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Readers Respond to the January Issue

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I chuckled when James Reston Jr. wrote ["Frost, Nixon and Me"] that "there was one true account of the Frost/Nixon interviews—my own." It reminded me of a quote from Julian Barnes' A History of the World in 101/2 Chapters: "History isn't what happened. History is just what historians tell us."
John Bridges
Chicago, Illinois

History As Entertainment
James Reston aptly defends the accurate presentation of historic events until his final statement: "In the presence of the playwright's achievement, the historian...can only stand in the wings and applaud." I do not applaud the distortion of documented historical fact. Many people get harmfully false ideas of history from plays and films. In reaching for an international audience, Frost/Nixon's producer could probably create a stirring portrayal of the Khmer Rouge.
Donald Galfond
San Francisco, California

Reston's piece about Frost/Nixon is like most writing about historic events—subjective. His views on Nixon are tainted by his distaste for the Vietnam conflict. He states, "The absence of a judicial prosecution had left the country with a feeling of unfinished business." My friends, relatives, neighbors and I would disagree. The media could refrain from placing all of us in the same bus. We have our own individual opinions. Few things, if any, can be said to be the voice of our entire wonderful country.
Leo Marzoni III
Dallas, Texas

What Coal Does
"Demolishing," "dismantling," "pulverized" and "devastation" are just a few of the words used by author John McQuaid to describe mountaintop coal removal ["Mining the Mountains"]. Here are some words I would use: comfortable, warm, reliable, safe, dependable. These words describe my home, which is heated, lighted and cooled by electricity, the majority of which is generated by burning coal and wood. I think this process, also called strip mining, is the safest way to access coal. I lived in West Virginia over 20 years and I don't enjoy the way strip mines look. What I do enjoy is what happens when I flip a switch or turn the dial on my thermostat. If you do not want to contribute to the "devastation," then call the power company and request that they terminate your service. Your conscience will be satisfied that no salamanders are being disturbed for your benefit.
Chuck Little
Brodnax, Virginia

I live in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, where mountains were destroyed by hydraulic gold mining in the late 1800s. The barren landscape is as visible today as it was more than 100 years ago. After reading your article and seeing the destruction of the Appalachian peaks, I am left with only one question: Haven't we learned anything?
Robert Suter
Gold Run, California

Thank you for "Mining the Mountains," which conveys the community of Ansted's struggle to come to grips with high unemployment and the destructive practice of coal mining that involves mountaintop removal. An alternative not mentioned by Mr. McQuaid is a new wind farm. A recent study released by an environmental consulting firm, Downstream Strategies, along with some West Virginia University professors, found that a wind farm on nearby Coal River Mountain in the long-term would create more jobs than mountaintop coal removal. Even short-term, wind is a better option for the local economy when health and environmental externalities are considered. Wind in key locations in Appalachia could help support energy independence, prevent climate change and create new green-collar jobs.
Evan Hansen
Morgantown, West Virginia

Corrections:
The caption on page 36 of the article "Samarra Rises" wrongly identified Lt. Col. J. P. McGee as Captain Kurtzman.
In a reference on "The Last Page" to the birth name of singer Shania Twain, we omitted one of the "l's" in Eilleen. We regret the errors.

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