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Readers concerned about maintaining biodiversity

Re: Reptile inquiry brings chameleons to court, May 23, about the reptile dealer subpoenaed for possessing a protected species of iguana who reportedly said in his defense, "Who really cares? They're lizards": I really care, and a lot of other citizens who care about biodiversity do, too. Have you ever heard of the word? It refers to the wealth of plant and animal life that is rapidly disappearing from the planet _ a kind of wealth that may prove to be far more valuable to future generations than the wealth you know about, the profits you and your kind make by ripping off our remaining wild species and selling them to the highest bidder. I applaud the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for prosecuting those who would flagrantly violate our wildlife laws and write off the fines they accrue as part of the cost of doing business. And if some wildlife dealers cannot even attempt to stay within the law _ as this investigation may demonstrate _ perhaps it's time to outlaw the taking of all animals from the wild to serve as commodities for the pet trade. Surely the need some people have for non-human companionship can be met by animals that reproduce in captivity, and this particular means of diminishing biodiversity and impoverishing our planet's ecosystems would thereby be eliminated.

Ronnie Hawkins, Gainesville

The Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission recently approved the use of private fox pen enclosures in Florida.

These fox pens, or killing fields, are an even more sickening spectacle of fox hunting than it was before. Now it's not only a matter of masses of dogs, horses and men chasing one terrified fox; they now have pens which are escape-proof enclosures, deliberately stocked with foxes or coyotes and used as money-making ventures for so-called sportsmen.

Large numbers of dogs are constantly turned loose in these pens to chase the captive animals which have no means of escape. Their only escape is to be caught and killed by the dogs or to die of stress-related diseases.

I do not believe that the good people of Florida, on learning of these atrocities against defenseless animals, will sit by quietly and let it happen. Those wishing to express their opinion can contact Col. Robert Brantly, executive director of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission in Tallahassee.

Jean R. Stevens, Belleair

Man's ability to stretch the spirit of wildlife conservation laws is disturbing. In the state of Florida, scuba divers can legally dive from a boat armed with a device that fires explosive rounds, called a bangstick, and a hose with a sharp needle on one end connected to an air compressor on the boat. They swim up to a school of 10- to 20-year-old prize grouper or red snapper. These fish generally won't bite a hook while spawning and remain in protective groups, reluctant to leave their spawning grounds as the divers approach them. The divers fire the bangsticks, killing or disabling fish, then shove the needle into the fish's bladder, filling it with air. The fish float to the surface to be picked up like dead firewood. What sport!

This practice of so-called fishing is second only to large-scale net fishing where human technology clearly demonstrates man's capability to wipe out any wildlife population he chooses. Some commercial fishing companies use spotter planes to locate fish and then dispatch boats with large nets. These nets are stretched over acres of ocean, indiscriminately catching and killing all species that swim into the nets, including sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins and young, developing fish. Not only do nets kill all the sea life in their path, but some are dragged on the bottom, destroying the fish habitat.

These nets put the hook and line commercial fishermen out of business. If commercial fishing was restricted to hook and line methods, the fish population would be replenished, and the employment and quality and quantity of fish would increase. Everyone, including future generations, would benefit if we banned the strip mining of the oceans with nets.

We're headed for disaster if we can't stop these short-sighted practices. The cycle of ocean life in Florida is at stake here. Development already threatens the salt marshes where many species spawn, and then the fish move offshore to face the nets and bangsticks. Please write or call our public officials now.

Bill Higgins, Sanford

Re: Jackrabbit business illegal but booming, May 27.

The barbaric torture and mutilation of jackrabbits by unscrupulous greyhound trainers as reported by David K. Rogers turns my stomach.

Steve Deady, Brandon

Everyone wins

All one can say pertaining to UF emphasizes patients, May 30, is "It's about time!" To finally reduce the amount of lectures in favor of giving medical students hands-on experience coupled with medical knowledge and compassion would indeed be wise.

If the new program is being judged as an experiment, it is one for which we are in dire need. It is only common sense that if doctors listened more to their patients and began treating them with compassion, and stopped the insulting practice of viewing them as whining, tiresome know-nothings, both doctors and patients would definitely be the winners.

Y. Quiriy, St. Petersburg

Those crazy signs

Signs that drive you crazy, May 25.

Let's clarify the paragraph: "The east-west arteries to mid-county beaches are Ulmerton, Roosevelt Boulevard, East Bay Drive and Park Boulevard. But drivers looking for them from I-275 and U.S. 19 had better have a microscope handy."

The Park Boulevard exit from I-275 will be hard to find because I-275 does not cross or exit at Park Boulevard. East of U.S. 19 and into Tampa it is called Gandy Boulevard. The exit does not mention Gandy Boulevard or Park Boulevard _ but it does have a Pinellas Park sign for locals and out-of-staters to admire.

Emil J. Origer, St. Petersburg

For greater understanding

In 1985 my 5-year-old hemophiliac son tested positive for the AIDS virus. My son Johnny, now 10, was born with severe hemophilia and needed Factor 8. Because of poor quality control of blood products, he received tainted blood and tested HIV positive.

