I was saddened as I witnessed the final launch of space shuttle. Even though the NASA program began before I was born, I have been a follower of its advances, triumphs and, sadly, its tragedies. Growing up in Florida gave me the opportunity to visit Kennedy Space Center on numerous occasions and witness the first space shuttle launch in 1981.
But what NASA possessed in intelligence and determination, it lacked in public relations. Years ago, NASA should have hired a top-notch PR firm to promote its discoveries and continually tout its benefits to this country and the world. How many Americans know the numerous inventions that stemmed from NASA technology? The ear thermometer, scratch-resistant eyeglasses, memory foam, invisible braces, shock-absorbing shoe insoles, cordless tools and water filters are just a few.
Thousands of jobs related to the space program are being eliminated around the country. Do Americans know that the monstrous orange fuel tank attached to the shuttle was built in Louisiana and that parts of the shuttle were constructed in Utah? My guess is no.
Until another manned spacecraft is designed and built, Americans will have to rely on other nations (namely Russia) to "hitch a ride" to the International Space Station. As we wait for private enterprises to create new transportation, we assume "second place" in an industry that we once dominated.
Kimberly Caminiti, St. Petersburg
Invest, lead and inspire
The Roman Empire, the British Empire and the Soviet Union were mighty. Due to decisions their leaders made, now they are gone. It wasn't obvious then that the decisions were very important, let alone that they would bring down the most powerful empires in history.
America has relinquished the space shuttle, losing our nation's only vehicle capable of carrying crew and cargo into space. Is American growth and leadership at an end? We must act now, while we can, to build a future brighter than our past.
I suggest an immediate increase in federal spending on nonmilitary research and development focused on the National Institutes of Health, Energy Department, NASA and National Science Foundation. This will boost our economy, creating industries and jobs. The American era isn't over unless we've lost the courage to invest, lead and inspire.
Jay Wittner, Bradenton
A lost national treasure
With the space shuttle on its last voyage, America, the country that has owned the space program for over 40 years, is turning over its ownership to Russia. Due to the shortsighted leadership of both NASA and Washington, we have lost a national treasure.
We now must pay millions of dollars to have our astronauts and gear shuttled into space by a country that has nuclear weapons pointed at us. As Americans we should be ashamed. Not of our brave heroes who worked or rode into space, but of the shortsightedness that led to our having to send them into space by way of a Russian taxi service.
Ray Day, Spring Hill
So all pay their fair share, raise rate on capital gains
Individual income tax rates for middle-class Americans are generally 20 to 25 percent of annual income. Why is it that rich Americans in the upper-income tax brackets who derive most of their income from capital gains pay only a paltry 15 percent? Shouldn't the well-to-do in America pay the same 20 to 25 percent of income like the rest of us?
Erna Shields, Largo
Close loopholes, end breaks
House Speaker John Boehner says "the American people" do not want to raise taxes on anyone, but the truth is that the Republican Party does not want to raise taxes on the wealthy. Closing loopholes and allowing a temporary tax break to lapse is not the same as raising taxes.
The Republican Party claims that the president is trying to raise taxes on the people who create jobs. Unfortunately, those people are creating jobs in India, the Philippines and Mexico.
Cheryl Colvin, Odessa
Carrot and stick
The ironic thing about the failure to resolve the deficit problem in a timely manner is that the decline in the stock market and investment loss could far outweigh some nominal increase in tax rates. The Republicans need to at least "throw a bone" with regard to taxes.
I suggest eliminating the corporate income tax in exchange for all excess profits earned abroad to be subject to distribution as dividends, where they would be taxed on personal returns. Carrot and stick.
Michael Monaghan, Tampa
Casey Anthony trial
Jurors shouldn't profit
Due to the outcome of the Casey Anthony trial, I would like to see a law passed in Florida that jurors cannot profit from their service. The possibility of jurors making large sums by performing their civic duty can influence their decisionmaking process.
Candy Stecher, Pinellas Park
Errors blamed in girl's death | July 9
Technology reduces risk
I wish to express my condolences to the family of Jessica Kohut, who died after receiving a transfusion of a blood platelet component that was apparently contaminated by bacteria. I have experienced this tragedy from the perspective of a pediatrician, a blood bank physician and currently as medical director for Cerus Corp., a company that is aiming to prevent this problem.
