In agreement with the recent New York Times editorial, I too urge clemency for whistle-blower, Edward Snowden. While many of us have withheld judgment on Snowden because we question his method, it has become clear that on balance he has done Americans a great service by exposing the overreach of the National Security Agency. The NSA has broken federal privacy laws to invade the privacy of millions of people around the world. It has abused its authority, and in the view of many, violated the intent of the Constitution.

Furthermore, James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, lied to Congress in March when he stated that the NSA was not collecting data on millions of Americans when in fact it was demonstrably doing exactly that.

These revelations have damaged America’s image far more than they have hurt our security. Nowadays we are told we must walk the line between security and our traditional human rights, like privacy. Lately, it seems to me we have strayed too far over the line to a state of surveillance which we should not accept blindly. What makes Edward Snowden a "traitor" when he gives us proof of how endangered our privacy is?

MEGAN RANDALL

North Pownal

Precautions for your pets in case of a house fire

Several Vermont house fires in the last month draws attention to not only the danger to human life, it shows animals are at risk, as well. Every year over 500,000 pets lose their lives in house fires. There are a few things pet lovers can do to help reduce the risk of losing a beloved pet in the event of a fire.

Have leashes readily available for your dogs and keep their collars on with identification so that if they do escape during a fire, they can be identified and be returned to you. If you don’t keep a collar on your pet in the house, having all of your pets microchipped is essential. That way, if they are taken in by animal control as a stray, they will be scanned for a mircochip and often owners can be quickly contacted by the information contained in the chip. Most of us store our cat carriers out of the way, and searching for them wastes precious time in the even of a fire.

Keep some old pillow cases near in your bedroom: If there is a fire, you can put the cat in the pillowcase to escape the house. Once outside, keep a tight grip on those pets: Sadly many pets have died because they struggle to escape and run back into their "safe" spot -- the house. Window clings to alert fire fighters of pets inside the house are a good idea.

Fires are always unexpected and often devastating, but a little preparation to help your beloved pets survive can save a lot of heartbreak.

M. KATHLEEN SHAW, DVM

Vermont Veterinary

Medical Association

North Bennington

Hoosick Community rallies to support families devastated by fire

Thursday night, Jan. 23, there was a devastating fire on Center Street -- thankfully, everyone was able to get out safely, but the two families who lived there have lost everything. Everything.

One of the families has two boys in elementary school. They have a place to stay, but they need Hoosick’s help, and help is what we do best. It’s what makes us such a great community.

A fund for the fire victims has been set up at Trustco Bank on Main Street in Hoosick Falls. For those who would like to contribute, please make your checks out to the "Benefit Fund for the Isherwood/Hurlbert Families." You can mail them to Trustco Bank or to HAYC3, PO Box 492, Hoosick Falls, N.Y. 12090. HAYC3 is also accepting donations at the Youth Center for the family. Gift cards and donations will be the most helpful, so the family can purchase what they are most in need of. Call 518-686-9050 or email contacthayc3@gmail.com for more information or to inquire about donating specific items.

What an awesome community we have -- so many people who care and want to help. In the Hoosick Community we may take it for granted, but not a lot of places are like this. Thank you, Hoosick Community, for being so special.

Updates will be posted on HAYC3’s Facebook.

DEBORAH ALTER

Hoosick Falls, N.Y.