Jailed dissident deserving of prize

When the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a richly deserving Liu Xiaobo of China, he was unable to attend ("Peace prize goes to jailed dissident," Saturday). He is imprisoned for publicly advocating for human rights in a country whose government finds such activity highly offensive (and treasonous).

This situation is not unprecedented. The 1935 peace prize recipient, a German, Carl von Ossietzky, also missed his award ceremony. He was in a Nazi concentration camp at the time and Hitler forbade any of Ossietzky's supporters to attend. (The same move was made by China's communist government.)

In Philadelphia's Washington Square there is a memorial to soldiers of the Continental Army, many of whom died imprisoned and of disease in our Revolutionary War. The inscription above the site reads, "Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness."

Tragically, but because it is still necessary, they still do.

John J. Donohue Jr.



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Obama wouldn't hurt families

Charles Krauthammer was at his insulting best (or worst) when he wrote, "House Democrats don't have a clue" that "President Obama won the great tax-cut showdown of 2010" ("On left, the agony of victory," Monday). I only hope they are smart enough to frame this coup properly.

The Republicans, in their evil genius, were willing to risk the entire economy, willing to deny unemployment benefits just in time for the holidays, willing to dig in their heels and insist that no one gets a tax cut if millionaires and billionaires don't, despite polls showing that Americans overwhelmingly disagree. The president reluctantly gave in because he wasn't prepared to let working families become collateral damage in political warfare.

Bill Lunsford


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Excitement, spirit at Army-Navy game

Over the weekend, my wife and I attended the Army-Navy game ("Middie marvel," Sunday). It was spirited but, as an athletic event, it was entertaining but not exciting.

The environment, however, was tremendously exciting. You saw thousands of men and women in their late teens and early 20s about to embark on a career that will put their lives at risk and full of a spirit that transcended the athletic event. At halftime, there was a powerful rendition of "God Bless America." People stood to sing and put their arms around each other: young and old; black and white; male and female; military and civilian.

There may be some things wrong about this country - no human institution is perfect - but there is an awful lot right, and it was on display at the game. Seeing it was priceless.

Jerry McNeff

West Chester


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Polling views on death penalty

Dick Polman is right when he says that the visceral pain of some murders can occasionally overwhelm our intellects and lead us to support the "preposterous" policy of capital punishment ("Head opposes execution; the heart can be trickier," Sunday). But he is wrong in noting the "landslide popularity of the death penalty." In fact, polls routinely show that, when given the choice of death or life without the possibility of parole for convicted murderers, citizens favor the latter. We are not nearly as moved by "our guts" as Polman believes.

Marc Bookman



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Full of reason and rationality

How refreshing that an open-minded message like "Millions of Americans Are Good Without God" could come out of hard-right, evangelical Texas ("Atheists' bus ad creates buzz," Sunday). And just as refreshing is Bob Ray Sanders' evenhanded, rational column about the ads on Dallas-Fort Worth buses.

But please know that most atheists are perfectly comfortable and feel far from isolated this time of year. They understand the manufactured underpinnings of religion, such as the logical but chronologically inaccurate placement of Jesus' birthday (assuming his factuality, of course.)

Sanders grasps the hypocrisy in the hearts of too many "religious believers," and reactionary objections to the ads by religious leaders belie the supposed certainty and security in their beliefs.

So, in this time of love and good cheer, thanks to Sanders for painting such a clear picture of what it takes, and what it doesn't take, to be a good person. And thanks to The Inquirer for printing a piece so full of reason and rationality.

Curt Fox



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Hard-wired need to feel superior

Bob Ray Sanders articulates what should be self-evident: self-righteousness is the antithesis of moral health ("Atheists' bus ad creates buzz," Sunday).

We are all aware that, historically, great crimes have been committed in the name of religion, and even today the front pages highlight ongoing theistic injustices by the pious.

It seems that hard-wired into our psyche is a need to be superior, to be "right," even if this need is precluded by the very tenets of the philosophy being embraced.

To all the religious zealots, look in the mirror; that infidel is you.

Gladys Pfaff


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Minimum wage of $45 a month

The second "In the World" item (Monday) is a real eye-opener. Some of the 150,000 workers in an industrial area of Bangladesh attacked factories demanding implementation of a new minimum wage of $45 a month, maybe enough to cover a Philly worker's monthly Starbucks bill.

Sandy Schwartz