I am a hunter and trapper myself. The article regarding the Florida panther shot dead in the Big Cypress National Preserve was very disappointing to read. Whoever committed this crime was not a true hunter and needs to be prosecuted fully.
We, as outdoorsmen and women, must continue to be respectful of our wildlife and wild lands, and responsibly obey the laws and regulations that, for good reason, surround them. To do anything less simply gives all other hunters a bad name to the general public, which may not understand that the majority of us would never do such a thing.
Also, these panthers are not nearly common or prolific enough to "compete" with human hunters for deer or other game; and for those concerned about the big cats preying on livestock, there are many other exclusion methods for deterring and discouraging them from entering such property. Killing them is not the answer.
Please talk with an official of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about any questions or concerns you may have about these animals.
Ellie Willingham, Odessa
Prosecute the offender
With sadness I read about the 18-month-old female Florida panther found shot to death in the Big Cypress National Preserve. When they find the culprit, and I have faith that the authorities will, I hope this person is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
The penalty is up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. In the past, penalties have been probation and a fine of $5,000. If we keep slapping people on the wrists instead of prosecuting them, we will continue to find our Florida panthers in distress.
As a taxpayer and Florida citizen, I want anyone found guilty of killing a Florida panther prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Susan Lignelli Potter, Tampa
Civics program pamphlet laced with religion Dec. 8
Your article about a booklet produced by the National Center for Constitutional Studies was revealing.
The writer went to various fringe groups to obtain comments instead of addressing the booklet's main thrust: namely, that our country and Constitution are based upon our Judeo-Christian heritage. No serious scholar would debate or deny that fact.
You even bring in Cleon Skousen's background and books to try to justify your critiques. However, you omitted mentioning his bestselling book, The Naked Communist, written over 50 years ago and still selling. The reason that book has baffled and embarrassed the leftists among those you quote is because Skousen listed what he, with his FBI background, then perceived were the top 45 goals of the Marxists. In the 50 years since, almost all of these goals have been accomplished, which is very enlightening and uncovers facts the leftists would like to hide.
James Bowers, Madeira Beach
Ending the folly of corn-based ethanol Dec. 6, editorial
Renewables cut gas cost
The Environmental Protection Agency recently released its proposed 2014 blending levels, lowering the conventional biofuels portion of the renewable fuel standard. The Tampa Bay Times' editorial supports the EPA's severe cuts but doesn't delve deeper into the impact of these cuts on gasoline prices, greenhouse gas emissions and American jobs.
If the EPA's proposed blending levels are finalized, gas prices will increase. According to Louisiana State University, a bump in demand for gasoline caused by the new blending levels will increase gasoline prices by 5.7 cents per gallon across the board. As a result, American drivers will spend $7.6 billion more on gasoline purchases in 2014.
Second, greenhouse gas emissions will rise. The use of more gasoline and less ethanol will conservatively increase greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation fuels sector by 5.1 million metric tons. That is the equivalent of adding 1 million cars to the road overnight.
And last, American jobs will be lost. Based on recent economic analysis, the production of 1.4 billion gallons of ethanol supports 7,400 direct jobs and 30,000 indirect and induced jobs. Thus, these jobs will be lost if the EPA's proposal is finalized.
The renewable fuel standard creates and sustains over 383,000 jobs. It reduces Americans' foreign oil dependence from 48 percent without ethanol to 41 percent. It is reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 50 percent and saves consumers approximately $1 per gallon at the pump in 2012 and 2013.
Now is the time to invest in this program, not cut the legs out from under it.
Bob Dinneen, president and CEO, Renewable Fuels Association, Washington, D.C.
E85 is hard to find
I agree that corn should be used for food, not fuel, but where is all the corn ethanol going? Your editorial states that the country is producing more corn ethanol than the fuel supply can absorb.
I purchased a 2006 GMC Sierra that is capable of running on E85 fuel. I was hoping to use it in the truck occasionally, but after owning the truck for seven years I have never visited a gas station that offers it for sale.
I also noticed that a lot of the new cars coming out are capable of running on E85. Why build so many cars and trucks that can run on biofuels when the fuel is not available? We need more renewable biofuels (not corn-based), not less.
Dave Leonarczyk, Tampa
Ballpark with a better view | Dec. 4
Upgrade the seating
I agree that the renovations to Tropicana Field will be very nice. Opening up the outfield area will make things more accessible. It would also be nice if they could put in new seats to provide more room and comfort and add cup holders to all the seats.
Joyce Bartlett, St. Petersburg
A simple handshake | Dec. 11
A diplomatic opening
For those Americans buying into the faux outrage over President Barack Obama having the temerity to shake the hand of Raoul Castro, I suggest you take a crash course in American History 101.
Richard Nixon, as a sitting U.S. president, visited China, opening relations with a regime responsible for some of the most egregious and inhumane atrocities ever perpetrated against mankind. And he was lauded for the effort.
Are there truly those who fail to realize that a gesture that may open a door to civil dialogue is where diplomacy begins?
Robert Shaw, Madeira Beach
Pinellas looks for tutors | Dec. 9
Substitutes need a raise
I have been a substitute teacher for the Pinellas County school district for seven years. In those years teachers have had pay cut, a wage freeze, and seen the cost of their medical insurance rise. This year, teachers received a "pay raise" to offset the cuts they have had to take.
In seven years, there has been no mention of a pay raise for the substitutes in the district. Keep in mind that substitutes receive no benefits.
Now the district has found money to hire college students as tutors at $20 per hour. This is more than double the daily rate of pay for substitutes. After seven years you would think the district could find the finances to provide a raise to the "guest teachers" that the district says are so important to the school system.
Dennis Calora, Oldsmar
Leading in deaths
The anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting inspired a TV special by Fareed Zakaria that aired on Sunday. The special focused on how gun violence in America compares to the rest of the world. In America we have about 10,000 gun deaths per year, which is more than three times than the number of people who died in the 9/11 attacks.
No other country in the world comes close to our gun deaths per capita. Switzerland is third in the list of countries with guns per capita, yet gun deaths per capita there are six times less than in the United States. Switzerland, on the other hand, has much stricter gun laws then we have.
Robert K. Powell, Spring Hill
Florida's cut-rate constitutional crisis Dec. 10, Daniel Ruth column
Disrespect for Christians
This column offers further proof that there is only one group in America that remains fair game for open ridicule: Christians. Not content to simply argue his own cramped views about church and state, Daniel Ruth chooses instead to gratuitously compare those of us who agree with those principles to snake handlers, and feels free to giggle about Christ's resurrection and the idea of speaking in tongues.
William Meister, Lake Elmo, Minn.
38 years for sex with a student | Dec. 10
Term seems excessive
The Hillsborough teacher who engaged in sex with a 12-year-old indeed committed horrible acts and should spend time behind bars. However, a 38-year prison sentence seems excessive. I don't believe I've ever read of a more draconian sentence.
Helga Mahar, St. Petersburg