Our Sept. 27 story on life in the womb and its impact on a child's future health drew responses from concerned women, as well as men who acknowledged their responsibility. "My worst fear is that women are going to be blamed for all their children's health problems," wrote one woman. "The man might also want to reconsider his [health] habits," said another. But, concluded a third: "The sins of the fathers (and mothers) are truly visited upon the sons (and daughters)."Starting in the Womb
My worst fear is that women are going to be blamed for all their children's health problems, and yet they have no support from our society to live their lives any differently when they are pregnant ("Shaped by Life in the Womb," Society & the Arts, Sept. 27). We women are just human beings with stresses and faults, and we are carrying our own health problems and mental baggage. Now we are being told that our uteruses may hold the health of the human race. That sounds like an awfully important job for a woman who is already working three full-time jobs (wife, mother, employee) up until the moment she goes into labor.
I find it startling that "fetal programming" is only recently being taken seriously. With the burden of responsibility being heaped upon the woman, the man might also want to reconsider his habits.
V. Jean Clelland
It's ironic that what constitutes news by today's scientists has been known for centuries. In 1649, while staying at the court of Queen Christina in Sweden, philosopher Rene Descartes published "The Passions of the Soul." In article 136 of this work he says, "... for it is certain that there is a relation between all the movements of the mother and those of the child in her womb, so that what is adverse to one is harmful to the other."
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Your story confirmed my long-held belief that many traits that tend to run in families have more to do with "family habits" than with genes. The same diet that affects the fetus will probably be fed to the child through its formative years. Thus the child's biography tends to become its biology. Thus the sins of the fathers (and mothers) are truly visited upon the sons (and daughters).
David A. Herndon
Whenever I come across an article by Sharon Begley, I take notice. I read, I think, I learn. The endless renditions of man's societal disasters do not add anything to my knowledge. I already know the cause and solutions to these problems. But Begley always provides new and useful knowledge.
William W. Morgan
I have spent the last 25 years agonizing over what I might have done to contribute to the birth defects that ultimately killed my daughter. Now I find out that physical problems my healthy sons may encounter later in life may be my fault as well. I can't get a break!
As an Indian, I was made proud by your story on India's development within information technology ("Growing Smartly," Business, Sept. 27). The fact that India has achieved this in spite of our current politicians, who sadly have not kept tune with the rest of India, speaks volumes for what Indians can do. There's still a lot to be done. But I hope India will grow stronger economically in the new millennium, and along with that our politicians will realize that they also have to reform themselves.
You write that 1999 has been a particularly good year for India as far as food production and GDP are concerned, and that we Indians are well placed in the industry of the future: information technology. Let me remind you that more than half of India's population hasn't even heard of computers and most rural areas are still without electricity and clean drinking water.
It saddens me to say that although India may be progressing, millions of Indians do not have access to clean drinking water and the illiterate population of India is double the total population of the United States. I hope the new government will undertake drastic measurements to get the country back on track. Too many broken promises have shattered our dreams.
Your report on India's information technology was perceptive and timely. As a 1970 graduate from India's premier engineering school, I bemoaned the large-scale brain drain to the United States during the '70s and '80s. But now, as many of these superskilled emigrants have matured into entrepreneurs of the software industry in Silicon Valley, I no longer rue their migration as a loss to India. Many of them have maintained ties with India and are fired by a nationalistic zeal to see India emerge as a global economic power. Fortunately, since 1991 there has been a strong national consensus for economic reform in India. As a result of this, together with outstanding efforts by stalwarts in India's IT industry, India is now turning into a global IT power.
It's good to see that the world's biggest democracy is finally developing as we step into the next millennium. I wish India good luck with its technological growth.
I want to commend Michael Elliott for his analysis of why European leaders fail "to truly integrate Europe" and to persuade "their rich citizens to make modest sacrifices for a greater good" ("Action, Not Words," Europe, Sept. 27). It should be noted, though, that 65 million West Germans have been making such a sacrifice for years by "integrating" 16 million East Germans.
