On the front page of the Tampa Bay Times was a woman who has bravely spent more than three decades speaking out against nuclear weapons. The current negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program will hopefully make the world a little safer by keeping that nation from developing nuclear weapons.
Unfortunately, there are no comparable negotiations to deal with the huge and far more dangerous arsenals of nuclear weapons that already exist. Two decades after the end of the Cold War, more than 17,000 nuclear weapons remain in the world, a significant number of these on high-alert status capable of launching within 30 seconds to three minutes. These weapons are expensive and are poorly suited to address modern military threats. The cataclysmic costs of a nuclear war between the United States and Russia have been extensively studied, but relatively little attention has been given, until now, to a more likely conflict between rival regional nuclear powers such as Pakistan and India.
A new report by Physicians for Social Responsibility finds that a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan involving 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs, less than 0.5 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, would put 2.3 billion people at risk for starvation, cause a major decline in precipitation and a 10 percent decrease in corn and soybean production in the United States for a decade. This is in addition to the more than 20 million people dead within a week from the explosions, firestorms and acute radiation exposure.
The report demonstrates the need for additional research and public discussion to highlight the urgent need to rapidly move forward to the negotiation of a global agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons and the dangers of nuclear war. As stakeholders in this country, we must let our political leaders know that we expect them to work tirelessly to eliminate nuclear weapons not just in the United States, but globally. We must prevent what cannot be cured: a nuclear event — a mistake, terrorism, or war.
Lynn Ringenberg, Tampa
Flood insurance rhetoric ignores reality Dec. 15
Sifting flood program data
This column on the National Flood Insurance Program's subsidized properties takes my organization, the R Street Institute, to task for asserting that NFIP's premium subsidies flow disproportionately to wealthier property owners. While we concede that this is a generalization to which there are exceptions, the nationwide data pretty firmly backs up our contention.
The column faults us for relying on FEMA's county-level data, positing that there may be "wide disparities" in home values within a given county. That's true as far as it goes, but one cannot just wave away FEMA's data as irrelevant. Counties in the top 30 percent of home values account for roughly 80 percent of the NFIP's subsidized properties, and counties in the top 30 percent of income account for 65 percent of them. By contrast, just 9 percent of subsidized properties are in counties in the bottom 30 percent of income.
Clearly, a disparity that stark is not just mere coincidence. The program cannot solely consist of lower-income homeowners who happen to live in wealthy counties. While it's true that not all owners of subsidized properties are "rich," vanishingly few could be considered "poor."
Moreover, the Institute for Policy Integrity has found that, between 1998 and 2008, the wealthiest counties filed 3.5 times more flood insurance claims and received more than $1 billion more in claim payments than the poorest counties. A separate analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office of 10,000 NFIP-insured properties found that 40 percent of subsidized coastal properties were worth more than $500,000, compared to the U.S. median of $160,000. Furthermore, 23 percent of the subsidized coastal properties were second homes or vacation homes.
In fact, second homes account for 345,000 of the 441,000 properties that are seeing their subsidies phased out. Another 87,000 are commercial properties. The bulk of the program's subsidized properties, some 715,000 of them, see no change in their rates unless they are resold, significantly rebuilt or the policy is allowed to lapse.
We at R Street have said repeatedly that, to the extent the changes enacted by the Biggert-Waters Act cause legitimate affordability concerns, those should be addressed through a limited means-tested program. A blanket four-year delay would gut these crucial reforms with no distinction between those who genuinely need help, and the many who do not.
R.J. Lehmann, Washington, D.C.
Winner of the week | Dec. 15
Rhetoric and reality
It's fascinating how Sen. Marco Rubio has described how the Affordable Care Act will destroy America. He signed his family up for Obamacare through the D.C. health exchange, taking advantage of a federal subsidy offered to lawmakers and their staff worth up to $11,000 a year for his family. I wish I could hate something so badly and receive thousands in cash.
Robert Lloyd, Ruskin
A victim of child porn doesn't get to forget Dec. 15
Let the victims heal
Thinking about this article horrifies me, even days after reading it. Is there no way for the former victim to disengage from receiving these notices, or does the law mandate that they continue being tormented like this? How cold and cruel it seems.
Furthermore, every time your newspaper prints a sidebar about the latest arrest for such crimes, the victim surely feels those cold fingers all over again, wondering if another notice is coming.
This is the hellish by-product of all the good intentions of people who want to "draw attention" for the purpose of shaming those who would commit such crimes. There has to be a more compassionate approach both legally and socially that lets victims truly heal and move on with normal lives.
Brian Kastel, Largo
Bouncer charged in killing | Dec. 19
Hire off-duty police
"Bouncers" have no legal authority to put their hands on anyone, the same a security guards. Bouncers can "guide" people out of a bar, however they cannot legally restrain anyone as they are private citizens, nothing more.
The law needs to be changed in Florida to ban bouncers, and bars in which there has been trouble should be obligated to hire off-duty law enforcement.
Mark F. Vinette, St. Petersburg
Government gives, takes
Many people believe that government employees who get cost-of-living adjustments in their pensions have the world by the tail.
I worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 35 years. I have kept track of the increases we have received, along with the increases in taxes and insurance.
Since 2009, my pension and Social Security, both of which receive COLAs, have increased $3,070. This is rather substantial and would seem to be fair with the rate of the rising prices.
However, the cost of taxes, insurance and Medicare has reduced the money we have left over to a minus $738. COLAs are just a large government joke: They take more than they give.
The wonder is that any of them can keep a straight face when they tell us that since last year costs have only risen 1.5 percent. That could only apply if you didn't buy clothes, shoes, food or gas.
Don Kennedy, Largo
Drivers catch misspelled road sign | Dec. 18
It took drivers to point out this mistake?
Of all the people who had to be involved in producing this sign, transporting it to the intersection, and installing it, there was not one person who noticed the mistake? That is scary to contemplate.
Barbara Cabrera, Pine Ridge
Judd soaks up Tampa Bay sun | Dec. 18
Keep off the sand
Seeing Ashley Judd frolicking on Clearwater Beach with her dogs in the Juice column made me wonder why my dog can't play on the beach.
David Steele, Largo