Idol Justice

Some who read Peter Noel's article "Police Brutality and Voodoo Justice" [June 20], which contained several quotes attributed to me, perhaps were amused by Noel's irreverent treatment of the religion commonly known as "Voodoo." Those in the media and law enforcement who have investigated crimes committed by practitioners of what commonly is referred to as the occult are accustomed to being ridiculed by those who do not understand the role that unorthodox religious beliefs can sometimes play in the commission of bizarre and often violent crimes. While Noel's tone betrayed his obvious enjoyment in telling this story, in doing so he missed several opportunities to relay facts that do not lend themselves to humor.

First, Noel did not clarify that it was members of New York's Haitian community who sought out retired NYPD detective Bob Volpe [father of Justin Volpe, the former police officer convicted of sexually assaulting Abner Louima] with their claims about Abner Louima, and that they gave to Volpe the religious items he kept in his possession during his son's trial.

Secondly, Noel failed to mention my report on this case, "17 Days in August: A Tale of Cops, Steroids, and the Mob!" in which I not only expanded on the angle that steroids were involved but was the first to publicly espouse the theory that there were three cops in the bathroom on the night Louima was tortured.

Finally, Noel did not report that I have frequently asked for public prayers on behalf of the Volpe and Louima families; on one occasion Reverend Betty Neal and I invited the Volpe family to an interfaith prayer vigil held at Harlem's Mount Olivet Baptist Church. Justin Volpe's parents attended and offered a public apology to the Louima family, who were expected to be in attendance. The members of the various faiths attending offered forgiveness and support to the Volpe and Louima families, and I encourage all New Yorkers to offer prayers of forgiveness and healing to a city that is polarized along racial lines. I especially send this challenge to those in the clergy and the media.

James Ridgway de Szigethy

The Art of War

As a documentary photographer who covers famine, disease, and other afflictions, I was appalled at Richard B. Woodward's treatment of photographer James Nachtwey's motives in his review of Nachtwey's new book, Inferno ["To Hell and Back," June 13]. Woodward's premise seems to center around the idea that Nachtwey's images corner the viewer into a predetermined set of feelings, including guilt and revulsion. He also contends that Nachtwey must love to photograph war, famine, and disease since he constantly calls our attention to it. In short, Nachtwey is practically portrayed as an unbalanced voyeur preying on his subjects and on a captive audience's emotions.

While I was shocked by the graphic elements in some of Nachtwey's images, I was more worried about how close he was to the action. I never questioned his motives. Nachtwey is a stunningly gifted photographer. Would Woodward have been more satisfied if the images were not as well composed? Photography is a medium with a language of graphic and aesthetic forms. One must be drawn to see the images in order to get the message. The goal is to make you think, to punch you in the gut in order to get the message across.

I also have wondered how Nachtwey has been able to take it for so long in the field, especially with respect to his war photographs. I realize that he feels he has a mission, as many of us do. Mr. Woodward should have focused on the personal costs Nachtwey has incurred by carrying on his calling.

Conrad Duroseau
Montreal, Canada

Richard B. Woodward replies: It is not only fair to question Nachtwey's motives but vital. Collecting anonymous dead, maimed, or famished bodies in a luxury art book is an anti-war statement of dubious efficacy, serving mainly to elevate the artist—his "vision"—above any horror suffered by victims. Nachtwey photographed a starving Sudanese as he looked up from his knees at the camera. What can this man have thought as Time's correspondent crouched, got his shots, and walked away? I'm not asking for sloppier pictures, but I am looking for a deeper connection to people in trouble—or maybe an honest admission about war's enduring appeal for photographers—than Nachtwey's arty eye and pious rhetoric seem to allow.

No Choice

The censorship of prochoice ads on network TV discussed by Sharon Lerner ["The Right to Choose Ads," June 20] is yet another threat to women's reproductive rights in the current political climate. At a time of severely restricted abortion access across the country, it is absolutely imperative that women are aware of the threats to their freedom and the necessity of upholding full reproductive rights.  

NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox's refusal to run an ad sponsored by the Pro-Choice Education Project, while airing an ad by the antichoice DeMoss Foundation, indicates that they want to return to the time when tens of thousands of women died every year in America as a result of illegal abortions.

We must fight to retain legal, safe, and effective abortion access for all women, and we must insist upon a full debate in the media.

Josie Rodberg
Legislative Associate
National Abortion and
Reproductive Rights Action League

Black Plague

Re Kai Wright's article "Emergency Call" [June 20]: I am relieved that the U.S. authorities are at last starting to put the necessary funding behind the fight against AIDS. Wright's article highlighted many of the difficulties that are experienced in the United Kingdom in tackling the spread of HIV among the African communities.

