Every week, The Post runs a collection of letters of readers’ grievances — pointing out grammatical mistakes, missing coverage and inconsistencies. These letters tell us what we did wrong and, occasionally, offer praise. Here, we present this week’s Free for All letters.

Remember the 'International' in International Space Station

It was striking to see the dramatic “Safe landing” photograph on the June 26 front page, marking the successful end of Expedition 59’s 204-day mission to the International Space Station. I regret only that The Post missed an opportunity to help readers fully appreciate the international nature of this mission.

The landing site in Kazakhstan was mentioned, but Russia was not identified as the contributor of the Soyuz spacecraft. Also absent from the caption were the names and nationalities of U.S. astronaut Anne McClain’s crewmates: Russian cosmonaut (and expedition commander) Oleg Kononenko and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques. 


At such a tense time in U.S. relations with Russia and even with close allies, it’s a pity not to highlight reminders that successful international cooperation is still possible.

Greg Thielmann, Arlington

Down to Earth

I enjoyed the June 21 special section celebrating Apollo 11’s anniversary. But please have more respect for the science that got us there. Floating items in orbit are not “among the first signs you’ve escaped the deep well of Earth’s gravity” [“50 astronauts with far-out memories”]. Things float in orbit because they’re in free fall through Earth’s gravity. The moon, roughly a quarter-million miles away, is held in orbit by Earth’s gravity, so no one in low Earth orbit of a few hundred miles has “escaped” it. 


Dean Wight, Rockville

The June 21 articleOur moon — partner, protector, benefactor” [Apollo 11 special section] said Theia, an orbital body, came “barreling straight toward Earth.” I can’t imagine that a straight-on collision would not have destroyed both bodies. The article said that billions of pounds of rock were thrown from Earth, but even billions of tons would be a conservative estimate.


The moon does not trail Earth in its orbit. The moon lags behind the near-side tidal bulge as the Earth rotates. The moon’s gravity on the bulge slows the Earth’s rotation.

The era of eclipses will not be over when the moon recedes far enough that it never entirely covers the sun. Partial eclipses, in which the moon crosses the sun off-center as most observers see, will continue. Total eclipses will cease, as the article noted, but we will still experience annular eclipses. These occur when the moon crosses the sun and the moon is more distant in its slightly oval orbit and/or the Earth is closer to the sun. During these events, a small solar ring appears around the moon.


Gus Mancuso, Laurel

Hold the self-help

Regarding the June 30 Arts & Style article “Books for the ages”:

What a grand idea to attach books to age. I read the list with interest, agreeing with some decisions, though not all. I was dismayed, though, by the turn the list took for people as they age. The volumes on self-help through personal reflection or experiences of others outnumbered books on intellectual interests. If readers hadn’t been reading about the trials of middle age or how to get through their 30s, why would they want to wallow in such books as the years pile on? (By the way: Ditto for mysteries.)


A woman I know who is in her mid-80s and serves on several neighborhood boards reads voraciously about politics, social policy and other current matters. Yes, she has read the Mueller report. Heck, if you live long enough to enjoy more reading, why not relish the topics and authors of choice and continue to invigorate the mind?


Carolyn Lieberg, Washington

I read with appreciation the content and literary talents of Kathleen Parker’s June 23 op-ed, “Just more of Joe being Joe? Boy, oh boy.” — up until the last 14 words. Surely there is a more appropriate illustration to be made of the malapropisms in today’s uncivil political atmosphere than to assign Joe Biden’s words and actions to his age. In a rapidly aging society in the United States, with about 10,000 individuals becoming eligible for Medicare (age 65) daily for the next decade, her words pile on to the ageism that senior adults confront at virtually every level of our work and personal lives, and it is just as egregious a stereotype as those she targeted in her op-ed.


Mary E. Worstell, Washington


The writer is retired from
the Health and Human Service’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, where she directed initiatives on older adult safety and health.

The sky's the limit

Thanks for the June 23 Sports article “Little girl with big dreams,” featuring Sky Brown, a 10-year-old girl attempting to qualify for the 2020 Olympic skateboarding event. It is admirable to see a person so young who not only has a goal but also is striving hard to achieve it, competing against adults with many more years of experience in the sport.

William Steigelmann, Myersville

Calling foul on an unfair portrayal

Sally Jenkins’s June 26 Sports column on the NCAA, “Emmert rules NCAA like it’s a feudal state. His time is up.,” was an excessive and unfair twofer: It combined an incomplete and misleading picture of the NCAA’s communication with the state of California over SB-206, the Fair Pay to Play Act, with an unwarranted, personal attack on NCAA President Mark Emmert.


