The winning letter of the month for December addressed President Barack Obama shaking hands with Raul Castro at a memorial for Nelson Mandela:
A diplomatic opening
For those Americans buying into the faux outrage over President Barack Obama having the temerity to shake the hand of Raul Castro, I suggest you take a crash course in American History 101.
Richard Nixon, as a sitting U.S. president, visited China, opening relations with a regime responsible for some of the most egregious and inhumane atrocities ever perpetrated against mankind. And he was lauded for the effort.
Are there truly those who fail to realize that a gesture that may open a door to civil dialogue is where diplomacy begins?
Robert Shaw, Madeira Beach, Dec. 14
GOP's war on poverty | Jan. 9
Prince of hypocrisy
Sen. Mark Rubio really is a class act.
He gives a big speech about the war on poverty and yet to date he has gone against every bill or proposal to help impoverished Americans.
He voted for a government shutdown. He voted against extending unemployment benefits. He has supported cutting Medicaid and food stamps. He has been one of the biggest critics of the Affordable Care Act, which he signed up for. He is against raising the minimum wage. He couldn't even make up his mind on his own bill regarding immigration.
He proposes to give states more control in dealing with poverty yet his own state refused billions to expand Medicaid. He proposes to replace the earned income credit on tax returns with a "federal wage enhancement" for low-paying jobs.
Does this mean that people struggling all year will have to wait until the end of the year to receive help?
Rubio is being considered as a 2016 presidential candidate. I wouldn't even consider him for another term as a U.S. senator. However, I do hope he is endorsed. With his hypocrisy and indecisiveness, it should be a Democratic landslide.
Jack Burlakos, Kenneth City
Poverty is a federal issue
Sen. Marco Rubio's proposal to move anti-poverty programs to the state level is laughable.
If spending money to lift the poor out of poverty was something the states were motivated to do, we wouldn't have the longtime federal programs to help the entrenched poverty states. State governments aren't motivated to fight poverty, because every upwardly mobile young person created is someone that will compete against a state's upper-class families for good jobs and good schools.
Just look at how the Florida government is handling the 1 million-plus poor who need Medicaid. Conservative factions don't want successful anti-poverty programs in their states, because they will bring more impoverished voters into the state — who will then vote these stingy, selfish cabals out of office.
Rubio should be the very first casualty in his personal war against the poor.
George Brooks, Tampa
Weeki Wachee makeover | Jan. 9
Keep the water slides
I am excited that Florida is planning to invest $8.7 million to revive Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. But the planning board — which installed a wooden fence to block the view of the spring, the fun slides and the beach from the highway — want to get rid of the slides and pretty peacocks. They plan to add a museum, a restaurant, a party hall, sidewalks, an unheated bathhouse, a fountain and a parking lot.
But why do they want to get rid of the slides?
Now the kids who fill the park every summer will stop coming.
People won't want to sit in a cold-water bathhouse. The park will be lame.
Why eliminate the main attractions of a park?
William Gilbert, Weeki Wachee
No time to let up in fight on AIDS | Jan. 4
Still more work to do
As you said, it's easy to forget about the AIDS epidemic because we have made progress. If we do forget, there will be a price to pay.
When I was young, there was no such thing as AIDS. And then, when the epidemic hit, it was impossible to fathom; it was so unstoppable. It infected all our lives with fear.
I remember walking on the Mall in Washington, D.C., looking at an enormous quilt made up of small quilts sewn together to honor the fatalities of the plague. I walked around looking for the small quilt made in honor of my friend, Charles. When I found it I was so sad.
And now with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and with the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, we have made great strides. Coffin makers for AIDS victims in Africa have been going out of business. But we have not conquered AIDS yet.
Now is the time to take the medical advances, the delivery of medical service advances, and the hope, and use them to fight AIDS to its end.
I hope my granddaughter Jessica's granddaughter will ask her, "Grandma, I learned about something called AIDS today in school. What was it?" But if we move it to the back burner, that child will know about it because it will still be around.
My thanks to the president for his pledge to the Global Fund and to Congress for keeping funding up even in the midst of recession and discord, and to the Times for the editorial. We must keep this conversation going and keep our focus on eradication.
Ken Schatz, Tampa
Socialism | Jan. 8
Failed for whom?
Steve Weinman complains about socialism creeping up in this country, and argues that socialism "has failed everywhere it has been tried."
I would ask Weinman: What exactly is his definition of "failed"?
Numerous countries in Europe and Scandinavia, not to mention England and Canada, have had socialistic governments for years.
In past polls, a larger number of citizens in many of these countries say they are happier with their lives than say citizens of the United States.
I have to wonder what the word "failure" means to Weinman if the people in those countries are happy.
George Petrick, Riverview