Letters to the Editor

Readers write about poppies in Afghanistan, warehouse shopping clubs, and video-gaming as sport.

Help stabilize Afghanistan: Legitimize poppy production

Regarding the Aug. 11 article, "Stronger US role likely in Afghanistan": The tragic effects of the conflict between NATO-led forces and the Taliban insurgency are being felt across Afghanistan.

Research by The Senlis Council has shown that as long ago as November 2007, the Taliban had a permanent presence in 54 percent of Afghan territory. This figure can only have risen during 2008. Taliban attacks this summer have been widespread throughout rural and urban areas, and key roads are now held by the insurgents.

The usual response of increasing troop numbers and changing command structures is only half the answer to this problem. Long-term, developmental solutions are required to win over the hearts and minds of Afghans who remain wary about international involvement in their country.

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Effective counterinsurgency means addressing Afghanistan's illegal opium production – which continues to fund the Taliban – without harming the farmers for whom poppy cultivation is their livelihood.

The "poppy for medicine" model developed by The Senlis Council would see the licensing of poppy cultivation for the local production of morphine, a medicine that is undersupplied on a global scale.

This would allow farmers to continue selling poppy at a very competitive rate, while being incorporated into the legal national economy.

Only by providing an environment in which the Afghan people can enjoy the fruits of legal employment and genuine democracy will the international community be able to claim victory in Afghanistan.

Paul Burton

London

Director of policy, The Senlis Council


Big-box shoppers don't always save

In response to the Aug. 4 article, "Spend 'til you save?": I gave up on warehouse shopping years ago. I find that if I take a shopping list and a calculator, I can save just as much, if not more, than the average warehouse shopper. I buy what I need, I shop on a weekly basis, and I do an inventory each and every week. This cuts down on waste. Warehouse shopping is a waste of time.

Stephen J. Poma

South Lyon, Mich.

Regarding the recent article on warehouse shopping: Warehouse clubs such as Costco have significantly lower profit margins than do supermarkets.

However, if that were the only difference, they'd go out of business.

While the membership fees count for a lot, the thing that makes the most difference is that the clubs turn their inventories much faster than conventional food stores.

Dan Cooper

Pound Ridge, N.Y

The key to video-gaming as sport: professionalism

Regarding the Aug. 4 article, "Video-gaming strives for respect. Is it a sport?": Those who snicker at "pro video-game play" do not understand the importance of the word "pro" in that phrase. They need only see the hand movements of South Korean professional Starcraft athletes to be convinced. (Starcraft is a real-time strategy game.)

Whereas a Starcraft amateur may be capable of executing only a handful of game commands per minute, Korean professionals can consistently perform hundreds of unique actions per minute throughout an entire match.

As professional gaming requires immense physical coordination, stamina, and mental toughness, it is every bit a sport as soccer or tennis, and certainly more of a sport than poker.

Alex Young

Statesboro, Ga.

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