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Paula Jones Case, Like Others, Is Unique

Regarding the Jan. 14 Page 1 article, "Harassment Suit Pivots on Narrow Issue of Immunity": In American jurisprudence it is assumed - and rightly so - that each case is unique. That is, each case deserves the unbiased scrutiny of judgment based on its own merit, set of circumstances peculiar to it, individuals involved and their actions, and outcome of judgment rendered. Prior precedent-setting cases should not overrule nor can they substitute for the facts and peculiarities of each new case.

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Suppositions as to whether or not one case will be a precedent-setter with a bearing on future cases with different allegations and characteristics tend to range into the realm of fantasy and clog the wheels of due process.

The president, having taken the oath of office, is in a position not unlike that of a marriage partner vis vis the American public. What happened before in his personal life may have a bearing on charting character weakness at that time but is of little avail in forecasting future proclivities. Nor can it discount the good performance record he has chalked up since first taking the oath of office.

Mabel Gatch

Daytona Beach, Fla.

Localism vs. the nation-state

Hooray for the author's use of entropy and chaos to illustrate the complexity of Zaire in the Jan. 14 Page 1 article, "Entropy May Be Enemy No. 1 In Chaotic Zaire." It is precisely the autonomy at the local level, in provinces where the economy and daily life are thriving, that contains clues to and sources of survival for the country. The apparatus of the Western nation-state did not adapt well to these traditional meanings and relationships; it tried to supplant them.

I hope in the future the author will conclude her articles with remarks more consistent with current definitions of entropy and chaos so that "A collapsing Zaire is a recipe for even more trouble" will read: Political analysts and those seeking to intervene should observe and observe and observe and stick their oar in only when they think they can make the system better, to paraphrase a quote from Brian Arthur in "The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos" (1992). "Better" in this sense means in terms of the meanings and traditional relationships of the people of Zaire.

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It may be that we in the West, who have come to believe that the nation-state is the one and only way to exist, have much to learn from those who are living more locally. Our local patterns of daily life may indeed contain ingredients for a new global order, always far from equilibrium, processing new information and learning from its many diverse parts.

Molly Freeman

Berkeley, Calif.

Only a Silber lining

The majority of the Jan. 2 Page 1 article, "A School Czar Who Doesn't Mince Words" is given over to quotes from John Silber, and lengthy descriptions of his ability to anger those around him. There was no serious attempt to balance his opinions, no objective analysis of his views.

Mr. Silber is quoted as saying that the problem with education is a lack of focus on so-called "core-curricula." As evidence of the problem, he says US students are well behind their counterparts in other nations. However, I recall a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences which found fault with many published studies which assert this. The author should have sought out other people in the field in order to evaluate Silber's (in my opinion) simplistic views.

I would have found it far more informative had you sought out experts like Jonathan Kozol, who have passionately argued that lack of funding is the cause of many of the problems in our schools. Indeed, the National Academy found that the richest school districts in America compare quite well with those of other nations. Instead, it is the kind of controversy-for-the-sake-of-controversy article I expect from Time or Newsweek, not a respected voice like the Monitor.

Corey Hardin

Champaign, Ill.

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