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If It's Good in Vietnam, Why Not in Cuba?

It is indeed an occasion to celebrate the normalizing of relations with Vietnam. But it is also a good occasion to revisit our relations with a communist country closer to home: Cuba.

While Vietnamese-Americans are free to visit their homeland and support their families in Vietnam, it is illegal for Cuban-Americans to see their loved ones or provide them with financial assistance. While United States companies can now turn a profit in Vietnam, US business are losing out to Canadians, Mexicans, and Europeans who are busy investing in Cuba. And while Vietnamese can now look forward to an improvement in their economic status, the US embargo against Cuba is depriving ordinary Cubans of life-sustaining medicines and food. Let's learn the real lesson of Vietnam: US bullying only leads to suffering on all sides, while dialogue and compromise can be much more rewarding.

Medea Benjamin San Francisco Director, Global Exchange

Reading, writing, and peacemaking

At a time when so many of us who work with children are looking for ways to teach alternatives to violence, the front-page article "Southern Schools Rethink Sparing the Rod," June 21, surprised and saddened me. We cannot successfully teach our students the value of alternatives to violence while at the same time condoning such behavior.

Our county, Dade County in Florida, has been working successfully with materials developed by Peace Education Foundation Inc. These materials are used with students from pre-kindergarten through high school. They develop peacemaking, conflict-resolution, and peer-mediation skills.

This type of education is not new and certainly isn't used only in our county. We suggest that those who are considering the "rod" look elsewhere for solutions. There is a better way.

Miriam Mades Coral Gables, Fla.

Slashing science burns progess

Regarding the editorial "Space Marriage With Risks," July 5: During the last several decades, federal funding in support of basic scientific research has produced the most productive scientific establishment in history. That scientific establishment is now being dismantled. With the 21st century fast approaching, our politicians are leading us back into the 19th century.

The Office of Space Sciences at NASA recently invited scientists to apply for funding under a program called "The Innovative Research Program." In response to this announcement, I gathered a team of 11 scientists from around the country to investigate the response of the Earth's global electrical circuit to the perturbing influence of an encounter with a moderately dense interstellar cloud. Our proposal, along with many others, received excellent reviews, but was not funded. Out of 600 submitted proposals, only 28 proposals were selected for funding because of the reduction in NASA's basic research budget.

Priscilla Chapman Frisch Chicago

The best way to fight fire with fire

Regarding the front-page article "Western States Chart New Course: Fighting Summer Fires with Fires," July 11: As a forester and forest firefighter, the idea of using fire to return the Western forests to a more pristine

environment is appealing and important.

In the areas that do have fire history, a policy that is not site specific will be as catastrophic as wildfires. For example, in an area that features a mixture of Ponderosa Pine and white fir or dog hair (thick grasslike patches of trees), it would be difficult to control a prescribed burn because of the amount of fuel available. However, it may be more successful if the same area is commercially thinned to remove the unwanted and smaller trees, and then allowed to rest for several years before a prescribed burn takes place. This process reduces the amount of combustible material that's left through the natural effects of rotting.

We have had the no-burn policy for 85 years, and it is still a good policy in many ways. Public officials such as Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, as well as the public, need to be reminded that any new policy will take time to implement and complete.

Todd Merritt Olympia, Wash.

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