Diversity of ideas benefits solutions to terrorism
Regarding Iason Athanasiadis's July 29 Opinion piece, "How the best and the brightest plan to fight terrorism": Having just finished a Fulbright scholarship in Germany researching EU-US antiterror cooperation, the concept of giving readers a glimpse into the future of counterterrorism by examining a Harvard course struck me as a new and intelligent journalistic approach to the topic. Unfortunately, I found the content to be disappointing. First, the author generalizes about Americans and Europeans in a manner that does not reflect the variety of counterterrorism policy options being debated on both sides of the Atlantic.
Many American policymakers recognize that a new approach to the Middle East is necessary, including a more balanced United States relationship with the Israelis and the Palestinians. On the other hand, there are also Europeans who argue for development aid strategies designed to "win hearts and minds," and forms of terrorism brand denial are currently in practice across the continent.
Even more egregious, the author outright mocks as naive an American student who brings up "brand denial." Chiding a student (who, by definition, is in a period of learning) for an idea that alone cannot defeat Al Qaeda, but a variation of which is a necessary component of any modern counterterrorism strategy, is distasteful and cruel.
The way to really end homelessness
In response to the Aug. 8 article, "Strides in fighting homelessness": The reduction of the numbers of chronically homeless is encouraging. Less encouraging is an honest and realistic assessment of the total face of homelessness. It's much more than a lack of affordable or supportive housing.
Can we actually "end" homelessness, or even "chronic" homelessness? The Interagency Council on Homelessness has this as its goal, as do many cities across the country. In fact, some cities (such as Los Angeles) have removed "chronic" in favor of a more politically correct objective of ending homelessness in 10 years.
It's a noble goal. It's also blatantly misleading. Why? Because "ending homelessness" must include solutions to a number of related factors in addition to housing, most notably, a lack of jobs paying living wages (else how can one afford even "low income" housing?), and providing proper treatment and recovery for all those with drug- and alcohol-related addictions, as well as those with mental health problems (else how can one hold a job?), and the list goes on.
At least those were the primary factors I most frequently heard when interacting with the homeless on the streets of Los Angeles's skid row during the time I was president of one of the largest homeless missions in the country, Los Angeles Mission (2001-06).
Montgomery Village, Md.
Martian ice is not worth the price
In response to the Aug. 7 article, "An unexpected find on Mars": One senses how skewed our sense of priorities is as we invest billions of dollars in fruitless "interplanetary" missions.
Meanwhile, NASA PR and science writers speak of Martian "water" and "ice." Yet there are literally hundreds of watery compounds, most of which are poisonous and totally unsuited to fostering organic life. E.T. fantasizers need to temper their pop-sci zeal. Our planet's evolution to organic life was at the very least rare, if not unique, universe-wide.
Albert L. Weeks
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