Re: "A touchy subject: Obesity testing" (April 8): The issue of childhood obesity is one we must take seriously. Obesity is a growing health problem not only in our nation, but also in my state, New Jersey. We must address this issue because obesity is a risk factor for several diseases, including diabetes.

Today, many children are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. One way to minimize the increase of Type 2 diabetes is by supporting body mass index (BMI) screenings in New Jersey schools. Although not a diagnostic tool, BMI is a good measure and eye-opener for families. We must remember that the goal of the BMI screenings in schools is not to focus on weight, but rather having the kids learn to make better choices early on to prevent the risks of chronic diseases in the future.

I would like to see legislation in New Jersey address the issue of Type 2 diabetes, and begin an early intervention for children by mandating BMI screenings in all N.J. schools.

Swapna Mehta
Cape May Court House

Vo-tech often best path

Not all youth desire a college education, or family circumstances may not make college a realistic goal. I believe that board of education officials should encourage vocational training for those who do not see college in their future.

I attended a vocational public school after World War II. Students 15-18 years old were eligible for two-year courses in barbering/cosmetology, carpentry/woodworking, dietary services, shoe repair and tailoring, to name a few. Half the school day was spent learning English, math and history, and half the day was spent on the trade. Most trades required passing a state board test to qualify for graduation. Many students were able to make a good living, and some went on to have businesses of their own, enabling them to give back to their community, as well.

Vocational training might help deter student unrest and behavioral problems. Children with these issues might find their niche in learning something that interests them and allows them to express their creative abilities. School taxes could be better spent on productive, successful students than security and disciplinary matters.

Marjorie C. Smith
King of Prussia

Slots are bandits

I am very concerned about the new Harrah's Chester casino. I visited there recently and did some gambling on the quarter slots. I use the term "gambling" loosely; it was more like just feeding my money into the machine. I lost $80 quickly, with almost no wins. This is very unusual.

I have played slot machines in Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Niagara Falls, and Paris. There is always some payback when you play. Eventually the house wins but there is usually a set amount the house pays back. I believe in Atlantic City it is around 80 percent. This did not seem to be the case at Harrah's Chester. The machine only took my money.

I spoke with a handful of other gamblers on the floor there, and they were all experiencing the same thing. Walking through the establishment, I saw nobody winning. Are there any rules in Pennsylvania regarding paybacks?

Needless to say, I don't think I will be going back there. The few times a year I do gamble I will go to Atlantic City, where they at least provide the illusion that I'm gambling.

Michael Krop

Reform corporate tax

The Inquirer's analyses and comments on Philadelphia's possible better future have thus far lacked focus on two key interrelated questions: Are there necessary conditions for that better future, and can Philadelphia bring about those conditions? In my opinion there is one necessary condition, that taxes on large, publicly traded corporations are fully competitive.

This is primarily a Pennsylvania - not a Philadelphia - problem, because the commonwealth's taxes on those companies are far too high and not competitive. Nonetheless, the Inquirer Editorial Board could undertake an education and advocacy campaign to reform Pennsylvania's corporate taxes, reform that would include a provision that Philadelphia cannot add to the reformed corporate tax burden. With that condition in place, the path for jobs will become positive, and work will be the realistic alternative to criminal enforcement.

Cornelius C. Shields