Mothers need choices, not guilt

Mothers will necessarily be involved in any solution to the child obesity epidemic, but please, let's not return to an era of blaming them for a much larger societal responsibility ("Mom's health menu," Sunday).

Anecdotes are not science, and while we do know that providing healthful choices is a necessary part of a nutritious diet, the world has changed since Carole S. Appel's 1940s. Today, many mothers, single or not, are working outside the home and unable to cook three meals a day. Calorie-dense, nutrition-poor, prepackaged food options were not available 24 hours a day at gas stations and convenience stores. Kids used to walk to school, and schools offered rigorous physical education programs.

The 1940s, '50s, and even the '60s did not have the inundation of marketing that our children and families are now exposed to. Families today often are forced to make food decisions that are more about access and affordability than nutrition. What we do know now is that restrictive parenting actually does lead to an increased risk for obesity.

There are many responses to the childhood obesity epidemic, and the solution must be multifaceted. But implying that all a mom has to do is control and restrict food in her home is certainly shortsighted. We should be helping moms by providing them with education, choices, support, access, and policy, not with guilt.

Beth Rezet, M.D.

Philadelphia

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Bush, Obama, and bin Laden

John Yoo would have us believe that it was his "enhanced interrogation techniques," otherwise known as torture, that led to the apprehension and killing of Osama bin Laden ("Bush tactics in taking of bin Laden," Sunday). There is not an ounce of credible evidence to support this contention, and Yoo would do well to remember that former president George W. Bush, when asked about his concern about the "most wanted terrorist in the world," said that "I really do not know where he is, and, frankly, I do not give him much thought."

President Obama exercised the courageous judgment that Bush lacked, and we should be grateful for that. It is an undeniable reality that escapes Yoo.

Peter C. McVeigh

Oreland

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Orchestra, a coach, and changing times

A letter to the editor on Sunday ("Orchestra salaries are worth noticing") asked, "Who can support such a financially voracious behemoth?" In the Sports section that same day, an article drew attention to Tom Donnelly's appreciation of the orchestra's musicians ("At Haverford, Tom Donnelly has built a legendary coaching career").

Donnelly, one of the best running coaches in the nation, told how in his youth he would slip into the Academy of Music to "hear some of the greatest stuff created in our human experience" by this "perfect team, 'these brilliant, highly trained, dedicated, selfless musicians, coming together, not sacrificing their individuality, but blending it with the individual skills and the genius of the others.' "

Sunday's letter hinted at one answer to the question it raised: "It's time to get honest about why we have to cut music and art in the schools."

The answer, as the song says, "is blowing in the wind." Our current political and cultural winds have sucked the air out of one of our most pressing and enduring human needs - that of world-class music and its cultivation from our early years.

Dennis West

Newtown Square

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Donors might have spared some change

"What a week it was for education in the Keystone State," according to Monica Yant Kinney ("Philadelphia mothers battling to save funding for neighborhood school," Sunday). And what a better week it could have been if things were turned around.

For while it's quite generous of the philanthropic Perelmans to give $225 million to the "already flush" University of Pennsylvania medical school, and for an anonymous donor to give $5 million to Philadelphia University, wouldn't it have been more farsighted of both wealthy donors to give a small percentage of those donations -even $1 million or $2 million - to the Philadelphia School District to keep our full-day kindergartens open?

After all, how can we prepare our students for those medical and engineering schools if we can't educate them? Wouldn't it be ironic if the medical and engineering schools got all fixed up, and in Philadelphia nobody had enough education to get in?

Jean Haskell

Philadelphia

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Oil companies seen in context

John Sununu's attempt to shed some light on the "taxing" problems of big oil ("Hiking oil taxes won't help," Friday) has some merit and some important omissions.

In 2010, PetroChina surpassed Exxon as the world's biggest company, based on market value. And, measured by reserves, state-owned companies such as Aramco (Saudi Arabia), Gazprom (Russia), CNPC (China), NIOC (Iran), and PDVSA (Venezuela) together control enough oil reserves to make them the world's largest energy companies. According to the Financial Times, the top multinationals, such as Exxon, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell, "produce about 10 percent of the world's oil and gas and hold about 3 percent of the reserves." In that context, Exxon ranks about 15th in the world.

Many state-run companies are directed to achieve political goals rather than any free-market activity. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez famously seized control of foreign-owned joint ventures to use their profits to enhance his political power. In 2009, Russia's Gazprom denied natural gas to neighboring Ukraine in a political squeeze for higher prices.

Larry Steiger

Mount Laurel