All Opposed, Say Why

"New Debate About an Old Killer" [news story, Aug. 26] discusses the controversy in Florida, triggered by attorneys for a death-row inmate, about whether to abolish the electric chair. The lawyers argue that electrocution constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and should be outlawed as unconstitutional.

With the electric chair endorsed by the state senate 36 to 0, and by the state house of representatives 103 to 6, it seems surprising that in 26 column-inches of type, the legislators' rationale for favoring the chair over painless death by injection is never mentioned.

-- Tollef Jacobson

Beltway Building Blocks

Had Douglas Feaver been present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the Capital Beltway section in August 1964, he would have noted that he was standing on concrete, not asphalt, as he wrote in his very well-researched Aug. 30 front-page feature, "Washington's Main Drag."

All interstate highway construction was to be of concrete with the Capital Beltway a prime example. The term "ribbon of concrete" was the oft-used expression in the highway stories of the day. Even today, 35 years later, traffic is slowed by the arduous task of replacing and reconfiguring the worn-out, outmoded roadway with concrete.

-- Joe Shafran

Clock Watcher

The Aug. 26 Metro article "Precision Plan ning for 2000" states that Washington's ball will drop "at 12:00:00 a.m. . . . with peerless precision." How can that be? There is no such time. It is either 12 midnight or 12 noon. The abbreviation a.m. means ante meridiem (before noon) and p.m. means post meridiem (after noon).

-- Sylvia L. Cash

Label Conscious

Your Aug. 24 headline "Espionage Whistleblower Resigns" indicated that the Department of Energy's Notra Trulock resigned amid allegations that he singled out a Chinese American as the prime espionage suspect based on his ethnicity. This may be true, but the news media are no less guilty of such discrimination.

Your use of the "Taiwan-born scientist" label [news story, Aug. 31] implies that anyone born in Taiwan who became a naturalized U.S. citizen may be a potential scamp or Chinese spy. The degree of a person's patriotism cannot be judged by his or her origin, ethnicity or birthplace. To do so would violate the individual's constitutional rights.

-- Winston T. Dang

Armed and Dangerous

What was the reasoning behind the selection of two photos of women with guns alongside the heading "Role Models for Women" in the Aug. 28 Free for All?

The writer of the letter who evoked these pictures had astutely identified them as blue-collar heroines of recent movies overlooked by author Susan Isaacs in an article decrying the dearth of strong leading women [Outlook, Aug. 15].

In light of the raging debate about gun control, do you really think it either responsible, useful or beneficial to encourage people to link images of gun-toting people -- regardless of sex -- with the concept of "role model"?

-- Nita Congress

Quiet in the Classroom

I am perplexed as to why Pamela Gerhardt would be surprised that the majority of her college-age students "don't know how to -- or care to -- express their views, particularly on heated social topics" ["A Higher Degree of Indifference," Outlook, Aug. 22].

As a parent who has had children in the local school system for 15 years, I can sum up the problem in two words: political correctness. No one is willing to play devil's advocate when she or he runs the almost certain risk of being labeled a racist, a sexist or close-minded -- or alienating the teacher and being downgraded for offering an opinion not aligned with the rest of the class.

Teaching respect for others' opinions, be they liberal or conservative, should be the focus in schools today. Ye reap what ye sow.

-- Victoria Schrecengost Carney

Bench Mark

David Broder's Aug. 25 column was interesting, as usual. One small point: Broder wrote that "the Supreme Court of today, with its law-and-order and protect-states-rights majority, is radically different from the Warren court of the mid-1970s." Earl Warren retired in 1969, didn't he?

-- Harold W. Hopp