Michael Elliott's article "Action, Not Words" is a true example of fine journalism--and deserves applause. Elliott is right in saying that Europe is unable, and unwilling, to expand into East and Central Europe due to a lack of true leadership. However, although economically robust, the United States also lacks strong leadership. A publicly discredited president like Bill Clinton evidently is in no position to exert moral authority over a great nation. The multibillion-dollar money-laundering scandal in Russia epitomizes the futility of U.S. policy toward that vast semi-state, semi-empire. I'm afraid the unwillingness of Europe to incorporate the countries of East and Central Europe into the Union, coupled with the failed efforts of the U.S. administration simply to keep Russia "on board," may create a dangerous vacuum of discontent and disorder--a vacuum that may incite a repeat of communists' past and recent bloodshed. It's the United States, and not hopeless Europe, that may help East and Central Europe the most. The United States should not let the idea of democracy be wiped out together with the vanishing mirage of a United Europe.
You state that "Americans wonder why Europeans don't understand that the world on their borders is a dangerous one, but one that with a little generosity could be made much safer." But European governments spend more money on official development and humanitarian aid per capita than the United States does. Also, in Kyoto in 1997, Europe committed to further reductions in the emission of greenhouse gases, while the U.S. government refused any commitment in the name of its own industrial interests.
Why is it all right for Russia to subject civilians in Grozny and villages in Dagestan to indiscriminate and brutal bombardment in an effort to forcibly retain territories in the Caucasus, but not for Indonesia to try and hang on to East Timor ("Russia's War Hits Home," Europe, Sept. 27)? The reactions from the politicians as well as the media have been different and contradictory in the two cases. Why should the plight of innocent Chechen and Dagestani women and children be less deserving of our sympathies? Why should they not have the right to choose if they wish to remain in Russia in the same way as the East Timorese?
K. Hussan Zia
History has a nasty habit of repeating itself. On Nov. 26, 1939, Russian troops near the Finnish border were bombarded by artillery fire, and 13 soldiers were killed or wounded. This incident, known as the shootings of Mainila, or Mainilian laukaukset, gave Russians an excuse to attack Finland just a few days later, thus starting the Winter War. Fifty years later, in 1989, the Soviet Union confessed that those shots had been fired by its own cannons. Knowing this, one can't help but wonder who the real culprits behind the recent explosions in Russia may be.
Historically speaking, the people of Chechnya and Dagestan were never Russians, although they have been oppressed by Russia from the time of the czars to Stalin. When Chechen Gen. Djokhar Dudayev declared independence in 1991, he thought Russia, which was becoming democratic, would finally hear his plea, as did Dagestan's rebels more recently. But the Russian Army attacked, seeking to quell the insurgency in a Soviet-like way. Ignoring the causes of terrorism, in this case shelving people's historic right to freedom, always results in the same consequences: no peace can be preserved at home and no democracy can be accepted by people with whom Russia could be, after all, good neighbors.
Bernard J. Henry
It was refreshing to read Kenneth L. Woodward's feature on John Cornwell's book "Hitler's Pope" ("The Case Against Pius XII," Society & the Arts, Sept. 27). In the late 1980s I studied the sworn testimonies gathered for the Canonization Cause of Pius XII in Rome. Several of them speak of his concern and help for Jews, both before and after he became pope. Cornwell charges him with hypocrisy, but the testimonies show him to have been a transparently honest person. While ascetic and always requiring the best from himself and others in the service of the church, he is shown also to have been courteous and kind, with a sense of humor. In an article on Cardinal Martini in London's Sunday Times magazine in 1993, Cornwell described Pope Pius as a diplomat, a hypochondriac and a ditherer. This was hardly the most positive image to have in mind when he was setting out to write his book.
During the papacy of Pius XII, camps were set up in Europe to exterminate men, women and children, mainly Jews and Gypsies. Despite the best efforts of his apologists, there is no convincing evidence that these atrocities, perpetrated in his own backyard, really moved Pius XII, either at the time or subsequently.
Jeremy I. Pfeffer
Your review of John Cornwell's book "Hitler's Pope" smacks of the worst excesses of the Roman Catholic Church's censorship in an earlier era. That most of Cornwell's sources are "secondary and written by Pacelli's harshest critics" is an insufficient reason to condemn a book of more than 500 pages. Nor is the fact that the author is a journalist any reason for condemnation. I would have expected sounder reasons than those offered by Woodward to sustain his conclusion that the work is "bogus scholarship."
