Testing grounds | Dec. 14, story
Rein in the drug companies
I had the pleasure of visiting one of the hospitals mentioned in your article. The picture you published is accurate.
Now I want to know why the politicians have not cracked down on these drug companies. What good is it to have the Food and Drug Administration if they allow information gathered under such horrendous circumstances to be used in assessing the safety of drugs prescribed in the United States?
Despite this, they tell us we can't buy drugs from Canada because they are not safe. How ludicrous! It is all a matter of money. The drug companies have all the politicians in their pockets.
I have sympathy for the very poorest people in India, and unless the U.S. government stops drug companies and other businesses from taking the wealth of the United States to other countries, we are going to end up being the poorest of the poor.
It's time to bring American knowledge, manufacturing and wealth back to America.
Sylvia Fies, St. Petersburg
Lives are at stake
Any confidence I may have had in the manufacturers of the life-saving medications that I (and all of America) depend upon has been destroyed by the revelations in Kris Hundley's shocking exposure of conditions surrounding the trials of American drugs in India.
Hundley should be summoned immediately to testify before Congress, and corrective actions taken to ensure that our medications receive the legitimate clean bill of health to which we all are entitled. Time is of the essence. Lives are at stake.
Leonard Gotler, Clearwater
Hope in exposure
Congratulations to Kris Hundley on an astonishing piece of work — important, incisive, shocking. In these days of cutbacks and "content providers," her efforts — and their publication — offer a beacon of hope.
Ellen Ruppel Shell, co-director, graduate program in science and medical journalism, Boston University, Newtonville, Mass.
Protect the public
I read the Dec. 17 Times editorial As risk from drugs grows, FDA sleeps, and all I could think was, "What else is new?"
President Bush, using the Republican philosophy of less government oversight, had repeatedly shortchanged the FDA budget, weakening its ability to protect the public against unsafe foods and drugs due to the lack of enough inspectors.
Any sane and pragmatic person would recognize the need to protect the public from abuses when it comes to the public safety, and hopefully once Barack Obama is sworn in as president, he will have changes made at the FDA so everyone is protected from unsafe food and drugs.
George Petrick, Riverview
Bailing out Detroit
Jobs will be lost in
saving auto companies
Government bailout money won't save jobs particularly in Detroit but also around the country because the steps to make the companies viable all will result in fewer people employed in the industry.
What will make GM viable? The answer is simple: fewer plants, fewer car lines, fewer dealers, fewer models, fewer parts. The idea that the company will be viable if it produces green cars is just wrong. The company is too big. It must be restructured to be smaller and more nimble.
All of the things necessary to make the company viable entail the loss of jobs. As a single example, GM has about 6,000 dealers. Toyota has less than 2,000 with approximately similar market share. GM has better coverage but could sell and service cars properly with about 3,000. Consolidation will result in fewer employees nationwide.
When reducing the number of plants, which will be eliminated? Clearly these will be the least efficient, the oldest, the most hampered by union work rules, the most encumbered with retirees and aggressive attitudes. Where are these located? The single answer is "Detroit."
When the number of car lines is reduced, the number of models reduced and the parts and components rationalized, what will be the result in employment? Clearly there will be fewer suppliers employing fewer people. This will also be a nationwide effect.
Government money can't make a difference except to delay the inevitable if the company is to survive.
John Christman, Parrish
Watch your wallets
In my perspective, leadership under President-elect Barack Obama could slowly threaten our fundamental rights as taxpayers. I grow increasingly concerned about how his economic advisers will govern us in the next four years. Will President Obama choose to serve his agenda in a bipartisan manner? Will he use the economic crisis as a vehicle to advance an ambitious socialist agenda?
I do respect the fact that our government should play a pivotal role in overseeing the budgeting of functions such as national defense, homeland security and national disaster relief. I disagree with any multibillion-dollar bailout for the Big Three Detroit auto companies. I suggest to our new president that he force the millionaire CEOs and board members, along with the wealthy union leaders, to "bail out" their own company first before asking us, the taxpayers, for bailout money.
Perhaps Obama could contribute some of his campaign money. Don't count on it!
Joan Atkins, Palm Harbor
Stimulus wish lists readied | Dec. 14, story
Fraud is predictable
President-elect Barack Obama's push for infrastructure spending is a great idea, but I hope he isn't so naive to think that a rush to spend money won't result in mammoth fraud and abuse. I'll bet every road contractor and lobbyist is salivating. Remember, this is all borrowed money that puts our children and grandchildren in debt for decades to come.
You can bet that every representative, senator, governor, county commissioner and mayor is already lobbying for "their" share of pork so they can show the taxpayers that they are doing their job.
In reviewing the projects listed in the article, one should note that nearly every project is for roads and bridges where there is a definite need. The only exception is Clearwater, whose list includes refurbishing a sports complex and a streetscape project downtown, both for around $8-million. Clearwater officials don't seem to understand our nation and our state are approaching insolvency while their priorities are recreation and streetscaping.
The public should further note that there are few if any water, sewer or drainage projects (real infrastructure needs) because these projects are not funded by taxes but by simply raising your monthly utility bill. And nobody ever asks if the money is spent efficiently.
Coming from Chicago, President-elect Obama should be well aware how inefficient local governments really are and needs to demand accountability. Just remember the horrendous waste in the aid after Hurricane Katrina. Billions!
