Lane DeGregory's excellent story chronicling Kedine Johns' unselfish, patient and beneficial efforts to build self-confidence, esteem and civility in girls whose lives have been filled with uncertainty, tragedy and distrust of society was uplifting.
Johns' good work at the PACE Center for Girls is proof that a difference in one's self-confidence and self-esteem is possible with the input of a caring role model willing to take the time to pass along the basics of good manners, mutual respect and knowledge of proper etiquette.
So many adults today are without knowledge of basic courtesies, proper etiquette or considerate interaction with others. I feel even minimal teaching time, as little as 10 minutes a week, from kindergarten through high school could work to benefit all children.
Of course, parents should be responsible for this teaching, but many parents are absent or do not bother. A myriad of other situations may exist. Perhaps volunteers would be willing to help out in lieu of burdening teachers with additional duties.
Charlotte Sims, Valrico
A story to cherish
Oh, what joy it was reading The Swan Project in the Floridian section.
I have been in Florida all of March watching baseball and basically reading your paper every day. You do a fine job, but Sunday was a great experience for me to read about the half-dozen or so disadvantaged young ladies.
As I read the story, I just kept crying as I thought of my granddaughter, who is 13 and lost her dad when she was 8, and just a few years earlier lost her mother. While she was not as disadvantaged as these girls in the article, my granddaughter, as well as my daughter, suffered similar things, the most important being the loss of a parent and sometimes not coping so well.
My heart breaks when I read of these beautiful young girls who did not even have utensils to cut their meat let alone not knowing how. My granddaughter was the same until I taught her at age 10.
I just had to write to tell you that I did not enjoy the article — I cherished it and will take it back to Ottawa, Ontario, when I leave. I want both my girls to read it and have a good cry just like I did.
Robert Holloway, Ottowa, Ontario
A wonderful example
What a great article.
It was great to see that the girls became more confident about themselves.
I guess this is what we really could use in our schools to help us improve our educational system.
We hear so much about the problems, but here is a wonderful example of a teacher giving more than 100 percent and it really showed.
Marlene Bedford, Clearwater
All that oil will do us little good
Everyone is justifiably concerned about the rising cost of fuel and our dependence on foreign oil. The answer some say is to allow the oil companies to drill on public lands and coastal waters to generate more oil, the theory being that prices would fall and our dependence on foreign oil would diminish. Prior to the last election we heard the mantra of the Republican Party: "Drill, baby, drill."
Now our president has joined the ranks of those in favor of offshore drilling. The big oil lobbyists must be doing "the happy dance" all the way to the bank.
There is one important fact that these folks neglected to mention: Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, BP and Shell are global corporations committed to their shareholders to make the greatest profit. They are not public-spirited institutions that will offer the American people a discount on America's oil because it's the patriotic thing to do. Can you picture any one of them giving us a break? They sell their product on the open market to the highest bidder, and the new big oil buyers are China and India. So we, the American people, will still be paying premium prices for oil and gasoline, and the oil companies will still be making record profits.
It seems to me that our time and money would be better spent researching alternative energy sources like solar, wind power, biofuels, electric and hydrogen vehicles and conservation. The task of researching alternative energy should not be given to the oil companies. That would be like telling the dairy farmers to come up with an alternative to milk.
Sandy Potter, Brooksville
Where does the oil go?
In all discussions of the need for offshore drilling to increase America's energy independence, I have not seen anyone note that, according to the CIA World Factbook, 16 percent of the oil produced in the United States today is exported to foreign countries.
This raises two points: First, if we want energy independence, why don't we start by forbidding the export of this oil? And, second, what will prevent the oil companies from taking the oil from American offshore wells and selling it to foreign countries for the highest price?
John A. Kroll, Tarpon Springs
America needs offshore energy March 28, letter
An unhealthy influence
So, when the oil interests now talk about drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico they are referring to it as "21st century offshore domestic energy exploration." More drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is a serious threat to our coastal environment and will not substantially reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Some reserves in the gulf are more than 5 miles down and will be costly to tap. It is not worth the environmental risk.
What is critical to our national security is not drilling for more dirty, nonrenewable and polluting oil, but aggressively pursuing alternative clean energy resources to ensure America's continued global leadership role.
Continued reliance on oil, with no aggressive national plan for alternative energy in the future, will maintain the unhealthy influence of oil interests on our government and foreign policy. If you are skeptical of this remark then contemplate the fact that America failed to aggressively pursue the 9/11 terrorists in Afghanistan, which is 209th on the list of oil-producing nations, and went to war with Iraq, which holds the largest untapped reserves in the Middle East.
Gerard Meyn, Dunnellon
America needs offshore energy March 28, letter
Go for it
Regarding the letter about offshore oil development: Bring it on! The American people should urge Congress to streamline the permit process for drilling and nuclear plant construction. Other countries have no problem taking our natural resources, if we do nothing.
