Breaking down barriers in Kosovo will take time

As a US Army officer serving as a peacekeeper in Kosovo, I found the June 22 article, "For Serbs, a slow road back to Kosovo," to be a much too simplistic approach to a very complicated ordeal. With the breakup of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, Belgrade desperately sought to hold on to pieces of their country. And for Kosovo, a province made up largely of people of Albanian ethnicity, the answer was to either force them to leave, or to eliminate them. In short, these harsh actions caused the start of the "war," which displaced the 800,000 Albanians who returned to Kosovo, as the article claims.

Kosovo is still composed of mainly of Albanians. This will make it difficult for Serb families to move back into Kosovo, due to distrust. However, Serbians in the area have also blocked efforts to allow the Kosovo Protection Corps, a civil and emergency response organization of former Kosovo Liberation Army members, to aid with projects for improving infrastructure.

In order to improve the living conditions in Kosovo, both sides need to continue to work together. This is difficult due to the deeply rooted hatred that each side has for the other, and it is going to take time to break down these barriers.
Lt. Mark Correa
Redlands, Calif.

Protection from - and for - panhandlers

I read with interest the June 23 story "Cities adopt tough stance against beggars." While I have always supported broad free speech rights and feel that poverty should not be swept under the rug, I agree that this is a public safety issue. I have been aggressively approached for money by panhandlers after using an ATM or chased across the street or harassed. Incidentally, I am white, as are the majority of the panhandlers I've encountered.

While cities must protect citizens from incidents such as those I've experienced, cities and citizens must also make a real, long-term commitment to helping those in need. I donate money, clothes, and toiletries to shelters and charities that serve the homeless. Communities must accept and commit to increased low-income housing - not just in poor neighborhoods - and jobs that pay well enough to support basic needs.

At the same time, I fail to understand why cities and tourist areas cannot take steps to protect visitors from aggressive panhandlers. I wonder if those who oppose these steps have encountered this sort of aggression, and what their reaction would be if they did.
Lin Collette
Pawtucket, R.I.

Don't wait for global devastation; act now

Regarding Christopher Falvey's June 23 article "UN atlas, zoomed in on environmental damage, misses big picture": Mr. Falvey derides the UN Environmental Atlas as "pretty pictures" and lacking in the "context of the global calculus," but it is his argument that is purely anecdotal.

The purpose of such an atlas is not to provide the reader with an all-encompassing source of information, but to present a visual representation of environmental changes on our planet. No single source of information can adequately describe the complex environmental condition of our planet.

The contention that environmentalists love to extrapolate on microcosms has an element of truth to it. Environmental advocates seek to preserve natural resources by avoiding mistakes that have been made in the past. But we needn't wait for global devastation to take action to protect our environment.
Seth Shteir
Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Vice president of the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society

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