Mail Call

Our Dec. 6 article on the growing number of elderly worried readers. "This is a big problem for us," said a Hungarian, speaking of his country. A young Filipino argued against sending grandparents to old-age homes: " [D]on't forget that... without these loving persons, we wouldn't be here."

As a 65-year-old pensioner, I was delighted to read your Dec. 6 article "The Golden Age." My country, Hungary, is among those where the percentage of population older than 60 is more than 20 percent. This is a big problem for us, as the number will continue to increase for five or 10 years, when those who were born in the early 1950s will become pensioners. In that period the birthrate was high, thanks to the propaganda campaign of the communist regime. Anna Ratko, the minister of Health at the time, famously said that childbirth for married women is obligatory and for single women is glorious. I agree with you that societies are now facing their pension crises. I was shocked when I read that 80 percent of the world already cannot afford to retire. Does that mean that 80 percent of the world reaching retirement age won't have a pension?

Jozsef Majevszky

Szigetszentmiklos, Hungary

I'm a 13-year-old student from the Philippines who was deeply interested in your article "The Golden Age." Strong values and family are important to almost all Filipino families. Normally, a household consists of a mother, father, children and extended family like uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents. I think sending the elderly to old-age homes is very much inevitable, but I hope we don't for-get our sense of family and that without these unique and loving persons we wouldn't be here. We owe so much to them, and I think they deserve something in return. They need nothing more than our love, faith and hope.

Maria Reylan M. Garcia

Iloilo City, Philippines

Improvements in access to adequate health care in recent decades have indeed allowed for a burgeoning population of elders in southern Africa. The rewards of their golden years? The burden of providing for grandchildren orphaned by AIDS, as you briefly but aptly mentioned, as well as the betrayal of governments ill equipped and disinclined to provide assistance. Women in my area continue to toil over handicraft work such as ceramics and weaving well into their 70s and 80s--not for its cultural significance, but for the slight income it may bring themselves and their dependents. But perhaps these are ephemeral grievances: with HIV and AIDS gutting the core of the populace--without a plateau in transmission rates within sight--the current drove of elderly will dwindle, and old age will once again represent a luxury of the West.

Christina Granberg

Mashobeni South, Swaziland

As a Ukrainian-Russian who has lived and worked in both Soviet and post-communist Ukraine and Russia, I must challenge Richard Pipes's ancient and bookish half-truths about the Russian psyche ("Big Brother and 'Little Russians'," Dec. 6). In 1991 Ukraine's proclaimed independence steadily grew pathologically nationalistic in blaming the Russians for the then broken economy, to which Russians responded with "good riddance." No Russian really felt "so much reduced in size and influence," concerned for the country's survival, nor betrayed by the "Little Russians," as Pipes says. Perhaps Russia's "imperial ambitions" have something to do with everyday political issues in neighbor states where a large Russian minority lives (let's not forget the United States' interests, which go as far as Iraq). Finally, if Pipes were to tell a Ukrainian or a Russian that the Russian people are "more docile" to their rulers than the Ukrainians are, his listener would doubt his competence.

Nikolai Goch

Erkrath, Germany

There is no doubt which candidate the United States and Europe supported in the presidential election in Ukraine ("The West's Moment," Dec. 6). Michael Meyer had better think twice, though, before waxing overly enthusiastic about the opposition's achievements. Where, for example, did Viktor Yushchenko's spin doctors get the money for their tent city and the rest of their campaign? Recent experience from Serbia, Georgia and Belarus suggests that the stuff is paid for in U.S. dollars, fresh from Washington, D.C. The United States and Europe may have had the same goal in this election, but I don't think the EU (and, of course, Russia) will tolerate the State Department's blatant cold-war-style interventionism much longer, as such conduct has nothing to do with what the EU stands for first and foremost: democracy.

Georg Hauzenberger

Augsburg, Germany

I was very disappointed to read the views of Ariel Sharon of Israel and the new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas ("No Guts, No Glory, No Peace," Dec. 6). Sharon lacks the vision and courage of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who I believe was sincere in wanting to create a state for the Palestinian people next to the independent state of Israel. And Abbas does not have the charismatic personality of Yasir Arafat, who was loved and supported by his people because of his full commitment to the Palestinian cause. Abbas will never be able to have full control of the radical Palestinians, who are prepared to blow themselves up for an independent Palestine. And President Bush and his administration must put full pressure on Sharon to stop his crusade of destroying Palestinian lives and properties in the name of the so-called fight against terror. Sharon's tit-for-tat policy must come to an end in order for him to show that he is intent on peace in the Middle East.

