Why teens snub the military There are a number of explanations why young people don't join the military ("Why teens balk at joining military," Feb. 25): a dislike for authority, an aversion to difficult physical stimulation, a lack of adequate monetary benefits, and a rational opposition to being placed in a dangerous situation.

However, the statement by University of South Carolina history professor John Scott Wilson that teenagers and young adults are "not interested in politics or political affairs, not interested in what's going on in the larger world, and surprisingly open to alternative lifestyles" is very different from my reality as a teenager.

It should be understandable with the recent events in domestic and foreign politics why anyone would want to keep away from such subjects. The severely partisan politics in Congress during these past several months have been abhorrent.

Our sanctions and airstrikes against Iraq have obviously been ineffectual in trying to convince Saddam Hussein to stop the development of weapons of mass destruction and have only succeeded in alienating us from Middle Eastern allies. I believe that teens are actually aware of the world around them and see the kinds of things the military does and are appalled by them.

I certainly don't want to become a member of an organization I don't support. It is difficult to agree with the values of military service at the present time. (I have great respect, however, for those who were forced to join the military because of a general draft.) Young people are more thoughtful than they're often given credit for. I am capable of being engaged in a political discourse and relish the thought of doing so. And yet, there is almost nothing I would like less than to join the military.

Robin Kraft Santa Rosa, Calif.

Beef with 'Where's the beef?' Regarding "Where's the beef" (Feb. 24): The best varieties weren't included in your test. The variety of Garden Burger you chose is the least appealing of their line. Fire Roasted Veggie and Mushroom Burgers are much better. Both Garden Burger and Boca Burger do a good job in their "hamburger style" burgers as well. Next time try to get a better representative sampling.

Laura DiMeglio Londonderry, N.H.

While I am pleased to see that you gave veggie burgers a go, I wonder how open your testers were to begin with. I also wonder why your testers would compare a veggie burger to a hamburger at all. They are two distinct "dishes" and you surely wouldn't compare a chicken patty to a beef burger.

When slathered up with the "normal" goodies of a burger, you can hardly even taste the meat. I've been eating meatless patties for almost two years now, and find them far better than beef burgers.

John Filar Vancouver, Wash.

A brand-new, old wheelbarrow Regarding Christopher Andreae's column "The barrow necessities" (Feb. 24): My wheelbarrow is an outdoor dweller, about 25 years old. Last fall I used it to carry compost from pile to garden. The tire was low, so I pumped it up, and left it in the sun. Later, a loud explosion startled me. It took a while to realize that the tire had burst. How to get the rest of the compost spread? I tried pushing, but in addition to the tire being rotten, the wheel was falling off. Finally, I had to walk backward, dragging the barrow from the front rim, to deposit the last of the compost.

Wouldn't you have considered the barrow a total loss? My Christmas gift was my old wheelbarrow, taken by my husband and rewheeled, fiberglassed, patched, sanded, shellacked, and painted. It's so beautiful, I hesitate to use it.

Linda Gorman North Plainfield, N.J.

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