The Chengdu province of China is gripped by the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. The official response to the catastrophe is interesting. The Chinese prime minister only a few hours after the initial quake makes his way to the epicenter. Government soldiers and aid workers arrive in droves carrying shovels and rice. Reporters freely discuss the tragedy with the Chinese survivors.

In contrast, news from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina tells an entirely different story. The U.S. government response was slow, some say too little too late. President Bush in his classic 9/11 fashion was nowhere to be seen or heard from. American soldiers and Blackwater contractors paraded the streets of New Orleans with guns at the ready.

We pride ourselves on our independence, our free market, our ability to get things done and our compassion. Unlike the present news from China, however, the U.S. response during Katrina was lacking in leadership and in fortitude. It has strengthened my cynical view of my government and its purpose. It begs the question, when Mount Shasta finally erupts and we clamber for our box in the attic labeled "Homeland Security," will we be looking down the barrel of a gun? — Murray Huggins, Medford

The spotted owl decision didn't affect you, so you didn't care. The decision to stop salmon fishing didn't affect you, so you didn't care. Letting illegal immigrants get amnesty didn't affect you, so you didn't care. Now that gas prices are approaching $4 a gallon and will probably go to $5, $6 or $7 a gallon, will you finally start caring?

The special interest and radical environmental groups have won, and in the process are starting to destroy our once great nation. Life as we once knew it is fading fast, and the next president won't be able to stop it.

The politicians have what they want, power over the people to the point where there will only be the very rich and the very poor. Can anyone stop the insanity? — David Steele, Medford

Would you like to send your rebate directly to real people in real distress in Burma (Myanmar)?

Because of our long-term relationships with other nongovernmental organizations on the ground there, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee is able to work with organizations delivering relief. Wholesalers and factories in Mandalay are selling supplies close to cost. Using pickups, boats and dugout canoes, they are extending the network of aid deeper into the delta.

NGOs are cooperating closely with monks and nuns who are leading local relief efforts. Many monasteries, nunneries and temples have opened their doors as shelters. Buddhist relief organizations in other countries have successfully gotten aid emergency funding to the Sangha, which is playing a central role in relief efforts.

To help, send checks to: UUSC, Box 835259, Boston, MA 02284-5259 or see www.uusc.org/info/article051408.html. — Eileen Adee, UUSC representative of Southern Oregon, Medford

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