Mail Call: Leisurely Vacations

Readers of our May 14/May 21 travel special praised the report. One thanked us for "interesting tips on finding a destination." Another said, "Your article hits the nerve of our time, when not getting nervous seems impossible." And, she advised, "throw the BlackBerry overboard!"

Your May 14/May 21 special report on this year's travel trends, "Slow Is Beautiful," calls people's' attention to enjoying vacation as an escape from life in the fast lane and gives travelers some interesting tips on finding a choice destination. I was pleasantly surprised to find that environmental issues are now a factor that determines the choice of many travelers. The fact that people nowadays want not just to relax but also to get to know local customs was nicely spread throughout your 28-page report.
Clarissa Costa
Montes Claros, Brazil

Your article about slow traveling hits the nerve of our time, a time when not getting nervous seems impossible: answering an e-mail while talking to someone, mobile phone stuck between shoulder and cheek, ignoring the conference in MSN and still being prepared to talk to real (i.e., nonvirtual) persons popping up in the office is not "multitasking" but rather overtasking. This is why I don't like the combination of holidays and new technologies. Isn't it counterproductive when people "connect to the office even as they paddle around the Arctic" when their main aim was to get away from that hectic life? From my personal experience, I advise you to throw your BlackBerry overboard and soon, your worries will follow it. Trust me, you will be able to survive without checking your e-mail and text-message in box every 10 minutes, and you will return more relaxed than you could ever have imagined. Not knowing what is going on in the world for some time may give you the chance to find out what is going on with you. The way to real relaxation doesn't have to be plastered with beeps and rings of electronic devices. Although it is helpful to get physical distance from the workplace, what matters even more is the inner distance one creates. In fact, as Rana Foroohar and William Underhill illustrated so clearly, in order to free one's mind, one does not have to go far. Spend an afternoon in a nearby park you never had time to go to, or make a bike trip to the river you have long wanted to swim in. The beauty of your blooming garden (or that of your neighbors') can be more replenishing than a visit to some "must see" flower collections in a faraway country. What lies at your doorstep might be genuinely beautiful—just have a look!
Lena Rummel
Munich, Germany

Christian Caryl's "Visitors Wanted" (May 14/May 21) made my day. Catch phrases are not easy to come up with but he is right: the thing with that "Yokoso Japan!" advertising slogan (meaning "Welcome to Japan") was really not understandable to the very people it was aimed at. If they had even made it "Yokoso to Japan," the meaning could have been guessed at. However, I do hope there will not be too many Japanese kids running around saying "bloody hell," as in "So where the bloody hell are you?" that is Australia's slogan. I think the poster you pictured would have had the same impact if it had said, "So where are you?"
Arthur Assisi
Yono-Honmachi, Japan

It was with horror that I read about the massacre at Virginia Tech ("Making of a Massacre," April 30). But, at the same time, I read a small article about the latest death toll in Baghdad. There is a massacre every day in Iraq but no president flies in and mourns with the relatives there; there is no TV coverage, and no one seems to care except the U.S. troops on the ground, who wonder what they are doing there. According to President Bush, the United States went to Iraq to avoid the killing of U.S. citizens on American soil. If America wants to avoid Americans' dying, President Bush should prevent people from getting hold of guns instead of sending troops around the world in counter-productive actions. Many more Americans are killed every year in the United States with guns than were killed on 9/11. So what is the real threat to the mightiest power in the world?
Filip Issal
Karlskrona, Sweden

While U.S. leaders and legislators debate and fight over the gun-control issue in Congress, a gun-free zone, America's bright young people are being murdered all around them. Is it still an issue whether there should be gun control when cover lines like "The Mind of a Killer" are becoming more frequent? Americans will not lose their rights if there is gun control; rather, they will gain peace of mind knowing that they will not be gunned down in what should be one of the safest places in the world—the classroom of a prestigious university.
Ng Mar Lee
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

How come not one among the well-fed, strong and healthy students had the guts to try to somehow fight off that lunatic murderer? Did they learn at Virginia Tech that it is politically incorrect to defend yourself and your friends?
Moshe Abeles
Tel Aviv, Israel

I did not mind your cover story about the Virginia Tech massacre—the massacre was major news indeed. What I do mind is your devoting 14 pages to it in your International Edition. I am interested in U.S. events but I am also keen to know about events in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. If I recall correctly, that same week saw devastating carnage in Baghdad (a car bomb in a busy market) in spite of the increase in U.S. troops. In my opinion, more balance in an International Edition is warranted.
Ken Lim
Manila, Philippines