The church has an important role to play here, as it does in the U.S., and the stigma around HIV and AIDS is only part of the problem. More important is the need for education on socioeconomic factors, including the effects of racism and homophobia. Also there is little mention of sex and sexuality in the black media here.

Black communities throughout the world need to address topics that we would rather leave untouched, including serious AIDS prevention strategies.

Simon Nelson
London, England

Mott-Sa Matta?

Re Chisun Lee's article "Between Mott and Mulberry" [June 20]: It is unfortunate that there are some neighborhood residents who do not want a pedestrian mall on Mulberry Street in Little Italy. The Figli di San Gennaro Committee, which took over administration of the mall this year from the Little Italy Chamber of Commerce, is willing to review the merits of any legitimate complaint from community groups or organizations. During mall hours, merchants are instructed to control the level of noise coming from their establishments and make sure tables and chairs have been removed from the sidewalks by midnight. Everything is being done to ensure that residents are inconvenienced as little as possible.

The Mulberry Street Pedestrian Mall not only benefits the Italian community but the Chinatown merchants as well. Since opening in 1996, it has attracted thousands of people every weekend. In addition to dining at Italian restaurants on Mulberry Street, many spill over onto Mott and other streets in Chinatown.

Ms. Lee also writes incorrectly that Annette Sabatino, owner of the Da Nico restaurant on Mulberry Street, has "ascended to [Anne] Compoccia's former position" (presumably as president of the Little Italy Chamber of Commerce), insinuating that she is running the mall. This is false. However, Ms. Sabatino is trea-surer of Figli di San Gennaro.

Les Schecter
Figli di San Gennaro

Trade Talk

James Ridgeway's item titled "The Radical Center" [Mondo Washington, June 13] is a striking example of the disparity between concern over third-world poverty and the de rigueur hostility to free trade. Ridgeway criticizes the alleged "shipping of U.S. jobs abroad" as an inevitable aspect of free trade. Yet U.S. unemployment continues to decline, while those jobs "shipped abroad" build wealth where it is critically needed. Why criticize 401(k) investment in emerging markets? There is no evidence that pension plans have been "devalued" as a result. Most of Asia's emerging markets have recovered, and, using investment from those excoriated fund managers, have created jobs, built new, locally owned high-tech industries, and outperformed U.S. equity markets.

In addition, it seems ironic to lament the chaos in some parts of Africa without questioning how African economies can achieve the wealth and stability of other emerging markets, except with free access to global trade and capital markets. Economic growth is not the zero-sum game Ridgeway presumes. Jobs gained in emerging markets are not jobs lost in the U.S. If anyone is "putting mothers to work at exploitative wages" in the U.S., surely the solution should not be to deprive emerging markets of economic opportunity.

Joseph Cole

Vedder 'N' Crew

In Nick Catucci's review of Pearl Jam's album Binaural ["Plumb Tired," June 13], he failed to recognize Pearl Jam's love of its fans. Sure, Pearl Jam is not creating the catchy tunes from Ten and Vs. that so many people once loved—but why would they? If I want to hear a song like "Alive," I'll buy that album. I won't buy the same damn song re-created over and over again, so that the original song no longer offers the same intense feeling and emotion. Binaural is Pearl Jam now, and if you don't like that, I doubt that Eddie Vedder or the rest of the crew cares.  

Ryan Garber
Beavercreek, Ohio

The Giving Tree

I very much appreciated Magie Dominic's eerily moving account of the killing of the tree behind our Chelsea apartments ["Old City Tree," June 13]. I tend a tiny garden next to the larger garden where that majestic weed tree stood. Now the sky is blank, and my shade-loving greenery, planted to thrive in the tree's shadows, cringes in the sun. I have felt unaccountably sad ever since the tree was cut down, and Dominic gave words to feelings that I wasn't entirely conscious of having.

Joshua David

Kitty Letter

Thank you to Amy Taubin for her wise comment regarding the smirk at animal rights at the beginning of the movie A Civilized People ["Join the Good-Fight Club," June 20]. Taubin writes that "cruelty toward animals is often the first sign of . . . the erosion of empathy and of the value of life." Most of us don't abuse animals, but are simply indifferent. Isn't our attitude toward humans similar? Compassion, which is rarely species specific, should be nurtured rather than ridiculed, wherever it appears.

Karen Dawn
Los Angeles, California

Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!

My former Daily News colleague Tom Robbins did his usual great job explaining the shenanigans in the abortive revolt against state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver ["Rebellion of the Hollow Men," June 6]. But one thing I didn't see was an explanation of why it is necessary for a group plotting the overthrow of the Assembly leadership to announce its intentions days before making a move. Coming from a long line of disgruntled rebels, I know that one thing you do in such situations is keep your mouth shut.

Dick Sheridan

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