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Nigeria and Democracy

In the article "US Redirects Africa Policy," May 26, the author mentions a visit by the Nigerian head of state to Washington, stating, "Clinton refused to meet with Maj. General Ibrahim Babangida when the Nigerian military leader visited Washington recently."

This statement is incorrect. President Babangida has never visited Washington since assuming office.

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It is unfair to identify Mr. Babangida with dictatorship. Immediately on assuming office as president, he released political detainees held without trial, abrogated a decree making it an offense for journalists to criticize public officials and later introduced a carefully phased program of political transition. Consequently, democratically elected political institutions are now operating in Nigeria at the local, state, and federal levels of government. Primary elections for presidential nomination have also taken place in March this year, and the two Nigerian political parties selected candidates for presidential election held on June 12, 1993. Zubair M. Kazaure, Washington Nigerian Amabassador to the US

Editor's note: General Babangida did not in fact visit the United States, but US officials sent clear signals that President Clinton would not receive the general. Who's wallowing in water?

While your article "California Rethinks Water Issues," June 3, is timely, it incorrectly states that farmers are using 80 percent of the state's water and implies that the environment is getting shortchanged. Although about 80 percent of the developed water is used for irrigated agriculture, this represents less than 30 percent of the total water supply of the state. Environmental uses such as scenic rivers, instream uses, and wetlands compromise 65 percent of this total runoff.

Recent demands by environmentalists to take from agriculture's 30 percent to dump additional water into the ocean in unproven efforts to protect endangered species will severely reduce irrigated acreage in an agricultural state, affect our food supply, and substantially increase unemployment.

Certainly there is more competition for California's limited water supply, but let's not give agriculture a bad rap in describing it. Arnold S. Rummelsburg, Bakersfield, Calif. When inventions demand secrecy

The Opinion page article "Keep `First to File' Patent Rule Pending," June 7, makes a strong case against a "first to file" patent system for our country.

However, many competitive businesses need a mix of patent protection and secrecy. Often the only way to protect innovations against imitative competitors is to keep them secret.

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Under the present system, a choice must always be made to either file a patent application on an innovation or try to keep it secret. The "prior-user rights" provision in the proposed "first to file" system can minimize the risk that someone will independently invent and patent an innovation that another company had already invented and invested in but chose to maintain as a secret.

Under the patent system's arcane rules, the "first to invent" by law may not be the true first inventor. This is the real problem that should be addressed by any reform. Alex R. Sluzas, Elkins Park, Pa. Desperate measures

The author makes some important points in the Opinion page article "Cleaning Up the Small Screen," June 3. However, he does not mention one solution that a small yet growing number of people have found here: Get rid of the television and rediscover the art of serious reading and the quiet, more satisfying voice of decent radio.

A radical step, perhaps, but one that enriches one's own life and sends a strong message to television executives that something cleaner and better is needed on our TV screens. Alistair Budd, London

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