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King of the Hill Newt Gingrich brings an open mind and needed enthusiasm to Congress [Cover Stories, Jan. 9], which was in a coma for years until Election Day results woke it up. Most citizens are simply asking our legislators to listen to the heartbeat of middle-class America. Give 'em hell, Newt! W.

Scott Sachs III Cape May Point, New Jersey

I hope Gingrich will come to realize that he was elected by a simple majority of people in his small congressional district in Georgia. He does not speak for all America, and he does not speak for me. His talk about bipartisanship and working for the American people is overshadowed by his continued references to socialists and the counterculture. I desperately hope that Gingrich is not what America decided it wanted when it voted in November.

Paul Dores San Diego AOL: SDiegoPaul Perhaps we are witnessing the birth of parliamentary government in the U.S. Through the concentration of enormous power in the office of Speaker, Gingrich is like a Prime Minister--locally elected, raised to power by the majority party, able to form a sort of cabinet of committee chairmen. The notion derives further support from the increasingly irrelevant house of bombastic lords in the Senate and the largely ceremonial figurehead in the White House.

Dave Stein Sunnyvale, California Let Newt have his say. If he gets out of bounds, the silent majority will take care of it by voting him out of office.

Donald James Trickle Newark, Ohio Gingrich is no savior. He's found the way to manipulate an uneasy American populace with shallow rhetoric and promises impossible to carry out. Sure, if Newt does achieve all that he proposes, I will be his biggest fan. But let's not be too quick to sanctify him, or he will certainly fail to meet our expectations.

John A. Walker Knoxville, Tennessee AOL: Cervin

It's not the Dark Age coming but the dawn of the Newt Age. So shake off your gloom, doom and Newtophobia. Let there be color and hope.

Chun Che Kuo Scarsdale, New York

I get worried when political parties cooperate. Isn't that what happened when they agreed to deregulate S&Ls and bankroll the military during the 1980s? Our hopeless national debt is the legacy of that chumminess. At such times the politicians either award bucks to their friends or bring contracts to their home states. We can't afford to have the directionless Democrats cuddling up to the Republicans.

Bill N. Thompson Stillwater, Minnesota AOL: WNThompson

How can Newt Gingrich be King of the Hill when 52% of those surveyed in your poll say he is a leader who cannot be trusted and 71% doubt that he has good ideas for the country? Is Gingrich's power base only in the media?

Lois Kutscha Auburn, Washington

Doubts About Yeltsin

I wonder why Russian troops are targeting the civilian population of Chechnya [Russia, Jan. 9]. If Chechnya were really part of Russia, why would that nation kill its own ``citizens"? To attack orphanages, women, children or even whole villages is to make this an operation in ethnic cleansing. Oh, poor Chechnya, you have been added to the other victims of the so-called new world order. Before the end of the cold war, the West pretended to be fighting against human-rights violations in the former Soviet Union. It is about time the world says enough is enough.

Ahmed Murad Toronto

Yeltsin may be a drunken bully; I've never liked him. But in Chechnya, it seems to me, he's only doing what President Lincoln did when the U.S.'s Southern states tried to secede. The bombing of Grozny reminds me of the severe hardships that civilians had to endure during the Civil War. Many women, children and old folks suffered terribly. Couldn't be helped then; can't be helped now. There's no more reason to let autonomous areas secede from the Russian Federation than there was to let 11 states secede from the Union.

Alfred D. Berger New York City Via America Online

The reason for the fighting in Chechnya is, pure and simple, control of an oil supply line critical to the economy of Russia. Russia relies heavily on its exports of natural resources such as oil and timber to bring in hard currency from the West. It needs these resources if it is to have any hope of rebuilding its economy and maintaining its fragile democracy. The independence issue is a backdrop to what Yeltsin reckons to be the higher national interest of preserving the oil supply and thus preserving any progress made by the new democratic Russia. Isn't Yeltsin merely doing what the West did in Kuwait and Iraq?

Lawrence L. Allen Discovery Bay, Hong Kong

At heart, Yeltsin is a true Russian. As a result of a 74-year communist interlude, Russia retains the kind of imperial ambition that at the beginning of this century was shared by all the major European powers. Much of the former Russian Empire consisted of 19th century conquests, among them Chechnya and Finland. Russia wants to hold on to the parts still in her possession, and sees fit to use warfare to do so. However, as a victim of imperialism, Chechnya has the right to independence.

Christer Alback Vasteras, Sweden

Abortion-Clinic Nightmare

your report on the murders at two Boston abortion clinics [Crime, Jan. 9] concludes, ``It should now be tragically evident that the safeguards that exist to protect a woman's right to abortion are not enough." Your biases are disturbingly evident. Surely what must be safeguarded in the climate of violence surrounding the abortion issue is the right to human life itself, the very right that has been denigrated by those who promote abortion on demand.

Ron Chandonia Atlanta

Why can't women who need abortions have the freedom to obtain them? Explain to me, America, where your dreams went? Stop hurting people who are trying to live their life as best as they know how, and look at the children on your streets, in the inner cities--homeless, poor and sometimes abused. Where are the pro-lifers when the already born children scream?

Katherine Hinrichs Kronshagen, Germany

We who choose life are not all fanatics. I do not condone any killings, especially those done in the name of God. Yes, I am pro-life, but I do not picket, preach or threaten anyone. Yet I do take serious offense at Dr. Damon Stutes' view that ``abortion is a lifesaving operation." For whom? For Stutes to say that the pro-life movement is 100% responsible for the recent rash of killings is outrageous. Why must all pro-lifers be judged by the few loose nuts who claim they are doing God's work?

