- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Mideast blitz

In covering the Gaza attack that killed three American security guards (“3 Americans slain in Gaza convoy blast,” Page 1, Thursday), your reporter asserted that this was the first attack on U.S. officials by Palestinians in the past three years. Such an attack is different from the suicide attacks that have killed scores of American civilians in Israel.

But the Palestinian Liberation Organization has a history of attacking U.S. officials.

In 1973, Palestinian terrorists killed U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel and two others in the Sudan. There are tapes of someone, presumed to be Yasser Arafat, personally directing the slayings by radio. There are still attempts by a former U.S. official and contemporary of Mr. Noel’s to indict Mr. Arafat. How ironic that Mr. Arafat was the most frequent visitor to the White House during the Clinton administration. How unsurprising, in retrospect, that he rejected Ehud Barak’s sweeping concessions and then started a war.

DORON LUBINSKY

Atlanta

Rohing in the right direction

With regard to your Oct. 14 editorial “Rohing in the wrong direction,” I have to express regrets over your misguided rationale. Describing South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun’s plan to seek a confidence vote, you misread his genuine intention. I am concerned that, ultimately, the editorial may greatly damage the republic’s good image and the credibility it is enjoying in the international community. In this connection, let me answer some of the claims you made in the editorial.

First, the president’s decision to pursue a confidence vote from the people represents his resolve to seek the national unity that is essential to performing his duties successfully. In the final analysis, the decision should lead to further development of democracy in the country. Ignoring this positive aspect, your editorial just kept on discounting the true meaning with cynicism.

Second, regardless of the confidence vote, Mr. Roh made it clear that he will continue to focus on administering state affairs to assure stability and normalcy. In this context, the president did not accept resignations submitted by his cabinet members right after his announcement. Your claims that the Korean government is in chaos simply are not true.

Third, it has been just eight months since the current administration was inaugurated. The Roh administration has been coping earnestly with a slew of political, economic, inter-Korean and diplomatic issues. Particularly, it has been dealing vigorously with many difficult problems involving the economy, the North Korean nuclear program and the proposed dispatch of additional troops to Iraq, and we expect appreciable results in the foreseeable future. It is not fair to blame the president for all the problems the nation possibly could encounter.

Fourth, the fact is that the general public’s approval rating of Mr. Roh has been rising steadily since his announcement on the confidence vote. More and more people are demonstrating their understanding of the president in this issue. Your editorial said, “We cannot think of a single reason why they should keep” the president. Such a statement is arbitrary and judgmental to the extreme and smacks of a willful design to meddle in another nation’s domestic affairs.

JANG SE-CHANG

Assistant minister and director

Korean Overseas Information Service

Seoul

Trimming the fat

Kudos to Marguerite Higgins for exposing the trial lawyers’ strategy to launch frivolous legal assaults on America’s food industry (“Food fight,” Page 1, Sunday).

In her report, I am quoted as saying that frivolous lawsuits and proposed taxes on certain foods “would end up hurting low-income families, the very people these lawyers say they want to help.” That is an accurate quote, and I am pleased that Miss Higgins included it in her report.

I was not, however, inferring that food manufacturers specifically “would have to raise prices to stay afloat,” as Miss Higgins writes. I was simply making the point that the costs of higher taxes and frivolous lawsuits invariably get passed along to consumers.

A report released last month by the nonpartisan Manhattan Institute shows that trial attorneys received $40 billion from lawsuits in 2002. Unfortunately, the majority of that bounty came directly from the pocketbooks of American consumers.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing held last week, Russ Sutter, a consulting actuary with Tillinghast?Towers Perrin, provided testimony of his research showing that the cost of the U.S. tort system was $233 billion in 2002. The sad truth is that number translates into an average annual cost of $809 per citizen.

Those alarming statistics underline the need for Congress to take immediate action to pass the Commonsense Consumption Act of 2003. That bill, introduced by Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, would prohibit frivolous “obesity lawsuits.” These lawsuits threaten the financial well-being of American consumers while doing nothing to solve America’s obesity problem.

Rather than casting blame on the food industry through these lawsuits, we should be trying to educate Americans on the benefits of balanced nutrition and increased physical activity.

If the trial lawyers follow through on their threats of legal assault against the food industry, they will prove that their interests lie more in fattening their own wallets than thinning the waistlines of Americans.

CURT D. MERCADANTE

Director of communications

Corn Refiners Association Inc.

Washington

• • •

Your article “Food fight,” highlighting trial lawyers’ efforts to sue food producers over Americans’ expanding waistlines, regrettably ignores how this public health issue actually will be solved: by empowering consumers with sufficient nutrition information and encouraging increased physical activity.

Although obesity is a serious health threat to millions of Americans, lawsuits and finger pointing are not realistic solutions. If you are obese, you don’t need a lawyer; you need to see your doctor, a nutritionist and a physical trainer. Playing the courtroom blame game won’t make anyone thinner or healthier.

As a mother and past president of the American Dietetic Association, I’m pleased to see food producers doing their part to help consumers make wiser choices about nutrition. Surveys and interviews consistently demonstrate that people recognize they ultimately are responsible for maintaining a healthy weight; they just want some help and guidance.

Nutrition is only half of the healthy-lifestyle equation, however. Declining physical activity is the other factor contributing to the obesity problem. When you consider that only one state — Illinois — requires daily physical education classes for kindergarten through 12th grade and that technological improvements have created an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, it’s no wonder our nation’s weight problem is getting worse.

To that end, the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition is working hard on behalf of food and beverage producers to promote comprehensive, lasting policies and programs that will improve nutrition education and physical activity in our communities,workplaces, schools and homes.

It’s unfortunate and disappointing that your story left readers with the impression that lawsuits should even be considered as a means to address this problem. The fact is that frivolous lawsuits and finger pointing aren’t going to eliminate obesity. We can beat this serious health threat with education, motivation, support — and an honest look in the mirror at the person most responsible for our individual health and weight.

SUSAN FINN

Chairman

American Council for Fitness and Nutrition

Washington

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