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Letters: Feb. 5, 2007

11 minute read

Rise of a New Superpower

Our inaugural section on China examined how that country is directing its commercial growth outward, building foreign economies and its political muscle along the way. Readers grappled with how the world has yet to change China–and how China has yet to change the world

RE “The Chinese Century” [Jan. 22]: I am from China, and I’m studying in a medical school in the U.S. Like many young people in China, I have a lot of worries about the country’s uncertain future. Chinese society has extremely good aspects, such as a booming economy and increased opportunities for young people, but also bad sides, like Internet censorship and peasants’ and laborers’ poorly protected rights. China’s leaders must be made to understand that democratic reforms are urgently needed. Not only is China’s peaceful rise an aspiration of 1.3 billion Chinese, but it will be good for the rest of the world too.

KOU QIN Augusta, Ga.

TIME reported on China’s business activity in Africa but was silent on the continent’s economic strategy. It involves the New Partnerships for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). Far from being a begging bowl, as many have misunderstood them to be, the partnerships are aimed at achieving political reform, sustainable economic growth and social justice. The China-Africa Summit that was held in China last year emphasized NEPAD as a long-term framework within which China should engage Africa. China is a critical player that Africa will work with strategically to establish fair procedures for international trade. As for colonization, the African people will ensure that it never happens again.


Your article overemphasized the lack of democracy in China, leading to speculation about possible global catastrophe and war. Democracy can’t be imposed on a nation, however; it must evolve to take root and endure. China has come a long way from the feudal regime it was only 100 years ago, and it will reach democracy on its own terms. China’s strategy to meet its demand for natural resources is entirely peaceful. Fierce competition for natural resources does not preclude international cooperation. Maybe China will align its strategies with the U.S.’s if the U.S. stops interfering in China’s internal affairs and starts looking for common goals such as world peace and prosperity.


I am a 16-year-old high school student and despite spending most of my life in the U.S., my patriotic sentiments for my homeland, China, have never faded. I used to attribute criticism of China to envy of its burgeoning geopolitical influence, but having discovered that patriotism and rational thinking are not incompatible, I am now open to reasonable criticisms of that country. Most people don’t realize that China has 55 ethnic minorities. An abrupt switch to a democratic system would probably prove disastrous. A strong central government exercising a bit of authoritarianism is probably not the worst evil for China at this point in time. China has made substantial progress in integrating capitalist reforms, which have brought immeasurable economic benefits. As the century moves along, the government will gradually relax its policies and adopt concepts like intellectual-property rights and maybe even human rights. I look forward to TIME’s regular section on China.

GEORGE LU Rockville, Md.

“The Chinese Century” convinced me that by buying products made in China I am supporting that country’s political nonintervention policies in areas like Darfur and helping perpetuate a disgusting lack of regard for the value of human life. From now on, I am going to focus on buying American-made products.

JANET THURSTON Brighton, Mich.

Try, Try Again

“Looking for the Restart Button” [Jan. 22] stated that part of President George W. Bush’s strategy for saving his presidency involves a “new way forward” in Iraq. But, just as the reasons for the war were baseless, there is no imaginable outcome that could be called a victory, although this doesn’t mean that the brave men and women who have fought in Iraq have been defeated. The ignominious defeat belongs to the Bush Administration and it alone. Let’s make sure that not one more person dies for Bush’s mistaken adventure.


In December 2005 nearly 70% of adult Iraqis took the trouble to vote in their national elections. If we are not willing to fight to help decent Iraqis establish democracy, what are we willing to fight for? Some commentators have pointed out that more Americans have died fighting in Iraq than during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. They forget that more Americans died on the beaches of Normandy in an hour on D-day than in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.


Safe Plastics

“What’s Toxic in Toyland” [Dec. 11] included misleading information about substances that make plastic toys and other children’s products soft (phthalates) and shatterproof (bisphenol A., or BPA). Phthalates have been used in consumer products for more than 50 years. During that time, no reliable research has ever found that phthalates cause negative health effects in humans. The Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2003 completed a four-year review of the main phthalate used in vinyl toys (called DINP) and found “no demonstrated health risk” and “no justification” for banning it, as the City of San Francisco has done. Exhaustive governmental safety reviews of these products in the U.S. and in Europe have found phthalates safe for children’s toys. In addition, studies by scientists at Harvard University, the European Commission and others have shown that BPA is also safe as used. We are concerned that TIME’s story may lead consumers to abandon safe plastics for products that are potentially hazardous to children because they can break and cause choking, cuts and other serious risks. As former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop says, “The enemy is not tiny amounts of chemicals that have proved safe for many years.”


