- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 8, 2003

Misleading headline

Although technically true, the headline of yesterday's Page One article "Iraq strengthens air force with French parts" is misleading. After stating that the Iraqis are using French-manufactured parts thus giving the impression of French connivance with the Iraqis the article then points out that the parts were sold to a company in the United Arab Emirates that, in turn, illegally smuggled them into Iraq. How does that implicate the French in dealing with Iraq? In no way.
All your article has managed to do is exactly what a majority of the press is doing: pointing fingers at those who do not agree with President Bush's stance on a pre-emptive strike on Iraq.

Los Angeles

A now-rusty 'Man of Steel'

It was with jaw-dropping amazement that I read Arnold Beichman's column on the 50th anniversary of Josef Stalin's death ("Tyrant's death recalled," Commentary, Wednesday). I was well aware of the bloody history of Stalin's reign and the tragedy of communism, but I was not aware of the supporters Stalin and his ideas had in the West. I was particularly shocked by the highly educated economists who praised the communist system as late as the 1980s.
I recalled a conversation I had as a senior in high school with a fellow student in 1975. He was terribly concerned about the spread of the "Red menace" as the U.S. military high-tailed it out of Vietnam with its tail between its legs. His fear was that the Soviet Union would take over one country after another until it controlled the whole world. I distinctly recall telling him not to worry, saying, "The Soviet Union will not exist as a country by the end of this century."
It was obvious to me that the Soviet Union was destined to collapse because its economy could not even feed and clothe the people very well, much less support a military that would take over the world. I thought the Marxist principle governing its economy "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" was about the dumbest thing I had ever heard. Sure it sounds good, but even a high school senior in the Midwest had seen enough of human nature to know it could never work.
It boggles my mind to learn that there are professors of economics who still believe in and defend socialism as a viable economic system.Like Mr. Beichman, I am at a loss to explain how otherwise educated people can be so blind to the tragedy of Stalin in particular, and socialism in general.

Fort Myers, Fla.

Asbestos legislation proposals

I agree with The Washington Times that the current asbestos litigation fiasco has become a national embarrassment that cries out for congressional action ("Tackling asbestos reform," Editorial, Wednesday). I do not agree with the editorial board's negative assessment of the trust-fund solution.
A privately funded system agreed to by defendants and insurance companies would greatly reduce the costs involved in resolving claims, provide sick victims with a straightforward and streamlined way of getting the help they deserve and give defendants the sort of financial certainty they are seeking. The key is to create a fund that is privately financed, with no federal government monies being used to provide compensation.
Gravely ill victims are being forced to wait in lines clogged by thousands of people who are not sick but have been shepherded into court by greedy trial lawyers. These lawyers literally are going to the bank on the backs of the truly sick and newly unemployed workers of bankrupt businesses destroyed by lawsuits worth billions and billions of dollars. A trust-fund solution may be the most cost-effective legislative solution.
Although the bill highlighted in the editorial Sen. Don Nickles' S. 413 is well-intentioned, it does not go nearly far enough to solve this litigation crisis that is paralyzing our legal system. By keeping the resolution of asbestos claims in the hands of plaintiff-leaning judges, this legislation does not provide victims with speedy and certain resolution of their claims, and it will not reduce the size of the handsome cut of every award pocketed by trial lawyers. It comes as no surprise that certain members of the trial bar, who will be among the real winners under this proposal, are aggressively supporting it.

Executive director
American Taxpayers Alliance

Sen. Don Nickles is correct when he says urgent action is needed to cure our nation's asbestos lawsuit problem before it begins to decimate our economy ("Tackling asbestos," Editorial, Wednesday). The magnitude of this financial mess ($54 billion) already exceeds even the cost of the September 11 attacks and the Enron and WorldCom debacles combined.
A report we sent to Mr. Nickles and other Senate Judiciary Committee members, titled "The Asbestos Threat," found that the asbestos problem affects 85 percent of the industries in America. (The full report can be found at our Web site, www.sbsc.org.)
Our report further found that more than 60 companies have had to declare bankruptcy, resulting in tens of thousands of lost jobs, to say nothing of the dramatic loss in value of 401(k) plans for workers and retirees. As many as 2 million claims are projected to be filed against companies, many of which did not even manufacture asbestos but are being sued because of some indirect link.
According to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, another 1,000 companies are at risk of bankruptcy if something is not done soon. Companies cannot afford to pay out billions of dollars in asbestos claims without serious repercussions on our economy.
I sincerely hope other senators and members of Congress will take this issue as seriously and as urgently as we do.

Small Business Survival Committee

An explanation for the rise in euthanasia

Within five short years, the number of persons killing themselves with lethal prescriptions in Oregon reportedly has doubled ("Assisted suicides increase in 2002," American Scene, Thursday). Whether that breathtaking increase accounts for all medically induced deaths in the state, we'll never know. There are several reasons why:
Oregon's assisted-suicide law actually prevents concerned citizens, the media and watchdog groups from examining individual cases. The law stipulates that "the information collected shall not be a public record and may not be made available for inspection by the public." With Oregon's health care reputation on the line, can we really expect assisted-suicide scandals to show up in the state's sterile statistics?
Where assisted suicide and euthanasia have been legalized elsewhere, as in the Netherlands, that has produced a culture of lethal arrogance within the medical profession. Studies reveal that Dutch doctors end the lives of more than 1,000 patients a year with no explicit request to do so from the patients. I have interviewed still-grieving family members whose loved ones lost their lives to a runaway medical system sheltered by a euthanasia-entrenched government.
Financial inducements strongly favor prematurely ending a terminally ill patient's life. Don't expect health insurance companies, state health bureaucrats or unscrupulous heirs to lobby for palliative care when assisted suicide gets right to the bottom line.
The secretive suicide scheme in Oregon is a dangerous departure from democratic principles and government protection of its most vulnerable citizens. In light of the tragic euthanasia purges of the last century, the notion of state-sponsored, medically induced death under a veil of secrecy should be anything but comforting.

Senior policy analyst
Washington Bureau
Christian Medical Association

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