As a bankruptcy attorney, I take exception to your editorial about the rising rate of bankruptcies in our area. You are correct that the trend is up, but you blame the people filing as if there has been some great change in American morals rather than in American life.
A person cannot file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy if he filed one in the last six years, so those filing in 2003 are not the same people who were filing in 1996-2002. Fewer than 10 percent of those who file bankruptcy will file ever again. If it were true that people spend and spend, enjoying the good life on someone else's tab before filing bankruptcy, the percentage filing again would be higher.
When the other Bush was president he promised us a kinder, gentler nation. Bankruptcy filings hit 600,000 for the first time during his term. They are now triple that. The truth is that it is harder for working Americans to make it because our nation is less kind and gentle, not because they are less responsible. Those filing bankruptcy would prefer to pay their bills, and most have for years.
A big surprise in the past few years is the number of people 50 and older filing for the first time. These people did not suddenly become stupid or irresponsible. Many will lose their homes because Ohio only lets a debtor protect $5,000 in equity in his home - unchanged since 1978 and nowhere near the $40,000 you mentioned.
It is the duty of bankruptcy judges and trustees to uncover abuse and deny discharge to anyone engaging in bankruptcy abuse. They will tell you there is little abuse.
Give those people filing bankruptcy sympathy, not criticism. Bankruptcy is not an easy way out. It's hard, but it's often the only way out.
THOMAS S. MOLITIERNO
Attorney at Law
Since 1970, January has been recognized as National Volunteer Blood Donor Month, so it is an appropriate time to thank the Western Lake Erie Region donors who have given blood to help meet the needs of patients in 22 hospitals throughout northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan served by the American Red Cross.
However, I'd also like to take this opportunity to encourage those who have never given blood to become donors. Of the nearly 1.1 million people living in this region, only 4 percent donated blood last year.
Too many Americans wait until they need blood before they truly realize the importance of volunteer blood donations. Donating blood saves lives. It may not be your neighbor or co-worker or best friend who needs your blood today, but it might be tomorrow. In fact, in the United States someone needs blood every two seconds. This year alone, as many as 4 million patients will require blood transfusions, as accident victims, people undergoing surgery, and patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer, and other diseases.
The need for blood is constant, and volunteer blood donors contribute to nearly all the blood used for patient care in this nation. Please join the 4 percent who donate and help save lives in our community. Your one donation could help save up to three lives.
Please celebrate National Volunteer Blood Donor Month with me by becoming a blood donor.
Together, we can save a life.
JOHN E. TAYLOR
American Red Cross
Western Lake Erie
Blood Services Region
Thanks for telling people about Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), so that they wouldn't have to split and waste votes. Could the Michigan promoters of IRV take it beyond allowing a second choice? At International Christian University in Japan we went to allowing voting for any number of candidates. (This doesn't give undue influence; if you vote for everyone, you have no influence at all.) This way you avoid splitting among more than two.
Some countries and smaller units have runoffs. The American Chemical Society adopted IRV satisfactorily. Other jurisdictions allow ranking votes. All are possible with computers. As you point out, this could make votes count more and promote voting, as well as avoid some types of manipulation. Let's take it beyond Ferndale, Mich.
Your Jan. 5 editorial, "Serbia slips backward," does not come close to describing the true situation in Serbia that has caused the recent voting fiasco.
To properly put the situation in context, you must first understand that the West has done nothing to address the rights of return for more than 1 million Serbian refugees from Croatia, Bosnia, and now Kosovo.
Kosovo is the most lawless part of Europe despite NATO's unwelcome and useless presence (except for creating a "Greater Albania") in the Serbian province where the few remaining non-Albanians live in a "Krystal-Nacht" ghetto-like existence and Osama bin Laden has plenty of fanatical Albanian Muslim recruits. NATO has not paid for the massive, vicious, and illegal damage to Serbia's infrastructure and economy in its recent war against Yugoslavia's civilians.
Finally, recent "western-seeking" governments were corrupted with money from oligarchs like George Soros for the sake of further plundering the country (e.g., stealing the massive Trepca mining complex in Kosovo) for themselves.
The support for anti-western candidates such as Slobodan Milosevic and Vojislav Seselj is symptomatic of the desperation in finding leaders who are courageous enough to resist the "winds of change" from the West that have decimated the rest of the Balkans from western "capitalistic/globalist" cheap exploitation since the collapse of Communism.
This war is not yet resolved. Until the West admits the truth of its part in destroying the former Yugoslavia at Serbian expense, there will never be peace in that region of Europe.
A jury recently awarded $20 million to the widow of a smoker who died of lung cancer.
Why should smokers invest in life insurance, as most people do, when they can provide millions of dollars to their families after they have died from an addiction?
I am not against suing the tobacco companies, but the settlement should be given to the American Cancer Society, and the surviving family should receive funeral expenses only.
The smoker was not thinking of his family or health all those years, only of himself. He enjoyed smoking, and it was something that was not forced on him. Ask smokers and they will tell you that they enjoy smoking and it relaxes them.
As far as the myth of not being able to quit smoking, they don't want to or they would. I've known people who stopped smoking after 20 years or more, so it's not impossible.
Attention store managers of grocery, discount, pharmacy, and any store using cashiers: Please provide a box of tissues and a bottle of hand sanitizer to your cashiers with colds. I went shopping today and every single cashier was either coughing or sneezing. I left one store without making my purchase because the cashier sneezed and wiped his nose on his fingers. This is a small thing that can have a big effect on the spread of germs during this cold and flu season.
Frequent hand washing is the biggest single thing you can do to prevent colds.
Janice E. Taylor
A car company can move its factories to Mexico and claim it's a free market.
A toy company can outsource to Chinese subcontractors and claim it's a free market.
A major bank can incorporate in Bermuda to avoid taxes and claim it's a free market.
We can buy printers made in Mexico. We can buy shirts made in Bangladesh.
We can purchase almost anything we want from many different countries. But heaven help the elderly who dare to buy their prescription drugs from a Canadian (or Mexican) pharmacy. That's called un-American!
And you think the pharmaceutical companies don't have a powerful lobby working overtime in our nation's capital? Think again!
DORIS E. MEEK