- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 5, 2001

United States must do more to fight AIDS worldwide

I am intrigued by Dwight Divines May 3 letter to the editor, "History has seen deadlier diseases than AIDS," which contends that, contrary to one of your editorials, more people died from the bubonic plague centuries ago than have died from AIDS. As he notes, accuracy is important. However, this debate becomes purely academic when we consider the tragedy unfolding before us and the fact that we can do something about it.

Consider this: Over the next five to ten years 25 to 50 percent of the personnel in health, education, security and civil service sectors in Africa are expected to die from AIDS-related diseases. Opinion polls in the United States show massive support for assistance to Africa. Yet, affordable and proven means of prevention, care and full treatment are still woefully underfunded.

In his inaugural address, President Bush declared, "America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the Nation and gentler the face of the world." He´s right. Yet, the minor increase Mr. Bush has proposed to the budget for AIDS assistance comes not even close to what would be a fair contribution from the wealthiest nation on earth. What kind of face does that show the world? The United States should contribute billions, not millions, to a well-designed, all-out campaign against this disease. I can´t think of a worthier cause for a nation with such claims to high moral purpose.


DAVID BRYDEN

Mt. Rainier, Md.

NASA's elitism is disgusting

NASA apparently will do almost anything to stop millionaire Dennis Tito and other citizens who want to travel into space, reserving the universe for the favored few ("Ventured capital," Editorials, May 2). The National Aeronautics and Space Administration now seems poised to bill the Russians for half of the $20 million fare paid by Mr. Tito, on grounds that are tenuous, to say the least.

Yet, if you are a congressman or senator and want to take a junket into space, just call and NASA will be at your service. NASA has shuttled Rep. Bill Nelson and Sens. Jake Garn and John Glenn into space, no doubt helping to secure increased budgets. But the citizen and taxpayer who pays NASA´s bills might just as well rent "Star Wars" from the video store he will get no closer to space.

NASA should applaud Mr. Tito´s venture and look forward to hosting the next citizen to travel into space. Its elitism is disgusting.


GARY GREENBAUM

Fairfax

Medicinal marijuana: use the good, eliminate the bad

While I agree with columnist A.M. Rosenthal that drugs should remain illegal, I do not agree that those of us who support legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana have "swallowed propaganda for creeping legalization" ("A drug chief who knows the mission," Commentary, April 30).

I am a minister and I deal with hospitalized church members and their families on a daily basis. I am also a kidney transplant recipient. I know personally the tremendous amount of physical pain that many patients bear on a daily basis. If marijuana can relieve this pain, I am all for it, though I would not personally choose to use it.

I believe that marijuana should remain a controlled substance and require a doctor´s prescription to purchase. But to simply infer, as Mr. Rosenthal does, that all drugs ought to be banned turns a blind eye to any benefits that can be derived from them.

Be assured, I would support any drug manufacturer who managed to synthesize the pain-killing aspects of marijuana without the "high." But until that time, let us use the good while trying to eliminate the bad.


JAMES NASUTA

Independence, Ky.

Columnist mistreats Pakistan

It is not the Embassy of Pakistans business to question how the United States should conduct its relations with India. Our interests are only in Amos Perlmutters treatment of Pakistan in the May 1 Commentary column "China and India in the long run," among other articles.

The fact is that Hindu fundamentalists, and not Pakistanis, are responsible for the communal tensions between Muslims and Hindus, as evidenced by the destruction of Babri Mosque and the persecution of Muslims and Christians. In Indian-occupied Kashmir, the exploitation and repression of the Kashmiri people for the past 50 years is a well-documented reality that is validated by neutral and objective observers such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others. As a result of the brutality of the Indian occupation forces, at least 50,000 Kashmiris have been killed in the past decade alone.

As far as Pakistan´s internal affairs are concerned, Mr. Perlmutter is either unaware of the facts or has chosen to ignore them. In every election, the Pakistani people have not voted for Islamic parties, which is a matter of record that he simply has overlooked. For his information, India, and not Pakistan, is being ruled by religious fanatics.

As a professor of international relations, Mr. Perlmutter also should know better than to downplay the role and importance of Pakistan as a pivotal state in the region with its geostrategic location at the crossroads of South and Central Asia and the Near East.


ASAD HAYAUDDIN

Press attache

Embassy of Pakistan

Washington

Rail customers are captive to railroad monopoly

Susan Molinari completely mischaracterizes the position of rail customers in her April 17 Commentary column, "Trying to roll back the railroad clocks." Rail customers are not asking for re-regulation.

The intent of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980 was not simply to "deregulate" the nation´s railroads, but rather to encourage competition, protect captive shippers from unreasonable rates and return the railroads to financial health. For more than two decades, regulators have concentrated on the health of the railroads but have ignored the pro-competitive provisions of the Staggers Act. Rail customers want the existing pro-competitive provisions implemented in a way that removes existing regulatory barriers.

Railroads remain among the few existing monopolies and are exempt from most antitrust and restraint-of-trade laws administered by the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. Nearly two-thirds of the manufacturing facilities of American Chemistry Council members are captive to one railroad and, consequently, pay rates that are 15 percent to 60 percent higher than those with rail competition. In addition, they often receive substandard service.

Free-market forces work best for everyone and will lead to greater efficiencies, innovation, reasonable prices and better service. But they can work only when there is competition. Improvements are needed in competitive access and service reliability so that all American businesses can compete successfully in a global economy. Consumers will benefit when the needs of rail customers and railroads are balanced.


FREDERICK L. WEBBER

President and chief executive officer

American Chemistry Council

Arlington


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