U.S. releases documents on NSA spying | Dec. 22
It took Snowden to get us the facts
Is Edward Snowden a hero or a villain? The former NSA contractor released many classified documents in order to prove his allegations that Americans' phone records, emails and other personal data were being vacuumed up by an out-of-control government department. Did he have to damage the national security to get his message out? Well, there is the case of another National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, Russ Tice, who told the world in 2005 that these same things were being done.
On Dec. 23, 2005, Tice said that spying on Americans involved a large computer system to search and filter hundreds of thousands of phone calls and emails in seconds. Tice said: "I'm involved with some certain aspects of the intelligence community, which are very closely held, and I believe I have seen some things that are illegal."
Renee Seymour, director of the NSA Special Access Programs Central Office, said that members of neither the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence nor the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had clearance to receive the classified information about those programs.
Prominent figures in conservative media launched an offensive against Tice's credibility. On his Fox News broadcast of Jan. 11, 2006, Bill O'Reilly said that Tice should be jailed for his whistle-blowing activity. But Tice told ABC News that "as far as I'm concerned, as long as I don't say anything that's classified, I'm not worried. … We need to clean up the intelligence community. We've had abuses, and they need to be addressed."
Nothing was addressed until Snowden released proof of his allegations. Snowden should be granted amnesty and allowed to testify before Congress.
Ian MacFarlane, St. Petersburg
Circus animal acts
Don't back cruel practices
I sincerely believe everyone possesses at least some compassion for elephants and big cats and the hardships each species has to endure to survive. For the sake of kindness toward these wild creatures, please do not patronize circuses featuring animal acts.
As numerous studies and exposes have revealed in recent years, circus animals lead agonizing lives of physical and psychological abuse. To get them to perform cheap tricks, they are tortured, subjected to continuous intimidation, deprived of food, water, medical attention and freedom of movement.
In 2014, please start a new tradition in your family: Only attend circuses with human entertainers. Traditional circuses deny animals everything that is natural and important to them. Every basic instinct is met with punishment, not only for the adults but baby animals as well.
Tom Bird, Tampa
Above all, Ukrainians want openness, honesty and Legislature's reputation gets new shredding | Dec. 20, commentaries
Home truths from abroad
Is it a mere coincidence, or proof that dark humor — besides Daniel Ruth, of course — still exists in politics? I'm still scratching my head in wonder, with a big smile across my face, looking at the two headlines side by side on your opinion page, one reading: "Above all, Ukrainians want openness, honesty," and the other: "Legislature's reputation gets new shredding."
You could change "Ukrainians" to "Floridians" and still be true to the facts. What is sad is that both headlines — and articles — can apply to Florida. When one certain party grabs the power by manipulating the laws (no names, please), you can be sure that it will never let it go.
Simon Agmann, St. Petersburg
Health care solutions
Florida statutes entail the most restrictive practice laws for nurse practitioners in the country. More specifically, 49 states and the District of Columbia acknowledge a broader scope of practice, thereby alleviating major problems due to lack of providers. In Florida, a nurse practitioner works under the supervision of a physician. In the vast majority of states, nurse practitioners work independently or in a collaborative practice.
As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, I provide mental health evaluations and medication management to children, adolescents and adults. Previously I had worked at a Virginia practice where attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder was a common diagnosis. It requires the ability to prescribe psycho-stimulant medication, like Ritalin. These medications are considered Control II substances because of their potential for abuse. However, they are the recommended first line medication for ADHD. Providers prescribing controlled substances must be licensed by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.
Returning home to Florida, I was shocked to find the nurse practitioner laws had not changed as it had everywhere else. Florida is now the only state that will not accept a nurse practitioner with a federal license to prescribe controlled substances.
The Florida Association of Nurse Practitioners and other nursing organizations are preparing for a debate in Tallahassee during the 2014 session. We are seeking to change these restrictive laws so Floridians will have greater and timelier access to health care services.
Emily Bell, Safety Harbor
D.C. puts no brake on flood rate hike | Dec. 21
Stop big business subsidies
In your article on Congress and the rising flood insurance rates, you wrote that "conservative opponents" say it's time to wean homeowners off subsidized insurance rates and stabilize the National Flood Insurance Program.
Are these the same conservative opponents who, year after year, continue to give big corporations who operate offshore the ability to pay no taxes, and give big oil companies and large factory farmers big subsidies in order to "help" them maintain their businesses? When do they start to get weaned?
Rosanne Paris, Palm Harbor