Archive: April, 2013
Understanding energy deregulation and alternative electric supply admittedly is a complicated subject. But just as EnergyWorks helps homeowners choose a trusted, home energy-efficiency company, there are many solutions in the deregulated electricity area. In Illinois, there's Power2Switch. Texas has ChooseEnergy. And Pennsylvania has Alphabuyer ("Energy efficiency gets easier," April 21).
Real estate writer Alan Heavens notes that he's using less energy every year, but his bill remains the same because the price of electricity goes up. From the Alphabuyer perspective, the data shows something different. Our analysis of PECO's price-to-compare, the standard measure of how much residents pay for electric generation, shows a downward trend over the past 2 years. Since 2011, Alphabuyer customers also paid less than that price and saved an average of $180 a year. Yet, even with high awareness, and proof of savings, switching rates are low.
A lot of people are simply turned off to the idea of switching because of sales tactics (only 3 in 10 PECO homeowners have switched). The barrage of junk mail, phone calls during dinner, and signing up customers without consent are tactics that make it much harder for consumers to feel comfortable enough to switch. But homeowners looking for ways to reduce energy consumption and lower their monthly bills should reconsider.
In reporting on the cost and access to medicine in the United States, it's particularly crucial to get the facts right since patients are impacted ("U.S. consumers pay more for drugs," April 9). Despite misperceptions, spending on medicine has grown at historically low rates for a sustained period.
Medicines are only about 10 percent of all health-care spending, but for that investment, medicines have significantly improved quality and length of life and helped control health care costs by avoiding acute care, such as hospitalizations. And 80 percent of prescriptions filled are generics.
International comparisons can be misleading. The U.S. is based on markets in which very large, powerful purchasers negotiate savings from pharmaceutical companies, not government price fixing. Additionally, the U.S. system rewards innovation - a main reason why biopharmaceutical research and development moved from Europe, where there are price controls. Our system allows patients wider choice and quicker access to new medicines.
It broke my heart to read of the death of the hardworking man, Don Ly, from whom I bought fruit salads when I worked at the University of Pennsylvania seven years ago ("Fruit vendor in W. Phila. is stabbed," April 19). The photo of his kind, smiling face brought back memories of seeing him every day upon my arrival at Meyerson Hall.
To think that someone killed him is maddening. I grieve for his family, and for all of us living amid such crime. The writer Roald Dahl brings to light this sad reality in The BFG (Big Friendly Giant), which my children and I just read. In trying to allay a little girl's fear of giants, the giant says, " 'Ah, but they is not killing their own kind. . . . Human beans is the only animals that is killing their own kind.' " How I wish that statement - and the fact of Ly's death - were not true.
Maura Matthews, Wyndmoor
The fugitive of legend is a lone antihero, defying the odds along with hordes of lawmen in hot pursuit. In Philadelphia, though, this narrative had been turned on its head: Thanks to the justice system’s failure to bring about consistent consequences for flouting its authority and skipping court, it was the fugitives who wandered the land in droves, while the authorities seemed to face slim chances of rounding them up.
Now the city appears to be finally making progress on this potentially devastating problem. The means are straightforward: A special court established last year started putting fugitives in jail. As a result, many more defendants have decided that showing up for court is a good idea.
Read more on Monday's editorial page or at Inquirer.com/opinion.
In March, President Obama nominated Gina McCarthy to be the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and she now awaits confirmation from the Senate. Washington leaders should keep their eye on the ball and stick to issues that matter during confirmation hearings, and not get bogged down by discussions of "secret government e-mail addresses" that were used to promote efficiency ("Tofu? ToWhit? Senators discuss EPA e-mail aliases," April 11).
McCarthy has been a dedicated nonpartisan professional under five different Republican governors, in addition to her leadership of EPA's clean-air division during Obama's first term. Partisan politics should be set aside, and McCarthy's confirmation should move forward.
The nominee's extensive accomplishments at the EPA illustrate her ability to understand the needs of states like Pennsylvania. McCarthy instituted the first-ever national limits on mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants. These new standards are estimated to prevent up to 530 premature deaths in this state, while creating up to $4.4 billion in health benefits by 2016. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee should quickly vote to approve McCarthy's nomination.
Now those who have hijacked the Barnes Foundation art collection are increasing admission prices by approximately 20 percent. Given reports of unprecedented interest and attendance, why would prices be hiked? Clearly, the motivation is to keep the riffraff out and get a better class of visitor. Once again, nevermind what collection founder Albert C. Barnes wanted: art education for the working class. Perish the thought. Better to have trust-fund babies. But I expect this latest transgression to be ignored, with the only authority that can do anything about it - the state Attorney General's Office - remaining peacefully asleep at the switch.
Mark D. Schwartz, Bryn Mawr
The Inquirer Editorial Board should rethink its rush to judgment in opposing several lawsuits filed by Pennsylvania judges challenging the mandatory retirement provision of the state constitution as unlawful age discrimination ("Court guilty of age denial," April 18).
Judges are the only elected or appointed officials in Pennsylvania subject to mandatory retirement. And while it is true, as the recent editorial stated, that "some are bound to cling to office longer than they should," the constitution provides a mechanism for removing judges incapacitated for any number of reasons, including age.
The issue before the state Supreme Court is a straightforward one, and a purely legal one. Hence, it makes sense for the court to decide it, rather than let it percolate in the lower courts for several years. One can be cynical that a number of justices could be affected by the decision, but the simple truth is that they have an obligation to decide legal questions and will always be exposed to cynical reactions when doing their jobs.