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Letters to the editor

West Africa's woes; the war on terror; the chamber vs. the Yes Men

November 22, 2009

Mending West Africa

Re “The crises begin at birth,” Nov. 15

Great article on Sierra Leone and its public health system. I only wish there was more context for those who are not well-versed in African history.

Sierra Leone and other West African states did not become near-failed states overnight. Slavery, European colonialism, a failed economic development model and military coups have all played a role.

States such as Sierra Leone would be better off if they followed a model of development that included massive investment in education. Sierra Leone should use its vast diamond wealth, and the aid it receives, to build schools. Make the schools free. No uniform fees. No book fees.

The state should pay the teachers and pay them well. Focusing on education, health, infrastructure, economic integration and political unification would provide some of the solutions to what ails West Africa.

Dewane Alexander
Los Angeles

Justice and the war on terror

Re “No way to fight a war on terror,” Opinion, and “Justice for 9/11, but where?” Letters, Nov. 17

Jonah Goldberg and two letter writers made the same fundamental mistake: They characterized the 9/11 thugs as warriors.

Yes, these men do call themselves soldiers in a war, but they are nothing of the kind. They are vicious criminals, twisted perpetrators of a most heinous crime. Theirs is no army but a criminal gang -- and to dignify this gang as an "army" and its members as "soldiers" is to bestow a status they may claim but that they by no means deserve.

They are no more faithful Muslims than I am; their claims to the contrary are a self-serving lie, an excuse to gain power through wanton murder. Their first victims are and always have been their own truly religious countrymen, especially any clergy who oppose them.

This is exactly why so many of us have opposed the use of extralegal methods in pursuit of information and confessions: If it were inevitable, as we hoped, that these creatures would be properly brought to justice, much of the evidence that could easily convict them would be inadmissible. But now we're stuck with the consequences of our own lawlessness. Blaming the present administration for that is tantamount to blaming the firefighters for the fire.

Will Owen

Chamber has no love for Yes Men

Re “Under their cyber-skin,” Editorial, Nov. 16

Your editorial mischaracterized the reason for our lawsuit against the Yes Men and their cohorts. The Yes Men certainly have the right to criticize the chamber. But they cannot misappropriate intellectual property in the process. The chamber's lawsuit is about the use of the chamber's trademarks and software, not free speech.

The Yes Men committed commercial identity theft. They created a fraudulent website that was an exact replica of, and linked to, the chamber's actual site. They disseminated statements using the chamber's logo and marks. And they falsely claimed to be speaking as the chamber.

Would your editors and legal department find it amusing -- and take no action -- if these "pranksters" produced and sold exact replicas of The Times to your readers?

The chamber's initial response was appropriate: It requested that the Internet service provider take down the fraudulent website because it violated the chamber's copyrights.

As for characterizing the Yes Men as "anti-corporate pranksters," it should not go unnoticed that the group is a commercial enterprise that used its illegal theatrics to drive traffic to its commercial ventures. Its deception is no laughing matter.

Steven Law
The writer is general counsel of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

When killers are put to death

Re “The lethal flaws in our execution system,” Opinion, Nov. 16

Miriam Aroni Krinsky makes a very good case for methodology reform in our execution system when she states the possibility of extreme suffering before death -- of paralysis, suffocation and cardiac arrest.

I might add that this is not too dissimilar a death from that of murderers' victims. In California, we seem to value the life of the killer more than that of the victim. We often let them live out their lives, in relative luxury, even though they have taken away the life of another and caused great hardship and mental suffering for their victims' loved ones.

But when we do put these coldblooded killers to death, being a civilized people, we don't want them to suffer in the manner that their victims suffered. Perhaps we should reintroduce the guillotine, which is quick and painless.

Robert J. Evans
Los Angeles

Krinsky's Op-Ed article reflects the seemingly strong view of many Americans regarding the way death-sentenced criminals are executed by lethal injection.

Am I the only one who finds these bleeding-heart liberals crazy? These people are supposed to die. Is a few seconds of suffering inhumane? Wake up!

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