U.S. antidrug effort called "a failed war" | Feb. 12, story
We can't afford to go soft on drugs
I would have laughed at this article if were not for the fact that the drug problem is so serious. How ironic that former presidents from three countries where drugs are out of control and where it is totally unsafe to walk the streets would call our efforts to push back against drugs a failure.
As a drug policy expert with more than 25 years experience, I have visited these countries and others where drugs have spiraled out of control, and their families literally fear for their lives. In these countries drugs are tolerated, corruption abounds, and treatment is virtually nonexistent.
The reality is that the U.S. drug policy is a comprehensive one that includes prevention and education, treatment and law enforcement and interdiction — contrary to the article's assertion that we are relying exclusively on policing. In December, I was present at the White House when the Monitoring the Future study was released. The annual study found that drug use among our youth decreased 25 percent from 2001 to 2008. This is not a failure!
The biased Latin American Commission report, funded by the "Granddaddy Warbucks" of drug legalization, George Soros, promotes the "European methods of drug prevention and treatment." I've seen the disastrous European method. As taxpaying citizens, we should reject their practice of providing heroin addicts with free heroin, all funded with taxes. We should reject their practice of keeping people in addiction rather than helping them to sobriety. And we should reject their practice of giving our children the illusion that they can use drugs safely and responsibly if they just know how.
I have done much prevention work in Latin America and the approach suggested in this article does not reflect what I am hearing from families about what they want. The Latin Americans, like North Americans, want their children protected from the scourge of drugs and want them to reject drug use and destructive behavior that goes along with it.
Approximately 54 percent of all of those in U.S. federal prisons are there because of serious drug offenses — not low-level offenses that result in probation, fines and referral to drug courts. Approximately 75 percent of our foster care and 80 percent of domestic abuse cases are due to substance abuse. Society just simply cannot afford to be soft on drugs!
Calvina Fay, executive director, Drug Free America Foundation Inc., St. Petersburg
In need of help, but out the door | Feb. 8, story
Make restraint mandatory
The Baker Act investigative article exposes problems that obviously call for correction, but I'm afraid it emphasizes the wrong ones and may do more damage than good.
When a psychotic or otherwise incorrigible Baker Act individual may have underlying neurological or other physiological conditions besides mental illness, he/she should be delivered only into the custody of a hospital that has a secured (locked and/or continuously and capably guarded) emergency psychiatric unit.
The police and emergency medical technicians (who understandably cannot be expected to stand by in the ER in these cases) must know where they may and may not deliver such persons. Baker Act persons brought to the hospital by others must be refused and redirected.
It is unrealistic to believe that every hospital ER, whether nonprofit or "for-profit," will always be staffed to prevent these "elopements." Why aren't all hospitals so equipped? While we're at it, why aren't there far more nearly sufficient precrisis services of several kinds available to prevent these incidents? You all know the answer.
The state, from the responsible agency to the governor, must make it clear to the courts that restraint at the hospital is mandatory.
Allan Avery, Clearwater
Pentagon loses 87,000 Afghan weapons Feb. 13, story
What an appalling situation that the Pentagon cannot account for such a huge number of weapons, which now could be in the hands of people who will use them against our own soldiers.
But I should not be too surprised. The two wars unleashed by the last administration have been characterized by hasty decisions and carelessness. As long as the government contracts went out to the suppliers, often at inflated prices, no one seemed to be concerned what happened after that.
Whenever I hear people talk about "tax-and- spend" Democrats, I would like to shout that no one has been more responsible for wasteful government expenditures with nothing to show for them than the last Republican administration.
Lucy Fuchs, Brandon
Help our veterans
I am receiving knee injections at James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa. While I was there recently, I noticed all the young men and women with their battle scars very visible. They were walking the floors with a look in their eyes, the look that was to nowhere.
I was next to a young man, maybe 20 years old, who was asking for help with his burnt hands, "Can anyone help me, please?" And the scars on his head.
My wife asks me, why is this happening? Their lives are changed forever. And I also ask myself why. We need them here. Our country needs them home to rebuild America.
If you know any of these soldiers, Marines, sailors or members of the Air Force, be there for them. They have done for us, now let's do for them and our country.
Thank you to the VA clinics and hospitals in America, and God bless all who work at them and see this every day.
Gary Meredith, U.S. Army, 25th Infantry, 1972-75, Holiday
Bush kept us safe? | Feb. 9, letter
We are safe
The letter questioned whether former President George W. Bush kept us safe. It also questioned why people honor him. First of all, he and every other president should be honored because all 44 of them have stepped up to the plate and taken on one of the hardest jobs in the world.
Then as far as the war and economy, Bush was just the scapegoat for everything and anything wrong with the country.
And finally for the question of whether former President Bush kept us safe, to answer that one just look outside the window. Are there car bombs exploding outside and masked gunmen lurking in the streets? Do we live in fear that this day may be our last? The answer to those questions is: No.
So as far as I am concerned, former President Bush kept the United States safe, and should be honored just the same as all who came before him and those after him as well.
Matthew Philbin, Tarpon Springs
Motorcyclist dies from wreck injuries | Feb. 12, news brief
Tougher penalties needed
Hardly a day goes by without a report that a pedestrian, a cyclist or a biker has been killed on our roads. Certainly some of the incidents could be avoided by using more caution, and a few are caused by reckless behavior. But in this case, the driver of an SUV made a left turn while the light was red, causing a motorcyclist to crash and die of his injuries. And the driver got a $216 fine and a citation for running a red light. That's outrageous!
Until traffic fines are increased significantly to thousands of dollars, to get drivers' attention, traffic laws will continue to be flouted, resulting in needless accidents. My heart goes out to the Strizzi family.
Barbara Cabrera, Beverly Hills