Once again, the St. Petersburg Times will take any opportunity to exalt President Barack Obama to unwarranted heights, even trumping the pope for "face time."
Not only are there excessive amounts of biased, glowing articles about everything the president says, does or infers, but now, obviously, he deserves more respect than the pope. What a nice picture of the back of Pope Benedict's head as, of course, "The One" gets his picture-perfect photo op.
The pope, as leader of the Catholic church, leads a lot more people than our president does. Also, nothing was noted as to what the pope might have actually said or how he reacted to the presidential visit. The Catholic church has quite a differing opinion than the president's as to the sanctity of life. As a Catholic, I was very eager to find out how the Vatican's relations with the new administration would evolve.
You dropped the ball on this one.
Desiree Solito, Clearwater
Photo of back of pope's head disrespectful
If not for the caption on the front-page photo of the Times, I would not have known that was Pope Benedict XVI speaking to the Obamas.
In publishing this faceless photo of the pope, you are showing an appalling lack of respect for him, the spiritual leader of millions of people.
Although I am not Catholic, I feel outraged by that.
Luis Gudinio, Tampa
Public housing project should be demolished | July 12, editorial
Demolition proposal ignores residents' needs
What a disappointment to see the editorial position the Times has taken regarding Graham-Rogall. It appears as if you took a superficial look at the situation and came up on the side of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which has a history of thinking too much about the developers and too little about the people living in the complex.
Did you ask why the complex was allowed to deteriorate, even though they had the funds to keep it up?
Tear it down? Did you talk to any of the people still living in Rogall and Graham? Do they feel "warehoused"? Did you find out what has become of the people who had to vacate Graham because it was going to be sold? Have you spoken with social workers about the advantages of providing services and meals to the elderly and disabled when they live in one location, can form friendships with others in similar situations, are near public transportation and can be provided with security?
You say only 100 people remain in Rogall. "Only"? That is a rather telling and unfortunate modifier. It makes each one of the 100 people sound unimportant. As for the relocation of the 100 disabled and elderly, was that problem addressed before coming to the "tear it down" conclusion? Finding suitable homes for the disabled and elderly is a challenge, and the disruption and often trauma that relocating causes to the individuals can result in serious setbacks.
When the need for housing for the poor is growing, why even consider tearing down housing that can be rehabbed? My hope is that the Times will rethink its position on housing for the poor and the disabled. One policy does not suit all situations.
Mary Berglund, St. Petersburg
Public housing project should be demolished | July 12, editorial
Ugly housing policies
The picture is captioned, "The Graham-Rogall complex in St. Petersburg is outdated and ugly." The homeless and those who have no affordable housing would probably say it is beautiful.
What is ugly is the six-year displacement of people from their home and community without the availability of comparable low-cost, affordable housing.
What is really ugly is the policy of city officials to drive the poor and low-income people out of the area so as to adequately serve the interests of the developers, the business community, the real estate interests and the not-in-my-backyard neighborhood associations.
What is really ugly is the silence of members and leaders of many religious organizations, the homeless coalitions and our state and congressional elected leaders.
What is ugly is the number of candidates running in the St. Petersburg municipal elections who intend to continue these same gentrification policies.
This situation is a physical manifestation of growing inequality and neglect. The recession has made poverty more visible, but for nearly 30 years we have seen cuts in funds for housing. These are part and parcel of the decimation of the industrial economy and the cruel underside of the housing boom.
If there were a survey to select the meanest city, county and state, my vote would go to St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and Florida.
Why is the St. Petersburg Times taking such a one-sided view of the Graham-Rogall question and all that it symbolizes?
Dwight Lawton, St. Petersburg
A low-tax solution
When will the government learn? It raises taxes on cigarettes by a dollar a pack. What happened to "we won't raise taxes on poor folks or the middle class"?
Higher cigarette taxes (and I am not a smoker) will be a burden on smokers. If they quit smoking, our Social Security will be worse off because more people will be living longer and collecting Social Security.
