ISSUE | REFUGEES

Closed borders: Irony . . .

How ironic that your letter writer ("Borders: Closed," Thursday) is so afraid that those nasty refugees - "undesirables," as he calls them - will be "shooting up our schools," "mowing us down" in movie theaters, and "murdering us . . . in our churches."

It's not those nasty refugees who have done that; it's our own, homegrown, 100 percent American citizens in our own, gun-saturated country. We kill as many people with guns every two days as those terrorists killed in Paris - usually one or two or six at a time, but also sometimes by the dozen in our schools, our movie theaters, and, yes, in our churches.

Carol LeFevre, Gwynedd

. . . or satire?

I hope the satirical letter was appreciated for what it was - a reminder that we are in far more danger from homegrown, antisocial, or disaffected citizens with easy access to deadly weapons than we are from groups of immigrants who have waited for admission to our country while being vetted in what has been widely described as a rigorous, three-year process.

If we want to focus our prevention efforts on non-U.S. citizens, international students and tourists are far more likely to include dangerous and impulsive people with evil intentions.

Katharine Padulo, Philadelphia

Historical context

I was fascinated by Thomas Jefferson's dilemma regarding the safety of his daughter, Mary, sailing to Europe in 1787, while Islamic pirates were attacking ships and capturing Europeans and Americans and selling them into slavery ("Jefferson and first war on terror," Nov. 22).

Isn't it ironic that at the same time and long before, we were transporting men, women, and children from Africa to be slaves in the "free world?"

Jefferson owned slaves, and Mary was accompanied to France by one of them, Sally Hemmings, with whom he later fathered several children.

So, when reading, "As a father, he could feel in his bones a fear for his daughter's safety. As an ambassador and an American, Jefferson recognized it was a fear no citizen of a free nation embarking on an oceanic voyage should have to endure," I couldn't help but think of how history seems to repeat itself.

All of the decent victims trying to escape the tyranny of Syria, and the fear they must feel in their bones if the rest of the world doesn't do its best to provide them with a safe haven where they can live in peace.

Bonnie Packer, Wenonah, bonniepacker47@yahoo.com

ISSUE | PUBLIC SAFETY

Trooper deserves thanks

When I heard the news of a Pennsylvania state trooper being shot in the line of duty, I wondered how many of those antipolice demonstrators I routinely see on the news would be toting signs in support of Trooper Patrick Casey for a job well done ("Trooper shot on I-676; car, school bus burn," Wednesday).

The answer, to no one's surprise, is none.

When I was a medical resident in training, my service would care for the police officers who got injured on a daily basis, in incidents such as this one, protecting the citizens of Philadelphia, but which no one ever heard about on the news.

"Thank you" to the Pennsylvania State Police and for all law-enforcement officers who protect us and keep us safe every day.

Dr. Harvey Wank, Havertown

ISSUE | PHILADELPHIA'S HERITAGE

Development, preservation can work together

Inga Saffron's excellent column ("Heritage for whom?" Nov. 20) illustrates an all-too-common pattern in Philadelphia: A historic building is bought and allowed to sit, vacant, and deteriorating, for years, and when the market is ready for investment, the original owner or a new buyer claims "financial hardship" so the building may be torn down rather than renovated or adapted to a new use.

This is the classic definition of neglect, and the past few years are rife with painful examples in which the Nutter administration has rewarded this practice, rather than stopping it in its tracks.

Preservation is typically viewed as an obstacle to development, yet the National Historic Investment Tax Credit program provides a 20 percent credit for developers who renovate, rather than demolish, historic buildings.

Common Pleas Court Judge Matthew D. Carrafiello ruled in 2004 that "if economic advantages were the sole standard . . . then virtually any historic building in Philadelphia could be demolished when a more-economically advantageous use could be foreseen." He was taking about the same Sansom Street buildings described in Saffron's column.

It's time for our Historical Commission to realize that the hardship in most of these cases is borne by the public, as we watch our historic buildings tumble one by one.

Katherine Dowdell, Philadelphia, dowdellfisher@gmail.com

ISSUE | NUTRITION

Making healthy food available in N.J.

Healthy food accessibility is an issue that affects thousands of New Jersey residents. Many rely on the neighborhood store for groceries because a supermarket isn't nearby. Unfortunately, many of these stores don't carry healthy foods. When fresh produce and healthy options aren't available, families are forced to consume foods often loaded with saturated fat and sodium and lacking in nutrition.

According to the American Heart Association, this kind of diet can lead to an increase in major health issues, including obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol which results in a higher risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.

The American Heart Association, YMCA, and Food Trust have joined to champion the Healthy Small Food Retailer Act. Thanks to the support of N.J. Sens. Raymond J. Lesniak, Nilsa Cruz-Perez, Jim Whelan, and Steven V. Oroho, of the Senate Economic Growth Committee, this legislation, which would connect local store owners with healthy foods, has passed the first hurdle to becoming law.

Passing this legislation would help provide many communities with fresher, nutritious options. It would help make the healthy choice the easy choice - and doesn't the Garden State deserve that option?

Dr. Carol Gill, president, N.J. American Heart Association, East Orange