On Indonesia's Plate

Having read the opinion piece "Another Problem on Indonesia's, and the World's, Agenda" (July 20) on Irian Jaya I am deeply disappointed. It does not report any first-hand information about Irian Jaya but only repeats rumors, half-truths, and even lies. I have traveled to Freeport-McMoRan mine in Irian Jaya several times and have spoken with local Irians, other Indonesians, and European and North American expatriates about the effects of the mine and Freeport's operations.

Obviously, close contact between tribal cultures that had never seen metal tools until the 1960s is going to be difficult and require great care. Unfortunately, the Indonesian government has been unable and unwilling to take anything like this kind of care and the Free Papua Movement has shown itself to be equally barbarous.

On the other hand, Freeport, in consultation with local leaders, has provided schools, free medical care, jobs, and economic opportunities. Local life expectancy has increased dramatically since Freeport started mining. Indeed, Freeport has been tarred by the same brush as the government, but I'd say without benefit of a fair hearing.

Furthermore, the contention that the mine tailings are toxic is just wrong. I am a geochemist. I have analyzed sediment from the river and visited Freeport's environmental lab. I have talked with their environmental scientists, seen their testing protocols, reviewed results from their lab, and I can tell you that the tailings are no more toxic than the rest of the sediment in the river. I believe the river containing the tailings meets all US standards except for turbidity, which it did not meet before tailings were added.

Eric James

Austin, Texas

South African loans

When I read about the (what I consider false) fears of South African banks in "South Africa Asks Banks to Aid Equality US-Style" (Aug. 3), I had to comment. "It is not profitable for banks to lend to people for whom $100 would be a major loan," one banker commented. I have been reading for years about the amazing success of those who extend loans to the very poor where the average is under $100. Organizations like Pueblo to People or Trickle Up.

I realize these are nonprofits but the word "profit" must be redefined. My business sure succeeded when I discovered "profit" and "ascend" come from the same root word. I made more money but I learned that wasn't the bottom line. These banks are helping build a new country, establishing hope, and creating a future client base. They have no idea the profits they will reap. Yes, there have to be rules, but there is no risk when you believe that every individual is worthy of credit.

Judy Minor

Juneau, Alaska

Fatherly love

After reading "Fatherly Love in a Different Wrapper" (Aug. 12), I must say that I am touched. I am the mother of Christopher, the boy whom the Home Forum author Dan Hall wrote about in your newspaper. I feel the need to commend him on his actions, his patience, his understanding, his caring, and his love for my son.

Christopher waited for a "Big Brother" for the longest time. I know there are some boys who are still waiting for a Big Brother and I just hope that there is a Dan Hall for each of them. When I send my son with him, I know that he is in good hands and that each time he will come home happy and with a lot to tell me. His times with Dan mean the world to him. I only wish that there were more people out there that could spare a little time for another child

Your article ... meant a lot to Dan Hall and to my son Christopher.

Lisa Livesey

Broadalbin, N.Y.

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