- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 26, 2003

Pakistan's 'diplomatic doublespeak'

Pakistani press attache Asad Hayauddin's letter ("Give Pakistan a break," Friday) responding to Arnaud de Borchgrave's column, "Pakistan's paranoid panjandrum" (Commentary, Monday), is a classic example of diplomatic doublespeak.
Mr. Hayauddin begins by issuing a cleverly worded nondenial about Pakistan's well documented nuclear dealings with North Korea. He then proceeds to conveniently ignore the egregious release of the leaders of the three main al Qaeda-linked groups that his government officially bans. Perhaps the Pakistani government doesn't want to let us know why it did not even attempt to try the leaders of these terrorist groups.
Mr. Hayauddin must surely know that his government's actions speak louder than his words.

KAUSHIK KAPISTHALAM
Atlanta

Compromised view on Venezuela?

I admit I hadn't heard of Thor Halvorssen before reading his column "Venezuela through a tilted lens?" (Commentary, Wednesday), but now I know that he's a shameless inventor. Moreover, The Times may have been gulled by an author with a complex past, which can be checked on the Internet. Furthermore, why didn't he reveal that he wasn't just your average Philadelphia "human-rights activist," as the column identified him, but served as Venezuela's controversial drug czar in the early 1990s under one of the most corrupt governments in the nation's history and that he was involved there in questionable incidents of public interest?
Mr. Halvorssen savages professional journalists for their supposedly biased reporting from Venezuela. Among these are two highly respected New York Times reporters, Juan Forero and Ginger Thompson, to whom I have spoken by telephone. Mr. Halvorssen's mean-spirited attack and his off-the-wall conspiracy theories regarding their alleged favoritism toward leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are an extremist's fulminations against the international media.
Ironically, Mr. Halvorssen's targets the New York Times, The Washington Post, Reuters News Agency and Associated Press are also vilified by leftists for their anti-Chavez bias, using almost the same verbiage as his. The sin of these professionals apparently is that they have tried to treat fairly an extremely complex story, thus inviting Halvorssen-like sclerotic attacks.
While I'm grateful for his characterizing me as "refreshingly sincere," I'm afraid I can't return the compliment, for I think he's up to knavery. He says I told a Venezuelan government official that Juan Forero was "committed to the revolution." I said no such thing to any official unless, that is, it has something to do with a call I received Christmas Eve from a man who spoke rapid Spanish and poor English. Because I couldn't quite understand him, I soon turned the phone over to a Spanish-speaking relative.
This man, claiming to be a high-ranking Chavez official, said that an anti-Chavez coup was to occur on Dec. 29 and that I must come down to Caracas immediately and bring four U.S. journalists of my choice with me as observers. I expressed skepticism on whether this was possible but said that at the very least I would need to consider it. Besides, I felt that the New York Times, Reuters, AP and others on the scene were doing a first-class job, so why were more reporters required? I quickly sensed that the Caracas call might be a scam, particularly when the official didn't call again as he had promised. Given Mr. Halvorssen's somewhat gamy biography, I now assume that he may have been involved in this script, or even made the call, because the only other conversant person would be the professed Chavez official, who presumably would not be the former's soul mate.
Rather than being a Chavez "apologist," as Mr. Halvorssen claims, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs has criticized him since 1998 for his too-close military ties. Since then it has called him "arrogant," "confrontational," "authoritarian," "acerbic" and "inflexible." As for both Mr. Halvorssen and the Chavez opposition, on the rare occasions when they tell the truth, they wail that the economy is dying and the petroleum industry is heading for ruin but fail to acknowledge their own direct contributions to this crisis.
What is needed is moderation and concession. Venezuelans of Mr. Halvorssen's ilk must see that they constitute a disloyal opposition threatening the destruction of the political system through foul play. They are not Athenian democrats. As for Mr. Chavez, he risks suffocating his revolution by holding it too tightly, as time runs out for him and also the opposition.

LARRY BIRNS
Director
Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Washington

Let them eat cake?

I was appalled by Mona Charen's column blaming the obesity problem in the United States on food programs for the poor ("Government-sponsored obesity," Commentary, Wednesday).
I find it hard to believe that any thinking person could write such an irresponsible and mean-spirited piece. It is already difficult to convince some people who have little or no income to apply for such programs because of the stigma associated with using them. Mrs. Charen's misinformation perpetuates the myth that programs that allow the poor to survive use a large percentage of federal funds when, in fact, they account for a minuscule portion of the burgeoning budget.
A survey conducted last year by the Coalition for the Homeless in Louisville, Ky., demonstrated that a large number of those persons coming to area food kitchens were not homeless. Rather, they didn't have sufficient funds to buy food after paying for rent, utilities and medicine.
It is understandable that people with minimum wage jobs cannot make enough money to provide for all the needs of their families, even after working 60-plus hours a week. This is especially true of single-parent families.
Is blaming poor, hungry people for the obesity problem the "compassionate conservatism" we have been hearing about? Talk about class warfare.

JANET WRIGHT WHITELEY
Louisville, Ky.

Clarification on 'Sweet tooth' editorial

Lest I be misunderstood from Friday's editorial "The Sweet tooth," I said that Judge Robert Sweet's opinion temporarily dismissing the obesity lawsuit against McDonald's provides a "road map" for success for the same reason the impartial Obesity Policy Report termed the ruling a "pyrrhic victory for McDonald's" that "practically gives the plaintiffs a roadmap to file a new complaint." The New York Post called it "Mickey D's Hollow Victory."
The judge gave plaintiffs 30 days to cure what the Post called a "legal technicality" by amending the complaint to cite specific examples of some of "the dangers of McDonald's products not commonly well known" by consumers. The judge then went on to describe a few he thought would allow the case to proceed.
For example, the judge wrote that "Chicken McNuggets, rather than being merely chicken fried in a pan, are a Frankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook. … Chicken McNuggets, while seemingly a healthier option than McDonald's hamburgers because they have 'chicken' in their names, actually contain twice the fat per ounce as a hamburger."
Plaintiffs plan to amend the complaint as suggested by Judge Sweet so the case can go forward in his court and they can seek potentially damaging documents in McDonald's files to help prove our case as we did so successfully with tobacco.
Read the entire opinion at: https://banzhaf.net/docs/sweet1.

JOHN F. BANZHAF III
Professor of public interest law
George Washington University Law School
Washington

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