This week’s “Free for All” letters.

Numb to guns

On April 30, multiple people were killed in a shooting on a major college campus — the University of North Carolina at Charlotte — and a gun was fired in a classroom at a local school — Hylton High School in Woodbridge — and neither incident made the May 1 front page. Have we become that desensitized to gun violence? If so, I guess the National Rifle Association has won.

Steve Brown, Bowie


The triatomine, or “kissing bug.” (Gabriel Hamer/Texas A&M University)
Yes, the 'kissing bug' is here

I was struck by two noticeable omissions in the April 30 Health & Science section.

The article about stroke risks, protocols and laws, “With strokes, the best hospital is key,” lacked two critical pieces of information: (1) Which local hospitals have comprehensive stroke treatment units? And (2) What ambulance laws and protocols affect residents in our region? In both cases, specific information could be lifesaving for readers. The topic is of sufficient importance that a localizing sidebar article was necessary. It’s not too late. Such an article could appear in a future edition. Incidentally, just by way of additional information, Johns Hopkins Hospital should be considered when secondary transfer to a specialized surgical facility is needed. U.S. News & World Report ranks Hopkins second in the country for neurology and neurosurgery.

In addition, the otherwise informative article about the “kissing bug” said the insect has been found in 28 states but failed to report whether Virginia, Maryland or the District were among them [“Beware the droppings of bloodsucking ‘kissing bug’]. While the risk is still quite limited in the United States, this is relevant to local readers.

Gary Axelson, Oakton

Temper the 'temple' talk

In her April 30 Metro column, “A show of words unsettles at a bookstore,” Petula Dvorak described Politics and Prose as “sacred,” “beloved,” “a temple” and “a church.” I’ve been to Politics and Prose — it’s nice. But, come on, it’s a bookstore.

Jim Pembroke, Washington

Lugar's legacy

I was disappointed to see in the April 29 front-page obituary for former senator Richard G. Lugar, “Senator was key in U.S. foreign policy,” no mention of his role as co-founder of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program, which brings nearly 1,000 high school students to the United States every year. The Indiana Republican spoke annually to these students about how being a Rhodes Scholar shaped his life and about the importance of citizen diplomacy and building connections among bright, future leaders.

The YES program was launched in the wake of 9/11, and since then the bipartisan project has created opportunities for more than 12,000 international students from 40 countries to share their cultures with volunteer host families, classmates and communities.

YES exemplifies Lugar’s ability to take the long view about complex issues. He saw YES as a way to invite students from around the world into U.S. homes to share the best of everyday America. The students also teach about their countries, places most Americans will never visit. Omitting this important contribution left out a critical piece of Lugar’s legacy, which will continue and grow in each YES student.

Megan Lysaght, Washington

The writer is program manager for the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program at American Councils for International Education.


Nineteenth-century shackles are on display in the basement of the Freedom House Museum in Alexandria. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
The dawn of America's enduring conflict

Thank you for the May 1 special section, “The dawn of American slavery,” on this year’s 400th anniversary of slavery in America. Recounting from contemporaneous documents the story of the first slave, named (presumably by her Portuguese masters) Angela, to come ashore in Jamestown brought home the banality of evil the slave trade represented in a way that no broad historical narrative could.

What was especially striking was the juxtaposition of this horrible event with the founding, in the same place in the same year, of what is now Virginia’s General Assembly, “the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World.” This duality, what Gunnar Myrdal, writing in 1944, called “an American dilemma,” is central to understanding our history, in which the ideals of democratic self-government run up against the reality of slavery and its progeny, from post-Reconstruction terrorism and Jim Crow laws to discrimination in all areas of public and private life, right down to today’s efforts once more to restrict voting rights for the descendants of slaves and other people of color. Thanks for this compelling look into the origins of this, the most enduring conflict in our democracy.

Patrick G. Grasso, Alexandria

Richard Holbrooke was a great diplomat

Regarding Adam B. Kushner’s review of George Packer’s book “Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century” [“When a renowned diplomat is also a contemptible person,” Outlook, May 5]:

Holbrooke served his country brilliantly for more than 40 years, practicing diplomacy from the Vietnam War to the war in Afghanistan. It would take many pages to reply to all of the instances of Kushner’s malicious cherry-picking of Holbrooke’s life and work. One blatant example: In the second paragraph, he referred to Holbrooke’s achievement in negotiating the deal that ended the genocidal conflict in Bosnia, begrudgingly attributing Holbrooke’s success to “hyperactive bullying,” and then, parenthetically, averring that, anyway, the achievement was “fleeting,” because soon the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic “launched another genocide in Kosovo.”

The number of misstatements perpetrated in so short a passage was actually kind of remarkable. First, assuming it really was some kind of unpleasant, overbearing “hyperactive bullying” that brought a close to the worst bloodshed in Europe since the Nazis, let’s hear it for hyperactive bullying. Second, the deal in Bosnia was in no way and by no reasonable interpretation of events “fleeting.” The framework agreement pretty much still holds today, after nearly a quarter-century. Third, Milosevic didn’t “launch another genocide in Kosovo”; if that’s what he planned to do, he was prevented from it by timely action against him, very much supported by Holbrooke.

