Return of Panama Canal the only moral option

Your article "American lets go of Panama Canal" (Dec. 13), on the US motives for handing over the Canal to Panama, mentioned the gains the US expects from the handover. But in the very thoughtful US Senate debate on the issue, the long-term interests of the US were not the only consideration.

Those interests were stressed, but it was striking to me that there were a number of senators who said that whether the handover served US interests or not, returning the Canal Zone to Panama was the only right or honorable thing to do. We had virtually stolen the zone; morality required us to return it. I used to lecture regularly on Immanuel Kant and called my students' attention to this philosophy - that some people wanted to do was right just because it was right.

John T. Wilcox Binghamton, N.Y.

The Nature Conservancy's expenses

Your article "A Guide to Giving" (Dec. 6) incorrectly lists The Nature Conservancy's percentage of total revenue devoted to programs at 42.8 percent. The correct percentage is 88.3 percent - one of the highest percentages among the nation's largest nonprofit organizations.

The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to preserve plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. Two of the primary tools we use to accomplish our conservation mission are land acquisition and stewardship - taking care of the land we own or manage. Dollars spent on land acquisition and stewardship were not included in the figure used in your article. These two components account for the remaining 45.5 percent, and reveal the accurate program expenditure of 88.3 for 1998.

The difference in numbers is due to an Internal Revenue Service requirement that land purchases and stewardship be categorized as "capital allocations" and "net additions" instead of "program expenses."

David Williamson Arlington, Va.

The Nature Conservancy

Debt relief for well-armed countries

The opinion piece "Strides in the cause of the debt relief" (Dec. 8) described a wonderful, positive step toward helping developing nations. While it provides much-needed support and should be continued, it does not address the root cause.

How can we get these small countries to stop spending all their money on armaments and start building stable governments?

We (the world community) haven't solved that problem yet and definitely need to spend more resources in the diplomatic arena.

Terry Zaccone Saratoga, Calif.

More variety, please

I've never written a letter to you to tell you of my appreciation for your news coverage. I've subscribed to the Monitor for years.

However, I write to complain of columnist Godfrey Sperling's vituperative attacks on President Clinton. Regardless of my personal view of Mr. Clinton, I'm sick and bored with Mr. Sperling's repetitive, vindictive listings of Clinton's shortcomings. The reader knows them all too well. Surely, Sperling can write of other concerns.

Mrs. L.E. Schaub Tyron, N.C.

Adults reading Kid Space

Thank you for your Kid Space spread "Once upon a wetland" (Dec. 7). I'm no kid, but I live here and I still learned a lot about wetlands from the article, as well as the students' and teachers' work in establishing this local preserve.

Bess Ward Park City, Utah

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Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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