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December 20-26, 2006

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Letters to the Editor

Local dialogue

Kudos to Michael Shapiro for the heartfelt and informative piece on "Power Shopping" in the Made in the North Bay annual local gift guide (Dec. 6). However, I'd be careful about assuming too quickly that online sales threaten local merchants. After all, such sales allow many such merchants to reach customers beyond those merchants' physical locations, making them more competitive, not less. Online shopping can be a boon to local merchants, depending on the merchants and their markets. Summarily criticizing online sales for the demise of local merchants sounds a bit like stiffing the server because the restaurant chef screwed up your meal--something we locals would never do, yes?

Michael Dortch, Santa Rosa

Michael Shapiro responds: It's true local stores can develop a national presence by selling online, though it's hard for a local bookstore, for example, to compete with the resources and marketing muscle of Amazon.com. But you're right that we shouldn't overlook buying online as a way to support independent stores. It can be easier to find used, rare and out-of-print books online than in local stores, but you can still support independents. Recently, I was looking for Paul Scott's four-volume Raj Quartet and found the books at Powells.com, a big independent bookstore in Portland. The four books cost $25 including shipping, so yes, I agree online has its place.

A key point in my story last week was the unfair playing field: if you go to Copperfield's you have to pay sales tax; if you buy online from Amazon, you don't. Because shipping is free in many cases, the customer often pays 8 percent less when buying online. This unfair advantage should be rectified, not just to help local independent stores but to put taxes back in state coffers to pay for much-needed services.

No more monkey business

What a joy it is to read that three chimpanzees used by a Hollywood animal trainer are to be relinquished to a sanctuary [as a result of a recent lawsuit filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund]. They'll finally know what it is to live without fear. In order to be trained to perform in ads, movies and television shows, chimpanzees are removed from their mothers at birth, a profoundly traumatic event for both. The stress of separation can leave lifetime emotional scars and impede normal development. Eyewitnesses at facilities that train (i.e., break) great apes have reported seeing baby chimpanzees and orangutans severely beaten with fists, rocks and broom handles. Beatings are routine to ensure that the animals remain fearful and obedient. Once they reach eight years of age, these animals are too strong to be controlled. As a result, older animals are often discarded at shabby roadside zoos where they may live in squalor for decades. Chimps may live to be 50 to 60 years old.

Animals do not belong on the set.

Jennifer O'Connor, PETA Campaign writer, Norfolk, VA.

Beyond Google's Terrible Powers

Hi from England. Please could anyone help me with a riddle? When I was a very young child, I saw a film where an angel gives a man in jail the next day's paper. I have no idea of the title of the film but can remember that one scene. I wonder, with all the old films being released on DVD, that I might find out the film's title and buy it. I hope that someone may be able to pin-point it, as my dear hubby is getting a bit fed up watching so many old films just so I can find that one film.

If you know, please write:
22 Broomhill Ave., Keighly
West Yorkshire, England
BD211BW

Yvonne Moran, Merry Olde


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