Jan G. Hicks Gaithersburg, Maryland

Talk About Computer Crashes

Your article about the return of newly purchased computers after the holiday buying season totally missed the boat [Technology, Jan. 9]. This was the perfect forum to report on the ongoing PC-vs.-Apple controversy. However, Apple's Macs were mentioned only in passing and in a lukewarm way. I wonder how many of the computers returned were PC compatibles and how many were Macs. I would bet anything that far fewer Macs were taken back. Those of us who have to use PCs at work but choose to have Macs at home know that Macs, while not problem free, are far and away superior to PC compatibles, period!

Robert F. Matos Nutting Lake, Massachusetts AOL: RFMatos

More than half the problems that computer owners experience can be solved by knowing a handful of elementary computer concepts. Learning a bit about a computer is certainly no more difficult than tackling high school Spanish. Average users would be amazed at how much control they can have if they spend an hour or so learning the DOS/ Windows system. And if they do not know how to input ``type config.sys," they are going to waste a lot of time on the phone to tech support. The essential computer basics are not going to go away with software updates or anything else. Computers require a bit of work in order to master them and reap the rewards. Those who are not prepared to invest the time and make the effort should buy a Nintendo game instead.

John Stewart, President Audio Computer Information Spring Grove, Minnesota

Encounters with Space

It is unsettling to be informed that someone as brilliant and knowledgeable as astronomer Carl Sagan [Books, Jan. 9] thinks mankind will ultimately save itself by boldly going from Earth to places where no man has gone before-- ``terraforming" other worlds to make them livable. In his new book, Sagan reflects a doomsday mentality with the implicit assumption that human life cannot continue on this planet. But he offers a farfetched solution, especially given the gravity of the supposition. Living on other planets is our hope? And speaking of ``our" hope, in view of the logistics of space travel, only a very limited number of people could be sent to colonize new worlds. Thus it is an elitist idea, offering nothing to the common man. Its most redeeming aspect is that the obnoxious crowd selected as suitable for this glorious mission would at least be gone from Earth. Why set off for Mars when we've done practically nothing in exploring the ocean? A nation with vision had better start laying claim to new territory beneath the high seas. Wouldn't that region be much simpler to ``terraform"? The clearest picture one derives from Sagan's ``vision" is that he has been watching way, way too much TV.

Helen White Fayetteville, Arkansas

The Peso Heads South

Mexico's economy was proceeding smoothly, guided by former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, when the country collided with the insurgency of its campesinos and, like the Titanic, began to sink [Mexico, Jan. 9]. New President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon has inherited a sinking ship, and he is not sure what steps to take to keep Mexico afloat. Foreigners like to invest in a country where there are prospects of a good return and the political scene is calm and controlled. But at the first sign of civil unrest, the investments will stop and moneys will be pulled out. If Zedillo wants foreign investors to return to his country, he had better take a close look at the ``iceberg" left him by previous administrations and figure out what to do about it.

Dante F. Rochetti West Hills, California

Mexico is undergoing a temporary cash-flow problem, but President Zedillo is meeting the crisis head on and supplying candid answers to a very long list of questions. The International Monetary Fund and many major banks, as well as the U.S. government's optimistic and helpful position, will undoubtedly make both international and local investors once more feel comfortable about putting many, if not all, of their eggs in the Mexican basket.

Carlos Schon Mexico City

Since the Peso devaluation, many journalists have been scrambling to say Ross Perot was not correct when he predicted the perils of the North American Free Trade Agreement. In hindsight, they say, of course, everybody knew that the Mexican peso was overvalued, that the financial reserves were declining and that Mexican imports greatly exceeded exports! Give Ross the credit he deserves; he had the courage to state the obvious when many others closed their eyes during the NAFTA debates.

William A. Daly La Jolla, California AOL:WADALYLJ

Terrorists on the Airbus

Congratulations to France's elite antiterrorist gendarmes for freeing the 173 hostages aboard the hijacked Air France jetliner [Algeria, Jan. 9] and to the other people who contributed to the rescue, even though three hostages were killed prior to the final assault. Nevertheless, it would be naive to say that the militant Armed Islamic Group will be discouraged from committing more acts of terrorism, since four Roman Catholic priests were murdered in Algeria shortly after the Airbus rescue. I fear that these killings might be a further step in the escalation of a new Algerian war, something we hoped would never happen.

Dang-Nhan Tong Sceaux, France

You used poor judgment in publishing details of the heroic French commandos' assault and counterterrorist activities to save hostages on Air France Flight 8969. It was not necessary to report just how the French gendarmes were able to determine the situation on board the aircraft by donning uniforms and impersonating airport service personnel. Let's face it: terrorists can read. Knowing exactly how the last group failed will enable the next bunch of skyjackers to execute their evil mission with even more tragic results.

Jim Morgan Milford, Delaware


Readers Vote on MOY

So far we've heard from over 1,200 readers about our selection of Pope John Paul II as 1994's Man of the Year [Dec. 26]. Our choice was more than just controversial; it was roundly criticized by a sizable majority of those who wrote to us. Typical of this contingent was Baird Smart of Winnetka, Illinois, who noted, ``I was appalled at your selection for Man of the Year. Pope John Paul II opposes birth control and equality of women. That's not family values." From those who agreed with TIME's editors, however, accolades abounded. Wrote Kelvin Khoo of Pullman, Washington: ``At a time when the human race has proved less than civilized, the choice of Pope John Paul II over the many political figures--tyrants in disguise--of modern society could not have been more apt."