From Our Listeners

Letters: Zarif, the Dentist's Chair, and CFL Bulbs

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Michele Norris and Robert Siegel read from listeners' letters and e-mails. Among this week's topics: Robert's interview with Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations, Javad Zarif; a SoundClip from the dentist's office; and a story about compact fluorescent light bulbs.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Thursday is the day we read from your e-mail. And we'll start with some of your comments about my interview with Javad Zarif, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations. I asked him about U.S. charges that Iran is supplying weapons to militants in Iraq, and his op-ed in the New York Times.

NORRIS: "Mr. Siegel," writes Joanne Bowignton(ph) of Belfast, Maine, "I was disturbed by the very aggressive tone of your interview with the Iranian ambassador, which in no way referred to the substance of his op-ed piece, but sounded more like a police interrogation. You damaged the credibility of NPR for which many of us pay a fair sum to protect."

SIEGEL: Scott Barneke(ph) of Kingsport, Tennessee, thought I wasn't tough enough on the ambassador. He writes this. "I was amazed at the softball questioning, Mr. Siegel directed at the Iranian ambassador as he slandered the U.S. and spawned the poor innocent me routine. How about some hard questions on Iran's continued support of Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, their clear culpability in the Marine barracks bombing and the fact that Ahmadinejad is clearly on record for vowing the destruction of Israel and the U.S., just to name a few disgusting acts."

NORRIS: Whether you approve of that interview or not, there's a good chance that one of our SoundClips got under your skin. And unfortunately, we're going to play it again before we hear what you thought about it. So let's just get it over with.

(Soundbite of dental drill)

SIEGEL: Well, Gina Ferrera-Bates(ph) of Middlebury, Connecticut, heard that and she writes, "I listened with trepidation to the intro about the sounds of the dentist's office. I'm one of those women who can tolerate the pain of childbirth, but enter to panic the moment I must face the dentist's chair. Sadly, I could only listen to a few seconds. The piercing sounds of that old drill sent my heart into palpitations. Sorry, but you lost your listener after that."

NORRIS: "The story was intolerable," listener Tony Muller(ph) writes. "Whose idea was it to play the sound of a dentist's drill on the radio? They should be fired."

SIEGEL: A couple of positive notes now. Jim Franklin of Hampton, Virginia, was glad to hear our appreciation of the famed softball pitcher Eddie Feigner, who passed away last week.

"I listened with both sadness and warmth to the story of Eddie's life and passing," Franklin writes. "I was one of the fortunate kids who got to see him twice. I still remember the blazing fast pitch and the red, white and blue uniforms. And most of all, the man himself. While no one is perfect, he and his wife and team left this country a little bit better."

NORRIS: And a number of you felt a little bit better after hearing Robert Krulwich's Valentine's Day story. "Perfect," is how Robin Burkes of Pasadena, California, describes it. "Magnificent science, gentle humor and a timely bit of romance. The art of telling beautiful science in layman's terms just might save the world. I listened with delight on my drive home, then gathered my family around the computer for a replay."

SIEGEL: Well, while you're gathered around your computer, remember that you can write to us by clicking on Contact Us at the top of And finally, we received a flood of e-mail about my story last week on compact fluorescent light bulbs. Here's just a bit of it.

NORRIS: Joseph Kelly(ph), who listens to us in Tokyo writes, "I have to laugh at the born-again fluorescent boulders in your story, and their magnificent pronouncements. While meanwhile, here in Japan, these bulbs have been in extensive use for years. Just as with energy efficient cars, no one in America is ever interested until it's already very late, then they act like, hey, this is really new."

SIEGEL: And Karen Ellis of Mableton, Georgia responded, expressing her concern that many listeners apparently have. She writes, "I recently replaced the majority of my incandescent bulbs with the fluorescent ones thinking that I was doing my part for the environment. Imagine my dismay when I read the package and noticed the warning that the bulbs contain mercury and need to be disposed of properly. Hopefully, I'll figure out what that means by the time they need replacing. But I wonder if they are that environmentally friendly if mercury ends up in our landfills and groundwater."

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