About your article, "Edgy first college assignment: Study the Koran" (Learning, July 30): I am baffled at the uproar surrounding the University of North Carolina's bold decision to make "Approaching the Qur'an" required reading. Like any religious text, it is the heart of the reader that ultimately decides what lessons he takes from it. White American farmers used the Bible to justify slavery while Martin Luther King, Jr. cited that very Bible as grounds for doing away with this practice.
Similarly, by reading the Koran, UNC students will be able to refute the terrorists' claims of religious piety and expose their references to the Koran as hate-filled diatribes of misanthropes who do not understand the inner dimensions of their own faith. It should not surprise us that the Taliban prevented pupils from reading the Bible, but it should surprise us when certain Americans begin acting like the Taliban.
Regarding: "Sorting through Wall Street's lowered expectations" (Work & Money, July 29): The future stock market yields, cited by various economists, are 6 percent inclusive of inflation and calculated on the usual basis of capital appreciation plus dividends. But omitted are many factors that can make a difference in the full-yield picture, and these omissions should give shareholders pause.
Workers, for instance, are intensely affected by corporations' bottom-line mentality which regards human needs as irrelevant. The result is longer hours of work, cuts in pension and health-insurance benefits, and lowered job security. Retired persons find they have to live on reduced dividends and become more dependent on volatile capital appreciation. And as money flees the market when no longer in favor, savings-account interest will be cut, so retirees will have to live on less.
Supporting the stock market also means enhancing corporate wealth, enabling companies to exert undue influence over elected political bodies and judges and effectively diminishing the value of the popular vote.
A profound question can therefore be raised about the real value of the stock market for most investors. They will certainly want to prevail on corporations to behave in more citizen-friendly ways to earn the privilege of receiving their investment dollars.
New YorkConsulting Actuary
The Monitor's caution about the Citizen Corps in "Tipping off the government" (Editorial, July 25) seems mild, and the hope that workers taking phone calls under the Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS) "would have to be sharp to separate valid reports from questionable ones," seems optimistic.
Even highly trained FBI and CIA staff failed to convey vital information before 9/11, demonstrating that common foibles can corrupt even the best security systems. And 9/11 has added personal fear of retaliation and of making a mistake into this system.
Conflicts of interest, competitiveness, and confusion lead to poor judgment, and adding the stress of 9/11 into the mix hardly makes us more responsible. Indeed, many people are now more suspicious of the wrong things.
We do need surveillance, but it may be wise to have fewer, but very well screened, qualified, and trained citizens. Otherwise, given the projection of at least 11 million Americans participating in TIPS, we could end up with a huge force surveying a society in which we feel no safer than the Russian citizens did under communist hardliners.
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