Once again America puts itself on the wrong side of the international debate, and the wrong side of history, by yielding to powerful interest groups who support the position of Israel. These groups have bought our Congress just as thoroughly as have business interests, but in the service of a foreign government.
The vast majority of the world's nations voted to accept Palestine as a UNESCO member despite the expected cutoff of U.S. funding. The developing world, like the Palestinians victims of colonialism, voted overwhelmingly for Palestine's admission. Emerging powers like China, India, Brazil and South Africa were at the forefront.
The United States, Canada and Australia, all of whom seized their countries from native populations, opposed the Palestinians.
A generation from now, the tide will turn far more strongly against Israel. This is why the United States should insist on peace now. Israel will have to accept pre-1967 borders, with minor exceptions, and admit Palestinian refugees. Or, pressure groups can prevent this from happening and a generation from now Israel will be forced to accept peace terms that are far worse.
Arthur Volbert, St. Petersburg
The acceptance of Palestine by UNESCO is a prime example of what's wrong with the United Nations. It has become just a forum for most of the member nations to throw rocks at us while we pay for 22 percent of its operations. Maybe the United Nations should re-establish its headquarters in Gaza.
Dayle Stevens, Largo
Occupy Wall Street
For those Occupy Wall Street critics who just don't get it, maybe Gene Isenberg's retirement payout from Nabors Industries can be used as one of many examples that will cast some light on the protesters' message.
Nabors, a land-drilling contractor, and retiring CEO Isenberg agreed to a $100 million cash payout. This is the same executive who was listed as one of the five most overpaid executives in 2009 ($79 million) by CNN Money.
The size of this compensation represents an unconscionable attack on what could otherwise be invested in additional capital, creating hundreds if not thousands of new jobs.
Mickey Saperstone, Wimauma
Lax regulation costs lives | Oct. 31, letter
Safety pays dividends
In 2010, the Abilene Group consulting firm completed a study of accident prevention and found that companies with proactive risk-management strategies are able to more effectively cut costs as well as improve productivity. A premise in almost every graduate course in safety management is that adherence to good safety practices brings more worker productivity, which results in more profits.
Ronald E. Long, Spring Hill
One way to save lives and money | Oct. 27
Alternative to hospitals
In the past decade, Florida's nursing homes — technically referred to as skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities — have seen a tremendous growth in their patients' medical and clinical complexity. Today's health care environment dictates that patients be discharged from hospitals at an earlier stage of their healing than just 10 years ago. However, they may unfortunately still have complex medical issues that can lead to complications.
In fact, nearly 25 percent of all acute-care patients are returning to the hospital within 30 days for treatment of their original admitting condition. These "bounce-backs" contribute to the rising cost of care; drive up the use of avoidable, unnecessary treatments and procedures; and even hasten patient mortality.
Instead of re-entering the hospital, many post-acute-care patients throughout Florida are now able to receive high-quality, complex care services at skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities and then return to home or elsewhere in the community.
Skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities are part of the answer for helping to reduce costs, a fact that warrants attention in the context of the discussion on the need to reduce health care costs for our seniors.
Dr. Mark Gloth, vice president, chief medical officer, HCR ManorCare, Toledo, Ohio
Deregulation to blame
A reader wrote that "the near-collapse of our economy … started with the government pushing banks to violate their fiscal principles to make loans in the name of 'expanded homeownership.' "
He's almost right. What he's referring to is the Community Reinvestment Act, which encouraged banks to provide credit for homeownership in their own neighborhoods. The act, however, also required banks to loan only to those with the ability to repay.
The real culprit in the housing collapse was repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, enacted in the wake of the Great Depression. Glass-Steagall created a wall between commercial banks and investment banks, forcing banks that issued loans to assume the risk. Its repeal, a Republican initiative spearheaded by Phil Gramm, allowed commercial banks to bundle their loans and sell them as securities. That made it profitable for banks to issue loans to anybody and everybody, regardless of actual creditworthiness, since they could pass the risks on to investors.
So yes, blame the government — specifically the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the enactment of Commodity Futures Modernization Act that deregulated the sale of derivatives.
Robert Sterling, St. Petersburg
Roche scolded for card use | Nov. 2
Official served the public
Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche should be applauded. He did what Largo and/or Pinellas County would not do — clean up a yard because of citizens' complaints. It's very much like what Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona is doing in trying to protect the state's border from illegal immigrants because the federal government will not.
The code enforcement process is very slow. Usually it means notifying the homeowner in person and giving him so many days to correct the code violation. If not corrected by that date, a letter is sent with a new deadline. If it's still not done, the homeowner is asked to the Code Enforcement Board, which can give him another date. Months go by.
Neighbors want action. Norm Roche gave it to them. Congrats, Norm.
Tom Vath, South Pasadena
Those who excoriated Gov. Rick Scott when he refused stimulus funds for high-speed rail should take a look at what is happening in California.
California accepted $2.25 billion of stimulus funding in 2009 for a high-speed rail project that was estimated to cost $33.6 billion and to be completed in 2020. The cost estimate has now increased to $98.5 billion and completion has moved to 2033.
Californians have not yet seen the thousands of jobs that high-speed rail was supposed to produce because actual construction is not scheduled to start until next year. It is now questionable whether construction will ever start due to the increased cost.
Californians hoped high-speed rail would help their employment and transportation problems. Unfortunately, they are getting a dose of realism.
R.J. McDarby, Valrico
Bank of America backs off debit card fee plan Nov. 2
Backlash is growing
It's time for big businesses to take heed. Revolts against corrupt governments and authoritarian regimes have now trickled down to the average person trying to survive and make ends meet.
Enough is enough, and until big businesses learn to scale down their projected gross revenues to stay in line with the current economy, there will be more and more backlash from the customers they are burdening with fees.
Mary Jane Callihan, St. Petersburg
Psst, this place has lots of free stuff | Oct. 31
More bargains at libraries
In addition to all the wonderful services and bargains you highlighted in this article about libraries, I wanted to add the benefits of visiting the used book stores offered by many of the libraries.
Our Largo Library used book store, operated by the Friends of the Largo Library, is staffed by volunteers and filled with donations ranging from paperbacks to puzzles, videos to children's books, priced from 50 cents up to reasonable fees for the newest hardcovers. All proceeds go directly to the library.
Betty Patterson, Largo
Medicare plan choice
Dec. 7 is remembered by all as a "day of infamy"; however it is also the close of the open period for selecting a Medicare plan. Each year the Times has published a comprehensive overview of plans offered in our area that gives accurate data.
Please do not get your health care advice from TV or other advertising. Consult with your primary care physician and your specialists.
Not all plans are accepted by all doctors; your doctor may not accept the plan you are considering. Be safe and do your homework, as you will be living (hopefully) with your choice for the coming year.
Austin R. Curry, Tampa