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Flight into danger

It's a good thing the accused airline bomber wasn't heading for Toronto ( No Evidence Detroit Flight Incident Part Of Larger Plot - online, Dec. 27). If so, the immediate reaction from the city's good citizens would have been that, like the Toronto 18, he was obviously an inept amateur, not worthy of much fuss. After all, no one died. Then, like that Toronto grocery-store owner, those who subdued the accused bomber would have been arrested and charged with assault and forcible confinement. The accused bomber would have been invited to testify against his assailants and given a slap on the wrist. After all, no one died.

Ken West, Toronto

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Decoding The Globe

Newspaper journalism, at its best, provides us with "the first draft of history." That's why Doug Saunders's essay Ten Years That Shook, Rattled, Rolled And Helped Repair The World (Focus, Dec. 26) was most welcome. Both the essay and your splendid special edition make a powerful statement in defence of Canadian print journalism.

Paul W. Bennett, Halifax

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What on earth were you trying to do with your Saturday front page? Commit suicide? The blank page sent the message, "Put down the paper and go to the Internet!" Oh well, I'm an old fogey and don't have much time left to enjoy my morning paper anyway.

Bernard Etkin, Toronto

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Can't you guys count? I thought we settled that 2000 was the last year of the 20th century. (Try counting out $20 in pennies. Is the final penny the 1,999th or the 2,000th?) The first year of the first decade of the 21st century was 2001 and the final year of the first decade will be 2010. Not 2009!

Jack A. Carr, Toronto

The Merry Christmas thing

Rex Murphy asks why anyone who isn't Christian would be offended at being wished Merry Christmas ( Christmas Has Its Crown Again - Dec. 26), then proceeds to dismiss such persons as "adolescent outraging of the bourgeoisie." Is he kidding? This reminds me of an episode of The Simpsons when Bart insists that "Christmas is a time when people of all faiths come together to worship Jesus Christ."

Notwithstanding universal ideals of peace and goodwill for all, Christmas was, is and always will be a Christian holiday. To be wished Merry Christmas is to be presumed a member of Christianity. I'm not surprised that Rex doesn't get it. But to assume all others are like you and then take umbrage that others who are dissimilar prefer not to be so categorized is an exercise in willful effrontery. Nevertheless, Happy Holidays, Rex.

Marc Sheckter, Saskatoon

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We Christmas deniers take umbrage not so much at the singing of Silent Night once a year as its repetition six times a day from Thanksgiving to Christmas everywhere from ring tones to the local hardware store. "Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men" is a sentiment that, while unnatural in fact, is laudable in theory, and quickly becomes vacuous by constant lip service. One objects not to wishing and being wished a Merry Christmas (or a Happy Hanukkah, for that matter) but to exchanging the salutation for a month and a half.

What may seem like political correctness is the reaction to the grinding tedium and poor taste of the festive season. (Red and green in the same context are a fashion faux pas regardless of the spiritual beliefs of the wearer.)

John Seigner, Calgary

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I am much in agreement with Rex Murphy's sentiments regarding the renewed acceptance of Christmas as a tradition evolved by generations, cheerful and benevolent, and part of the "public stock of harmless pleasure." Indeed, Christmas in Western civilization has acquired such plasticity since Charles Dickens's time that its meaning and celebration can be adapted to any reasonable sense and form, as attested by Times Square (commercialization), A Christmas Carol (social reform), the Queen's message (the decline of British imperialism), midnight mass (social control) and evangelical congregations (liberation theology).

In a Conrad Black moment, Rex excoriates the "timid, mingy, costive Happy Holiday - which, no doubt, left others beside myself running for Webster's. Were our minds about to be fenestrated? But in passing through the Cs to costive, I encountered circumlocution, and wondered why the "many ads for the winter solstice" were "evasive" circumlocutions rather than "mere" circumlocutions. Clearly, "evasive" was added to inform the reader that Rex really had its other meaning in mind - an unnecessary number of words to express an idea.

