Public too critical of recent missile failure

Regarding Daniel Schorr's July 14 column "Missile failure bodes success": I have been an aerospace scientist for 40 years and am intimately familiar with ABM technology.I object to Mr. Schorr's apparent ignorance of the basic precepts of science and engineering.

Like a satellite system, an ABM system is an incredibly complicated undertaking.The end result is a system capable of defending against multiple warheads and decoys. However, when the system is in the first stages of design, as this one is, the first tests must be simple, as in one target, easily distinguishable.

Our problem here in the US is that every step of every large, expensive project is publicly scrutinized.The public, and especially the officials responsible for funding these projects, must have enough patience and enough rudimentary knowledge of science and engineering to properly discuss and criticize such projects. Unfortunately they do not have such patience and knowledge.

Schorr's criticism (by means of sarcasm) of the ABM system on technical grounds is misplaced. The real reasons to stop working on the system are politics and cost, and he should focus on those.

Terry Zaccone Saratoga, Calif.

Many thanks for Daniel Schorr and his column on the recent missile test. He wonders whether or not the entire missile program is designed merely to feed the military-industrial complex or to protect the US. My hunch is that the US has no choice but to go ahead to at least try to develop the program and amend the Antiballistic Missile Treaty to include it. The US should offer to help China and Russia build their own ABM defense against rogue nations or terrorist takeovers. Then we're all safer, mostly safer from each other.

As long as unstable countries have missiles, or soon will have them, we must prepare. We hope we never have to use them, but they are there as insurance, not symbols of aggression.

Henry Rutledge Davis, Calif.

Open discussion of Hispanic migration

I was glad to see the July 14 opinion piece by Lawrence E. Harrison of Harvard University ("Fox's borderline hope"). In our current public climate, there is a reluctance to speak openly about the qualities of different cultures. Our history as a racist nation has created a special sensitivity which sometimes makes it difficult to talk publicly about important issues of ethnicity and culture.

Those who don't share a point of view may, rather than joining the conversation, simply label an idea "racist" or "offensive," thereby implying that there is something less than honorable about the author.

I believe most discussion is healthy and that we need more of it: about all the important cultural events of our time, including the northward Hispanic migration. Dr. Harrison's article is the first I've seen, in the mainstream press, to take on some of the cultural issues involved. Thank you.

John DeMay McMinnville, Ore.

Internet overuse needs better study

Regarding your July 11 article "Swallowed up by the Net": Internet addiction research has relied on explanatory surveys, anecdotes, and case studies - notoriously weak methods which detail how people feel, but do little to establish why. Such research has also failed to screen other possible causes, to account for the effects of long-term Internet usage, and to establish empirical measures of healthy Internet use for comparison. Internet usage may be worth study, but to incite baseless panic over an epidemic of distracted teens will only obscure potential problems and benefits.

Howard Fienberg Washington

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. We can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

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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