Instead of permits for two or three nuke plants, we should start construction on 10 to 12.
The same process could apply to oil drilling.
Think of the engineering as well as the construction jobs that would be created! The sooner we take advantage of our own resources, the better.
Randy Perry, Holiday
A nope for the pope | March 30, Maureen Dowd, column
A sickening situation
I could not agree more with Maureen Dowd! It sickens me that the Catholic Church is only concerned about embarrassment and not the least bit concerned about the victims, the hundreds (if not thousands) of sexually abused children.
The perpetrators, and those who covered for them and continue to do so, or those who excused them, are the most hypocritical, sick and disgusting human beings on Earth.
It sickens me that the church on the one hand tells women what they can and cannot do with their bodies, but it's apparently okay to defile children's bodies any time they feet like it. Talk about entitlement and the ultimate in hypocrisy!
Forgiveness is years away!
Andrea Doyle, Clearwater
A nope for the pope | March 30, Maureen Dowd, column
Maureen Dowd has used her attack on Pope Benedict as an opportunity to spew forth her hatred for the Catholic Church. It is obvious that her vindictiveness runs deep, naming every possible reason she can think of to fault the church for what she perceives as evil.
In the past I have read her defense of the butchering of unborn babies in their mothers' wombs, all in the name of "women's rights." She apparently thinks that is quite okay and the killings, no matter how gruesome or loathsome (more than 50 million now) must continue. She attempts to defend the indefensible, no matter how horrible, and then she has the audacity to judge the pope. How arrogant!
Rita Reber, Palm Harbor
Put court records online for public March 27, editorial
Ensuring public access
Thank you for your editorial. I could not agree with you more on this issue. It is time for electronic access to court records, and we must make this a priority now that the Florida Supreme Court has dealt with the important issue of balancing privacy with freedom of information.
Through the Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee in the Florida Senate, working with members of the Criminal Justice Policy Committee and members of the Florida House, we have taken the following steps to ensure public access to Florida's court records.
The Legislature has delayed the requirement that court records be available to give the courts and the clerks of court time to make such information available in a responsible way. The Legislature has required the courts to implement electronic filing of case information that will make court records more accessible to the public.
Even in these difficult economic times, as we face budget cuts at all levels of state government, it is critical that everyone in Florida have not just access, but quick and easy access to the public court records. We are working closely with the clerks and the courts to implement this in a timely manner. Please rest assured that we will continue to monitor this and bring it to a conclusion.
Victor D. Crist, state senator, Tallahassee
Health care reforms
Seniors will benefit
The health care reforms that recently passed are good for Florida seniors! Seniors will see decreases in their costly deductibles for prescriptions that fall into Medicare's "doughnut hole," with a $250 rebate this year and, beginning next year, a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs in the doughnut hole until it is closed completely in 2020.
Also, young adults will now be covered under their parents' insurance through the age of 26, providing them a level of security while in college and preparing to enter the work force. Insurers can no longer refuse to insure people with pre-existing conditions.
These are only a few of the great benefits the legislation will provide. I hope Floridians will show their appreciation to the Democrats who passed this important legislation by voting Democratic in the fall and 2012 elections.
Mary Hollinger, Tampa
Student loan overhaul
Good news for students
For anyone who's had student loans, it's surprising how long it takes to pay it off. For my brother it has been 12 years since he finished graduate school. He has a young wife and child and is struggling to support them, but he is still just trying to finish paying off his loans for school.
Along with the health care reform came the Education Reconciliation Act, and it's something that we needed badly. Few people were really talking about it and celebrating, and we should be. Pell grant funding is being doubled to help more students afford college. The legislation also revitalizes programming in our community colleges, which will help an additional 5 million Americans receive higher education, and it will cap graduates' loan payments at 10 percent of their income per year.
These investments come at no additional cost to taxpayers and are fully paid for by ending government subsidies currently given to banks that make guaranteed federal student loans.
Anne-Marie Marquise, Odessa
Press on with reforms | March 27, letter
Don't blame schools
This letter from two members of the Florida Council of 100 was disingenuous to say the least. The fact is at present there are up to 10 qualified Floridians for every job opening in this state. Education is not to blame for our poor economy. Big business and a corrupted political structure and corrupt politicians are to blame.
Our current Legislature is wholly owned by corporations and the wealthy, and is driven by greed. Every day we read about corruption and greed in business and in government, but the Florida Council of 100 (which is made up of big business interests) continues to cast blame onto schools, thereby diverting blame from themselves.
The Florida Council of 100 has no real interest in the development of our children beyond producing the cheapest labor possible. The sad fact is no matter how well schools perform, it is the state Legislature and big business (i.e. big money) which will determine our fate. Florida's future does not look bright.
Jim Bailey, Clearwater