Limited Opportunities in Alaska

In the article ``Alaskan Town Mulls a Future Minus a Mill,'' Jan. 9, Sitka's premier local environmental activist voices an elitist ``let them eat cake'' ignorance of the real world.

Alaskan resources, utilized in a reasonable sustainable manner -

and by firms of sufficient size - provide the only means by which people of modest educational attainment or of modest formal technical expertise can support a family in southeastern Alaska communities. Other well-paying Sitka jobs are either of limited number (fishing, construction, education, and professional health care) or limited pay (tourism, commercial enterprises, and services). Career transition programs, cultural programs, and scientific education - nominal palliatives - are useful primarily for preparing people to work somewhere else.

Only a small portion of the Tongass National Forest, less than 10 percent of the whole, is available for economic development. Radical environmentalists would begrudge even that small amount. That is simply unforgivable in human terms. Paul J. Wescott, Sitka, Alaska Enjoying a harmonious moment

The photograph of a Chechen soldier (``West Gets Stingy on Aid Over Russia's War Moves,'' Jan. 13) pausing to play an abandoned piano in the middle of a war-ravaged street is the most compelling picture that we have seen out of this tragic conflagration.

An armed comrade listens to the music intently, apparently forgetful, for the moment, of the danger and destruction that surrounds them. Was the music dark and sad, or sweet and hopeful? One wonders. The picture speaks volumes for the human spirit and the indomitable beauty in man, and it should be a candidate for a journalistic award. Betty Pittman, Orlando, Fla. The French do it, so why can't we?

Regarding the article ``Wanted: Quality Parents With Money. No Pay Provided,'' Jan. 13, I would like to mention that in France people who have raised at least three children (including adopted ones) receive a 10 percent increase in their retirement benefits. Women who have raised at least three children also receive from the government a bonus of two additional years of contribution to the retirement fund. This is designed to acknowledge the debt owed by the country to parents who have invested a great amount of time and money into raising children (this comes in addition to generous family allowances received by parents until children reach age 18). Why not adopt such ideas in the US? Jean-Francois Briere, Albany, N.Y. Slovenians' identities misunderstood

The author of the article ``In a Peaceful Corner of Former Yugoslavia, an Envy for Europe,'' Jan. 6 states that Slovenians are spurning their Slavic roots for a strictly European identity. This is completely misleading and misinformed. Slovenians are proud of their Slavic roots, but they do want the world to understand that these roots are a part of the Western Slavic world and not the Southern Slavic one, where historians tend to place them. As direct descendants of the proto-Slavic Veneti, and first cousins to the Wends, whose culture flourished in what are now Germanic lands prior to its destruction by Otto I, Slovenians have been a part of the Western world for millenia.

There is an unfounded belief among historians that all Slavic-speaking people share a common origin and culture. This is just as erroneous as stating that all nations speaking Latin-derived languages are one. Slavic histories diverged in antiquity, and, just like all Western nations, so too the Slavs have not seen eye to eye over the centuries. It is time to correct the falsehood that being Slavic somehow implies being non-European. Western Slavs have always been Europeans, albeit not Latin or Germanic. A.J. Arko, Los Alamos, N.M.

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