Ask not how much money, but what it can do Regarding "Score another $40 billion for Bill Gates" (June 28): There is an old saying among money people that if all the money in the world were distributed equally, it would eventually end up in the hands of the same people before the division. In your story, Betsy Leander-Wright says the increase in Bill Gates' wealth since last year would be almost enough to lift the income of all poor Americans up to the poverty line for a year.

Maybe there is a better chance of raising the income of all poor Americans to the poverty line through education rather than the one-year dole implied by Ms. Leander-Wright. Perhaps it would serve your readers to report in detail the millions that he and his wife have already poured out to educational and charitable institutions through the Gates Foundation. For instance, the Gates's have equipped many schools in the rural South with computers so that children can latch onto the real rewards and empowerment of a computer.

It's not about how much money, it's about what money can do. Dean Parkins, Seahurst, Wash.

Caution needed on dam removal Tearing down old dams may not always be environmental progress ("With a dam's demise, hope for reviving rivers," July 2).

I accept the good intentions of those who campaigned for the Kennebec project, and hope the results of that project come close to matching their expectations. But two factors prevent me from joining in the general ecological jubilation.

First, when we take a functioning hydro plant off line, we have to replace its contribution to the system. That usually means we increase the amount of power generated by fossil fuel or nuclear systems.

Second, and ultimately more worrisome, the only reliable rule we have developed with regard to human interference in the world is this: We never know for sure what will happen. That applies to our efforts to rehabilitate as much as to our efforts to exploit.

Even the noblest and best-motivated of our endeavors involves a series of political and economic compromises and trade-offs. We need to continue reaching for the best that is in us, doing the best we can. But we need also to understand the arrogance implicit in presuming to know how to solve complex problems.

Phil Sheehan, Schenectady, N.Y.

Keeping N. Ireland peace on track Regarding "N. Ireland told to bite the bullet" with the summary heading of "Disarming the IRA" (June 28): Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble's decommissioning campaign is a poorly conceived diversion. The Irish and British governments should focus on developing the political will to stand up to the Unionist blackmail and implement the Good Friday Agreement as written.

J. Michael Moss, Tampa, Fla.

Support for the "new" Al Gore Each of us sees what we think is reality by looking through our own favorite biases. Through one lens, I see Al Gore as being willing to try new behaviors in presenting what he considers important messages. He cannot know what works best for his purposes unless he has his kind of experimental spirit.

My hope for Mr. Gore is that he will ignore advice like that given by Mr. Sperling in the June 22 Monitor ("The old Al is Better than the new Al"). Mr. Sperling, I like your work better when it is not paternal, condescending, and given to odious comparisons, even of a public figure compared with himself at another time.

Dorothy Sawyer, Gates Mills, Ohio

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