The NCAA did send a letter to the California legislature regarding that legislation, which would compensate student-athletes for the use of their image. But the letter does not take a position on the bill, much less oppose it. Rather, it “request[s] respectfully” and “humbly ask[s]” California to delay action until October, when an NCAA task force that includes university presidents, athletics directors and student-athletes will issue a report with recommendations.

Jenkins failed to mention that the Pac-12, Mountain West and Big West conferences had previously sent similar letters to the California legislature with the same request. Contrary to her assertion, there is nothing in the letter that threatens or extorts the state. The letter does not, as is clearly implied, mention the Rose Bowl or the 2023 College Football Playoff championship game. Indeed, as Jenkins surely knows, the NCAA does not even oversee the College Football Playoff; that is done by a completely separate organization.

The NCAA letter makes clear that it fully understands the widespread interest in allowing a student’s name, image and likeness to be monetized but is anxious to find ways to ensure that doing so does not totally erode the line that separates professional and college sports. If policymakers want to make fundamental changes in college sports, it seems well worthwhile to get it right. “Measure twice, cut once” is a good rule for carpenters and legislatures.


Terry W. Hartle, Washington

The writer is senior vice president of the American Council on Education.

The emotional meltdown after Three Mile Island

The June 18 Metro article “Virginia uranium ban is upheld” said the Virginia legislature was “leery after the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island.” Leery? That word creates the false impression that judgment and hesitation were being exercised. Instead, Virginia legislators were caught up in a trampling stampede of hysterical reaction to what was ultimately proof of reasonable safety and prudence in the nuclear power industry.

That incident would have improved the safety of nuclear power so much more if good judgment were in control instead of baseless hysteria. Research and development would have solved the various issues of waste disposal in the decades since Three Mile Island if nuclear power had expanded instead of being hampered by emotional nonsense. We lost four decades (and more still go out the window) because of emotional overreaction.


The article should have mentioned that no one was injured, much less killed, in the Three Mile Island accident. Reporting on the incident was dominated by hysteria for more than a decade and was undeniably the main reason this country burns primarily fossil fuel s instead of using nuclear fuel to produce electricity — the worst technological setback in modern U.S. history. That technological paralysis was, and still is, so profound that it is hard to overstate the damage.

The article did not explain how uranium mining would harm the health or safety of Virginians (or anyone else). The health consequences of coal mining dwarf the relatively minor ones from uranium mining.

Bill Rymer, Lexington Park

The candidates and the issues

I was really impressed by and appreciative of the June 21 The Candidates section. It was well done and probably required a lot of research by many. The front and back pages were really great at identifying the major issues and showing in numbers and circle size how each candidate has dedicated his or her attention to each issue. The inside pages broke down the major issues and showed where the various candidates stand, with key statements if applicable.


I am so pleased The Post took the time to synopsize the Democratic candidates in a very important election. Now it is up to the candidates to espouse their issues over time. I hope The Post will put this same thing together maybe in a year from now to see how each has adjusted to the election environment.

Bob Heyer, Fairfax Station

In the June 21 special section The Candidates, which highlighted the differences of views of the current Democratic presidential candidates, the chart category of foreign policy included the sub-header “Israel-Palestine.” There is no such country or place called “Palestine.” No matter how much The Post pushes, that reality is not a fait accompli. It may occur one day, but it is an impossibility as long as the Palestinians keep refusing to even sit down and negotiate for something they seemingly want.

During the British Mandate for Palestine period, the only people who called themselves Palestinians were the Jews. The Jewish newspaper was the Palestine Post; the Jewish symphony was the Palestine Symphony Orchestra, etc. The current-day Palestinians didn’t call themselves Palestinians until they realized it would confuse people into thinking they had been there since time immemorial. It’s ironic that the Palestinians appropriated the Jewish pre-state title. The Palestinians did not formally identify themselves as a separate group called Palestinians until 1964, when Arab League members founded the militant Palestine Liberation Organization. The PLO chose the label “Palestinian” to contrive a political claim to the land.

The Post can’t seem to help but champion the Palestinian cause at every turn — even sneaking it into an article about presidential candidates.

Michael Berenhaus, Bethesda

High school historiography

Jay Mathews sold history teachers a bit short when he implied in his June 24 Education column, “Debates over history remain very much in the present — and in the classroom,” that we may still be teaching the view of President Andrew Johnson that he learned in high school. A look at any mainstream textbook would tell him that few of us would teach the view of Johnson as the beleaguered defender of Abraham Lincoln’s Reconstruction plans.

A talk with any U.S. or Advanced Placement U.S. history teacher would tell him that historiography (for example, comparing the description of Johnson in John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage” with that by David W. Blight) has long been taught, and, in fact, the revised APUSH exam (Mathews has long been an admirer of those exams) actually stresses that students be able to sort out conflicting interpretations of history. Indeed, I liked Mathews’s example and plan to, if I can, make it into a question for a test I make up next year.

