A serious spat looms among the presidential candidates on whether America should "talk unconditionally" with Iran. Obama's call for more dialogical initiative can seem appealingly in synch with what we want to stand for in the world. But some of us remember the urging not too many decades ago that we negotiate more freely with the Nazis.

The case was poignantly made then that some things are not negotiable — a telling instance being the elimination of Jews. The West could not wisely or rightly enter completely open discussion with a regime committed to that principle.

Frighteningly, even if often not explicitly, the same issue appears to lurk within our lamentable and terribly hazardous incommensurability with militant Islam. Or maybe the most basic divide is the even broader one of the eliminability of the "infidel." Granted, our own skirts may be far from clean in this regard.

In any event there is here a really hot potato regarding which, so far, the caution of John McCain can claim an experienced realism, while Hillary may be somewhat strapped which way to move. The coming debates of midsummer will hopefully clarify whose leadership seems more promising. — Andrew Foster, Ashland

A George Bailey recently wrote a letter you rightfully published on May 16 (regarding the nude bicyclist in Ashland). Its thoughtfulness and quality was a cut above what we normally see.

I'd suggest you employ him to write a regular column. Nail him before the NYT of WSJ hire him. — Bob Butler, Medford

What a magnificent picture of the pole vaulting Eagle Point High School student.

Thank you and congratulations to your photographer. — Virginia Cohoon, Central Point

People, do you know one reason groceries are higher? We are too lazy to return the grocery carts to the racks provided by the merchants.

Carts left next to your car are often hit by other vehicles, because they too have no idea that those carts actually cost over $100 each! It only takes a few extra steps to return the carts to the rack and heaven knows some of us can use the exercise.

Do your part, preserve resources and help keep the cost of groceries down. Return the cart to the rack. If you are on your way into the store, grab one of those wayward carts and use it. — J. Robinson, Shady Cove

Senator Obama is trying to tell us what subjects are off-limits for discussion about his candidacy.

According to the senator, we need to back off about his lack of experience, his naive and dangerous foreign policy, his wife's ugly comments while campaigning for him, his own ugly but candid comments to San Francisco supporters about blue-collar workers, the Muslim religion of his youth, his racist pastor of many years, and his connections to both a domestic terrorist and an indicted mobster.

The list keeps growing, and the more Senator Obama wants to shut everyone up, the more new details come out. The latest is his close friendship with a Muslim Palestinian professor who actively advocates the elimination of Israel. Oh, fun!

There's an old common-sense saying, "A man is known by the company he keeps." It's time to use common sense and judge him by the company he keeps. — Kris O'Driscoll, Jacksonville

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