Mail Call: Midlife Blues

Our Jan. 22 Health for Life special on menopause garnered praise from readers. One who "more than welcomed it" added, "Your exposé is just the tip of the iceberg." A depressed woman shared her remedy: "The answer is not calcium and vitamin D ... it is to stop smoking and drinking."

"Europe's Fallen Angels" (Feb. 19) presents a pessimistic picture of the prospects of the EU's new Central European members. An IMF staff paper is cited to suggest that financial markets' favorable view of these countries is ill founded. Your article misrepresents the findings of that paper. Our paper does find that interest rates on new members' euro-denominated sovereign debt are lower than we can explain on the basis of economic, political and financial conditions. However, we do not jump to the conclusion that these low interest rates have a malign basis. True, they may reflect a mistaken view that EU membership carries an implicit guarantee. But we argue that benign influences are at least as likely: commitments to fiscal discipline and harmonization of institutions that come with EU membership may be instilling confidence, and eventual replacement of national currencies with the euro—another obligation of new members—will greatly reduce risks for investors. These considerations, together with the recent strong economic performance of most Central European countries, make the basis for the label "Fallen Angels" far from clear. The point is rather that EU membership affords each of these countries unique opportunities for rapid growth. Getting policies right to realize them is critical.
Susan Schadler
Deputy Director, European DepartmentInternational Monetary Fund
Washington, D.C.

The Hungarian fiscal-austerity package was implemented in May and June 2006, before the infamous leaked tape of September 2006. Therefore it is clear that contrary to what your article implies, the government decided to fix the sore state of the budget before the scandal broke out. Indeed, if you take into account the full length of the leaked tape and its context rather than cherry-picking sentences from it, then the picture is very different. The prime minister was trying to shock his party's M.P.s (smug from an election victory two weeks prior) into accepting the inevitability of the austerity program and sacrificing the upcoming municipal elections, which they were then sure to lose, because of the unpopularity of such measures in the short term. Please rectify the grave mixing of cause and effect.
Szilveszter Bukovszky
Budapest, Hungary

Editors' note: NEWSWEEK regrets the error.

Your Health For Life issue on menopause is more than welcome ("Out of the Shadows," Jan. 22). But your exposé is just the tip of the iceberg. It did not address the role that pharmaceutical companies play in research and exploitation of drugs and medications, nor the difficulties women have in finding the right prescription at a good price. The vast majority of women in menopause today live in Third World countries, where the very subject is still taboo and where access to medical services isn't universal. There is no public-health interest in addressing our problems. Why? An expert from the World Health Organization put it clearly: menopause is not a sickness or an epidemic; it doesn't cause death or disabilities. Women's traumatic experiences could challenge this view if worldwide research on the subject were to be undertaken. Since neither doctors nor our societies understand the complexities of this phase in women's lives, no code of conduct has been established, and so we go on getting prescriptions that cause serious side effects. We need a "good-will ambassador for menopause." Maybe Madonna?
Kyra Nuñez
Geneva, Switzerland

While I appreciate the thoroughness of your article "The New Prime Time," I felt you tiptoed around the answer to the question "My diet isn't particularly good, I smoke, I drink more than I should and I hate exercise. At 45, can I still make changes to protect my bones?" When I went to a therapist with severe depression at the age of 42, thank goodness that therapist looked at my lifestyle and didn't tell me to take the "painless" approach. By telling readers who smoke and drink too much to take calcium and vitamin D and watch their diet, I believe you do a disservice to the many women with these issues. I listened to my therapist's advice and quit drinking alcohol. Now, more than a year later, my depression is gone and my mood swings have decreased dramatically. My motivation level is much higher, and I no longer "hate exercise." There are many women my age who smoke and drink more than they should. The answer is not calcium and vitamin D; the answer is to stop smoking and drinking. There is help available if needed.
Delores Lipham Loedel
Encinitas, California

