December 14, 2012

Letters to the editor: Let our children breathe freely

As a father and youth team coach, I constantly encourage kids to get outside and play. As a kid, what could be better than running around and enjoying the fresh air? Kids stay happy and healthy with this combination of fun and exercise.

click image to enlarge

A reader is calling on President Obama to approve tougher new standards for soot pollution from sources such as this coal-fired power plant near Emmett, Kan.

2012 File Photo/The Associated Press

I am also a Leadership Board Member of the American Lung Association, and I join the ALA in fighting for something that many take for granted: clean and healthy air. This month, we have an opportunity to make the air healthier for kids across the country.

Particle pollution, also called "soot," is one of the deadliest and most dangerous forms of air pollution. It is a microscopic mixture of smoke, liquid droplets and solid metal particles released by sources such as coal-fired power plants, factories and diesel vehicles. It causes thousands of premature deaths, heart attacks and asthma attacks every year.

Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of soot because they are generally more active while outside, causing their developing lungs to inhale more pollution.

Children face greater risk of infection, coughing and bronchitis from air pollution and may even suffer from lower lung function, putting them at greater risk of lung disease as they age.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new soot standards that would give our children the protection they deserve from this toxic air pollution.

President Obama has until the end of the year to approve the new standards. Not surprisingly, the biggest polluters are fighting hard to prevent healthier standards from being put in place.

But no child should miss out on the fun of running around outside. It is time for the EPA and our president to stand with kids and give them the protection they deserve.

Matthew Sturgis

Gray

Collins acting responsibly in Benghazi investigation

As the mother of two small children, I rarely have time in my day to be concerned with the goings-on in Washington.

But after hearing Sen. Susan Collins criticized for her investigation into the terrorist attack on our embassy in Benghazi, I felt I had to speak out.

As a leader of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Collins has a responsibility to examine what took place on Sept. 11 and to determine what changes need to be made to ensure that Americans serving in our embassies abroad are safe.

As she tries to get to the bottom of what happened, it only makes sense that Sen. Collins should question the Obama administration's chosen spokesperson following the attack, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.

The focus of the investigation has not been Ambassador Rice or her suitability to be secretary of state -- a position for which she was never nominated before taking herself out of consideration Thursday. The focus is on what happened, why and what should be done differently.

Ambassador Rice has insight into what happened and why. And I am willing to wager that Ambassador Rice has some idea as to what should be done differently in the future.

It is my hope that she shares that information with our moderate senator, who is trying to ignore the extremists and get to the truth of what happened on that terrible day.

Sarah Day

Yarmouth

Israel, not Egypt, example of flourishing democracy

I think Christopher Rushlau is misinformed (Voice of the People, "Israel now faced with Arab democracy," Dec. 1).

I don't understand what Mr. Rushlau means when he calls Israel a "half-democracy." Even if he doesn't agree with Israeli politics, he should know that all Israeli citizens can vote in Israel, whether they're Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze, Baha'i or otherwise.

Not only that, non-Jewish citizens can just as well be elected to the Israeli parliament. Arabs currently hold 17 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Israeli Arabs have also held various government posts, including one who served as Israel's ambassador to Finland and deputy mayor of Tel Aviv.

In 2005, the Israeli government appointed Oscar Abu-Razek, a Muslim, as director general of the Ministry of Interior, the first Arab citizen to become chief executive of a key government ministry. An Arab is also a Supreme Court justice.

Recent news indicates that Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is moving to consolidate power. This has essentially given him unchecked power. President Morsi claims this is needed until a new constitution can be written.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure how the efforts of the Arab Spring will turn out. I can only hope that true democracy will come to Egypt with equal rights for all citizens, including minorities and those who do not want to be ruled by Sharia law.

Perhaps at this point I would call Egypt the "half-democracy." My optimism is very tempered.

Lee Tabenken

Falmouth

Critics of homeless services less attractive to consumers

The fact that approximately 700,000 people are homeless in the United States is a national disgrace.

The fact that the Portland business community seems to think that to "provide more shelter and services could make the problem worse" is equally appalling ("Portland businesses see more homeless shelters as vicious circle," Nov. 16).

They have stated their desire to "make the city less attractive to homeless people."

Wouldn't it be nice if these businesspeople could find it in their hearts to offer hope, help and employment to those without homes? Instead, they have chosen to make themselves less attractive to consumers who do not wish to support their selfishness.

It's time for the "job creators" to look beyond themselves and truly engage in creating a community that is better for everyone.

Linda Hopkins

Saco

City Hall's Saturday hours perk for same-sex couples

One minute after the gay marriage law goes into effect! It certainly didn't take long for the gays to start receiving special treatment.

When is the last time Portland City Hall opened its doors after midnight, and on a Saturday no less, just so a heterosexual couple could obtain a marriage license? Never! No matter what kind of reasoning we could come up with for City Hall to open early, we are made to wait until regular business hours.

City Hall should change their business hours sign on their front door to read "M-F 8-4; Sat. Hrs. (gays only) 12:01-3 a.m." That sounds to me like a special privilege.

Janet Mowatt

Windham

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