Beyond the image of 'deadbeat dads' The article "When do stiff penalties for deadbeat parents go too far?" (March 25) underscores the critical need for more research on the role of fathers in parenting and on the need to integrate the findings into sound public-health programs.

For far too long, anecdotal tales of so-called "deadbeat dads" have relegated fathers living in poverty to the role of second-class parents in society. At the same time, state welfare policies favoring single mothers have drastically reduced funding and support for two-parent families, thus increasing the likelihood that fathers will abandon their children to gain aid for their children.

Until child and family welfare advocates have the public and governmental support they need, the role of fathers at all socio-economic levels will continue to be misunderstood, and much-needed policies to support and encourage two-parent families will remain elusive.

Jacqueline Shannon New York

In Kosovo, remember past lessons

Regarding "In Congress, a role reversal on use of force" (March 26): It appears as if the long agony of Vietnam had never entered anyone's thinking about the US commitment in Yugoslavia. That nightmare began, as did this commitment, with air support for one side in a conflict. Also like Vietnam, we have no consensus on the desirability of action, no clearly articulated goals, and no apparent plan to achieve them.

Granted, the geography and world situation make a disaster on the scale of Vietnam unlikely, but something resembling the prolonged carnage the British have experienced in Ulster is all too possible.

We should not be committing US forces to combat without a clear consensus that it's necessary and without definite, attainable goals.

William G. Dennis Kelso, Wash.

Homework discipline begins at home I said "Go get 'em!" after reading Kathlyn Wieland's guest column ("Teachers say no late work, but parents, principal protest," March 16). When did parents start blaming teachers for students' apathy toward learning, and when did principals lose their backbone and cave in to parental demands that go against pedagogical good sense?

Most teachers possess the skill, knowledge, desire, and opportunity to motivate young minds, but it takes more. Society must be as prepared as the teachers to provide the necessary gumption to enforce efforts for a rigorous education.

Allen Crenshaw Brenham, Texas

Texaco responds to rain forest article It is ironic that Chris Jochnick of the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) chooses a Hollywood analogy to describe the current lawsuit filed against Texaco by US attorneys on behalf of the indigenous people of the Ecuadorean rain forest ("A Civil Action, Part 2," March 17). Like Hollywood, Mr. Jochnick and the attorneys who brought the suit are more than happy to take liberties with the facts, in addition to gross distortion and mischaracterization of the issues.

When the facts don't support their position, these attorneys choose to manufacture their own. These issues must be judged by a court. And the courts - whether they are in Ecuador or the US -require an examination of the facts, not the headlines.

Texaco acted responsibly and complied with all laws during its 26 years of operations in Ecuador, and that is supported by fact.

Christopher R. Gidez Director, external communications, Texaco White Plains, N.Y.

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