U.N. expert rethinks Israel-Gaza report | April 3
Israel defended itself in line with the law
Last year, in the now-infamous "Goldstone Report," U.N.-appointed investigator Richard Goldstone accused Israel of intentionally targeting civilians during the 2008-09 Gaza conflict. Predictably, the report made front-page news around the world and launched a barrage of anti-Israel protests.
Now Goldstone has penned an op-ed in the Washington Post saying that further investigation revealed that Israel did not, in fact, intentionally target Palestinian civilians. He wrote: "We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war. … If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document."
At last, the truth is clear. Israel defended itself in Gaza in accordance with international law. Israel put its own soldiers at risk in order to protect Palestinian civilians. Hamas, on the other hand, fired rockets that, according to Goldstone, were "purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets."
Setting the record straight will not be easy. But justice demands that the international community follow Goldstone's lead and abandon the disgraced Goldstone Report.
Jonathan Ellis, president, Jewish Federation of Tampa; Steve Schwersky, president, Jewish Federation of Pinellas County
Higher standard needed
Time and again we read reports about the questionable activities of our political leaders at the County Commission, Legislature, Governor's Office and elsewhere that are deemed to be "unethical but not illegal."
The most recent are Ray Sansom and Gov. Rick Scott. Earlier characters include Jim Norman.
These people are so crass that they proclaim themselves "vindicated." There is no shame attached to being "unethical"; the emphasis is on "not illegal." The standard is set, and the farce continues.
We need a system in which political leadership is educated to see themselves as ethical and in office for the public good; not in there to make government into a business for their own benefit.
Mortimer Brown, Lutz
Absence of inspiration
My regret as a Republican elected official is the lack of leadership in either party. President Barack Obama panders to the right and left depending on how is TelePrompTer is set up. House Speaker John Boehner panders to the diverse and rather scary makeup of his freshman class in the House. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi scares the bejesus out of those of us from the heartland. And presidential wannabees like Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney seem to believe that Sarah Palin and her band of malcontents represent something bigger than a temporary blip on the political radar.
When I was a young teacher in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan renewed my trust in government after decades of assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate, stagflation and Jimmy Carter. Reagan made be proud to be a Republican, and more important, proud to be an American. Decades earlier, Franklin Roosevelt did the same for my grandparents' generation. Both men rebuilt their parties by welcoming masses of working-class people and other constituents. FDR and Reagan had clear visions for America and the world, and inspired us to be better.
I don't see in the current crop of politicians the kind of leadership to break the stalemate in Washington and get our federal deficit under control.
Jeff Stabins, Hernando County commissioner
Teachers' worth found outside tests | April 1, commentary
Learning bears fruit
As the columnist has demonstrated, student success (to which teachers are contributors) does not always manifest itself in a specific time period.
The teachers mentioned in this column waited years to see the fruits of their labor. They exemplify the "farmer" component of teaching. They planted "seeds" of learning and nurtured students as they thought best.
The "harvest" that they reaped in Marie Myung-Ok Lee's success as a journalist came years later, but was no doubt the result of their efforts and parents who were involved in their child's education.
Education is a team effort. Rome was not built in a day.
Suzanne S. Austin-Hill, Ruskin
Hillsborough judge in Islam case is no liberal April 1
Professionalism on bench
I am writing to add my voice to those in support of Judge Richard A. Nielsen with respect to the recent spate of articles and blogs resulting from his ruling on the Tampa mosque case. The judge, because of the judicial canon of ethics, is not in a position to defend himself.
While I have no personal or professional involvement in the Tampa mosque case, I have had the privilege of practicing before Judge Nielsen on a number of occasions in civil cases representing both plaintiffs and defendants. In every case in which I have appeared before him, Judge Nielsen has acted with absolute judicial integrity, fairness and professionalism. I have been on both the winning and losing sides of arguments before the judge, but in each instance, I found that he made a careful, considered decision.
Barry A. Cohen, Tampa
Medicare will cover $93,000 cancer drug March 31
The new drug Provenge, for advanced prostate cancer, costs $93,000. It can extend your life for four months. The drug is manufactured by Dendreon Corp., which figures to make a billion dollars in the first year.
Then we have the Bristol-Myers Squibb drug for skin cancer that will extend your life for 10 months. The cost is $120,000.
Thank goodness years ago drugs were made to help people and not line the pockets of drug companies. Just think what they would have charged for vaccinations for polio, measles and smallpox.
Earl Trongeau, Brooksville
Disaster slaps U.S. economy | March 31
Put citizens to work
The earthquake in Japan is a terrible thing. Now the United States is going to suffer the consequences of shortages of Japanese products. Let's open up our factories and put our citizens back to work to make our own products, just like the old days. We shouldn't rely on foreign countries for our merchandise.
I wish the Japanese people a speedy recovery.