Although the safety of America's blood supply has improved, bacterial contamination of blood products is not rare. Even after testing, approximately 1 in every 1,500 platelet components is contaminated with bacteria, and some of these present serious risks. This is an unacceptable level of risk, particularly when tools to address it exist.
Cerus' technology is in use in many parts of Europe to reduce the risk of transfusion-transmitted diseases by "inactivating" a broad range of infectious microbes, including bacteria, in donated blood. The technology is not yet approved in the United States, although we are working with the Food and Drug Administration.
William Reed, M.D., Cerus Corp., Concord, Calif.
When you're sleeping, they're creeping July 10
Don't demonize panthers
The headline "When you're sleeping, they're creeping" is unduly frightening given the fact that the article says that since 1900 there have been no confirmed attacks on humans by panthers.
With just over 100 panthers remaining in the state, panthers are not close to being out of the woods. By using a headline framing the panther as evil and dangerous, you have demonized our endangered state animal.
David Gross, Tampa
County targets food funds | July 11
Waiting for 'trickle-down'
I guess the old folks who need Meals on Wheels will just have to wait for "trickle-down" economics to trickle down to them. Because it would be terrible for the wealthy to have to pay slightly higher taxes so old people could have a decent meal or so children or the disabled could have food or health care.
Pamela Muller, St. Petersburg
'New Car' not a good ride | July 7
Review crosses the line
Theater critic John Fleming crossed the line from giving a thoughtful critique of the Banyan Theater's production of Becky's New Car to being a petulant snob who has to insult the audience to get his point across.
He wrote that the playwright has "fallen into the habit of writing to please the comfortable theatergoers likely to be found at a venue such as Banyan." I would like to know exactly what is meant by the vague references to "comfortable theatergoers" and "a venue such as the Banyan." I'm sorry if we cannot meet your peculiar standards for an audience and instead enjoy ourselves at a delightful evening of excellent theater.
Mark Stokes, Sarasota
Get it done, quickly
Do you want Social Security checks halted? Medicare disrupted? Another stock market meltdown? State and city government shutdowns? A global financial crisis?
If not, tell your GOP representatives and senators to increase the debt ceiling — with no strings attached — now.
Paul R. Koenig, Clearwater
During the Bush administration, when the budget surplus was squandered and debt piled up, Republican leaders in Congress — John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl — collectively cast 19 votes in favor of raising the debt ceiling, accounting for nearly $4 trillion.
Ed Flanagan, St. Petersburg
She's quick to call police | July 12
Remember the risks
In light of the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, this article on Michele Bachmann seems partisan and petty.
Carolyn Mahy, Palm Harbor
Tea party vs. manatees | July 13
Ideology over reason
This article is yet another example of the perils of placing ideology over reason, theology over science. Just when I thought people couldn't possibly be more ignorant, selfish or paranoid, the tea partiers have proved me wrong.
Durk Gescheidle, New Port Richey
Manatees and tourism
Edna Mattos with the Citrus County Tea Party is foolish to think Kings Bay will lose visitors unless the boat speed limit allows for waterskiers and high-speed personal watercraft.
In reality it is mostly the locals who want the higher speed in Kings Bay. They have seen the manatees and cruised the shoreline for years and want to get where they are going in a hurry or use the bay for high-speed water sports.
The speed limit in winter is "no wake" to help protect the manatees that fill the bay system and stay around the springs during cold fronts. Extending the no-wake zone to the rest of the year will encourage more manatees to remain in the bay system and enhance the opportunity for tourism.
Robert Weisman, Tampa
Despite all the inanity espoused by Edna Mattos, I suppose we should be thankful that a tea partier actually concedes that dinosaurs once roamed this planet.
David Bailes, Safety Harbor
Budget calls for spending increase | July 13
Get out the red pencil
It's little wonder that Pinellas County government spending has gotten out of control with the attitude expressed by administrator Bob LaSala that he was "skeptical of going through an itemized review of spending." I thought this was why we elected commissioners. If they haven't been doing their job, it's time to replace them.
Robert W. Schultz, St. Petersburg