Turtles, get your passports | Feb. 8, Floridian story
Turtles' tragic fate is not entertainment
I was shocked and sickened upon reading your article on turtle hunting. Perusing the front page of the Sunday Floridian, I saw a promotional banner for an interior article that read: "Turtle roundup. It doesn't take much skill, but it sure is messy. Fortunately, turtles can't run." Thinking I was going to read about a turtle rescue initiative, I turned to the article, which was headlined: "Turtles, get your passports."
I then discovered that this three-quarter page article complete with full color photos showcases a company that hunts turtles. This fishing company caught hundreds of softshell turtles — 20,000 pounds worth — over the summer. But at the same time the economy of their No. 1 customer, China, collapsed. So they held the turtles in pens until an order came through two weeks earlier from a Chinese fish dealer (that's about six months in captivity by my calculation).
Now they have to "round up" the turtles — but don't worry, it's easy. All you have to do is "jab a stick in the mud until you feel one, then dig it out." But "fortunately, turtles can't really run." The pictures show beautiful turtles being crammed into small boxes, and even one shot of a turtle trying in vain to escape.
Tragically, this article did not serve to inform readers how turtles have been so overhunted, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had to mandate limitations on hunting to protect them (and hopefully one day will outlaw it altogether). No, your article was meant to "entertain" us as evidenced by the tone of your promotional banner, headline and text.
Did it ever occur to you to consider the pain and suffering these creatures experience when they are removed from their own environment, packed into small boxes and shipped thousands of miles to China? Or do you even care?
I am disgusted with your attempt to entertain me, and as a longtime reader of the St. Petersburg Times, I assure you, this is not representative of a responsible and credible newspaper.
Candace Westerberg, St. Petersburg
This should be forbidden
I am sad and angry at the flippant tone of this piece. "Turtles, get your passports." (Hilarious!) And good thing turtles aren't good climbers! Ha, ha, ha! Look at that turtle climbing for its life!
And I can't even begin to understand why a 2-pound turtle would be shipped to China to be sold for meat. More likely, it will enter the breeding trade there to continue the chain of supplying China with even more turtle meat.
I could not believe that there were no laws forbidding this type of activity, that anyone, licensed trapper or not, could go out to a wild pond, collect and start breeding (intentionally or not) these turtles. No mention was made of any safe living or breeding conditions these turtles have been subjected to.
Rebecca Brittain, Clearwater
I am totally disappointed in the St. Petersburg Times for publishing the most disgusting pictures and comments about the native Florida turtle roundup.
The picture of the turtle trying to escape and the comment that it was "lucky" that he was not a good climber were heartbreaking.
There are wonderful organizations in Florida that are working hard to stop this horrible practice of hunting down native Florida species. Let's hope they succeed soon.
I hope your pictures inspired others, as they did me, to join PETA. I expected more of the Times, but I guess I was wrong.
Barbara Hodges, Tarpon Springs
It was very sad to see the photo of the Florida softshell turtle struggling to get out of a box bound for some restaurant in China.
When the Thomas family finally runs out of turtles, will they next ship their dogs to China? Dogs are eaten there, too. How about the Thomas kids? I'm pretty sure there is a market for them too, somewhere.
Fred Jacobsen, Apollo Beach
Crist taking heat for backing stimulus and Another Obama nominee pulls out | Feb. 13
Republicans show that they are out of touch
On a state and national level, the Republicans have taken two actions that are an indication that the GOP remains out of step with America and, in these two instances at least, downright unpatriotic.
Gov. Charlie Crist's statesmanlike behavior when his president came to visit was excoriated by Alex Castellanos, a "veteran Republican consultant," and by Florida Sen. Mel Martinez. Nationally, Sen. Judd Gregg abruptly withdrew his acceptance of the nomination to be commerce secretary, saying that he had just realized he had irresolvable conflicts with the president.
Last November, the people of this country made it clear that they were tired of divisive politics and that they were fearful that the crises we faced needed a concerted effort by all branches of government to solve them. Crist simply adopted a tone of civility that his president was requiring of all of us. Perhaps Crist also realized that his party's era of cutting-taxes-and-spending-anyway had put Florida into an untenable position — a position in which the state desperately needs that stimulus money. The GOP response to the call for civility and respectful debate was apparently: "If they got Charlie Crist in a dark alley, all you'd have left is a tuft of white hair." At a time of crises, such unproductive rhetoric is clearly unpatriotic.
As for Gregg, how is it possible that, after the long presidential campaign and after participating as a senator in the debate over the stimulus package, he could have so badly misunderstood the differences he had with his president? How is it possible that in the few days since his nomination, he saw the light?
There are only two explanations. One is that he buckled under the same type of pressure being felt by Crist to oppose the president no matter the cost. The other is that he intentionally agreed to the nomination in order to undermine the president when he later backed out. Both explanations of Gregg's behavior are unsavory and both are unpatriotic.
Judith Gordon, Seminole
Crist taking heat for backing stimulus Feb. 13
Obstruction is all they offer
Gov. Charlie Crist has been supporting the stimulus package, and rightfully so. He is now "taking heat" from his fellow Republicans, and Sen. Mel Martinez even rebuked him on the Senate floor, saying, "Crist didn't get it".
