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Georgia rebuts its critics; IQ and DNA - International Herald Tribunne

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Georgia rebuts its critics

Since the 2003 Rose Revolution, Georgia has pursued ambitious reforms to transform itself from a deeply corrupt, failing post-Soviet state into a liberal democracy rooted in the rule of law (and we were proud this year to be named the number-one reformer by the World Bank). So it is understandable, following last week's declaration of a state of emergency, that our Western friends cast a critical eye on Georgia; as a young democracy, we welcome being evaluated by the European standards to which we aspire. However, several points in two of your opinion pieces were simply inaccurate.

Nino Japaridze and Job C. Henning ("No more strong presidents, please," Views, Nov. 13) describe an all-powerful president making unilateral decisions for his own benefit. However, the state of emergency was decided by the cabinet and parliamentary leaders together. They sought to confront an imminent threat. Immediately afterwards, the president - judging that both this threat and the state of emergency posed a danger to our liberal democracy- cut short his own term by a year and called presidential elections and referendum on the date of parliamentary elections for Jan. 5. He did this to return the choice on Georgia's future to the voters. The writers also failed to notice that last month the president already had proposed lowering the threshold for entry to Parliament to 5 percent from 7 percent, thus enabling greater pluralism.

Mark Almond ("The West should stop picking losers," Nov. 13) notes that "no one seriously expects the Russian Army to cross south of the Caucasus again." However, the Russian Army is already there. Its direct military support of the separatist regimes in the Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia sustains those conflicts; also, the Russian military regularly breaches Georgian sovereignty and has shelled the country three times in 2007 alone.

On the economy, he emphasizes that "Georgia's much-praised reforms have boosted unemployment and mass migration." It is far from reality: While the radical transformation unequally benefited different layers of society, they also have helped grow the economy by double-digits for three straight years; attracted legions of foreign businesses, who will invest over $2.5 billion this year alone - 10 times more than in 2003; and filled state coffers, allowing for hundreds of schools, hospitals and roads to be built - all this under a total and illegal Russian embargo. Can Almond propose an alternative plan that could have done better for Georgia?

Almond refers to Georgia's "anti-Armenian and anti-Azeri rhetoric." This is misinformed: Georgia maintains excellent relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan and has done much to integrate their ethnic minorities. More puzzling is his reference to the "political infighting" around the transit fees generated by the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. The fees are small and have created no controversy whatsoever.

Finally, it is offensive to have Almond declare that the EU and the U.S. are "trying to pick a winner" in Georgia. Georgia has held four elections since the Rose Revolution, all assessed free and fair by OSCE. The winners were chosen by Georgian voters and no one else. Jan. 5 will be one more proof.

Mamuka Kudava, Ambassador of Georgia, Paris

IQ and DNA

The article "Exploring Differences in the New DNA age" (Nov. 10-11) was very interesting, especially the commentary on attempts to link snippets of DNA to IQ. Perhaps someday scientists will succeed, but the article overlooks one very important point. There is no wide agreement on how to measure IQ.

Certainly there are standardized tests, some of them widely accepted, but there is no IQ test that is completely culture free. Receiving a high score on an IQ test may indicate nothing more than an aptitude for test-taking. Whether or not it indicates a high IQ is another matter.

Christian Haerle, Zurich, Former member of the board of directors and head of IQ testing for Mensa (Swtizerland)