Mail Call

Martha Stewart fans weren't sure our July 1 cover was such a good thing. "While it is not clear exactly what Martha Stewart did or did not know in regard to ImClone," said one devotee, "it is evident that she is one of the most successful American entrepreneurs-male or female-in history. She deserves to be covered as such, rather than as just another social climber, by the media." Another Martha maven declared: "Your article was complete with guilt by association, innuendo and possibly a little envy and jealousy!" For other letter writers, schadenfreude seemed to be the most relevant theme. "Give Martha Stewart the chair--then make her reupholster it," snickered one. "Connect the dots and you have insider trading, plain and simple," said another. But one reader wrote soberly from a different perspective: "I would invite all of these moneymanipulators to join me in an oncology unit and witness the horribly sick people with metastatic colon cancer living for the next miracle drug. If ImClone hadn't been combining science with profit we might be receiving it now." Martha's Dirty Laundry Martha Stewart is wealthy beyond most people's imagination, and she is clearly not naive about business ethics and stock trading, having been a stockbroker and having gone public a few years ago ("Martha's Mess," July 1). She should have known better. For a relatively small amount of money by her standards, she seems to have sold her soul. It isn't the amount of money that has apparently taken wing with so many people of status, it's greed.
Dave Nasman
Bellingham, Wash.

Why all the fuss about Martha? IF the allegations of her impropriety are proved true, she'll likely pay the price. But why let her situation (small potatoes by comparison) overwhelm reporting on the real bad guys: the CEOs of Enron, WorldCom, Tyco and Halliburton, to name a few? These are the men who have contributed significantly to the plunge of the stock market and the decline of 401(k)s across the country. Will making Martha Stewart the sacrificial lamb restore consumer confidence? We think not.
Robert and Manya Prahl
Geneva, Ill.

Your cover story on Martha Stewart is chock full of innuendo and class envy. We are promised "An Insider Trading Scandal," yet the story concludes that "it's more likely that Peter Bacanovic [Stewart's broker] deduced that ImClone was sinking and acted accordingly [by selling her stock]." The rest of the story focuses on Martha Stewart's life as one of the rich and famous, as if a lavish lifestyle confirms she must be guilty of something. Living well is not a crime, nor is it a reason to yell "scandal" in a crowded theater, black tie or not.
Greg Cunningham
Des Moines, Iowa

Your article stated that Martha Stewart followed her prearranged plan and sold her ImClone shares when they dipped below $60 per share. Her voice message to Sam Waksal after the sale indicated her shock and surprise at the stock's fall. Insider trading is mere speculation at this point. I am disgusted at the hammering Stewart continues to take. She doesn't sell tobacco to teenagers or weapons to Third Worlders. Her goal is to enhance the lifestyle of average Americans--which she is accomplishing.
David S. Mathis
Houston, Texas

'A Tragedy About Real People' Your July 1 article "Code Blue in Jerusalem" is one of the saddest stories I have ever read. I can't imagine the suffering being experienced by both sides. It shows that violence begets violence. How awful for the innocent people who pay with their lives for their governments' inability to bring peace to the region.
Ash Nasseri
Charlotte, N.C.

I read your story on the Israeli trauma center with the numbness I now associate with the constant stream of stories on Middle East violence. The question asked of the trauma nurse by the sister of the 22-year-old woman murdered in the suicide bomb attack on the bus--"Please tell me, did you hold her hand?"--broke my heart. In the end, this is a tragedy about real people, with real families who just want to know if their loved ones were at least comforted during their final moments.
Callie Pappas
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Monstrous Ballyhoo Your July 1 article on Angela Bassett caught my eye ("Angela's Fire"). Bassett wasn't interested in the part of the black waitress in "Monster's Ball" because, as she says, "I wasn't going to be a prostitute on film." "Monster's Ball" is not about sex. It is about the possibility of compassion and healing. As a black woman, I applaud and affirm Halle Berry's amazing performance in the film.
Pearl Cleage
Atlanta, Ga.

While Angela Bassett is indeed a gifted actress, she was never offered the role of Leticia in "Monster's Ball" that Halle Berry played to perfection, and for which she so deservedly won an Academy Award. For the record, no actress besides Halle was ever offered the role, and for NEWSWEEK to suggest otherwise is a disservice to your readers and to Ms. Berry.
Tom Ortenberg, President
Lions Gate Films Releasing
Marina Del Rey, Calif.

Editor's note: NEWSWEEK stands by its reporting.

An Ever-Widening Income Gap Thank you so much for Anna Quindlen's reminder that we still have problems within our own borders, one of the worst being the ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots ("Staring Across a Great Divide," The Last Word, July 1). Though I qualify as a "have," I have learned a great deal about the "other side of the tracks" in my current profession: foster mother. Most of the children I've had in my home come from young, low-income, single mothers who did the best they could but were deemed "neglectful" for being unable to provide for their children. In some ways, I have taken these women's places. The state now pays me very well to stay home and raise their kids while they flip burgers somewhere and send a portion of their income to child support. It might be an OK situation if the kids did not cry themselves to sleep every night, missing their mothers. I am the new welfare queen.
Mary Callahan
Lisbon, Maine