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Obama overseas

Re "Obama defends greeting Chavez," April 20

I found the warmth obvious in President Obama's handshake and embrace of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to be offensive. Chavez is a petty tyrant who defies democratic norms and has called the U.S. the devil. The U.S. government believes he even may have ties to Hezbollah. He has stolen billions in oil wealth from his people, who are no better off than before he was elected, despite his populist propaganda.

He deserves our contempt and opposition, not warm greetings and embraces.

David Schechter

Los Angeles

I'm amazed that some Americans are outraged at the handshake and smile between Obama and Chavez. Are people such small thinkers to not see America's long-term interests?

There is significant anti-American sentiment throughout the world. Latin American leaders who respond favorably to U.S. interests risk facing popular opposition at home. However, the smartness and simplicity of a simple handshake, a smile and a commitment of mutual respect changes the psychological landscape. It provides governments far more latitude among their populations to reach out to each other. That serves American interests.

Keeping smiling, Mr. President.

Sid Pelston

Los Angeles

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Re "In Mexico, Obama’s words do — for now," April 18

The Times' description of Obama as "fawning" when the president told Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez that he had read all of Marquez's books is a perfect example of a reporter putting a negative spin on what most book readers would regard as a normal comment.

I have read all of Marquez's books; if I met Marquez, would I be fawning if I told him so? I also have read both of Obama's books. If I should be so fortunate as to one day meet the president, would I be fawning if I mentioned to him that I had read his books? Certainly not. Allison Marks

Escondido

How to handle Cuba

Re "Obama calls for new start with Cuba," April 18

It is interesting to note that President Obama never mentioned nor hinted at the need for the Cuban government to make reparations and indemnify U.S. citizens and corporations whose properties were summarily confiscated by the Fidel Castro regime. The same holds for those who are in favor of lifting the embargo and resuming relations with Cuba. How can there possibly be a "new start" unless this issue is resolved?

I hope our president does the right thing and makes this point a priority in any future talks with Cuba.

Jason M. Levi

Northridge

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As a naturalized U.S. citizen, our chaotic immigration system is of interest to me. Because Obama has eased restrictions on money remittances and traveling to Cuba, I believe he should end the special immigration privileges afforded to Cubans arriving in this country. It is time to ask that Cubans take a place in line and be subjected to all the requirements imposed on other immigrants to the U.S.

For all his intelligence, Obama is naive if he thinks Raul and Fidel Castro will play fair. Their only concern is the flow of American money into their coffers.

Elsita Smith

Santa Barbara

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Re "Cuba’s cage," Opinion, April 15

The illustration accompanying William Ratliff's Op-Ed article was right on point. Cuba is indeed a cage, created by Fidel Castro's tyranny over the last 50 years.

But not one word was written about this by Ratliff. It seems that Cuba's political prisoners have never been the darling of the media or leftist intellectuals, as Nelson Mandela and Natan Sharansky used to be. Instead, we get the same old rant about those evil Cuban exiles, still living in the past and daring to make noise about their lost homeland.

Valia Bello

Burbank

Time for a change

Re “Military ban on gays may soon change,” April 17

The Times reports that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates confirmed that Pentagon leadership understood the president's stated policy to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy concerning gays in the military and would do whatever the president asks of them.

But how and when will it happen? Gates misses the mark when he suggests that this personnel issue -- directly affecting readiness, retention and recruitment -- should be kicked down the road. The discharge of more than 12,500 gay troops, including linguists and others in crucial specialties, should make it clear that, with our country engaged in two conflicts, now is the time to implement this overdue change in the law.

Tom Carpenter

Los Angeles

The writer is a former captain in the Marine Corps and a member of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Military Advisory Council, which provides legal services to military personnel affected by the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

You call this planning?

Re “County probes its own top board,” April 19

Woe to anyone who gets in front of the political steamroller in county planning. It's been that way for the 40-plus years I've been involved in Los Angeles real estate. It's also the reason most cited to justify new city creation in Los Angeles County, as typified by the city of Calabasas.

The city of Los Angeles too has become more susceptible. Only political influence can justify issuing planning documents and building permits crossing two owners' property lines that benefit only one of the owners, as I see occurring in the city of Los Angeles even today. No competent planning jurisdiction would create such a situation without first requiring easement agreements between the parties.

But no -- L.A. issues permits, then leaves the owners to work it out. If that's not an example of political pandering, I don't know what is.

Karmen Brower

Calabasas

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Reading this article made me disgusted with our county Board of Supervisors. We don't need to learn the results of the investigation to know that it has pushed a capable, decent employee onto the street because he dared to not implement their politically motivated zoning orders, which may have been prohibited by law.

The insistence by Supervisor Mike Antonovich that charges brought by a landowner against him are "absurd" only bolsters my conviction. It's time to throw these rascals out, all of them.

Fred Dean

Los Angeles

Wrong track

Re "Will the Union split over energy?," Opinion, April 17

Ronald Brownstein's comparison of building a clean-energy economy to building the transcontinental railroad system didn't mention the corruption that resulted as railroads hurriedly built to grab subsidies and soon went bankrupt.

History shows that widespread hostility to the effort was caused when visionaries pushed the railroads beyond normal, organic growth. If the railroad example is to be the template for building a low-carbon, clean-energy economy, we may be in trouble.

Gene Lundy

Lawndale

On kidneys

Re “Kaiser OKs transplant settlement,” April 17

You would have done readers a service by pointing out that Kaiser health plan members in Southern California in need of a kidney transplant weren't affected by what happened in San Francisco.

Kaiser Permanente of Southern California, which administratively is a separate region, never internalized renal transplantation for patients who receive their care at Kaiser facilities in this part of the state.

Harold N. Bass MD

Porter Ranch

The writer is a physician with Kaiser Permanente in Southern California.

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