It was heartening to read this article with its timely message that science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, is for girls as well as for boys.
Girls Incorporated of Pinellas believes it is crucial to provide opportunities for STEM education specifically for our girls. Why? Because in an increasingly complex 21st century labor market, STEM skills are critical assets, and this is an area where our country has fallen behind. We simply cannot afford to dismiss 50 percent of our future workforce when it comes to STEM.
It is incumbent on our community to reach out to girls to encourage them to pursue STEM education and careers. For years, the Girls Incorporated Afterschool Academy and Operation SMART Summer Camp have been doing so by providing a unique pipeline for developing future female STEM professionals.
Now, the agency is enhancing our STEM program by recruiting civic leaders, STEM professionals, educational specialists and business leaders for our first community-based STEM Advisory Committee. Readers who yearn to see Pinellas excel in STEM education for girls are encouraged to consider joining the committee.
Renee McInnis, CEO, Girls Incorporated of Pinellas, Kenneth City
Wary court hears gay marriage plea March 27
Off path of righteousness
In the society in which our Founding Fathers lived, the existence of the Creator and His dealings with men were, as Jefferson stated it, "self-evident" — in other words obvious to all intelligent, thinking people. This society believed also that the Bible was God's revelation to man, giving to him the details of his standing before a holy God and his will for conducting his life. Then, all people of faith recognized that homosexuality was outside the will of God and a lifestyle condemned by him as sinful — subject to his judgment.
In our society, there is a strong movement that is striving to make homosexuality (and same-gender marriage) an accepted institution. What has changed? Certainly objective, transcendent truth does not change — God has not abandoned his revelation and his dealings with men.
There have been, however, profound changes in society. The ground of authority has shifted from transcendent, infallible revelation from the living God to the "wisdom" of men. We have been told that there is no God (or that he does not care about the affairs of men), and that there are no absolutes. That gives us the "freedom" to regard precious infants as "fetuses" and eroticism as "love."
Rather than debate about whether sin should be increased in our communities, there should be discussion of how to repent and seek God's mercy. Otherwise judgment awaits the society that abandons righteousness and truth.
James Beaver, St. Petersburg
Early investments pay off
Decades of research confirm that reading on grade level by the third grade is a key divider between those who are likely to be successful and those who are not. Currently, 44 percent of Florida's fourth-graders are not reading at grade level.
The shortfall is most pronounced with low-income children who have not received high-quality school readiness opportunities before kindergarten and high-quality after-school programming through third grade. This population is also at the greatest risk for summer learning loss.
Unfortunately, school readiness funding in Florida has decreased by almost $100 million in the last decade. The Florida After School Network is asking the Florida Legislature to fully fund the School Readiness Program. Helping every Florida child requires a pipeline of high-quality school readiness and pre-K opportunities as well as high-quality after-school programs.
This investment will have big returns for the state and its economy. The Legislature always seems to have billions of dollars for a criminal justice system that copes with the failures of our system. Can we not find a more positive use of a small bit of that money by preventing problems and helping these children succeed? Surely we can and must.
Robert H. Buesing, Tampa
Bills will decide who wins: you or scalpers March 21, John Romano column
The right to resell tickets
A recent Times column raised valid concerns about event tickets, but there were misleading statements that should be addressed.
Quick ticket sellouts are a major problem for consumers. The columnist blames ticket brokers. In reality, often only a small percentage of tickets are even made available to the general public, and tickets allocated to the artist or promoter have been found on the secondary market prior to the public sale.
Regarding HB 1353, I agree with the columnist's reservations. This bill gives venues and ticket sellers greater control over the transferability of tickets, allowing a company like Ticketmaster to essentially gain a monopoly by eliminating competition in the secondary market.
We live in an age where the Internet allows a free exchange of goods at market prices, and that gives consumers more choice in the market, including tickets at below face-value prices. I consider protecting this free market to be very American.
For this reason the Florida Consumer Action Network supports HB 163, which simply ensures that when you buy a ticket, it's your ticket, and ticket sellers can't limit or prohibit you from reselling it, giving it away or donating it to charity.
There are existing laws prohibiting bots and allowing venues to cap the number of tickets an individual can buy, which are upheld by HB 163. It's the reporting and enforcement of infractions that is lacking.
FCAN believes that instead of treating every consumer like a scalper, we need to protect consumer rights and go after those who are actually harming consumers.
Bill Newton, executive director, Florida Consumer Action Network, Tampa
Eroding the rights of 'Roe' March 23, editorial
Floridians should be alert
I applaud the Times' recent editorial opposing attempts to severely limit a woman's right to choose. Legislatures throughout the United States are trying to circumvent Roe vs. Wade and enforce more stringent laws on what a woman can and cannot do with her own body.
The Times failed to mention, however, that there are two bills before the Florida Legislature this session that further erode women's right to medical care. House Bill 395 and Senate Bill 1056 seek, in part, to criminalize abortions and the medical personnel who provide them.
Women in Florida should not be denied access to reproductive health care. In 2012, more than 76,000 women utilized reproductive health care centers throughout the state. These bills would allow lawmakers to legislate what women can and cannot do with their own bodies.
Please call or write to your representative and senator and urge a no vote on HB 395 and SB 1056.
Elizabeth Lockhart, MPH, Tampa
As Duke reels, FPL wins with natural gas Feb. 24
Nuclear plants save billions
This Tampa Bay Times article praised the development of a new, gas-fired power plant. This would be fine, except the article was structured around an inference that the construction of that plant proves that nuclear plants should not be built. This is an illogical conclusion.
A responsible, sustainable portfolio of energy supply depends on combining multiple types of plants that, together, provide diversity by leveraging the different features of each. Natural gas plants and nuclear plants are both necessary even though they have different features. Gas plants have relatively low construction costs and short construction times. Nuclear plants cost more to build initially, and their construction takes longer, but nuclear plants save billions of dollars over time because they require no fossil fuel purchases.
Since the mid 1960s, more than 104 nuclear plants have operated successfully in America. They reliably provide 20 percent of U.S. electricity and 73 percent of total carbon-free electricity supply. For 29 years, Crystal River's three nuclear plants provided Florida with reliable, low-cost, emission-free electricity along with four other reactors in Florida's statewide fleet.
We need a diverse host of energy supplies including natural gas, nuclear, solar, wind, etc., and we should be skeptical of claims suggesting that we must make false choices between energy forms.
Dennis Spurgeon, former assistant secretary, U.S. Energy Department