I have followed with interest your concern over the low productivity of American seaports. You have covered diverse aspects, such as the grounding of containers during the summer surge of imports, hoot-owl gates, and productivity issues with the workers of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the International Longshoremen's Association.

Each article has marched progressively toward an obvious solution - which has yet to be articulated.I read the editor's foreword to the special millennium issue of the annual Review and Outlook (special report, Jan. 18, Page 6). I half expected you to pull together the thoughts of JOC West Coast Editor Bill Mongelluzzo regarding the concerns of the longshore unions and those of Edward J. Kelly of Cho Yang (America) Inc., regarding better use of ocean terminals on a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week basis. (Incidentally, the JOC millennium issue of Review and Outlook was the best ever.)

You came close again today in the Editor's Notebook (''An unmistakable message to West Coast ports,'' April 7, Page 6) when you noted the message to West Coast ports: ''Get your act together or we'll take our cargo elsewhere.''

With no immediate longshore-union contract expirations, now is the time to trade jobs for union acceptance of information technology and intelligent transportation systems that will improve the productivity of American ports.

This can be done by taking the necessary step of moving to 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operations in all sectors of the industry. The additional jobs that would result would more than offset any losses resulting from an enthusiastic acceptance of ITS systems to improve productivity.

With cargo forecasts of throughputs that will double by 2020, there does not appear to be an alternative to eventual 24-hour port operations. Neither is there a question of whether or not we should adopt ITS technology. It is merely a question of timing, and the best time is now.


K Associates Ltd.

Reston, Va.


Gregory Fossedal is right on target in pointing the finger at timid lawmakers who refuse to use the Congressional Review Act to put a stop to ill-conceived regulations (''Congress should use the regulation veto,'' March 27, Page 9).

Surely, no one seriously believes that all 15,000 rules issued by federal agencies since enactment of the Congressional Review Act are above reproach.

In fact, the Office of Management & Budget recently acknowledged that ''it is difficult, if not impossible, to estimate the actual total costs and benefits of existing federal regulations with accuracy. We lack good information about complex interactions between the different regulations and the economy.''

If OMB is prepared to raise serious doubts over our ability to determine whether society really benefits from federal regulatory initiatives, Congress has even less business rubber-stamping these rules by failing to call any of them into question.


Senior fellow

Lexington Institute

Arlington, Va.


In response to ''The real Cuban issue'' (editorial, April 5, Page 5):

As a responsible journalist, you should ask yourself a few questions before writing about a situation with which you are obviously not familiar.

1. Why is the embargo in place? When did it go into effect and who is responsible for putting it there?

2. Why is the American embargo to blame for Cuba's economic situation?

3. Can Cuba trade with the rest of the world?

4. Are American goods the only goods that will save Cuba from its dire economic situation?

5. If Cuba can trade with the rest of the world, why haven't other countries invested heavily in Cuba's economy?

Yes, there are some Spanish hotels and some Italian hotels as well, but why hasn't one of these countries set up import/export activities to a large extent? Cuba has several natural resources: oil, sugar, nickel, etc.

6. If these resources exist (and they do), why is the economy so bad?

7. When were the last free elections to select the president held on the island?

8. When and why did Cuba cancel its membership with the International Monetary Fund and what were the effects?

9. Why can some Cubans access more food rations and medical assistance than others?

10. Is there freedom of speech and press in Cuba?

11. Why is Elian's father now living in a swanky Havana suburb and enjoying more rations and benefits than he did in October 1999?

12. Why did Elian's father have such a hard time pronouncing words during his speech when he arrived in this country? Could it have been because this man barely has a high-school education and someone wrote the speech for him?

13. And why is Alex Penelas, Miami-Dade County mayor, being portrayed as having said that he wouldn't enforce the law? Could it be because he is of Cuban origin?

He and 21 other area mayors agreed not to help the Immigration and Naturalization Service remove the boy from the Miami relative's home. None of the mayors said that the police would not keep the peace with the crowds outside the home. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also said it would not help the INS remove the boy from the Miami house.

14. Finally, several Cubans in this country, some with criminal records from Cuba and others who committed crimes here, are, rightfully, being returned to Cuba. Castro has never previously accepted the return of criminals, but he accepted these. Could the return of Elian be a bargaining chip - Castro takes the convicts and Washington will let him have a media blitz with Elian's return? If so, our government is railroading Elian out without his due process under the guise of reuniting father and son.


Coral Gables, Fla.