Laws against marijuana should not go up in smoke

Unfortunately, the lenient approach to marijuana possession in Britain is just one of many events that openly contradict the "war on drugs" which so many countries - the US and Great Britain included - have waged ("Europe's antidrug bastion reconsiders," Aug. 30). I believe governments that try to legalize marijuana or classify it as a "soft drug" will eventually realize that neither tactic will aid in the fight against supposed "hard drugs" such as heroin and cocaine. Marijuana is illegal for a reason: It is a gateway drug that leads users down a path to more-serious substance abuse.

Political leaders cannot change the rules of the game halfway in. If marijuana were accepted today, it would hinder our chances of fighting more dangerous drugs and reduce the slender headway we have gained. Accepting one drug while outlawing others would be the equivalent of prohibiting the consumption of hard liquor while allowing beer and wine.

Ashley R. Smith Gainesville, Fla.

Debating intervention in the Mideast

Sen. Paul Wellstone's article, "US can't be hands-off in Mideast" (Aug. 28, opinion page) recycles clichés. Chief among these is Mr. Wellstone's predictable use of the phrase "relentless cycle of violence" to describe the de facto, asymmetrical war for Palestinian liberation. Palestinian civilians are resisting the occupation and colonization of their homeland by a more-powerful Israel whose strength derives largely from American military, economic, and propagandistic aid.

Indeed, the central ruse Wellstone would perpetuate - that "any [US] involvement carries the threat of failure" - represents a hideous political-linguistic distortion of reality, one which would make an Orwell or a Heller smile grimly.

The US continues to fight on Israel's behalf, flaunting international law and world opinion. Senator Wellstone does a disservice to all with his parroting of the US imperial line: He takes advantage of an American public misinformed on the facts of the Palestinian cause; he stokes those Israelis committed to the madness of using brute force to achieve "coexistence" with Palestinians; and, most obviously, he consigns Palestinians themselves to further US-sponsored Israeli violence and dispossession.

Antonio Lopez Houston

Senator Wellstone has laid out valid reasons for US intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has also stated why intervention is doomed unless Palestinians stop the violence. Mr. Wellstone concedes that the current Palestinian leadership seems not to want peace. Until the Palestinians desire to make peace, they will continue to wage war with terrorism and suicide bombers.The US should not intervene.

Ken Moskowitz

Elkins Park, Penn.

Unrolling the history of paper

In "Writing through the ages" (Home Forum, Aug. 22), you've underestimated the ancient Egyptian invention of papyrus paper and the use of pen and ink. The oldest roll of papyrus paper was found at Helwan near Cairo in a noble's tomb dating to about 3000 BC, at the dawn of Egyptian history. Much to the archaeologists' disappointment, it was blank - but scribes were well-prepared to write in the afterlife, since cakes of water-soluble ink preserved in special scribal palettes and reed pens are also found in tombs.

The earliest hieroglyphs are sketchy, crude labels for commodities, indicating that writing was first used as a practical accounting tool, and developed into more formal script only later.

Stuart Tyson Smith

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

University of California Santa Barbara

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