- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Saving VOA’s English broadcasts

The Voice of America is proposing to cut several of its overseas radio broadcasts in English and other languages (“Spreading the word,” Op-Ed, Feb. 15). The VOA also plans to focus more resources on Arab and non-Arab Muslim populations abroad to promote U.S. efforts against terrorism, which makes sense and is, in fact, long overdue.

What does not make sense is the proposed elimination of VOA’s flagship English-language program, “News Now.” This radio program has been serving millions of people in both cities and rural areas all over the world, including the educated and influential listeners in any given society. The replacement of the current radio program by the Internet version would cut off hundreds of millions of people who understand English but have no easy access to the Internet.

Even those who may have Internet access are unlikely to find it attractive because of the time lapse between events and their presentation online. Moreover, a live radio broadcast and its convenience to listeners is unique. Even in the United States, most of us rely on radio transmissions for news, whether we are driving or working. What is troubling is that the shift from radio to Internet and TV will result in additional costs to VOA.

It is interesting to note that while VOA is proposing a virtual elimination of its English programs abroad, other international broadcasting organizations, such as Al-Jazeera, China Radio International, etc., are adding programs in English. Hopefully the U.S. Congress will look carefully into the VOA’s proposals and save these English radio broadcasts, which have served millions of people all over the world for so long.



Mozart at 250, or at 26?

Regarding Claire Hopley’s review of Julian Rushton’s “Mozart” (“Mozart,” Books, Sunday), it is not surprising that Mr. Rushton would join other musical scholars in protesting Peter Shaffer’s 1980 play “Amadeus” and the 1984 movie version.

For artists or art lovers of any stripe, Mr. Shaffer’s interpretation is a downer. It focuses too much on Mozart’s personal excesses and the intrigues against him by the jealous composer Salieri.

Even for those not yet acquainted with the full import of Mozart’s genius (as a piano student I avoided his intricate compositions), the melodrama of the coins from the cloaked commissioner of the “Requiem” was too dismal by half.

However, to give Mr. Shaffer his due, the idea as stated in the review that “Salieri’s machinations derive wholly from Mr. Shaffer’s imagination” is countered by evidence that the supposed plot was the dominant conspiracy theory of that time.

Beethoven wrote of it in his journals, according to H.C. Robbins Landon in his book “1791: Mozart’s Last Year.” Mozart himself thought he was being poisoned, and “his son Carl Thomas found the swelling of his father’s corpse odd, if not downright suspicious.”

Another source reports that an ill Salieri talked of nothing else, trying to counter “that absurd rumor.” Yet another states that Salieri “has fantasies that he was responsible for Mozart’s death and gave him poison. This is true — for he wants to confess it …”

Whether or not Salieri was guilty, the idea of it predates Peter Shaffer, and what we are to understand is that Mr. Shaffer’s focus upon it to make Mozart the victim overshadow Mozart the musician backfired as completely as any of the original plots, real or imagined.

Or is Mr. Shaffer’s concoction actually a counterconspiracy to make Mozart the preeminent composer of the postmodern era?

Hence the outrageous irreverencies of Mozart’s operas are upon us. The reviewer suggests this by citing the last quarter of the 20th century as the time of Mozart’s rise to “the center of the public’s attention; he has evenslightlydisplaced Beethoven… Perhaps at some future point fashions will once more change.”




Terrorist concerns at the ports

With regard to “Officials worry about infiltration by terrorists” (Page 1, yesterday): I’ve supported President Bush on virtually every issue he has faced, especially on the war and homeland security.

I have had the utmost confidence in the president’s decisions to help protect the nation from additional terrorist attacks, at least until now. I can’t think of any rational reason why he would increase the risk of terrorist attacks to push through this deal with a company owned by Dubai, a member of the United Arab Emirates. Allowing Dubai Ports World to control six important ports in our country doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t matter how “clean” this company is, just having an Arab company operating the ports increases the risk of terrorism, and for Mr. Bush to threaten a veto is amazing. I’m worried that the president might be cracking under pressure. Regardless, I hope Congress cancels the deal and overrides any veto.


Fort Worth, Texas

Considering global taxes

Daniel Mitchell just doesn’t understand the inherent value of government taxes (“Using tax money to push more taxes,” Commentary, yesterday).

By making wise investments on a larger scale in cost-effective prevention efforts that are not always spurred by market pressures (such as investments for the common good in defense, clean water, clean air, vaccine development, anti-crime measures and now anti-terrorism or alternative energy efforts) we can prevent the need for astronomical taxes at lower levels of government.

Imagine the enormous cost and ineffectiveness of each state funding its own intelligence operations, weapons programs, vaccine development or clean-air campaigns.

Now think global. The most astounding investment ever made was for the eradication of smallpox. Americans were spending more than $150 million a year domestically to protect our own children when the global eradication program was proposed by the Soviets.

The United States joined in the global effort, investing just $32 million in the global campaign, which lasted 10 years. According to a 1997 investigation by what was then the General Accounting Office, U.S. taxpayers saved more than $17 billion domestically with that one-time investment of just $3 million annually for 10 years.

Now think — terrorism, port security, bird flu, global warming — and you might gain insight into the value of making wise investments in global prevention programs. Current foreign-aid levels (even national pledges, if they are kept) don’t provide adequate or reliable resources for the global health and education programs that would best stem the flow of evils around the world.

A global tax on international capital flows would be a wise investment in economic security and could provide the resources needed to fund other vital security needs. The same bipartisan Hart-Rudman Presidential Commission that warned about large numbers of Americans dying on American soil six months before September 11 also warned about the threat we face from global economic instability. Unregulated currency flows or a global pandemic are the greatest sparks to such chaos.

Investment now of some federal tax dollars to create a global tax system could provide us with the programs and resources needed to greatly reduce our state and national taxes spent trying to protect us locally.

Before our Constitution was created, each of the 13 Colonies had its own taxing rules and systems for controlling the negative consequences of cross-border commerce, migration, land disputes, slave ownership and currency differences.

After 100 years of unsolvable and expensive complications, the Colonies sent their best thinkers to Philadelphia. What is now known as the first Constitutional Convention was in some part funded or subsidized by these individual states. A wise investment by any standard.



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