Mail Call: Promising Prospects In Europe

Our Nov. 29 special report on Euroland's first anniversary inspired many "bravo!"s. Euroland, increasingly defined by widespread use of the euro, is also about "superstructures, wonderful new rail-links and fantastic new freeways," as one reader put it, as well as eager preparations in countries aiming for EU membership. A proud "citizen of the European Union" wrote: "With a great effort we are building something that only a decade ago would be difficult to imagine."

Building Euroland Your Nov. 29 issue, in which you dedicated a lot of space to the European Union, was an interesting one ("Euroland," Special Report). As a citizen of the European Union, I appreciate your treatment of the subject. With a great effort we are building something that only a decade ago would have been difficult to even imagine. Giorgio Daveri Piacenza, Italy

The implementation of the European single currency, the euro, will mean the creation of a strong currency capable of competing with the U.S. dollar in international markets. By attracting investors to make transactions and investments in euros, the European countries will benefit: it will mean more capital abroad and more competitive markets. Domestically, prices, employment and interest rates will reach levels from which a process of economic recovery will be at a more affordable reach. Giulio Cicconi Teramo, Italy

Shopping online leads us to increased laziness ("The Best Deal Around"). Although you can buy things online much more easily and cheaply than in shops, it makes people stay at home. People break up their contact with the outside world and pull back into their own world, i.e., the Internet. Why can't we stop the development for a moment and become more absorbed with human relations? Gabi Heinrich Wittenberge, Germany

I enjoyed reading your interview with Wim Duisenberg, president of the European Central Bank ("Life on the Learning Curve"). Duisenberg may use a euro-based credit card to pay for his favorite Burgundy, but he will certainly not be charged for a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, as you indicate, since Chateauneuf-du-Pape is not a Burgundy but a Cotes du Rhone wine. But your interview is appropriately titled "Life on the Learning Curve," and as a French saying goes, one learns something every day. Vincent Vandercruyssen Edegem, Belgium

I read with interest your article "Euroland Made Concrete," about the superstructures, wonderful new rail links and fantastic new freeways in Europe. Finally, Europeans can travel on land at comparable speed to air transport, at lower prices and with more efficiency. Chris Young Cologne, Germany

It's not completely true that the bridge and tunnel across the Oresund "will connect Sweden and Denmark for the first time since prehistory." Until 1658 the two countries had a long borderline in common, since Halland, Blekinge and Skane--the southern parts of what is today Sweden--were Danish. Sweden conquered the Danish provinces, and a Danish reconquest ended with a dictate from the French Sun King, Louis XIV, that Sweden should keep the annexed landscapes in order to make Oresund an international strait. The Swedes lowered an iron curtain between the two countries, and the inhabitants of Skane became victims of "Swedification." But as the Scots never became English, so the people from Skane today do not consider themselves Swedes but only Swedish citizens. The populations on both sides of Oresund have the same culture, and now that they will be reconnected with a bridge, there are promising prospects for a strong EU region with double nationalities. Kjeld B. Nilsson Dragor, Denmark

Your Nov. 29 article "A Bumper Crop of Despair" clearly presents the situation in Poland on the eve of entering the EU. I have been following the news concerning our efforts to meet the minimum registration standards to qualify for assistance. It is important to mention that Polish reforms started 10 years ago, and much work has been done since that time. Nevertheless, there is still much to do. As a citizen faced with the changes that Poland is undergoing, I think 2003 is an overly optimistic date for entering the EU. Michal Ludwiczak Pleszew, Poland

Girls in China The pretty Chinese girl in the photo accompanying your story "The New Deal for China" seems to indicate that she is typical of China: instead, she is of the most rare exception (Asia, Nov. 29). In 1995 I attended a medical conference in Beijing with a group of doctors. Amid the great throng of people moving about, we did not see any female children, due to the one-child policy long enforced. Since the Chinese want a son in preference to a girl, who, among other "disadvantages," will leave them when married and not carry on the family name, they make sure the girls die at "birth." Modern ultrasound speeds up the decision for the readily available abortion. This has all the makings of a social disaster. Gerald W. Healy Quezon City, Philippines

The Unfriendly Skies The coverage of the EgyptAir flight 990 accident has been quite disappointing ("'I Put My Trust in God'," World Affairs, Nov. 29). Had the pilot been Christian and said "Lord, help me" or "Oh, God!" even 100 times, neither his faith nor his utterances would have been analyzed as EgyptAir relief pilot Gamil al-Batouti's have been. Naeem Siddiqi Toronto, Canada

Having lived many years in the Middle East--and in Egypt--I mourn the dead and deeply regret the controversy over EgyptAir Flight 990. But at moments like this I keep repeating, "Thank God we have the American press!" Robert T. Bertagne Houston, Texas

It's terrible enough that so many people had to die; why can't we let them rest in peace? Our society just wants sensation, and that's why we criticize the relief pilot. Eva Steinwender Radenthein, Austria

After reading your story " 'I Put my Trust in God'," I became frightened, feeling the kind of fear that could come only with a complete understanding of the doomed flight of EgyptAir 990. Your piece allowed me to come to my own conclusions about what may have happened, but it also thoroughly explored all possible explanations for why this plane went down. Roxy Dunn Lockport, Illinois

