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; The Taliban Strikes Again

Our March 12 story on the Taliban's plan to destroy ancient Buddhist statues prompted many readers to deplore what one called "a dastardly act." Another remarked, "The Taliban is laying waste to its nation's art and history." Some, however, asserted that the indignant response of some Western nations was hypocritical. "The whole world has suffered from the destruction of natural and cultural riches by industrialized nations," commented one critical reader. Doing Away With History You're right, NEWSWEEK, the Taliban has "succeeded only in angering the world" by going on a rampage against Buddhist idols ("Destroying the Afghan Past," SOCIETY & THE ARTS, March 12). But the world has had to reckon with many such Philistines through the ages. Nearly a decade back, the Babri Mosque in Ajodhya, India, was completely demolished by members of the party that is in power today. And yet now the Indian government has come out strongly against what happened in Bamiyan. It is difficult to digest such hypocritical self-righteousness on their part.
Ratna Sansar Shrestha--Katmandu, Nepal

The destruction of Buddhist temples and statues is nothing new in the history of Islam in West and South Asia. The reason there are virtually no ancient Hindu or Buddhist temples anywhere in northern India is that they were razed by marauding Muslim conquerors nearly a millennium ago. Visitors to Delhi's Quwwat ul-Islam mosque (India's oldest) can discover that it is constructed of stones from demolished Hindu temples, the images nearly obliterated but still visible. The Katmandu Valley in Nepal, by contrast, is so rich in ancient Hindu and Buddhist shrines and manuscripts precisely because it was largely spared the ravages of Muslim invasion and iconoclasm. Some Muslim communities, on the other hand, have preserved the sacred art of other faiths with respect and loving care. I was delighted to come across one of the most extraordinary collections of Buddhist statuary I've ever seen in the municipal museum of Peshawar in Pakistan, 50 miles from the Afghan frontier.
Bill Templer--Shumen University
Shumen, Bulgaria

I did not believe that such barbarians still existed in this age of high-tech globalization until I read your article about the Taliban. That the entire world, including Muslim countries, is against this mad rampage shows that what the fanatical rulers of Taliban are doing is not only harming Buddhism but destroying world heritage. We in Sri Lanka--Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Muslims alike--condemn this dastardly act by the Taliban with one voice because every religious man must respect another's faith.
Lionel Rajapakse--Kandy, Sri Lanka

Although I do not approve of the Taliban's destruction of Buddhist statues, I find the outrage over it arrogant and hypocritical, especially when expressed by Europeans and Americans. After all, the whole world has suffered and continues to suffer from the destruction of natural and cultural riches by the industrialized nations. Our forefathers blindly sacked and eradicated the Mayan and Inca civilizations, enslaved Africans, humiliated Native Americans and imposed their religion, language and political systems on the peoples of the Southern Hemisphere. And it is the North American and European multinationals that, by way of their ever-growing financial power, continue to dictate economic and cultural choices and wreak ecological havoc on the rest of the world. Western colonialists are the real destroyers of cultural identity. I do not support the Taliban's policies, especially with regard to women, but shame for the cultural crimes committed by my country and continent prevents me from joining the outrage over their demolition of idols.
Georges Pfeiffenschneider-- Luxembourg

The cultural vandalism of the Taliban just goes to show how the cancer of religious fundamentalism has taken hold, has debilitated the Afghan population and is spreading by laying waste to the nation's art and history. We in the West should not be too smug, however, because we're not altogether free of the malady. Given a chance, Christian creationists would show the same respect for the knowledge in our books as the Taliban has shown for stone carvings.
Jeff Clarke-- Maidstone, England Impact-Resistant Companies In your March 12 cover story on IKEA, you use the word "Teflon" on the cover as well as in the report itself ("The Teflon Shield," BUSINESS). Teflon is a registered trademark of DuPont for its brand of fluoropolymer resins, coatings, films, surface and fabric protectors. We have invested a substantial sum of money to promote that trademark as the symbol of our company. Instead of using our trademark in the manner you did, you should have used the words "impact resistant" to connote IKEA for overcoming difficult obstacles and becoming a successful company.
Giselle Ruiz-Arthur, Sr. Trademark Counsel, DuPont Legal Dept.
Wilmington, Delaware Bolivia You say that Cargill is "accused of... damaging Bolivian coast" ("A Mix of Charisma and Dumb Luck"). Well, Cargill must have done one hell of a job, as there is no "coast" in Bolivia.
Andrew C. Goldstein--Santa Cruz, Bolivia Sweatshops Unfortunately, like the student protesters of United Students Against Sweatshops, you're prone to distortion of the truth, too. "Swoosh Wars" describes a "shantytown at Yale" built by members of USAS. As a Yale student, I can assure you that this "shantytown" was nothing more than a three-man tent and a card table. Though USAS has made inroads at some universities, it has failed to persuade the Yale administration to seriously consider its demands. Similarly, resolutions presented to the student body, recommended by USAS, failed to attract the votes of the majority. The size of this "shantytown" should be viewed not as a symbol of USAS's difficulties but as proof that college students remain as ideologically diverse as ever and that most students are not easily swayed by the rhetoric of this latest student-activism fad.
Aaron Nagano--London, England A Greater Danger The premise of Fareed Zakaria's March 5 column that the danger is Russia, not China, is correct ("New Dangers Amid the Ruins," WORLD VIEW). The 30,000 nukes Russia possesses without the financial means to secure them properly against illegal sale or misuse should give Americans little comfort that the imminent threat of nuclear war is over. Unfortunately, Zakaria fails to offer any way out for a ruined Russia that will continue to deteriorate economically and become less and less capable of managing its immense nuclear arsenal. The solution is simple: a full-fledged Marshall Plan for Russia. In the end, the billions of dollars that the United States and Western Europe will have to spend to resuscitate Russia's economy will be cheap. The alternative, as Zakaria makes clear, is a terrible nuclear accident or a nuke sold to a group of terrorists who use it.
Peter J. Foley, Director, Peace Corps
Chengdu, China

