Russia is on the right track

In his Oct. 26 opinion piece, "US ignores Russia's elite at its own peril," Thomas Graham describes Russia as "less friendly, weaker, poorer, and less democratic than it was nearly eight years ago."

I dispute that. The Russian economy is beginning to show an upturn. The Putin government is patently friendlier toward the US than was Yeltsin's. And Russians are abandoning some of their cynicism about their leaders, including their president.

Recovering from its 75-year experience with Soviet totalitarianism was bound to take Russia at least a generation. Blaming any Washington administration for Russia's problems is not to understand the limitations on any foreign nation to influence and reform another country. Such a presumptive attitude strikes me as a case of "hyper-superpower" arrogance.

Albert L. Weeks Sarasota, Fla.

Space exploration deserves a boost

Thank you for your Oct. 25 article "Mission to Mars may begin on this Idaho reservation." The topic of Mars exploration and our future in space deserves much more attention.

Politicians often tell us that space exploration is too expensive and that we have more important things to spend our money and energy on. Some environmentalists worry that human expansion to new worlds will make us value Earth even less.

These points of view are defeatist and narrow. The environments in space give us added reason to appreciate the life-sustaining beauty of Earth.

We would understand very little of the greenhouse effect and global warming without comparative studies of our planetary twins, Mars and Venus.

As shown by the experience of the students in Idaho, space exploration offers one of the few available routes for a more hopeful and free future.

The dreams of these students and many others need to be nurtured now with concrete investments.

Eric Kansa Cambridge, Mass.

Put rail use before airport growth

Regarding your Oct. 4 article "Key choice for crunch on airports": The US regulatory structure is fragmented and blinkered, with no integrated approach to energy, environment, transportation, or economic competitiveness.

An overlooked alternative to expensive airport subsidies is intercity rail, which could eliminate the need for much of the projected air transport infrastructure expansion.

To have a significant impact, it is not necessary to rely on risky and costly development of high-speed rail. Intelligent application of existing rail systems, and their integration into urban centers and airport hubs as feeders, would be more beneficial than proliferating and dispersing airports.

H.F. Tibbals McKinney, Texas

Kids and bullying

Your Oct. 24 article "Pulling together" cites antibullying projects that are quick to castigate bullying behavior and find fault with the lack of "caring intervention" by adults and empathy from peers.

But I find one thing even worse than the failure to stop such bullying and that is the failure to teach the kids how to respond in the first place. If "kids today are more emotionally fragile," at least some of the efforts to decrease the negative impact of childish bullying must be directed toward building up their emotional stability, thus making them less of a target for bullies.

Frederic S. Allen Richmond, Calif.

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