Heed Pa. report on death sentence

The editorial on Texas' execution of a demonstrably innocent man, Claude Howard Jones, should be required reading for every Pennsylvania legislator ("Kill the death penalty," Monday). So should the report of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Committee on Racial and Gender Bias in the Justice System, which called for a moratorium on executions in a capital-justice system so fundamentally flawed as to fail the elementary requirements of due process. This report has gathered dust since it was issued in 2003. Meanwhile, more than 220 prisoners await execution on the country's fourth-largest death row. How long, indeed, must justice wait in Pennsylvania? How many Claude Howard Joneses do we want on our conscience?

Robert Zaller

Bala Cynwyd

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Keep protecting kids from tobacco

The action by City Council to deter underage smoking by sharply increasing fines on retailers who sell to youths is to be greatly applauded ("Make them pay," Tuesday).

The measure, raising fines per violation from $300 to $2,000, will have an enormous impact in our efforts to reduce the smoking rate of Philadelphia youths, currently at sobering levels. In addition to the rate uncovered by the city's Department of Public Health study, our 2009 State of Tobacco Control Report revealed a high smoking rate for high school-age youths in Pennsylvania, 18.5 percent, up from the previous year's report of 17.5 percent.

And while our efforts to prevent underage smoking have seen recent success, such as the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, the threat of new smokeless products, such as the candy-inspired Camel dissolvables, resembling "Tic Tacs" and breath strips, indicates how serious and steadfast our efforts must be in youth tobacco use prevention.

Deb Brown

CEO

American Lung Association

of the Mid-Atlantic

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Don't abandon the beloved book

What do a rock star, a library, and Google have in common? Books.

In an interview about her book Just Kids, Patti Smith exclaimed, "Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don't abandon the book" ("Patti Smith: Words and music," Tuesday).

The same section contains the article, "Google's eBooks store opens for business." And the Business section details the possible takeover of Barnes & Noble by Borders Books to strengthen the fight against the onslaught of electronic books ("Barnes & Noble, Borders surge.").

Will libraries be forced to switch to online books to compete with Apple and Google? Are we doomed to scan book lists online instead of picking a book at random from the stacks and reading a few lines to see if we might enjoy reading it?

We cannot abandon the mechanism that has survived millennia - from hieroglyphics etched in stone to the printing press - enabling man to pass down history, medicine, technology, and even jokes to subsequent generations.

Sandy Schwartz

Berlin

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Must all leaders of church be men?

A recent panel urged Catholics to play a greater role in the church (Monday). For example, start a youth group or a book club. Another proposal is to attract idealistic young people who wish to serve. While these are worthy ideas, they do not change the fact that leadership in the Catholic Church remains a male monopoly. Women cannot even serve as deacons but must watch as more married men do, given the shortage of priests. So what happens when these spirited, idealistic young people learn that while they are encouraged to "build the church from below," only those of the male gender will find a leadership role on the altar?

Diane C. Moskal

Abington

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Several reasons for leaving church

Some reasons for Catholics' leaving the church not mentioned in the article "Catholic speakers: Let laity lead way" (Monday) are the church's exclusion of women as priests, its position on homosexuality, and the absence of gender-inclusive language in the liturgy. Today's priests are reluctant to address these concerns because of fear of retribution by the church hierarchy. All this makes it hard to be an active Catholic layperson. I don't think it's the music that's keeping people away.

Beth Kane

Wynnewood

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Keep citizens well-informed

The witch-hunt for Julian Assange is misdirected ("Assange arrested, held till next week," Wednesday). The American public should not be kept in the dark like mushrooms as to what policies are followed in our name. The Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Iran, Hamas, the funding of terrorists, and other issues may have been known to Washington insiders, but not the general public. When the people are ignorant of their government's conduct, it is easy to convince them that we are hated because of "our freedoms" and not our behavior.

Joseph Elias

Wilkes-Barre