Mental-health first aid

would make us safer

The Mental Health First Act, H.R. 274, a bill in the House of Representatives, is essential to keep our communities safe. The bill would provide $20 million for three years to teach mental-health first aid. The program would teach police officers, first responders, teachers, faith leaders, students, parents and veterans how to recognize a person having a mental-health crisis.

Imagine how significant such training could have been in preventing recent horrific tragedies.

Mental-health first -aid seeks to change the stigma of mental illness as a character disorder and reclassify it as a medical problem. For hundreds of years, the mentally ill have been shunned by society and secluded in institutions. But mental illness is a real medical problem and is treatable, like any other disease.

Mental-health first aid training brings understanding to those suffering from mental-health crises and provides resources to secure proper medical attention. Just think of the difference it could make when a person is intercepted before problems escalate to tragic events such at the fatal attack on tourists visiting Atlantic City in May 2012.

Antoinette Pelzer, of Philadelphia, a known schizophrenic, was suffering from a mental-health crisis when she fatally stabbed two Canadian tourists. Had someone been trained in mental-health first aid to recognize her symptoms and intervene to get her medical help, the whole situation could have been avoided. Instead, Pelzer fell through the cracks, with her actions resulting in two deaths.


Ocean View

CIA whistle-blower

deserves a pardon

Though he did not participate in torture, ex-CIA agent John Kiriakou was the first person to publicly acknowledge the Bush administration's inhumane abuse of detainees.

Kiriakou's disclosures informed the public and encouraged debate that helped pull this country back from a very dark place. But he drew the ire of the government, which began to harass and intimidate him and his family under both the Bush and Obama administrations, looking for ways to prosecute him.

Finally, when Kiriakou privately shared a colleague's name to a journalist for use as a source, the government seized the opportunity and threw the book at him. Kiriakou is now serving 30 months in prison. By comparison, Scooter Libby didn't spend a single day in prison for his role in publicly outing CIA agent Valerie Plame in an act of political revenge for her husband's statements against the war in Iraq.

President Barack Obama opposed and ended the U.S. torture program. So why is the only person being punished in connection with that program the man who helped expose it? The president should do the right thing and pardon Kiriakou.



Tsarnaev should face

military court for treason

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and three of his Republican colleagues got it right - Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is not just a criminal and should have been held by the military without access to a lawyer or the fundamental rights of a citizen. And he is not just an enemy combatant. That affords him too much dignity. He should be tried in the military justice system. This is more than Tsarnaev deserves.

The U.S. Constitution deals with treason in Article III, Section 3: "Treason against the United States shall consist only in leveling war against them ..." The "them" is us. Tsarnaev negated all his rights as a recent American citizen when he committed a sickening act of violence against innocent people.

He does not deserve all the protections rooted in our Bill of Rights. When you commit treason, you are no longer a citizen. I believe it was wrong to have given him Miranda rights, but he should be granted Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment.

What Boston teaches us is that the horrors we have viewed on TV from afar are now here. We must accept that there will be more radical Islamists among us who will repeat this horror. But if they terrorize our innocent women and children (of course I include Muslim women and children, for this is not about Muslims, but radical Islam), we will try them for treason. War is terror. But no political cause justifies killing innocents.


Atlantic City

Roll out the hospitality

for Miss America guests

Regarding the April 26 story, "A.C. could see $32M from Miss America":

We are welcoming back our returning daughter, the Miss American Pageant, thanks to Trenton. The pageant should have a positive financial impact for the city. This was always its purpose.

I do have some concerns. The hospitality industry has to be especially fine-tuned that week. Visitors will surely judge us, and will write about their experiences on the Internet. They will be critical, as will members of the media, some of whom, like Gretchen Carlson of Fox News, are former pageant contestants.

The hospitality industry must push itself the extra mile. Atlantic City does not need another 1964 Democratic National Convention disaster. We have progressed since then, and we must continue to serve visitors professionally .

On Sept. 20,1973, I was serving lunch to football greats Earl Morrall, Fran Tarkenton and Y.A. Tittle. They asked me if I had any influence at a major hotel. Their request was simple: They had not had towels for two days. I called a local general manager and he called the owners. The problem was solved.

The point is that Atlantic City is our town. Our paychecks and our pride are on the line as we represent the people of the city and New Jersey. The more we extend ourselves, the more those efforts contribute to the general hospitality travelers experience.

If Atlantic City receives poor press, the slogan "Do AC" will turn to "AC done." We cannot afford this. No institute can teach harmony and a positive attitude toward the public. It is learned. It is experience.


Egg Harbor Township

Legislature must limit

gun-magazine capacity

I was stunned when the New Jersey Senate package to reduce gun violence was released Thursday missing the most significant piece. How could that have happened?

Ignoring the 10-round limit on ammunition magazines, allowing bullet shells to litter the ground like peanut shells at the circus, is a mistake.

It reminds me of the summer of my 14th year, when almost everyone in my Illinois town was psyched for the new town swimming pool that was being unveiled. Shortly before the ceremony, the tarp was pulled back to reveal that the drain was missing. The architect or the contractor had made a mistake of dramatic proportions.

The oversight in the Senate's gun measures can be remedied at today's Law and Public Safety Committee hearing. If it is not, this omission will be remembered as catastrophic.

Because if or when another massacre takes place, it will not be peanut shells that law-enforcement officers will be picking up.