Let Mummers' music be heard

I am shocked to see that those arranging the Mummers Parade will make the same error that had such disastrous results a year or two ago. They intend to intersperse the string bands and the Fancy Brigades. The fancies have huge speakers that blast their lively tunes but make it impossible to hear the string bands. I love both the string bands and the fancies, but they belong with their own kind.

It's bad enough that the organizers reversed the direction of the parade again, from City Hall to Washington Avenue, contrary to decades of tradition, but let us hear our bands.

|Carol Love, Penn Valley, carolovemd@comcast.net

Be merry and sober

The holidays are a time for happiness and celebration, but we need to recognize a sobering matter that comes with celebrations this time of year. The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that four in 10 traffic-related deaths during Christmas and New Year's involve drunk drivers. You don't need to be an alcoholic or have a drinking problem; you just need to make a bad choice.

I lost my 22-year-old daughter to a drunk driver, so this is deeply personal for me. As the director of DUI services at Livengrin Foundation in Bucks County, I evaluate DUI offenders every day. They are our mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends. Livengrin shares evaluation responsibility with the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, and both organizations can attest to the dramatic increase in DUI deaths around the holidays.

Organizations such as these are here to help with inpatient and outpatient treatment programs and education. Everyone deserves the gift of a safe and happy holiday.

|Helen Weigand, director, DUI Services,

Livengrin Foundation, Langhorne, hweigand@livengrin.org

Any nukes are too many

Longtime Republican political operative Kenneth J. Duberstein responded to concerns about Donald Trump's tweets on nuclear escalation ("Trump: Boost nuclear capability," Friday) by saying it's intended to show allies that there's "a new sheriff in town." This was intended to reassure us.

But many of us have lived through a time when nuclear escalation was hardly reassuring. Rather, we spent years promoting the idea of ratcheting down the nuclear threat between the Soviets and the West. And, for many years, it seemed to be working. As recently as 2011, the United States and the Russian Federation achieved the New START Treaty, which reduced the total number of armed nuclear weapons to 1,550, by 2018. We should keep cutting.

That treaty is still in effect, but it won't mean much if the "new sheriff" keeps his promise to be "unpredictable" in foreign policy. The last thing people need is unpredictability in the world of nuclear weapons.

I hope Trump and his children make a simple New Year's resolution: "We resolve to do more to bring peace and justice to the world. We resolve to utilize our vaunted power of deal-making to lower tensions and make deals that help to keep the peace, not risk the ultimate horror, a nuclear war."

|Edward A. Aguilar, Pennsylvania director, Coalition for Peace Action, Philadephia

EPA pick will harm environment

I live on an unpaved road in Delaware County and drive on unpaved roads in Chester, Pike, and Monroe Counties. In the past 10 years, I have experienced the damage that unpaved, gravel roads sustain after the all-too-frequent downpours we now get.

These "gully washers" are being caused by climate change. According to a study by the National Climate Assessment, "between 1958 and 2010, the Northeast saw more than a 70 percent increase in the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events."

Climate change is hurting Pennsylvania. I am, therefore, very concerned about the nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency ("Cabinet picks signal big change," Dec. 18). The Oklahoma attorney general has sued to overturn the Clean Water Rule, opposes the Clean Power Plan, and denies the science behind climate change.

I applaud Sen. Robert Casey (D., Pa.) for highlighting the troubling nature of this nomination and for his stance on protecting the environment. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) needs to look at the long-term effects of Pruitt as head of the EPA and speak out against his nomination.

|Mark W. Knight, St. Davids, sdark@verizon.net

U.S. embassy belongs in Jerusalem

An article stating that the United States might move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem ("Envoy could mark Mideast policy shift," Dec. 18) omitted that the relocation would finally bring the State Department into compliance with American law. This is an important detail.

While the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 includes the option of a presidential waiver "to protect the national security interests of the United States," the law states that "the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999."

