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National missile defense: risky and costly

April 28, 2000



Your April 21 editorial, "The restarting of START" is on target. The START II Treaty significantly reduces the number of nuclear warheads in the US and Russian arsenals, thereby improving US national security.

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The treaty also saves US taxpayers $900 million over the next 10 years due to reduced nuclear-weapons manufacturing and maintenance needs, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

However, this opportunity to improve security and save money may vanish, as Russia has threatened to withdraw from the START and the Antiballistic Missile (ABM) treaties if the US deploys the national missile defense (NMD).

If deployed, NMD represents a tremendous cost to US taxpayers, as it may ignite a very expensive nuclear-arms race that decreases world security. Also, the price tag for NMD recently skyrocketed from $12.7 billion to $30.2 billion, according to the Pentagon.

Not only is NMD risky and expensive, top scientists at MIT claim there are cheap and simple methods potential enemies can use to render the proposed NMD useless.

These stark security, technical, and financial revelations call into question why US taxpayers are pouring more money into a system that doesn't work. Taxpayers do not want an exorbitantly expensive national-missile placebo.

Paul Sullivan, Washington Director, National Security Project Taxpayers for Common Sense

Veils and beards required in Islam?

Your April 21 article "In Pakistan, a beardless man doesn't fit in" mentions that using a veil to hide a female's face is a Muslim tradition. Islam prohibits hiding one's face with a veil for both male and female. Consider the fact that Mecca in Saudi Arabia is the holiest site for all Muslims. Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, is the holiest period on Islamic calendar. Yet when millions of Muslim men and women assemble for Islam's holiest ritual, not a single woman is found covering her face with a veil.

It is ironic that a paper of such a great repute can confuse cultural traditions with Islamic principles. I was born in Peshawar. My grandmother, my mother, and my aunts have spent most of their lives in Peshawar, but were never compelled to hide their face with a veil.

And by the way, I graduated from engineering university in Peshawar with a beard. However, I was not compelled to grow a beard in Peshawar, the same way I was not compelled to shave it off in Toronto, Canada.

Murtaza Haider, Toronto

Who decides food labels?

In Andrew Schmookler's opinion piece "Label modified food? Of course" (April 18) the author says that capitalism "will produce an optimal mix of goods guided by the myriad choices of informed consumers expressing their preferences." So true! And since a product's label is part of the product, capitalism will produce optimal labels. We already have labels with information in Spanish and labels indicating that food is kosher where there is sufficient demand. Consumer demand, not bureaucrats, should determine if labels say whether food has been genetically modified.

The author states it is one of the moral premises of a free economy that people are entitled to decide upon what criteria they will make their decisions. Who decides what criteria are moral? Perhaps the Department of Commerce's Food Labeling Administration (FLA). I'm sure the FLA will be as successful as other federal agencies in adjudicating the nation's morality.

Eric Klieber, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

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