Read between the dance lines

Last weekend's performance of Chinese classical works by the Shen Yun Performing Arts group included magnificent choreography, costumes, and music. However, unbeknownst to many ticket buyers - unless they thought to research it, which I did not - the Merriam Theater appearance also had a political/religious agenda that I found to be disconcerting. Shen Yun is part of the international Falun Gong movement, a religious practice that has borne the brunt of brutal persecution by the Chinese government.

I hold no brief for the Chinese authorities, but I would have appreciated knowing about this background. Yet nothing in the extensive Shen Yun promotional material mentions it overtly. I particularly objected to a line in one song that said "the theory of evolution is a sham; it is the Creator who made mankind." I wouldn't knowingly have spent money to be told evolution is a sham.

Next year's ticket buyers, be forewarned.

Sandra Choukroun, Penn Valley

Review full cost of long sentences

As the Pennsylvania Senate holds hearings on sentencing reform, it's important to focus on the cost of long sentences such as the state's life without parole - popularly known as death by incarceration. The one-year cost is $34,000 to house an average prisoner. For elderly inmates - those over 50 - the cost is $68,000 per year, a witness testified at a recent hearing held by State Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf (R., Montgomery). Besides the cost to taxpayers, there's the impact of long sentences on an inmate's family, including children. The public needs to hear more about the effects of sentencing, probation, and life without parole. One can hope for more study by Greenleaf's committee, and more Inquirer coverage.

Phyllis Grady, Wynnewood, pgrady3@verizon.net

Ill-suited as trial-coverage critic

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput recently criticized the lack of national media coverage of the Kermit Gosnell murder trial. Wasn't that rich? Just consider how the Catholic Church hierarchy has for decades, and more likely centuries, lied about the epidemic of pedophilia among priests throughout the world, and then had it covered up by bishops, cardinals, and top Vatican echelons.

S. Reid Warren III, Elverson, srwjmw@dejazzd.com

No wonder governor scrambles

As Gov. Corbett desperately roots around for an escape route, the deteriorated state infrastructure that has been a hallmark of his administration denies him a safe path ("Corbett again sees fault among jobless," May 1). He's now willing to blame anyone but himself for the vast wasteland of Pennsylvania's present, and the chemical-polluted, fracked-out waste pit of the state's future - one that leaves the people of the Commonwealth without jobs, and his mordant bureaucracy filled with people who do not believe in the worth of their own agencies without revenue or purpose. The governor's faith in competition and deregulation is a sham: The fix is in; the jobs are all going out of state - and for the state lottery, maybe even out of the nation.

Ben Burrows, Elkins Park

Even priced out of the cheap seats

A commentator recently suggested that the Barnes Foundation price hike was designed to "keep the riffraff out," but the Barnes is already behind the curve. Average prices for the Flyers, Eagles, Sixers, and Phillies are $72, $69, $39, and $37, respectively. No riffraff at those games. And Grease will set you back about $72, so the riffraff will be confined to the stage. A ticket to hear classic rocker Boz Scaggs' riffs will price out the 'raffs at $55. Even funnyman Gilbert Gottfried goes for a riffraff-discouraging $28. Forget about the Philadelphia Orchestra. It's priced way over the Riffraff Line.

Sure, the riffraff might be enticed by $12 tickets to see the Camden Riversharks, but that's just for locals. Pennsylvania riffraff would have to fork over another $10 in tolls and parking, bringing the cost up to $22, same as the Barnes' new price. Jurassic Park in 3-D is an appealing $13.50, but popcorn and a soda could shift the calculus just like that.

Now that society has pretty much succeeded in barring the riffraff from everything, it looks like I'll be spending another dreary night at home watching a crummy, streamed movie and getting a pizza delivered. And, sadly, without pepperoni.

Rob Weiss, Mount Laurel

Grieving with the Schaibles

Cases like those of the unhappy Herbert and Catherine Schaible family, where children die after parents refuse medical treatment, grieve and outrage all of us - and rightly so ("Lawyers: Schaible children get care," May 7). It's especially disturbing that the Schaibles' First Century Gospel Church pastor, Nelson Clark, said a "spiritual lack" resulted in the deaths of their two sons.

How can anyone put that kind of guilt on people already suffering the worst kind of grief? Those outside the Christian faith certainly should not get the impression that this is normal Christian behavior. The church historically has never been against medicine. For its part, the Pennsylvania legislature should remove the exemption for this kind of neglect from the law on child abuse.

Pamela Bronson, Upper Darby, pamelakbronson@gmail.com

Public pulse on Medicaid clear

While Gov. Corbett continues to deliberate over whether to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid coverage, nearly two out of three people say lawmakers should take the money, according to a new survey sponsored by the National Women's Law Center and Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families. This opportunity is truly unprecedented. Federal funds will cover all costs of coverage for the first few years, and ultimately pay for 90 percent of the yearly costs. But if Pennsylvania turns down the money, some people will earn too little to qualify for tax credits to purchase coverage in the new health insurance marketplace, yet won't be able to obtain coverage through Medicaid. These people will fall into a gap and receive no help toward affording health coverage. Seven out of 10 survey respondents said they are concerned about this coverage gap and think their state should take the money to avoid it.

Karen Davenport, director of health policy, National Women's Law Center, Washington

Glass of shut-up isn't healthy

So-called ag-gag bills criminalize whistle-blowing that exposes animal abuses, unsafe working conditions, and environmental problems on factory farms. Although a half-dozen states have enacted such laws, similar bills were defeated in eight other states thanks to public outcries. This year, new ag-gag bills were introduced in nearly a dozen more states, including Pennsylvania. So anyone who feels that government should never restrict right-to-know information about where food comes from needs to urge state policymakers to oppose ag-gag legislation.

Pavel Anistadt, Philadelphia