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Get Off The Train
David Walters' attempt to relate a city's livability to its rail system inadvertently makes just the opposite argument ("Great Cities, Great Trains," Mar. 31). He mentions several cities that have absolutely no urban or passenger rail (such as Winston-Salem) that somehow made the list. And he tries to explain away cities such as Atlanta that do have rail but fail to make the list. Most telling of all, the city that comes in dead last on the "livability" index, Baghdad, actually does have a passenger rail system.

The bottom line is that there is absolutely no relationship between livability and rail. Most of the world's great cities actually do not have urban passenger rail, and those that do (London, New York, Paris) have systems that are 100 years old. In other words, 100 years ago, urban passenger rail may have been a great idea and a way to help build a great city, but it is not a way to build great cities today.

I'm no fan of huge, gas-guzzling roads or oceans of asphalt, but urban rail doesn't solve this problem, and it creates many other problems -- all the while increasing the size of government and the tax burden while trampling property rights and other personal liberties. The fact that David Walters had to ignore or misrepresent so many facts is itself an indication of how bad an idea urban passenger rail is for Charlotte and most other emerging cities.

-- Warren Smith, Charlotte

Pick a New Peeve
Regarding Tara Servatius' Apr. 14 column ("The Worth of a Life"): I would guess that the number of times The Observer has celebrated the lost lives of the young, white and photogenic pales compared to the opportunities CL has taken to slam mainstream media in general and The Observer in particular. Seriously, don't you think a better response would be to write your own human interest stories about the urban, ethnic and less photogenic?

I love you guys, honest I do, but your bottomless desire to slam The Observer borders on the obsessive and smacks of jealousy.

-- Tim Farney, Charlotte

Food for Thought
I'm left scratching my head after reading yet another overly rosy restaurant review in your food & drink section. A few weeks back your reviewer, Tricia Childress, raved about the quality of the actually very mediocre pizza at Hawthorne Pizza. This week, when Ms. Childress and the Charlotte Observer reviewed the same restaurant, the Observer listed numerous problems while the only negative Ms. Childress printed was in regards to the "dim interior" which she intimated may be "a work in progress." While opinions differ, I can't recall reading a negative review by Ms. Childress since moving here last summer from Atlanta (where the food and drink section of Creative Loafing is much more opinionated). Are your restaurant reviews intended to inform readers, or to generate good will and advertisements from restaurants?

-- Brian Rubins, Charlotte

Fur Better or Fur Worse
Quinn Cotton's "Stick to Your Own Skin" (Apr. 7) should have been titled "How Thick is Your Skin." In an attempt to shock people with heinous remarks like "these people actually deserve to die a gruesome death," she fails to disguise her weak talent for journalism and ends up alienating people from the topic at hand. True environmentalists detest your tactics, which do nothing to educate the fur-friendly public, but instead add fuel to their pungent fire. To wish death, no less than one that includes foaming at the mouth, makes you no better than those you persecute.

-- Tracy O'Brien, Charlotte

Cruelty-Free Choice
I want to thank Quinn Cotton for speaking out against fur. Today, with the variety of cruelty-free alternatives available, there is no way an individual can justify partaking in something that comes as a result of another's unnecessary suffering and death. Products ranging from faux fur to vegetarian substitutes for meat make animal suffering not only unnecessary, but also morally wrong. I applaud Ms. Cotton for telling it like it is and as only she can.

-- Cheryl Kucsera, Silver Spring, MD

Norwegian Good
I just came across a link to Tara Servatius' article "The Great Flu Scam of 2003" (Mar. 3) on the web. Excellent! I live in Norway, and although far from the United States geographically, the lines to CDC, etc., are hot and wide open, through the Norwegian people's health-organisation (Folkehelsa).

The same scenario took place in Norway last autumn, with huge scares on the frontpages, "Thousands of Norwegians will die unless they hurry up," etc., and daily articles in all papers, which again were presented as "news." People were hysterical and hundreds of thousands more than normal ran to the nearest doctor's office to get flu shots.

I stayed calm and suspected this was profit-driven false hysteria; I do not know one single person in Norway who got the flu, vaccine or not. So reading your article made me go "uhum" many times. Hope you keep up the good and very important work.

-- Robin Solum, Oslo, Norway

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