High-definition TV coming to your cable box

Regarding your Feb. 10 Work & Money article "The tube transformed": We're disappointed that you failed to contact the National Cable & Telecommunications Association regarding the extensive nationwide deployment of high-definition television (HDTV) by cable operators. The story reported that the availability of HDTV services is "in question," citing recent claims by a broadcasters' trade group that cable companies have been slow to roll out HDTV and to carry local TV stations that are broadcasting in an HDTV format.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Based on information from our member companies, which serve 90 percent of cable customers, we know that in 2002, 1 in 3 US television households was introduced to a cable system that is providing a package of HDTV channels. That's about 37 million homes.

HDTV channels are being provided by at least one cable operator in 91 designated market areas around the country. Many of these packages include HDTV signals from local over-the-air television stations. In some markets, broadcasters are demanding payment from cable operators in order to carry the "free" over-the-air HDTV signals.

Cable programming services - including HBO, Showtime, Discovery, and soon ESPN - are offering hundreds of hours each week of high-definition programming. An agreement recently announced by the cable- and consumer-electronics industries that will spur the manufacture and sale of digital-ready HDTV sets is yet another sign of the cable industry's commitment to HDTV.

The cable industry is fully committed to creating and deploying high-definition TV, and we're eager to make this exciting product available to millions more consumers.
Robert Sachs
WashingtonPresident and CEO, National Cable & Telecommunications Association

Fair-trade chocolate is sweeter

Regarding "Recipe for romance: hot chocolate" (Feb. 12): Let's not forget recent reports exposing the very unromantic side of chocolate: child slavery and child labor. Though the US chocolate industry has agreed to work to end child slavery by 2005, their plans don't address the insufficient world cocoa prices that keep farmers impoverished and make child labor their only option.

The only way to guarantee that cocoa and chocolate are free of such bitterness is to buy them under the "fair trade" label, now available throughout the US.

Fair trade guarantees farmers a minimum price and prohibits abusive child labor. With fair trade, farmers can meet their families' basic needs, send their children to school, and pay their workers. Fair-trade co-ops are also known for their good work, ensuring an exceptional finished product.
Melissa Schweisguth
San Francisco

In case of terror alerts, retain humor

Regarding "Beyond duct tape: the new terror-awareness strategy" (Feb. 18): I did my patriotic duty and went out and bought two gas masks and 13 rolls of duct tape. The gas masks seem to be fairly straightforward in their application. However, the thought of using duct tape has raised some concerns and questions. For instance, will the government send out emergency broadcasts to tell us when to start taping?

My wife says I am getting too serious about all this, so she suggests that we put some levity into the situation by repeating the following over and over until we get it:

How much tape can a duck duct tape, if a duck could tape duct tape? Well, he would tape as much tape as a duck taping duct tape would, if a duck taping duct tape could.
Buzz Cooper

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