Why the US should support UNESCO

Regarding your Nov. 22 editorial "Does the US need UNESCO?": The editorial opens with an inaccurate assessment of UNESCO by claiming that the agency had "long ... been viewed as harboring strong anti-American and anti-Western biases." Such biases may have been held by several member states, but the organization did not sanction them.

The editorial quite properly asks that "needed reform" continue and recognizes that it is taking place. However, you also should have cited the fact that, between 1987 and 1998, the agency introduced reforms and innovations which were widely praised, including by the American government and civil society.

The editorial rightly recognizes the special strengths and "vital role" of UNESCO in education. Fairness would dictate citation also of the formulation for the 21st century of global strategies and action in science, communications, and culture, which were achieved under UNESCO leadership from 1997 to 1999.

You conclude by advising the US to "exercise its powerful influence, not from the sidelines, but as a full-fledged member." Pity that you do not refer to the draft resolutions introduced in 1999 by Congressmen Tom Lantos (D) of Calif. and Jim Leach (R) of Iowa, giving UNESCO not only a favorable evaluation but authorizing funds for early US re-entry.

John E. Fobes Asheville, N.C.

Camping for the homeless

During the 1930s the Wyoming Recreation and Parks Association built a beautiful park complex in my home town. A huge outdoor pool with bathhouses, wading pool, and large play area with playground equipment were on one side of Clear Creek, which runs through the center of the town. On the other side was a large camping ground with potable water and bathrooms. As a child in the 1940s, I remember people camping in that campground, sometimes overnight and sometimes obviously living there.

Since the homeless started appearing during the 1980s, I often wonder why such a simple solution might not work again at least so people had sanitation, safety, a place to cook their food, and security of tent walls if nothing else.

Joanna Taylor Buffalo, Wyo.

'Midnight rule' for Arctic wilderness

Regarding your Nov. 30 editorial "Clinton's midnight rules": I can see nothing wrong in declaring the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a national monument to block the sure-to-come oil drilling there. Nor can I see a problem with new environmental rules or a shortened form for a patients' bill of rights - other examples given.

It seems to me that the so-called lame-duck period of a president's term may be the best period of all. No longer concerned with re-election politics, presidents seemingly do what they think is in the best interest of the nation regardless of pressure from lobbyists. More power to them.

Richard Whitehead Merritt Island, Fla.

Offended at minarets with machetes

I am writing to express my distaste for the Nov. 30 artwork that accompanied the opinion piece "Islam nips at Arab leaders that have ties to Israel."

To depict the minarets with machetes instead of crescents is probably equivalent to showing church towers with swastikas in place of crosses or showing synagogues with bullets in place of the Star of David. This stereotyping of religion is offensive and should not be condoned.

Ahmed Shalash Somerset, N.J.

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