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Hacked off
Let me get this straight: 17-year old Erin Carter, a networking administration student at Chapel Hill High School, ["The FBI Has Been Reading My Diary," May 28] is angry that police officers have read material that she made freely available on the Internet, but is nevertheless amused when she thinks that someone may have gained unauthorized access to a password-protected network at her own school. She is defensive when police officers question her about her knowledge of the possible crime. Erin clearly needs to be made aware of two very important principles: 1) the Fourth Amendment shields Americans from government intrusions into those places and things in which there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, but it does not protect documents that have been made public; and 2) what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Erin needs to rethink her values concerning computer privacy. If she finds it amusing that a private, protected system may have been illegally hacked into, why should she object when the government, or anyone else, reviews her personal, but public, material? Why shouldn't the police interview her, if they have reason to think she may know something about a possible crime? Why is Chapel Hill High School teaching network administration, when it doesn't seem to know whether to call the system administrator or the police? And why didn't Jon Elliston ask these questions?
Carol Sylbert
Chapel Hill

Risky business
The Independent has distinguished itself by explaining the very real potential for uncontrollable waste pool fires at nuclear plants, and how risks can be minimized ["What If?" May 28].

You gave Progress Energy ample opportunity to justify using the most dangerous form of spent fuel storage--high-density pools. Instead, its best argument is that warplanes from nearby military bases could (miraculously) appear at Shearon Harris to shoot down incoming airliners.

The corporation's claims about Harris's strengths were grossly exaggerated. The reactor building shell ranges from 6 feet thick at ground level to under 3 on top. More importantly, the waste building's walls are only 3 feet, with equipment rooms--not just concrete--underneath the massive pools. The roof is much lighter. Neither building was designed for more than weather-related impacts. Jets, explosives-laden airplanes, ground-level attackers, internal sabotage--or accident--could lead to the four pools' water loss, self-ignition of fuel rods and a global-scale catastrophe.

The Princeton study's authors confirm that all plants should thin out their pools and employ hardened, dispersed dry storage (not traditional dry casks stacked together) for all but recently discharged waste assemblies. With its current shift in planning, Progress can lead its industry by adopting such measures for less annual cost at each plant than the latest pay raise given CEO William Cavanaugh. We would commend the company for doing so, as we do for stopping its waste transports.

Otherwise, the contentious fight to reduce risks could last many more years, and public pressure will increase for Attorney General Roy Cooper to employ his constitutional authority to force Progress--and Duke Energy--to minimize risks at all plants.

The alternative is to stand by while Harris grows for decades as one of the nation's largest nuclear targets, or potential accidents.

Leaders and media who receive Progress's millions in annual giveaways can continue pretending the this dirty "little" secret won't hamper the Triangle's growing glamour, or possibly result in its mass evacuation. But with a provocative U.S. military policy, the likelihood of unconventional attacks at home will only increase--possibly at nuclear plants.
Jim Warren
Executive Director
N.C. WARN: Waste Awareness& Reduction Network

Shock value?
I'm not sure how to say this diplomatically, so I'm just going to go ahead and say it. The cover of your May 28 issue was done in VERY poor taste. I realize that you were trying to get an important point across, but a computer-generated photograph of a passenger airplane about to crash into the local nuke plant is not a very tactful way of doing it.

If you were trying to shock, frighten, or disturb your readers, you certainly succeeded. But not, I think, in a very good way. I'm suprised to see The Independent using such sensationalistic tactics, especially when I consider how tastefully you handled the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Now, because there's national paranoia of another terrorist attack in the wake of our conflict with Iraq, every city and state is worried sick about their own little personal potential terror target. But is an attack on Shearon Harris so realistic a threat that you feel you have to hit us over the head with an image like THAT? Do you think the people who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 attack really appreciate seeing that picture all over town? And do you really think such a shocking photo will make more people pick up a copy of The Independent and read it? Or maybe because you don't have any more competition, you feel you can get away with this.

Despite my lack of alternatives, seeing an image like this on the cover of The Independent makes me want to put it down and never pick it up again.

This is the most thoughtless, insensitive thing I have ever seen outside or inside this publication since I first started reading it nine years ago. I hope that The Independent will refrain from using shock tactics of this nature in the future. There are more subtle and polite ways to get your point across.
Sidra Grove

Shutting 'em down
The FBI considers nuclear power plants to be hardened targets and therefore very difficult to attack either from ground or air ["What If?" May 28]. To damage somehow the heavy concrete walled concrete pool where spent fuel rods are stored is almost impossible to imagine.

It would be very damaging to the country to closed its nuclear power plants. We currently get 20 percent of our electrical power from nuclear sources. To close these plants would probably double the cost of our electricity. It would be bad for the environment with the emission of lots more greenhouse gases as well as air pollution.

These facilities are well guarded. Drive out to Shearon Harris and see for yourself. To be frightened into shutting down this important facility would be a self-inflicted wound. A great victory for the terrorists!
W.D. Walker
Professor of Physics Emeritus
Duke University, Durham

Tune in
Your May 21 cover story on Tift Merritt left out one place on the dial listeners can tune in and hear Tift Merritt. WUNC's Back Porch Music has featured several tunes from Tift's Bramble Rose since its release last year. Also a 17-minute interview with Tift (with music) aired no fewer than four times on The State of Things last year following the CD's release.

Back Porch Music also features many central North Carolina artists (past and present) including The Red Clay Ramblers, The Stillhouse Bottom Band, (African-American old-time fiddler) Joe Thompson, Charlie Poole, Chatham County Line, and hundreds more.

Back Porch Music airs Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings on WUNC, 91.5 FM, and concentrates on acoustic-based contemporary and traditional music.
Keith Weston
Producer of WUNC's "The State of Things" and "Back Porch Music"
Chapel Hill

Thanks so much for voting WBZB 1090AM best new idea in media. Hopefully we will get new listeners from the coverage and the story you did in your May 21 issue.

For those people that cannot pick us up on their radios, we have a Web site that they can enjoy 24/7,
Cathrine Bass

talk back
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