It was then I realized the joke was on the reader. Rex had taken nearly the entire column to wish us Merry Christmas without saying anything that those of us who celebrate the holiday didn't already know. Except mingy and costive.

Duncan George, Stouffville, Ont.

Wanted: one more statistic

Is there another revealing Afghan number your experts could provide (Toll Of The Conflict - Dec. 26)? How many Afghans have we Canadians killed since 2002?

Ian Steele, London, Ont.

Egalitarian meritocracy?

On the basis of a touching anecdote about a deserving young Rhodes Scholar of Burmese origin, Margaret Wente ( Canada's Greatest Gift To The World - Dec. 24) feels justified in proclaiming Canada an "egalitarian meritocracy." If only.

There'll always be people who achieve great things despite obstacles such as childhood poverty, unequal care and education, sexism and racism. But it's the elimination of those obstacles that would represent the achievement of an "egalitarian meritocracy," not merely their being surmounted on occasion.

Josh Gordon, Toronto

The fat connection

Chef Rob Feenie's recipe for roast game hen with choucroute and mashed potatoes ( My Sister's Best Recipe: Comfort Food To Die For - Life, Dec. 23) calls for some 16 tablespoons of added fat in a recipe for four, not counting the natural fat in the 1/2 cup of chopped bacon and the birds themselves, or the added sodium from the bacon and sauerkraut.

Turn the page, and you find Leslie Beck's Food for Thought column (A Yo-Yo Diet Of Nutritional News) reporting that Canadians are fatter than ever: 51 per cent are overweight or obese. Anyone see a connection here?

I agree entirely with Mr. Feenie that good food is all about using "amazing ingredients" and letting them "speak for themselves." But if you're going to drown those amazing ingredients in lard, fat, sodium and oil, you might as well just heat up a cup of Tenderflake and put a stock cube in it.

Donald Ward, Saskatoon

The Iran-Canada connection

Jeffery Simpson ( The Stakes Just Got Higher In Our Dealings With Iran - Dec. 26) describes elements of Iranian society as being "fed up with their government, embarrassed by its foreign policy, and angry at its authoritarian ways. The dissident citizens are mostly young, urban and educated; the regime's supporters are mostly old, rural, poor and badly educated. Exceptions ... would include the business people who get rich on government contracts." Only in Canada, you say. Pity.

Larry Deters, Regina

Herald angel footnotes

"There seems to be no way forward and no one to lead us there," Kaaren Brown says in her letter ( Hark! The Herald Angels Sing - Dec. 26) ostensibly commenting on the terrific A.Y. Jackson painting on your Dec. 24 front page. Benjamin Disraeli said (cynically), "I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?" and was corrected by Edward Bernays: "I must lead the people. Am I not their servant?"

Rose DeShaw, Kingston, Ont.

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Letter writers Lynne Spence and Tom Slee ( God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Dec. 26) say "it's time to redefine success so family responsibilities rank on a par with absorption in prestigious careers." Perhaps a better redefinition would be to replace "rank on a par with" with "transcend." After all, it's rare to hear anyone express regret on their death bed that they had not spent more time on their "prestigious career" or at the office improving the company's bottom line.

Vic Stecyk, Richmond Hill, Ont.

Old and cranky? Read on

Shame on you, David Eddie, for not telling that selfish family to be more gracious and grateful to the husband's aging parents who want to spend the night after driving to see them ( Try Meeting The In-Laws Halfway: At A Roadside Diner - Life, Dec. 24). Maybe they just want to enjoy the hustle and bustle of their children's and grandchildren's lives.

Here's what you should have said, Mr. Eddie: Too busy with your important life? Warning: What you're doing is showing your children that kicking oldsters to the curb is the way to go once you're no longer valuable as chauffeur and bank machine. Show your children how to enjoy their grandparents and offer hospitality to the parents who did everything for you. Good luck when you're old and cranky and your kids don't want you.

Maureen Heath, Vancouver

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