In Albania, corruption still a major obstacle to progress

If I were not an Albanian and did not know what goes on in Albania, I would probably leave the United States and go there after reading the March 23 article "Trendy Tirana? Mayor invigorates a backwater capital." But as an Albanian who immigrated to the US in 2000, and has since visited the country at least twice yearly, I can say that things there are completely different from what the article portrays.

Albania in general, but Tirana in particular, has turned into a hopeless and corrupt place. The future seems to be rather bleak. Rightfully, the mayor has cleaned up the illegal buildings and has painted the apartments. But Tirana lacks the basic services of available jobs, water, electricity, clean roads, and clean air.

Those who live in Tirana feel the lack of these services. But those who do business there feel the worst. You have to pay bribes to get everything done - even to get a birth certificate. The state and city administrations are some of the most corrupt in the region. The bigger the project, the bigger the bribe that has to be paid.

I do not want to continue longer, because I could write a novel about Tirana in opposition to your article (in fact I am in the process of publishing a book on the Albanian Army), but I am sure that if Edi Rama was your mayor and Tirana was your city, you would probably move somewhere else.
Halit Daci
Bronx, N.Y.

Soccer's unsung popularity in US

When the article on the World Cup qualifier between the US and Mexico ("Mexico aims for soccer redemption," March 24) mentions that it means more to Mexicans than it does to Americans, it is off the mark. Two of the problems with this view are: 1) In the US, the media is beholden to the sports of "American" football, baseball, and basketball and 2) in the US, soccer is much more a participatory sport than a spectator sport.

Americans are now playing in top clubs at the highest levels in Europe (for instance, DeMarcus Beasley at PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands or Tim Howard at the legendary Manchester United). But is there much coverage of this in the mainstream American media? The answer is a resounding "no"!

If coverage of Americans in the sport were consummate with our achievements, then awareness would be greater and that fan base would grow even more.

Even as it is, many of us want our "Eagles" to win just as much as Mexicans will be pulling for their "Tricolores."(Editor's note: The US team lost to Mexico 2-1 on Sunday but scored a 2-0 victory over Guatemala Wednesday.)

Instead of reporting on how little it means to us here in the US, perhaps you need to look a little harder and you'll find plenty of people for whom it means very, very much.
Scott Curry
Austin, Texas

'West Wing' types needed in real life

As a fan of "The West Wing," I recognize the fiction of a candidate being successful by promoting issues, not politics, as Brad Rourke suggested in his March 24 Opinion, "Does Matt Santos really have to be fictional?" Another noteworthy character in the show is Arnold Vinick, a Republican candidate for president portrayed as a moderate who is thoughtful, independent, and doesn't use religion as a stepping stone. Wouldn't it be great if both fictional characters were more evident in real politics?
Melissa Hayden
Salem, Ore.

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