President Bush has authorized U.S. forces in Iraq to take whatever action is necessary to counter Iranian agents deemed to be a threat to U.S. troops or to the public at large ("Rumors of a 'Secret War'," Jan. 22). Once again, Bush seems to be doing what everybody else has already realized is a big mistake: the continued alienation of Iran. So far, no credible information has been released by the United States demonstrating that Iranian agents are actively trying to destabilize Iraq. The recent ransacking of the Iranian Consulate in Erbil, in defiance of international law, was unacceptable. Bush's anti-Iran rhetoric doesn't help, and neither does increasing the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf. There can be only two explanations for the deliberate provocation of Iran by the Bush administration: Bush needs a scapegoat for his failures in Iraq, or he needs a reason to order military strikes in Iran. Or both. It is sad that Bush's ego prevents him from engaging with Iran in a constructive way, through which he could dramatically improve the situation in Iraq, help the "war on terror" and bring about a sensible solution to the issue of Iran's nuclear program.
Rory E. Morty
Giessen, Germany

The recent debate by the U.S. Congress left out the destruction of modern Iraqi society by our reckless war. The death and suffering we have brought upon these poor people outweigh all the politics and debate about what is best for our troops. President Bush (and the Republican Party, which continues to support this war) must bear the moral responsibility for the tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths and injuries to civilians. Imagine American cities suffering such daily bombings and mass murder while some other country debated whether to let its troops grow exponentially or decrease gradually. We would be outraged. And yet we wonder why hatred for America is growing in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. Those who oppose the war must demand moral responsibility from this president and from those who supported his policies. The real news about what is happening to normal families in Iraq needs to be reported: children live in constant fear; thousands of families are now refugees with nowhere to go; people can no longer walk in their own neighborhoods without worry of attack. Imagine if we lived this way in America while some foreign country debated how to proceed. What about all the suffering that has occurred and continues because of a drummed-up, unnecessary war? It is an outrage that this president and his party, which stands for "pro-life," have brought so much death and destruction with no end in sight. Congress and the public should be addressing the real story: the daily agony we have brought to the citizens of Iraq and how we can apologize and right our great wrong. Then, slowly, the Middle East and the world might begin once again to believe in the old America so many loved.
Bruce Davis
Assisi, Italy

In your otherwise interesting piece on Thailand's "Buddhist Economics" (Jan. 22), you got two names wrong. The Finance minister is Pridiyathorn Devakula, not Prodiyathorn. And the author of the new biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, "The King Never Smiles," which you cite, is Paul (not Peter) Handley.
Paul Handley
Washington, D.C.

Your report on the veil and the issues associated with it makes for interesting reading ("Behind the Veil," Nov. 27). A form of expression of identity should not assume such proportions as to become a physical or metaphorical divide between cultures. Today's societies should be concerned more with integration and acceptance of the myriad visual forms of identities and how these can merge within a nation so that all citizens become members of that nation. Loyalty in today's globalized, wired world cannot be gauged by apparel. Nor should anyone be intimidated by how another is dressed. What ails societies is the disconnect between immigrant communities and host communities. Lack of dialogue engenders fear and suspicion and leads to the ghettoization of identities, instead of promoting a seamless integration of immigrants into one society made up of different faces. Yet it is also important for followers of Islam to become involved in constructive dialogue rather than engage in knee-jerk reactions that result in the now ubiquitous violence in the streets. Very few people know, let alone understand, the basic tenets of Islam. Whether or not one agrees with another's perception of a symbol as potent as the veil, mutual respect and tolerance will ease tension the world over.
Sarah Anjum Mirza
Hyderabad, India

The Dutch government does not seek to ban the Muslim veil in public places; it wants to ban only the two extreme forms of the veil, the burqaand the niqab. The burqa shrouds the whole person so that a man could hide under it, carrying a rifle in an upright position without anyone's noticing that a terrorist is walking the street. The niqab covers the whole face, leaving a mere slit for the eyes. Combined with long, flowing robes, this clothing also allows an armed terrorist to camouflage himself. Purely for reasons of security, we deem it necessary to forbid such garments in public places. The American public does not seem to be very security-conscious, judging by the outcry in various American news outlets about this subject.
Hans van den Berge
Knegsel, Netherlands

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