Death in a Jar

In response to your current comments “Death in Connecticut,” followed by “How Graphic?” (11/29): Until we as a society demand that the death penalty be abolished, it will continue to be used as a method of revenge. Many murders are so heinous that viscerally we entertain the most savage retributions we can muster. But we have Christ’s words, the church’s teachings and secular law to stop us from taking such action. We are one of the last democracies to use the barbaric method of state-legitimized murder, and until the community recognizes it for what it is we can attempt to use the force of law against it.

Alina Sierra Sedlander

New Orleans, La.

Setting the Bar High

In response to the Signs of the Times report on “Archbishop Dolan Surprise Victor in U.S.C.C.B. Vote” (11/29): Whenever Bishop Gerald Kicanas, whom he defeated, arrived for liturgies at our high school in Illinois, the young women were ecstatic. He exuded warmth, his smile was instantaneous, his brown eyes twinkled and he displayed a deep measure of genuine interest in their concerns. He always came early and would involve the lectors, eucharistic ministers and musicians in animated conversations. He remembered each of their names and past concerns from prior gatherings. In him these students saw a role model who centered his life in God, who loved his church and who had the ability to make both God and the church relevant to their lives.

Ministering to the youth was an obvious priority for Bishop Kicanas; so too was commitment to the poor and the marginalized. He challenged the students to go out into the community and become involved.

Bishop Kicanas truly is an apostle of the youth, who makes the institutional church appealing in their eyes. He sets the bar high for all cardinals, bishops and people who minister in our church with the genuineness of his message of unconditional love and compassion for all.

Mary Gramins

Deerfield, Ill.

Citizens United vs. Citizens

While I agree with the main point of your editorial “Money and Media” (11/29), it is not exactly news that Fox News is not “fair and balanced.” What is more alarming is MSNBC’s appropriation of the Fox News model for a left-leaning cable news channel, albeit not to the same degree—yet.

The larger concern is the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, which directly decreases the influence of citizens on elections. Campaign finance reform is not a popular issue, but its annihilation by Citizens United underlies both the money and the vitriol brought to the midterm election.

Edward Visel

Winnebago, Ill.

Newsweek’s Transformation

What you describe in the current comment “Who Will Speak for Us” (11/22) about Newsweek’s coverage of those who make the “superlative lists” is the transformation of journalism into something as old as the Sears Roebuck mail-order publication. Print media are becoming catalogs for their advertisers. The list is a come-on designed to attract an undiscriminating audience.

Flash signs and billboards are not bad in themselves. But one must ask about the purpose of these teaser covers. To get more readers and advertisers? Fine. A move to less substance and more fodder for advertisers? Not so fine. Journalism should mean discrimination, timeliness, investigations of matters the people should know. Is Newsweek emulating People and becoming a catalog? Here is part of the last paragraph of the article about Rush Limbaugh by Zev Chafets:

Limbaugh told me that he might be willing, under the right conditions, to serve as a dollar-a-year adviser to the administration. It would mean spending time in the hated capitol, but a guy with a private jet can commute to Palm Beach. And the pay cut would be mitigated by a precipitous drop in his personal income tax.

The reader can decide whether this belongs in People or in Newsweek. Is this reporting? Does this belong in a respected magazine or in an advertiser’s catalogue?

Norman Costa

Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Let My People Go

I was pleased to read your current comment “Rights Prize for Cuban”(11/15) on the European Union awarding its Sakharov Prize to the Cuban dissident Guillermo “Coco” Farinas. Nevertheless the comment erred in naming Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died following a hunger strike in February, as a previous prizewinner.

It is true that the prize has gone to Cubans three times in the past decade, but the third recipient was Oswaldo Paya, head of the Christian Liberation Movement and the driving force behind the Varela Project. This project attempted to exercise Article 88 of the Cuban constitution to gather signatures in support of holding a referendum that, if passed, would have reformed the government to permit democratic elections, free speech, free enterprise, free assembly and freedom for political prisoners. Forty-three of the remaining 53 (out of a total of 75) prisoners of conscience arrested in the Black Spring crackdown of March 2003 had been arrested for collecting signatures as part of the Varela Project.

James Benson

Silver Spring, Md.

A Reader Who Acts

Professor Charles K. Wilber’s “Awakening the Giant” (10/18) gave me at last some comprehension of the economic picture and possible ways to go! I ask that you convey my deepest thanks to Professor Wilber for enlightening a 76-year-old with the clarity of his writing on a subject so gnarly. Unlike the writers to Letters who complain without doing anything, I sent copies to my sons and all the members of Congress from Vermont.

Bonnie Juenker

Burlington, Vt.

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