Letters to the Editor
Readers write about Jerusalem, reporting styles, buffelgrass for ethanol, curriculum at New York's Arabic school, and Bush's greenhouse-gas reduction plan.
Jerusalem should be an international city
John Whitbeck's May 29 Opinion piece, "A condominium solution for a divided Jerusalem," rehashes a problem foreshadowed more than 50 years ago and never forthrightly addressed. When Jews were handed Palestinian lands after World War II, they were told explicitly, "But not Jerusalem." One of the United Nations resolutions establishing Israel stipulated that Jerusalem was to be an international city. Subsequent American and Israeli administrations have evaded the "Jerusalem question" at the expense of courage and integrity. Mr. Whitbeck suggests that Jews and Muslims have the right to govern that city exclusively. That leaves out a third group, Christians, who also have a very real stake there.
Jerusalem was fought over by Christians and Muslims for hundreds of years during the Crusades, with no significant Jewish presence during that period. What a gift to the rest of the world would be a city whose culture represented the best of all three great monotheistic religions, a center for language study and practice, historical research, and interfaith outreach – a model for conflict resolution in the Middle East!
Fancy leads and functional journalism
In his June 4 Opinion piece, "Hey, journalists, enough with the fancy leads already!" John Edward Ames sounds like a stereotypical oldster, writing about how kids today don't write good newspaper stories as they did in the good old days. As a reporter myself, I think he's wrong in most of his points. Sometimes, yes, a straight just-the-facts lead is the best solution. But sometimes writing about "the demure woman in a beige pantsuit" makes for a more absorbing lead (and possibly a better story).
Mr. Ames also waxes fondly about the "inverted pyramid" that ensured that "less important information" was toward the end of the article so that readers could glance at the first few paragraphs and put the paper down. As former Wall Street Journal editor James Stewart has observed, if that's all they need to read, why bother with the rest of the story at all?
I agree that narrative technique can be overused, but so can the old-style writing approach Ames seems to think is the only way to write good news stories. It isn't.
Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
I couldn't agree more with John Edward Ames and his June 4 Opinion piece!
I read the paper at the end of the day for a few minutes of relaxation and to learn what I can about local happenings. Fancy leads and prolonged descriptions only waste my time – something I have in short supply.
I want and expect the first paragraph to give me the highlights. If I'm interested enough, I'll keep reading. If not, I'll move on to the next article. No reporters will get extra points from me for telling me the color of the subject's dress, and if they try to engage my sympathy in something that's supposed to be straight news, I will not thank them for it. I may remember a reporter's name, but only to avoid him or her in the future as being untrustworthy.
Santa Cruz, Calif.
Could buffelgrass become ethanol?
Regarding the May 31 article, "Goal for these desert troops? Bag the buffelgrass": If you can't eradicate it, use it. I suggest a research project on harvesting buffelgrass for the production of ethanol.
If ethanol can be produced with switch grass, perhaps we could do it with buffelgrass.
Penney Farms, Fla.
International Baccalaureate curriculum at Arabic school
Regarding the June 1 article, "Arabic school in NYC creates stir": The prospective September arrival of Khalil Gibran International Academy among New York City's public schools is a most welcome sign that educators are taking steps to remedy America's abysmal ignorance about the Muslim world. This new dual-language school (English and Arabic) need neither be seen as breeding home-grown extremists nor Balkanizing public education.
With regard to curriculum, one solution that is available to Joel Klein, New York schools chancellor, is the International Baccalaureate (IB). The IB has been planned so that English may be the language of instruction and Arabic one of several other languages taught. Also, students may study a non-Western civilization and culture with an equally serious but less extensive component of American civilization and culture or the study of American history can be the paramount undertaking with the study of Islamic civilization the less extensive component.
The IB has a long and laudable history in New York at the United Nations School and in Geneva where the IB had its inception. In the 1960s and '70s, I was priviliged to head one of the first IB schools to provide the curriculum leading to the IB diploma. The IB is widely recognized by colleges and universities across the world and where appropriately practiced provides wholesome schooling for the contemporary world. This new academy may well become the most important school in New York City.
J. Richard Irvine
Founding headmaster (retired),The Iranzamin, Tehran International School
Avoiding emissions reductions
Regarding the June 4 article, "Climate debate heats up G-8": Given President Bush's record of past climate-change denial, it would seem that his new greenhouse-gas reduction plan is primarily designed to give cover for still not supporting the Kyoto treaty. While it sounds good to muster all nations to design a better Kyoto, Bush knows that the Indians and Chinese will probably not agree to cap their emissions. They argue that it was the industrialized countries that created the problem, and that therefore it is industrialized nations' responsibility to clean it up.
As long as India, China, and possibly others stick to this line, Mr. Bush knows that a new all-country reduction plan will fail. So, if it's agreed and acted on, the proposal will not only kill Kyoto but will arrange for blame to fall on those societies that are least responsible for the problem. This will leave the world with no viable international treaty to reduce greenhouse gases.
Under this new "nonregime," every nation would have to follow its own conscience, and since all would be concerned that the others are not doing their share, then none will attack the problem aggressively. This would leave Bush and the US under no obligation to reduce emissions by any specific amounts.
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