Great help, comfort in a difficult time

I am writing to thank and give praise to San Leandro's finest: the police, firefighters and paramedics who responded so quickly, at or about 6:30 a.m. Christmas morning, to my 911 call. They were warm, caring and compassionate.

I would also like to thank my neighbor Hope Harper, who held me in her arms and gave me the strength I needed to tell the paramedics to let my husband go home to God.

Also, I would like to pay tribute to a group of motorcycle riders, all veterans, who call themselves The Riders, who volunteered to escort my Marine to his final resting place in Hayward.

May God bless each and every one who helped me through this very difficult time.

Gerry Franks

San Leandro

Important articles on asthma crisis

I really appreciated the recent articles on asthma.

Having been an asthma educator and RN at Children's Hospital, I am well aware of the impact of asthma on our children. I'm so glad the articles also pointed out the secondary fallout of days missed from school and work for the whole family. The video was so well done and included the fine work of the Breathmobile, which brings a full medical team to schools where children and families can receive comprehensive care.

Mary Frazier

Oakland

License gun owners as we do car drivers

The gun lobby would have us believe that banning assault weapons is just the first step toward repealing the Second Amendment.

This makes no sense. By the same logic, imposing speed limits on cars is the first step toward banning their ownership. Neither assault weapons nor armored tanks should be available for use by the citizenry.

Furthermore, everyone who owns a gun or drives a car should be licensed to shoot or to drive, as the case may be. We take the latter for granted -- why not the former?

Larry L. Schaleger

Oakland

Must do much more to battle asthma

Kudos for the special report, "Asthma: The Battle to Breathe." It is shocking to see such high asthma hospitalization rates among children in Alameda County -- 20 per 10,000, the third highest in California.

Air pollution plays an integral role in the asthma epidemic, despite our abilities to prevent the pollution in the first place. It's true we've come a long way in reducing diesel exhaust and other major pollutants in California, but too many families live in the remaining hot spots of air pollution, next to freeways and industrial areas.

We need our elected and agency leaders to accelerate measures reducing pollution in these zones to bring relief to the tens of thousands of children who suffer from asthma.

That means retiring every last dirty old diesel engine from use, preventing uncontrolled wood-burning and ensuring every major industrial emitter has state-of-the-art pollution controls -- an investment well worth it for the sake of healthier kids.

Diane Bailey

Senior scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council San Francisco

'Mallard Fillmore' is idiotic, not funny

I assure my conservative friends my objections to the "Mallard Fillmore" strip has nothing to do with his views or my willingness to hear an opinion I don't hold. My objections are that Mallard's a bully, his humor's based on shaming and mockery, and he's an idiot.

The Mallard's current series is about the Head Start program. According to the Heritage Foundation -- oops, I mean the Mallard -- the Head Start program's a failure. What does that mean? Everyone knows that despite claims about academic preparation, the Head Start program really exists to provide child care to the working poor, for kids too young for kindergarten. It's absurd to hold any other expectation.

Thus, the "failure" of the Head Start program is the failure of American society to ensure poor kids can get a decent education.

Of course, blame for that failure has been assigned to teachers because blaming poverty (how could a stressful home environment and malnourishment impair learning ability?) would lead to discussion about meaningful redistribution of wealth.

Yet all the Mallard has to say is, "Head Start is a failure." He's a bully. He's not funny. And if he's not an idiot, he must think we are.

Paul Mackinney

Albany