It's not just a presidential election year. Floridians will decide every state House seat and — because of the redistricting battle — every state Senate seat, too. In turn, voters truly will take the law into their hands by deciding on constitutional amendments this November. But before all that happens, the current Legislature meets one time, a chance at a sort of redemption after last year's fiasco. To help you sort through the key issues, we bring you "For A Better Florida," the Tampa Bay Times preview of the annual session, which begins Tuesday. Published every year since 1951, it presents news articles and opinions intended to stimulate debate over some of the most important issues facing our state....
We're living through history. We just don't know how it will be told. When our grandchildren and their grandchildren look back on this year, what might still matter? For fun, we once again pick an event for each month that might seem significant when our future selves look back with hindsight's clear vision.
Jim Verhulst, Perspective editor
Science has some doubters on the left who fear vaccines and all genetically modified organisms, and on the right from those who deny climate change. Some of those doubts literally made people sick during an outbreak of measles that began at Disneyland in California but quickly spread across several states because of unvaccinated children thanks to the anti-vaxxer movement. Overwhelming medical evidence shows that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism or other developmental problems. Measles is dangerous; so is denying science....
Editor's note: This essay originally was published in the Times Perspective section on Sept. 24, 2009.
A little more than two years ago, there were no majority black public schools in Pinellas County. Now there are 14.
I have had children in Pinellas schools since 1993, and during that time the district has gone through four student-assignment schemes, from court-ordered busing for desegregation to today's neighborhood zones that don't take race into account. Some resegregation is now inevitable, so discussions of school achievement must start with this new reality. ...
The Municipal Pier. The Million Dollar Pier. The inverted pyramid. And now, Pier Park? For the fourth time in a century, St. Petersburg is about to decide on a new public pier. This Thursday the City Council will vote whether to authorize contract negotiations with the winning design team. If approved, the $46 million project is set for a grand opening the spring of 2018. But what is it? Let's go on a virtual walking tour. Click on the image below to see a PDF of Pier Park. Start at the red circle below and work your way counterclockwise....
Late on the night of April 20, 2010, methane gas blew out from a wellhead a mile below the Gulf of Mexico. At a pressure 150 times greater than air at the Earth's surface, the gas shot up through a drilling riser to the Deepwater Horizon oil platform and exploded, killing 11 workers. As the burning rig sank two days later, the worst offshore oil spill in history was already gushing. For 87 days, more than 200 million gallons of crude spread in a four-dimensional disaster that reached from the Gulf's floor to its surface, its seashore and across time. For years, a consortium of universities and researchers called C-IMAGE, led by marine scientists at the University of South Florida, has been studying the effects of the BP spill — and what we can learn. With the five-year anniversary of the spill upon us, two of the USF scientists — Steven Murawski and David Hollander — agreed to share some key findings. Here is their summary of what we now know, illustrated by three Times news artists. — Jim Verhulst, Perspective editor...
This map shows what the world would look like if a country's size were proportional to its population. It radically rearranges our sense of geographic space. Vast countries such as Russia, Canada and Australia turn into slivers of territory. Europe, and not South Asia, appears to be the real Asian subcontinent. Compiled by Reddit user TeaDranks, the map is an adapted version of a Population Map made in 2005 by cartographer Paul Breding and published by ODTmaps.com. TeaDranks updated its numbers. What the map emphasizes is the primacy of Asia. The continent's immensity is understood in the West but not truly appreciated. That, of course, is echoed in the Western media, where crises in Europe and conflicts in the Middle East still hold far more attention. The lack of coverage of India's elections last year — the world's greatest exercise in democracy — was lampooned by comedians. And many Americans probably weren't even aware of a similar landmark vote in Indonesia, home to the world's largest population of Muslims, or of Saturday's upcoming presidential vote in Nigeria, which will continue its longest stretch of democracy. Some Asian cities, as delineated on the map, are larger than most European countries. As the continent boasts some of the world's most dynamic developing economies, this map is a useful illustration for why some believe the 21st century will be the Asian Century....
Pity the '15s. Some years ending in "5" have pretty famous events associated with them: Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005; Saigon fell in 1975; and there was the Voting Rights Act of — wait for it — 1965. World War II ended in 1945, the Civil War in 1865. But '15s just don't have the same fame. So as 2015 begins, let's revive the prospects of the '15s by listing some events that we all know but don't associate with a '15. Here are some century-by-century options from Western history for the previous millennium:...
It's hard to see history in the making. Viewed through the long lens of time, which of today's major news stories will prove to have been pivotal? For fun, we once again pick an event for each month of the year that will seem significant when our future selves look back with hindsight's clear vision.
