(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 have to agree with the anonymous Western ambassador who says that corruption, unemployment, and poverty are "very much with us." The people of Sierra Leone are still feeling the effects of the civil war, and the country is probably the most nonviolent society on the African continent. But it 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! But Western governments and nongovernmental organizations perpetuate this perception. They 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

In Defense of Turkey

I AM HIGHLY disappointed by "Birthday Blues," by Telis Demos (Nov. 27). I strongly object to the background picture, which associates Turkey with images of militarism and nationalism. Like Greece, Spain, and Portugal, Turkey is a maturing democracy that has moved past military interventions.

Political tensions between the secular and so-called pro-Islamic parties are part and parcel of a healthy democratic process. Demos associates the secularist parties with excessive militarism and the Turkish Parliament with Islamic radicalism. This suggests that every facet of Turkish democracy is deficient and offensive to the West.

Any impartial observer will note that Turkey's current problems in joining the European Union are not the result of "internal tensions," as this article claims, but of highly hypocritical European attitudes based on the fact that Turkey is a Muslim country. If the Europeans were unbiased, Turkey--already a viable part of the European economy as a result of its ten-year-old Customs Union--would have been a member of the EU long before the Eastern European countries, including Romania and Bulgaria, which will join in 2007.



Hopes for Wal-Mart

IF WAL-MART SPENT a fraction of the money on improving working conditions and wages that it spends on PR and spin control ("Attack of the Wal-Martyrs," by Barney Gimbel, Dec. 11), it would have a better product. Research tells us that employees who feel valued perform better. I'm sure Wal-Mart executives would deny running a sweatshop, but isn't the company 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.

AS ONE OF the hundreds of thousands of middle-class Americans who own Wal-Mart stock, I read "Attack of the Wal-Martyrs" 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, Calif.

WAL-MART HAS created thousands of jobs. It has brought quality merchandise to millions of shoppers. It has broken down the isolation of small towns where local merchants provided only limited employment and shopping opportunities. It has enhanced business for other stores in its shopping malls. The unions 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


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

Turkey's Republic Day ("Birthday Blues," Nov. 27) is Oct. 28, not Oct. 29.

FORTUNE regrets the errors. F