Letters: AIDS Diary, Rumsfeld and Mentos

Melissa Block and Robert Siegel read from listeners' letters and emails. Topics include a report on a young South African describing what it's like to live with AIDS; our coverage of calls for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation; and an on-air science experiment involving Mentos.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

I'm Melissa Block and this is the voice of Thembi Ngubane.

Ms. THEMBI NGUBANE (Subject of radio diary): It is not going to bring me down. I am the one who's got hands and feet and mind, and it's only something that's inside my blood.

BLOCK: We heard from Thembi yesterday on the program when we aired her radio diary about living with AIDS in South Africa. That story brought in a number of emails, and that's where we're going to begin our Thursday letters segment.

SIEGEL: Lenny Steinhagan (ph) of Minneapolis wrote this: "I was captivated by the lilting accent and tempo of Thembi's voice. Then I was mesmerized by her story and began to cry without being conscious of my tears. Like all of us, she just wants to live long enough to see her child get a little bigger."

BLOCK: "Great job," writes Johnny Kazares (ph) of Akron, Ohio. "It was a very moving, empowering and unbiased documentary. I've been HIV positive for the last ten years and in good health, so I realize the importance of having HIV therapy available. The cost of the medicines is still a luxury for many of us. I hope this kind of documentary helps to make medications accessible to all and not only to those who can afford it."

SIEGEL: And Lea Munley (ph) of Rockville,Maryland, adds this: "I found Thembi's account of her experience with HIV AIDS to be very moving and something I wish all Americans could hear. She is a South-African woman who, like many Americans, had a boyfriend who didn't know he was positive. AIDS doesn't discriminate based on race, gender or nationality."

BLOCK: We received a flood of mail about our coverage of calls for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation, in particular an essay by commentator and former Rumsfeld aide Dan Goure. Goure defended Rumsfeld's tenure as Secretary of Defense and praised his willingness to fight.

SIEGEL: Well, a number of listeners disagree, and they write to tell us why. T.J. Styles of New York takes issues with Goure's view of the public perception of Rumsfeld. Styles writes, "It is not Mr. Rumsfeld's bearing that so alarms most Americans, but his refusal to accept the size of the American military commitment required to stabilize Iraq or Afghanistan."

BLOCK: And Juris Jon Highs (ph) of Waynesville, Illinois, writes this: "Rarely have I heard a more intelligent and less thoughtful commentary on a critical issue. Mr. Goure defended what many see as the hubris of Donald Rumsfeld in terms of confidence in victory and compared him to General Ulysses S. Grant. But thoughtfulness requires the awareness that hubris involves egotism rather than self-confidence, a huge difference."

SIEGEL: And on a completely different matter, despite our note of caution, our on-air science experiment from last week had some of you trying it at home.

(Soundbite of prior ALL THINGS CONSIDERED)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Gave us the thumbs up, says we have to watch a program right now. Holy Toledo.

(End Soundbite)

SIEGEL: That's the sound of what happens when you drop Mentos candy into a full two-liter bottle of Diet Coke. A geyser of soda shot about ten feet into the air.

BLOCK: Our science correspondent, David Kestenbaum, explained to Michele Norris that it's the surface area of the candy that allows the carbon dioxide molecules to come together, form bubbles and force the soda out of the bottle.

SIEGEL: Well, more than a few listeners tried their own experiments, and they got mixed results. A group in Korea tried it with Coca Cola Light and apple-flavored Mentos and they were not impressed with the results.

BLOCK: And Franklin Beverage of Pocasset, Massachusetts, writes, "If your theory is correct, then why did nothing happen when I dropped 50 sandblasted stones from my driveway into a Diet Coke? Obviously, something else is going on, on a chemical basis."

SULLIVAN: Well, as a committed scientist and dogged reporter, our David Kestenbaum has agreed to look into the matter further. He promises to bring us more on the curious mixing of Mentos and Diet Coke in a few weeks.

BLOCK: In the meantime, we want to know what you think. Write to us. Go to NPR.org and click on Contact Us at the top of the screen.

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