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Tourism deserves state support

Senate grills tourism leaders | Feb. 12, story

Tourism deserves state support

I understand and sympathize with legislators who are making the most difficult budget decisions in recent history. In light of the current budget shortfall, all organizations and businesses must evaluate spending and preserve resources wherever possible.

Of course, VisitFlorida is accountable for the state tax dollars and tourism industry dollars that it manages. The organization's budget is scrutinized, edited and approved by the board of directors, which includes Gov. Charlie Crist and tourism leaders statewide. As the chairman of VisitFlorida's board of directors and a working member of Florida's tourism industry, I have been part of this budget process firsthand. As a public/private partnership, VisitFlorida is also held accountable by the private sector, which — especially in tough times — would not continue to match $2 to every $1 the state invests in the organization if it were not well managed.

VisitFlorida already redirected $1.2 million of its operational budget to fund an economic stimulus advertising campaign that will bring visitors and increase tourism-related tax revenue to Florida.

Tourism taxes represent 19 percent of our state's total revenue. It is Florida's largest industry and contributes more to the state and local economies than any other. Nearly 1 million Floridians like me work in the tourism industry, and tourism works for Florida.

While we face a difficult economic climate, we must continue to invest in tourism marketing to attract visitors who spend money and generate revenue for our state. Just last year, VisitFlorida advertising directly attracted 12.5 million visitors who infused $9.75 billion into Florida's economy. I urge the Legislature to carefully examine any proposed cuts to the tourism industry and to take action to keep the Sunshine State competitive.

Richard Goldman, chairman, VisitFlorida Board of Directors

"Why did they do this?" | Feb. 16, story

Hamas is to blame for Gaza's misery

Susan Taylor Martin would have us believe that Israel launched an unnecessary war against Gaza, a preposterous notion given the terrifying rocket attacks that citizens of southern Israel have had to endure for years. The idea that prior to this war Hamas was seriously interested in negotiating a renewal of the shaky cease-fire and the release of a kidnapped Israeli soldier — while continuing to rain ever more deadly rockets on Israeli homes and schoolyards — flies in the face of reality.

The only reason these thugs are now clamoring for a cease-fire is the serious damage that Israel's military action has inflicted on Gaza and on the Hamas leadership itself. Anyone who thinks otherwise is naive and fails to understand the nature of this insidious, implacable foe.

The only thing trustworthy about Hamas is their stated aim to wipe the Jewish state off the map and spread their hateful fundamentalist ideology over the entire Middle East.

Evelyn Schreiber-Steckler, Safety Harbor

"Why did they do this?" | Feb. 16, story

Provocation came first

Susan Martin's story of the seemingly unprovoked Israeli attack on a Gaza home brings up the question: "Why did they do this?" The answer is simple, because the Israelis were provoked — repeatedly.

While it is tragic that Raid el Atmnah lost his home to an airstrike, it is worthy of mention that Atmnah and many thousands of Gaza residents were alerted ahead of time to evacuate, thus sparing their lives.

Allow me to pose a question: Did Hamas ever once forewarn the Israeli population that rockets were heading their way? Of course not, for that would violate the core tenets of the Hamas charter: the total destruction of Israel by any means possible.

Richard Scott, Clearwater

"Why did they do this?" | Feb. 16, story

Ask Hamas

The question "Why did they do this?" should be directed at Hamas' leadership. Why do they lob bombs at Israel indiscriminately? Why do they use Sesame Street-like characters to teach their preschool children to hate Jews and Israelis and to dedicate their lives to being martyrs?

The people of Gaza have elected their government democratically. They chose violence, destitution, and to live under sharia (Islamic law) by voting in Hamas. Now the Israelis respond to the terror with force (war is hell and not pretty) and this Palestinian blames the Israelis? This type of one-sided journalism is beneath contempt.

Elliot Michael Reisman, Tampa

Fact checking the prophets of doom | Feb. 16, George F. Will column

Dubious facts

George Will's op-ed was disappointing, misguiding and just plain wrong. One would expect more from this Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with a doctorate from Princeton.

He says that "according to the University of Illinois Arctic Climate Research Center global, sea ice levels equal those of 1979." In a response on the center's Web site, they said:

"We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined."

Will cites the World Meteorological Organization supporting his statement that "there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade." The WMO, a United Nations affiliate, established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988. The IPCC has issued four reports on global warming, based on papers published by scientists around the world. This is a statement from their most recent climate change report in 2007, relating to average temperatures from 1906 to 2006. "The warmest years of the series are 1998 to 2005 … and 11 of the 12 warmest years are in the last 12 years (1995-2006)."

Will does not cite a single peer-reviewed scientific paper, nor the IPCC report. Newspaper articles, like those referenced in his column, are not peer-reviewed and can be misleading. Little wonder that many people are uninformed about global warming's challenge to our future. If ignored, it has potential calamitous effects. Generations that follow, not your readers, would suffer the consequences of our indifference.

Gerald Mantell, Sun City Center

Outbreak hurts all peanut growers | Feb. 16, story

Confidence is lost

True, there was negligence in allowing tainted peanut products to be distributed even though they were known to be so, and the entire peanut industry is now suffering. Peanut producers are bemoaning that fact .

However, as a consumer I fear attempting to choose peanut products made by companies now claiming to be clean, simply because I have no confidence in the FDA, nor the in-house procedures of the producers.

The general populace should have the assurance that the FDA is doing its job. It is frightening to hear that the FDA tests the products we consume only after a problem has been uncovered, and that the Peanut Corp. of America sold their product even though they were aware it was contaminated.

Orfeo Trombetta, Seminole

FDA deserves White House rebuke | Feb. 10, editorial

Revive regulation

I fail to see why your headline would imply that the Food and Drug Administration might share responsibility with the Peanut Corp. of America for the fatal consequences of the company's salmonella-tainted peanut butter which caused the deaths of eight people and 575 cases of poisoning.

You appear to attribute FDA culpability to the agency's taking 10 days to fully inspect the plant that produced the tainted product. I doubt it. More likely, as your editorial also points out, lack of the company's full cooperation with the FDA — also deep cuts in FDA funding ordered by the Bush-Cheney administration — is far more likely the cause.

Nor is the FDA the only federal regulatory agency emasculated by the curious Bush-Cheney conviction that corporations require little or no regulation. On the contrary, I doubt that any federal regulatory agency was spared the Bush-Cheney ax. This is the problem that needs fixing by the new occupants of the White House.

Joseph H. Francis, St. Petersburg

Tourism deserves state support 02/18/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 7:23pm]
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