- The Washington Times - Monday, March 15, 2004

Missile mishap

Bill Gertz’s report about the maintenance mishap involving a Trident missile (“Nuclear missile damaged in submarine base mishap,” Nation, Thursday) is another example of the media’s endless obsession with scaring the public.

Though he acknowledges the fact that base officials said that no accidental nuclear detonation could result from such a mishap, Mr. Gertz spares no effort to remind the public that radioactive plutonium (the dreaded “P word”) from the damaged warhead could have been released into the water or onto the dock.

Conveniently, he leaves out the fact that plutonium — an alpha radiation emitter — is harmless unless ingested or inhaled and that its radiation is easily blocked by a piece of paper, clothing, even skin. In fact, per unit of mass, smoke detectors are a higher source of radiotoxicity than plutonium.

THOMAS SHORE

Alexandria

The second AIDS epidemic

Stigma and discrimination related to HIV and AIDS have spawned a “second epidemic” of ignorance in Latin America and the Caribbean (“AIDS threat,” World, March 9). It has become increasingly clear that unless our global community addresses the needs of Spanish- and French-speaking countries, in addition to the English-speaking Caribbean countries (where AIDS is now the leading cause of death for young men), we risk compromising the health and security of the entire region.

Tragically, donors cut back support to the Caribbean just as the virus was emerging. International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere Region, is working hard to reverse that trend and is developing innovative programs that may serve as models for others. In addition to offering voluntary testing and counseling at more clinics throughout the region, select member associations have employed people living with AIDS and have used telethons to raise funds for fighting the illness and replacing ignorance with knowledge.

It is clear that unless governments, advocacy and service-delivery organizations, donors and civil society succeed together in ending stigma and discrimination, we will fail individually in our attempts to encourage prevention, testing and treatment. All those who care about the Caribbean must focus on the region as a whole. Ignorance, like AIDS itself, respects no national border.

ANGELA HEIMBURGER

Program officer

LUCELLA CAMPBELL

Senior program adviser

International Planned Parenthood, Western Hemisphere Region

New York

Getting the facts on ‘funds’

In his Wednesday column, Frank Gaffney Jr. quotes Ben Johnson as saying that I, among others, fund the Tides Foundation/Center, which in turn “funds the National Lawyers Guild, the Council on AmericanIslamicRelations, MoveOn.org and United for Peace and Justice” and that “ultimately, their representatives end up on Bill Moyers’ PBS programs … .” (“Active measures,” Commentary).

In fact, neither I nor any organization with which I am associated “funds” the Tides Foundation/Center or any of the organizations mentioned by Mr. Gaffney or Mr. Johnson.

The Schumann Foundation, which I headed, has made grants through the Tides Foundation as a fiscal agent for nonprofit organizations working on children’s issues, the environment and campaign-finance reform, but none of our grants, directly or indirectly, have gone to the Council on AmericanIslamicRelations, MoveOn.org or United for Peace and Justice. Nor have any representatives of those groups “ended up” on my programs. Mr. Gaffney has been on my program. So have Grover Norquist, Robert Bartley, Rep. Ron Paul, Ralph Reed and many other conservatives. Odd, isn’t it?

I just talked to Mr. Gaffney last week about coming on the show again, and he said nothing about the above column he was writing. Perhaps he realized that going to the source would ruin his case.

BILL MOYERS

Portraits of pandering populists

After reading the article “Bush runs ads critical of Kerry” in the Friday edition (Nation), I was perplexed by how little attention was given to the actual issues surrounding President Bush’s new TV ad campaign. After reading this piece, I still know very little about the president’s position in these commercials. I am more familiar with Sen. John Kerry’s apparently impending “comeuppance.” Perhaps a more appropriate headline for the story would have been “John Kerry had it coming.”

Whether or not you agree with the tone of the presidential campaign, there is a thin line between mudslinging and flat-out lying, which I believe was crossed. Undoubtedly, political strategists on both sides of the issues are pulling out all the stops to “one-up” their opponents, but how far should one be able to, shall I say, bend the truth?

Paying for false advertising seems a much more deplorable act than speaking one’s mind in public — even if it is “unpresidential” to do so. So where did Mr. Bush get it right? Well, if you can look past the make-believe $900 billion tax-raise figure, the president was correct in highlighting Mr. Kerry’s enthusiasm to make changes in the first 100 days of office. His plans would maintain the tax cuts for working Americans making less than $200,000 a year (98 percent of the American population). Sounds like a good plan to me.

In an ideal world, I would like to see balanced coverage in the race for the presidency. For the time being, I would settle for delving into the real issues — such as credibility, taxes and unemployment — rather than getting caught up in the not-so-witty banter between the candidates.

ERIN E. BRASELL

Washington

‘Kindness and tolerance’ instead of shock and awe

One thing has been made abundantly clear by the terrorist attacks in Spain that we now knowkilled200persons (“Bombs kill 192 in Spain,” Page 1, Friday): The world is much less safe than before we attacked Afghanistan and Iraq. Isn’t this what was predicted by those who were not paralyzed by fear or kicking out blindly in retaliation?

The logical result of our military actions is the rage, grief and anger of the victims, directed at those who are perceived to be the cause of the destruction, loss of life and misery. Even though according to some polls, 90 percent of Spaniards opposed the invasion, their government became part of the “coalition” of the bribed and bullied.

Terrorism cannot be overcome by making war on innocent people and occupying and pillaging their countries; our actions only turn people who have no hope for the future into terrorists. If our government would only practice a policy of kindness and tolerance instead of full-spectrum dominance, it is probable that we would cease to create new terrorists.

GORDON HAWTHORNE

Atwater Village, Calif.

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