Judge: NSA sweep legal | Dec. 27
Data sweeps keep Americans safe
Amid the outrage over National Security Agency data sweeps, I don't hear a thing about the sweeps that corporations do on us. They are a major tool for getting potential customers, especially if you are someone using online purchasing or social media. We are all constantly being scooped up.
I am not opposed to either sweep; it's part of our information world. Imagine if you lost your ring at the beach. Wouldn't you scoop up as much sand as possible to find it? Surely you wouldn't just sit and watch the sand and hope you'd see exactly where that ring might be so you could scoop a teaspoon of sand to retrieve it. Or, say a bad guy is fleeing the police and runs on foot into your neighborhood; wouldn't you want the police to search around every house there to capture the guy?
The same is true for bad guys hiding among us who plan to do us harm. Information has to be gathered to try to determine where the contacts are — and if in enemy areas, then that's a subject to dig deeper on. The NSA isn't listening to conversations. They are actually too busy to fill their days with my calls to my sister in Seattle to see how her cat is doing — or your calls either, unless you are a suspected bad guy.
Perhaps the NSA data sweep is a big reason why America has not been attacked since 9/11.
Susan Schubert, Tampa
Merry, bright and free | Dec. 25
A portrait of persecution
This article about the Hana family and others like them should be required reading for all American Christians who whine about being "discriminated against" and "persecuted" and constantly complain about the nonexistent "war on Christmas."
This Egyptian family took real and life-threatening risks not only to worship the way they want to in their own country, but then took an even greater risk and sacrificed their possessions to come to America to experience real religious freedom. Thirty-one-year-old Viviane Hana experienced torture and the threat of death because of her Christian faith.
This shows the clear difference between real and imagined persecution, and sheds light on the widely accepted religious freedoms that make this country so great. The Hana family is delighted to be able to display their Christmas spirit outwardly and with pride, rather than in fear of death or torture, behind closed doors. There is no threat to them for participating in holiday cheer, both Christian-based or commercialized American-style. The charity and acceptance of their fellow worshipers and nonworshipers alike has been almost overwhelming for them.
American Christians who complain of a "war on Christmas" have completely lost sight of what living in a country with such freedoms really means. They behave as though it alters their lives and personal freedoms in some way because some of the more secular choose to say "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings." I am 45, and those sayings have existed since long before I was born. How these upbeat, friendly, even thoughtful holiday greetings could be offensive in any way is a mystery to me.
The arrogance and pettiness of some American Christians rears its ugly head more and more each year, and sets a horrible example to children who need to learn tolerance and acceptance. Everyone in this country has the absolute freedom to worship and celebrate how they wish, out in the open, persecution-free.
The Hanas came here just for that reason, and I am happy to see that they are receiving the acceptance and guidance that they need. Christians everywhere should thank them for the risks that they have taken, and view their struggle as a lesson to appreciate what they truly have in America, land of the free.
Mich Sullivan, St. Petersburg
New Year's resolutions
With New Year's resolutions just around the corner, consider the popular trend toward a healthy, eco-friendly, compassionate meat-free diet.
According to Harris Interactive, 47 percent of American consumers are reducing their consumption of animal products. The USDA projects this year's per capita chicken and beef consumption to drop by 8 percent and 17 percent, respectively, from their 2006 peaks. Similar dramatic drops are projected for pigs and turkeys. Milk consumption has fallen by a whopping 40 percent since 1970.
A number of celebrities are going vegan, and fast-food chains are responding to the growing demand by rolling out vegan options. The Baltimore, Los Angeles and San Diego school districts, serving more than a million meals a day, have adopted meatless Mondays.
How about dropping animals from the menu for this New Year's resolution?
Thomas Carter, Tampa
Kriseman kicks up the oath | Dec. 27
Big city ways
Rick Kriseman has said he wants to operate St. Petersburg like Florida's fourth-largest city, not a "sleepy hamlet." He's already started to accomplish his New Year's resolutions by:
• Hiring seven or eight buddies (even with questionable backgrounds) as aides/assistants at very high salaries.
• Planning a "big city" swearing-in ceremony with stages, choirs and all the fanfare.
• Following President Barack Obama's guidance to spend and spend.
Kriseman should be reminded that the taxpayers may like the "sleepy hamlet" atmosphere of St. Petersburg, without the big government and without the big (unnecessary) expenses.
Art McClelland, St. Petersburg
Atomic sailors | Dec. 22
The article on the atomic sailors was heart-wrenching, and I'm thankful it was told. Something has to be done for our sailors from the USS Calhoun County. I was literally sick when I read the story. How can the Navy and the VA get away with this? Thank you for exposing this horrible cover-up. I hope the families who have suffered this injustice find peace.
Maryann Gannon, New Port Richey