Greenpeace's ship Arctic Sunrise is currently in the Gulf of Mexico, supporting independent scientists as they research the impacts of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil disaster on marine life and the ecosystem.
While our ship was docked in St. Petersburg, an article in the St. Petersburg Times unfortunately described Greenpeace as "famous for ramming whaling ships." I'm proud of Greenpeace's work to peacefully protest Japan's slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean, but we do not ram whaling ships.
Since the very first Greenpeace ship set sail in 1971, we have worked to protect our oceans from environmental threats like the dumping of toxic waste, industrial whaling and reckless offshore oil drilling.
For the next two months our ship will be doing scientific research to better understand the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and supporting independent research of the impacts. We invite all Gulf Coast residents to come on board at www.greenpeace.org/usa/oilspilltruth.
Dan Howells, U.S. deputy campaigns director, Greenpeace, Washington
Details on light rail still unclear Aug. 14, story
Rail plan leaves many unanswered questions
Our leaders have more questions to answer on the light rail proposal than exactly where the rail line will go. In addition to wanting to know where it is going to go and how long the tax goes, I would like to know how many people they expect to carry and how much it will cost. Randal O'Toole from the Cato Institute in his study on rail transit (March 2010) points out that "the agencies that spend taxpayer dollars building these lines almost invariably call them successful even when they go an average of 40 percent over budget and, in many cases, carry an insignificant number of riders."
What are the long-term costs to this light rail system and what is the plan to fund them? I also would like to know about plans to connect this to Pinellas and other counties. I think a western central Florida ridership study is needed to determine the numbers and costs within the region (to include Orlando) to make this work.
Further in the Times article, HART board chairman Ron Govin's quote that "we'll be able to double the number of buses on the road" also raises questions: What are bus ridership, route coverage and costs now, and why aren't buses being better used in the interim? Why won't more buses without light rail work? Buses can be a flexible, responsive and immediate answer at a much lower investment/cost: no land rights, construction and extra infrastructure needed. Where is the data to show why buses won't meet the need now but double the number of buses is needed with light rail?
Why are we jumping so quickly to raise taxes with so many unanswered questions? We are in a recession. Every penny is precious and funds spent on rail and transit take money away from something else. I would like more answers to these questions and others on light rail before stepping into the voting booth in November.
Ray Kruelskie, Riverview
They just want a train
County planners and the special-interest Moving Hillsborough Forward are now saying that voters won't be given any details as to where the proposed Tampa choo-choo will go or where it will stop until after we vote to tax ourselves $180 million each year from now on until forever.
Their argument: "A train is a train, is a train, is a train. We just want a train." We shouldn't worry about details such as routes or cost, they tell us. "Give us your money," they say and then we will tell you how we are going to spend it.
With so much unknown about this very expensive choo-choo for Tampa and the need for jobs now, not five years from now, we should put off this tax until 2012. Then maybe more out-of-work residents will be able to ride the train to new jobs and we will be better able to pay for it.
Fred Jacobsen, Apollo Beach
The New York City mosque
Think of American feelings
On the plan to build a mosque near ground zero in New York City, we would like to make the following observations. While not condemning all Muslims for that terrible and cowardly act, it was done by Muslims following their religious notions of holy war. Many people lost their lives and many more lost relatives and friends. Our department suffered the greatest one-day loss of its history.
At best, this is an insensitive and thoughtless act. At worst, it is an "in your face" to those very same people. Also, the American Muslim condemnation of that act has not shown much anger, nor have they shown much outrage over the murder of so many of their fellow citizens. Most people still remember other Muslims dancing in the streets when they heard the news. And more Muslims are still killing our young men and women and bragging about it.
If they were the peaceful religion they profess to be, they would be well advised to quietly admit that they understand these feelings and move to a location farther away. No one denies their right to build their house of worship, just their choice.
We wonder, if Christian fanatics flew a plane into one of the towers being built in some Muslim lands, would Christians be allowed to build a church two blocks away? And thinking about that, are Christians even allowed to practice their religion in those countries?
In conclusion, let them be Americans and understand America's feelings right now.
Joe Holland, for the FDNYC Retired Firefighters of Spring Hill, Chapter 343
No mosque near ground zero and Muslim hypocrisy | Aug. 9, letters
No place for mosque
Muslims are not only hypocritical, but downright biased. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg should volunteer for mission work in Afghanistan for a while. And when Mayor Bloomberg goes there, he should take with him all those who voted "yes" for the mosque at ground zero.
Let them serve and experience life there for a while. If they come back alive, they can let us know if they would like to stick with their "yes" or change their vote.
Bob Hoogstraten, Seminole
The New York City mosque
An ugly response
The planned construction of an Islamic mosque and community center near the site of the World Trade Center has provoked an ugly national response that has much to do with the political current and little to do with thought or fairness. That some would object to the project may be human and understandable; it is also wrong.
First, the proposed center is on private property, enjoys local support, including the support of some Jewish and other interfaith groups in New York City. Secondly, the framers of the U.S. Constitution made freedom of religion part of the first of our amendments for a reason.
There is added foulness to the debate in this partisan election year as the Republican leadership has sought to make a national political issue of the mosque, especially in light of the recent support in favor of the Islamic center voiced by President Barack Obama. This pandering to the right wing puts Republican leadership in an indefensible position opposing both freedom of religion and rights of private property — an appalling new low. If we truly support the freedoms which we so loudly proclaim, this mosque in Manhattan is proof of our commitment.
