Magazine

Economic Uncertainty Does the Real Damage


Lessons from Britain and Israel suggest that random and persistent terrorism is frightening but can be managed--and, if sporadic, will have a limited psychological effect on society ("Understanding a new world of uncertainty and risk," Cover Story, Oct. 8). If terrorism does become chronic, democratic society will go to war against it in full force.

The true perniciousness of uncertainty is economic in origin and effect. One has only to observe the anxious Japanese consumer to confirm this. Without any real terrorist threat, Japan has been stuck in a quagmire of uncertainty for more than a decade. As opposed to the acute fear of terrorism, economic crises can and do linger on, and this is the real threat that we face in the world today. Unfortunately, the culprit is not so easily identified. Our current financial crisis, though aggravated by terrorism, has not been caused by it, and terrorism will not determine its outcome.

Michael Harrington

Santa Monica, Calif.

The public outcry against military actions to eradicate terrorism is flawed and irrational. No sane person objects to the police pursuing a serial killer. The public and the media would criticize the police if no prompt action were taken. Terrorists and serial killers have many things in common--including their viciousness.

It is not only our democratic duty but also our moral responsibility to support our democratic governments in taking tough action against the terrorists, wherever they are hiding, and the governments that harbor them. It is every civilized person's responsibility to protect children and society by supporting military action against terrorism.

There is no other alternative.

Peter Tal

Budapest Rather than enact the sweeping emergency-benefit extension now before it, Congress should resurrect "standby" extended benefits funded half by state payroll taxes and half by federal unemployment payroll taxes ("Washington tries to spell relief," Special Report, Oct. 8). Every state is ready to pay standby extended benefits at a moment's notice. Moreover, the benefits would be paid only in states that are suffering from high unemployment and exhaustion of first-tier benefits, not states that manage to escape (or forestall) high unemployment. Finally, the benefits would be paid from existing trust funds that have been set aside expressly for this purpose.

Stephen A. Woodbury

Kalamazoo, Mich. The proposed federal bailout of the airline industry should be contingent on the major carriers reducing their share of flights at any one airport to below 50% ("A bailout--with strings attached," Special Report, Oct. 8). This would mean dominant carriers would have to sell off gates, facilities, and other assets to competing carriers, so that no one company controls the majority of an airport's traffic. The U.S. General Accounting Office, which has expressed great concern over these airline hubs, has concluded that greater competition would result in much lower fares. Airlines that don't want or need a federal bailout would not be affected.

Kenneth H. Thomas

Philadelphia

It would be to this nation's advantage to expand Amtrak service and make it profitable ("What kind of rescue?" Special Report, Oct. 1). We should not rely on one system of mass transit. Trains can help relieve airport traffic, and are probably easier to make secure.

David Allen Hines

Kingston, Pa. There is no intrusion upon a person's privacy from government records of fingerprints or similar biometric data or from the requirement of a national identity card. ("Security vs. civil liberties," Special Report, Oct. 1).

By contrast, dossiers of nonbiometric data do pose a threat to privacy and civil liberties--such facts as religious or political beliefs, organizational memberships, familial relationships, sources of income, expenditure patterns, etc. If such dossiers must be maintained on a very limited portion of the population, [we need] the most stringent safeguards to assure confidentiality and that the information is never used in an improper or illegal manner.

Benjamin D. Sherman

Saddle Brook, N.J. "New, improved blood" plays upon readers' fears by invoking the specter of mad cow disease (Science & Technology, Oct. 8). Biopure Corp. manufactures its oxygen-carrying pharmaceuticals using a patented process that incorporates raw-material controls to prevent the introduction of pathogens. Biopure also employs patented purification techniques that have been validated to remove or inactivate potential infectious agents, if present, including bacteria, viruses, and the agents that cause mad cow disease and its human equivalent. Biopure gets its raw material, bovine hemoglobin, from managed herds of U.S. beef cattle, with documentation assuring the origin, medical history, feed (no mammal protein), and young age of the cattle. In addition, Biopure intends to seek a product label in the U.S. and Europe for use of its product in general elective surgery, not just orthopedic surgery.

Carl W. Rausch

Co-founder, Chairman, and CEO

Biopure Corp.

Cambridge, Mass.

The term "blood substitutes" is actually a misnomer. A person's fresh, whole blood is irreplaceable: There is no substitute. However, oxygen therapeutics could someday be used as a treatment to deliver oxygen immediately to the body's tissues and organs in [conditions such as] acute anemias. These agents may one day be used in combination with whole blood in a number of surgical settings.

John Kennedy

President and CEO

Hemosol Inc.

Toronto


Steve Ballmer, Power Forward
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