S.R.A. Shah

Vroomshoop, Netherlands

As an American living in Paris, I see the French not so much depressed as disillusioned (" Les Miserables, Indeed," Dec. 6). The French long considered themselves superior to the rest of the world culturally, linguistically and intellectually. But the fashion world has moved to New York; Australian and South American wines grace the menus of the few surviving French restaurants in Paris. "McDos" and other ethnic restaurants are driving the cafes and bistros out of business. English has become the standard worldwide language for business and politics. The best cars come from Japan and Germany and the best electronics from Asia. French movies are so bad that they only last a week or two in the theaters, while American movies play for months. The 35-hour workweek and other forms of labor protection have made manual laborers contemptuous of their employers and customers to the point that their workmanship cannot be trusted. The French model whose likeness is currently used for their Miss Liberty moved to Britain to pay fewer taxes, and the answers the French had to memorize to pass their school exams are proving not to be the only answers to all of life's questions. And it is the French who tell me these things. Depressed, probably; disillusioned, absolutely.

Mark Wilkinson

Paris, France

As an Australian married into a French family and residing in this wonderful country, I have noticed an increase in the number of anti-French articles being published in NEWSWEEK. This week you have an article criticizing the social-welfare advantages of being fired in France ("Glory, Glory, I've Been Fired!" letter from France) and another on the French practice of pill-popping for depression (" Les Miserables, Indeed"). But these things seem to me to point to a vastly superior, though not perfect, social-welfare system. Berating France has been a favorite Anglo-Saxon pastime for the last 30 years. Before the U.S. election, NEWSWEEK's tone was somewhat different--I found a perceived impartiality refreshing. Maybe it was too good to last.

Anthony Becker

Falicon, France

Many critics are quick to point out that poverty and discrimination are the causes of unrest in Southern Thailand, but Muslims are not the only poor people in the kingdom. ("Thaksin the Tough Guy," Nov. 29.) In fact, the Issan region of Northeast Thailand has the lowest per capita income among Thailand's four regions. It is said that many Issan men have migrated to Bangkok, where they work as "tuk-tuk" drivers. Issan women work as hostesses in bars. Shinawatra Thaksin is certainly heavy-handed, but Muslims are not the only victims. His war against drugs has resulted in a high death toll, too. I don't doubt minorities do suffer from a certain degree of discrimination in Thailand, but this is also true in every other country, including Islamic states. Muslims must learn to voice their discontent in a peaceful way, rather than resort to jihad right away.

K. S. Chew

via Internet

My observation tells me it's not joggers and distance runners who sport particularly well-developed rears--sprinters and jumpers easily outclass them ("Born to Run," Periscope, Nov. 29). In their case it is the explosive effort involved in propelling their body weight that results in increased muscular development, whereas the long, drawn-out, submaximal effort made by endurance athletes only makes their muscles smaller and leaner. True, walking doesn't contribute to a powerful rear because it "makes few demands on the gluteus maximus." Arguably, what is lacking is intensity of effort, in spite of that powerful muscle being used through most of its range of movement. If that intensity were provided by increased resistance, would greater gluteal development result? The sherpas of Tibet who climb steep mountain slopes, often with heavy loads on their backs, should provide an affirmative answer. It might also shed new light on why primitive man had a robust fanny. Instead of jogging over long distances, he may have needed to be quick on his feet to escape predators or hunt down his quarry. Additionally, he may have had to cart home heavy loads such as animal carcasses to keep him with food for as long as possible.

Pesi J. Padshah

Pune, India

Republican strategist Grover Norquist's comments reveal a sad turn in his party's electoral strategy ("We Will Crush Them Again," the last word, Nov. 22). No longer just "spinning" their case, the Republicans seem to have moved to a bigger-is-better "big lie" tactic: America's only European roots relate to people fleeing Europe, the U.S. economy is going fine and stock markets are a great place to invest for old-age security. Perhaps Norquist's only true statement was his implication that, unlike the Democrats' focus on big-city elites, the Republican appeal is to the "out of touch and cloistered [person] who lives in rural South Dakota."

Robert Fischer

New Delhi, India

Grover Norquist represents a certain kind of American white trash in a suit and tie. He misuses the word "culture" the same way George Bush misuses the words "American values." Norquist says, "The United States is a distinct culture that decided to not be Europe." He goes on to state that American wars "were all wars to not be part of Europe." Then he goes on to insult the Canadians. So America's history of war is his idea of American culture? And these wars were intended for the United States not to be a part of Europe? When I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s in the American Midwest, my parents were proud of their role and the role the United States played in World War II in liberating Europe from Germany. I have 20 ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War with the help of European allies. I have seven ancestors who fought in the Civil War. My grandfather fought in World War I. My father was a Navy lieutenant commander in World War II and my brother was in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Me? I was privileged enough to be with the elite group of leaders today, among them Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Jeb Bush, Karl Rove and many other fine men all wearing suits and ties who never went to war. I wonder just what wars Norquist has fought in to help separate his American culture from that of Europe? If he really wants to talk about culture in its true form of the word, maybe he should try taking up the subject of Iraqi culture. Its history just happens to be as one of the cradles of human civilization. And we Americans just happen to be in the process of destroying huge parts of this culture forever.

Charles Tibbetts

Kaiserslautern, Germany

Mail Call | News