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Pointing A Finger At Leah Fastow

Thus far, we have not seen evidence of many women partaking in the slew of white-collar crimes surfacing since Enron (ENRNQ), whether it is simply a matter of numbers (far fewer women than men on the executive floors) or a difference in psychology. However, I do take issue with several aspects of "Heiress in handcuffs" (News: Analysis & Commentary, Nov. 24). The authors and many of the people they spoke with seem hell-bent on finding excuses for Leah Fastow. Why would Leah be more easily influenced by her husband than vice versa? How does being nice and approachable have anything to do with one's ability to commit illegal acts? Does being female inoculate you against the consequences of criminal behavior? There never seems to be any doubt in the author's mind that Andrew Fastow knew exactly what he was doing.

Inga Harris

Loveland, Ohio

My favorite part of the story was the whining critic who complained about using drug prosecutors for white-collar crime. What's worse: a drug lord or a well-manicured MBA who steals the future from hard-working families?

Michael Beltramo

Los Angeles Election finance reform was fundamentally flawed: I thought it would protect the poor from the rich ("Will Bush and Dean kill public-financed races?" Washington Outlook, Nov. 24). By giving the rich the choice to opt out, public financing may have worked exactly the other way by giving the rich an open-ended resource. The story also mentioned the "exploding costs of modern campaigns." If finances were restricted to "no more than," the exploding costs would shrink. And the playing field will also be even.

Zaki Mustafa

Rochester, N.Y. In "Chicago: Afraid of a little competition?" (Finance, Nov. 24), Joseph Weber says the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange are afraid of competition from Eurex. The Canter Exchange and BrokerTec USA LLC both failed to garner enough liquidity to remain in business. Eurex plans on obtaining the liquidity Canter and Brokertec failed to get by paying for order flow. This is not competition but kickbacks to brokers, and it should not be allowed. I don't want my order routed to an exchange merely because my broker receives a rebate. Eurex should not be allowed to pay for order flow. Let them compete on price and liquidity -- not side payments to intermediaries.

Daniel G. Weaver

Rutgers University

New Brunswick, N.J. Did it ever make sense to put health-care benefits on the cost side of the production equation ("Labor sharpens its pension sword," Social Issues, Nov. 24). By doing so, we are constantly battling against the internal dynamics of market capitalism itself, which is to minimize costs and maximize productivity and profits to survive in a competitive environment. In other words, we treat a critical benefit as a cost.

This could be resolved if we took these benefits off the income statement entirely by ending tax-expensing and letting everyone buy health insurance with aftertax dollars. It might also help introduce rational pricing to the medical industry. Then public policy could target lower income levels for subsidized care.

For labor and firms, this would make health care a true benefit of a productive economy and remove the shadow of medical risk in dealing with the short-term conflicts between wages, productivity, and profits. It would facilitate job mobility and also allow unions and individual workers to actually behave like real, rather than stealth, shareholders. Unfortunately, more talk of employer-based health plans is just moving us in the wrong direction.

Michael Harrington

Santa Monica, Calif.

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