- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 23, 2000

These supercomputers are made in China

Your June 27 article "China uses computers from U.S. illegally" is baseless. The alleged use of U.S.-made supercomputers to simulate nuclear detonations by the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics runs counter to readily available information as well as common sense.

China has a strong record of developing high-performance computers needed for its scientific and defense-related undertakings. In the past decade, China has successfully developed several types of supercomputers that are capable of performing billions of computational operations per second. The Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics is just one of the many scientific facilities in our country that use such Chinese-made supercomputers in their related research and development work.

It is public knowledge that the American supercomputers allowed for decontrol are not exactly advanced. And no one expects the United States to export its "best and fastest" models. When it comes to such a sensitive and important job as a simulated nuclear explosion, China will not, nor will it need to, use foreign-made supercomputers.

ZHANG YUANYUAN

Press counselor

Chinese Embassy

Washington

Author has a history of crediting those who assist him

I am dismayed to see Charles W. Colson, the author and founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, cited as an example in your July 7 article "Ghostwriting trend haunts Christian publishing world" (Culture et cetera), which alleges that few best-selling authors write their own books.

As a longtime speechwriter for senators, governors and others, my experience assisting Mr. Colson in writing and research dates to 1975, when he was released from prison and my boss, Sen. Harold Hughes, had just retired. In the 25 years of our association, Mr. Colson has been scrupulously fair in compensating and acknowledging my contributions.

Mr. Colson has a first-rate intellect. He continually seeks out the best minds on a given topic and surrounds himself with able researchers to prepare background memoranda and drafts of articles and books. His training as a lawyer enables him to spot the tiniest flaw in an otherwise brilliant argument. That he is a gifted writer was attested to by his first editors, the late Catherine Marshall and Leonard LeSourd, who once told me they knew Mr. Colson could write after reading his description of a rickety old elevator in Moscow's Spaso House. It was for a chapter in "Born Again," which he wrote on a yellow legal pad and his wife, Patty, transcribed. Twenty-five years later, Mr. Colson still writes his manuscripts on a yellow legal pad with a black Bic roller-point pen, sometimes dictating tapes of early drafts.

Since the very beginning of our association, he has gone to great lengths to avoid even the appearance of impropriety or self-aggrandizement. Mr. Colson personally does not benefit from the profits of his best-selling books; proceeds go to Prison Fellowship Ministries, to which he has chosen to devote his enormous energies and abilities in the past quarter century. For all these years, he has been a faithful colleague and friend. His life's work deserves more thoroughly researched and accurate reporting from The Washington Times.

MARGARET SHANNON

Arlington

Federal funds could pay for alternative-fuel buses

I was surprised to read that Metro General Manager Richard A. White denies there is available funding to pay for the extra cost of alternative-fuel buses (" 'Cleaner' buses more expensive, officials say," Metropolitan, July 7). In the article, Mr. White maintained that if Metro purchases more environmentally friendly buses it will not be able to buy as many buses as it needs because they cost more than diesel buses. He then told your reporter: "There's no special pot of money for any of this."

Metro may not have a "pot of money" to pay for the incremental costs of alternative-fuel buses, but Mr. White is fully aware that federal money is available. Metro can purchase buses that operate on compressed natural gas instead of diesel and still get the number it needs. Transit agencies across the country are taking advantage of millions of dollars in federal funding to enable them to do just that.

In January, the Natural Resources Defense Council-Sierra Club Clean Bus Campaign furnished Mr. White's staff with a list of federal programs that will help pay for the incremental costs of new infrastructure and buses that use compressed natural gas. More recently, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, in a letter to Mr. White dated June 16, offered to help Metro secure additional federal funding to subsidize purchases of alternative-fuel buses. In the last sentence of her letter, she wrote: "I urge [the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority] to make a decision as soon as possible so that any request I make for appropriations under the Clean Fuel Formula Program would be considered timely."

The Clean Fuel Formula Program, which is designed to assist public transit agencies in the conversion to alternative-fuel fleets, will pay for 80 percent of bus purchases and infrastructure conversion. In a letter to Mrs. Norton dated June 22, Mr. White responded, "I appreciate your willingness to assist in securing Clean Fuel Formula Grant Program funds for alternative fuel buses."

So why did Mr. White tell your reporter there is no "special pot of money" to pay for alternative-fuel buses?

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Mr. White and his staff have misrepresented the facts on this issue. Jack Requa, chief operating officer for Metro bus services, gave a presentation to the Metro Board on May 11 in which he claimed it would cost as much as $20 million and take as long as two to three years to retrofit one fueling station to accommodate buses using compressed natural gas. This is a wild exaggeration. According to the General Accounting Office, the average cost to retrofit a fueling station is $1.7 million for a 200-bus fleet, and the cost can go as high as $5 million, but there are ways to cover the infrastructure cost. Metro can work out a deal with a private contractor. One private vendor, Trillium, is retrofitting two fueling stations for Los Angeles for free in exchange for a long-term contract to provide gas. The vendor plans to have the stations completed in six to eight months.

By failing to provide accurate information about alternative-fuel buses to the Metro Board, Mr. White and his staff are defacto making policy for Metro. The alternative fuels workshop held on July 6 was a step in the right direction to give the board more information, but that workshop should have been held a year ago, before the board decided to purchase 360 new diesel buses over the next three years without having the information it needed to make an informed decision.

Buses using compressed natural gas are the right choice for the Washington area. Metro should change its contract for the 100 buses it has ordered for next year and buy only buses that use compressed natural gas. Mrs. Norton is ready to help secure funding, and there is plenty of time to retrofit a fueling station before the first such buses would arrive. Metro should put out a request for proposals immediately to find a private company to retrofit a station.

ELLIOTT NEGIN

Washington communications director

Natural Resources Defense Council

Washington

A proposal for teachers

Stephen Moore is right on target when he says that teachers are not underpaid and that throwing more money at education is not the answer ("Worm in the education apple," Commentary, July 20). Too many teachers in recent years have chosen the profession because of the short hours and extended vacations.

Years ago, when teachers were truly underpaid, our educational system was much better because those people wanted to teach regardless of the pay. These true professionals are still present today in private and parochial schools.

Put teachers on a 40-hour week for 50 weeks a year and see how many want to continue.

DAVID KVERAGAS

Newton Township, Pa.

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