Jim Harpham, Palm Harbor
Look beyond shovels | Dec. 16, letter
Builders are necessary
The letter writer was concerned about an economic stimulus plan that would be "saving only the construction industry."
I wonder who he thinks will build the light rail systems, solar power plants, wind turbines, etc.
Perhaps the really smart white-collar bankers, stockbrokers and money managers who managed to lose untold billions would like to build them?
Nicolette Geiger, Zephyrhills
Where are price rollbacks? | Dec. 13, letter
Because the price of gas at the pump has dropped, the letter writer wondered why there has been no corresponding drop in prices for goods at retail store. I have one word: diesel.
That's right, the price of diesel has not enjoyed a drop similar to that of the gas you put in your car. And diesel is what powers deliveries to the local stores like Wal-Mart or Publix.
One might also note how few gas stations carry diesel anymore, and if they do they either don't post the price on their sign or they have it at the bottom or only on the pump. Diesel is still expensive to produce and is only a fraction of that barrel of crude, which also is used for asphalt and plastics.
We won't be seeing any drop in prices at the store until there is also a significant drop in the price of diesel. So when you shop don't think about the price of regular gas. It has no relation to product cost.
K. Allen Loper, St. Petersburg
Herbert Hoover reincarnated | Dec. 5
Face of failure
Harold Meyerson's column comparing George W. Bush to Herbert Hoover is right on target. But even beside the failure of Hoover, Bush pales in comparison. Meyerson points out that they share a common view of how to deal with an economic crisis: "Bankers would be saved; everyone else was effectively damned."
Beyond this comparison in callous and narrow-minded thinking, Meyerson expands on additional blunders by Bush: the Iraq war, New Orleans, and the vanishing security for millions of Americans. Not mentioned but no less flagrant are the contemptuous disregard for the Constitution and our civil liberties and the damage done to our environment.
Perhaps the most provocative part of Meyerson's article is the question: "So where's the outrage?" He surmises the lack of outrage is due to two reasons. First, Bush has been roundly condemned for his incompetence and arrogance and, second, Americans' "kind reluctance to kick a corpse."
There is most likely a third reason: embarrassment. As our leader (and I use the word "leader" advisedly), he is our personal and public face toward the world. This image is indeed a sad and disparaging reflection on all Americans. In the category of American presidential losers, George W. Bush will rank right up there with the worst of them. It will take a long time to live down this travesty of American leadership. Still, what a relief Jan. 20, 2009, will be!
Sidney Rose, Hernando
Peaceful Mideast tour
My two brothers and I recently returned from a three-week trip to Syria and Lebanon. The reasons for the trip were to locate birthplaces of our relatives and also to visit historical biblical sites in that ancient part of the world. We were somewhat apprehensive since the media, on many occasions, try to get you to believe that everyone in that area is a terrorist and is walking around with a rifle. It was absolutely not true!
We walked freely through many streets in Aleppo, Tripoli, Beirut and Damascus, as well as small villages of relatives, and never saw a gun. We were never concerned for our safety. Streets in the large cities were busy until 1 and 2 in the morning, with shops open for people of all ages. There are millions of Christians in these countries as well as the majority of Muslims but, without exception, everyone that we met was friendly and peace-loving.
Lebanon is more Western than Syria, but both countries have some of the most wonderful vistas in the world, much like the hills and valleys of California. Walk along the beautiful blue Mediterranean and you could be in France, Italy or Greece.
After much traveling through Europe and Scandinavia in the past several years, I am convinced that, in general, most people of the world want a decent living with their families and to exist in peace with their neighbors. People in Syria and Lebanon are no different than anyone else in their morals and religious beliefs and, on many occasions, would give us their wares or pastries if we did not have the correct change. To cheat someone was totally out of the question. But negotiating — that was a whole different ball game.
Mitch Kanaan, St. Petersburg
In cell, student's bravado dissolves | Dec. 15, story
Candor at the jail
In reading Meg Laughlin's story about Ahmed Mohamed's incarceration on explosives charges, I was greatly surprised by the candid response of Capt. Tom Bliss, facilities commander at the Hillsborough County Jail on Falkenburg Road where Mohamed was held in solitary confinement for 11 months.
To his credit, Capt. Bliss characterized solitary there as "a very hard place." He further admitted: "We did things to Mr. Mohamed that flew in the face of his dignity and he reacted."
How refreshing to hear unvarnished truth from a prison spokesman. No spin. No "These people are criminals but we still treat them with the utmost respect" etc.
I can only hope that Capt. Bliss' superiors appreciated his honesty as much as I did.
Vince Dempsey, St. Pete Beach
Thanks to you all at the St. Petersburg Times for your unending push for fairness for this young man. I read about his unfair trial and punishment three years ago, and was incensed at the separate types of punishment we give to the poor, minorities, and, worse, a person who is both.
I wrote the governor, NAACP and several organizations, but each had the "not my job" attitude. If it had not been for your consistent publicity about this case, William would have rotted in prison for 30 years.
I have been writing this young man for years, and he has gotten his GED, read everything he could, and has kept an upbeat attitude through it all. He will indeed be a leader in his community some day, I believe.
How frightening it is to know that our jails and prisoners are filled with men whose biggest failure was to have been born poor and black. We must change this culture. And your paper has certainly does its part. Thank you again.
MaryLou Tuttle, Tampa