Spare a marble?

As a project for our Temple University course, my fellow students and I were asked to develop solutions for those living on the streets. Our contribution isn't to offer the homeless shelter or a change of clothes, but rather a simple cup of coffee. At local coffee shops, we're promoting a concept in use in Europe known as "suspended coffee."

With the agreement of shop owners, customers who buy an item at full price can opt for purchasing a "suspended" good at half price, for which the customer receives a marble to drop into a jar. Then, homeless individuals can walk into the coffee shop, take a marble from the jar, and receive one free item per day as long as there is a marble available.

In several weeks of work, we are pleased to announce that two local businesses have decided to join our cause and put this concept to the test: the Rybread and Rybrew shops on Fairmount and Girard Avenues, respectively. While this doesn't solve the issue of homelessness, it has the potential to create a morale-lifting and beneficial cause that patrons can directly see. By next year, our goal is to have more than 10 businesses offer such goods. We hope it will motivate local residents to give back to their communities and make a dent in recent homelessness statistics.

Ian Duffy, Philadelphia,

Enriching Iran

No wonder Iran took the United States up on a six-month deal to put curbs on its nuclear program. Who wouldn't for $7 billion in various forms of relief? I guess negotiating with extortionists isn't exactly the same thing as negotiating with terrorists, although I don't see the difference. Besides, $7 billion wouldn't even bail out Detroit. Our country isn't just bankrupt; it's stupid, too.

Rick Romano, Ambler

Alimony unlimited

The state Assembly's Judiciary Committee recently heard from 60 supporters of a reform bill that would eliminate permanent alimony in New Jersey. Meanwhile, a dozen lawyers advocated to keep the status quo so they can continue to line their pockets with endless litigation. Members of the panel, including the chairman, Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes 3d (D., Middlesex), acknowledged that the system is antiquated, broken, and antifamily. It's time to act.

Stuart M. Kurtz, Montgomery,

No pill? Still a bill

Now that the matter of covering contraceptives under health plans is going to the U.S. Supreme Court, it's worth noting that covering contraceptives does not require women to use them. On the other hand, not covering the cost is likely to result in more unintended pregnancies, and more desperate women having abortions. Those employers who don't want to pay, claiming religious reasons, are even less willing to pay for abortions.

Ernest B. and Elaine H. Cohen, Upper Darby

City in chains

At a recent public hearing, the Committee of Seventy, League of Women Voters, Latino Empowerment Alliance of Delaware Valley, and David Thornburgh of the Fels School of Government at the University of Pennsylvania all testified in support of my effort to amend Philadelphia's antiquated resign-to-run law. Like me, these leading good-government groups believe the law does more harm than good ("Council chores first," Dec. 2).

Only five states have resign-to-run laws. In each, the law is far less restrictive than in Philadelphia. Ours is the only city in Pennsylvania with such a restriction, and that places city taxpayers, school-children, business owners, employers, and residents at a disadvantage. At a time when greater representation is needed, clinging to the status quo does citizens a disservice. While we all work toward solving city problems, it makes sense to fix one of the main reasons those problems have persisted.

David Oh, councilman at large, Philadelphia,