Thursday, January 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Coast Guard, Cuba work together on common issues

It's no surprise that after more than 50 years of open hostility, the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba has its ebb and flow. But despite the pullback on both sides in recent months, the experience of the U.S. Coast Guard testifies to the improvement in public safety that this budding relationship offers to both countries.

For decades, there was no more searing indictment of U.S.-Cuba relations than the images of Cuban refugees dangling for life on anything that would float as they headed toward South Florida. Washington unveiled a new approach in 1995, the so-called "wet foot/dry foot" policy, which allowed Cubans who reached U.S. soil to remain but called for returning those caught on the water. The policy prompted the launch of countless boats as desperate Cubans sought a new life of freedom, but the risks and abuses it encouraged caused many to perish at sea.

President Barack Obama ended the policy in the waning days of his administration in January. Since then, the number of Cuban refugees intercepted at sea has dropped precipitously, from 6,000 or more per year to a fraction of that figure. In April, the Coast Guard did not seize a single Cuban migrant — the first month that has happened in seven years. Interdicting fewer migrants on the sea creates an opportunity for the Coast Guard to redirect resources to other areas, in particular fighting the increase in drug trafficking.

Rear Adm. Peter J. Brown, who commands the Coast Guard's 7th District, which includes Florida, characterized the Coast Guard's relationship with Cuba's border guard as "uniquely productive." In a meeting last week with the Times editorial board, Brown said the United States and Cuba have strengthened their operational ties in several areas, from improving responses to search and rescue to cooperating on marine protections. These are vital capabilities for Cuba, which is growing its tourism sector and looking to mine offshore energy resources. Given that Florida is only 90 miles away and a hub for Cuba cruise ship travel, the Coast Guard's strong relationships on the island further the security and economic interests of the Sunshine State.

The Trump administration has pulled back on the loosening of U.S. travel to Cuba begun under President Obama, and Cuban President Raul Castro has hit the pause button on some of the communist island's market reforms. But underneath all the politics, the Coast Guard and its counterparts in Cuba continue to work to save lives on the water, to stop the flow of illegal drugs and to protect the region's natural resources. That is a good sign for two neighbors with many shared interests.

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Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18