If taxes were lowered to zero on cigarettes, fewer people would quit and the death rate from smoking would increase, putting fewer people on Social Security and solving the system's deficit problems.
Lowering taxes always is the answer to a sagging economy because it increases the tax revenue collected and increases job creation.
John Lallemand, Dade City
Ex-Rep. back after week in Israel jail | July 9, story
Mission to Gaza
I congratulate the Times for writing about the Greek ship Arion bringing "humanitarian supplies to Gaza" earlier this month.
However, I would like to point out two inaccuracies in the article: First, the Arion did not try "to pass through the Israeli navy's security blockade" at Ashdod, Israel. Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize winner from Ireland, was on board the Arion. She stated that the ship was seized by Israeli troops "25 miles from Gaza," their destination, not at Ashdod.
Also, the article said that former Rep. Cynthia McKinney stated that "the Israelis hijacked us because we wanted to give crayons to the children of Gaza," giving the impression that the ship with its 21 humanitarian volunteers carried only crayons. According to Maguire, the ship was bringing to the people of Gaza "medical aids and building supplies." The Israeli government denies the entry of both items to Gaza. To this day, Israel forbids the reconstruction of over 1,000 Gazan homes that the Israeli Defense Forces destroyed last December by land, sea and air.
Arthur Hebert, Largo
Help for families misused
I understand that we have families in the Tampa Bay area that need financial assistance, and the food stamp system is one way of providing this aid. That said, I am disappointed with the way it is controlled.
I work in retail sales and see it everyday: a person who needs the taxpayers' assistance to feed his or her family, yet comes to our place of business and spends $30 or $40 on candy bars, gum and 20-ounce bottles of soda. Then I look down at their receipt and see they still have an additional $500 to $600 left to spend.
I stand behind the counter, ring the sales and keep my opinion to myself, although it is very difficult at times. Some of these families have cash benefits also, so they can go back to our in-store ATM and get cash to purchase items they can't get with the electronic benefit transfer card — cigarettes, beer and lottery tickets.
A partial solution would be to make the EBT system more like the WIC, where you have specific items that can be purchased and they have to meet guidelines of the system. If nothing else, make it so an item being purchased with the EBT card has to be a nontaxable food item.
I admire the people who are using their assistance for feeding and taking care of their families the way they are supposed to, but from my experience, sadly, that is about one in 10.
Charles Browning, Spring Hill
New grouper limits urged | July 13, story
Use science to set limits
As a recreational fisherman, and probably one in the minority, I would have to agree with federal scientists' findings of stock assessments of gag grouper.
What the majority of recreational fishermen don't understand is the biology of grouper and why the stock assessments are low. Grouper are all born female and only change to male after about five to seven years. Therefore, all of the small grouper being sighted inshore are going to need that time to become the productive breeding males required to replenish the overfished stocks.
Seeing a lot of grouper in one or two places while spear or pole fishing doesn't mean that the stocks are fine. The laws require regulators to act on the best science-based data available. Those numbers come from stock assessments that cover a broad area and not just the sightings or fish stories of fishermen.
Since there is no way to accurately count the number of fish under the surface of the water, these assessments are the best available way of managing fisheries.
As a recreational fisherman, I would rather regulators err on the side of caution to make sure that stocks are kept healthy; or, in the case of grouper, rebuilt to sustainable levels. It's easy easy for recreational fisherman to challenge science, but until those who don't believe come up with a better and objective way of assessing current stock levels, their argument will hold no water.
Bob Smyth, Clearwater
Please tell me that the use of "Frenchies" — "this is a big holiday today for the Frenchies" — was an editorial slip-up and will not become the new usage in the St. Petersburg Times. So tacky.
Travis Sherman, St. Petersburg
Benefits of going meatless
I applaud your July 15 Food section. It is wonderful to see vegetarianism promoted in such a positive way. If the section convinces just a few people to go meatless, it will be worth it for countless animals that would be doomed to the brutalities of commercial "farms" and the horrors of the slaughterhouse.
Hats off to you, and I hope to see plenty more veggie recipes in future Food sections.
Annie Smith, Hernando