Time Will Tell

In response to Nat Hentoff's column "Time Warner and Human Rights" [November 16], about Norman Pearlstine's involvement in Fortune's Global Forum 1999, I'm writing to let you know why Norman Pearlstine was chosen to be chairman of the annual benefit dinner of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

As CPJ chairman, I asked Mr. Pearlstine to consider the dinner chairmanship because of his deep commitment to freedom of expression and because I consider him to be one of the world's finest editors. Fortune has become, arguably, the country's most engaging and most substantive magazine because of his leadership as editor in chief of Time, Inc. magazines. And Pearlstine has brought investigative reporting to Time-one of the world's healthiest journalistic achievements, I think, of the decade.

As a result of Norman Pearlstine's achievements and unprecedented efforts on behalf of CPJ, the Committee to Protect Journalists will be able to fight for world press freedom even more effectively in 2000 than it did in 1999. I am deeply grateful for his efforts.

I can understand why human rights organizations would want conferences and press coverage of China to proceed without restrictions of any kind. So do I. And so, of course, does CPJ. But as the former editor of publications deeply committed to foreign coverage, I know the realities of dealing with totalitarian governments. The New York Times was criticized during the early stages of the Cold War for covering Russia under harsh censorship. Harrison Salisbury, writing for The New York Times, was attacked for entering Hanoi during the Vietnam War under tight restrictions, as was Peter Arnett of CNN for staying in Baghdad under rigid controls. But history, I think, shows that the body of our knowledge increased, rather than diminished, because of these moves.

In the end, a news organization's record on covering dictatorships should be judged not by a single conference or assignment, but by the body of its work. I don't believe that anyone can read Time or listen to CNN over a reasonable period of time and fail to conclude that the lack of human rights is a horrendous problem in China.

Gene Roberts, Professor
College of Journalism
University of Maryland

Nat Hentoff replies: Gene Roberts fails to mention that reporters staying in a totalitarian country to report the facts is hardly the same as Time Warner and Norman Pearlstine convening CEOs of Americanmedia organizations and other worldwide conglomerates in China to increase their profits by saluting a government that continues to violate the most basic human rights-and did so immediately before and during Time Warner's celebration of the Chinese government's 50th birthday. The same government, of course, that has kept on imprisoning advocates of free speech and free press ever since.

Show Us You're Pissed

I attended the Woodstock '99 festival this year and was totally disgusted by the misogynistic behavior I witnessed. I appreciated Robin Rothman's article "Politics of the Pit," [November 9] and that she included quotes from individuals who were also shocked by things they had seen.

There should be more articles written about the overall disrespect of the men that weekend-particularly on the second and third days. I am positive the number of sexual assaults was much higher than reported, because the attitudes of men toward women at Woodstock '99 were frightening. It was impossible for just about any woman to walk down a path without at least five men shouting, "Show me your tits!" at any given time of day. I am just sorry that so many of the bands, promoters, and concertgoers don't want to talk about it.

Melanie Julian

Warts and All

In "An Old Virus Becomes a New Argument for Abstinence" [November 9], Sharon Lerner calls HPV "a relatively inconsequential disease." HPV is one of the most common STDs in the United States. It is present in "virtually all cervical cancers," according to a recent study in the Journal of Pathology (September 1999). Cervical cancer is second only to breast cancer in malignacies that kill women.

HPV is inconsequential? That's almost as absurd as Dr. Kenneth Noller's statement that HPV is "the least important of STDs." Tell that to the over 10 million American women with active HPV infections. Or to the 1 million women who have diseased and possibly precancerous tissue as a result of HPV. Or to the 5000 wives, mothers, and daughters who die each year from cervical cancer.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' vice president Ralph Hale is paraphrased as saying that "women should know that other factors, such as smoking, influence whether a woman will get cervical cancer." But The Journal of Pathology reported that HPV is "the highest attributable fraction so far reported for a specific cause of any major human cancer."

It is common medical knowledge that transmission of the HPV virus occurs outside the protection capabilities of a condom. Yet, in Sharon Lerner's article, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood insists that those of us, like Dr. Tom Coburn, who are concerned about women's health are "anti-woman." They say this because we are giving women the facts about the ineffectiveness of condoms to protect them from contracting HPV.

What the article lacked, besides the facts about HPV, is ACOG and Planned Parenthood's plan to prevent the spread of HPV. But that isn't the author's fault. As far as we know, ACOG and Planned Parenthood don't have any plans to prevent HPV transmission. Let's think again about who is "anti-woman."

Yvette Cantu
Policy Analyst, Family Research Council
Washington, D.C.

Sharon Lerner replies: It is not true that virtually all cervical cancer is caused by HPV. According to the Centers for Disease Control's Helene Gayle, roughly 70 percent of cervical cancer can be linked to HPV. More important, it is cervical cancer-and not HPV-that directly threatens women's health. I never said that cervical cancer is an inconsequential disease. It is not. Nor is HPV inconsequential. As I state in the article, the virus is not harmless. It is, however, relatively less harmful than other STDs that condoms can protect against, such as AIDS.


Writers for Mumia will hold a symposium in defense of Mumia Abu Jamal on November 20. The event will be at Columbia University's Law School auditorium at 116th and Amsterdam. For information call 633-6646.

Letters should be brief, and phone numbers must be included. E-mail to editor@villagevoice.com

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