Letters to the Editor

Readers write about the war in Iraq, the danger of manicured lawns, the overheated housing market, and burping cows.

Cultural differences increase difficulties in Iraqi war

The Aug. 16 Opinion article, "From Belfast to Baghdad – what have we learned?" made an interesting comparison between two areas of conflict but ignored one point of difference. According to the article, in Northern Ireland, warring parties were all Christian, generally spoke the same language, were racially indistinguishable, and were all part of the same great Western civilization.

The British troops sent to Northern Ireland also shared those characteristics. This is not true of American troops trying to control the sectarian conflict in Iraq. Seen from the Iraqi perspective, they are foreigners, racially and culturally different. Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds are clearly aware of this when they observe American troops.

Robi Chakravorti
Professor emeritus,
California State University, Sacramento

Danger of manicured lawns

Thanks for the Aug. 17 article, "In Florida, lukewarm welcome for drought-resistant landscaping," which addresses how many individuals are turning toward grass-free lawns in order to conserve water. Lawns are a much more serious problem than most people realize. Unfortunately, the article only told part of the story.

Besides being a major cause of Florida's dwindling freshwater supply, lawn maintenance is a serious contributor to the pollution that is destroying our lakes and rivers. The pesticides and fertilizers used on lawns eventually find their way into the local waters, causing pollution troubles. Obsession with manicured lawns is gradually destroying the things people come to Florida to enjoy.

Richard Whitehead
Merritt Island, Fla.

Issues not confined to 'subprime'

I appreciated the Aug. 17 editorial, "Ride out the mortgage crisis," regarding the Federal Reserve's response to the recent market turmoil. I would disagree with the editorial's premise that this market trauma is confined to the residential subprime market. In fact, from statements by the CEO of Countrywide Financial, we know that delinquencies are spreading to prime-rate mortgages mainly in home-equity loans or second mortgages. We also know that this contagion has spread into the commercial paper market.

If you look at the role of adjustable-rate mortgages and interest-only loans, we may be just seeing the beginning of this market rout. The Federal Reserve lowered interest rates too much for too long from 2001-06 and created an overheated housing market. This, along with massive market fraud, has created a perfect storm. We are in an economic Katrina – we just don't know it because we are in the eye of the storm.

Mark O'Brien
Denver

Significance of burping cows

In response to the Aug. 16 article, "How better-fed cows could cool the planet," about scientists trying to reduce the methane gas that cows burp – I believe reducing the number of burps is not the solution. Reducing burps does not address the loss of rain forest to make pasture for cows. I would like to remind everyone that the only way to really cut methane is to raise – and therefore eat – fewer animals. Reducing methane emitted from cows does not address the water pollution caused by feed lots and manure. A real solution would be to simplify the process and reduce our demand for beef.

Amme Hogan
Albuquerque, N.M.

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