West should back Syria's leader

Regarding your Sept. 30 article "As reform falters, Syrian elite tighten grip": Thank you for writing an article that truly reflects the situation in Syria. President Bashar al-Assad is popular among the Syrians. Unfortunately, he does not have the power his father had and therefore is unable to curb the power of the old guard. He is in great need of support from the West, not pressure.

If Western investments flow into the country, it will empower the population and weaken the grip of the few powerful individuals.

Western support will also help the president in his effort to have more power and control. Pressure on the country will only hurt the small reform movement.
Bahjat Nassar
Dayton, Ohio

Don't forget Iraqi casualties

Regarding your Oct. 1 article "Iraq war's human toll could be felt for decades": Considering the content of the article, the headline is either very misleading or very racist. Since when are American lives the only ones that are tallied in the "human toll" of an armed conflict? Not one mention is made in the entire article about the Iraqis who lost their lives because of the US invasion.

An article about the casualties sustained by Americans is fine, but it is not all right to forget that an Iraqi's death is no less tragic than an American's.
David Stearns
Ithaca, N.Y.

WUSA: the ugly duckling of sports

Regarding Steven Stark's Oct. 1 Opinion "Why women's soccer doesn't score": The corporate sponsors are making a costly mistake by abandoning the Women's United Soccer Association before it has had a chance to blossom. In eastern Pennsylvania, the number of youth players has risen from 100,000 five years ago to 155,000 in 2002. Much of this increase is in girls' soccer leagues. This clearly spells out a boom in the making. Sports-company executives should double-check their marketing-intelligence data. They are sitting on a gold mine. It's worth losing a few dollars for several more years.
Peter Jannelli
Springfield, Pa.

Awareness of the underemployed

Regarding Barbara Card Atkinson's Sept. 30 column "Underemployed: a euphemism for violent lifestyle change": Thank you for describing the plight of two well-educated Americans serving in the underemployed class. I hope our political leaders take notice of stories like this, because it's a lot more common than most people think. Just this week, a good friend of mine with a master's degree in math from MIT and very good performance got laid off from a top software company in our area, and replaced with offshore labor.

It's naive to place hope on an economic rebound. Even with all the underemployed, high-tech companies are again lobbying Congress to raise the limit for H1-B visas. To educate our politicians about this very problem, I propose that we start a "H1-P" for politicians to replace them with cheap offshore talent. Wouldn't that be interesting?
Steve Jones

Barbara Card Atkinson's article struck a chord with me. I spent 2002 and some of 2003 without work, after a layoff from a high-tech company. I also went through the phases she describes: feeling that I did not deserve this, that I was better than many of the people that I was now rubbing elbows with. But then it hit me, just as it seems to have hit her - that we are all the same, no better and no worse than the next person. For what it's worth, that is what my year of unemployment has taught me, and I am grateful for that.
Filippo Radicati
Palo Alto, Calif.

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