Casualties of Mideast conflict should be identified

As I read "Assessing terror's political costs" (Jan. 2), it occurred to me that there is something that needs reporting, in the otherwise immutable conflict in the Middle East. As reported, six more Palestinians were killed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). However, it sounds as if these six, killed in two separate incidents, were gun-toting militants killed by IDF who feared an imminent attack on themselves or civilians.

The report goes on to say that attacks on Israeli civilians are down significantly since Arafat's speech Dec. 16, yet at least 70 Palestinians died during December violence. lt would be good to look seriously at the individuals who have died, and not just numbers. For example, of the several hundred Palestinian dead, how many were suicide bombers? How many were gun-firing terrorists prosecuting attacks on civilians? How many were gun-firing militants attacking Israeli troops? How many were women and children? In contrast, of the several-hundred-fewer dead Israelis, how many were women and children? How many were in the IDF? Of course, all deaths of civilians and military are tragic. However, in setting out to understand better the causes and consequences of the present situation, it behooves us to know more of the facts.

William S. Dillingham Centralia, Wash.

Use frozen Taliban assets to rebuild

Considering how the Taliban destroyed Afghanistan, wouldn't it be most just for the World Court to decide that all frozen assets of Osama bin Laden and his kind should be used to rebuild the country? Why should the United States bear that burden alone?

Jeremy McGuire Chicago

What about gun education?

In "Guns and security" (Jan. 2, Editorial) you state that, "Beyond that common-sense step, gun safety is a public issue that gets little public attention." Why must all common-sense gun-safety laws have to rely on putting up more barriers to ownership instead of putting attention on education? We teach our children about sex, drugs, driving, alcohol, and tobacco products in our public schools. Why is there no mention of teaching our children about handling a gun safely? Why is there no government-sponsored gun-safety courses for children or adults?

You also mention that "teddy bears get closer scrutiny from product-safety regulators than firearms." Your statement sounds glib. There are many laws pertaining to everything from registering, manufacturing, licensing, and owning of guns to their safe handling and melting points. I'm sure you would have a hard time finding anywhere near that number of laws regarding stuffed toys.

Pat Steigman Tyler, Texas

Seniors struggle to make ends meet

Your article, "Falling interest rates don't trickle down" (Dec. 31) is so true. There are many government-controlled policies that work against those of us who do not have the means or the organization to demand changes.

I only began working after my children grew up. After my husband passed on, I had to draw from his Social Security to pay the bills. I have a job making a little less than $20,000 a year. Not only does the Social Security system take out money from my small paycheck to add to an account that I will never collect, but in 2002 I will have four of his payments denied to me because of the present earnings limits. There are many senior citizens who are struggling with this problem. You would think the government would encourage us to work, since it keeps us involved, provides benefits to us, and provides more taxes to be collected.

Mary Jo Loftin Mt. Olive, N.C.

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