrorism. The assertion that Pakistan is undermining the stability of Afghanistan is far from the truth. We unreservedly support President Hamid Karzai's government. Pakistan has contributed to the reconstruction of Afghanistan and continues to do so. The government of Pakistan is deeply committed to fostering peace in Afghanistan and friendly relations with its people. Pakistan's army is one of the most professional in the world. It is united under the command of President Musharraf and is willing and able to shoulder the responsibilities entrusted to it.
Consulate General of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Let the Scientists Meet
Your story "Great Leap Skyward," on China's fledgling manned space program, reported that last year the U.S. refused to grant visas to some Chinese scientists invited to the World Space Congress in Houston [Sept. 29]. The U.S. government needs to be more open-minded and allow Chinese scientists to participate in professional conferences. As a science student, I think the research we do is for the advancement of all mankind, not for one particular country. Only through collaboration among all nations can we explore the areas that humans have never reached.
Chan Sin Hang
The "Square" Scientist
Physicist Edward Teller [Milestones, Sept. 22], the "father of the hydrogen bomb," was a fervent foe of Nazism and communism. Our Nov. 18, 1957, report noted the reasons for this opposition and described the young Teller's facility in math:
"Edward Teller's intense concern with the menace of tyranny traces back to his Hungarian childhood. When Teller was born, in 1908, into a Jewish family with culture and money, citizens of gay, well-fed Budapest could believe that the world was solid, dependable. But Austria-Hungary got into World War I on the losing side, and the seemingly solid world crumbled ... With the nation's life disrupted and anti-Semitism rampant, Teller's father dinned into his son two grim lessons: 1) he would have to emigrate to some more favorable country when he grew up, and 2) as a member of a disliked minority he would have to excel the average just to stay even ... It was easy enough for young Edward to excel the average. In early childhood he showed a gift for mathematics. 'One of my earliest memories,' he recalls, 'is that I was put to bed earlier than I liked and then lay awake in the dark, amusing myself by figuring how many seconds there were in a minute, an hour, a day.' In his high-school days in Budapest, Teller was, as he puts it today, a 'square.'"
TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT
In the article "10 Questions for Madeleine Albright" [Sept. 22], we referred to her new memoir as Madame Secretary. The correct title of the book is Madam Secretary.
The report on the safety of sugar substitutes [Sept. 29] incorrectly said that each of us consumes "more than 9 kilograms of fake sugars a year." In fact, Americans annually consume 55 grams of the much sweeter low-cal substitutes, which have the sweetness equivalent of 9 kilograms of sugar.