Parallel plights of the steel and oil industries As a longtime reader of the Monitor, I am surprised that columnist David Francis did not draw a parallel between the plight of the steel industry and that of the oil industry in "Imports steal US steel market" (Feb. 12).

Oil imports from foreign countries whose nationalized energy institutions enjoy government price supports are pouring low priced crude into the US at the expense of our domestic producers.

The US oil industry lost 29,300 jobs in 1998, a number that almost equals Indiana Congressman Peter Visclosky's 30,000 steelworker constituents. I am employed by one of the many small organizations that provide services to the oil industry. We have had to reduce our work force by 33 percent - from 60 to 40 in the last 8 months.

It would serve our country and the world oil industry for the government to establish an energy policy that did not leave the US at the risk and mercy of those international producers willing to sell at any price today to obtain market control tomorrow.

Casper Zublin Bakersfield, Calif. Development manager T.J. Cross Engineers

Generating 'false security' I read with interest your article regarding people buying generators to protect themselves from possible Y2K-related electrical failures ("Y2K fuels a surge in generator sales," Feb. 16). I am a retailer and Internet seller of generators.

Y2K is the biggest factor in increased sales. As a business person who desires to truly serve his customers, I part company with some other national businesses. First, many retailers lull their customers into a false security by allowing them to think: "I've got a generator and now all my problems are solved." Unless they have prepared properly, many won't have enough fuel stored for their generator to do any good.

Second, many people have not thought out how to wire in the generator to the house circuitry to gain the full benefit of the rate-wattage output. If "crunch time" comes, there will be a mad dash to get the proper plugs and other equipment to power-up the home.

Brian McGregor Howell, Mich.

Mugabe's authoritarian rule Regarding the opinion piece "Mugabe takes Zimbabwe further into void" (Feb. 9): President Mugabe's contempt for the rule of law and the persistent harassment of his country's media is a matter of grave concern. Mugabe's affirmation of the military's role in the detention and torture of journalists Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto reflects a paranoia about dissent. The slide into authoritarianism is gathering momentum with the detention of Ibbo Mandaza, editor of the Zimbabwe Mirror. Mr. Mandaza is a veteran of the Zimbabwean liberation movement and a former high-ranking public servant.

Kiru Naidoo Durban, South Africa

A bungling Bard? The Monitor Staff Panel gave "Shakespeare in Love" four stars and hailed it a "literate movie." I felt that Monitor critic David Sterritt, who gave it two stars, was closer to the target. I am more dismayed that the Academy has nominated it as one of the year's best pictures (Movie Guide, Feb. 19).

In spite of its attractive characters, bright costumes, and action-packed plot, it portrays the great writer as a bungling young man who does little well but write and womanize. The bottom line is that his great inspiration and marvelous lines in Romeo and Juliet came from a sordid affair. What a shame that so many of the graphic models society holds up for young people are grossly inferior but are packaged so attractively that they beguile the wise along with the foolish.

Don Griffith Decatur, Ga.

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