Job prospects must accompany support for science education

I found a bit of irony in the simultaneous publication on Feb. 8 of your editorial, "Yes, it does take a rocket scientist," and the article, "NASA makes hard cuts in research to preserve shoot for the moon."

Your editorial praises President Bush for requesting $136 billion for science and math education over the next 10 years to fund his "competitiveness initiative." In the article, however, the present-day effects on space science of Mr. Bush's vision for manned space flight are indicated.

The story states: "Despite earlier pledges that money for finishing the space station would not come from the agency's science portfolio, the new budget in effect shifts roughly $2 billion to the space station account. 'I wish we hadn't had to do it,' [NASA head Michael] Griffen said. 'But that's what we needed to do.' "

Thus Bush's "competitiveness initiative" to stimulate math and science in high schools is currently being undercut by his "exploration initiative" that includes manned flights to the moon and Mars, in addition to completing the space station.

It is the emphasis on these underfunded manned space flight missions that is causing the raid on the NASA science research budget.

High school and college students currently undecided about a career path are not encouraged to choose science as a profession when they see science professionals - including rocket scientists - either unable to find employment in the sciences, or spending an increasing amount of their time writing funding proposals to survive, rather than doing the science research they were trained to do.
Robert F. Benson
Silver Spring, Md.

It's the job of Congress to fund the war

Regarding the Feb. 21 article, "War costs irk Congress": Members of both houses of Congress should face the reality that our nation is at war. This war became a public reality on 9/11. It will be a long and costly war against an elusive enemy which has no specific national identity, but which is just as deadly and potentially disastrous to our nation as any enemy in any war we have fought.

Our United States Congress members should heed the US Constitution, which they swore to support and defend, and "provide for the common defense." Our future as a nation depends on it.
Arthur G. Shadforth
Merritt Island, Fla.

Pressure China to allow free speech

I agree with your Feb. 24 editorial "Breaching China's Great Firewall," decrying Beijing's blatant attempts to control freedom of speech and the complicity of American tech companies, such as Yahoo and Google, in this gross violation of basic human rights. Of course, Chinese readers may never be able to read this editorial or letter, as they may be censored for presenting an inhospitable image of the Chinese government.

The Internet is a place of communication without borders and where freedom of speech is a universal human value. All people need to be aware of this situation and must continue to remind China that its economic power cannot buy away a person's basic human rights.

All parties - Congress, businesses, watchdog groups, and others - must continue to pressure Beijing to live up to its commitments to human rights and the preservation of dignity.
Mark Mesiti
Somerville, Mass.

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