Letters to the Editors

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I am very concerned about climate change and the spread of disease and pestilence discussed in your article "Global Fever" [ENVIRONMENT, July 8]. You said, "Episodes of extreme weather are routinely followed by outbreaks of plagues, both old and new." What is the U.S. doing in response to these potentially dangerous developments? People need to be made aware of the danger. KATHERINE ANN WHITLATCH Lewisville, North Carolina Via E-mail

Mother nature will win, one way or another, in our lifetime or that of our descendants. We can choose to ignore nature's power and continue to try to predict the consequences of our actions, or we can respect nature by acting in intelligent ways that do not bring about destructive consequences. RUTH HEIL Green Lane, Pennsylvania

WORLD'S OLDEST WINE

Your article on the discovery and chemical analysis of wine dating from 5400 to 5000 B.C. by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Museum [SCIENCE, June 17] contained two errors. My first name is Patrick, not Peter, as you reported. Also, it was not the Sumerians who were responsible for this earliest occurrence of wine. The Sumerians were a literate and urban population who lived 2,000 years later in lowland southern Iraq. The winemakers, if indeed the wine was produced locally, which seems most likely, were a Neolithic people living in a village now called Hajji Firuz Tepe in upland northwest Iran. Since humans were not yet able to produce written records, we have no direct knowledge of exactly who these Neolithic wine-making people were or of how the creative breakthrough was made. PATRICK MCGOVERN Research Scientist, Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology University of Pennsylvania Museum Philadelphia

DON'T BOTHER TO CALL

Nothing about Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, seems more irresistible to writers than the little joke that there's a telephone in her tomb. Roger Rosenblatt repeats this myth with a flourish in his "Dig, Must We?" [ESSAY, July 8]. The only telephone connection to Eddy's passing was the one installed for watchmen at the cemetery's general receiving vault. It was for the use of the people who were hired to protect her coffin from desecration while a final monument was being built. There was never a phone at the grave site itself. So, to any of your readers who are tempted to make that collect call, sorry! M. VICTOR WESTBERG, Manager Committees on Publication First Church of Christ, Scientist Boston

THE AMERICAN PLAGUE

Your article on the boom in declaring personal bankruptcy in the U.S. [BUSINESS, July 8] was right on target. Credit-card usage is truly an American plague, spreading uncontrollably throughout all parts of our economy. I feel no compassion for the credit agencies that make huge profits from monthly interest rates and fees. While it's true that individuals should be responsible for their debts, the banks are equally guilty of irresponsible profitmaking. Gil Oviedo Glendale, California Via E-mail

You neglected to point out who ultimately pays for the people who declare personal bankruptcy. It's poor saps like me who are under the delusion that personal responsibility and fiscal prudence still have meaning. Sooner or later the piper must be paid. J.K. BONNER Montrose, California Via E-mail

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