Obama can make a Grand mark

President Obama's decision to permanently protect portions of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from offshore drilling is a huge win for our environment ("Obama restricts oil drilling at sea," Dec. 21). With a stroke of his pen, the president has ensured some of the most critical ecological areas of our oceans will remain off-limits to oil and gas drilling.

These protections are the environmental version of a lockbox and will stymie any Trump administration efforts to reopen these areas for drilling. Other iconic and ecologically vital places are still vulnerable, however, and Obama should do everything he can to protect them before he leaves office

In particular, the president should permanently protect the Grand Canyon from toxic uranium mining. Mining companies are planning thousands of mines that threaten to tear up the beautiful landscapes around the canyon, destroy thousands of Native American cultural sites, and contaminate the drinking water supplies for 25 million people.

Obama should permanently protect the canyon and 1.7 million additional acres by using his power under the Antiquities Act to create the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument. Creating this monument would cement the president's legacy as a forward-thinking conservationist.

|Jake McNichol, campaign organizer, Environment New Jersey, New Brunswick, jmcnichol@environmentnewjersey.org

Bad move on Israeli settlements

I disagree with President Obama's decision to have our nation's United Nations ambassador abstain on the vote that condemns Israeli settlements in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories ("U.S. rebukes Israel at U.N.," Dec. 24).

While I have, since the beginning of the settlements, acknowledged that those settlements should never have been allowed, it would have been more appropriate for us to veto the U.N. resolution while noting that America would only join such a resolution if the U.N. demanded the end of the settlements and that the Palestinians acknowledge the right of Israel's existence and allow for them and Israel to live side by side in peace.

|Ian Wachstein, Voorhees

Would have beaten Trump easily

President Obama said that had he been on the ballot against Donald Trump in this year's presidential election, he would have secured a third term ("Obama says he'd have won over Trump," Tuesday). This is not mere puffery - he is absolutely right.

The two major-party candidates were enormously unpopular and widely and virulently disliked. This was a watershed year in that voters cast ballots against an opponent rather than for the individual they supported. Virtually any other Democrat could have beaten Donald Trump, and had a respectable, dignified, knowledgeable, civilized human being been the Republican nominee, he or she would surely have trounced Hillary Clinton in both the popular vote and the Electoral College.

Obama recently has enjoyed and continues to bask in favorable ratings as the economy rebounds, albeit too slowly, and as millions have benefited from the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which certainly can be improved.

Naturally, Trump felt the need to weigh in to contradict the president, never allowing any perceived slight to pass without a strong response. Informed citizens know that Obama is right.

|Oren M. Spiegler, Upper St. Clair, Pa.

Hacking should worry all voters

All the talk about Russia's interference in our presidential election is not, contrary to some voices, merely partisan handwringing or sour grapes. The who-won-and-how conversation may prove to be of secondary importance when measured against the reality that a foreign government meddled in our electoral process. Who did it matters greatly. Even if it were an ally, it ought to give us plenty of reason for alarm.

The health of our democracy should concern every American. When we engage in efforts to suppress electoral participation and to manipulate voter districting, we should be horrified and called to action. But when we find ourselves looking the other way when it is clear that a foreign government - in this case, Russia - has for its own gain meddled in our presidential election, we are in trouble of a much bigger kind. Partisanship makes us lazy, and it makes us blind, but it also makes all of us vulnerable.

|Robert Rhoades, Wyndmoor

Opposing sanctuaries is selfish

The letter, "Keep suburbs sanctuary-free" (Dec. 23), should be read at church and Sabbath services this holiday season. It is the very reason we need to be reminded of our repelling selfishness, lack of caring, middle-class arrogance, and prideful - if not boasting - insensitivity.

"No room at the inn" is not an economic reality, but an illustration of all people who have had need in their lives for acceptance. May we be there for them, as others have been there for us.

|Michael P. Heinsdorf, Philadelphia

Chaput is entitled to lobby

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, as a citizen and a leader of a religious organization, has a right to influence public officials, the same as any other lobbyist ("Religious freedom is personal," Dec. 22). He has a right and a duty to oppose policy that conflicts with his personal beliefs and that of the Catholic Church.

Would you object to the archbishop's pronouncements if Catholic doctrine was compatible with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party?

|Zachary Margolies, Philadelphia

Time to bring energy to users

Pennsylvania's manufacturing community knows the time is past due for greater investment in the infrastructure that connects people and products across the commonwealth. A recent survey commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers found broad-based support for investing more in these critical assets, especially when it comes to energy infrastructure.

Among Republicans and Democrats, among city-dwellers, suburbanites, and rural folks, 80 percent or more support increased development of the systems that deliver energy from where it's produced to where it's used.

Pennsylvanians understand that new and expanded infrastructure will help create good-paying jobs and boost the economy, the survey found. Updated infrastructure is needed to deploy domestic energy, such as from the Marcellus Shale, to industrial, commercial, and residential consumers. In particular, our manufacturing sector needs better connections to energy sources, to our suppliers, and to our customers to keep pace with global competition.

In Delaware County, industry is poised to rebound around closed refineries, but they need pipeline connections to the Marcellus Shale.

Private industry just needs permission to build the necessary infrastructure. The survey shows it has the support of Pennsylvanians.

|David N. Taylor, president, Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association, Harrisburg