US foreign aid is best left to private organizations

In Abraham M. George's opinion piece "Chin up, America" (Nov. 5), Mr. George discourages an isolationist US because atrocities and human suffering would occur overseas without US involvement. He implies that isolationists are selfish for not wanting to aid those in need in other countries. I disagree. The reason I don't want the US involved with other nations is that often the situations in those nations are so complex that they are beyond our capabilities to effect change. We are quite arrogant to believe our dollars or military might can change factors that have evolved over tens, hundreds, or thousands of years. The US people can help, but not under the direction of our government. Private organizations should fill this role.

David Roos Denver

Details of the college-funding plan

I enjoyed your article "Changes add appeal to a college-savings plan" (Oct. 29, Work and Money). However, I would like to offer a few corrections. With regard to the Michigan plan, you stated that the plan will accept contributions of $125,000 per year, but the actuality is that the total account balance cannot exceed $125,000 per beneficiary.

With regard to Coverdell ESAs, it's important that your readers know many banks and brokerage companies charge an annual fee. A $50 fee on a $1,000 contribution is equivalent to a 5 percent annual commission. Many 529 plans offer no annual fees. I agree that Coverdell ESAs offer more selection and control, but I wouldn't describe 529s as offering a limited number of investments. ESAs are penalized more heavily for financial-aid purposes than 529s. For most people, 529s are superior to ESAs. ESAs are preferred if the investor wants to invest in individual stocks.

Steven M. Klane, CPA Minneapolis

Farmers worldwide have put down plows

In "Farmers urged to beat plows into drills" (Nov. 1, Ideas), you state "no-till methods might not take root outside the Americas." I would like to point out that about 200,000 small farmers in Ghana are using no-till. Farmers in irrigated areas of the Indo-Gangetic Plains (mainly in India and Pakistan) and Mexico are also adopting no-till for some of their crops. Adoption of no-till in the Americas is a very localized phenomenon; it occurs only in southern Brazil, Argentina, localized areas of Bolivia and Paraguay, and irrigated areas of Mexico and the US.

I would also like to mention that the World Bank is only one of many organizations promoting no-till. The World Bank's contribution is minimal. The main promoters for commercial farmers are farmers' associations, international research institutions, and Monsanto. For small farmers, the range of institutions is larger, including international research institutions, international cooperation agencies, Monsanto, and NGOs.

Javier M. Ekboir Houston

Grateful to hear of help for prostitutes

Having served as a minister in Turin, Italy, 12 years ago, I was heartened to read "Italian haven offers hope to trafficked women" (Nov. 1) which covered the work that the Rev. Cesare Lodeserto and the group New Wings are doing for foreign prostitutes in Italy.

A large portion of my congregation in Turin was from the countries of West Africa. Among the women attending, almost all were prostitutes. We tried to find other work for those who wanted it. It was very difficult. The criminal organization behind them was powerful, and several of those we tried to help were killed. I greatly appreciate that, with the cooperation of the Catholic Church, the national government, and the local authorities, something serious is being done.

Kenneth Hougland Prescott Valley, Ariz.

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