Change the focus on drugs

More than 20 years ago, when I was counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, we began investigating the many ways that cocaine was smuggled into the country, including the go-fast boats described in your Sept. 18 article, "Super-speedboats piloting Colombia's cocaine trade."

Drug enforcement is supposed to drive the price of prohibited drugs up, but over the past 20 years, the wholesale and retail price of cocaine and heroin in the US has fallen almost steadily.

Ironically, the price of cigarettes has been driven up by increased taxation, encouraging millions of smokers to quit; and honest antitobacco advertising is reducing teenage smoking.

Drug prohibition can never significantly reduce the availability of drugs. Legal regulation and controls will give the US and Colombian governments the modern tools to better control the cocaine trade, the abuse of cocaine, and the flow of money that finances the terrorist armies undermining Colombia's society and economy.

Isn't it time that we demand a realistic strategy to control drugs, rather than a feel-good crusade that doesn't work?
Eric E. Sterling
President of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
Silver Spring, Md.

Poverty? Not really

After reading your Sept. 19 article "Cul-de-sacs and soup kitchens: the new suburban poor," it seems to me that having more poor families living in the suburbs is the logical extension of the demand for more affordable housing in affluent communities; the demographic anomaly of the federal government defining the poverty line at the bottom 12 percent in terms of income; the lack of financial education and training in household budgeting in high school or college.

The result is a class of working poor that is better off financially than at anytime in our country's history, and lives better than the poor of any other country in the world.

There are many people in our country who desperately need financial help. It just seems to me that our perception of "poverty" has dramatically changed.
Ben Gudden
Inver Grove Heights, Minn.

A safe harbor doesn't mean an escape

Regarding your Sept. 16 article "To New Zealand, and a quieter life," the persons in question are not seeking a "quieter life," but a safer life. There are, of course, no longer places of refuge on this globe for the level of safety they seek.

At a time of testing American resolve, the fabric becomes weaker with those who abandon this country in its hour of need.

What seems to be America's loss is actually our gain, for I am sure that there are others waiting to have the chance to be Americans and assume the responsibilities that come with that privilege. In so doing, the strong replace the weak and our fabric of democracy becomes more secure, thereby protecting us all.
Kenneth Bonacci
Salem, Mass.

Sierra Leone: the weight of diplomacy

Thank you for your Sept. 18 article "Sierra Leone: the path from pariah to peace." The support Sierra Leone received from the UN shows this organization's incredible relevance in the world, contrary to the rash and offhand comments recently made about the UN in the news.

The touching story of Baimba Bompa-Turay gives one hope in the power of diplomacy and its relevance to world problem-solving rather than the back-pedaling, time-wasting, money-spending, horror-inflicting damage done by war.
Yvonne Renoult
San Francisco

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