Ron Nessen demonstrated that spending "five tours reporting from Vietnam" hasn't made him any smarter when it comes to deciding what information is critical to keep from the enemy for operational security reasons and what information is merely "embarrassing" {"The Pentagon's Censors," op-ed, Jan. 12}.

Sure, a commander or weapons developer may be "embarrassed" if "details of major battle damage or major personnel losses" are revealed. But a lot of U.S. service men and women also would be needlessly placed at risk if Nessen were able to tell our enemy which of his tactics worked and which didn't within hours of an attack.

I'm surprised that an experienced reporter and news manager would advocate the release of tactically sensitive information simply because he isn't "covering the war for a monthly magazine."

No wonder some military commanders look upon the news media with suspicion. -- James G. Terry

Style Over Substance

In her essay "In Defense of Fashion. . ." {Style, Jan. 9}, Cathy Horyn said, "Fashion, for a lot of socially disadvantaged people, has served as a means of gaining acceptance."

On the same page as her essay was an interview with Carl Rowan, a man who, despite overwhelming childhood disadvantages, has reached the top of his profession through his brilliance, courage and hard work. Could he have gained such "acceptance" merely by wearing trendy jeans?

If school administrators feel that "students were more punctual when they wore uniforms," and the "clothes have become a daily distraction," why should we oppose uniforms? If we could get young people to place less emphasis on "competitive dressing" and more on academic achievement, wouldn't we be better off?

-- Derek Jones

Eclipsing the Night

Your weather forecasts are sometimes puzzling. The forecast for Maryland in your Jan. 14 issue, for example, said: "Today, partly sunny. High 45. Winds southwest 7-14 mph. Tonight, partly sunny. Low 33."

Now I understand why our president feels so sure about winning the war against Iraq quickly -- we can even turn the sun around. But we still need strong popular support, because we can make the nights only "partly" sunny.

-- A. J. Durelli

Matter of Degrees

Twice recently, I have read the phrase "high school degree" {Metro, Jan. 15} in your paper. High schools do not grant degrees but award diplomas upon graduation. Please inform your writers.

-- Jeanetta M. Wright


Before describing "Mr. Photojournalism" Howard Chapnick's magnifying eyepiece as a "loop" {Style, Jan. 9}, Laurie Goodstein should have consulted her dictionnaire. But since she didn't, your editors should have supplied her with the right word -- "loupe."

-- Charles Rozier

Untrue to Islam

The article "5 Percent Revolution -- The Radical Manifesto of Muslim Rap" {Show, Jan. 6} described the beliefs of a few rap singers as Islamic. However, the racist teachings of the Nation of Islam have nothing in common with the religion that almost 1 billion people practice.

The prophet Muhammad taught his followers to worship the one true God and to leave aside the worship of self, race and other idols. The racial superiority and hatred of people based on race as taught by the Nation of Islam has no basis in the Koran or the sayings of the prophet, the two sources for Islamic beliefs.

The Nation of Islam is nothing more than a political cult with no relation to true Islam, other than its borrowing of Islamic terminology. Its beliefs go against the moral principles of Islam and all the other major world religions.

-- Mahair Sibay

Lost in Space

Your Jan. 15 edition contained two articles concerning astronomy. One reported a gigantic burst from a quasar in a galaxy 2 billion light-years from Earth. The other was about a NASA probe of the Milky Way and mentioned the Big Bang theory and the creation of the universe some 15 billion years ago. How can these two findings be squared? The quasar is in the universe, which is only 15 billion years old, yet the burst has taken 2 billion light-years to reach Earth. How could that be?

It is said that we have reached the edge of the universe in our discoveries. What could lie beyond this so-called universe but more space and possibly more quasars and galaxies? It would seem the universe is infinite in space and time and that there was no beginning, no Big Bang, no cause, no creator.

The astronomers must be right, but they have not straightened out my thinking on the matter. -- Thomas G. Harris