Gregory Winger's Sept. 25 Opinion piece, "Get Ethiopian troops out of Somalia," contains two fundamental flaws regarding recent developments in the bilateral relations between Ethiopia and Somalia. For one thing, historical hatred exists between the two countries based on territorial disputes over the Ogaden territory. However, such hatred has abated to some extent since the regime change in Addis Ababa in May 1991. Therefore, the threat posed by the current government in power in Ethiopia cannot be reasonably equated with its predecessors.
Regarding foreign troop presence in Somalia, an evenhanded approach is to advocate and call for the withdrawal of all alien troops (after the verification of their deployment). The characterization of the current federal transitional government of Somalia as "unpopular" and "powerless" is misleading. The Somali Federal Transitional Government, which emerged in 2004 after two years of continued negotiations among all Somali factions in Nairobi, Kenya, enjoys the support of the silent majority of Somalia. Further, it constitutes the only legitimate, viable government to include all the Somali clans. Therefore, this germinal experiment deserves the wholehearted support of the international community and the United Nations.
Those in the media who glamorize the new Islamic Courts Union (ICU) which controls large swaths of southern Somalia, including Mogadishu and the port of Kismayo, should be reminded of the old saying that "all that glitters is not gold."
In 1989, the writer was Somalia's acting ambassador to the United States.
Regarding the Sept. 25 article, "A reality check on plug-in hybrids": I'm always amazed when people think that electric-grid powered vehicles are "green." They're not green. The pollution is just not in our backyards. Until we have a majority of our grid power coming from solar (I have been pushing the idea of solar-covered parking in California) or other green sources, electric vehicles (EVs) are actually more polluting than a standard hybrid. Why? Hybrids generate/regenerate their power from combustion right where they use that power – at the car. EVs, and to some extent plug-in hybrids, get their power from combustion at gas, coal, or nuclear power plants somewhere far from them. There are energy losses in the electrical generation system – lots of losses. All of this adds up to more pollution and fuel use somewhere else. Add to this the fact that the larger batteries mean more toxic battery material entering the recycling chain. Remember the stories about where American car batteries go for recycling? From the point of view of the plug-in/EV user, it's clean. From a global view, it's very dirty.
Port Angeles, Wash.
Paul McDonnold's Sept. 18 Opinion piece, "The only way to kick our oil habit," states that $4-a-gallon gas at the pump may be the only way to kick the oil habit. I believe there is another way. The speed-pass technology found on many toll roads could be put to use by putting readers on gas pumps. The pumps would scan the vehicle information which would reveal the vehicle's fuel economy rating. The pump price would automatically charge a higher price for low-fuel economy vehicles and a lower price for fuel-efficient models. Thus, a highly fuel efficient vehicle such as the Honda Insight might be charged $1.25 per gallon while a Hummer might be charged $10.00 or more per gallon.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
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