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Letters: D.C. Mideast response inadequate

I see that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he was "considering" a stand-alone bill to give funds to Israel ["Congress works on aid for Israel," News, July 30], instead of a bill that packages aid to Israel with other measures.

All congressional bills should be limited to a single subject. It should be the law of the land.

William J. Van Sickle, Brentwood

President Barack Obama has been quoted as saying that America has Israel's back.

Then we hear that Chuck Hagel, his defense secretary, has made a deal to sell $11 billion worth of our latest and most sophisticated weaponry to Qatar, weapons including Apache helicopters and Patriot and Javelin anti-tank defense systems.

To remind everyone: Qatar is the country that welcomed the five terrorist Guantanamo Bay prisoners exchanged for U.S. prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl.

Oil-rich Qatar is also very friendly with, and a huge financial supporter of Hamas and happens to be enjoying a visit from exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, who is directing the Gaza war from his easy chair in a luxury Qatar hotel suite.

Yes, Obama said he was watching Israel's back. His actions show he is actually stabbing Israel in the back.

Merrily Ratner, Fresh Meadows

Terrorist organization Hamas is at war with democratic Israel. Boko Haram still has the kidnapped girls of Nigeria, and continues to slaughter innocent villagers in the north of that country. The Islamic State group is creating a terroristic Islamic "state" where parts of Syria and Iraq used to be.

Syria itself is in a civil war, with terrorists manning every side. Iraq is essentially broken up into three mini states, all fighting each other for control.

Than there are Iran stonewalling the world regarding nuclear ambitions, Libya and Yemen in sporadic anarchy, and now the Ebola virus spreading through Africa, threatening a pandemic.

And let's not forget the Southern border crisis starring the countries of Central America, and tens of thousands of helpless children being used as pawns by our politicians. Mix it all together and what do you get?

Congress going on recess and President Barack Obama heading to vacation at the end of the week in Martha's Vineyard. What a world we live in.

D.M. Heimowitz, Jericho

Many on LI want to help border kids

I read the column about the reaction of some readers to an article about our program at MercyFirst that provides safety and housing to children fleeing violence in Central America ["Immigrant kids and American vitriol," Opinion, July 31]. If one were to gauge the spirit of our times by such comments, there would be little reason to call it anything other than what the column did: a racist reaction and a foul mood greeting news of kids given shelter on Long Island.

I must say those comments are no different than how some people respond to other hot-button issues of our times.

At MercyFirst, we received about 25 calls over the first few days from people who read the article ["Unaccompanied minors," News, July 27]. I was pleasantly surprised to find that eight out of 10 were very positive: offers to volunteer, raise money, donate clothes and even become a foster parent.

Other calls got very political and nasty very quickly. As I explained, our program is not about any larger immigration issues. It was created in response to a humanitarian crisis on our Southern border brought about by extreme violence and dangerous living conditions in Central America. I noted that our program was in keeping with a law our country passed in 2008 to provide the possibility of asylum to those children fleeing violence. These were conversations that found no middle ground and no sympathy.

Our response to this crisis is in keeping with the spirit and priorities of the Sisters of Mercy, who founded our agency in 1894 when many of the children were Irish and Italian. While MercyFirst is now administered by lay people like myself, our mission today remains the same as it was 120 years ago when the sisters bought an old farm in Syosset to use as an orphanage. We no longer have orphanages in this country, as the times have changed. However, the needs today are very similar to what brought our own grandparents and great-grandparents to this country.

Jerry McCaffery, Syosset

Editor's note: The writer is the president of MercyFirst.

Charge for grocery bags; don't ban them

While Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst may have the right idea in attempting to drum up support for a countywide ban on plastic bags, perhaps a middle-of-the-road approach would be more appealing to county legislators ["Give plastic bags serious look," Editorial, Aug. 3].

Instead of a ban, a bag fee would not only discourage the use of plastic bags but increase revenues to county coffers. A fee would also be more appealing to county businesses, which would not be forced by an outright mandate, per se, but could opt not to use plastic bags or, alternatively, pass the fee on to customers who request plastic bags.

The City of Boulder, Colorado, for example, imposes a 10-cent fee on any disposable plastic bag at checkout at a grocery store. The fee applies also to paper bags. The fee would be a less intrusive way to encourage environmentally conscious behavior.

Ryan Dougherty, Sayville