- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Pakistan’s nuclear bona fides

The Op-Ed column “Iran, Pakistan and nukes,” by Wilson John (Monday), is mischievous in its content and motivated by malice to malign the leadership in Pakistan over the mercenary activity of Abdul Qadeer Khan and his nuclear-technology black market.

No less than the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, has publicly and vigorously condemned his behavior, and the United States and other powers have praised Pakistan for the transparency of the energetic investigation of Mr. Khan’s illegal nuclear-technology-proliferation activity.

Mr. Khan is under house arrest as debriefing of his nuclear black market continues. The discovery process has to be thorough and time-consuming so that all those involved can be brought to justice in the interest of the safety of the world.

Already, Pakistan, to its credit, has shared initial investigative information and data with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has in turn praised Pakistan for its efforts.

One thing certainly is clear: No one should doubt Gen. Musharraf’s bona fides on this issue, and until the investigation is concluded, allegations against any institution of Pakistan and speculation about the involvement of Pakistani officials remain just that.

Regurgitating allegations or innuendos is irresponsible and objectionable.

TALAT WASEEM

Press counselor

Embassy of Pakistan

Washington

Reconciliation walkers, not ‘slaves’

Your article on the Sept. 29 Slavery Reconciliation Walk of Penitence and Forgiveness, held in Annapolis, prompts clarification on a few matters (“Slavery roles reversed in walk aimed at healing spirits,” Metropolitan, Sept. 30). The walk was sponsored by the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation, of which I am president, and Lifeline Expedition, a London-based nonprofit group.

First, your readers should know that the Lifeline Expedition whites were not walking as “slaves,” nor were the blacks walking as “slave traders,” as your writer suggests. The whites, who wore yokes and chains as their chosen symbol of penitence, were walking as penitents. To help ensure that understanding, they all wore armbands in full view that said “Penitent.”

Also, an African in the Lifeline Expedition team also wore a “Penitent” armband and gave a stirring apology to black Americans for “betraying” them and sending them “to a foreign land.”

Most of the Africans in the Lifeline Expedition team came from various West African countries to walk as forgivers. They wore armbands that said “Forgiver.” They walked alongside the penitents to symbolize the real potential for penitents and forgivers to jointly find a path to healing as outlined in the “four steps to healing,” which were explained in the program booklet in the press kit handed out to the media. The kit also included a press release with the correct interpretation of the walkers.

Your reporter quoted the Annapolis police chief as saying the crowd was about 150. The Washington Post and the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation estimated that about 400 people participated, while the Baltimore Sun put the number at 200. The foundation documented more than 150 people who signed up for “Penitent” or “Forgiver” armbands so they could walk in the procession with visible recognition of their support for the walk’s objectives. A count of the armbanded in the procession would have revealed far more than the 24 walkers identified in the news article.

The foundation believes the imagery of the walkers as slaves in chains and slave traders is distasteful and offensive to the majority of white and black Americans in this country. That image is not something the Kinte-Haley Foundation would wish to portray as being part of the walk.

As such, it is important that the true meaning of the images be revealed, along with a true image of the public response to the walk. That walk is, in the end, a beginning to a long-term commitment Annapolis is making to become the “first city of healing” in America.

LEONARD BLACKSHEAR

President

Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation

Annapolis

Social Security dangers questioned

Thomas Sowell tries to convince readers that they are getting a bad bargain when it comes to Social Security (“Taking the risk out of Social Security,” Commentary, Sept. 29). Nothing could be further from the truth.

Since Social Security started making payments to retirees in 1937, beneficiaries have seen changes, but those changes have been to their benefit. When Social Security went into effect, retirees were given a one-time lump-sum payment; regular, ongoing monthly benefits began in 1940. Cost-of-living allowances were enacted, and Social Security was expanded to include disability coverage. Mr. Sowell would be lucky to sign a contract that worked out so well.

Also, contrary to what Mr. Sowell implies, Social Security is in no immediate danger of going broke. Without any changes to the system, according to the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office, Social Security will be able to pay full benefits until 2052.

However, the system does need to be strengthened, and strengthened soon. This will not necessitate draconian measures. By making a number of adjustments to the system, including raising the cap on taxable wages, investing some of the Social Security surplus in higher-yielding market funds and including workers not now covered, we can continue to provide security to all Americans well into the future.

Proposals to allow workers to put part of their Social Security into private investments will do nothing to strengthen the program and could do much to weaken it. The transition costs would require that we add at least $1 trillion to the federal debt over the next 10 years so we could continue to keep the commitments to current retirees.

Although Mr. Sowell downplays the risk of the stock market, those who have seen their 401(k)s plummet in value in the past few years might beg to differ. The only people who are sure to benefit from the proposal are investment bankers.

MICHAEL NAYLOR

Director of advocacy

AARP

Washington

Fighting obesity the old-fashioned way

Richard Berman’s column is right in placing responsibility on each person to maintain the simple equation of calories eaten equaling calories burned (“‘Obesity’ lawyers licking chops,” Op-Ed, Friday). But he and sources he quotes are wrong to blame lack of exercise as the cause of an epidemic in American adults and children.

Exercise is excellent for cardiovascular fitness but inefficient for losing or controlling weight. The latter is best done with a 1,300- to 1,500-calorie-per-day diet. Obese people who exercise seriously risk damaged knees and heart attack. Even a normal person must walk or run 30 miles to lose a pound of fat.

Berman’s discovery that “skinnier people tend to eat just as much as heavier people” is wrong, except for top athletes or people with hyperthyroidism, cancer, chronic infections, anemia and heart disease, who burn lots of calories. Normal human metabolism has been tuned for eons to use the minimum calories to exist and store the rest as fat to survive famine or illness.

Ignorance of the risks of obesity and what and how much to eat is the main cause of this epidemic. Depression and the availability of cheap and delicious high-calorie foods also are important. The misleading 2,000-calorie “minimum daily requirement” listed on packaged foods is a hangover from the early 1900s, when men and women actually burned that many calories in their day’s work.

So, count calories to lose or control weight, and don’t look to exercise unless you have a lot of time on your hands and are willing to accept risks, including sudden death.

DR. PAUL WHEELER

Baltimore

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