Regarding the May 16 article, "A dorm room big enough for two major faiths": Although much was made of the decision of two Brown University sophomores of different religions to room together, not once was it mentioned that although they have different religious practices, they are praying to the same God - as Christians, Jews, and Muslims are all children of Abraham. This, no doubt, accounts for many of the similarities in the women's religions (Islam and Judaism), such as the slight variations on the word "Amen," the concept of modesty, and the requirements of prayer.
I, for one, do not believe that these living arrangements lead to more understanding between the religions. My point of view was dramatically supported in the movie, "United 93," where the Muslim terrorists were praying before and after taking over the airplane, as were the Christian victims. The irony that both groups were praying to the same God for very different results is not lost on those who understand the history of these three great religions.
Michael G. Brautigam
Regarding the May 17 article, "As 'organic' goes mainstream, will standards suffer?": The debate about the mainstreaming of organic agriculture is significant. As Wal-Mart claims the throne of the world's largest organic retailer, it is clear that consumer demand for food without pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and other potentially harmful additives is nearing a tipping point.
This scenario raised a significant question. Will American farmers rise to the occasion and meet the growing demand for these products? According to the US Department of Agriculture, organic imports exceed exports by a 10-to-1 margin. Clearly, foreign growers are stepping up to fill the supply chain. One way to support US producers will be to mandate additional research and development of organic agriculture in the next farm bill. With 20 percent annual growth for the organic industry over the past decade, such an investment by the public sector is prudent and necessary.
If the likes of Wal-Mart and Costco are selling true organic products and vow to uphold true organic standards, it is a step in the right direction for the environment. However, another reason that I personally buy organics is because, in the past, these products have tended to support relatively local, small-scale operations that are fighting to survive in the world of agribusiness. With this in mind, I feel that the "corporatization" of organics is both a blessing and a curse.
Lawrence Kudlow's May 15 Opinion piece, "Why $3 gas won't slow the US economy," ignores a basic reason for switching to ethanol - namely that methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), used as an oxygenate in gasoline, was a groundwater pollutant. MTBE was introduced as a means to reduce toxic emissions from gasoline use. Ethanol was introduced as an alternative oxygenate.
One role of government is to address public health issues. Private concerns sell accepted products and methods in the common market. But if a product or method is impacting public health, as MTBE was, it is the government's duty to address the issue.
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