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Letters to the Editor

Readers write about the London Congestion Charge, US presence overseas, questions for US presidential candidates, children's need for group play, opium production in Afghanistan, and longer school days.

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Pitfalls of London's 'pay to drive' plan

Regarding the June 14 article, "Jammed cities eye 'pay to drive' ": Allison Hannon, a researcher at the Climate Group in New York, was wrong to suggest that the London Congestion Charge has been a success.

Four years after the Congestion Charge was introduced in London, figures for business openings in the charging zone are now outnumbered by closures. The scheme has been unable to pay for itself and now relies for much of its income on fines levied on drivers who fail to pay in a very tight time frame. These fines have been widely condemned as unfair. And of course, since the charge has been in place, the mayor has increased the price by 60 percent (from $10 to $16). And traffic congestion in central London is now back up to pre-Charge levels.

As an elected member of the London Assembly, the body designed to hold London's mayor to account, I have also seen the complete failure of the system to allow for shocks such as the terrorist attacks of July 7, 2005, and their aftermath. To fine those who strayed into the zone to help victims of 7/7 in the capital was cruel, callous, and indicative of the mentality that surfaces when such schemes are in place.

Damian Hockney
Leader, One London Party, London Assembly
London

End the American empire

In his June 19 Opinion piece, "After Iraq war, resist the isolationist impulse," Carl Minzner's urge to resist isolationism could not be more wrong. America has at least 727 military bases all over the world – an empire by any definition. As we witness daily, this projection of American might has caused enormous suffering worldwide, and, from a purely selfish perspective, we in the US simply cannot afford the costs. Let's do the world and ourselves a favor and end the American empire.

Thomas Nelson
Welches, Ore.

Foreign-policy question for candidates

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