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Shopping for Bargains on the Internet

The article "Retailers Flock to Internet, but Where Were Shoppers?" Dec. 29, quotes David Harris, president of the Internet systems of SBT Corporation: "[Security] is absolutely the No. 1 concern everybody has on the Internet."

News media reports have been spreading the myth that it is dangerous to send credit-card numbers across the Internet. The chances of having credit-card numbers stolen on the Internet and used fraudulently are small. Consumers should not let a fear of credit-card theft dissuade them from sampling the convenience (and low prices) of shopping on the Internet.

I did about half of my Christmas shopping this year over the Internet, and many of the merchants provided secure transactions through the use of encryption. The greater impediment to commerce on the Internet is the US government's myopic and uncertain policies on the use and control of encryption technologies.

Robert A. Beezer

Tacoma, Wash.

Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science

University of Puget Sound

Choosing a charity carefully

The front-page article "When You Choose a Charity, It Pays to Do Your Homework," Dec. 14, raises several important issues, but it comes up short on alternatives.

One alternative that my organization has fervently embraced, along with 50 other nationally recognized groups, is a new program called My Favorite Charities (MFC). Individuals can shop for their cause in an MFC catalog, where they will find descriptions of America's top charities. All participating charities in MFC meet the standards set by major charitable watchdogs, such as the National Charities Information Bureau. Hence, donors will know that their money is being put to good use. With the cutbacks in government spending, charities must rely more than ever on private support.

Mitchell Hinz

New York

National Direct Mail Manager

Cancer Care Inc.

Clinton administration acts against Iran

The opinion-page article "Lessons From the Ayatollah," Dec. 18, makes some good points but contains some factual errors. The author ignores recent American efforts against Iran. The Clinton administration has acted on three occasions this year. In March, it barred an American company, Conoco, from signing a long-term oil and gas development deal with Iran; in May, the president's executive order cut all links between American companies and Iran; and in December, the administration negotiated a compromise bill with Sens. Alfonse D'Amato (R) of New York and Daniel Inouye (D) of Hawaii to sanction foreign firms that invest in Iran's oil and gas industry.

The author's statement that Iran is free to trade anything with anyone is incorrect. The precipitous decline in imports over the past two years reflects Iran's difficulties in securing credit abroad. The US spends $1 billion annually to maintain a full-time military presence in the Gulf. Nothing could be more important than legislation to impede Iran's campaign to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Neal M. Sher


Executive Director

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee

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