Al Jazeera—Just the News

I’ve been a news junkie for decades. Reed Richardson’s “Can Al Jazeera America Save Cable News?” [April 28] is most welcome. By accident I tuned in to AJAM’s first broadcast, and I’ve been watching ever since. I met Ali Velshi and introduced him as a CNN man, but he said, “I’m moving to Al Jazeera.” Other great journalists have moved over as well. My favorite, from PBS, Ray Suarez, holds forth on the new network with his usual grace.

It was painfully obvious years ago that CNN was losing its way, with more glamor and glitz and less substance, all the lovely young women (sex should not be used to sell facts and truth), and the deification of Anderson Cooper. We must continue to aspire to the highest standards.

Greg Kuzma
crete, neb.

It is refreshing to watch an underdog work at being objective and informative. It is better than CNN by a long shot.
Richard Owens

Reed Richardson writes about the “big bet on…intrepid, unbiased, long-form TV journalism” by Al Jazeera America, and its CEO asserts it does “hard-core journalistic reporting, not biased, not for entertainment, but fact-based.” But it is impossible for journalists, photographers, editors, producers and owners to escape some bias, even though they try to avoid it. I am just as skeptical of a network owned by the Qatari royal family as of one owned by Ted Turner or Rupert Murdoch—or of articles in The Nation. Having diverse information sources is helpful, so even if some bias creeps in at AJAM, I hope it succeeds.
Robert Vavra
roseville, minn.

Al Jazeera isn’t all that objective. When Putin sent troops into Ukraine, it reacted like all the networks, vilifying Putin and ignoring the rescinding of the Reagan-Gorbachev agreement not to expand NATO into the former Warsaw Pact countries.
The Widower

I watch AJAM when I visit my son (my service won’t carry it). I love the clean reporting and that there are no celebrity journalists.
Lois Waldron

I used to watch Al Jazeera English streaming on the web. It was so superior to the watered-down news now shown on cable as Al Jazeera America. When I try to stream the old Al Jazeera, I get this message: “The video you are trying to watch cannot be viewed from your current location. Visit to view content available in the U.S.” If it looks like censorship, it probably is. Or do they think we Americans just can’t take the full story?
Donald Heaney
delray beach, fla.

I was surprised that your very interesting piece on AJAM was accompanied by a photo of a microphone bearing an Arabic word that is the feminine singular adjective meaning “sport.” More sports coverage hardly seems the way to save cable news.
Erik Hermans
new york city

BDS: Palestinians’ “Best Hope”

Eric Alterman, in “Back to the Status Quo” [April 28], argues that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign’s “misguided efforts” forestall “serious international pressure on the occupation.” He ignores the great tactical flexibility the BDS movement has shown. As campaign coordinator Omar Barghouti points out on, “BDS supporters…decide what to target and how to mobilize.”

The great majority of successful BDS actions, focusing especially on unions and pension funds, have targeted West Bank settlements and investments. The result has been a wave of divestment, especially in the past year, notably by Western European funds and companies, impacting everything from Israel’s major banks to its water company, Mekorot.

The response in Israel has been growing consternation and even a special meeting of the Israeli Cabinet. European Union leaders have warned that the collapse of peace talks due to Israeli intransigence could lead to more sanctions. Given the overwhelming advantages Israel has (above all in military terms), the BDS campaign is probably the Palestinians’ best hope.

P. Drucker
rotterdam, the netherlands

Alterman Replies

I note that in his insistence that “the great majority of successful BDS actions…have targeted West Bank settlements and investment,” P. Drucker does not name a single one. Nor does he provide any evidence that this has caused the response in Israel he describes. Typical of BDS supporters, Drucker confuses sensible and effective measures targeted at Israel’s occupation in support of a two-state solution with BDS efforts to destroy the State of Israel and deny its legitimacy. Whether he does this on purpose or by virtue of confusion I cannot say—just as I cannot say if the majority of the movement’s members are dishonest or confused. The result is the same either way. And as I explained in my column, it serves to prop up those revanchist right-wing forces who seek to tar supporters of a peaceful two-state solution with the destructive (and reductive) BDS brush. And as usual, it will be the Palestinians who pay the highest price.
Eric Alterman
new york city

Younger Than Springtime…

The Body Politic,” Akemi Johnson’s review of What Soldiers Do [April 28], struck a chord. As an ensign during the Vietnam War, my first husband was assigned to a naval base near Tokyo. Most of his men were teenagers or in their early 20s. They went to the off-base bars, and many became infatuated with the girls who worked there—they thought they were in love and proposed marriage.

The chaplain’s approach to discouraging matrimony was to deride the girls as whores and condemn the young men for loose morals. But my husband brought them to our house, where we provided guidance. We asked questions, withheld judgment and discussed cultural differences, how important communication is (the girls spoke little English), the distress of a young wife in a new country, and economics (like trips back to Japan for homesick brides).

When I look back, I’m amazed at the audacity of two 23-year-olds doing this; but I’m proud that none of the sailors we advised took the plunge into matrimony.

Carol Birkenhead
bellingham, wash.

Correction & Clarification

In Ian T. Shearn’s “ExxonMobil’s New Guinea Nightmare” [May 19], Dr. Kristian Lasslett’s name was misspelled.

Also, the Export-Import Bank extended financing not directly to ExxonMobil but to an unincorporated joint venture, of which ExxonMobil was the major sponsor, through its subsidiary.