Eritrea uses war - and women warriors - as policy

Your article "Women of war" (March 8) skirts around the reason for Eritrea's war with Ethiopia, and in doing so, lets down all those women in Eritrea and Ethiopia who are hoping for better times.

Eritrean women still have a long way to go in terms of access to education, jobs, and in battling harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation. That women are on the front line, "free" to kill and be killed alongside men, is not really an indicator of liberation.

For real change to occur, there must be peace and development. However, since its independence, Eritrea in the space of six years has gone to war with four of its neighbors. The current conflict with Ethiopia started in May 1998 with the invasion of Ethiopia by three mechanized divisions of 12,000 troops, under the command of three generals. All mediation efforts have called for an Eritrean withdrawal and the restoration of the previous Ethiopian administration.

Until journalists stop getting sidelined in Eritrea, and concentrate on the reasons why the Eritrean government has consistently chosen war as an instrument of policy, Eritrean women will continue to suffer, along with Eritrean men, no matter how many articles are written about women on the front line.

Tony Hickey Addis Ababa, Ethiopia General Manager Village Ethiopia

Problems with California's Prop 21

Regarding your March 9 article "With initiatives, California tilts conservative": When will people see that the repudiation of violent crime - especially when it's committed by young people - does not equal the repudiation of young offenders? When will the adults in our society see the injustice of treating harshly the youth whose behavior shows the failure of those who raised them and, in a larger sense, the failure of a society with so many mixed messages about what's acceptable?

At some point we all have to take responsibility for our own actions, but surely adults must share that responsibility with criminal offenders who are 14- to 17-years-old. We cannot in good conscience relegate our young people - no matter how badly they've erred - to hopelessness, which Prop 21 does.

Carol K. Cummings Gaithersburg, Md.

Gambling is a recreational choice

Regarding your Feb. 29 article "Casinos stop gamblers who stop themselves":Your readers should know that the concept is not particularly new; many individual casinos have honored the occasional requests by patrons that they not be permitted access to various casino promotions and services.What makes Missouri's program novel is that it's the first formal statewide effort.

I must take issue, however, with your accompanying editorial ["States and problem gamblers"] claiming that the gambling industry "thrives on irresponsible behavior."

As the National Gambling Impact Study Commission concluded in its report to Congress last year, the vast majority of Americans who gamble "experience no measurable side effects" related to their gambling.People approach a casino visit as a fun night out, and they behave themselves at the blackjack tables and in front of the slot machines.They budget the amount of time and money they will spend, and they stick to those budgets.

Casino gambling may not be everyone's cup of tea.But those who would curtail the recreational choices of millions of American adults should pay close attention to the sentiments and experiences of the individuals they seek to protect.

Dean W. Hestermann Las Vegas Harrah's Entertainment, Inc.

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