March's letter of the month
The winning letter addressed health insurance.
ACA made insurance affordable
I would like to share my experience. In spite of maintaining a very healthy lifestyle, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer 14 years ago at the age of 45. I had surgery and they found a few malignant tumors. I survived. I had insurance through my work and some savings, so I was able to pay for my medical attention.
Two years ago I resigned from my job. I was happy to discover I was able to get health insurance since the Affordable Care Act forced the insurance companies to waive my pre-existing condition, and I did not have to pay an exorbitant premium because I was a cancer survivor. With the new GOP-proposed health care plan, my subsidies will be reduced from $10,000 to $4,000. I cannot afford that. I will lose the insurance.
Millions of Americans, I think, share my circumstance and will lose coverage so the GOP can give tax breaks to the wealthy.
I urge Congress to say no to repeal/replace of the ACA. Health care should be a right at birth and not a privilege. This is not a crazy idea: Any other developed country in the world recognizes this fact.
Martha Guzman, Wimauma
U.S. strikes Syria airfield | April 7
Step in the right direction
As a Syrian-American, I see the strike the U.S. president ordered as being against Syria's illegitimate dictator and his brutal regime, not the Syrian people. I am not a fan of President Donald Trump and I am definitely not a fan of U.S. military interventions in other countries, but I make an exception here.
Syria, a small country with a population of 22 million before 2011 (more than 7 million have fled), has been suffering since 1963 when the Ba'ath regime grabbed power in a bloody coup. In 1970, the then-defense minister, Hafez Assad, took over in another bloody coup and consolidated power till he died in 2000. His son Bashar took over, even though Syria is a republic and supposed to have presidential elections. Both Assads, father and son, ruled with an iron fist and a human rights record that put them alongside the world's most brutal dictators.
In 2011, with the rise of the Arab Spring, peaceful demonstrations broke out demanding freedom. They were immediately met with a brutal clampdown that left thousands of demonstrators dead and wounded. Six months later, people started defending themselves, which made the regime escalate the suppression and brutality, using the air force to drop all types of bombs on residential areas without any regard to human lives or international law. I believe that the lack of swift reaction of the free world, especially the West, contributed to the escalation.
Since early 2012, the Syrian opposition has demanded a no-fly zone to prevent the Assad regime from dropping bombs on civilians, but this didn't happen. They demanded declaring U.N. safe areas so people could be safe from bombing, but this also didn't happen. The world stood watching passively while Syrians were slaughtered every day.
In 2013, the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on a large scale in a suburb of Damascus, killing over 1,000 civilians. This crossed the "red line" that President Barack Obama set, but unfortunately the threat was empty, which seemed to encourage Assad to kill more people using chemical and conventional weaponry.
Now this strike by the Trump administration seems to be a step in the right direction. First, it sends a message to Assad and the Russians that the Americans are not out of the equation. It tells Assad that there will be consequences to what he does. In my opinion, this strike must be followed by more actions to destroy Assad's capability to kill Syrians. I believe the United States can and should do more, militarily and diplomatically, without an invasion or putting troops on the ground. I also believe that once Assad is removed, terrorist groups like ISIS will vanish in short time.
Saleh Mubarak, Tampa
Unjustified and reckless
There are several reasons why I feel these strikes were unjustified and reckless. First, I don't believe Bashar Assad has chemical weapons, as his stocks were removed, overseen by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a U.N. unit.
Second, President Donald Trump said a few days ago that Assad could stay in power.
Third, it would be extremely foolish for Assad to use chemical weapons and risk the world's condemnation at this point in the Syrian civil war.
Fourth, the United States, Israel and Turkey are uninvited by Syria and have no legal justification for military intervention in that country.
Fifth, Russia has been invited into Syria, and their presence could result in a military confrontation with the United States, which could lead to world war.
Sixth, because the U.S. government has used false flags, e.g. Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, and others, I distrust the validity of the justification for the cruise missile strike.
Christopher Dowling, Largo
To get big things done, let's meet in the middle | April 5, commentary
Put people, not party, first
The leaders of the Democrats in general want the government to provide a "cradle to grave" way of life for Americans. Republicans tend to prefer a lot smaller government. Regardless of your political views, the TV show 60 Minutes showed what one private citizen can do.
A man from Memphis was hired by an anonymous donor to teach chess to some elementary school children in a very poor area of Mississippi. Not only did these young men and women learn chess, they entered contests and were ranked in the top 10 for their age group. Side bonuses were that their grades improved and they developed a lot of self-esteem and pride.
This is just one example. Just think what the richest in the country could do if each of the multi-millionaires and billionaires took a greater role in education, providing better living conditions as well as opening and supporting health clinics.
Let's put aside the political fighting and the party of "no" (which is now the Democrats) and put America and its citizens first.
Tom Craig, Riverview