I knew and liked Holbrooke, whom I first encountered in the 1970s when I was a young reporter and he was assistant secretary of state for East Asia. I remember a day with him in Beijing meeting Chinese artists who were dissenting from the canons of official Maoist art. There was nothing practical in it for Holbrooke that day, no ambition to be advanced, no personal gain. What was palpable was how eager he was to escape the usual diplomatic confines and how deeply moved he was by what he saw.

It was of a piece with his “hyperactive bullying” that persuaded the Carter administration to admit thousands of Southeast Asian refugees into the United States.

If it takes a “contemptible person” to do these things, too bad there aren’t more of them.

Richard Bernstein, New York


Dennis Jett views exhaust plumes expelled by ABC Coke in Birmingham, Ala. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)
Smoking out the bigger problem

In the April 28 Business article “The betrayal,” there is a photograph of a man leaning out a window. The caption says the man is worried about the impact on his health from plumes from the nearby ABC Coke plant. Seems to me he should be more worried about the risk from the cigarette in his left hand.

Kenneth Mason, Alexandria

Signs of an earlier interest in astrology

In his April 28 Outlook essay on astrology, Ron Reagan wrote that his mother “fell prey to an astrologer” after his father, President Ronald Reagan, was shot [“Spring cleaning”]. 

As Ronald Reagan’s 1965 autobiography, “Where’s the Rest of Me?,” makes clear, this was not Nancy Reagan’s first contact with astrology. The book includes this statement: “One of our good friends is Carroll Righter, who has a syndicated column on astrology. Every morning Nancy and I turn to see what he has to say about people of our respective birth signs.”

Press rumors that astrologists determined the just-past-midnight timing of Reagan’s inauguration as governor of California on Jan. 2, 1967, dogged that administration. In May 1988, The Post and other newspapers published information on the Reagans’ interest in astrology as cited in former White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan’s book “For the Record.”

Fred Donner, Falls Church


An opposition demonstrator is hit by a Venezuelan national guard vehicle in Caracas on April 30. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)
A more accurate picture of Venezuela

Regarding the May 1 editorial “Venezuela’s high-risk uprising”:

It was interesting to read an editorial that said Venezuela’s “uprising is not a ‘coup attempt’ ” but argued only that the Venezuelan government is bad. What does that have to do with whether the opposition is attempting a coup? Would you prefer we call it an “unevenly weighted national election limited to the top military leadership”? If you want to support a coup in Venezuela, fine, but be honest about it, please.

Alan Schoen, Reston

Regarding the May 1 front-page photograph with the article “Violence erupts in Venezuela”:

I was surprised and disappointed to see that The Post chose to use a photo of an opponent of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro using a chokehold on a national guard soldier. First, context: Had the soldier perhaps been shooting at opposition protesters? Second, to truly reflect what is going on in Venezuela, especially government repression, it would have been better to use a photo of the military vehicles that were running over protesters. That would have accurately reflected the Post editorial that day “Venezuela’s high-risk uprising.”

Karin Ruckhaus, Arlington

Missing Weingarten is no luxury

The April 28 Washington Post Magazine cover, with a scantily clad model, was unnecessary and could be seen as objectification of the woman. Like the March 10 “Young Guns” cover, it served no useful purpose. If the magazine must do a luxury issue, make it a separate publication and leave regular features, including Gene Weingarten’s column, for readers to enjoy.

Robert M. Maginnis Jr., Waynesboro, Pa.

Where's the gab about Gabbard?

I get very sick of The Post ignoring 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). She usually gets into a list of female candidates but only sometimes into lists of veteran candidates, minority candidates or minor-support candidates. In the April 28 news article “Biden has edge in Democratic presidential race,” former congressman John Delaney (D-Md.), Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) were cited and even Marianne Williamson got a reference, but not Gabbard. Why is this? Is it because she is from Hawaii? Is it because she is female and part Samoan, and/or because of her opposition to some long-term wars? She has reached the number of donors needed to take part in the June debate and has reached 1 percent in enough polls. She wants to talk about and question the wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Why can’t she be at least noticed and those issues get attention? 

Nancy Hilding, Black Hawk, S.D.


Mikah Meyer at the Lincoln Memorial. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)
Westeros, D.C.

I couldn’t help but point this out: Thanks to The Post for the photograph of the young Night King successfully raising the dead at the Reflecting Pool on April 29 [“Completing the circuit,” Metro, May 1].  Not something you see every day.

Michael V. Green, Kensington

Real wrestling news

In April, the University of Maryland announced that Alex Clemsen, an associate coach at the University of Missouri, would be replacing Kerry McCoy as the head wrestling coach. In a season in which The Post has written more than a few articles on a high school wrestler two states away, not to mention reporting on numerous football and basketball coaches being hired at universities across the country, you couldn’t find a couple of lines to report on an important hire for Maryland? 

Malcolm Wilson, Silver Spring