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The Air Force, Sign Language and Other Letters to the Editor

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To the Editor:

In response to Lionel Shriver’s review of my book “Antiquities” (May 9), I offer “Lines composed in the wake of a bad review”:

Lionel Shriver,

no deep-diver:

depth an indictment,

longevity an excitement —

Oh look, the writer’s so old!

(Reviewer? A mere sixty-four.)

History’s a bore,

it leaves you cold.

An isle on the Nile’s not

ancient Jews aren’t news,

so what was the motive in

If you intend to offend

urge this book on a friend.

Animus isn’t denied,

the writer is fried,

the reviewer won’t try to fake it.

No prob — the writer can
take it.

In the quiet of her nook
the writer is shook

and roars in her wrath

For the blow Shriver’s given

May she never be shriven!

Cynthia Ozick
New York

To the Editor:

The Book Review’s military history columnist, Thomas E. Ricks, was inexcusably negligent in reviewing Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Bomber Mafia” (May 2) on the United States’ World War II bombing campaigns without referencing the laws of war rooted in the “just war” principles. Since the late 1800s, the United States and European powers endorsed the just-war principle of distinguishing between combatants and civilians in war. And they supported as well the two complementary principles of “proportionality” and “military necessity” in using force. (All three principles are pillars of the Department of Defense’s Law of War manual.)

Yet these principles were flagrantly violated when the United States bombed every city in Japan and Germany. Ricks uncritically accepts Gladwell’s assessment that “LeMay’s savage firebombing campaign succeeded” and that “had the war gone on longer … millions of Japanese could have died of starvation.”

Couldn’t the “ultimate problem solver” have found another path to victory without killing so many innocents?

William Primosch
Rockville, Md.

To the Editor:

In his review of Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Bomber Mafia,” Ricks makes several references to the “United States Air Force” or “the Air Force.”

There was no U.S. Air Force before Sept. 18, 1947, more than two years after the end of World War II.

John Cushing
Portland, Ore.

To the Editor:

I am a pediatric audiologist and a listening- and spoken-language specialist, and have been one for over 50 years. I have seen unbelievable changes during that time. Both Katie Booth’s new biography on Alexander Graham Bell, “The Invention of Miracles,” and Andrew Solomon’s review (May 2) are missing the fact that deafness is very different now from when Bell was alive.

The work Bell did was forward-thinking but difficult. When Bell was alive, hearing loss was not diagnosed until parents realized their children were not talking, and there were no hearing aids to help. Things are very different today.

Now deaf newborns are identified at birth and can be fitted with hearing aids within weeks. They can begin to hear very quickly. If hearing aids are not providing enough benefit, they can receive a cochlear implant. They can then learn language the same way their siblings learn it, by hearing it spoken around them. They can attend school with siblings and have the same opportunities as adults. Parents can immediately communicate with them.

More than 90 percent of children with hearing loss are born to hearing parents. If these parents want to learn sign language, it will take them a few years to become fluent, and during that time the child will not have good language exposure. (Think about learning a new language as an adult!)

If children choose to learn sign language once they’re older, they can. But first let them learn to listen and talk.

Jane Madell

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