First, I want to express my grief for those students who were murdered, their families and all those affected by this horrendous act. In this day and age, when there are so many whose life's mission is to kill Americans, it probably isn't a good idea to outlaw guns from our population. But let's say we do decide to regulate guns. Who then decides who will have guns and who won't—the government? How about which guns to regulate? I agree, the Glock is one of the more efficient guns for human protection and, sadly in this case, aggression. But so is the semiauto shotgun at close range and the lever-action rifle at long range. How about the standard deer rifle with hollow points and a 6X scope from a high, protected balcony? Get my point? Liberal Democrats are those who lead the way for the removal of all forms of self-protection from the people, but then they are quick to criticize the current administration for excessive power. This very disturbed man likely received a lot of the information needed to buy his weapons from the Internet. Just think if this person had decided to use a man-made bomb which he learned to make via the Internet. Would we be talking about Internet regulation instead? How about the common ingredients used to make explosives—should we regulate those also? I think not. I believe we need to concentrate on the real problem: violent TV shows, movies and games that poison the young minds of this nation, and the media whose overcoverage of these incidents glorifies those who commit them.
Barney C. Ellis
via Internet

Your coverage of the slain students and staff, and the grief and the shock of the community at Virginia Tech is commendable. But I am concerned and pained by all the attention you gave the killer. You have made him into a celebrity. Many things about this young man have become matters for public consumption as if he is a person one should know about. Of course, most media people might argue with clichés like "people have a right to know" and "freedom of expression." But what good will all this publicity about Seung-Hui Cho do? It might inspire another person to kill just to get his name known and feared. I look forward to the day when the press celebrates people who have contributed to better the lives of 33 others with as much fervor as giving coverage to someone who'd rather kill innocent and good people. Similarly, I dream of the day when all media houses stop giving publicity to terrorists' demands, their messages, the damage they have caused, etc. From the attention they get, terrorists win their primary objective—to strike terror into the hearts of people and to make themselves known.
Raj A. Joseph
Beira, Mozambique

Every time there is a massacre of innocent children in the United States, the country goes to great depths to try to understand why it happened. In most cases the perpetrators' profiles show they could have grown up in any other country in the world and the main reason they kill so many innocent people is simply their easy access to weapons. What will it take to get Americans to see clearly that, as long as they remain the biggest producer of firearms with some of the laxest rules and controls for buying and owning them, this kind of horrific situation will continue to occur? Who sold a gun to this young man? Did he have to say what he was going to do with it? Did he have to belong to a firearm club to buy it? Did anyone vouch for his character? Did he have to wait three weeks to receive his firearm, by which time he could have changed his mind or been found out? If I go into a shop and buy a bicycle it's because I'm going to ride it. When this young man bought his gun it was to use it, and what would he shoot at other than people if he didn't belong to a club? Granted that American history and the Constitution have always cherished self-defense, but countries evolve, and as long as the American attitude to firearms remains stuck in adolescence and refuses to grow up to that of an adult, more adolescents will kill and be killed.
Clair Vann
Asnieres, France

Cancer is a disease of our genes. For decades, medical researchers found cancer genes one at a time. With the completion of the Human Genome Project—which defines the universe of all human genes—along with powerful new research technologies, we can now search for all the genetic errors involved in cancer at once. That's the goal of The Cancer Genome Atlas. Sharon Begley suggests TCGA cannot succeed ("This Is No Way to Cure Cancer," March 26). We disagree. We've consulted hundreds of the leading cancer experts; we've done the critical thinking needed to launch this study; now it's time to be bold. One in three women and one in two men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes; each day, more than 1,500 Americans will die. There's no time to dawdle. NIH is uniquely poised for just such high-risk, high-reward science. Future generations will not judge us kindly if we miss this historic opportunity.
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Human
Genome Research Institute

Begley's column misrepresents the situation. First, there is now overwhelming evidence that we can reliably and systematically identify crucial cancer-causing mutations, and that we can use such information to improve the diagnosis of cancer, develop new therapies, better monitor the course of disease, and advance risk assessment and prevention. Second, the NIH's plan for a Cancer Genome Atlas is not being imposed on the public and the scientific community by any bureaucracy, advocacy group or establishment; it is the result of a lengthy planning process involving many of America's leading scientists. Third, those who have been involved in the planning are well aware of the magnitude and difficulties of the job.
Harold Varmus, M.D.
President, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
New York, New York

I wonder about the U.S. attitude to religion especially when I read articles like "Faith Under Fire" (May 7). When the world around you crumbles from evil and misery, the chaplain only prays more to a god that must be both evil and powerless. He waits patiently but no help comes. So, he says you only need to pray more. Praying harder seems to be the American conclusion. Europe has chosen another way and I am happy to live in a part of the world that is secularized.
Olav Bjugan
Morvik, Norway

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