Our Jan. 15 cover story on bioinvading species led readers to share their views. Wrote one, "Aliens invade habitats already destroyed by man." Another agreed: "The most successful bioinvader? Us humans!"
Emergency in Bangladesh
Your piece on Bangladesh titled "Rhymes With Afghanistan" (Feb. 5) conveys the impression that Islamic radicals could make Bangladesh resemble "prewar Afghanistan." Nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, there was a descent into chaos in the months preceding the declaration of emergency on Jan. 11. It is that chaos which could have turned Bangladesh into the "ungovernable space" that potential extremists might hope for. But the declaration of emergency pulled the country away from that brink of disaster. The installation of Fakhruddin Ahmed, a renowned economist and former World Bank official, as the head of the caretaker government—a hugely popular development—also helped change that. Normalcy now prevails throughout the country. Vibrancy has returned to civic life. The supremacy of the rule of law is ensured. Every segment of society, including Bangladesh's remarkable civil society (Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank are recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize) and reputable armed forces (consistently one of the largest contributors to U.N. peacekeeping), fully supports the current government. Bangladeshis are a pluralist, freedom-loving, tolerant people of moderate persuasion. They are deeply committed to these values, which this government represents. The people fully endorse its goal, in consonance with the Constitution, within whose parameters the change of government occurred. Free, fair and credible elections will be held as soon as possible, after an appropriate atmosphere is restored.
Kazi Imtiaz Hossain
Consul General of Bangladesh
New York, New York
Yes, invasive alien species are second only to habitat destruction as a threat to biodiversity ("Attack of the Aliens," Jan. 15). But the word "only" misleads, suggesting they are right behind habitat destruction—which they are not, they are a long way behind. Unfortunately, while doing something about habitat destruction interferes with a lot of people's immediate economic interests, everyone will agree that "aliens" should be kept out, at relatively little cost. But let's not lose sight of the main problem, which continues to be the destruction of biodiversity. In fact, aliens mainly invade habitats that have already been destroyed by man.
You did not mention one mammal that for thousands of years has been the most successful bioinvader. This species came from East Africa and has now spread throughout the globe and invaded all areas. It is, of course, us humans.
Forgiving the Ford Pardon
The late U.S. president Gerald Ford's pardon of his predecessor makes a mockery of his oft-quoted phrase "Our great republic is a government of laws and not of men" ("Death of an American President," Jan. 8). The pardon put one man above the law. It set a fresh example for George H.W. Bush when he exonerated the Iran-contra criminals. That some 60 percent of Americans now agree with Ford's pardon is merely testimony to our forgiving nature, not to the wisdom of the decision itself. Ford seems to have been a decent man. However, a more sober assessment of the pardon, and his presidency, must await the day when the fervor attending Ford's beatification has subsided.
Mexico City, Mexico
Still Surging to Iraq?
President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq is commendable and necessary, but only as a solution for the short term (" 'Surge' Strategy," Jan. 8). The prospects for a lasting peace, though, will probably never come about with these "Band-Aid" measures. What the United States repeatedly fails to understand is the depth of history of these ancient peoples. Their roots are so deeply embedded that trying to get them to suddenly change from their historical way of life to a modern democracy is like putting a poor camel rider into the latest Chevrolet and expecting him to drive off happily. The only workable solution is already staring the Iraqis in the face with the natural divisions of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It would mean massive population shifts, but to divide the Shiites and Sunnis into agreed zones seems to be the only practical answer. The sooner these ideas manifest themselves, the sooner peace will come.
Setting Garten Straight
As the Juan Trippe professor of International Trade and Finance at the Yale School of Management, your columnist Jeffrey E. Garten should surely have known that the "Big Bang" deregulation of the London Stock Exchange occurred not 10, but rather 20 years ago—in the period between 1986 and 1987 ("Let the Good Times Roll," Jan. 8).
Jeffrey E. Garten, a professor of international trade and finance, does not know that Vladimir Putin is Russia's president, not its prime minister ("Bracing For a Rough Patch," Dec. 25, 2006/Jan. 1, 2007)?
Porto Alegre, Brazil
Oprah's African Academy
With tears in my eyes, I read Allison Samuels's piece on Oprah Winfrey's Leadership Academy for Girls ("Oprah Goes to School," Jan. 8). What Winfrey is doing is amazing. Such lavish generosity is a dream for most Africans. Her decision to do this means an unparalleled imparting of education in all its ramifications—self-worth, knowledge and exposure. The lives she will thus touch will influence generations of Africans. As an African woman who knows the benefit of what she is doing and the result it will achieve, I say, God bless you, Oprah.
Mary T. Odianjo
Having read your article "Oprah Goes to School," I would like to express my support for Oprah Winfrey's brave idea of creating an extravagant and lavishly furnished school for young girls in Africa. Controversial as this notion may seem, I believe that each and every child has a right to experience the best things in the world, and Oprah's project aims at just that. May there be more such courageous actions taken in the name of the good of the underprivileged!
I think many would tend to agree with the South African government that Winfrey's $40 million girls' school with a 4 percent acceptance rate is both extravagant and elitist. But let us also not forget that it targets and seeks to motivate not the masses, but Africa's best and brightest—tomorrow's leaders—who will, in turn, help millions more. History is replete with examples of "radical" ideas that were initially criticized until time vindicated them. Winfrey and other stars are to be commended for bringing attention where it has been sorely lacking. Instead of criticizing their efforts as being wrong or self-serving, we should remember that God commands us in the Bible to be kind to those in need.