A sampling of readers' letters, faxes and e-mail.

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Tragic magnitude

Untold numbers lost; untold gratitude is extended

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Editor, The Times:

In the wake of the catastrophic tidal waves in East Asia that have killed 52,000 people, and with death tolls still rising, I’m sure I’m not alone when I consider: “Am I safe from a tidal wave?” (“Tsunami death toll rising; disease outbreak feared,” Times page one, and “In event of strong quake, tsunami on NW coast, would we be ready?” News, Dec. 28.)

The cause for such devastating loss of life is largely (the absence of) established early-warning systems for the Indian Ocean. We have an established system to monitor earthquakes in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans that give us a warning a few hours prior to the disaster — enough time to safely evacuate. I didn’t realize it until this week, but the scientists monitoring our oceans at NOAA are also saving lives.

There are a lot of people who are working to keep us safe: firemen, police officers, medics, weather forecasters, the scientists at NOAA, our soldiers, the FDA, and more than I can list. Imagine how devastating the four consecutive hurricanes in Florida could have been if there weren’t any warning!

Many, many lives have been saved by prevention and hard work from these good people, and I bestow complete confidence in their continued hard work. I’d like to extend my gratitude and thanks to all those who serve our community to protect and keep us safe. A letter of thanks may be cliché, but I feel it’s never oversaid.

— Eric Nevala, Bothell

An unaffected sector

I was absolutely appalled when I saw “Tsunami drowns good holiday-sales news“! (Business & Technology, Dec. 28.) I could not believe the casual, almost flippant tone! (” ‘Honestly, you’ve got this news out there… ‘ “!? I’m sure the predicted 50,000-plus dead apologize for inconveniencing Wall Street investment trader Bob Groenveld).

Did anybody react this way to that comparatively minor event of Sept. 11? I think not!

This article may be fine and dandy for national publication — what anyone does and says within his or her own borders is private business — but it is highly inappropriate for international publication.

— Charlene Hare, Ontario, Canada

Barely registered value

The Times demands the world community prevent another tsunami tragedy (“A wave of questions,” editorial, Dec. 28). Fat chance of that. The world community, led by the most powerful nation on Earth, could do this, if it really had moral values in mind. Instead, we’re out nation-building in the Middle East, spending billions of dollars and thousands of our own lives.

We have sent a pittance of money — $4 million — to a place where over 50,000 people have died from natural causes. Disgusting.

— Bryan Weinstein, Issaquah

We ferocious altruists

We Americans are known for our generosity. We will indeed send aid to the survivors of the tsunami disaster. An initial government pledge will be followed by millions of U.S. dollars from every sector of our society: churches, individuals, service clubs, businesses, and so many more.

Our first official U.S. aid offer was totally out of scale with the enormity of the devastation, especially when contrasted with the highly visible spending of tens of billions of dollars to “liberate” a small Mideast nation. With all those funds committed to warfare, how can our financially strapped government reasonably afford adequate relief for fellow humans suffering from a natural disaster?

Oh, if we could only wage humanitarian aid and wage actions of peace with the same ferocity as we wage war!

Today the war in Iraq places our wealthy, powerful nation on center stage before the eyes of the world. As a much-criticized country, we suddenly have an unbelievable opportunity to show our true colors. I fear, however, that our misdirected government leaders will not provide disaster relief with the same urgency and dedication that characterizes their war effort. We painfully realize that their actions would misrepresent you, and me, and America, because you and I know that, in our heart of hearts, we are a compassionate and caring people.

Our moral and political imperative? To provide immediate and massive aid to Southeast Asia. We can afford it. We cannot afford to dodge our responsibility.

— Robert C. Hauck, M.D., Shoreline

Gathering intensity

This is the time when we need to set aside all of our differences and come together and help all the ones in need who have nothing left. This is when the word needs to get out to donate $5, $10 or whatever to send over to help out all those countries that were so devastated.

If a company of 50, 100, 500 employees sent $5 per employee, that is a lot of dollars that can buy water, blankets and food. We should not be sending (material) things because the money spent in shipping could be used for buying more water, etc.

I look around and see that there are so many ways to raise money. I just hope people will give and not be greedy, as something of this magnitude has never been recorded before. And to all those people with millions of dollars, this will be a tax deduction, so please give.

— Eric Kolbe, Seattle

Law of the land

Short reach for support

In “A Christmas comeback in the public square” (guest commentary, Dec. 24), Collin Levey wrote:

“According to an ACLU legal bulletin, Supreme Court doctrine on the Establishment Clause ‘forbids not only state practices that aid one religion… or prefer one religion over another,’ but also those practices that ‘aid all religions’ and thus endorse or prefer religion over non-religion.

“This dubious reading has found some support in the wilder reaches of the federal court system.”

She goes on to describe the ACLU position as “oddball.”

Not so. The ACLU took those words directly from Supreme Court opinions.

Everson v. Board of Education, 1947, Justice Hugo Black writing for the majority:

“The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another.”

Also, from Lee v. Weisman, 1992, Justice David Souter in his concurring opinion:

“Forty-five years ago, this Court announced a basic principle of constitutional law from which it has not strayed: the Establishment Clause forbids not only state practices that ‘aid one religion… or prefer one religion over another,’ but also those that ‘aid all religions.’ (Everson v. Board of Ed.)… Since Everson, we have consistently held the Clause applicable no less to governmental acts favoring religion generally than to acts favoring one religion over others.”

The Supreme Court has not wavered from that position in the nearly 60 years since Everson.

— James D. Lawson, Seattle

Psychic defectives

Crystal baloney

Over the next few days, Osama bin Laden will die of kidney disease. Saddam Hussein will be shot to death. Fidel Castro will die. A live dinosaur thousands of years old will be captured. The Hoover Dam will collapse. And Rosie O’Donnell will adopt Siamese twin girls!

At least that’s what the world’s best psychics predicted for 2004.

The fact that none of these top predictions happened should give a clue to believers that these people have no real psychic ability.

— Darrell Hambley, Monroe