Owls as canaries

The story "N.J.'s 'Crazy Year' for Owls" (Sunday) was interesting and disturbing. It focused on a rare incursion into New Jersey of snowy owls, arctic birds hardly ever seen this far south, and considered why it might be taking place. While there are no conclusive answers - there is either too much or too little food for the owls in the Arctic - the story notes other recent anomalies in animal migration patterns, including those of wildebeests in East Africa, right whales off the Maine and Nova Scotia coasts, and monarch butterflies in Mexico. What we are seeing seems to be a result of a combination of habitat loss, human overpopulation, and climate change.

The most alarming case is that of the monarch butterflies. They depend on milkweed, which grows at the edges of fields, but herbicides used on genetically modified crops are killing the milkweed, leaving no food for the butterflies. The result may be too few monarchs to keep the species alive.

These stories, and many others that biologists are looking at, are canaries in the coal mine, warning us to pay attention and act before it's too late.

Peter Handler, Philadelphia, handlerstudio@gmail.com

You can stop abuse

Strengthened child-abuse laws passed last week in Harrisburg did not include a proposal to expand the list of people legally required to report suspicions of abuse. This measure should be passed soon. In addition, we all must take it upon ourselves to report abuse whether we are legally obligated to or not.

The countless child-abuse stories in The Inquirer too often uncover people who knew about abuse but didn't report it. The recent case of 3-year-old Jaquinn Brewton was overlooked by officials as well as neighbors, who suspected abuse - even hearing whipping sounds and screams - but didn't come forward ("Phila. woman sentenced in toddler's beating death," Dec. 18). As a nurse, I have seen even professionals who have the greatest responsibility to help these children fail to act.

Ordinary people can rescue children from horrific situations. We all must take action against abuse.

Rosemary Gregory, Horsham

President, pitch man

President Obama has been on a never-ending campaign to sell the Affordable Care Act to the American people. The government is spending taxpayers' money on television ads trying to sell the program. And liberal talking heads are telling the American people how great it is.

If the ACA is so great, why the hard sell? Do these folks really believe the American people do not recognize socialism when they see it? The citizens of this country will not be sold on this total disruption of the best health-care system in the world.

George R. Kawchak Jr., Phoenixville

Thanks, Obama

This holiday season, I wish to give thanks to President Obama for his policies, which have improved my family's well-being.

Our total financial worth (although modest) has more that doubled in the last few years. Our health-insurance premiums rose again for 2014, but only by $1 a month - the lowest increase ever.

Prospects for the future look bright.

Richard Billings, Cherry Hill