Our Oct. 13 report on high-tech travel spurred both praise and thoughtfulness. “Excellent,” cheered one; another rejected such expensive hobbies when “people dying of curable diseases can’t afford care.”
NEW FRONTIERS FOR FUN
Your Oct. 13 cover package on high-tech adventure was excellent. It is fantastic when we can realize innumerable benefits from technology. Unfortunately, however, simple but important issues like health care, human misery and peace are not given the same attention in our world.
Silvio Sandro Cornelio
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
I’ve loved aviation and anything to do with flying since I was a little kid. I continue to be amazed by the fact that we can fly to the moon and back, and send probes to Mars and satellites into the far reaches of the galaxy. I find it really cool that people are trying to fly airplanes at near-orbit altitudes. We can learn a lot about our planet and atmosphere by exploring outer space. But what I do not get is why people are paying enormous sums of money to go on these trips as tourists. What’s more, they are doing this even before it has been proved safe to do so, and at a time when people all over the world are starving to death, or dying of curable diseases simply because they cannot afford health care. I believe we need to take a hard look at where our resources are going and what our priorities are as a society. While technology is very important in our world, the $98,000 that one person puts down toward a spot on the waiting list for a spaceflight could feed, clothe and educate an entire family, thereby helping to improve their lives for generations to come.
Why do you give so much attention to Steve (Richie Rich) Fossett? Instead of doing something for the betterment of mankind, this spoiled, attention-craving millionaire uses his time and money in pointless “Look at me!” exercises in self-indulgence. Why feed his egomania?
Newport Beach, California
In your history of aviation, how could you not even mention Alberto Santos-Dumont, the Brazilian pioneer? Don’t you know that he was the first one to make a plane take off? The Wright brothers were the first to keep a plane in the air, but they pushed off from atop a hill, whereas Santos-Dumont managed to take off, stay in the air and land. Isn’t it time to recognize him along with the Wright brothers?
S.o Paulo, Brazil
The first powered, controlled and sustained flight took place 50 years before the Wright brothers, in 1852 (Henri Giffard flew 24km with a steam engine mounted on a dirigible). It went nearly 100 times as far as the Wright brothers’ plane did. The zeppelins were powered as well, but the first powered, heavier-than-air flight took place in 1890 (Clement Ader flew 55 meters in a steam engine on a bat-winged monoplane). The Wrights’ 1903 flight (274 meters) was the first photographed heavier-than-air flight. After the advent of relatively light combustion engines (Benz, Otto, Diesel), several other pioneers pursued similar approaches, but apparently no photographs were taken by Richard Pearse (New Zealand, March 1903) and Karl Jatho (August 1903). Finally, the Wrights needed headwinds or catapults to start their planes, so they were not fully self-powered. But that of Brazil’s Santos-Dumont was (1906, first official airplane flight).
In your commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ flight, you told only half the story by ignoring the story of a Brazilian genius named Alberto Santos-Dumont, considered to be the father of aviation. He was the first to build and fly an aircraft heavier than air by its own means of propulsion, in Paris in 1906. The Wright brothers’ plane made use of a rudimentary catapult on an inclined plane to throw it into the air.
Marcos F. Andrade
I love the view from 10,000 meters, but with all the advances in airplane design and development of space-age materials, why don’t they make the windows bigger?
Milford, New Hampshire
OF PROSTITUTES AND THEIR PATRONS
No country on this planet has been free of workers in “the world’s oldest profession.” All nations battle the problem in the seedy areas of their backyard, so why single out China (“Not Just Another Pretty Face,” Oct. 13)? These ladies are coerced by life situations into work they’re not proud of. Prostitution has been discussed endlessly. For a change, why not study the minds of men who visit—or, worse, travel to a foreign country to visit—prostitutes? While these women are forced into such work, no one is forcing men to patronize these women.
