Trade pacts need rules on child labor

The May 18 opinion piece "Policing global labor practices," by Murray Weidenbaum, commendably brings to the forefront the fact that children and third-world laborers, often working under atrocious health and safety conditions, produce many of the goods we find in our homes.

What is worrisome, though, is Mr. Weidenbaum's suggestion that just because one company seems to be acting positively by self-imposing labor-protection standards, we as a society should reject the inclusion of basic human rights protections when negotiating international trade agreements.

Just because Mother Teresa has not committed a crime does not mean we should scrap the entire criminal law system. A prohibition on child labor, and minimum health and safety standards, should be included in each international trade agreement our country signs. While it may slightly cut into corporate profits, we cannot justify building our economy on the backs of five-year-old children.

Paul A. Saydak New Haven, Conn.

Second Amendment misinterpreted

Regarding your May 12 article "Self-defense spurs the Second Amendment Sisters": A member of this group is quoted as saying, "The majority of our gun laws ... violate the Constitution," and she further states that the laws have not been struck down because "a lot of judges are not familiar with the Constitution."

If this were not such a tragic subject, this would be funny. I urge those who hold this position to read more about the American legal system, and to study the case law for the Second Amendment.

US courts make decisions on cases brought before them on the principles of legislative intent, and the precedent established by previous relevant decisions. And on both counts, laws restricting ownership, and even banning possession of handguns, have been upheld, and have been determined not to violate the Second Amendment, which states in full: "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

The courts have consistently interpreted the amendment to apply only to state militias, and not to the individuals to own guns. No gun control law has ever been overturned on Second Amendment grounds.

Perhaps the Second Amendment Sisterhood should consider changing its name.

Maryanne B. Kendall Reston, Va.

Women in Iran need attention

Regarding your May 16 article "Retracing roots the Persian way": While it presented several different views, I was disappointed with the sameness of the interviewees. None were women. Wives, children, and their situations were not mentioned.

These men can find different but acceptable jobs in Iran or the US, but can women do the same? Have the similar freedoms and responsibilities within families? Have the same ability to make their own choices?

I'm disappointed with your narrow scope, especially in light of your previous series about women. Awareness of half the population of the world should not be something that happens on special occasions.

Lorraine Bier Austin, Texas

Should men be only breadwinners?

In the May 18 opinion piece "Hey Barbie, you go girl!" Robin Gerber cites a poll which found that only 27 percent of 21- to 29-year-old men said it was very important to them to have jobs with high status. More put family before work. If the media had done a better job of reporting on patterns of divorce, young men would know that women often divorce men whose careers falter.

Neil Steyskal Washington

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