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Poor construction is badge of shame

May 16, 2008

Re "Amid the tragedy lies opportunity," May 14

I was surprised at this Times story. Media blogger Jeremy Goldkorn's comment that "there is no shame associated with natural disasters" is inaccurate. The shame is not in the disaster but in shoddy construction. I do not remember anyone after Hurricane Katrina suggesting that showing aid workers in crisp uniforms dragging the dead was an excellent opportunity to improve the U.S.' image. Finding political gain in an event that killed thousands of people would be like celebrating 9/11 as a much-needed opportunity for the U.S. to move into a new era.

Jackie Felman

Lake Forest, Calif.

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The Times states that the tragedy gives China "an opportunity for a dramatic image makeover." Sadly, the tragedy of the Chinese people and the opportunity for the Chinese government are distinctly different.

I just returned from China, where I observed massive numbers of buildings, including high-rise apartments, under construction. As an architect, I am not surprised that many structures in and around Chengdu failed in the earthquake.

The Times says the earthquake "shows a new China, one that is both compassionate and competent." However, when it comes to demanding a high standard of construction, the government is neither. The disaster response may improve the government's image, but for the Chinese people, the seeds of the next disaster are already sown in buildings completed in recent years and those under construction.

Mark Smith

Bakersfield

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