Not cold, but chilly | Jan. 6
A history of U.S.-Russia comity
This article says Russian lawmaker Alexander Sidyakin thinks that "relations between our two countries are better than they were 10 years ago, and they are definitely an improvement over where they were 20 years ago."
Having spent a month with citizens of Rybinsk in 1992, it appears that statement only applies to higher-level government politicians. We worked with Rybinsk city officials and newly budding capitalists and could not have asked for a closer relationship.
That relationship dated to Josef Stalin's days as dictator. In our trips to Russia, we were permitted to take medications and other needed goods with us to aid Russian citizens. Where would relations to Cuba be if our government would have supported such interpersonal relationships with Cuban citizens back to the days of their revolution?
Powell Foster, St. Petersburg
Nature meets wrecking ball Jan. 6, Bill Maxwell column
Plunder vs. protection
Ever since Gov. Rick Scott was elected and appointed Herschel Vinyard as head of the Department of Environmental Protection, there has been a monumental shift away from protection of the environment to that of wholesale plunder by those who think wild places are to be exploited. Aldo Leopold, America's leading ecologist, cited this trait of exploitation in his landmark book Sand County Almanac.
It is a sad commentary that Florida's most important asset, the natural environment, is continually under assault by those who are blind to their duty as public servants to act as stewards of this most precious resource. Once it is gone, it cannot be replaced.
Bill Maxwell has done a great service in describing the attitude of current state government officials. Citizens should take action to ensure future leaders have a more enlightened outlook.
Richard Selleg, Palm Harbor
A nuclear fiasco? Hey, just trust us Jan. 8, John Romano column
Solar opportunity missed
John Romano's column on the failed Crystal River nuclear repairs hit home. It is apparent that Progress Energy or its new owner are not capable of repairing the plant or having it go online in my lifetime.
If only the money used for the bungled attempts to repair Crystal River were instead invested in residential and commercial solar power installations, part of our long-term power problems would be solved — and with a 30-year service life. Florida is the Sunshine State, and our future reliance on fossil or nuclear power is either unrealistic or unattainable.
Ken Gagliano, Clearwater
Beyond the bay | Jan. 9
News and advertising
Both local papers, and many across the country, revised and published a national press release about a new beer to be introduced in a television commercial during the Super Bowl.
This brings up a concern about our sacred print media: the fine line between news and advertisements disguised as news. As newspapers, reporters, editors and media leadership become less enterprising and more dependent on prepackaged content, readers are noticing gaps in both the quality and integrity of the social message.
Sure, a story about a new beer might seen innocent enough; however, it takes the space of a more relevant local story and of what should have been a paid advertisement. This slip in editorial judgment isn't new, but as our traditional media continues to dumb down and downsize, fewer experienced people will be sitting in daily news meetings to question what is real and worth reporting, and what is merely a dangling carrot.
Kurt Loft, Tampa
The reason Obama nominated Hagel Jan. 9, commentary
Smart defense spending
David Brooks' assertions equating a reduction in military spending with decline in military power are false. In June 2010, Congress received a report, "Debt, Deficits, and Defense: A Way Forward," which outlined detailed sensible reductions in the military budget of about $1 trillion over 10 years.
This report explores possible defense budget contributions to deficit reduction that would not compromise the essential security of the United States. Looking at the military budget through the lens of "sustainable defense" is a sensible strategy that will serve the American people.
Karen Putney, Tampa
Kindles a hit in the classroom | Jan. 6
Go with what works
Clearwater High's principal calls the digital switch to the Amazon Kindle a "great success." According to this article, "FCAT reading scores jumped 18 percent in the first year … and 14 percent the second" and "the basic Kindles cost … significantly less than a stack of textbooks."
Obviously, this program has exceeded any and all expectations. Yet the school district spokeswoman says there are no plans to expand the program to other schools. Why not?
Scott Stolz, Tarpon Springs
We can thank Boehner for disasters averted Jan. 8, commentary
Pursuit of power
The depths of Ross Douthat's misreading of John Boehner's role in the latest government crises are appalling. Is he talking about the same Boehner who walked out on the president at least three times during the fiscal cliff negotiations? The same Boehner who garnered his own members' rage by not allowing a vote to come up on the floor for aid for Sandy victims (two months after the disaster)?
Douthat refers to a "grandstanding Chris Christie." Is that what you call a governor who is desperate and despairing of aid for the thousands of his residents who are cold, homeless and helpless? Would we have him just allow his residents to continue to be punished for living in the Northeast?
There are two conflicting pursuits going on with Boehner and government. First is the pursuit of power. The other pursuit is the need to pass legislation to aid the country. John Boehner has made clear his interest in abusing his authority at any and all expense to the suffering of the American people.
Laurel Maul, Longboat Key