Readers Respond to the June Issue
The United States government tried to get as many Amerasians out of Vietnam as it could before the Communist takeover ["Children of the Dust"]. But as a military spouse and Babylift volunteer, I saw a number of parents of full Vietnamese infants and children, apparently wanting a better life for their kids, rush to the planes and thrust them into the arms of whomever they could, then run away.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Agents for Change
I enjoyed the article on the Amerasians and felt it was well written and researched—with one exception. Four high-school students (who wrote a petition in 1986 and got 27,000 people to sign it) played a pivotal role in motivating their congressman, Robert Mrazek, to spearhead the drive to bring Amerasian children to the United States. Yet those students remain nameless in a human story that may not have happened had they not believed in their abilities to effect positive change. I think the magazine should print their names, not only to honor their dedication to social justice but to remind readers of what anthropologist Margaret Mead said so eloquently: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world."
The four students were David Zach, Susan Forte, Marlo Sandler and Tara Scalia.—Ed.
When I read "Recovered Ground," Benjamin W. Patton's article about his father, Gen. George S. Patton IV, I was reminded of an encounter with the general in the late 1970s when I was a public affairs officer in the Army Reserve. A press officer from Fort Hood preceded Patton by a day to lay ground rules for the local press and their questions to this son of a very famous general. The major said: "There will be absolutely no questions about General Patton assuming his father's old command at Fort Hood (2nd Armored Division) and absolutely no questions about how it feels to be the son of a famous World War II general." When General Patton's helicopter landed the next day, the major asked if I understood everything. I do, I replied. But, I added, the members of the press are civilians and neither you, I, nor the general can stop them from asking questions. The major walked to the helicopter and said something to General Patton, who looked over the major's shoulder at me and at the crowd of reporters. He just shrugged his shoulders, got back into the helicopter and flew away. He was, after all, a general, and I had no control over him either.
An Autistic Connection?
I have just finished reading your fascinating story "The Social Brain." The deficits the article describes in patients suffering from frontotemporal dementia are similar to those of autism. People with autism frequently lack empathy, have poor social graces and are generally socially impaired. As a teacher of special education, I wonder if the von Economo neurons in people with autism spectrum disorders may be negatively affected and, perhaps, may be one of the reasons for the antisocial behavior found in these people. I am curious to know if any studies have been done connecting these brain cells to autism spectrum disorders.
Blue Point, New York
Response from neuroscientist John Allman, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena: We are investigating the possibility that the von Economo neurons (VENs) are involved in autism. A new method developed by my collaborator, Barbara Wold, enables us to measure gene expression in autopsy brains of autistic subjects and controls. This work follows from our theory that the VENs are related to intuition and social reciprocity.
Substance and Style
I enjoyed "The Triumph of Frank Lloyd Wright," about his design of the Guggenheim Museum. It is always confusing when going from one room to the next in a museum to know which way to turn. Wright's spiral ramp solved two problems: it made it easier to walk, by forcing visitors to travel down a slight incline, and it eliminated the problem of having to determine which way to turn when entering a new room.
San Diego, California