Hiroo Onoda dies at 91. Don't remember him? He was an Imperial Japanese Army officer who remained at his jungle post on an island in the Philippines for 29 years after 1945, refusing to believe that World War II was over. Caught in a time warp, Onoda believed, as the New York Times put it, that the emperor was a deity and the war a sacred mission. He survived on bananas and coconuts until finally going home in 1974 to a world of skyscrapers, television, jet planes, pollution and atomic destruction. As the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II approaches next summer, there has been a surge in interest among young Japanese about the war that their nation has long tried to forget. Driving this pursuit into the past is anxiety about China's rise — it now is the world's largest economy. As the United States continues to try to pivot toward the Pacific Rim, the death of Onoda — and the meaning of his life — is symbolically and materially important....
I've been thinking about my combination lock a lot. I keep it on a locker at work. Twenty or more times a week I spin the dial right, then left, then right, and the lock drops open with a satisfying "chunk." The first time I used that lock — in junior high gym class — we were still sending men to the moon.
In my pocket is an iPhone 5s. It was the best smartphone ever, the Next Big Thing — until a few days ago. Now Apple has announced a bigger, faster, cooler, more powerful, sexier iPhone. It goes on sale this week, and it's the next Next Big Thing until the next one next year. My 8½-month-old phone — if it were a baby, it wouldn't yet be walking or talking — is already hobbling into its senescence....
An expert panel from the Urban Land Institute is preparing a final report on the St. Petersburg waterfront. The idea? To offer guidance from the fresh perspective of informed outsiders. The group was chaired by Mike Higbee, an Indiana-based developer and former development director for the city of Indianapolis. The final report is expected around year's end. Higbee agreed to answer some questions from Perspective editor Jim Verhulst....
12/28/12 Human Interest
There is no more famous cancer survivor. And don't even bother trying to name another professional cyclist. Who among us didn't wear a yellow Livestrong wristband?
The man with the superhero all-American name showed us that you could beat cancer and not just survive, but thrive and be better than before. He made us care about a three-week bicycle race in a foreign country. Grunting up the mountains, flying through time trials and donning the yellow jersey, he denied, denied, denied ever doping while winning the Tour de France seven times....
Thomas Jefferson kept his religion to himself. Privately in 1820, for his own moral reflection, he assembled a volume he called The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. He took several King James Bibles and, with a razor, literally cut passages from the four gospels of the New Testament — choosing segments that offered ethical or moral instruction — and then pasted them together to create his own 84-page book. He left out anything "contrary to reason" and elements he believed to be later additions. For example, he kept the Beatitudes but excised the miracle of the loaves and fishes. What remained he melded into one chronology, no longer separated into traditional books of the New Testament. One could argue that he edited out the divinity of Christ, but one could also argue that he created a volume on which all people of good will — no matter their belief or lack thereof — could agree on as a model for good conduct, a nice thought on this Easter Sunday. He kept the volume private throughout his life. Discovered only late in the 19th century, it has been restored and will be on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History until July 15. Jefferson meant no disrespect. He simply wanted to clarify Jesus's teachings, which he called "the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man." Jim Verhulst, Perspective editor
Above is one of the Bibles from which Jefferson cut out the passages he wanted to use in his own volume. To the right is page 13 of his Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. It is an example of how he rearranged scripture into one chronological narrative. A partial transcript, with the relevant source, is printed below....
I was only 3 years old when John Glenn orbited the Earth in Friendship 7, so I don't remember the day. But I remember the decade. Of a nation marching as one behind an assassinated president's pledge to land an American on the moon before 1970. Of grade school assemblies where the principal would wheel out the black and white TV so we young students could all watch the latest Gemini launch. Of my G.I. Joe astronaut set that included a Mercury capsule and a 45 rpm record of Glenn's radio communication with Mission Control. Of a Cold War battle that used space exploration as a proxy for combat to measure whether Americans or Soviets were superior. Of a black and white time — not just in our TV sets but in our moral judgments — about right and wrong. Of a nation — and a world — rejoicing when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in July 1969....
I started college years ago as a math major — the path to one of those hotshot STEM degrees. Thank goodness I switched, even if STEM is the slogan of the moment in higher education.
From Gov. Rick Scott to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, STEM — science, technology, engineering and math degrees — is seen as the pathway to making Florida a high-tech haven with university students graduating into jobs that pay well, or at least into jobs. And some leaders vilify the liberal arts now that anecdotes abound of students graduating with debt and esoteric degrees but few marketable skills....