Father of flu victim in shock | Dec. 21
Death highlights need for vaccines
I share the grief of Tim Harrelson, father of the 27-year-old woman in Dade City who died of swine flu, known officially as H1N1. I also voice his urgent plea that people get the flu vaccine, which includes protection against swine flu.
In December 2009, when my daughter died at age 49 of swine flu, that vaccine was not a part of the regular vaccination. It became available in the fall, but not in time to prevent my daughter's death.
Like Harrelson's daughter, she and her husband became very sick. While they did go to a doctor, swine flu wasn't diagnosed. Three days later it was too late for her. Her lungs filled. She was put on a ventilator but died three weeks later. Her husband recovered. Several others died in Pittsburgh hospitals that year.
Since then I have promoted vaccinations — not just the flu vaccine, but vaccinations for children. And I have joined with the Pinellas Immunization Team for Community Health, organized by the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County. This group, with wide community support, focuses on all vaccines, but particularly the need to increase the percentage of children 2 and under getting the proper vaccines.
Flu kills, and as Harrelson's daughter and mine illustrate, it can kill and cripple people other than the old, very young and infirm.
Some diseases thought to be things of the past, such as whooping cough, measles, mumps, diphtheria, polio, tetanus, chicken pox, smallpox and so forth, are coming back because not enough children are being vaccinated.
Bill Northrop, North Redington Beach
Paying new mayor's staff | Dec. 21
Bigger is rarely better
The mayor-elect's vision of St. Petersburg city government is a perfect example of "bigger government is better government" Democrats. He is adding new staff positions and hoping to pay for this expansion through contingency funds and voluntary staff "reductions."
The previous two administrations managed to run the city well (one administration, admittedly, better than the other one) without this additional staff.
What can these new positions bring to the table and what value will they add? The answer remains to be seen, but based on experience, bigger government is rarely better government.
Mary Bruels, Gulfport
Nice work if you can get it
It's great to see incoming Mayor Rick Kriseman fighting unemployment and poverty in St. Petersburg by hiring his cronies on the city's payroll at nifty six-figure salaries.
The problem is that by establishing a political spoils system, he is perpetuating a bureaucracy for which the city will still be paying the price long after his term in office is over.
Peter Dawson, St. Petersburg
U.S. releases documents on NSA spying Dec. 22
Snowden a whistle-blower
Recently, Shepard Smith on Fox News said that if the courts are saying that what the NSA is doing is unconstitutional, then Edward Snowden is a whistle-blower and not a criminal.
If this is what Fox is saying, then it is going to be hard for President Barack Obama to continue to call him a criminal.
I've thought from the beginning that Snowden is a hero, not a criminal. This shows that this view is becoming more widely accepted.
Michael Otto, Oldsmar
Some dietary aids damage liver | Dec. 22
There's no magic pill
Many people who are overweight or trying to lose weight want a quick fix. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Don't believe the ads that promise quick weight loss with a simple pill or tea. Save your money and get a gym membership instead.
I have lost 90 pounds by simply eating less fat and moving more. I'm 53 years old and at my last check-up my doctor told me I had the blood pressure of a 10-year-old. Yes, it did take me a while to lose the weight, but I did it without the use of any dietary supplement.
Alan Roberts, Largo
D.C. puts no brake on flood rate hike | Dec. 21
I am a middle-class homeowner living in a modest, one-story ranch-style home in South Tampa. Like tens of thousands of other homeowners in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, my flood insurance rates are about to skyrocket. My home is not on the water, does not even have a water view, and has never flooded. Yet due to these changes, if I tried to sell my home today, it would be difficult.
Everyone acknowledges that the 2012 flood insurance reforms — while well-intentioned — have had unintended consequences on middle-class homeowners and the overall real estate market. I urge our lawmakers to fix this law without delay.
In particular, I urge Sen. Marco Rubio to co-sponsor the most promising avenue for reform, which would delay the rate increases for four years. Twenty-six U.S. senators have co-sponsored this bill, but Rubio is not among them. Senator, please do the right thing and stand up for your constituents.
Mark Zajac, Tampa
For a more peaceful nation
As we come to the end of a year in our lives, can we dare to hope for a more peace-filled America? Will we hear "the sound of the dove in our land"?
We rant and rage in political battle. Morale is at a low ebb. We listen to the media express opinions about even inconsequential things. We seem to find ourselves in divisive camps and trenches. We are bombarded by the noise of information leveled at us from every direction. More information is not transformational. We need transformation.
On that note, we need to pivot as Americans to the tranquility of acceptance and recognition of the diversity of opinions around us.
Can 2014 bring us more cooperation and unity? Can we accept this challenge as Americans united in the concepts of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for all?
Florence Laureira, Hudson