Are blue herons common in our region?

I was surprised to glance out my kitchen window recently and see a blue heron had stopped by. He was standing by the swimming pool and obviously hoping to find a delicious meal swimming around. By luck my camera was handy and I was able to snap a few pictures. Apparently he realized there was no dinner available so, sadly for me, he spread his wings and flew off.

I immediately googled "blue heron" and learned that these birds are indigenous to marshlands and water areas, which was why I was so startled to find him in the desert.

Would be interested to know if this is a common sight here.

Susan Dooley


High-speed rail carries lots of passengers

According to Wikipedia, Japan's Shinkansen carries 151 million passengers per year (March 2008), it has transported more passengers (the entire network has carried over 10 billion) than any other high-speed line in the world. In 2011, China's high-speed rail network reached 370 million passengers annually. Both these countries with huge, dense populations have been using high-speed rail for many years and have plans for many more lines in the future.

The trains are all electric powered and run at speeds of 150-200 mph, usually on special tracks laid next to older existing lines, which the freight trains use. I would think that a good plan for a Tucson-Phoenix line would be to run airport to airport. At speeds averaging 150 mph, it would be a 47-minute trip.

This would certainly be competitive with local air shuttles. Isn't it time to start catching up to the rest of the major advanced countries of the world?

Bill Webber

Retired surgeon, Tucson

New TUSD chief faces large challenges

The current administration of TUSD is giving public schools a bad name. This is sad. We need public schools to continue educating all students, not just the bright ones who are currently leaving in droves to attend private and charter schools. As a former public school teacher I cringe at some of the latest articles about the TUSD schools:

• Over $300,000 will be spent on public relations to entice students to stay in the system.

• The average 10-year teacher in the TUSD system makes only $35,000.

• The multimillion-dollar computer system doesn't work; it must be scrapped and a previous system must be reinstated at a huge cost.

• Schools are closing and teachers are being laid off.

No wonder parents are taking their kids out of public schools. The administration doesn't seem to know how to make things work and manage money properly.

Can the new superintendent help?

Carolyn Spangler

Retired teacher, Tucson

End force feedings of Gitmo prisoners

So it's come to this: The land of the free and home of the brave is force-feeding men imprisoned by our government in Cuba.

Many tortured, few charged with any crime, these 166 men have endured years of hopeless captivity. In February a hunger strike burst out after guards searched their Qurans. Now 106 inmates are refusing food and 45 are dangerously thin. Military personnel tie them down, snake a tube nose into their stomachs and pour nutrients through it.

A federal judge says the procedure is illegal. We say we don't want the men to die. They say man does not live by bread alone.

The commander in chief can resolve the dilemma. Let's urge Mr. Obama to stop the force feedings and begin talks about prisoners' grievances now.

Alison P. Nylund

Retired librarian, Tucson