I was more baffled than disappointed as I read "Erdogan's Moment" [Nov. 28]. The elephant in the room is Turkey's continual military occupation of E.U. member and sovereign country Cyprus. Recep Tayyip Erdogan's deft skills that have reaped him some domestic success seem to have deserted him in foreign affairs. A strained and awkward relationship with the E.U. and the U.S., an irreparable divorce from its old ally Israel and his quite ridiculous revival of Ottoman imperial aspirations can only bring more suspicion and fear in its former colonies.
E.U. countries like Austria, where I'm from, are giving Turkey the cold shoulder concerning membership mainly because of Turkish immigrants' lack of assimilation, which Erdogan seems to endorse. Unlike Chinese, Filipino and Vietnamese immigrants, the majority of teenagers of Turkish descent in my country do not integrate or speak the local language well. Maybe when Erdogan changes his extreme nationalistic attitude, he will be better accepted.
Not So French
Contrary to what Michael Schuman stated in "Au Revoir, Welfare State," doctor visits in France are not "almost always free" far from it [Nov. 28]. French citizens pay not only high taxes for their Sécurité Sociale, but they must then pay a nonreimbursed fee, as well as the additional amount that many doctors charge. While it is true that people with very low or no income have access to universal medical coverage, and health care remains excellent in France, it is certainly not free for the average French person. We also pay dearly in taxes for education and contribute for decades to our retirement pensions.
Your article oversimplifies and sensationalizes Frenchies with stereotypes, saying they have "a distaste for everything American," enjoy "long hours smoking and debating at sidewalk cafés" and eat pain au chocolat for breakfast. Perhaps Schuman was trying to be funny, but the photo of a cigarette, wine glass and coffee cup is caricatural and offensive. TIME has accustomed us to more balanced views of the world.
As always, your piece on the 50 best inventions of the year was inspiring and thought-provoking [Nov. 28]. Some of them are just silly, while others clearly have very real practical potential. But what really struck me this year, more than ever before, was that an overwhelming number of the innovations originated in the U.S. or Western Europe. This suggests that either TIME's selection committee is parochial and shortsighted (which seems doubtful), or, given the central role of innovation in economic growth, the reports of the imminent end of the West's supremacy are greatly exaggerated. It was a comforting thought, until I read the rest of the issue and remembered that our unhinged financial system and deeply dysfunctional politics may still prove the Cassandras right.
In his article on "How to Be a Real Superpower" [Nov. 28], Fareed Zakaria writes that China is "unconcerned about helping maintain global rules." Compared with the U.S., China has acted much more responsibly in international matters, respecting other countries' integrity and choice of governance. If China "seems content to act narrowly and exclusively in its own interests," who doesn't? The U.S. acts narrowly and exclusively, and even brutally, in its own interests. Don't forget that China restrained itself from devaluating its currency during the Asian financial crisis, and neighboring countries benefited tremendously from this act.
Zakaria suggests that, as a superpower, China should behave in a manner acceptable to the U.S. and most of the world. However, it is very clear that China wishes to be branded as superpower the way China wants. If the Nobel Committee awards the Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident, the Chinese can easily come up with their own peace prize, just as they have done.
Re "A Flicker of Consciousness" [Nov. 28]: After reading about the new research suggesting that many patients diagnosed as vegetative are actually conscious, my brain just screams, "Terri, Terri," over and over again. I hope the justices of the various courts, along with Michael Schiavo, are having trouble sleeping.
Little Falls, Minn., U.S.