A call for a unified peace | Dec. 26
Inspiring a more peaceful 2014
I was struck by the poignant contrast between Pope Francis' comprehension of a "universal desire for peace" and the details of genocide, violence, combat and destruction in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and South Sudan that occurred on Christmas Day.
I have not been a fan of past popes, but I believe Pope Francis is a godsend. Could it have been divine intervention when Pope Benedict XVI, in an unprecedented move, resigned and the first Jesuit, non-European pope was chosen? Let's hope that Pope Francis' influence throughout the world will grow exponentially to inspire a more peaceful world in 2014.
Marie Cunha, Hudson
Atomic sailors | Dec. 22
Tragic, prizeworthy story
The fascinating, well-researched story of the USS Calhoun County by William R. Levesque is worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. I hope the full-length book gets written about this tragic story of military "practicality" and total disregard for the irradiated sailors and unknown damage to the ocean.
It is well documented that there have been many accidents with nuclear weapons, and the Guardian recently reported on a thermonuclear bomb that nearly destroyed Greensboro, N.C., in 1961. Richard L. Miller's excellent book Under the Cloud shows how for many years the U.S. military conducted above-ground testing that spewed radiation over large parts of continental America. In the earliest tests, the military even had essentially unprotected soldiers in trenches close to the test blasts for research purposes. But I had never heard of the atomic sailors' story and years of dumping radioactive waste in the Atlantic. It's sad, disturbing, true and, unfortunately, unsurprising.
Lee Martin, Tampa
2013: top stories of the year | Dec. 28
Remember the Syrian dead
I was both heartened and saddened to see that the civil war in Syria made the list of top stories for 2013. The photo in the Times is of the city of Homs. I lived in that city, and the neighborhood of Khalidiyah is very close to where I lived in Inshaat.
I am heartened that a dreadful and scary story such as the civil war is placed in placed before us so we can remember the killed, maimed, homeless, starving and desperate people. They are people just like us; they had dreams, hopes, wishes and goals. We need to reach out and help as we can.
I am saddened not only for the ones who have been murdered but by the lack of action by the world community. If this were happening in a country in the Western Hemisphere, there would be "boots on the ground." I am not endorsing military-style action, for I am a pacifist and a Quaker. But we, the world, have sat back and waited for "somebody else" to do something. Well, we are that "somebody else," and the time has come when the world needs to stand up and help our fellow humans. In my opinion, the lack of action on the part of the world is to be equated with us signing the death certificates of those lost in this war.
Mark Grantham, Gulfport
Taxpayers billed for sweet deal | Dec. 27
Professional public servant
Tish Elston's knowledge and professionalism allowed her to rise to a position where she served at the pleasure of the mayor. When the city manager form of government was abolished and replaced by a strong mayor, Elston wisely negotiated a contract that would ease being terminated without cause by an incoming mayor. Previous mayors recognized her value and agreed to her conditions. The new administration appears to hold political patronage in higher regard than in-house talent and knowledge.
Given the already announced appointments in the new administration, Elston was a sure bet to lose her job. The editorial mused that Elston could have chosen the option to retire. Putting aside the obvious ageism bias in that statement, if the Times editorial board can show me someone who would walk away from a job leaving $78,000 on the table, I'll show them a fool.
David Nichols, Inverness
Betting big on SunRail | Dec. 26
On rail, public will pay
People familiar with the cost of operating railroads are waiting to see how SunRail plans to handle long-term financing and maintenance of their tracks. Nowhere in the world do railroads make money carrying passengers, unless they operate on tracks paid for by governments and taxes. Amtrak can operate on privately owned freight railroads, but it still needs government assistance.
This is why a totally new railroad from Tampa to Orlando would have been a long-term burden on the state when there was already a track going there.
Private operators in Britain make a profit running passenger trains on government track, but it takes billions of dollars of tax money to maintain those tracks every year. SunRail has not divulged how they can afford to both build the track and pay for its future care.
Operating part of the line on existing railroad tracks used by freight trains will be easy, but people in the industry doubt that the proposed new tracks into Orlando can be maintained with passenger revenue. The public will surely end up paying the bill.
Robert A. Stanton, Seminole
Amazon, UPS offer refunds for gift delays Dec. 27
Don't wait till last minute
This article provided positive news, stating that Amazon and UPS are offering customers compensation for their gifts being delivered late. But customers also need to "own" part of the reason for these delays. Companies forecast their staffing levels according to what their expected sales and deliveries will be. Obviously, the previous year's statistics/volume did not come close to this year's last-minute shopper requests. So, the lesson learned for me the customer is that I will not be a last-minute shopper next year. This approach will ensure my packages are delivered on time.
Trish Cellamare, Treasure Island