But in the case of “Profiles in Courage,” there is more history to sort out. The person who gets the praise is not Johnson but Sen. Edmund Ross, who is said to have cast the deciding vote against Johnson’s removal. More recent research, however, indicates that Ross may have taken a bribe and at the very least had much to lose if Sen. Benjamin Wade (next in line) had taken over as president.

We history teachers work very hard to present students with the best understandings we can get about any aspect of controversy in history. I think we should get a bit more credit from Mathews.

Susan Ikenberry, Washington

Advanced chemistry

An interesting sidelight on the June 27 obituary for George Rosenkranz, “Chemist helped create birth control pill in 1950s,” is the later realization that a considerable amount of serendipity was involved in the discovery of the oral contraceptives. The research that led to those drugs was spurred by the observation that progesterone inhibits ovulation in rabbits. However, this compound is not absorbed well when taken by mouth. Both norethindrone and norethynodrel provided synthetic counterparts of progesterone that overcame that limitation. One of the steps in the syntheses for preparing norethynodrel resulted in the formation of the potent estrogen mestranol as a very minor byproduct. Subsequent research revealed that the contraceptive activity was in good part because of that estrogenic component. Virtually all oral contraceptives now include a measured amount of an estrogen.

Daniel Lednicer, Rockville

It's about her, not him

Regarding the June 21 Metro article “GMU selects interim leader”:

Kudos for recognizing that Anne Holton’s husband is not the headline.

Susan G. Schwartz, Fairfax

A better descriptor of the AHA

The June 21 front-page article “Supreme Court rules Md. cross may stand” inappropriately referred to the American Humanist Association as an “atheist organization.” The association, which initiated the suit behind the court’s American Legion v. American Humanist Association decision, carefully distinguishes its beliefs from atheism, saying: “Humanism encompasses a variety of nontheistic views (atheism, agnosticism, rationalism, naturalism, secularism, and so forth) while adding . . . ethical values . . . grounded in . . . the Enlightenment, informed by scientific knowledge, and driven by a desire to meet the needs of people.”

Many still perceive atheism as “the doctrine or belief that there is no God,” as the dictionary defined it as recently as a few decades ago. Because science can’t prove the nonexistence of “God,” any fixed belief that “there is no God” requires something akin to supernatural faith. But the American Humanist Association believes we should “lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment” and can do so without resorting to “theism or other supernatural beliefs.”

“Nontheistic” is a better one-word descriptor than “atheist,” but it still entirely misses the centrality of ethics and personal fulfillment to the American Humanist Association’s beliefs.

Marvin Solberg, Edgewater

What sexual assault is really about

I was troubled by E. Jean Carroll’s comments reported in the June 25 news article “Trump says latest accuser is ‘lying,’ ” implying that whether President Trump (or any other alleged perpetrator) finds a person attractive could be a contributing factor to that person being a target of a sexual assault.

Sexual assault and rape are crimes of violence and are about power and control. Suggesting that a person’s attractive appearance or attire in some way contributes to that person being a target of a sexual crime perpetuates misinformation about the nature of these crimes. In addition, it wrongfully shifts some of the responsibility for the crime onto the survivor of the assault rather than placing it squarely with the perpetrator. This misinformation also erodes effective prevention strategies, which include comprehensive education for all individuals about consent, messages and myths regarding gender roles, and the abuse of power and privilege.

Kirsten M. Lundeberg, Fairfax

Christianity's real realtionship to classical knowledge

How scholars in a few cities kept ancient knowledge alive in the Dark Ages,” the June 23 Book World review of Violet Moller’s book, “The Map of Knowledge: A Thousand-Year History of How Classical Ideas Were Lost and Found,” stated that “after the decline of the western Roman Empire . . . the rise of Christianity led to the destruction of libraries.” To the contrary, St. Benedict and the rise of Catholic monasteries kept knowledge alive, as monks labored to copy ancient manuscripts by hand, thereby preserving knowledge for future generations.

Susan Majewski, Manassas

Don't normalize suicide

Regarding the June 25 Health & Science article “Some seniors weigh the idea of ‘rational suicide’ ”:

Making suicide seem kind and reasonable is an injustice both to the elderly and to those families who are mourning the premature death of a loved one. Will vulnerable people, especially women, minorities and the poor, be bullied into accepting a lethal overdose instead of being given assistance? How tragic if suicide or euthanasia becomes the normal way of dealing with the inconveniences and challenges of aging. Even younger people will be influenced by changing the societal norm in favor of life.

Jean Gaes, Crofton

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