Chan Chee Leong
THE JAPANESE RECOVERY
In his Oct. 13 column, “Japan is Back (No, Really!),” Fareed Zakaria reports better times for Japan but chides the country for its 10-year (1995-2005), $6.2 trillion public-works program. He cites writer Alex Kerr as saying that that is “three to four times more than what the United States, with 20 times the land area and more than double the population, will spend on public construction in the same period.” But it is we Americans who don’t seem to care. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently said that $1.6 trillion would have to be spent on roads, schools, transit, water, energy and waste-disposal systems—just to bring them up to date—never mind the new projects we also need urgently. Even so, President Bush seems to focus only on the (obviously first installment of) $20 billion for Iraqi infrastructure. What shall it profit him to make Iraqis more comfortable while the United States is falling apart?
John E. Ullmann
New York, New York
President Bush asked the Japanese government to help the United States to clean up the mess he’s made in Iraq. A year ago he froze out the United Nations from Iraq and now he is pressing his demand for help and cooperation from friends? He shut out all those who did not support him by drawing a line between friends and enemies. How could he talk about Iraq without admitting to the failure of his shortsighted foreign policy and his poorly organized war plan? The Bush administration should have been sensitive toward people, culture and history. We in Japan are unhappy that our tax money could be used for even further destruction in Iraq.
I wasn’t impressed with Zakaria’s column on Japan. Of what importance is a regional giant or the world’s second largest economy when it can’t improve on its immigration policies in this globalized world?
Port Harcourt, Nigeria
A GENERAL FOR THE DEMOCRATS?
Your Sept. 29 story on Wesley Clark (“General With a Purpose”) contained interesting tidbits about his life, but the only detail you offered about his experience as NATO commander was an anecdote glorifying an insubordinate officer. Where were the details about how the general seamlessly maintained a potentially fractious multinational coalition that disarmed a dictator and prevented thousands of deaths in Kosovo? I’d have liked to know more about the general’s many public statements about the importance of diplomacy and multilateralism to America’s national security. Indeed, if the current president had a clue about how to answer those questions, he wouldn’t have to fear answering them on national television next year, face to face with the general.
What’s the world come to when a democratic challenger for the U.S. presidential nomination is a career soldier, converts to Catholicism only because of its “inherent order,” actively downplays his intelligence and swaps military caps with Serbian war criminals? What happened to key Democratic principles—peace, fairness and diversity? A man like this will take a dim view of a woman’s right to choose, gay rights in the military and gun control. That a soldier can even garner the excitement he has among average Americans—never mind Democrats—is proof that the country is descending into a militaristic mire at precisely the time when a moderate civilian is desperately needed. Where is the champion of intellectual and humanitarian values, the moderator who calms the nation yet hears the world, the person who will speak for the millions of Americans who have lost their voices in the current climate of blood and guts? The world watches as the militaristic nature of U.S. politics grows stronger.
Cape Town, South Africa
OUTING CIA OPERATIVES
It is incredible that NEWSWEEK’s article on the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame scrutinized the names of potential leakers, but barely mentioned the culpability of the person who certainly did do damage: Robert Novak (“Secrets and Leaks,” Oct. 13). Assuming that “administration officials” leaked Plame’s name inadvertently, negligently or even intentionally, no harm was done until Novak decided to identify Plame and her associates, and possibly place the nation at risk under the guise of journalistic privilege. What gives Novak the idea, or the right, to think that as a citizen-journalist he doesn’t have to keep a secret that ends up on his desk?
Does anyone believe that if President Bush wanted to find out who leaked the identity of former ambassador Joe Wilson’s wife, he couldn’t get the answer right now? Instead he makes disingenuous statements that he has “no idea whether we’ll find out” who leaked the information. As Wilson says, consider this a warning shot to anyone who speaks the truth about the “misspeaks” of this administration. This act is a felony and could put someone’s life at stake. We should get to the bottom of it.
