Uphold family by giving new parents paid leave

Just before reading Diane Barnet's June 21 opinion piece, "Hey America, you need a vacation," I was anxiously counting the hours I need to work through lunch this week in order to leave a few hours early on Friday, as I have only one day of earned vacation this quarter.

Three years ago, our company took away sick days and did not add time to our 15-17 general vacation days. How sad to have the balance scale so lopsided with our work time vs. vacation time.

My mom refers to corporations as factories. It used to bother me, but I'm beginning to see the sad humor in the truth she speaks.
Wendy Messier
Basking Ridge, N.J.

Recently confronted by the reality of my own pregnancy and comparing my situation with that of my European colleagues, I learned that virtually every government around the globe offers a social-security fund for new parents.

How can it be that the US is on par with Swaziland in terms of not offering paid family leave? Although I find myself in the lucky shoes of a staff member who is entitled to generous benefits (compared with the rest of the country), I am appalled that the majority of those employed in the US take time off to birth a child and follow the first few months of his or her growth at the expense of mounting credit-card bills. This policy is an embarrassment to this country for its lack of respect for families, as well as a telling comment on the way the current government "upholds" family values.
Barbara Nikonorow
New York

Further insight on US airspace defense

Regarding your June 18 article "On 9/11, defenders just improvised": After reading your story on how the Defense Department was unprepared for the tragedy of 9/11, I thought I might bring to light some information on the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) early warning system and military air traffic control. From 1958 through 1962, when I was a radar operator in the US Air Force, our policy on identifying aircraft and assuring that US borders and cities were safe was as follows: Each aircraft flying in US airspace was identified within three minutes of the time it painted on radar, or aircraft (fighters) were scrambled on them in five minutes if they refused to identify themselves. They also had to follow a preapproved flight plan and stay within 10 miles of either side of their assigned airway or the same action would ensue.

That was 40 years ago. Since then, NORAD has modernized. Everything is accomplished by computerized systems which should have made them all the more efficient and exacting.
Kirby Greene
Oklahoma City

Progress in Venezuela

I thought your June 7 article "Venezuela still muddy as referendum is OK'd" was a pretty good assessment of the actual situation here.

Venezuela receives a lot of bad press about its political conflict, while little seems to be said about the incredible array of social and economic programs that the government offers to its people. There are various educational programs aimed at wiping out illiteracy and advancing the educational and technical skill levels of all those who want it. Medical care is being made more available and accessible to the poor. President Hugo Chávez is also pushing for the economic and political integration of Latin America and the Caribbean.

From what I have seen of Chávez, he is truly trying to give the majority of Venezuelans - the poor - a chance to better their lives. One thing is for sure - while the referendum is helping to dampen the political conflict, it will not put an end to it.
Scott Barrett
Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela

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