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Detroit and the Fuel-Economy Debate

Regarding the opinion-page column "Detroit Misses the Mark, Again," Aug. 19: US carmakers have never said that improved fuel economy "was absolutely impossible." What they said in the 1970s was that cars would have to be far smaller and lighter to achieve major increases in fleet average fuel economy. And that's precisely what happened.In the current fight over unrealistic Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) increases of another 40 percent, Detroit is joined by Japanese and European automakers. All have publicly repeated their commitment to additional fuel-economy improvements. But no company now has the technology to dramatically raise gas mileage without making cars even smaller and lighter, further compromising consumer choice and highway safety. Contrary to the authors' view, consumers do ultimately determine the level of fuel economy achieved because their choices in the marketplace determine whether manufacturers meet CAFE standards. With the return of low gasoline prices and a stable fuel supply since the 1970s, consumers have increasingly opted for larger vehicles. Thus, in order to meet CAFE standards, domestic manufacturers have had to offer discounts, rebates, and cash incentives to consumers on smaller, more fuel-efficient cars to offset the sale of the larger models. On trade, the authors totally "miss the mark" themselves. Detroit is not demanding restrictions on Japanese minivans; it seeks nothing more than Japanese producers' compliance with US and international anti-dumping laws. The final salvo attacks Detroit's safety record, using air bags as an example. Apparently the authors forgot that from 1974 to 1976 General Motors tooled up to build 100,000 vehicles a year equipped with air bags. But the company sold only about 10,000 air-bag-equipped cars and had to abandon the project. The current resurgence in air-bag production is being led by US manufacturers - companies that, based on accident statistics, build the safest cars in the world. Thomas H. Hanna, Washington, Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association

'A more universal charity' Regarding the opinion-page article "Israel and the US: A Crisis of Confidence," Sept. 13: One must question a logic that avers that our friendship and loyalty to Israel would be diminished because a former foe (the Soviet Union) is no longer a serious threat in that region. There is much more than that binding our countries together. My heart is very much moved by the suffering which the Soviet people, and especially the Jews, have endured. Should we not, however, broaden our sense of charity to include the other millions within the Soviet Union who are also suffering? The US has a very big heart, which embraces Jews, Arabs, and all our other fellow beings - whatever their religious persuasions. While it may be admirable that Israel wants to welcome the Soviet Jews into their tiny country, the wisdom of attempting to finance such a mass migration is dubious. We have much in common with the people of Israel and the affections run deep, but we are beginning to recognize and to seize the opportunity to express a more universal charity and to lead others in that direction as well. Old positions need to be challenged. Charles Stocking, Perrysburg, Ohio

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'Klinghoffer' is a mockery of justice Regarding the article "Klinghoffer Makes Profound Statement," Sept 10: Not only does the reviewer fail to confront the moral spinelessness of the opera "The Death of Klinghoffer," he praises this work, which other reviewers describe as "wishy-washy" and "distanced impartiality." Mozart sees no moral dilemma - Don Giovanni is damned. If the "Klinghoffer" librettist were rewriting "Don Giovanni," she would beautify the lecher as radical chic. Klinghoffer was no leader to be "assassinated." He was an American tourist who was murdered by Arab terrorists because he was a Jew. For decent, fair-minded people, there is no moral ambiguity. It was cold-blooded murder. Instead of presenting an opera to edify, the creators have given us a burlesque of the truth, a mockery of justice, a moral depravity. Seth Corey, Newton Centre, Mass.

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