A transition, but likely a similar ideology


No doubt the next pope will be as conservative as his two immediate predecessors, who appointed everyone in the College of Cardinals who will elect the next pontiff. Possibly the only question will be whether he is even more conservative than John Paul II and Benedict.

Likely, the next pope will be younger, have a longer reign and leave progressives open to greater consternation for years to come. Action, even discussion, of major issues to U.S. Catholics, like artificial birth control, ordination of women, married clergy, gay marriage -- you name a progressive thought -- will be discouraged, if not banned.

That's just about the worst-case scenario, and I hope I'm very wrong.

A possible exception would be the selection on an African pope, one who has experienced the plight of AIDS and has had to deal with it. If so, maybe there would be a relaxation on the issue of artificial birth control.


• • •

At first I was saddened by Benedict's resignation announcement on Monday. Now I feel it was a courageous and thoughtful move, prompted by his serving attitude to the church. My parents are 85 years old, and though they live a good life, they simply cannot do what they used to do in terms of energy and passion. They need rest and quiet spaces to keep going. I wish that to Benedict and thank him for his service.


* * *


War winding down? Not for everyone ...


An article about the so-called endgame in Afghanistan ("New commander guides endgame in Afghanistan," Feb. 10) masks the fact that American troops are still gearing up to be rotated back into that theater of war, my grandson among them.

This young man spent 2008 in Iraq, then had his 2010 deployment to Afghanistan interrupted by surgery for a combat injury that won him a Purple Heart. Now stationed with the Army at Fort Hood in Texas, he's training for another year in Afghanistan, 2013-14.

I'm guessing that other Minnesota families have similar stories. The terms "shrinking," "dropping" and "[troop] reductions" with respect to the American presence in Afghanistan tell only part of the story.


* * *


We should value this public service


I am a senior citizen who speaks for many others like me. There are myriad reasons to ensure the survival of the U.S. Postal Service. It is often our only contact with the outside world. Our postpersons are like members of the family -- they look out for us and help us; they bring us our prescription drugs when we cannot get out.

The Internet is offered as a partial substitute. Elder citizens don't trust the Internet, especially to do their banking or pay their bills. We know that hackers abound.

The USPS was put under a terrible burden by the 2006 Congress, forced to pour millions of dollars into a pension fund that must extend 75 years. This is grossly unfair -- only the USPS was targeted. This Congress can reverse that.

I know the Republican aim is privatization. Think how privatization worked in the wars, and what it cost.

In the interest of goodwill, efficiency and reliability, we already have the best possible service. It must not be eroded and left to die.


• • •

There seem to be some things about the postal system that I don't understand. I hear and read that it is losing a lot of money and in six months it will curtail service on Saturdays to save money. But the Postal Service is not there to make or save money; it is there as a service to us, the people. I would like to see the costs of the USPS compared against those of almost any other service, like city and state highway departments or local, state and federal law enforcement offices. Then we would know what these wonderful and necessary services actually cost us, and which we should be very satisfied to pay for with taxes.

Service is not free. The people at the post office where I go are very knowledgeable and courteous. I can send a letter or a package, knowing that it will arrive in a very short time, at a very low price I believe is incredible. I would like the post office to stay exactly like it is, and we should be happy to pay for it.


• • •

The need for the USPS to cut service back to five days a week is understandable. But, there is little rationale for suspending service on Saturday. The one advantage that I see goes to the postal workers, granting them two consecutive days off per week. Yearly, USPS observes five holidays on Monday, so there will be a minimum of five occurrences of three consecutive nondelivery days per year.

The optimal approach, making the closure day least disruptive, would be to move it to the middle of the week. If Wednesday were chosen, there would never be three successive closing days. Thanksgiving is our only fixed mid-week holiday, so that would result in only one certain instance of two consecutive nondelivery days per year, with additional two-day closings depending upon where the other holidays fall.


* * *


This year, celebrate all of your loved ones


Here comes Valentine's Day, our annual slap-in-the-face reminder that the world goes by in pairs. I've never been a big fan of the holiday -- work isn't canceled; money is grudgingly spent, and singles are reminded that they shouldn't be.

This year, though, there have been too many painful reminders that there is never a time to take loved ones for granted. Use this Thursday as an opportunity to celebrate your parents, your children, and your friends, as well as your significant other.

Valentine's Day is a time to celebrate all kinds of love, not just romantic love.