It is astounding that the article included comments only from opponents of a prospective embassy relocation, with their invectives and forecasts of doom; there were no comments from a policy wonk or pro-Israel organization that would applaud the prospect. Our organization, Zionist Organization of America: Greater Philadelphia - a pro-peace organization - welcomes the potential move.

U.S. embassies are in every other nation's capital; why not Israel's?

|Lee Bender and Kevin Ross, co-presidents; Steve Feldman, executive director; Zionist Organization of America: Greater Philadelphia, Bala Cynwyd, office@zoaphilly.org

Give Trump the Obama treatment

In response to the letter, "Support our president" (Dec. 20), there were protests following President Obama's election in 2008. And how about then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's statement two years later, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president?"

And all the obstruction? The feckless voting 52 times to defund and repeal the Affordable Care Act? The president-elect's "birther" movement?

All the lies and conspiracy theories that President Obama was a Muslim even though he went to church and acted more Christian than his critics?

Yeah, let's give Donald Trump and the Republicans the same chance they gave Obama.

|Michael Miller Jr., Philadelphia, michamille@comcast.net

Require training for politicians

Every doctor, lawyer, architect, engineer, financial manager, teacher, nurse, and real-estate agent must be educated, then pass rigorous licensing exams and continuing education to practice professionally and earn the public's trust. It's time political leaders met the same standards.

|Karen Joslin, Philadelphia, kjoslin@plumerre.com

Are we safe from Muslims?

A Turkish police officer murdered Russia's ambassador to Turkey while shouting allegiance to Muhammad ("Russian ambassador shot dead in Turkey," Dec. 20). Considering this attack, the Berlin truck massacre on the same day ("Truck rams holiday market"), the Ohio State University rampage that injured nine last month, and other recent murders and mayhem caused by Muslims, how safe do you feel about Muslim police officers protecting you in the United States? How about Muslims running nuclear power plants or water treatment plants?

Perhaps you believe Muslims are not all like the terrorists - which ones are and are not? What should we do to protect ourselves? Should we spend time and money vetting Muslims coming into this country? Doing that didn't save 14 Americans killed in the San Bernardino, Calif., attack.

Have our politicians committed treason by allowing Muslims into this country? Are they continuing this treason by not deporting all Muslims? What should we do for justice? I await your answers.

|Kelly Kim, Philadelphia

We should respect our differences

I am an atheist. This is among the most difficult things to share with the people, because their choices of faith are about who they are at their core. I am compelled to share my atheism given the way Muslims have been judged recently. My beliefs are dismissed by the faithful for their "Godlessness," just as Muslims are marginalized. But I feel no danger, because my lack of faith in a God embraced by many in my community is not perceived as a threat.

I celebrate Christmas every year with my extended family, not for the religious aspect - even though I go to the local Catholic Mass to hear the music and homily - but for the sense of community. America is a country of many backgrounds. We come from many places and bring our traditions with us. That is what makes us the greatest country on Earth.

So, I urge all Americans to remember the tenets upon which this country was founded. No one's religion is better than anyone else's. Honor those who do not believe everything you do but want the same outcome.

It is time for all believers to come together, including Pastafarians. After the most recent election, we need to find common ground.

|Lawrence Pecan, Voorhees, lepecan@comcast.net

Relationship of church and state

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput's commentary ("A moral grounding in faith," Dec. 11) and the Rev. Dr. Neal Jones' letter to the editor ("Religious freedom is personal," Dec. 22) presented persuasive and enlightening arguments on the separation of church and state and the role of religion in the public sphere. As a student of the history of slavery, I can't help but note that Jones' "live-and-let-live" argument was the same as the South's defense against Northern efforts to abolish this evil institution. The idea that we will do one thing here and you can do the opposite there divided the country and finally led to a tragic war.

The argument against slavery was essentially inspired by religious beliefs and conducted in morality language. We need further dialogue on this important issue of the role of religion in public affairs in this modern context.

|Thomas Wieckowski, Wyncote