President Ford’s Legacy

RE “Farewell to a Decent Man” [Jan. 15]: Shame on TIME for insufficiently acknowledging the contributions of Gerald Ford, perhaps one of the most important American Presidents of the 20th century–certainly one of the most decent. Ford deserved to be on TIME’s cover. He may not have been flashy or tested well with TV audiences, but he was a President with courage, wisdom, honesty, integrity and compassion–in other words, a leader in whom we could place our trust. What other person could have done the hard but necessary work of leading the country out of, as President Ford himself put it, the long national nightmare of Watergate?


I don’t buy the portrayal of Ford’s pardon of President Richard Nixon as a reflection that “mercy and healing” were very much on Ford’s mind at the time. Far from an act designed to help a poor beleaguered President and heal this nation’s wounds caused by the Watergate affair, the pardon was a calculated political move. The pardon blocked application of the rule of law to a President who committed criminal acts while in office and was intended to save Nixon and the Republican Party from further legal scrutiny. It will forever sully Ford’s record as President.

CHARLES TRIPP Salt Lake City, Utah

Reinventing the Phone

“The Apple of Your Ear” [Jan. 22] showcased Apple’s new iPhone. I remember a time when no one would think of spending a cent on an item that had such a tiny video screen. Remember the television screens in the early ’50s? Well, we are right back where we started and don’t mind squinting at a tiny screen. On the other hand, ophthalmologists and optometrists are patiently waiting for the bucks to start rolling in when our eyes go bad.


Now not only do we have to be aware of distracted drivers using cell phones and iPods, but in the not too distant future, they will be surfing the Net and watching reruns of I Love Lucy. Society needs to catch up to technology.

BOB SCOZA Long Valley, N.J.

If Steve Jobs and his team at Apple would invent a little device that could clip to a soldier’s belt and trip every electronic trigger for improvised explosive devices within a couple of hundred yards, then I would really be impressed.

DEAN M. BRAYTON Gold Canyon, Ariz.

Free Information

“A Spammer’s Revenge” [Jan. 15] was stunningly irresponsible and defamed our clients, Omega World Travel Inc., and its subsidiary, Cruise.com Inc., which were falsely identified in the story as “spammers.” The article was based on several allegations made over the past two years by Mark Mumma, a defendant in a defamation lawsuit filed by Omega against him and his company, Mummagraphics Inc. Omega alleged that Mumma engaged in a smear campaign waged on his many websites to brand our clients “criminal spammers” after Omega refused to pay Mumma $6,250 to avoid a lawsuit he threatened to file. Mumma based his characterization of our clients as “spammers” on the fact that he received e-mail that he claimed he did not ask for. Contrary to the content of the article, the evidence in the case shows that 1) the e-mail sent to Mumma came from a working e-mail address, 2) all of the transmission information in the header was accurate (and enabled Mumma to find Omega without any difficulty), 3) Omega received a request to send e-mail to Mumma’s address and 4) Omega’s general counsel, John Lawless, did not promise Mumma that he would not receive any more e-mail because Mumma refused to provide his e-mail address when he was asked for it. Mumma filed counterclaims asserting that Omega violated state and federal law that regulates the transmission of e-mail and that he was entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars in statutory damages even though he admitted that those e-mails caused him nothing more than “nominal” damages. All of Mumma’s claims against Omega were dismissed by a federal trial court and a federal court of appeals. Those decisions were not based on mere technicalities, as suggested in the article, but on the fact that our clients fully complied with applicable antispam laws. TIME’S article has damaged the sterling reputation of our clients, a reputation that was built over 35 years by Gloria and Daniel Bohan through their commitment to their customers and partners to provide the most professional travel-related services in their industry. Much of the information about this case was provided to TIME before the article was written. Despite those facts and the decisions that vindicated our clients, they continue to be identified as spammers by Mumma, and TIME has amplified that accusation through its considerable credibility and distribution. Nothing could be further from the truth–Omega and Cruise.com are not “spammers.”


TIME regrets characterizing Omega and its subsidiary as “spammers” without making it clear that “spammer” is merely an allegation by Mumma and that the company’s e-mails had complied with federal antispam laws.



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