China expands role in South America | July 13
U.S. indifference is risky
There is a silent takeover going on in our own backyard, and the United States does not seem to have noticed. China is moving into the Western Hemisphere and gaining influence and resources that the United States has long considered to be ours alone.
The importance of our Latin and South American neighbors has been largely taken for granted, and we could soon feel the consequences of our indifference.
The Chinese are using the economic "carrot" to gather the raw materials necessary to fuel their exponential growth. It started in Africa, and now they have brought the fight to our own shores. The problem is that America might not be able to win this battle.
After decades of fiascoes and mistreatment ranging from the United Fruit Co. to the Bay of Pigs invasion, the United States is on few Latin Americans' Christmas card lists.
The problems of our neighbors have fallen on deaf ears. Mexico is our third-largest trading partner and is basically a failed state. The drug cartels have taken the government and the judiciary hostage, and the associated violence is spilling over our southern border. Almost all of the illicit drugs in the United States come from Latin America, and without regional cooperation they will continue to flood into our ports.
The Chinese have figured out that Latin America is full of resources and lacking a "friendly, caring" trading partner to give them to. Three of the 15 largest economies in the world are in Latin America. Brazil is the prime emerging economy outside of China and India, and we have let China become Brazil's largest trading partner.
It is time to wake up and smell the opportunity, America, because China clearly already has.
Jessica Flammer, Palm Harbor
Caring Floridians adopt foster children
What does it take to fall in love with a child who is not your biological son or daughter? An open heart and the willingness to be a parent to a child who has experienced abuse or neglect and needs a safe, loving home.
In Florida during the last year, more than 3,700 children were adopted by families who found room in their hearts for a foster child or group of foster siblings. For the second year in a row, Florida set a record for the number of adoptions of foster children, even as the state dramatically reduced its number of children in foster care by nearly 10,000.
I am declaring July 22 as Explore Adoption Day in Florida to celebrate the many wonderful families who have adopted foster children and to encourage other families to consider adoption. Since becoming governor, I have made adoption a priority to make sure the children who are most in need of safety and permanency are matched with families willing to adopt.
We created the Explore Adoption Web site, www.AdoptFlorida.org, that makes it easy to meet foster children eligible for adoption. We established the Office of Adoption and Child Protection to rally our efforts to achieve more adoptions and decrease the amount of time that children spend in foster care.
To support adoptive parents, the Legislature this year provided $1.8 million for the one-time adoption benefit of up to $10,000 available to employees of the state of Florida.
Listen to Daralyn Lacagnina of West Palm Beach, who adopted seven children from foster care: "You fall in love with all of them. It's a wonderful experience. If you have the time and heart for it, go for it. So many children need a home."
I couldn't say it any better.
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist
Van ban sparks blue-collar revolt July 13
Slap in face to workers
I nearly fell out of my chair when I read the remarks made by Mayor Glancy ("We're not blue collar. We're not working class") and Commissioner Doerner ("I don't think Casselberry's purpose should be to have low-income housing for everyone"). Those words were a slap in the face to every working person in Florida. When did it become unsavory to be employed? Both of these elected officials should be ashamed of themselves.
It makes no sense to ban people from parking their work vehicles at home. I don't believe that parking vans with ladders, tools or business lettering on them detracts from property values. If a person maintains his home and property, why should it matter what's in the driveway?
A person who parks a work vehicle at his or her home will save gas and travel time by not having to travel to and from another parking area. Also, in some cases it is more secure to park the vehicle at one's home.
I was not entirely surprised to learn that at least one of the complainants, Mayor Glancy, is a Realtor. Why can't Realtors understand that the economy, scarcity of loans and our state's insurance issues are what keeps homes from selling, not the fact that there is a work vehicle in the driveway down the street. In this current economy, a work vehicle should be considered a status symbol.
We don't need Stepford communities; we need real neighborhoods where working people can buy a home and live comfortably without being harassed.
Karen Marr, St. Petersburg
Fight cuts to hospices
As a practicing physician in the Tampa-Clearwater area for 35 years, I have seen many changes in the provision of medical care. I have witnessed heart attack patients confined to bed for six weeks in the 1960s, and now in the 21st century they are treated with emergency interventions that allow discharge to full activity in a few days.
But one of the most beneficial advances has been in the area of end-of-life care. In 1975 in Pinellas County, there were very few or nonexistent facilities to care for terminally ill patients. It was almost as if these human beings did not exist. In the late 1970s, a hospice was established in Pinellas County that has grown to be one of the most advanced and innovative such organizations in the country.
Hospices are being threatened by potential cuts in Medicare reimbursement. This would truly be a tremendous step backward for all the patients and families that have benefited. I would hope that readers would voice their strong objections to the White House and Congress to cutting the Medicare reimbursement to hospices as an extremely shortsighted and regressive action.
John C. Dormois, M.D., Tampa
Rising seas a hard truth for the Keys | July 13
This article made me wonder: Will future generations be forced to view the Hemingway House in Key West from a glass-bottomed boat?
The Florida Keys are a vital part of our history and who we are. This is why Floridians and admiring tourists of the world should be disturbed that the Keys may vanish into the sea by the time our next generation grows up.
Not only does global warming threaten to swallow the Keys, but it is making us far more vulnerable to violent storms and hurricanes that could cause a major loss of life. This global threat has a serious local impact and can be effectively dealt with by taking action to stop what's causing the problem in the first place: burning fossil fuels.
We need to urge our leaders to reduce greenhouse gases by capping emissions and paving the way for a clean energy future that does not include dirty emissions or dangerous nuclear reactors.
We can change what our future looks like, but everyone needs to make their voice heard, demanding that our leaders take science-based action to stop global warming and save our future.
Nithya Lingam, Trinity
Life, liberty and pursuit of merit July 12
Can't measure a soul
We are informed by the author, Walter Kirn, that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor had only a modest SAT score; nevertheless she graduated from Princeton with highest academic honors.
From this Kirn concludes that conventional, test-based notions of merit should be, in his words, amended because they don't measure "the wisdom in your soul." How you measure wisdom of the soul he doesn't say.
That is the trouble with diversity. No one is an individual anymore but a member of a subgroup, each with its own peculiarities that must be accounted for and accommodated.
Although Kirn graduated from Princeton, he has learned nothing of logic. Take away meritocracy, take away SATs and grades, and you are left with unqualified physicians, judges, scientists and Kirns. Is that what we want?
Francis J. Sullivan, St. Petersburg
Baseball's ugly side
It was heartwarming to see our president at the All-Star Game chatting warmly and knowledgeably with baseball's greats, past and present, reminding us that baseball has been known for generations as the national pastime.
But many of us remember all too clearly the disgust we felt at seeing multimillionaire ballplayers go on strike for more money, deny the use of performance-enhancing drugs, crotch-grab and spit endlessly, and litter dugout floors with food and drink garbage — all caught by TV cameras and in plain view of fans at the ballpark.
Sure, it's a great game, but it needs to clean up its act.
Joseph H. Francis, St. Petersburg