Letters from our listeners

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Kai Ryssdal: We devoted a chunk of time last week to the global food crisis. Many of you devoted a chunk of time to writing to us about it.

One of the stories in our series "Food Fight" focused on the big agribusinesses that are profiting amid those rising prices.

Ralph Strahm is a farmer in southeastern California. He wrote to say somebody's sure making money -- just not him and his onion crop.

Ralph Strahm: We're seeing about 10 cents at the farm level and a dollar at the retail when we go to the grocery store. So it appears that someone -- we call him the middleman -- is able to mark up these products many, many times.

Be it the middle man or the tax man, there were some concerns about a commentary we ran last week. Michael Mazerov said sales taxes ought to apply to goods bought online as well as to those bought in person.

Frances Ellen Worrell runs what she calls an ecofashion Web site in Heathsville, Virgina. She says building a loyal online customer base is tough enough, forget about having to keep track of sales tax:

Frances Ellen Worrell: They're buying a sweater or whatever it is, sheets, and a shipping cost. If I were to have to also charge them taxes, I would be in a situation where they're going to look at what I'm selling and they might just say, "Oh, to heck with this. I'm just going down to Linens 'n Things" and I simply can't afford to lose sales in that manner.

We learned a little something about our audience this past week: a surprising number of you seem to be structural engineers, engineers who didn't much care for what I thought was my clarification of the use of the words concrete and cement in a story a couple of weeks ago. So, just to get it firmly set in everybody's mind: traditional concrete needs cement as a binding agent as well as water and gravel or sand or both of those.

And finally this week, moving past that cement thing, we got a load of comments slamming something we said about the new video game Grand Theft Auto 4 -- about how grown-ups playing video games could be thought of as immature.

Eric Denney of Indianapolis said hang on just a second. He pointed out that he's got a good job -- he's an IT technician for county and municipal government there -- he's studying for his MBA, but he said everybody needs some downtime:

Eric Denney: At the end of the day, I like to unwind a little bit and I like to unwind by causing a little bit of chaos in a virtual computerized world.

And in his house, Grand Theft Auto is strictly for adults.

Denney: I don't play it when the baby is awake. I wait until after he goes to bed, but yeah, I play.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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