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Excellent Paper! But It Does Sound Familiar

The controversy described in the article "Student Plagiarism Stirs Controversy At Ohio University" (page one, Aug. 15) sounds like a witch-hunt. No reasonable person in academia would expect to find original work in the introductory portion of a thesis. Unlike the bulk of the thesis (which should describe original research), the initial portion is typically the last and least important portion written, and is meant to give the thesis some structure by summarizing previous research. An analogy: sloppy paraphrasing in the initial portion of your thesis is like driving 5 to 10 miles over the speed limit. Strictly speaking, it is wrong, but it is still a minor offense. No one's reputation should be damaged because of this.

Edward Chen
Pasadena, Calif.

As an instructor at a private, boarding secondary school, I appreciate the challenges rigorous standards of documentation can present for some international students, but contentions that one cannot memorize all texts or student works strike me as a bit disingenuous. Such memorization, of course, is not possible, but I read a great many papers each semester and I find that it is not impossible to note the dramatic, periodic shifts in writing style that are so often typical of plagiarized work. Also, given what you showed as the repetition of some material in several "generations" of plagiarism, I must wonder how many times, even over several years, one can read a passage before one realizes "been here, read this."

Broeck N. Oder
Chair, Department of History
Santa Catalina School
Monterey, Calif.

Plagiarism has long been the mere tip of the iceberg. I had to laugh that it is now called "failure to attribute." It is made all the worse by virtue of the fact that online searches promote "copy and paste." A couple of years ago I made one of my doctoral students track down the very origins of an idea used in her thesis. She kept citing only those sources available in digitally catalogued search engines, which usually ends around 1979 or so. Many original ideas came much earlier and it is wrong to be citing those who have only been using and re-using the same basic concept -- kind of like citing a 1995 article on the theory of relativity without noting that Einstein had something to do with it.

Robin Rose
College of Forestry
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Ore.


Let's Play It Safe

Here are some simple steps for preventing terrorism on planes ("U.K. Terror Plot Points to New Threat," Aug. 11): Ban all drinks. Have the flight attendants serve enough drinks for free or for a nominal fee. Ban all Mp3 players. Let people upload their music to an airline's Web site, and listen to it on airline-issued headphones during the flight. And so on. Most of the "essentials" that people now bring on planes can be easily replaced with safe, airline-issued ones for the duration of the flight.

Ilya Shlyakhter
Princeton, N.J.


Childhood Lead Poisoning: DuPont Faces the Issue

In response to your Aug. 16 editorial "Rhode Island Rhapsody," I would like to clarify facts about the outcome of the lead paint public nuisance case tried earlier this year.

We have long maintained that the most effective way to address the issue of elevated blood lead levels in children is through education, awareness and targeted action -- not litigation.

DuPont was dismissed with prejudice based upon the facts produced in discovery. The dismissal was not pursuant to a settlement. There was no settlement agreement between Attorney General Patrick Lynch and DuPont and DuPont paid no money to either the state or to the attorney general's outside contingency fee lawyers. It was very important to DuPont that neither the state nor its outside lawyers be rewarded for filing this meritless lawsuit. Instead, we agreed to make contributions to three charities: the Children's Health Forum, Brown University Medical Center, and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

As background, in 2002 we sought the counsel of Dr. Benjamin Hooks, civil rights leader and former executive director and CEO of the NAACP, on how best to address the challenge of childhood lead poisoning. Eradicating lead hazards was of particular interest to Dr. Hooks because a disproportionate number of minority families live in older housing and he had initiated a health program at the NAACP. With DuPont's seed funding, he launched Children's Health Forum (CHF) devoted to children's health issues and particularly to ending childhood lead poisoning.

Why the contribution to the Children's Health Forum? The CHF has made extraordinary strides in addressing the issue of elevated blood lead levels in children. We are confident that their directors will work closely with the Rhode Island community and ensure that our donation is spent efficiently and in a manner that will have the greatest immediate impact in the state.

Why the donations to Brown University and Brigham and Women's Hospital? DuPont made those donations at the specific request of the attorney general. DuPont did not agree to make any payment on behalf of Jack McConnell or his law firm, Motley Rice. DuPont's contribution to Brigham & Women's Hospital is an unrestricted gift. Moreover, we have instructed the hospital that our contribution should not be credited to any pledge or obligation of Mr. McConnell, his law firm, or any other entity.

In this case, DuPont made a conscious decision to help address the issue of elevated levels of lead in children's blood, not just fight meritless lawsuits in court.

Stacey J. Mobley
General Counsel
Wilmington, Del.


No More Mr. Nice Guy

Laura Meckler and Daniel Michaels ("Aircraft-Security Focus Swings to People," Aug. 12) and all the others still don't get it, although it's a start. The way to stop terrorism is to identify the terrorists and prohibit them from entering the U.S. But that would mean having secure borders, and for whatever reasons, that is something we have struggled with for 40 years. It's time we stopped playing Mr. Nice Guy and started getting tough even if some feelings are hurt. I don't want to end up being nuclear toast.

Fred Muller
San Diego


I'm Working Full Time: Why Don't I Have It All?

There are heaps of bad arguments for raising the minimum wage. Perhaps the worst, offered by Joel Schipper ("Prices Versus Wages: A False Dichotomy," Letters to the Editor, Aug. 12), is that a minimum-wage increase is justified if a full-time worker earning the current minimum wage cannot afford to live "in a city such as Chicago."

Mr. Schipper's argument implies that incomes can be raised by dictate, to whatever level is necessary to live in some locale. If this notion is correct, why settle for enabling workers to live only in the likes of Chicago? Why not raise the minimum wage so that everyone can afford to live in, say, Nantucket, Hyannis Port or Beverly Hills, within walking distance of Rodeo Drive?

Donald J. Boudreaux
Chairman, Department of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, Va.


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