- The Washington Times - Friday, July 4, 2003

Why are we so wary of this court?

The recent decision to cut aid to 35 countries is yet another example of the Bush administration’s obsessive campaign to shield the United States from jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (“U.S. halts military aid to 35 countries,” Page 1, Wednesday).

It is also another glaring example of this president’s disrespect for international law. I do not believe our soldiers will commit the horrendous crimes covered by this court — genocide, mass murders and mass rapes.

The United States has cut off funds to train peacekeepers and police, teach good human rights practices and transport disaster relief to some of the world’s poorest countries unless nations agree to exempt U.S. officials and citizens from the court.



This policy openly contradicts our other foreign policy priorities — promoting democracy, peace and security. The court’s jurisdiction is respected by 139 nations. Why are we so wary of an international court of law?

J. KRISTIN HEDGES

Washington

The real Fannie Mae

I am writing to respond to Michelle Malkin’s opinion piece “Mother of all financial scams” (Commentary, June 13), in which she makes several claims about my company, Fannie Mae.

For your readers’ information, Fannie Mae is a private company with a public mission to expand homeownership. We achieve that mission by lowering mortgage costs and ensuring that families in every community in America always have access to affordable funds to finance a home.

Fannie Mae is not part of the government, nor do we have explicit government backing. We do have a banklike federal charter, which provides certain benefits to achieve certain requirements (e.g., unlike banks, we must serve all communities in America under all economic conditions; 50 percent of our business must serve low- and moderate-income families). However, we achieve our homeownership-expansion mission without a penny of federal funds.

As Mrs. Malkin notes, we “expand the pool of money for home purchasers by snapping up loans that lenders make to home buyers and then converting those loans into relatively safe mortgage-backed securities that are attractive to investors.”

Indeed, here in the District of Columbia, Fannie Mae began a four-year plan in 1999 to provide $1 billion in low-cost capital to help 8,000 families of low-, moderate- and middle-income means own or rent a home affordably. (We met that goal just 27 months into the plan, and by April of this year, we had provided more than $2 billion, serving more than 21,000 families in the District.)

Where Mrs. Malkin goes awry is that contrary to her assertions, Fannie Mae is one of the most heavily regulated financial companies in America. We have oversight by the U.S. Department of Treasury, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and an independent financial regulator that specializes in our business, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, which has banklike supervisors at our company every day examining our business.

Fannie Mae also provides greater public financial disclosures than most large financial companies or SEC registrants. For example, every month or quarter, we “shock test” our books to ensure that we are well-capitalized against any unforeseen economic crisis or management failures and then report the results publicly.

To verify our leadership in corporate governance and disclosure, we asked the independent ratings agency Standard & Poor’s to examine our practices. S&P; judged our practices “to be at a very strong level on a global basis of comparison.” The S&P; report stated, “Fannie Mae is among the most tightly regulated financial companies in the world” and said that we provide “disclosure about Fannie Mae’s financial health that is unavailable from other, similar financial institutions.”

To learn more about Fannie Mae, readers can to visit our Web site at www.fanniemae.com.

DEBORAH S. HOLMES

Vice president

Fannie Mae

Misinterpreting China

In his June 27 Op-Ed column, “Democracy undermined,” Al Santoli accused China of forging “aggressive military and political alliances” along its border so as to free itself from democratic movements within China, “to encircle India,” and to counter U.S. influence in the region. His across-the-board charges are simply groundless and are another attempt to demonize China.

First, democracy is no one’s monopoly. China is vigorously improving its democracy and rule of law that fit in well with its national realities. Important principles, such as equality before the law and presumption of innocence, are well integrated in the Chinese legal system.

Second, what we are developing with Myanmar (not surprisingly, Mr. Santoli refuses to address that country by its official name) and other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members is a normal state-to-state relationship characterized by equality and mutual respect.

With a series of agreements signed, China and ASEAN are enhancing their economic, trade and nontraditional security cooperation, including fighting narcotics. Our relations with India are also growing. The two countries signed the Declaration on Principles for Relations and Comprehensive Cooperation on June 24 during Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to China, laying a solid foundation for further growth of bilateral relations.

Third, Mr. Santoli speculated, out of nowhere, that China attempted to expel the United States from Asia. That’s not true. China welcomes a constructive and positive role of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region, and stands ready to work together with the United States to safeguard peace and stability in the region.

In total disregard of international law and the basic norms underpinning international relations, Mr. Santoli’s proposal of a “comprehensive Asia-Pacific security policy” to the U.S. government on the above false ground is, in essence, to contain China and drive a wedge into China’s relations with its neighbors. He believes that such tensions can be in the interest of the United States. In reality, Mr. Santoli’s suggestions will not only undermine the democratization process of international relations, and lead to confrontation and disaster in the region, but also will harm the national interests of the United States.

China pursues an independent foreign policy of peace, and is willing to develop friendly relations and cooperation with all countries in the world on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. People without colored ideological spectacles will not ignore the role of China as a strong force for peace and stability in the world, nor its responsible stance in international and regional affairs, e.g., during the Asian financial crisis.

SUN WEIDE

Spokesman

Embassy of China

Washington

The numbers game

Grant Schulte and his editors are aware — aren’t they? — that “margin of error” actually means something in a poll and is not just a collection of words you toss into a sentence? (“Pro-life women shift to the majority,” Wednesday). It’s a serious distortion of the facts to say that pro-life women are “in the majority” with 51 percent in a poll with a 3 percent margin of error, especially when directly compared to a previous poll’s result of 45 percent.

Assuming the earlier poll also had a 3 percent margin, my 8-year-old daughter tells me that 51 minus 3 equals 48, and 45 plus 3 equals 48; in other words, there was no statistically significant change in two years. The same goes for “only 30 percent” in favor of keeping (you needed to call it “making” for some reason) abortion legal, compared with 34 percent in 2001. Again, given that pesky margin of error, the difference over two years cannot safely be said to be more than 1 — count ‘em — 1 percent. Is that really enough on which to hang a story? Have your readership surveys found your subscribers can’t count?

TOM RYAN

Homewood, Ill.

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