Report: Iranians taken in Syria | Aug. 5
U.S. aid can help Syrian outcome
With the recent resignation of U.N. special envoy for Syria Kofi Annan, there are new doubts that a diplomatic solution is possible in Syria. Unlike similar conflicts in the Middle East that arose from the Arab Spring, this conflict impacts several aspects of U.S. foreign policy in the region, including al-Qaida, chemical weapons, Iran's nuclear program and human rights.
Yet just as there are doubts, there are also numerous opportunities for diplomatic success. By increasing political and economic pressure on the Bashar Assad regime, working with Syrian political stakeholders from across factions, and encouraging all parties to form a representative government, the United States can help create a post-Assad peace.
Voters must encourage leaders in Washington to provide rebels with antitank weapons, and most importantly, the United States should be prepared to intervene to secure Syrian chemical weapons. The Assad regime is reportedly in possession of one of the world's largest stockpiles of chemical weapons, and pinpointing the locations of those stockpiles — and preventing them from being used — must be a U.S. priority.
There are commonsense approaches to Syria that don't involve U.S. boots on the ground. Our leaders in Washington should listen to them.
Justin Day, Tampa
Gunman kills six at temple | Aug. 6
A lack of prominence
I have always felt lucky and proud to have the Tampa Bay Times be my local paper, until Monday when I saw a mass shooting of people worshiping in Wisconsin relegated to page 2.
Why would mostly white people shot at a Batman movie in Colorado be on your front page for days, and the mass murder of Sikhs peacefully practicing their religion in Wisconsin be put on page 2 with the lottery results? Could it be because of the shade of their skin is a little darker than the average Coloradan, or that some of the congregants, wearing turbans and saris, don't look like your average American?
At best, you missed an opportunity to show that you care about all of America's people. At worst, this smacks of racism and xenophobia.
Sara F. Jeffries, Tampa
For many, Social Security to pay out less than paid in | Aug. 6
No individual accounts
The Tampa Bay Times should be ashamed of itself and embarrassed by its poor journalism. The headlines and articles measuring "paid in Social Security tax versus paid out Social Security benefits" only perpetuate the myth that there are some types of Social Security accounts. That is pure rubbish. Whenever you receive a paycheck you pay Social Security tax. It is not a contribution to any account. Those tax dollars are spent by the government and are gone forever.
You do not have any "balance" with the government and you do not get any guarantee that you will get any money. If any private individual tried to set up a similar plan, he would be prosecuted for having an illegal Ponzi scheme.
Politicians want to perpetuate this myth, as it gives them cover for the reality, which is that today's workers are being forced to support the various Social Security entitlement giveaways that politicians use to gain political favor with blocks of voters.
When people pay property taxes, or income tax or even sales tax, do they ask if they are getting back more than they contributed for that? Of course not, because it is a tax, not an investment. Social Security is no different. It is a tax, not an investment. The Times does a disservice to its readers suggesting or implying anything else.
Kevin Hubbart, Clearwater
Tasty fish makes comeback | Aug. 6, letter
Left out of the bounty
The letter written by a board member of the Florida Wildlife Federation concerning red snapper should infuriate most recreational fisherman. The rules that govern me and the thousands of recreational fisherman do not apply to the commercial industry.
Red snapper is a tasty and fun fish to catch. But you need to travel to depths of 100 feet or more to get to where they live, which equates to hundreds of dollars in gas. The bag limit for the recreational angler is two per person, the fish has to be 16 inches or greater, and we have a 46-day season. On the other hand, the size limit for commercial fisherman is 13 inches, there is no bag limit and the season is not closed. There is a quota limiting them to 3.66 million pounds.
The rules are so lopsided toward the commercial industry it makes you wonder how this is possible until you understand that the board members of the governing agency are heavily influenced by the commercial fishing interests. Florida's recreational boat industry used to be a $6 billion a year business. Between the economy, gas prices and harsh regulations, the recreational angler has little reason to fish for red snapper.
While I agree that conserving the stock is essential, I am outraged that the commercial interest has hijacked the system in their favor.
Kelly McClung, Oldsmar
352M-mile journey over for Mars rover Aug. 6
Wonders of science
Starting Monday, a car-sized, 1-ton engineering marvel will enable us to explore Mars in ways that were never before possible. We will learn more about the composition of the Red Planet in the next two years than in all previous human history combined. All of which is the result of astounding scientific ingenuity and engineering genius.
The Curiosity rover required 10 years of direct work and 3.4 million years of accumulated scientific knowledge to become reality. Today I find myself filled with absolute wonder about the world and universe — I want to know what we will learn tomorrow and to see humans push even further past our current limits of understanding.
John Hoover, Riverview
Voting and values
I'd like to encourage all eligible voters to vote in the important presidential election on Nov. 6.
In the words of Father John Harden, S.J., "May we choose a president of the United States and other government officials" who will "respect the sanctity of unborn human life, the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of the family, and the sanctity of the aging."
Then "we are confident" God will "give us an abundance of blessings." May God bless America.
Mary Lou Kavallierakis, Largo