Is there still hope for public manners?

Anna Shaff beat me to the punch in her opinion piece "My problem is 'no problem' " (March 15). My husband and I are considered senior citizens and in our younger years we were taught to respect our elders, which seemed a fair request since the politeness would be returned when we became adults.

Not only do we get a "no problem" in lieu of "you're welcome" but also "don't worry about it." Don't worry about what? But my real pet peeve is being called by my first name by someone I don't even know. Just the other day a bank teller, a young woman, completed my transaction with, "There you go, Nancy." I'm sorry, have we met?

Then again, a young woman who was waiting on me in a department store very sweetly answered my "thank you" with "it was my pleasure." Wow! There is hope yet.

Nancy Robison Balboa Island, Calif.

Why India is restrained over Kashmir

Regarding "Pakistan hints of Kashmir jihad" (Feb. 28): Your article pointed out that Pakistan's military and religious leaders see India as "unable to sustain its presence in Kashmir." I would argue that India, with the fastest growing economy in all of Asia, and with over a billion people, has the human and financial resources to out-stay Pakistan's anachronistic military in Kashmir. However, as a responsible democracy, India, while choosing to defend itself, has presented a reasoned and proportional response to Pakistani incursions.

By choosing not to project force into Pakistani territory, while not easing tensions, India has not sought to aggravate or escalate the delicate situation. Perhaps if Pakistan dedicated more of itself to combating its internal ills, it would be better positioned to begin a negotiated settlement.

Cameron Hudson Washington

Your article "Pakistan hints of Kashmir jihad" demonstrates that four months after the military coup, Pakistan is a one-issue nation: Kashmir. When the general and his cabal seized power, many thought - or hoped - that Pakistan would be well-served by a "disciplinarian," insulated from the whims of a fickle electorate and therefore willing and able of pushing through much-needed economic and political reforms.

This has not been the case. General Musharraf has a built-in constituency that he didn't count on when he first made his promises: Pakistan's powerful military-religious complex that demands accountability from the chief executive.

The ensuing increase in fighting and rhetoric in Kashmir has retarded any social, political, and economic progress the Pakistani people had hoped to see. The dedication of so much money, time, and energy to such a tenuous claim is in no one's best interest. Until the people begin to demand some accountability from their de-facto leaders, then Kashmir issue will remain at the forefront of the military's insidious agenda.

Vance Hartke Washington Former senator of Indiana (D)

Pope needs to bridge the present

Regarding your article "Pope seeks to bridge divides with apology for the past" (March 14): What about the present? Doesn't the pope see in his many travels women with more children than they wished to have or that they can properly care for? Lack of birth control keeps many families burdened by unwanted children and in deep poverty. The pope condemns any use of what he terms "artificial" birth control.

Pope John Paul II should ask for forgiveness for the many women's distressed lives and premature deaths that have resulted from lack of family planning.

Sarah Epstein Washington

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Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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