- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2003

On fences and walls

In the article “When a wall becomes a fence” (Commentary, Monday), Arnaud de Borchgrave would seem to suggest that Israel’s construction of a security fence is intended only as a means of preventing the emergence of a Palestinian state. Does Mr. de Borchgrave not recall that in July 2000 the Palestinian leadership was offered a state but turned it down and instead opted for terror? Perhaps Mr. de Borchgrave has forgotten the hundreds of innocent Jewish men, women and children butchered at the hands of Palestinian terrorists. The purpose of the fence is not to prevent a Palestinian state, but to prevent innocent Jews from being murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

DANIEL SCHULDER

Washington

Heritage supports prescription coverage

Jill Gerber, spokeswoman for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, is flat wrong in asserting that the Heritage Foundation opposes making prescription drugs available to seniors through Medicare (“Study says high cost of drug entitlement would force tax rise,” Nation, yesterday).

Anyone who reads the Op-Ed pages of The Washington Times knows Heritage has long supported Medicare reforms that would enable all seniors to purchase integrated health plans that include drug coverage. Further, we support targeted assistance to help low-income seniors with traditional Medicare coverage pay their drug bills.

Yes, Heritage experts have serious concerns about the Medicare legislation recently approved by the House and Senate. In fact, the Heritage study that prompted Ms. Gerber’s erroneous comment was but the latest in an ongoing series of detailed analyses of these bills.

As a leading think tank, we feel it is incumbent on us to offer solutions along with our criticisms. We encourage Ms. Gerber and others interested in Medicare reform to review our voluminous writings on the topic at heritage.org.

MICHAEL G. FRANC

Vice President, Government Relations

The Heritage Foundation

Washington

Restore civil liberties

I found Nat Hentoff’s column “No ‘sneak and peek’” (Op-Ed Monday) to be both enlightening and encouraging. I hope the House’s refusal to fund this particular section of the Patriot Act is just the beginning of a trend toward restoration of human rights and civil liberties in this country.

The Patriot Act was born in the wake of the September 11 tragedy, so one can almost understand how our leaders back then succumbed to the panic and paranoia of the times and lost sight of the critical importance of protecting the fundamental freedoms upon which this nation was founded.

At this very moment, however, basic rights protected under the Constitution’s Bill of Rights are being denied in the aftermath of September 11. Due process is denied routinely to those who stand accused of terrorist-related activity. Immigration laws are being applied in a manner that possibly violates protections against discrimination. Human rights and civil liberties for all are being challenged and curtailed through this Patriot Act and related laws and measures.

It is imperative that the United States stand solidly for the principles of unalienable, universal rights. Otherwise, those who wage war on terror simply will have won the battle against freedom.

MARY T. SHAW

Coordinator

Amnesty International USA, Group 342

West Chester, Pa.

Bishop approved, not elected

In her article on the Rev. V. Gene Robinson’s situation, Julia Duin mistakenly called the action of the House of Bishops an election (“Gay bishop sets off talk of Episcopal schism,” Page 1, yesterday). Mr. Robinson was elected by the Diocese of New Hampshire at a special convention in June. The House of Bishops consented to his election after the House of Deputies had done so. This unusual situation occurred because the election was held within 90 days of a meeting of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention.

Mr. Robinson will not be a bishop until his consecration, which I believe is scheduled for Nov. 2.

TOM FITZHUGH

Alternate lay deputy to the General Convention

Diocese of Texas

Houston

Expounding on patents

I just read the July 26 article in The Washington Times on business method patents with great interest (“Internet patents divide industry,” Business). I especially appreciated its balanced and succinct articulation of the ongoing debate concerning the quality and consequences of business method patents, especially those related to the Internet. As someone who conducts research in this area, I would like to mention a few additional facts about patents — facts which may prevent readers of the article from getting the wrong impression about patents on methods of doing business:

1) While the 1998 “State Street” decision did legitimize business method patents and spur a dramatic increase in applications for them, most of that increase has been for business methods implemented in software (e.g. data processing), not for more “physical” business methods or processes such as teaching music or improving a golf swing.

2) While the dot-com era did see many an Internet company trying to obtain patents on its core business processes, the same was (and still is) true of many larger and more established technology companies. My analysis indicates that the list of companies holding the greatest number of patents on business methods reads like a who’s who of American and Asian technology companies. Among them are AT&T;, Canon, Compaq, Fujitsu, Kodak, General Electric, Hewlett Packard, Hitachi, Intel, IBM, Toshiba, Lucent, Microsoft, Motorola, NCR, Pitney Bowes, Sony, Sun Micro Systems and Xerox. Just three of these companies (IBM, Pitney Bowes, and Japanese electronics maker Fujitsu) hold more than 10 percent of all business method patents granted between 1995 and June of this year.

3) While business method patents have been roundly criticized as being innately inferior, obvious and overly broad in scope, the evidence supporting these claims is anecdotal. Empirical studies by me and by a colleague at the University of Texas at Austin both strongly support the opposite conclusion: that the quality and scope of business method patents compare very favorably to that of information technology patents.

STARLING DAVID HUNTER III

Assistant professor

Sloan School of Management

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, Mass.

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