Questioning a Tradition I do feel sorrow for the students who were crushed to death when building a bonfire at Texas A&M ("Toppled Tower," Periscope, Nov. 29). But as a person from a Third World country, I am appalled when I see the huge pile of wood that is being burned. What a waste of resources. The wood could have been used to make low-cost housing for the millions of homeless, or it could have been used to cook food for millions of hungry people in my country. Even better, the trees should have been left alive so they could help absorb the air pollution the Americans produce so much of. This extravagant waste of resources makes America seem rich, arrogant and not mindful of others around the world who are less fortunate than they are. Patrick Cruz Via Internet

After seeing the picture in your Periscope item and understanding the amount of logs used for this "tradition," I feel this is a double tragedy. How can the students and the teachers allow such a pure waste of trees and air pollution to happen? Eric Reifenberg Haifa, Israel

While my heart goes out to the families, friends and victims of the Texas A&M bonfire tragedy, there is one issue I have not seen adequately addressed in the media. I'm no environmental wacko, but it is a bit shocking that nobody seems to be questioning the 90-year "tradition" of cutting down trees to provide 7,000 logs each year for the dubious purpose of a bonfire and football pep rally. Michael Hamman Long Beach, California

I'm writing to offer some information in response to any question that may arise about the loss of trees used for the Texas A&M bonfire: Aggies cut these trees down from land that is going to be cleared, and each spring plant 10,000 seedlings. Amy Migura, Texas A&M '92 San Antonio, Texas

Soviet-Era Mainstream Art Your article on the painter Norman Rockwell includes a quote from history professor Neil Harris about a "faint association" of Rockwell's pictures with images favored by the Nazi and Soviet information engineers ("Norman Rockwell Revisited," Society & The Arts, Nov. 29). I had not seen any pictures by Rockwell before that I could remember, but even before I had reached the quote in the body of the article, I was struck by the pictures' resemblance--much stronger than "faint"--to Soviet-era mainstream art. It was distributed in abundant quantities to us in Bulgaria. This resemblance is especially strong in the picture "Christmas Homecoming" (1948). Vassil Nikolov Sofia, Bulgaria

From a Microsoft Fan My first experience with a personal computer was with the Windows 3.1 operating system. I outgrew it, and then came along Windows 95 and the Internet. When I got hooked on the Internet, then came Windows 98. It's unfortunate that Microsoft's competitors have failed to realize that it was the consumers who built Microsoft ("Bill's Next Move," U.S. Affairs, Nov. 22). Like it or not, Microsoft develops very good products. Those who envy it should spend more time exemplifying Microsoft by developing equally good products rather than acting like wimps and running to the government each time their products fail to meet mass consumer acceptability. Laja Deji-Fowokan Lagos, Nigeria

A Guru in Court Aum Shinrikyo founder and guru Shoko Asahara and the rest of the cult members should be locked up in a room full of bloodthirsty leeches ("Crushing the Cult of Doom," Asia, Nov. 22). Instead, Asahara is having his trial drag through the courts slower than a newborn baby reading "Othello." G. J. M. Ehime, Japan

Chief and President? As a South African from Kwazulu-Natal currently living abroad, I was heartened to see your Nov. 29 interview with Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi ("The Voice of a 'Warrior Nation' "). Chief Buthelezi is a well-educated man and greatly respected by many people in South Africa. I suspect that within the next five years the world may see Chief Buthelezi in a presidential role--he certainly deserves it. James Becker Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Fox Hunting in Britain Bill Deedes believes that it is "very offensive" to tell people that they are cruel because they follow fox hunting ("The Fine Art of Truth Telling," Interview, Nov. 22). Why is this offensive? Maybe it is because it is too close for comfort. According to Deedes, "Legislators must never invoke the law to put down something which is harmless to other people." Fox hunting may appear to be harmless to the people who carry it out. This is because they lack the ability or inclination to think beyond their own selfish pleasure. Being hunted to exhaustion by a pack of hounds and then torn apart while you are still alive is not particularly harmless for the animal concerned. The fact that this is a source of pleasure for fox hunters is disturbing. Fortunately, the law in all civilized societies recognizes the need to protect other species from human cruelty, regardless of whether the perpetrators believe that what they do is harmless. Paul Kail Prague, Czech Republic

Testing Politicians Having read, with great interest, your Nov. 22 article on Texas Gov. George W. Bush ("Bush Goes Back to School," U.S. Affairs), including your interview with him entitled " 'It Is Very Important for America to Be Humble'," I was just wondering: have the U.S. legislative bodies ever considered adding an article to the Constitution requiring people running for president to take--and pass--an IQ test? Torben Fridriksson Reykjavik, Iceland

Gaining on Gore and Bush I would like to commend NEWSWEEK for its extensive presidential-election coverage ("The Outside Shooter... And the Fighting Pilot," U.S. Affairs, Nov. 15). Although the 2000 elections offer a field of candidates whose policy perspectives, in most cases, are not significantly different from each other's, each candidate has a distinct character and background. Already, notable (and entertaining) events are unfolding: Gore version 2.0 and Bush's flubbing on reporter Andy Hiller's pop quiz about "four leaders in four hot spots." The next year promises to be a very exciting one for presidential politics, but only if the American people start paying attention and get out to vote. Felix Y. Wang Blacksburg, Virginia

Thank you for your features on Bill Bradley and John McCain in your Nov. 15 issue. For weeks I've been taping TV interviews and clipping articles about these two candidates to give to friends of mine. A lifelong Democrat, I've made my first political contributions to the McCain and Bradley campaigns. As I wrote to Bradley, this is the first year I've been excited about politics since Bobby Kennedy died, and as I wrote to McCain, if the election boils down to the two of them, choosing would be agony. Yvonne Goulet Portland, Maine