Highlighting one of Philly's gems

The uniqueness and little-known aspects of this special treasure in our midst, the Curtis Institute, were enlightening ("A gem on the global stage," Sunday). Thanks for bringing awareness to the full extent of its graduates' achievements, the unique music program and new challenges, the extent of students' local and global heritage, and how general housing and education is handled for all ages while attending this neighborhood institution.

This article was well-placed on the front page and timed perfectly, as it is the holiday season, in which goodwill and good deeds are honored. It was refreshing to read the wonderful news about Curtis, and not be burdened with more news about violence, politics, depravity, and other downtrodden topics. Thanks for this respite.

Emily Thorne, Philadelphia

Devastating news about Sunoco

I was devastated to read about Sunoco ("Sunoco shutting refinery sooner," Friday). Do people understand that it not only affects the refinery, but the town itself? Closing the plant will start the ripple effect in which other local businesses will be hurt by the loss of revenue and taxes will have to be increased. Does anyone see the writing on the wall? The next target is Philadelphia.

Kathy Palkon, Philadelphia

The risks of marijuana

In her discussion of the benefits of medical marijuana, psychiatrist Julie Holland doesn't mention considerable research in Europe (where there is much less anti-marijuana animus), which suggests that about 20 percent of the population appears to be strongly susceptible to serious mental illness following sustained marijuana use - likewise for alcohol ("Views on marijuana shift, but not at the top," Monday). That doesn't mean that criminalization is effective or desirable, but the view that marijuana is much safer than alcohol is misleading. At the very least, we should be aware of the risks. Why is American science and that of Europe so self-segregated? It seems that we are an ocean apart.

Janet Kestenberg Amighi, West Chester, jkamighi@msn.com

No balance in Toomey plan

Kevin Ferris calls the budget plan by Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) a compromise and a balanced approach. Recall that this was the plan that slashed taxes for the highest tax bracket, while limiting deductions for mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and offsets for state and local taxes. In other words, raising revenue by imposing a higher tax burden on the middle class and working class, while offering another bonus to the wealthiest among us.

Ferris assures us that the plan is "pro-growth," which apparently is code for further privileging multimillionaires and sticking it to the rest of us. Never mind that there is little evidence that reducing taxes on the wealthy creates jobs.

Ferris calls Toomey's plan a balanced approach. I call it being a water boy for the 1 percent.

John Ascenzi, Philadelphia

Substantial tax increase needed

On review of the details of Sen. Pat Toomey's proposal, I thought it was a step in the right direction, but it did not include substantial tax increases in the nature of a true compromise. There is no doubt that revenue must be increased to pay off existing debt. The Bush tax cuts must be ended. They were originally proposed to spur economic growth and create jobs, but that has not been the end result. The Bush tax cuts, coupled with the Iraq war, have resulted in an unsustainable deficit. There is no defensible rationale, except maintaining political support from wealthy donors, for not terminating those cuts.

Jo-Ann Maguire, Norristown

Plan only hurts Social Security

With his continued insistence on extending the reduction in Social Security taxes, President Obama is using his plea to "not raise taxes on hardworking Americans" as a cudgel to further establish his view that the evil Republicans would like to ruin Christmas for the masses. Putting aside the fact that repeatedly referring to his plan as a "payroll-tax reduction" causes most citizens to think it's an income-tax decrease, this plan will only serve to speed up the schedule for the demise of our most basic entitlement. Why this administration is allowed to pull these masquerades without accountability is a sad commentary on our fourth estate.

Stephen Hanover, Parker Ford

Missed the memo on Sheriff's Office

The editorial "More reasons to improve Sheriff's Office" (Nov. 17) calls upon Mayor Nutter and City Council to "seek a charter change that would require the sheriff to abide by the city's contracting, procurement, and trust-management rules." Did you miss the memo?

On March 14, 2011, the mayor and I signed a memorandum of understanding that takes precisely the actions you seek through a charter change.

The memorandum places all of the accounts currently under control of the Sheriff's Office within the accounting directives of the city's Finance Department, using standard accounting procedures.

It further requires all contracts of the Sheriff's Office to conform to the Philadelphia code and be approved as to form by the city solicitor.

Finally, it establishes a timetable for the integration of legal services, accounting and budget practices, and information technology through the establishment of a special advisory panel.

The last eight months have proved that a sheriff prepared to restore the public's confidence in her office does not need a charter change - just the will and a true partnership with the city and the First Judicial District.

Barbara A. Deeley, acting sheriff, Philadelphia

Don't gloss over killing of bears

Are you done publishing photos of dead bears ("200 black bears killed in controversial hunt," Tuesday)? Because, frankly, they turn my stomach. Reporting on the bear hunt and the controversy surrounding it is one thing, but, regardless of whether readers are for or against the hunt and the way it is being handled, showing photos of people celebrating the massacre of a magnificent animal is just wrong. Let's get to the "meat" of it: To say that "about 150 bears had been processed" actually means "murdered." Don't gloss it over and desensitize readers with horrifying photos of these deaths.

Elaine T. Benedetti, Havertown

Great to have Lyon back

I want to thank you for giving us back Bill Lyon on Sundays ("Taking the fall for a season on the blink," Sunday), and ask, as time goes on, that maybe we could even see him on other days? In any case it is great to have him back on a regular basis.

Ryan Easterday, Reading