Foster kids celebrate the season
You may recall the children's tale The Polar Express, but have you heard about what we like to call The Sunshine Express? Florida is making it a priority to send as many children and youth in foster care as possible home for the holidays.
Since 2007, we have brought kids together with their parents, grandparents, siblings and other relatives so they can celebrate the joy and hope of the holidays, renew family traditions and create memories.
This month, a record 1,501 Florida children and youth in foster care are participating in our "Home for the Holidays" initiative, nearly twice as many as a year ago. Most of these children are going for a visit, but others are going home this month to be reunified with their parents or permanently placed with relatives.
Treating Florida's children and youth in foster care like the normal kids they are is what they have told us they want and need in order for them to be happy and feel optimistic about their future. Making holiday cookies, hanging colorful lights around the house and going to the movies with family and friends are a really big deal if you're a kid.
Achieving "Home for the Holidays" would not happen without a lot of hard work to plan the judicial hearings and travel arrangements.
Judge George Sarduy of Miami-Dade County, where 336 children are heading home for the holidays, said: "We are so proud to be part of the effort that allows children in care to be with their families at this special time of the year. For our children to be able to feel the warmth of their own families during the holidays is the best gift we could give as a system."
We can't thank everyone enough for being our conductors and engineers on The Sunshine Express.
George Sheldon, secretary, Florida Department of Children and Families, Tallahassee
Taxed twice isn't right | Dec. 15, letter
debate on the estate tax
It certainly sounds wrong for someone to be taxed twice, but the assumptions in this letter about the estate tax are wrong.
The fact is that most of an accumulated estate isn't taxed at all, let alone twice. Most of an estate of significant size is appreciated value. For example, if the deceased invested $500,000 that appreciated to $3.5 million on the date he died, no tax was ever paid on the $3 million increase and never will be.
The heirs will only have capital gains on any amount over $3.5 million that they get for the assets when and if they are sold. This is hardly being taxed twice.
In 2009, which also had a $3.5 million exclusion, only about 15,000 returns were filed, and only about 5,000 actually paid any tax after deductions. This is not an issue affecting the vast majority of people who work their entire adult lives.
Multibillionaires dying in 2010 pay no estate tax at all. Further, a majority of those listed on Fortune's typical annual list of richest people never had to work a day in their lives because they inherited their fortune. Why is there all this concern about the idle rich?
The total situation is complicated, but I doubt there is any other political issue that is surrounded by so much misinformation.
Joe Crites, Clearwater
Florida gets another 'F'
Florida has received another "F." This time our state received the failing grade from the Pew Foundation on efforts to address the persistent and deadly epidemic of poor oral health.
Our new campaign, "Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body," provides information on how oral diseases impact overall health. I am a pediatrician and member of Florida Oral Health Coalition. We are waging war on dental diseases because:
• Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood infectious disease, and is almost entirely preventable. It is five times more common in children than asthma.
• Children in the United States miss more than 52 million school hours each year due to dental disease.
• A bacterial infection in the mouth can result in babies being born prematurely, to an increased chance of having a heart attack and can make blood sugar more difficult to control for people with diabetes.
Fluoride varnish can prevent decay and can be applied by your dentist, hygienist and your child's pediatrician. Water fluoridation also helps prevent decay. It's up to all of us to promote oral health for overall health.
Claude Earl Fox, M.D., president, Florida Public Health Institute, Lake Worth
Don't ask, don't tell
Repeal's negative effects
The effects of repealing DADT will be immediate, enduring and negative.
When you join the military, you give up civil rights civilians take for granted. Due to the higher standard of conduct, the military discriminates constantly. If you are fat, slow, or can't lead or behave within acceptable norms, you are out. Discrimination based on behavior is necessary.
Proponents liken repeal of DADT to the racial integration of the services. This is inaccurate. A person's race is benign; homosexuality is behavior.
With repeal, ardent homosexual advocacy will be the threat to unit cohesion. Liberals may find it inconvenient, but since the all-volunteer force was enacted, our nation has largely been protected by a military comprised of members more conservative than the general populace. Most members don't enthusiastically support the homosexual agenda.
The cost of repeal is a military harder to recruit and retain and more complex to lead. The benefits of repeal are only political, not military.
Steve Emerson, Valrico
Scott racks up bash cash | Dec. 15
Another way to celebrate
The same day the news appeared that Rick Scott had raised $2 million toward his inauguration festivities, I received a request for a donation from Metropolitan Ministries, telling me that for every $100 they received, they could provide 57 meals to the homeless and needy.
Scott says it's important to have a celebration. If he were to donate just 10 percent of that $2 million toward feeding the needy, it would provide 114,000 meals. That might be a good way to celebrate.
Sallie Palmer, Largo