Lift the VA's veil of secrecy
I am a registered nurse, licensed in the state of Florida. Last week I read that finally, an independent panel of scientists admitted that the once-debunked "Gulf War syndrome" is real (Report says toxins sicken 25 percent of Gulf War vets, Nov. 16). If it was not for whistle-blowers and medical professionals fighting for the rights of these men and women, this would never have come to light.
Now I read that because a doctor at Bay Pines veterans hospital stands his ground and fights for what is fair and ethical for his patients, he is labeled and terminated (Doctors call for VA firing inquiry, Nov. 26). Thank God his peers are sticking up for him. And thanks are owed to Dr. Jacques Durr for fighting for the safety of our men and women, who have fought for their country and deserve the same level of treatment as the president of the United States.
For far too long the VA has been opaque and unwilling to accept the reality that the soldiers and even contractors coming back from war have been exposed to dangerous pesticides and drugs and that our government and military allowed these practices.
Did anyone "get it," that our GIs are being sprayed with dangerous pesticides, wearing flea collars, and were given toxic "medicine" not even approved by the FDA? We should all be incensed that the very people who are responsible for the safety of these brave men and women made them sick.
My father, who fought in two wars, was a U.S. Marine Corps officer and died at 52 from lung cancer. Capt. Thomas R. Rummel and every person who worked closely with him in a communication, electronics and radiation battalion, all died at very young ages of lung cancer. What were they exposed to? I could never get an answer to that question. Every time I knocked on a door to find out, it was shut in my face.
So now the very doctors that work with Dr. Jacques Durr are fighting for his reinstatement. I am contacting my member of Congress to support his reinstatement. The VA has been opaque long enough, and it is time for that blinding, secretive veil to be lifted.
Trisha R. Springstead RN, Brooksville
Afterschool care programs need a boost
With a new president and Congress on the way, and tough economic times already here, voters think it's time to invest in afterschool programs that support kids and families. That's the clear conclusion from a new poll taken on election eve and election night for the Afterschool Alliance.
The survey found that 76 percent of voters want the new Congress and their newly elected state and local officials to increase funding for afterschool programs. And that support is strong across all demographic, ideological and party lines. Unfortunately, funding from the federal government has lagged far behind levels called for in the No Child Left Behind Act, and the result is that many programs have closed and others forced to cut back — leaving children unsupervised and at risk.
Afterschool programs like the one I'm proud to work with, R'Club Child Care Inc., keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, and help working families. But too many kids and families don't have access to afterschool care. Now's the time to change that by increasing funding for afterschool programs.
Debra Ballinger, St. Petersburg
World in a snap | Nov. 21
Improve human condition
When I saw the picture of little Venecia Lonis dangling from a scale at a clinic in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, my stomach turned with nausea and heartbreak. Her bulging eyes and hanging skin with bones just under the surface were obvious signs that this child is starving to death.
Then my eyes saw the picture below, showing the grand opening of the Atlantis, a new resort in Dubai complete with a "spectacular display of pyrotechnics." My stomach turned even more.
I wondered if the staff at St. Petersburg Times intentionally placed these two photos together and if other readers noticed the extremes of the human condition on planet Earth: children starving in one region while materialism, obscene wealth and greed are the norm in another.
Little Venecia's eyes have stayed with me, and although I can't personally help her, I can make a difference in my own community to improve the human condition here at home. We all can.
Julie Ulibarri, St. Petersburg
A new path for Republicans | Nov. 24, letter
Life is precious
When reading this letter, I found it hard to even digest any other point except for the writer's assumption that the issue of Roe vs. Wade is "no longer relevant to the majority of voters."
First of all, I am curious as to where the letter writer got his information. And even if what he says is accurate, the issue remains extremely relevant to the millions of unborn babies who are killed each year and have no voice and no choice.
How much more uncaring, cold, and self-centered does this society have to get before we wake up and realize that life is a precious gift and needs to be protected?
As for me, the issue is still relevant and that will not change. I don't believe that I am alone in standing up for the babies that can't speak for themselves, didn't ask to be conceived, and certainly didn't ask to have their lives extinguished before even having a chance at life.
Kathleen M. Stephan, Port Richey
A retro look | Nov. 25, letter
The letter writer questions appointments made by Barack Obama. All those economic advisers from the Clinton administration — didn't they preside over the longest sustained economic boom in the history of the country? Didn't they leave the White House with a budget surplus?
Change? The change is appointing people with some expertise instead of cronies.
Donald Rourke, Tampa
A retro look | Nov. 25, letter
It was better then
Regarding the letter's second paragraph: Yes, I voted for change. And I am extremely happy! I can think of no aspect of my life that is now not worse than in 2000. The same goes for the whole nation.
If I could go back to the financial, legal, security, constitutional and employment status of eight years ago. I'd do so in the proverbial heartbeat.
Jack Wilhite, Clearwater
Chilling out in Park | Nov. 23, story
A chilling effect
Chillounge, which was held in St. Petersburg on Saturday night, sounds like a grand event. Everyone welcome, come join the fun.
Oops, wait a minute. Let me share some thoughts quoted in the article that certainly made me feel far from welcome.
Someone was "surprised by the amount of young people."
"… and the demographic isn't quite as old as they had heard, either."
"I see a lot of the older crowd hanging out, but I've seen a lot of young people, too."
If you don't "get it," try saying the same phrases using ethnic terms. I can't imagine a reputable newspaper printing such things if instead of old/young it was written about black/white.
"Old people" still have a long way to go, baby.
Doris J. Whelan, Clearwater