Siege ends in gunman's death | March 23
Hatreds spur disturbing violence
I am disturbed, saddened and ashamed at the barbaric killing of seven innocent people, including three children, in Toulouse, France. Some of the individuals killed were at a Jewish school. Mohammed Merah, the perpetrator, was a legal French citizen of Algerian origin. He was brainwashed by al-Qaida.
The sad reality is that this killing reflects more and more how Islam is perceived as a violent religion whose believers are anti-Semitic. We Muslims need to acknowledge that a serious disease of hatred, violence and instant revenge has seeped into many who call themselves Muslims.
In this context, I cannot neglect to discuss Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a U.S. Army soldier accused of slaughtering 17 Afghan civilians. He was raised in a wholesome household in Washington, according to the New York Times. Merah was described as a polite neighbor turned down by the French army, according to the Guardian.
We should all pause for serious reflection on these two horrible, shocking incidents. These are disturbed individuals, and we cannot necessarily point the finger at U.S. foreign policy. Please, let's not overgeneralize about all Muslims being terrorists, because both men, of different faiths, were involved in these acts.
Unfortunately, human beings can be ignorant and easily emotionally aroused. It is human nature to hurt those you hate, but it is also human nature to forgive and resolve conflict. The latter takes time, effort, courage and steadfastness. Do we have these qualities in these tumultuous times?
Nora Zaki, Tampa
Let tax cuts expire
I recently wrote to my representative in Congress, U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, and said I believe the Bush tax cuts should be allowed to expire next year. The Bush tax cuts have added about $2.5 trillion to the national debt, but if you are in the middle class your tax cut is worth about a handful of cheeseburgers a month.
The reply from Ross' staff caused more questions than answers, so I called his office for more information. The bottom line is Ross thinks that I as a retired fireman should pay a larger percentage of my income to taxes than, say, Mitt Romney, who made $22 million last year. And it gets worse. Ross also favors a flat tax, which is a bad deal for the middle class. Middle class families spend nearly everything they bring in, while the rich spend only a small portion of their income on food, clothing and housing.
F.M. Younglove, Brandon
Leadership, not excuses
Statistics and reports reflect a crisis in Pinellas County schools. Last week, it was reported that superintendent John Stewart decided to address a bloated administration by, for the most part, reclassifying jobs. It was also reported that certain School Board members would not be "pressured" into trying a pilot project to help reading in the worst-performing schools instead of continuing the reading program that has been failing our poorer students for the last four years.
We need leadership in our educational establishment, not excuses and intransigence. Without leadership, problems will continue and become worse. Those at the top of Pinellas County education are fiddling while education for many burns.
Joseph D. Magri, Belleair
An anthemic party | March 24
Great concert, great venue
The excellent review by Sean Daly in the Tampa Bay Times captured the heart of Bruce Springsteen and his band. For three hours, we were taken to a musical place rarely experienced. On a journey of substance and energy, they gave their all and we fans tried our best to keep up and receive.
The Tampa Bay Times Forum deserves praise for its sound, lighting, comfort, space, etc. Equally praiseworthy was the staff that provided a safe environment while allowing enjoyment to be had.
Thank you, Tampa, for a celebration within the boundaries of respect and inspiration.
Tom Morrissey Jr., Cheshire, Conn.
U.S. plans up to $1.5 billion in aid for Egypt March 23
Focus on domestic needs
Enough of this foreign aid!
This country has a national debt in the trillions that is not likely to ever be repaid. The wars in Afghanistan (and earlier Iraq) cost millions of dollars a day. Legislatures continue to slice and dice aid and medical care for the needy and poor American people. They are attacking Social Security recipients, yet now President Barack Obama wants to give Egypt $1.5 billion in aid.
Whose side are these people in Washington on, anyway?
Jack Burlakos, Kenneth City
I am tired of those who keep twisting the meaning of the First Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment guarantees that our government will not establish a religion and that citizens will be free to follow any religion they choose.
It is clear that the government should not base any policy, health care or otherwise, on any religious belief. If it did, it would be "establishing" a national religion.
Health care, contraception and pregnancy practices, transfusions, diagnostics and other things must be based on nonreligious principles of what is determined to be for the common good. Believers are free to avoid contraception, abortion and intrauterine devices.
If a religious group offers health care plans to the general public, it must follow what is guaranteed to U.S. citizens. If it wants to offer services only to its believers, then it must do so without public funding. Do not expect the U.S. Constitution to defend your right to change public policy based on your religion.
Ronald Melancon, Tampa
Bush endorses Romney | March 22
What about the other Bush?
So it's official: Jeb Bush endorses Mitt Romney for president.
But what about Jeb's brother George? You know, the 43rd president, the last Republican president of the United States. He served two terms and is the most recent example of GOP leadership in the top spot.
We all know we will not hear George W. Bush's endorsement because the Republican Party wants no reminders of the eight years of his presidency resurfacing.
Scott McKown, Palm Harbor