Forest Park, Illinois
DESPERATELY SEEKING WMD
Tony Blair’s future has been diminished by this question: where are the weapons of mass destruction (“The Twilight of Tony Blair,” Sept. 29)? To the rest of the world it was quite clear—after months of U.N. inspections and the failure of U.S. intelligence to hand over concrete evidence—what this war was being fought over. It is a pity that intelligence information was hatched and hyped for the purpose of serving political means and no questions were asked on the facts or on the reliability of that “intelligence.” Now the question to be asked of the Bush administration is, Was the spending of billions of dollars, and the killing of innocent Iraqi people and British and American soldiers, a justifiable cause for getting oil a few dollars cheaper?
New Delhi, India
For the United States, a war was necessary because it seemed sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It felt threatened by them. But if it was so sure about that, why didn’t the United States direct the weapons inspectors to places and labs, asking for their immediate elimination? In reality, the United States was not sure at all, as we have now learned. So, it began the war simply on suspicion. That’s a war crime, just as killing a human being out of suspicion, without evidence, is murder. That would make George W. Bush a war criminal. The end does not justify the means. It’s that simple. As an Austrian, I’m glad to live in a country which does not participate in war crimes and does not support them.
SANCTIONING TEUTONIC ELITISM
I found your Aug. 11 story “Class Revival” fascinating. As an American high-school student I tutored English to Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees during my lunch hour. When I first met them, these kids could barely order food in English, much less sing the national anthem. Their parents were earning their living by ironing shirts, sweeping floors and operating restaurants. Yet after a few years, those same children were getting perfect scores on the SAT and aspiring to the highest ranks of U.S. society. To me, this was proof of the theory that educational opportunity can make a difference. Now, living in Germany when I listen to my daughter’s stories from a day in an “elite” gymnasium or high school, I am appalled at how Germany’s education system stifles and stunts growth in the areas where U.S. high schools appear to promote it—social awareness, civic pride, community spirit, self-confidence and personal development. Last week my daughter’s history teacher warned the class not to “become lazy slobs like Americans, who sit bare-chested in Bermuda shorts in front of the television, drinking beer and watching wrestling.” An interesting world view being taught to Germany’s future elites.
Your columnist Stefan Theil unfairly depicts European workers opposed to their governments’ pension and retirement-age reforms as a selfish generation defending their privileges, whatever the cost to the well-being of their children (“A Heavy Burden,” July 7). Most European employees—civil servants as well as private-sector workers—will be barred from retirement until the age of 65, if they want full benefits. This is not right in a time of rising unemployment among the young and in modern societies so attached to the notions of efficiency and safety: who wants to trust a nurse, a teacher or a bus driver in their late 60s? There is also something cynical about private-sector employers’ supporting the postponement of retirement age while they are so eager to get rid of their employees once they consider them unprofitable—that is, often, from the age of 55. Finally, European workers don’t want to bear the burden of demographic evolutions and related social reforms at a time when some company managers earn, in just one year, what the average worker would get in a millennium.
THE STORY OF DUTCH ROYALS
Your statement that former Queen Juliana and her consort Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands have “barely spoken since 1976” and “live in separate halves of Soestdijk Palace” is misleading (“Fall of the Royal Fortune,” July 7). As most Dutchmen know, Princess Juliana has for many years been suffering from deteriorating mental health, which requires more extensive medical attention than needed by an ordinary 94-year-old. The caption that accompanied the photograph illustrating the story also did not tell the full story. It depicts Prince Bernhard (whom you identified), with his grandson Crown Prince Willem-Alexander (who was not identified), at the royal funeral last year of Prince Claus, their son-in-law and father, respectively.
DON’T MOURN FOR ‘FRIENDS’
I’ve been a regular viewer of “Friends” over the years and I’m more than ready to see this group of overpaid, self-indulgent people disappear from the screen (“Losing Friends,” Oct 13). Perhaps the lack of innovation on this sitcom is what makes the future so unpretty for other television comedies. It could also be that even the best-compensated of American society find it hard to justify the outrageous amounts these actors are paid per episode. Are we really supposed to feel sorry for this group “weeping in their lattes”?
San Diego, California
© 2003 Newsweek, Inc.