(FORTUNE Magazine) – Conflict Diamonds

Having been to Sierra Leone ("Diamonds Aren't Forever," by Vivienne Walt, Dec. 11) to look at business opportunities (other than diamonds!), I agree with the anonymous Western ambassador who says that corruption, unemployment, and poverty are "very much with us." Sierra Leone is probably the most nonviolent society on the African continent, but may not remain so if the government is not seen to help the citizens. What is needed is massive investment to create employment and thus alleviate poverty. The government doesn't have the tools to do this and is hampered by the perception that Sierra Leone is one of the most dangerous countries to do business in. Absolute bollocks! Western governments and nongovernmental organizations have massive funds earmarked for Sierra Leone, but they don't spend them, saying, "Ah, but there's too much corruption." There are ways to overcome this, but by doing nothing, they are going to be responsible for the next civil war.

JIM SPILLINGS, Johannesburg, South Africa

Moving Up!

ANDY SERWER'S promotion to FORTUNE's managing editor (Editor's Desk, Nov. 27) is good news for him and the magazine, but not for those who watched him religiously on CNN. We miss his shining face every morning.


Jackson, Miss.

Hopes for Wal-Mart

AS ONE OF the many middle-class Americans who own Wal-Mart stock, I read "Attack of the Wal-Martyrs," by Barney Gimbel (Dec. 11), with interest. The unions are doing their best to turn Wal-Mart into the General Motors of big-box retailers. One hopes that, in drafting operatives from the Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, and John Kerry campaigns, they will obtain the same results we saw in the last presidential election.


Long Beach

IF WAL-MART SPENT a fraction of the money on improving working conditions and wages that it spends on PR and spin control, it would have a better product. Research tells us that employees who feel valued perform better. Wal-Mart would deny running a sweatshop, but isn't it operating on the same concept? I hope my children will inherit a more socially responsible world. Let's hope Wal-Mart takes a leadership role. Better yet, let's ask it to.


President and CEO, Ranablue

Rockville, Md.

WAL-MART HAS created thousands of jobs for people who otherwise would not be employed. It has brought quality merchandise to millions of shoppers. It has broken down the isolation of small towns where local merchants controlled the economy, providing only limited employment and shopping opportunities. It has enhanced business for other stores in its shopping malls and has proved overall to be a good neighbor. The unions are trying to stir up opposition, which in the end will only harm both the workers and the customers. What benefits did Wal-Mart employees have prior to their employment?


Lima, Ohio

Supply-Side Idealism

AS A BUSINESS STUDENT, I can vouch for the fact that most of us are in this program to make money. That's why I was surprised to hear about Teach for America ("The Recruiter," by Patricia Sellers, Nov. 27), and that Ivy Leaguers would take on teaching, with its long hours, difficult students, and small paycheck. It started me thinking. Maybe it's a positive trickle-down effect from all the recent corporate scandals. Maybe we're realizing that as businesspeople we have a responsibility to make the world a better place as well as to make money. And maybe we can do the most when we're fresh out of college and untainted by years of corporate pressure. Certainly TFA corps members are gold in the eyes of better-paying companies. Their sacrifice speaks volumes about their character. They aren't investing in stocks and bonds, but they truly are investing in the future.


San Diego

Out in Business

MY WIFE AND I want to thank you for "Queer Inc." (by Marc Gunther, Dec. 11). It's nice to see something positive on this subject. Phil Burgess of Citizens for Community Values is quoted as asking, "Why would corporations get involved in something as murky as people's sexual lives?" If someone were to ask Mr. Burgess about his sex life, he would probably reply, "It's none of your business." Why is he so interested in the sex life of others?


Desert Hot Springs, Calif.

THAT MANY U.S. corporations hope their acquiescence to the homosexual agenda will be accepted by more than the 1% to 3% of the population that is homosexually related is not especially meritorious. It is good that you didn't go as far as certain leaders of corporations in Europe—where less than 5% of the population now attend church—in their support of the homosexual campaign to force the Boy Scout organization to embrace homosexual leaders for adolescent boys. A great European-based financial institution—which was fortunate enough to overcome a threatened communist takeover—denied use of its U.S. facilities to Boy Scouts of America because of BSA's refusal to commit to "diversity." It is gratifying that Exxon Mobil is not a supporter of the homosexual agenda but of the Boy Scouts. Blessings are due the leadership of this great company and the leadership of Boy Scouts of America.



What Did They Know?

I WAS SURPRISED that Jeffrey O'Brien ("You're Soooooo Predictable," Nov. 27) allowed Matthew Kuhlke and Adam Geitkey to pick their own restaurant, a local favorite, to display their predictive skills. If they'd chosen two random guests at the restaurant, then hats off to them. But two regular employees at a restaurant they visit frequently suggests they may have known the answers in advance.


Ridgewood, N.J.

Jeffrey O'Brien responds: Kuhlke and Geitgey picked the restaurant, but the parlor trick was my idea—a spontaneous request that it would have been impossible to prepare for. They were as surprised by the results as I was.


INTEL'S TOTAL RETURN through Dec. 1 was –14.4%, not 14.4%, as we said in "Stock Scorecard" (Dec. 25). FORTUNE regrets the error.

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