Cape Town, South Africa
I was dismayed to see France's 36,000 mayors dispute their very own Marianne, the symbol of the French republic ("A Marianne for the Millennium," Periscope, Sept. 27). The timeless Marianne, originally supposed to represent boldness, audacity and intrepidity, is likely to be chosen by the sole criterion of beauty. I am afraid that the five contenders, pictured in your Periscope item, do not represent the social values of the 21st century. Liberte, egalite, fraternite, beaute? Certainly not!
The European underdogs' splendid performance in "golf's greatest showdown" --the Ryder Cup--spells two words: team spirit ("A Spanish Blast," Society & the Arts, Sept. 27). But it also reflects European and U.S. societies: while U.S. athletes' professionalism, individualism and obsession with money make them the champions of individual sports, the Europeans' tolerance and humor are best suited for team sports. This manifests itself in both tennis (the Davis Cup) and golf. It might be true, as the U.S. Ryder Cup captain says, that the U.S. team has the 12 best golf players in the world. But while Europe is a team of a dozen golf players, the United States has 12 golf players put into one team. There is a difference.
Players' wives and girlfriends, spectators and officials at Brookline, Massachusetts, recently, it reminded me of a saying I was told as a young boy playing sports. It goes, "When it comes to the one Great Scorer in the sky, he marks you on not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game." The United States brilliantly won the Ryder Cup, but in the process lost a lot of respect from the rest of the world.
In her review of "The Trust" ("All of the Family's News," Business, Sept. 27), your reviewer seems to have scanned the book but not paid too much attention to detail. Writing about Adolph Ochs, the founding father, she says, "he grabbed at women all his life, including his new daughter-in-law, who spent a couple of nights in the Ochs home fleeing from him in her nightie." For the record, Adolph never had a son. His surrogate son was his nephew, Julius Ochs Adler, who, after he married, was ordered to live in the same house with his Uncle Adolph and Aunt Effie. The woman who fled in her nightie was Julius's wife, Babs, my mother.
Barbara Adler Katzander
New York, N.Y.
Reflecting upon Fareed Zakaria's article about the United States' responsibilities for Russia's current troubles, I couldn't agree more ("Lousy Advice Has Its Price," World View, Sept. 27). But the United States didn't lose Russia--it was lost long before you came on board. To me--born and raised in one of the satellite Soviet regimes--the current patterns of corruption, abuse and violence, going back as far as 30 years, are all too familiar.
When Mikhail Gorbachev started his reforms, he started at the wrong end--with politics. China, on the other hand, started with economic reforms. People need food, clothing and shelter. Free choice does not automatically usher a country into Utopia. Now, after 10 years, we see who's right. The West, especially the United States, must learn that it took hundreds of years for the Western countries to refine their system of governance and economic policies to achieve their current status.
S. M. Duraiswmy
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Come on, you guys! the shooting in the sanctuary of the Baptist church in Ft. Worth, Texas, is no more about guns than the death of Princess Di is about cars ("A Sanctuary Shooting," Periscope, Sept. 27). The tragic murders in Texas were about a psychopathic misfit named Ashbrook who hated Christians. (Maybe you should have headlined the story Christian persecution?) Your anti-gun agenda would be ridiculous if it didn't dangerously obscure the real issue--a society where alienation, hatred and violence escalate while lawmakers multiply useless laws that are never enforced against the troublemakers.
The purchase and ownership of guns should be restricted, but in the United States many people resist a registration by the government. But what about a private registration? Make it an offense to possess a gun without valid liability insurance, and let the insurance companies determine the risk and premium of each gun owner. Require all insured guns to be registered, and make the seller liable if he sells a gun to someone without valid insurance. Make the gun owners pay for their crimes and for their negligence.
