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Unfuzzy math
I have a personal interest in Todd Morman's column "In Search of Precision Journalism" [Feb. 5] about the varying estimates of the crowd at the Jan. 18 peace vigil in Durham. I did the "official count" for the organizers.

I came up with 1,024. Let me tell you how.

Vigilants were stretched out single-file along Gregson and Main Streets, overflowing onto Duke and Morgan Streets. Starting at 12:30 p.m. I counted--out loud--each person. Every 10 or so people, I'd stop and tell someone "You're number 340, or 508, or 800." When I finished at 12:50, I had reached 1,024. The organizers rounded down to 1,000.

Enumeration by hand count is a great method for small groups, but obvious difficulties set in at 1,000 people. I started to lose my voice toward the end of the count. Latecomers arrived throughout the count, which took 20 minutes. Some protestors strolled around looking for the best signs.

How accurate was my count? I'd say within about 10 percent. Far closer than the AP or N&O estimates. Probably better than the extrapolation method described in the article, but not as good as aerial photos.
–Steve Bocckino, Durham

Stop the terrorists
Independent editor Richard Hart, in his piece "Stop the War" [Up Front, Feb. 12] believes that the impending war against Iraq "isn't mainly about terrorism." Not mainly about terrorism? Does Mr. Hart really believe that the Bush administration would have called for war against Iraq if the Sept. 11 attacks did not happen?

This impending war has everything to do with terrorism. According to AndrewSullivan.com, Osama bin Laden attacked us because he thought we were weak and would not retaliate (as was the case under Clinton). In fact, it is the very perception of weakness that emboldens terrorists like bin Laden. This is why we swiftly removed the al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan, and this is why we are going to remove Saddam Hussein. Yes, he supports terror, but more importantly, he is guilty of flouting the United States through constant attempts at gaining and developing weapons of mass destruction. Further, he cannot be trusted. And in an age of virulent anti-American terrorism, we must show the world in no uncertain terms that this will not do. We must make an example out of Iraq.

We are the world's sole remaining superpower. We are the world's primary aid giver. We are the money and the muscle behind the United Nations. We are the economic, ideological, scientific and technological center of the world. We are, frankly, the greatest, wealthiest, most generous, and most righteous superpower in history, and one day, I fear, a loathsome terrorist network, not unlike al-Qaeda, will try to destroy us with several well-placed nuclear weapons.

This is a threat Americans should take very seriously. And a quick war in Iraq followed by regime change, the end of sanctions, and the general improvement of the lives of millions of Iraqis is the first step the Bush administration should take in lessening this threat.
–Chris Speck, Durham

Making a list, checking it twice
As I read your article by Jennifer Strom [Front Porch, "Getting Decked in Old West Durham," Feb. 12), which is a good one by the way, it seems to me changes need to be made with the DRB in both make up and jurisdiction. Instead of just being a technical review by staff it should also be a common sense quality of life review based on a new set of standards. The staff as we know is not qualified to do a common sense quality of life review, so we will need citizens affected by the decisions represented on the DRB as well as someone from the Appearance Commission to provide input. It has also been proven many times over that the old standards just do not work and new standards need to be in place and followed immediately.

Maybe we as citizens should develop our own checklists that we would expect staff, elected officials, commission members, and developers to follow and rate them on following it. Staff can cut deals with developers that the public is not made aware of and hide these deals by rubber stamping their own recommendations. The issue of staff sending out late notifications to citizens is not a new issue. It has been a source of complaint for years and it is inexcusable that this is still occurring. Some heads should roll because staff is still not taking this seriously.
–Larry Holt, Durham

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