It isn’t often I find myself nodding my head with agreement while reading M.D. Harmon’s weekly column (“Christian groups under siege amid unrest in Egypt,” Aug. 23), but he did a solid job of summing up the misery the Christian community of Egypt is currently enduring as that nation descends further into bedlam.

I only wish Mr. Harmon had widened his scope a bit further to tell the story of the struggling Christian community in other parts of the Middle East.

Before the 2003 U.S. invasion, the Iraqi Christian community enjoyed relative peace and prosperity alongside its Muslim neighbors. Monumental bungling and a lack of post-war planning from the Bush administration ended that.

As Iraq disintegrated into vicious civil war, Iraq’s Christians were left at the mercy of terrorists and criminals targeting them for extortion, kidnapping and murder.

Today, Iraq’s Christians, a community that has existed for as long as the church itself, teeter on the verge of outright extinction, with most fleeing abroad, many to Syria.

Speaking of Syria, while many in the U.S., including many conservatives, are rah-rahing regime change in Damascus, it remains to be seen what a rebel victory would mean for Syria’s Christian minority. Given the alliances between the rebels and al-Qaida, a rebel victory could mean disaster.

Of course Mr. Harmon failed to mention the struggles of Palestinian Christians who live throughout the West Bank and Gaza and endure the same miseries all Palestinians do at the hands of Israeli military occupation and continued settlement expansion. A vibrant, vital, Palestinian Christian community exists, and yes, they are suffering daily.

I thank Mr. Harmon for telling part of the story of the Christians of the Middle East. Maybe next time he can tell the whole story.

Jeremy Smith

Old Orchard Beach

Let businesses lead debate about local revenue options

Most economic and public policy experts recognize the need to reform our federal income tax structure. Nevertheless, there is a looming revenue crisis closer to home that demands our attention.

Does anyone believe the current method of raising municipal and school revenues is fair? There has to be a more acceptable way to raise local revenues than to rely almost exclusively on local property taxes. I suspect this policy is the remnant of Colonial times when wealth was determined by land ownership. 

For our quality of life to be sustained, for businesses to succeed, we need public investment. Whether that be for infrastructure, public safety or public education, all are vitally important.

At this critical time, we have neighbors opposing each other over local municipal and school expenditures. As property values and taxes continue to rise, the debate gets extremely heated. In many cases, misinformation and/or inaccurate statements become readily accepted. 

Unless there is an alternative method of raising local revenue, the acrimony within communities will grow. The process creates a lack of trust of public officials, elected or otherwise. This level of discourse among the voters will only get worse unless this issue is resolved.

This is an issue that has to percolate from constituents to our elected state officials. Therefore, I call on the business community to initiate a comprehensive discussion and debate on an alternative revenue source for local communities.

Why the business community? It wields tremendous influence. The business community — owners, officers and employees — has the most to gain: better infrastructure to communicate and/or deliver their goods and/or services, a better-educated and skilled workforce and more attractive communities to enhance their recruiting efforts. Start the discussion now!

Roger Beeley


Sen. Collins at forefront of Medicare fraud prevention

On behalf of AARP’s 230,000 members in Maine, I am writing to thank Sen. Susan Collins for signing on as a co-sponsor to the Preventing and Reducing Improper Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures Act. 

Medicare fraud and abuse are undermining the health of seniors and costing taxpayers an estimated $60 billion to $90 billion every year. The PRIME Act would combat fraud by cracking down on identity theft, improving systems for tracking fraudulent billing and punishing billing errors and overpayments.

Last year, the Medicare fee-for-service program made almost $30 billion in improper payments, an 8.5 percent error rate. For decades, Medicare has operated under a system that pays providers first and investigates suspicious claims later. 

The PRIME Act would require that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services more closely track the overpayments and implement solutions to address them such as closing loopholes, stopping patterns of double billing and other steps.

Sen. Collins should be commended for signing on to this important, timely legislation.

Lori Parham

AARP Maine state director


Panhandlers could now put effort into securing work

Panhandling in Maine has seemingly been on a steady rise, specifically in urban areas. The recent rules passed in Portland have provided satisfaction to those against the idea of individuals standing in a median to collect money. 

Because of the possibility of danger and constant uncomfortable atmosphere given off by the panhandlers, the law rightfully restricts this disruptive behavior. 

Standing so close to roads, usually with high-volume traffic, and sometimes in the middle of said roads, is extremely hazardous. Both parties, the panhandler and vehicle operators, are at a high risk of an accident. 

The practice also makes others feel uncomfortable and unsafe. If an individual is willing to spend many hours a day hoping to collect free money, they should devote the same amount of time, if not more, seeking employment. 

It seems that more and more people panhandle just to make some extra tax-free cash and are not really destitute and/or homeless. This is enraging for people who work hard for their income-taxed paychecks. 

The new city ban on panhandling in medians will hopefully be the first of a few initiatives to get the individuals off the streets and looking for work. 

Taylor Spang


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