- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

More on the ABCs In their column “Africa’s AIDS crisis” (Commentary, Tuesday), William Bennett and Charles Colson miss an important point about the ABC (“Abstinence, Be faithful, use Condoms”) approach to preventing HIV/AIDS: It is a comprehensive strategy that emphasizes each element equally.Advocating for more U.S. taxpayer dollars to be spent on abstinence-only programs dangerously shortchanges prevention efforts and ignores the reality of the lives of those most likely to be infected: young people. A closer look at the example of Uganda is important as UNAIDS and other experts have attributed the decrease in infection rates in part to a nearly twofold increase in condom use by young people. Clearly, condoms are essential to the fight against AIDS in my home continent, where more than 10 million young people are infected. It’s time to put both politics and ideology aside and provide Africa’s youth with the information, services and condoms that can save their lives and our continent’s future.CYNTHIA EYAKUZE- DI DOMENICOCoordinator for HIV/AIDS preventionFamily Care InternationalWashingtonBumps in the ‘road map’The Washington Times has been more clear-eyed than most about the prospects for peace in the Middle East. As pointed out in Monday’s editorial “Road map to where?” there are many reasons to be skeptical that this latest attempt will succeed, as so many before have failed. A marked difference this time is President Bush’s insistence on a change in Palestinian leadership. While we can feel confidence in Mr. Bush and his intentions, there is unfortunately little reason for confidence in the new prime minister and his government until they have proven their ability to perform in a manner fundamentally different than that of their predecessors. We want to be hopeful, but we must be realistic. Major obstacles lie ahead, namely:• Yasser Arafat clearly remains in charge. Mahmoud Abbas was his choice for prime minister. The majority of Mr. Abbas’ Cabinet members and the majority of the Palestinian Legislature are Arafat loyalists. This is somewhat less than the change of leadership Mr. Bush presumably had in mind.• The other members of the so-called quartet — the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — are longtime Arafat supporters, and will not want to push him aside. This will undermine Mr. Abbas and the reformers in his government and make true progress more difficult.• The major Palestinian terrorist organizations have already declared that they will not support the Abbas government and will not stop acts of terrorism against Israel’s civilian population.• The latest polls show that the Palestinian people continue to overwhelmingly support a continuation of terrorism against Israel and the recognition of Mr. Arafat as their leader. By contrast, Mr. Abbas has little support or recognition.• Anti-Israel and anti-American hatred continues to be taught in Palestinian schools and to dominate Palestinian news coverage and that of neighboring Arab states.• For the road map to have any chance of success, the United States must insist on fulfillment of the conditions Mr. Bush laid down last June 24: a true change in Palestinian leadership, a change in its institutions, an end to terrorism and the dismantling of the terrorist infrastructure.This is not just a matter of establishing the foundations for a credible Palestinian state. It is also a matter of ensuring the future security of Israel, America’s only true ally in the region and the only democracy the Middle East has ever known.THOMAS NEUMANNExecutive directorJewish Institute for National Security AffairsWashingtonBill O’Reilly knows not what he saysI must call your attention to Bill O’Reilly’s inaccurate portrayal of important rituals specific to the Shi’ite Muslim tradition (“No pain, no gain,” Commentary, Wednesday). I am not attacking his freedom of speech, but questioning his poor use of words and obvious ignorance. First, he compared self-flagellation among Shi’ite pilgrims — a method of religious mourning — to “slasher flicks.” Comparing such mourning to gross entertainment is wrong. Second, he inferred that the people who took part in these religious activities were somehow forced into them. Let it be known that the Shi’ites of Iraq were liberated from a tyrant who forbade these acts of religious freedom. Once free, they practiced these rituals on their own. Some people traveled for days to the shrine of Imam Hussain to pay their respects and mourn for the grandson of Mohammed. In the same reference, Mr. O’Reilly called these acts “somewhat nuts” and suitable to a torture chamber, thereby minimizing the importance of these very sacred rituals. A torture chamber is used to inflict pain and suffering on another person as a form of punishment, whereas these rituals are performed by a person on himself in a state of grieving. How can any human denigrate the way a person may grieve? By the way, does Mr. O’Reilly realize that Christians in Latin America, Asia and parts of Europe practice similar rituals on Easter, gouging themselves with crowns of thorns and allowing nails to be hammered into their hands to commemorate the crucifixion of Christ? Has he lately bashed them as “nuts”?Third, Mr. O’Reilly states that “unless the new Bill of Iraqi Rights contains provisions whereby you have the right to pulverize yourself with a hammer, things may get dicey” without realizing that this “Bill of Iraqi Rights” will have a provision for freedom of religion. These mourners already are exercising such a freedom, one that was denied them for decades. Nor do the Shi’ites in Iraq have any intention of imposing these practices on others, as Mr. O’Reilly alleges. Even more egregious, he compared the Shi’ite faith to that of the Taliban. It angers me that a man regarded as a media icon should write upon a subject he evidently knows little about.ADIL RIZVIWashingtonFoul ballI must respond to Art Skillman’s Wednesday letter, “Making baseball better.” Mr. Skillman’s criticism of Major League Baseball was off-base, and I would like to suggest ways he can enjoy the game more. Responding to an AP article that indicated that crowds are down this year in Major League parks, Mr. Skillman said the length of games hurt attendance. Although he said many games last four hours and more, the average game in 2002 lasted two hours and 52 minutes. Show me a National Football League game that was shorter. (Length should not matter, anyway, because true baseball fans savor every minute.) Then Mr. Skillman attributed dwindling game attendance to a supposed lack of loyalty between team and player, but should freewheeling players be put to blame? Players fought hard for many years to attain free agency, something Mr. Skillman no doubt takes for granted in his own line of work, whatever that may be.My suggestion for more fully enjoying and appreciating the game is to learn to keep score. If he is a family man, Mr. Skillman would realize that this is a fantastic way to teach math to children. For the scorer, it is a way of painting the game on paper to better remember it. Forget ESPN “Classic” replays that sometimes truncate the drama out of a game. By inscribing the whole game on a piece of paper, one can relive every pitch, every hit and every out.I am so tired of sports speed freaks, the sort who would be better off taping games and fast forwarding to hits. Yet, hitting is only a part of the game. The rest is pitching finesse, fielding expertise and the overall strategy of manager versus manager. I wonder how boring Mr. Skillman would find a perfect game to be. One last thing: Mr. Skillman’s comment that baseball “is supposed to be relaxing” reveals how out of touch he is with the game. Baseball is a drama played out in nine innings. How has he missed that?KATE LANGENSilver Spring

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