Zakaria overlooks the fact that Russia is a known quantity while the world knows precious little about the closed society that is China. The United States ignores the Chinese reality at its own peril.
J. D. Gajjar--Ahmadabad, India Poland Faces Its Past The murder of 1,600 Jews by their "Christian" neighbors in Poland ("Revisiting a Massacre," EUROPE, March 5) is blamed by some on greed. Yes, people have been known to murder for money. But when you gouge out a man's eyes, cut off a young woman's head and use it for a football, then incinerate men, women and children in a locked barn, more than greed is at work.
Joan Stuchner--Vancouver, Canada

Despite your upsetting story about the Jedwabne pogrom of 1941, it should be remembered that Poles have a proud tradition of a tolerance of the Jewish people that extends from the first charter of liberties in 1265, later much extended by King Casimir the Great (1333-1370). Poland's national poet, Adam Mickiewicz, had a Jewish mother, and Jozef Pilsudski (Poland's version of Winston Churchill) supposedly had a Jewish wife. The episode is an awful indictment, but not typical of Polish culture, which is bound up with and strengthened by its Jewish roots.
Michael Holman--London, England

Andrew Nagorski's article just confirms that anti-Semitism is extremely difficult to eradicate from Polish society. Even after the end of the war in 1946 Poles were still killing the Jews in their country, forcing thousands of survivors to leave Poland forever.
Joseph Hamadani--Lugano, Switzerland

As a Pole in his 50s, I am shocked by the revelations about the Jedwabne massacre. I have read many articles on this subject and found that the occupation of that area by Russians and Germans led to acts of terror and depravity among locals. Many honest Poles were secretly denounced to Soviet security services, were prosecuted and disappeared. Many Poles charged Jews for the denunciations to Russians for "anti-Soviet" activities. Even if the Jewish collaboration with the Russian occupiers was not ethnic in character, the "war of families" seems to have been a reality. It is a very sad part of Polish history indeed.
Jacek Gancarczyk--via internet

When Soviet troops invaded Poland in 1939, they were welcomed by many Jewish communities as liberators. In the next two years many Jews who had lived in eastern Poland for more than 100 years with no discrimination voluntarily and vigorously collaborated with Soviet invaders. Their denunciations of thousands of Polish families led to the deaths or deportations of these Poles to Soviet labor camps. The rapidity of Hitler's attack on Polish territory under Soviet occupation prevented Jews from escaping. It was the hatred created by the Jews that helped the Gestapo to draw Poles into such terrible savagery.
Kazimierz L. May--Warsaw, Poland

You presented Jan T. Gross's book "Neighbors" as an incontestable source of information. But Professor Gross is not a historian--he's a political scientist--and some leading Polish historians do not treat his book as reliable. He is reported to have confined himself to Jewish recollections or to Polish witnesses' evidence--obtained under torture--so "Neighbors" is not really objective. The truth is that in Poland, as in any other country, a small group of cowards collaborated with Nazi invaders for profit. But this was a marginal group. In my family, as in many Polish families, there were people who hid and saved Jews and often paid for it with their own lives.
Adam Pasternak-Winiarski--Warsaw, Poland Will Hamburgers Be History? The recent outbreak of foot-and- mouth disease in Europe should not have come as a surprise ("The Path of a Deadly Disease," SOCIETY & THE ARTS, March 12). We should have seen this coming for years. It is only the last in a long line of food scandals in Europe, ranging from mad-cow disease to swine plague. The lesson to be learned from these scandals is not to stop eating beef--BSE has been around for years. The message is that farmers and politicians care not about the health of consumers, they care only about money and votes, respectively. Why else would it be standard policy to test only one in every hundred cows for BSE? Why else would the vaccination against foot-and-mouth disease be prohibited? Simply because such safety precautions cost too much money.
Marije Otte--Maastricht, The Netherlands

Geoffrey Cowley deserves an award for his superb article on mad-cow disease. He made me understand the etiology and transmission of the ailment for the first time.
Barbara A. Kendall--El Cajon, California

Thank you for your article on mad-cow disease. You covered many questions, but I still have one. Can the disease be transmitted by the milk of an infected cow?
Louis J. Linder III--Creve Coeur, Illinois
Editor's note: There is no scientific evidence to date showing that BSE can be acquired by consuming dairy products.

As a retired professor of microbiology, I regret that your excellent article did not describe the pioneering research of Dr. Stanley Prusiner, a professor of neurology and biochemistry at the University of California, San Francisco. Prusiner (a 1997 Nobel Prize laureate in Physiology or Medicine) coined the term "prion" while studying the transmissible central-nervous system (CNS) disease scrapie. His group demonstrated that prions, proteinaceous infectious particles, were devoid of the nucleic acids DNA and RNA. Further research showed that prions could self-replicate and cause slow degenerative diseases of the CNS. Their discovery resulted in significant progress in understanding these diseases.
Arthur W. Bender--Meshoppen, Pennsylvania

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