Edward Miller, Tampa
Muslims in the middle | Aug. 18, commentary
I have finally reached the breaking point. If William Dalrymple's commentary piece was supposed to help me understand Islam and the situation surrounding the building of the mosque in New York, he failed miserably. His position has angered me and pushed me in the other direction.
He claims that we "show a dangerously inadequate understanding of the many divisions, complexities and nuances within the Islamic world — a failure that hugely hampers Western efforts to fight violent Islamic extremism and to reconcile Americans with peaceful adherents of the world's second-largest religion." This annoys and angers me to the point that I feel even less inclined to meet Islamists at a middle point. I would be more inclined to listen to Dalrymple if he had stated what the Islamists need to do to understand America and its many religions.
The idea that it is upon Americans alone to understand and adapt to Islam is absurd. I wish to hear what both sides need to do. As it is, it is like we are treating Islamists as if they are too stupid and uneducated to understand anything but their own beliefs and we, being superior, understand better and can adapt better. That is ridiculous. Islamists need to be held to the same standard as we are. We need to stop treating them like children who we are afraid will have a tantrum if not given their way.
People used to come to the United States because they wanted to live the "American dream." They became American. My ancestors did. They came from Italy, Ireland and Germany and didn't expect America to adapt to them. They came ready to adapt to America.
Nancy Harkins, Palm Harbor
A bad joke
Does anybody but me get sick of all the garbage on the TV concerning the election? If all of these candidates used the money they spent bashing each other on feeding the hungry or housing the homeless, or creating jobs, maybe Florida wouldn't be a bad place to live. All I've heard is negative campaigning. Rarely have I heard any talk on subjects that concern the voting public.
There should be a law limiting the amount of money spent and time spent on the campaign. I think that after several months of hearing the garbage, the public shuts out the "noise." At this point, who is really qualified? Does anybody know? This "democracy" is almost a joke anymore. Whatever happened to honor, truth or morals? Somebody please convince me that our government is not hopeless!
Dawn Banister, Largo
Planning for uncertainty | Aug. 17, letter
What a refreshing commonsense approach from a young family: self-sacrifice; get the most out of your resources; drive the truck "until the wheels fall off"; cut back on big vacations; pay off the mortgage early in time to help your son have a collage education.
Sounds like the American dream that I grew up with. You should print more positive letters like this one. The letter writer sounds just like our son.
Tom Lewis, Bradenton
1st District Court of Appeal building
When I first saw the photo of this edifice under construction near Tallahassee, I immediately thought of Saddam Hussein and one of his country cottages. Considering the state of the economy and the unemployment situation, one can only admire the audacity of the Chief Judge Paul Hawkes and his cohorts.
I presume the majesty of this building should reflect the importance of the justice system in our society. If it is similar to the other appeals courts and the Supreme Court, few if any actual defendants participate in hearings in appellate courts. Whom are they trying to impress, other lawyers?
Another issue I'm somewhat concerned with is the widescreen TVs in their respective chambers. This would lead someone to ask, Are they getting paid to hear cases and render opinions or to watch reruns of Law and Order? As a taxpayer and a constituent of some of those in the Legislature, I am fed up with what goes on. If I had my way, that building would be turned into Section 8 housing, so that the people who are really in need would have a place to live.
As for the appellate judges responsible for lobbying the legislators, I hope at the time of election, the voters remember and vote to not retain them.
John King, Beverly Hills
A vet's parking frustration | Aug. 14, letter
Be fair to hospital
In this letter regarding frustration at the parking situation at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, the writer described groups of enfeebled, aged veterans limping around the parking lot and up steep ramps while he was searching in vain for a parking spot.
As a longtime volunteer at that VA hospital, I too, have experienced frustration at trying to find a place to park, but I must set the record straight. In the nine years I have volunteered at that hospital, I have never seen the trudging aged veterans he described. There are regular "golf cart" shuttles roaming the parking lot to transport those lucky enough to find parking places on campus; there is valet parking; and there is the satellite parking at the University Square Mall.
The hospital places information in the appointment letter concerning parking, including the shuttle from the mall, less than a mile a way .
The Haley VA Medical Center is the busiest hospital in the system, partly due to "snowbirds" and retirees coming to our fair state, and the current patient load is far heavier than the hospital was originally designed for. A 5,000-car parking garage is being constructed to help alleviate this problem. Primary care is planning to be moved off-campus; a drive-through pharmacy is planned.
So please, let's be fair to the people who are spending their time, skills, education, creativity and concern helping the veterans and recognize the situations and resources as accurate.
Roberta Schofield, Tampa
In the name of Christ, she left Christianity Aug. 14, commentary
There are other voices
I understand why Anne Rice decided to "leave Christianity." The loudest Christian voices in our community are most often the ones that are "antifeminist," antigay," and "antiscience" as Rice states.
Yet, there are other voices. At Lakewood United Church of Christ, we have had a female minister for nearly 20 years; we are an open and affirming congregation that fully includes gay, bisexual and transgender people; and we don't reject science as a way of understanding the world. Yet, we are Christian.
I encourage Anne Rice and others who feel alienated and berated by Christianity to consider joining a progressive congregation. Don't abandon the church altogether, but join with others to create a new version of church.
Mark Gibson, member, Lakewood United Church of Christ, St. Petersburg