Gulf spill still an enigma | Dec. 4
Science the key to restoring gulf
Craig Pittman's article about how scientists are still learning from the Deepwater Horizon disaster points to a new study that shows the dispersant used during the BP cleanup boosts the toxicity of oil to some kinds of marine life by 52 times. This is a somber reminder that research, long-term monitoring and science is more important than ever if we are going to reverse damage from the BP oil disaster and decades of environmental degradation. We simply do not know enough about the ecological workings of Gulf of Mexico and the effects of using dispersants, but we can change this.
Decisionmakers must seize the opportunity to fully restore the people, economy and environment of the Gulf Coast, including the open water environment that is often out of sight. Fully restoring the gulf means restoring everything from the coast to the deep sea, and science is the cornerstone of restoration planning and implementation.
Money from the Natural Resources Damage Assessment, the RESTORE Act, and BP's criminal fines can fund the kind of science that can detect delayed impacts from the BP oil disaster, and provide much needed information for decisionmakers to reverse the trajectory of an ecosystem in peril.
Elizabeth Fetherston, Ocean Conservancy, St. Petersburg
Online courses mean no dorm, gym or debt Dec. 5, commentary
Online isn't a cure-all
Former Gov. Jeb Bush and co-author Randy Best paint a rosy picture of online education. Given that their company designs online courses, this is understandable. The problem is that shifting college education to the online format involves far more than just miraculous reductions in expenditures.
Many courses, perhaps entire disciplines, are not suited to the online format, and what is sacrificed in forcing this transition is both the quality of education and the student's journey through the college experience.
Bush and Best state that "learning measures for online courses have matched or exceeded those for on-campus students." This assertion, while convenient for their argument and their bottom line, is a gross oversimplification of a substantial literature measuring the impacts of online education on students and on learning outcomes. The results of these studies are far more mixed than Bush and Best would have us believe.
Online education also significantly alters the college experience. A college education is a critical time of personal and behavioral growth, in which young people learn about themselves and their society, and master the art of navigating complex situations and relationships as independent adults in a supportive environment. Online education cannot provide this experience.
Rebecca Johns, Ph.D., associate professor of geography, USF St. Petersburg
Treaty voted down in Senate | Dec. 5
It is incredible to me that 38 Republican senators voted against ratifying a U.N. treaty modeled on the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, which was enacted 22 years ago. The treaty has already been signed by 155 nations, and ratified by 26 of them, including China and Russia.
The lame excuse made by some Republicans — that the treaty could pose a threat to U.S. national sovereignty — is despicable. We have ratified treaties making torture a war crime. The ratification of those treaties didn't stop us from torturing numerous prisoners in our custody at Guantanamo Bay, including many we have released from detention.
The juvenile parochialism of these recalcitrant senators is nothing short of shameful.
Dorsett Bennett, Lutz
Fox News chief urged Petraeus to seek presidency | Dec. 5
This article is very troubling — and not the part about David Petraeus. It is troubling if Rupert Murdoch, head of News Corp., which owns Fox, did in fact say that he would "bankroll" a presidential campaign. I guess "fair and balanced" is just an empty marketing campaign. In 2016, should we expect candidates "bankrolled" by CBS, NBC and ABC?
Charles J. Rutz, Clearwater
Mars rover may have found clays | Dec. 5
Spend money on Earth
Why isn't there more objection to this country spending billions of dollars just to find clay on another planet? And then we're sending another rover up in 2020? Why? Even if we found that Mars was made out of gold, how does that benefit the United States?
I say we can find all the clay we need right here on this planet and use the savings to help struggling earthlings in the United States.
David Hoover, St. Petersburg
Obama, Boehner try one-on-one fiscal talks Dec. 7
Just do your job
House Speaker John Boehner told the House to take the weekend off because there wasn't a plan ready for a vote to avoid the "fiscal cliff." Mr. Speaker, your job is to put a bill together for the House to vote on, and send it to the Senate for approval and to the president to sign. What do you not understand about your job?
You are the head of the House, responsible for leading and representing all House members, not just Republicans. You are again speeding down the highway toward going down in history as the "do-nothing" Congress, at the expense of the American public. We told you what we want, now do it.
Dick Hrebik, Lecanto
No time for a vacation
We are at the cusp of a fiscal crisis, and the president, with only days to go before we fall off the fiscal cliff, is planning a three-week vacation in Hawaii. Where is the dedication to the American people to keep our country on a firm footing?
Never have I seen such arrogance by a president and a complete disregard for our country's well-being.
Carmen LaBianca, Largo
TIA asks drivers to move along | Dec. 7
Try shuttle service to cell lot
Has there been any consideration of offering shuttle service to the cellphone lot to reduce congestion? I would be willing to take a shuttle to save the person picking me up from having to deal with the arrival area congestion.
Kendra Craven, Tampa