I want to encourage your readers to pick up trash. Litter is a big problem for everyone — animals and people.

We need to watch out for our wildlife because it counts on us to make good decisions. Wildlife may eat litter, which is not good for health or safety. Turtles, deer, foxes and bears may think it’s a tasty treat when trash could kill them. Litter also destroys their habitats. I want to continue enjoying wild animals.

I’m picking up 100 pounds of litter for my Girl Scout Centennial Patch. I want to ask your readers to pick up 100 pieces of litter. When we pick up trash, it makes a difference. Our world is cleaner, safer and more beautiful for us to live in.

Cati Gaffen, age 9

Casco

LePage’s approval ratings had help from columnist

“Governor’s Approval Ratings Up.” A statewide survey just released shows that Gov. Paul LePage’s job approval ratings have surged. Thanks, Bill Nemitz. Keep it up!

Norman A. Baker

Shapleigh

Concert critic should stick to covering ‘events and ideas’

The recent review of the Portland Symphony Orchestra and viola soloist was deplorable. I have heard Laurie Kennedy play before and she is brilliant. Although I did not attend this concert, I did attend the previous concert and it was exceptional.

It seems to me that a critic should be supportive and not so blatantly negative. The remarks about Block’s “ethnic” piece were uncalled for. What a disappointment. Perhaps Christopher Hyde should adhere to his own advice and speak only of “events and ideas” and not individuals.

The Portland Symphony and Laurie Kennedy should disregard his discontent and ineptitude.

Katherine Anderson

Portland

Critics of Iraq policy may have to eat their words

For most of 2003, 2005 and 2007, I was serving in Iraq in the U.S. Army. When home in 2004 and 2006, I spent most of my time preparing for the next deployment. But I managed to hear occasional news about Iraq.

In those days, it appeared that most media reports were characterizing our efforts as wasted and hopeless, and our mission as a quagmire. I remember protesters demanding our rapid withdrawal. Many vehicles are still adorned with stickers, now faded by the elements, expressing similar sentiments.

The thought of standing up a viable Iraqi government and ending the 2006 civil war was seen by many as impossible and pointless. Where are those people now?

Their voices were so loud and shrill five years ago. A handful may insist that they were right to oppose the “surge” of U.S. troops in 2007 on principled grounds. That principled moral high ground would have provided a lofty vantage point from which to observe as the civil war continued.

Our military’s mission in Iraq is coming to an end because we ended the civil war. Now, Iraqis no longer need our troops’ assistance. The Iraqi government is willing to proceed without American troops present.

The bloodshed that could not be stopped has stopped. The government that could not stand on its own now stands on its own. The Iraqi security forces that could not operate without American advisers now operate independently.

If you demanded withdrawing troops in 2006, then you were wrong.

Americans enjoy the right to express objections to the policies of their government. But it is worth pausing to remember that free speech comes with a burden. You are free to express your views, but you may also have to eat your words.

Tim Mathews

Portland

Influenza a serious threat and vaccinations necessary

Between 66,418 and 265,672 Maine residents will suffer from influenza in an average year. Alarmingly, influenza immunization rates fall far short every year.

We all are “faces” of influenza and are at risk of contracting the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months of age and older receive an influenza vaccination. The recommendation reinforces annual influenza vaccination as a public health priority and highlights the need for people to talk to their health care provider about getting immunized this season.

Influenza is a serious respiratory illness that is easily spread and can lead to severe complications, even death, for you or someone with whom you come in contact. Each year in the United States, on average, influenza and its related complications result in approximately 226,000 hospitalizations. Depending on virus severity during the influenza season, deaths can range from 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.

We at the American Lung Association urge you to make sure you and your loved ones are vaccinated against influenza this and every year. Additional information about influenza, vaccination and the “Faces of Influenza” initiative can be found at www.faces ofinfluenza.org.

Jeffrey Seyler

President and CEO

American Lung Association of New England

Waltham, Mass.

Titillation often pushes safe-sex education aside

The recent sex party scandal in Sanford gives us pause. As stupefying as the decision to host such parties at a banquet hall may have been, we find ourselves presented with what Oprah Winfrey might call a “teaching moment,” albeit an awkward one.

Discussing sex makes most people uncomfortable. But the fact that the Sanford debacle has made headlines in every media outlet throughout the state is rather disappointing. Why? Because the Frannie Peabody Center and HIV/AIDS service organizations nationwide struggle daily to have our own messages heard — important messages about making safe and well-informed personal choices when it comes to sex.

Oddly enough, educating people about safer sexual behavior usually takes a back seat when it comes to titillation and cheap thrills, much as it has during this past week’s headline-grabbing news.

We consider it a fundamental part of our work to provide education for those consenting adults who want to know how to protect themselves from HIV as well as other sexually transmitted diseases. This can mean anything from talking frankly about condoms to counseling men and women when they come into our office for a free, anonymous HIV test. Though the shock value of these things is a far cry from the news out of Sanford last week, it’s vital information that can save lives.

Sanford’s decision to move Ward 7’s polling to another locale is hopefully a wise one and in the best interest of its residents and their comfort at the voting booth this week. Yet, we worry that a moment to teach the public about making safe, healthy choices for themselves may be lost.

Ed Corley

Director of development

Frannie Peabody Center

Portland

Diversity doesn’t always add value to the group

Letter writer James A. Weathersby of Augusta makes an eloquent argument for the value of diversity (“Changing hues of autumn reflect diversity’s benefits,” Oct. 23). He states, for example: “Our strength lies in our variety.”

Diversity per se, however, is not of value. Among a group of honest and hard-working students, the addition of a lazy cheat increases diversity, but decreases the value of the group. Among a group of healthy people, one with disease increases diversity, but decreases value. A group that embodies any virtue you can think of can have its diversity increased by the addition of an individual lacking that virtue.

There is a long history of thought regarding virtue, going back at least to Plato’s Protagoras, where he discusses bravery, justice, temperance, holiness and wisdom. It is unlikely that diversity will join this pantheon of virtues.

William Vaughan Jr.

Chebeague Island