The new movie "Anna and the King" is based on the original diaries of Anna Leonowens. As Jodie Foster intimates in your article, the diaries are pretty tough going ("The Royal Treatment," Society & the Arts, Aug. 16). I think it is a credit to the various writers who have been attracted to this story through the years that the core of truth to it has remained through the conventions of each particular era. Each time the goal was to impart an especially colorful piece of history while telling a good story. The specific allusions to Rodgers and Hammerstein's version are not correct; I can't imagine where the notion came that the king has ever been played in a "buffoonish" style (Brynner's Oscar-winning performance a specific case in point), and I can't imagine what print of "The King and I" Andy Tennant saw to mishear and misinterpret the king's use of "etcetera." Great stories get told over and over. Hollywood telling it again with Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat is clearly a cause for celebration. However, it would seem churlish to support it at the expense of one of the best versions of the story ever.
Theodore S. Chapin
New York, N.Y.
Despite the analysis of several experts, stating that China has a long way to go in its quest to become a world power, we should never underestimate its ability to achieve it ("Standing Up," Special Report, Sept. 20). The Chinese are determined to end "100 years of humiliation," and they will not let anything stand in their way. This 50th anniversary is for them a reminder of who they are as a people--that they should be masters of their own destiny and that they will never again allow themselves to be dominated by anyone. They are confident that the coming century will be their time to rise and gain the prestige and respect they've wanted for so long.
Aaron G. Ronquillo
What is there for China to celebrate given its track record, which in all fairness can be viewed objectively only as among the darkest in human history? The servile endurance of the Chinese is simply amazing; how can they embrace unnecessary suffering as the only way of life and even as an enjoyable experience? The Chinese ability to make sense of nonsense, to celebrate when they should mourn and to find reasons to be proud when other people would feel ashamed is incredible. Let's hope that China may find some sensible reason for celebration in another anniversary in the not-too-distant future.
I sensed some American ethnocentrism in your story "In Love With a Vision." To write about Mao Zedong's so-called "American dream" is ironic because it was Richard Nixon who came to see Mao, not vice versa. Why didn't you describe it as "Nixon's Chinese dream"?
Your article "In Love With a Vision" contains two factual errors. You state that " 'Everyone was frantic,' says Zhang Hanzhi, later Mao's English teacher, whose husband was in the shelter." But at the time of the Korean War, Zhang Hanzhi was an innocent teenager; she married after the Korean War. Also, it's not correct to say that "in 1963 he asked the daughter of Zhang Hanzhi, one of his old mentors, to be his English teacher." It should have said: "In 1963 he asked Zhang Hanzhi, the daughter of one of his old mentors, to be his English teacher."
Gerald Segal is right in reminding us of the disaster of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution ("The Myth of Chinese Power"). But he is mocking China's GDP. The Chinese live in very simple flats and houses. But we must not forget that there are 1.3 billion people in China--and they not only have housing, they also have food to eat and clothes to wear. In contrast, take a look at its neighbor to the north: Russia. There, "only" 150 million people live in far worse conditions. Also consider the simple, but efficient, infrastructure in China, serving 1.3 billion people. Communism or not--these are all unbelievable achievements.
I enjoyed your article about China's economic development since the Deng Xiaoping era ("Gradual Is Good"). It was comprehensive, concise and objective, giving credit where it's due. However, the authors seemed reluctant to accept that the same gradualism is being applied not only to China's economic efforts, but also to politics. I'm convinced that the leadership in Beijing had already accepted the inevitability of political reform when they first experimented with their economy. I read China's recent activities in legislation, in promoting the concept of the rule of law, in the successful direct elections of headmen in villages and its concentration on education as clear signs of gradualism in China's political reform.
Jason M. Stone
I'm not an admirer of Mahathir. Yet this man--known for his original ideas and incisive, plain speaking--has earned my respect ("Under Fire," Asia, Aug. 30). He is an astute politician who is getting on the Western countries' nerves. Despite the many criticisms, only a man of Mahathir's vision and resolution could fill the role of leading Malaysia into the 21st century with pride and confidence.
Mohamad Noor Bin Mohar
The question that comes to mind when reading your article is: what fire is it Mahathir is under? I wonder if NEWSWEEK knows that Malaysia is a peaceful and prosperous country from which we even have to keep illegal immigrants out. When I look at our neighboring countries, I am proud of our achievements.