Amid Cuban woes, a spark

With the spectacular photo accompanying a recent travel-section piece on Old Havana by Val Proudkii as a reminder, it was clear that - mighty as the efforts of all United States governments since 1963 have been - it will take more than a tragic embargo to kill the human spirit in Cuba. While U.S. officials give lip service to basic freedoms, the 50-year-long Cuban policy has been to snuff out economic freedom in pursuit of an enemy that does not exist, all to satisfy the lingering lusts of a dispossessed feudal oligarchy, thereby picking up a few votes.

Presley R. Brown, Langhorne,

Get to school early, chow down

Serving breakfast in the classroom is a terrible idea ("Should add breakfast to schools' lesson plans," April 30). It's one more example of how, when society caters to irresponsible parents and their children, it comes with a considerable cost to everyone. It will take more than 20 minutes from start to cleanup - that cannot be educational. And some children will still miss breakfast.

When we lower the bar, some parents will just aim lower. Instead of crimping the education of children with working parents, who come to school every day and on time, why not insist that the rest of the parents step up? In Philadelphia, that means getting children to school by 8 a.m. when a free, before-school meal is served.

First period at school is the best of the day. Well-rested and fed children are at their best then. They shouldn't be made to wait while their (neglected) peers eventually drift into class and eat breakfast.

Glynnis Gradwell, Philadelphia

Invest early and often in children

Research shows that major adversity can weaken developing brain architecture in a child's early years and permanently set the body's stress response system on high alert ("Crime markers pose thorny questions," April 30). But it also shows that providing stable, responsive environments for children in the earliest years of life can prevent or reverse these conditions, with lifelong consequences for learning, behavior, and health. Rather than wringing our hands about the problems that can come later when little brains were stunted early on, let's just nip the problem in the bud. District attorneys and police chiefs across the country know that investing in high-quality, early-childhood programs is one of the most powerful anticrime steps that can be taken.

Pamela Haines, Philadelphia,

Keep hot-button politics off tags

Seeing cars with Pennsylvania tags that read "Choose Life," I find it outrageous that the state Department of Transportation would sell plates promoting a political view. I don't think they offer ones that say "protect a woman's right to choose."

If an individual wants to express a viewpoint through a bumper sticker, window sign, or some other nonintrusive means, that's fine. When the state government does it, however, that's something else. The views expressed with these plates actually are contrary to law, which provides for legal abortion. Or should we expect "Legalize Pot" tags?

Joseph Goldberg, Abington