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Venezuela Isn't As Poor As It Seems

I both identified with and was appalled by some of the behaviors of pet owners described in "The pet economy" (Cover Story, Aug. 6). Admittedly, my husband and I pay up for our puppy's premium kibble, but we rationalize it by believing that its nutritional value will help keep her healthy. However, I was horrified to read about the $500 wasted on Chanel pearls for an animal that does not realize or appreciate their value. We have become so alienated from our fellow man that we treat our pets with significantly more kindness and generosity. Society would be better off had that $500 been given to an after-school program, adult literacy initiative, or other cause that would benefit people.

K. Berkovich

St. Davids, Pa.

The authors and contributing "experts" in your article paint a one-sided view of "projecting human needs onto pets," especially when it comes to prolonging their lives. I don't disagree with the premise that there should be moral, ethical, and financial considerations in prolonging our pets' lives. However, if my wife and I had followed the ethical and moral dictates highlighted in your article, we would have lost 27 months of joy with our Lab. At age 5 he was diagnosed with early-stage lymphoma, and we decided to try chemotherapy. We discussed the quality-of-life issue with the doctors, and we all agreed that this would be the controlling issue in continuing or ending his treatment. Yes, it was an expensive undertaking--a total of about $8,000. And, yes, he let us know when it was "time." Do we have any regrets or second thoughts? No. Each case and treatment needs to be evaluated on its own merits and the quality-of-life issue.

Barry Childs

Morristown, N.J.

As a volunteer for a no-kill animal shelter in St. Louis, I wish that even a small portion of the $41 billion spent on pets was donated to animal welfare groups working tirelessly to end the abuse and neglect that animals endure.

Millions of animals are euthanized yearly because of pet overpopulation. Shelters do not have enough room, and there are not enough homes to go around. The money could support groups that offer free and low-cost spay and neuter programs so that someday, perhaps, there would be no more homeless pets.

Connie Davie

St. Louis

We appreciate the amount of time reporter Nanette Byrnes spent investigating what we believe is a significant and very favorable $600 million investment that world-renowned technology innovator Google Inc. made in North Carolina ("The high cost of wooing Google," Government, July 23).

We would like to clarify that, to receive grant payments from North Carolina's Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) program, the company was required to commit to and achieve job creation of 210 positions and investment of $600 million. North Carolina's JDIGs are not up-front payments: They are based on the company's performance. Over the life of the 12-year grant, North Carolina estimates that the project will generate a cumulative gross state product value of approximately $1.06 billion and a cumulative net state revenue impact of $37.15 million.

Performance-based incentives helped seal the deal to get Google into North Carolina, but the state's other competitive advantages--from high-quality education and workforce to strong infrastructure and outstanding quality of life--also played an important role.

Jim Fain

North Carolina Secretary of Commerce

Raleigh, N.C.

"When medical studies collide" (News & Insights, Aug. 6) missed the point in your criticism of meta- analyses. All reviews of research, whether meta-analytic or not, can make the same errors.

The advantage of meta-analysis is that the statistical analysis can take into account these factors and see if they have any impact on the conclusion. Meta-analyses can weigh the results of each study by the number of patients involved, and they can examine the impact of the methodological soundness of the study.

Finally, meta-analysis almost always lists and quantifies every study reviewed so that readers can look at the data themselves and do their own analysis of the raw data.

David Lester

Professor of Psychology

Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Pomona, N.J.

I read through "Let the blame begin" (News & Insights, Aug. 6), and only in the last two paragraphs does the writer put the blame where it really belongs: on individual borrowers who don't do their financial homework.

Also at fault: real estate agents working in an oversaturated field who, if they don't sell, don't earn commissions, so they put these people into homes they cannot afford. The agents' fraud does not excuse the homeowners' stupidity in neglecting to get proper, unbiased financial help in working out the numbers.

Judy Rosner

Elmhurst, Ill.

The overall poverty rate in Venezuela is much lower (30.4%) than the 58% stated in "A love-hate relationship with Ch?vez" (Global Business, June 25). While this 30.4% Does come from the Government's Statistics Institute (INE), The INE's numbers are accepted by independent international institutions such as the World Bank.

The decline in poverty noted by the INE is what would be expected considering the strong growth Venezuela has experienced since 2003: 17.9% in 2004, 9.3% in 2005, and 10.3% in 2006.

In fact, Venezuela's official poverty rate underestimates the country's reduction in poverty over the past few years because it does not take into account the widespread access of poor people to expanded health care, education, and other benefits.

Dan Beeton

Center for Economic & Policy Research


Columnist Kerry Sulkowitz's response ("Nobody loves a tattletale," Up Front, Aug. 6) to the report of a co- worker abusing vacation time was appalling. I experienced this situation, watching a co-worker "steal" at least two extra weeks of vacation time each year. I didn't report it to my boss but confronted the individual myself, and that didn't do a thing.

The person doing this act is nothing more than a thief. Assume the worker makes an annual $100,000 in pay and benefits. Stealing an extra two weeks vacation time represents a $4,000 loss to the company. If this same individual took home five $800 laptops per year, what would Kerry's response be? Go to your boss and demand your fair share of laptops, too?

My point is that no one should have to work with blatantly dishonest creeps, and there should be better ways to report stealing without being labeled a "tattletale."

Doug Keough

North Wales, Pa.

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