It is the Republicans who don't get it. We Americans were very clear in the November elections that Republican ideas and policies just don't work and we want that to stop. All the Republicans have done since is whine, pout and try to obstruct progress that we, their constituents, have voted for. To you elected Republicans, I say get over it and get on board.
John Stefferud, Brandon
It's all borrowed money
The money designated for the bailouts and stimulus plan is commonly referred to as taxpayer dollars. This is a little misleading, and as the amount exceeds $1.5 trillion it is important we remain very clear what that number represents. It does not represent taxpayer dollars but rather taxpayer IOUs, taxes that have yet to be paid. It's money we owe, on top of all our other outstanding debt.
The funds involved in all this recovery spending are the result of money the government has access to, not money the government has. There is a big difference, and citizens and politicians alike need to keep that in mind.
Chi Womas, Tampa
Obama seems to be a winner; who are the losers? | Feb. 13
A burden on the future
This headline left out some important losers: the generations yet to be born. Having no idea as to how handle this debt ourselves, we cannot even give them a clue.
Hartley Steeves, Tampa
Another link in the sad legacy on the border Feb. 8
Contrasts in the conflict
Susan Taylor Martin's article contrasting a 14-year old in Israel with one in Gaza raises two interesting questions.
First, why does the Palestinian say, "We hope all Israelis die …" but the Israeli says, "I don't care about the Palestinians …"? There is a very big difference between one person not caring for someone and "we" — a group — wishing someone dead. Yet that tells us the culture and upbringing of each teen.
As she goes on to say in her article, the Palestinian teens are educated with a map of the Middle East that does not even include the existence of Israel. While not mentioned in the article, Israelis learn geography with the existence of Gaza and the West Bank.
The article also describes the destruction in Gaza, which prompts the second question: Why don't the Arab nations and Muslims do more to help those in Gaza? When Israel is attacked and buildings and lives are destroyed, the Jewish community around the world immediately comes to their aid. What reason would the Arab world have for not doing the same for its brethren?
Answering these questions may go a long way to helping find peace in the region.
Larry Silver, Oldsmar
Another link in the sad legacy on the border Feb. 8
The human side
I want to thank you for the objective reports coming from Susan Taylor Martin in Gaza and the Palestinian territories. They show the human side of events there today and foretell the disasters to come — if not tomorrow, then just as soon as the next generation gives up hope for justice and dignity.
To those who think the Palestinian schools teach hate, I can only ask: What do the indiscriminate rockets, bombs, shells, border blockades and incessant "incursions" teach? Love?
Robert D. Brooks, Tampa
Another link in the sad legacy on the border Feb. 8
Finding a path to peace
Susan Taylor Martin has exposed and analyzed one of the deepest roots of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict: hate. Her balanced reporting from both Palestinian and Israeli boys undoubtedly portrays one of the most accurate analyses of the conflict the St. Petersburg Times has produced recently.
Her location says it all: the Israel-Gaza border. Martin has also revealed that peace will not ensue, no matter how many other countries or relief organizations try to intercede, unless the Palestinians and Israelis seek peace with each other and teach to their children this golden rule of respecting their neighbors. The conflict is more internal than external and must be solved that way.
Nora Zaki, Lithia
As a school administrator responsible for integration in Rochester, N.Y., I initiated a program to overcome hatred. We brought students from the suburbs and the city together to discuss a topic. The black and white students interacted with each other in a positive way. They formed alliances across racial lines to make their points.
Programs that would bring Palestinian and Israeli students together in similar manner could be a first step in diminishing hatred and misunderstanding. It certainly is worth a try.
Norman N. Gross, Ph.D., Palm Harbor
Show them who's boss | Feb. 11, editorial from tbt*
Ticked off at Ticketmaster
Three cheers for Sen. Charles Schumer! It's a shame that it took a "software issue" to finally get Ticketmaster's questionable business practices noticed. They've only been giving the shaft to the ticket-buying public for years! (Yeah, they were just trying to help customers.)
I've long been in the habit of purchasing my tickets directly from the venue box offices, for the exact purpose of denying Ticketmaster any of my hard-earned cash. But in the last month, I've been forced to buy three tickets through their Web site. For those three tickets, I paid a combined total of $48.90 in service fees — $48.90 for three tickets. For what? The privilege of clicking the "Buy Now!" icon?!
Until this bloated, reprobate behemoth is defeated, I implore everyone to make the extra effort, take the time to purchase from the box office. In the meantime, I'm sending Sen. Schumer a campaign donation!
Teresa Nelson, Pinellas Park
Look! Up in the sky! It's Jeff Kottkamp! Feb. 12, Howard Troxler column
Thank you, thank you, Howard Troxler!
First of all, I can't thank you enough for the laughing I experienced, which released some of the fury I was carrying around regarding the outstanding gall and outrageous behavior of a politician, whose duties I am unaware of other than filling in for the governor should something happen to him.
Not only is the misuse of taxpayer money wrong at any time, but in this present economy when services important to sustaining life are being cut, to arrogantly use our funds as a personal money pit is enraging.
It makes me wonder if any of our politicians actually care about doing public service or do they see it as a way to get a pension and have access to all kinds of perks. Some talk of less government, but of course, not less government money when it comes to using it for themselves.
Marilyn Weaver, Tarpon Springs