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Care package

As a member of the private attending staff at Beth Israel (now Beth Israel Deaconess) since 1974, I would like to compliment Jonathan Cohn on his excellent and accurate summary of the past 26 years of my professional life as it has intersected with this hospital ("Sick," May 28). The day-to-day changes are minute; but, over time, they have produced a downward slide in the quality of life of those who work there, as well as that of the patients we care for. Hospital rounds, which often used to be the best part of the day, have turned into a chore from which one can derive little pleasure. Although the merger of Beth Israel with New England Deaconess is responsible for much of the current trouble, the pressures that forced the merger are really the culprits. Those who have the extraordinarily difficult task of keeping us afloat have been so distracted by the many outside pressures so well-described by Cohn that they seem to have forgotten that the primary task of this hospital, like any other, is to provide an environment that allows us and our colleagues in nursing to care for the sick.

Senior Attending Physician Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Brookline, Massachusetts


While Yossi Klein Halevi was attacking Peace Now's campaign for a freeze on settlement construction ("Bank Shot," May 28), yet another poll showed that 62 percent of Israelis disagree with him and would exchange such a freeze for a ceasefire. Israelis clearly recognize the damage that settlements inflict on our national interests, and reject the blind approach that settlers take toward others who live here. Since, as Halevi states, most of the 6,000 settlement apartments remain unsold, why can't Israel stop further construction until a real need arises? If the first priority of the settlers is to end terrorism, why don't they try a construction freeze? Simply put, the settlers' opposition to a building freeze is rooted in their ideology. After all, they went to the occupied territories not to answer Palestinian violence but to deprive Palestinians of their right to self-determination.

Peace Now first demonstrated against settlement construction in 1979 because we have always believed settlements are a major obstacle to peace. Similarly, ever since Oslo--not just since the recent intifada--Palestinians have considered settlement expansion the main proof of Israel's bad faith, making it impossible to create a Palestinian state.

Peace Now
Jerusalem, Israel

Excuse my French

"Error of Commission" (May 21) leaves out one key component in the ouster of the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Commission: the role of France. THE NEW REPUBLIC refers to "European governments" as if they all acted alike. In fact, France sets the tone and is deterred by Germany from its most egregious anti-American plans (a fact that is mostly unpublicized). Among Western countries, France was the winner of the balloting for the commission: It got 52 votes, with Austria and Sweden second and third. This means that all those human rights violators like Cuba, Libya, Sudan, and so on voted for France--evidence of how France courts and appeases them while the United States champions human rights issues that often target France's Third World allies. It's important for Americans to understand that, progress toward a European Union notwithstanding, there remain important differences in the policies of member countries. Among these are French anti-Americanism, German loyalty to the Atlantic alliance, and Britain's traditional friendship with and support for America.

New York, New York

Independent document

In his argument for the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana ("Enjoy," May 28), Andrew Sullivan enlists the support of the Constitution, which, he says, protects the pursuit of happiness. I think he means to invoke the Declaration of Independence. An argument favoring the protection of marijuana use might be based on the Constitution's promised promotion of the "general welfare" but that would be a different editorial.

Charlottesville, Virginia

Shelf life

While I agreed with Alexander Star's opinion that Nicholson Baker is "incapable of considering what is worth saving and what is not," it was with increasing frustration and dismay that I read his comments about microfilm ("The Paper Pusher," May 28). Preservation-quality microfilming is being used in libraries and archives around the world to extend the useful life of research materials. It is neither a "vogue of past decades" nor unreliable as a preservation and access medium. Today's properly created, processed, and stored polyester-based microfilm reels will provide future generations of scholars with access to materials long after using the originals would result in damage.

Microfilm has always been relatively unpopular. But for the libraries attempting to provide access to materials printed on deteriorating paper, confronted with chronic space shortages and budget shortfalls throughout much of the past century, popularity wasn't the most pressing item on the agenda. Nor have I read anywhere that leafing through volumes of woodpulp paper has become a major source of entertainment revenue.

Star's comments only further the already distorted view of preservation microfilming that Baker has gone to great lengths to create.

Preservation Librarian
Olney, Maryland