Letters to the Editor

Readers write about Serbia's human rights role, laptops in the classroom, required ultrasounds, a source for babysitters, and expatriate pastimes.

Serbia doesn't deserve its new human rights role

In response to the May 11 article, "Serbia's new rights role questioned": Serbia has not yet fulfilled its international obligation to arrest and transfer men indicted for war crimes to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

It is indeed bizarre that a country so seriously in contravention of its international duties could take the helm of the Council of Europe, the continent's foremost human rights body.

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Yet even more inexplicable is the idea that caretaker Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica will change his nationalist spots and cooperate with the Tribunal.

The European Union (EU) set this condition for Serbia to resume its stabilization and association negotiations, a step on the road to full EU membership, after talks were suspended a year ago. Now it appears that the EU will settle for a mere promise of cooperation rather than proof.

A coalition deal throws President Tadic's more liberal, forward-looking party together with Mr. Kostunica's unrepentant nationalist one.

What makes all this worse is that the West – both the EU and US – pressed Mr. Tadic to accept this deal. By doing so, they have strengthened the fascists and weakened Serbia's liberal parties and seriously undermined Serbia's European future.

Kurt Bassuener
Sarajevo, Bosnia

Internet helps distract, not educate

Regarding Justin Reich's May 15 Opinion piece, "Laptops in class: Mend it, don't end it": Mr. Reich doesn't seem to understand the world is inhabited by real students and professors. He contends that by using their laptops, students will be "collaborating with people outside the classroom walls by e-mailing experts, posting to blogs, or editing pages on wikis."

Half my students probably don't know what a blog is – and I teach communications at a large state university.

When I, the expert, receive an e-mail from students not at my institution, they are usually looking for a shortcut instead of having to conduct research, which is actually quite rudimentary.

And I'm not sure that my students can discern truth from lies when reading Wikipedia. Any suggestion that they might edit an entry having to do with a subject other than manga or skateboarding is fantastical.

Reich offers a utopian vision that is divorced from the reality of daily classroom life. And that reality involves distracted students who are seemingly unwilling to step outside their instant messaging and Internet surfing to try to discern why it is they didn't understand the assigned reading – which, I might note, was made available to them in digital form via their laptops.

Jeffrey Jones
Norfolk, Va.

Ultrasound: Don't invade any further

In response to the May 15 article, "Ultrasound: latest tool in battle over abortion": There is a larger question in the debate about requiring unnecessary ultrasounds when a woman is considering an abortion: Who will pay for them?

Will the state that requires it also foot the bill for these ultrasounds? With the cost of both an ultrasound and an abortion, this will once again place a huge financial burden on the poor.

If women themselves have to pay for their ultrasounds, then what about the victims of incest or rape? Will they be forced to undergo this procedure at their own expense?

It would be far better to continue to educate women and men about pregnancy prevention.

Women are not children who must be manipulated into making the "correct" choice. We are intelligent people, capable of making the decisions we believe are best for us and our families.

When will the GOP, the party of individual freedom, embrace its own philosophy and get out of our bedrooms and doctors' offices?

Constance Walter
Peru, Neb.

Friends and family can babysit, too

Regarding your May 16 article, "Baby-sitter shortage?": I was surprised that swapping childcare duties with other parents wasn't mentioned as an economically viable alternative.

Similarly, there was no mention of extended family. Doesn't anyone live near their relatives anymore?

As for the husband who found a sitter for his wife's birthday outing, I tremble to think he's being lauded for a once-a-year effort.

I am reminded of a recent report by Salary.com that estimated the value of a stay-at-home mother's work at $138,095 a year.

The truth is, the work is invaluable because you can't find anyone to do it – at any cost.

Martha White
Rockport, Maine

Expats play many sports

In response to the May 14 article, "Home runs hit the spot for US expats in Cairo": It was great to read about the goings-on at the ballpark, which I have been using for many years now.

I am amazed, however, that the article made little reference to the other activities that take place within the walls of the ballpark. There was talk of a few young American "surly skateboarders" and bumper-car rides.

But there was nothing about the people who play rugby, soccer, and cricket. Nor was there any reference to the dozens of Sudanese, Egyptian, Korean, British, and other different nationalities using the facilities of the ballpark as a whole.

Why not give a broader, more international view of events that take place in this tiny corner of Cairo?

Steve Riddell
Cairo

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