The Right Mix of Civilian, Military, and Outside Influence Inside Chile

The opinion-page column ``In Chile, the Military Is Still the Obstacle,'' Nov. 10, puts too much of a political burden on the resumption of US military assistance to the Chilean armed forces. While cooperative civil-military relations and the subordination of the military to civilian authority is on the mark, tying aid to the inauguration of a civilian president who will take office on March 11, 1990 is both unnecessary and imprudent. So is providing military assistance for ``training for parliamentary staff and civilian Defense Ministry-officials.'' Chileans should undertake such training without the intrusive involvement of US military assistance.

Chileans know well that a functioning democratic order requires wise civilian oversight and control over the military. Civilians and military leaders, like their counterparts elsewhere in Latin America, need to broaden the dialogue on national security and domestic and international dimensions in order to reduce mutual suspicions that now divide. The United States should be low-key and supportive, letting the Chileans handle their own problems. Gabriel Marcella, Carlisle Barracks, Pa., US Army War College Third World Studies

Plastic heat and highways A local newspaper from Madras recently reprinted the Monitor article ``Answers Sought to Mounting Plastics,'' July 11, which states that plastics ``account for 7 percent of total weight and 20 percent by volume'' of landfills.

Normally landfills do not afford as firm a support as natural ground. Since degradable plastics do not degrade as fast and as satisfactorily as expected, such plastic waste in landfills may not make the reclaimed land firmer than those made up with undegradable plastics.

A more profitable proposition is to use the plastic waste in the building industry. The following are some of the potential avenues for their use:

Hollow cement concrete blocks are used in walls for their superior thermal and sound insulation properties. If the hollow cavities are filled with shredded plastics, the blocks will provide sound insulation and will help lessen plastic waste disposal problems.

Shredded plastic waste can be used in lieu of glass wool or wood shavings for packing the space between double-walled enclosures requiring thermal and acoustic insulation.

Load trials are worth conducting to evaluate the performance of streets paved with bitumen which is premixed with fine shreds of waste plastics.

If waste plastics find a place in manufacturing activities, municipal authorities won't have to worry whether to make plastics recyclable or degradable. Once construction starts consuming waste plastics, very little will remain for disposing. K. Raghavendran, Tamilnadu, India

Schools for every kind Regarding the opinion-page column ``We Were All Americans Then,'' Nov. 2:

Large US cities should experiment with making every high school in their system a magnet school. Each student has one or more particular capabilities and preferred pursuits, and would benefit from attending a school program particular to that talent.

To create a sufficient range of choices within limited geographic areas, each large general high school could be divided into several distinct magnet schools with different specializations. Every student should be treated as someone with reasons to believe in himself. Special schools of each student's choosing treat all students as unique, and it is hoped would lead to fewer dropouts. Gregory Wright, Sherman Oaks, Calif.

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