Report adds to list of tobacco risks | Jan. 18
The risks of meat consumption
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. surgeon general's first report on health hazards of cigarette smoking, his office released a report linking smoking to several new chronic diseases. In addition to the previously known lung and oral cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease, the new diseases include diabetes, erectile dysfunction, cancer of the colon and liver, and stroke.
There are parallels between cigarette smoking and meat consumption:
• The chronic diseases linked to both activities and the associated costs of medical care and lost productivity are comparable.
• The first government reports warning consumers about health hazards of cigarette smoking and meat consumption were issued in 1964 (by the surgeon general) and in 1977 (by the Senate Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs).
• The first warning labels on cigarette and meat packaging were required in 1966 and 1994, respectively.
• Both activities are discouraged by health advocates and both are declining.
But there is one important difference: The meat industry impacts more state economies with more congressional clout than the tobacco industry. Consequently, a surgeon general's report on the hazards of meat consumption is most unlikely.
Our health remains our personal responsibility.
Earl Blanchard, Redington Shores
Gay couples sue Florida | Jan. 22
Limit government role
I propose a simple and sensible solution to end the conflict over gay marriage. The government should get out of the marriage business. Period.
The government can grant the exact same legal rights and privileges to any type of union between two people, but such a union should not be labeled a marriage. All lawmakers would have to do is pass a law replacing the word "marriage" with another term more appropriate for describing a legal contract. All couples would be equal under the law.
A marriage represents a deeply and exclusively personal relationship, so it is a matter the government should leave alone. If two people wish to proclaim their undying love for each other, let them find a way to marry outside the government. If they are religious, they can be married in a religious ceremony. If not, then either they can create their own ceremony or find a conventional secular ceremony. What such marriage ceremonies do not accomplish is to grant legal rights.
This proposal offers three options. One, a couple can enter only into a government-sponsored legal contract of some kind, not called marriage; two, they can participate only in a private religious or secular marriage ceremony; or they can do both.
This proposal is designed to satisfy both those who disapprove of gay marriage and those who approve and also seek equal legal rights for gay couples.
Douglas Campbell, Wimauma
Wanted: a crop of better teachers | Jan. 22
Set the bar higher
This front-page article on developing quality teachers provides important information. The headline itself prompts the question: Better than what?
The article states that colleges of education admit applicants with a 2.5 GPA — essentially C students. Here's the first problem. Teaching is a complex occupation. It requires passion, stamina, deep knowledge and intuition.
Pinellas County is right to raise beginning teacher salaries to $40,000 because money is the way our society acknowledges proficiency and confers social status. But central to teachers' roles is deep content knowledge that allows a practitioner to meet the spontaneous questions of bright, engaged students at the same time as managing classroom behavior — not an easy task.
Students who can achieve only a 2.5 in college shouldn't make the cut in education schools. We have to demand more from these candidates.
Antonia Lewandowski, Largo
Jackson House plan halted | Jan. 18
A shame it can't be saved
I'd like to thank all the folks who, over the past few years, have stepped up to try and save the Jackson Rooming House, a historical black monument. Unfortunately, for various reasons, none has been successful.
I've been in Tampa for many years and have seen the city spend good money on far less important causes.
I honestly can't understand why the city can't find the funds to preserve something that is of such importance to the history of Tampa.
It seems a real shame.
Anthony Roberts, Tampa
Thanks for reading; it has been an honor Jan. 19, Robyn Blumner column
Infuriating, heartfelt, honest
As a confirmed middle-of-the-roader and (very) occasional left-leaner, I've lost count of the times Robyn Blumner has infuriated me with her liberalism. However, hers was usually the second column I read in my favorite section of the Tampa Bay Times. I think it was her heartfelt conviction and honesty regarding her view, and her occasional nod to the right, that made me hardly ever miss her column.
I will miss her column, if for no other reason but to gain a clearly thought-out statement of the view of "the other side."
I wish her Godspeed, in spite of her professed atheism.
Terry D. Roy, St. Petersburg
She will be missed
It was with mixed emotions that I read Robyn Blumner's final column. While I am happy for the unique opportunity that awaits her, I am saddened by the loss of her point of view as a regular part of your editorial section. I have been a loyal reader of the Times for over 50 years and of Blumner since her first column appeared.
Please extend my best wishes to Blumner in her future endeavors. Let's hope that the Times can find a fitting replacement for this gifted writer and dynamic voice for the liberal mind-set.
Duncan Hitchcock, New Port Richey
In a lightning strike of irony noted in the golden halls of Heaven itself, Robyn Blumner, noted socialist and atheist, has proved by her resigning that there is a God.
Gary West, St. Petersburg