Daniel R. Van Buhler, Pinellas Park
Doubts cloud Rays' opener | April 1, editorial
Stadium is team's job
If they Rays want a new stadium, they can pay for it themselves. There is absolutely no reason the city should make an enormous, multimillion-dollar investment in a private company without receiving some type of ownership.
Carson Zimmer, St. Petersburg
Bring back helmet mandate
About 10 years ago, the mandate for motorcyclists to wear helmets was dropped. As a retired registered nurse/public health nurse, I have home-visited the victims who have chosen not to protect their heads and have walked away very saddened.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be spent on these tragic victims over their usually short life spans. If Gov. Rick Scott would act to reinstate this mandate, most Floridians would be very pleased.
Alice E. Stein, Belleair
An ethical swamp
Anyone who watches television has seen these wonderful savers of mankind, the lawyers. Everyone is guilty: doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, the Social Security Administration, people involved in car accidents. The good attorneys should clean up their profession and expose those "ambulance chasers" who cost every business and citizen thousands of dollars in increased costs.
Stanley Glassey, Gulfport
Bullying of gay students gets attention at forum | April 4
Hurtful toll of bullying
Though this article focuses on the panel discussion regarding gay bullying, bullying is a problem that extends far beyond Pinellas County and the gay community.
As reported on bullyingstatistics.org, a third of teens reported being bullied at school. Furthermore, a recent study published in Pediatrics shows bullying's effects include emotional disorders, psychosis, depression, poor physical and mental health, violence, social problems, academic failure, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and actions.
I'm glad to know the problem of bullying is beginning to receive attention and that awareness is being raised. Let's hope no other child will have to face humiliation for his or her differences.
Maria Montoya, College Station, Texas
A question of fear
His ragged cardboard sign reads, "God as my witness, no alcohol, no drugs. Just hungry." My 6-year-old, who has just learned to read signs, asks, "Mom, why don't you give him something?"
I try to explain that I only have credit cards in my purse. "Can't you give him your credit card? His sign says 'anything helps.' "
My daughter has no concept of money. She just sees one human being reaching out to another for help. So before the light changes I decide to give him a box of doughnuts. It's not nutritious and it won't sustain him for long, but it's something. The man takes it gratefully.
That's when I understand that there is no difference between me and the man on the corner. I could predict that if I were suddenly homeless, I would find a shelter and take any job before I would beg at an intersection. That may be true. Then again, I don't know what a dire situation might push me to do.
Ultimately, I have no solution. I only know that the wall that divides the rich and the poor isn't just about money; it's also about fear.
Kim Rueden, Tampa
Valuable to community
Readers need to be aware of the role state probation officers play in keeping Florida's communities safe. With budget cuts planned for the Department of Corrections, probation and parole officers are in jeopardy.
We assist offenders back into the community through re-entry efforts. We closely monitor sex offenders, violent felony offenders, gang members and those with addictions to prescription pills.
We make arrests when offenders are found in violation of their probation. We conduct searches of offenders' homes and curfew checks.
Even without a raise in over five years, felony probation officers continue to strongly believe in our profession. We are dedicated public servants. The thought of privatizing this branch of law enforcement is cause for concern.
Delaine Rollenhagen, New Port Richey
Painful medicine required
How this country and state got into the financial mess we're in is debatable. But the last election made a statement that the mountain of debt our governments have piled up needs to be leveled by reducing the cost of running government.
It seems that the newly empowered Republicans are trying to face facts and reduce our collective debt, albeit somewhat painfully. If the Democrats have any real, decisive ideas for seriously reducing debt and cutting costs, let them state those proposals and get into the process. Other than offering meager reductions that hardly scratch the surface, many Democratic leaders seem to be doing nothing but crying foul against real change.
Anthony J. DeDomenico, St. Petersburg
School lunch plan gains ground | April 1
This article further illustrates why there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans claim to be for more freedom and less regulation. Yet Adam Putnam, a Republican, says that a lot has changed since January 2009 and credits Michelle Obama with heightening the national awareness of child obesity.
He further states that "this is an opportunity not to be missed." But what our kids eat is a parent's responsibility, not government's.
What exactly is a conservative? Is it just abortion, guns and God? It makes me glad I voted for the libertarian candidate Ira Chester for agriculture secretary. He would have left it to us to decide what foods our children eat.
Chris Creus, Clearwater
Baker's book big on G's | April 1
Robert Heinlein said, "One man's religion is another man's belly laugh." The novelist would be amused to read former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker's claims of divine help.
Why didn't Baker tell us sooner about that "green flash sunset"? Wow — an omen that St. Petersburg under Baker would become the best city in America. Has it happened yet?
Noam Chomsky has stated that three-quarters of the American population literally believe in religious signs. So I suppose Baker's perspective is not unusual, but it is pathetic.
Donald B. Ardell, St. Petersburg