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Protect democracy, be informed

I'm writing in support of our news media. We are privileged to live in a country where the right to free speech and the freedom of the press are basic rights protected by our Constitution.

In countries led by despots and tyrants, the citizens only have access to the news their government deems appropriate. Not so in the United States. Here we have reporters who work long hours to ferret out the truth in stories and unravel mysteries.

We have reporters who put themselves in harm's way in unstable countries and dangerous situations to bring us stories of the wars, uprisings, famines, migrations and bad weather.

I'm tired of hearing whining about "fake news." Let's stop beating up the media and start appreciating the fact that in the U.S. we are able to receive news in a variety of ways. Every person in the United States has an opportunity and a personal responsibility to learn to read and become a critical consumer of news, and our public schools are doing an excellent job of teaching this.

In cities and towns across the United States a variety of newspapers are available at reasonable prices. We can turn on our television, computer, or cell phone any time of the day or night to watch the news. The best way to make critical decisions is to gather as much information as possible, examine it carefully and then make your decision.

Read more than one newspaper, watch more than one news network, switch on your car radio, and try not to jump on the bandwagon before you gather information and examine the situation. The very preservation of our democracy depends on having well informed, educated citizens who are able to read, listen and think critically. We have a huge responsibility to protect our democracy.

Janet Shiers


How can sharing a home make you homeless?

I was rather shocked when I saw the list of Santa Maria schools having 40 percent or more homeless students.

I might be missing some information, but how can the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act identify being homeless as a family sharing a single-family home with other families? This makes up 94.3 percent of the students considered "homeless" in Santa Barbara County?

Single and divorced parents have been sharing households for decades. They help each other with childcare, housework, when a car breaks down, or if a person just needs a break. It works for all the families involved. Not too many people can afford a summer camp or do take time off work for a sick child.

The homeless in local cities are everywhere we look. They're being ticketed for sleeping in the bushes or anywhere else on the streets. How can sharing a house with another family be considered being homeless? Can someone explain this?

Arleen Miller


Marijuana isn't safe because it's natural

Tell your physician if you use marijuana. Coughing and wheezing are common. Cannabinoid hyperemesis relates to recurrent nausea and vomiting characteristically relieved by hot showers.

According to the Mayo Clinic, marijuana interacts with hundreds of medications, raising their blood levels and thus their side effects. This includes increased risk of bleeding from aspirin, Plavix and Warfarin. The Pseudo-Wellen's syndrome relates to electrocardiogram changes giving the false impression that an emergency cardiac angiogram is needed.

This short incomplete list will grow as research of a previously illegal drug grows. It is naïve to believe that natural substances are somehow safe. Of course, this isn't true as demonstrated by tobacco, loco weed, alcohol and plant derivatives such as cocaine and opium.

Lawrence S. Riemer, MD



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