I received the paper today and was glad to see the things Eliza was doing. My brother, with Down syndrome, also graduated from Ashland High School.

I can't believe SOU is stopping her from finishing this class on ceramics. Down syndrome people are so special, loving and giving.

There is probably one person that really complained, and loudly, is why this is happening to her. Some people have a big problem with handicapped people, no matter what it is, and it's sad that the handicapped person is the one who suffers for it.

My brother has been at the same job for 29 years and is 49 years old. He loves his job and loves all the people he works with, even though some have given him a bad time also.

I'm sorry, I get really agitated over the unfairness of people. Let the girl finish her class that you let her start; don't do this to her, it's just too unfair! — Judy Westcott, Talent

Let's look at the national debt and the problem with Social Security and Medicare.

We begin by grounding the subject in reality. Social Security and Medicare were created to help Americans who needed support in their retirement years.

You wouldn't continue supporting your college graduate if the person had landed a six-figure job. Therefore, retirees with six-figure retirement packages should receive a reduced Social Security check reaching to zero at $200,000 retirement income. The same reasoning would apply to Medicare. This plan should only be available to prevent aging health problems from having catastrophic financial consequences.

Next, we must re-examine the very regressive FICA tax. Most Americans pay this tax out of every paycheck. Climb above $106,000, and you no longer pay FICA taxes. Math madness! In a sane world, the FICA tax would be gradually reduced to end at salaries over $350,000.

Lastly, take the Social Security checkbook out of the hands of Congress and demand it take seriously the IOUs irresponsibly deposited in the trust fund.

And, finally, nothing good can happen until we Americans stop allowing partisan bickering to reduce us to lambs being led to slaughter. — Barry Peckham, Ashland

The Friends of the Ashland Public Library wish to recognize the local businesses, individuals and volunteers whose generosity enriched our recent annual book sale and silent auction.

Because of the community's response, the Friends will continue providing Early Literacy packets for every child born in Ashland. In the past year, with the cooperation of Kiwanis, 400 packets were distributed. Without the over 50 businesses and individuals who gave of their merchandise, gift baskets and time, and those who came to support the cause, this event would not have been possible.

Readers are always welcome to join the Friends. Check us out when you visit the Ashland Public Library or go to our website at ashlandfriends.com. — Ann Magill, board member, Friends of the Ashland Public Library

This past Veterans Day weekend, over 1,000 school board members from school districts throughout Oregon met in Portland at the Oregon School Boards Association 64th annual conference. As a new school board member this was the second year I made the trip to Portland.

I am so impressed by the sincerity and dedication of Oregon's public school community. The theme of this year's conference was "Believe every child can succeed." They did. It was all positive. It was so Oregon.

In the national media there is too much criticism of American public education. It reminds me of what my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Flaherty, called "the power of the negative." She pointed out to us how hard it can be to be positive. How much courage and strength of character it can take to speak up for what you believe is right when those around you are being negative or unkind to others.

Our children need us to be positive. They need to hear that we have confidence in their schools and respect for their teachers. You know how great Oregon schools are. If you don't, go visit one — you'll see. — Dave Garcia, board member, Phoenix-Talent School District

Just how, exactly, is GM selling stock a big deal for us when we, the taxpayers, lose $4.5 billion since GM is selling those shares for less than we paid for them when we bailed them out? — Jon and Sandra Martineau, Talent

Dr. Holmquist's letter of Nov. 18, delineating the relationship between an individual's "carbon footprint" and its long-term effect on the local environment, was brilliant. Taking it one step further and tying it to illegal immigration was simply over the top.

He's right, of course, and his analogy brings up the single most important aspect of the ongoing debate over human migration — if the planet is to survive in the form we've come to know it, things simply cannot go on the way they are.

Sadly, the popular media never bring up the environmental aspect of illegal immigration. The debate is always about "rights," or how the practice impacts the economy. It is never about survival, and it should be. The Sierra Club, for example, refuses to take a position on illegal immigration as a matter of policy, and is then laughingly portrayed as an organization concerned about the environment.

By defining a human individual in terms of a carbon footprint, Dr. Holmquist states a very simple fact. There just simply is not room in America for any additional people, especially people who willingly adopt American consumption habits. — Robert Bennett, Grants Pass

Will someone please explain what is the GOP's purpose in blocking the Small Business Loan Proposal, extension of jobless benefits also due to expire and just about anything the Democrats suggest to boost job creation?

Is it because any such actions would increase the deficit as well as create a victory for the left? Yet, the Republicans are more than willing to extend Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, thereby adding $700 billion over 10 years to the deficit. They claim this will magically increase job opportunities. History shows that these tax cuts never have done so and it's more than likely they never will.

They want to gut health care reform, either do away with or privatize Social Security and eliminate Medicare, if for no other reason than to cut the deficit. Perhaps the idea is to fund the tax cuts for themselves at our expense? The increase to their taxes would be minimal and barely felt.

Bear in mind that a return to Republican control signals the end of democracy. We will welcome the new year with a plutocracy. Wealthy corporate interests will control us and gradually eliminate the middle class. Be prepared. We are being conned. — Michele Newby, Medford

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