I'm really bothered by the subtle accusations in the articles that have appeared in your paper lately about the transmission of AIDS from an organ donor. Your articles make it seem that hemophiliacs are high risk to transmit the disease to other people and that just isn't so. Most people don't really know what hemophilia is. Hemophilia is a hereditary blood disorder that is treated by receiving blood products. It is estimated that between 50 percent to 90 percent of all hemophiliac children born before 1983 have tested HIV positive. That is a lot of innocent children.

These children do not engage in high risk behaviors. There is not one report of any family members of an AIDS patient contracting the disease. They are children (and die well before adulthood) and are not sexually active. Because of both the hemophilia and AIDS they cannot act like other kids, climbing trees, playing ball, riding bikes; a skin puncture for hemophiliac children can be a death sentence in itself. They don't donate blood! In fact, these children and their families don't do much, they often live lives of quiet desperation, isolated from their families, friends and community. I know. I'm one of them.

It would be nice if newspapers like the St. Petersburg Times showed more of a commitment to educating the public about these children. My main source of support and encourage has come from Hospice Care Inc. I guess what I'm asking for is greater understanding for these innocent children, those born with a hereditary disease they didn't ask for, treated by the medical community, and given a death sentence of AIDS.

Name Withheld, Palm Harbor

The American way

Re: School's seniors to be treated to $10,000 send-off, May 31.

I am writing this letter to express my deep disappointment about your article on the Countryside High School senior party. The condescending tone of your article and the obvious resentment expressed by those quoted is unfair to the class of '91.

What you are attacking is the very core of the American way. If you dig into the matter, you'll find that many people worked very hard to raise money for the senior party. The amount and cost are immaterial. Parents and students went out and hustled to get donations; what is wrong with that?

Most important, you overlooked the fact that the class of '91 consists of many fine young people, many of whom have after-school jobs, are active in their community, churches and school, and certainly have good values. They deserve only praise and respect.

It's sad that something very positive is turned into a negative by your editorial bias. You are always quick to publish all the bad things kids do, and it's irresponsible journalism when you degrade a worthwhile enterprise and people who've earned their way and deserve respect.

In closing, anyone who thinks of Countryside as "upscale" certainly does not understand the demographics of the student body or the area.

Jacqueline and Richard J. Nicholson, Clearwater

Common sense lacking

Re: Lawyers settle in Silverado lawsuit, May 30.

"The FDIC gets about a quarter of what it asked for in its suit against Neil Bush and 122 other thrift directors It has been estimated the Silverado collapse will cost taxpayers about $1-billion."

Yet Neil's daddy and his "big business party" avoid national health care for Americans other than themselves and cut Medicare and other "socialized" programs for Americans in desperate need of same to survive. Sununu's trips take quite a chunk out of taxpayers' programs as do the many "celebrations of war," while over 37-million Americans suffer without medical insurance.

Meanwhile, brainwashed Americans keep their heads buried in "Desert Sand," pushing the wrong buttons in the ballot booths. Many, of course, have no address and don't get to vote.

I'd love to see the good guys win again and turn this nation around. Interglobal corporations' exploitation took away decent job opportunities for many Americans. There are minimum wage "opportunities" pitting young vs. elderly. Big business blames the unions, yet high executives continue to increase their own salaries and seldom lower the cost of cars. "Deregulation" protects the big-time thugs.

High technology may be in, but simple common sense seems to be lacking.

Mary Ann Wilcox, St. Petersburg

Protected speech

Re: The Supreme Court decision prohibiting dissemination of information about abortion within federally funded facilities.

Whither go our justices? Off the deep end? In one instance, they ruled it legal to burn the American flag as a way of expressing one's freedom of speech. Now, these same justices have ruled that it is illegal for anyone working in a federally funded program (family planning) to inform a woman about abortion.

This is not to say that the abortion is to be completed, to be done within the clinic or funded by U.S. taxpayers. It is merely the expression, the utterance of a few specific words that the justices prohibit. The issue ceases to be just a woman's right to control of her own body. It becomes the larger issue of freedom of speech.

The justices read the U.S. Constitution very differently than I do. I still construe freedom of speech as just that (barring screaming fire in a crowded room). I believe that speaking, even if disagreeing with my view, is still protected speech, constitutionally speaking. Censorship? What's next? If this ruling is valid, then may all speech within any federally funded building or program then be fair game?

Are the justices in the Supreme Court dispensing justice?

Kathryn L. van Heyningen, Palm Harbor

Re: The abortion police at work, by Robert Pittman, May 26.

Multiple bravos!

Many of us yearn to find a way to halt the erosion _ the rapidly accelerating erosion _ of our civil rights.

You voice our concerns and raise our consciousness.

But now we must find effective courses of action to stem the rising tide of religiously motivated incursions on our freedoms.

Sidney M. Goetz, Gulfport

Re: The abortion police at work, May 26.

As usual, the column does not directly address the issue of abortion. Instead we read about "minority religious views," "constitutional rights," "procreative destiny," "free speech" and "comprehensive medical advice."

Can you explain an actual religion-based argument used in the Supreme Court ruling? I, for one, do not follow how "dancing was sinful to deacons" has anything to do with abortion. That was just another attempt to define pro-life individuals as religious fanatics.

All laws concern individual rights. Does one have the right to exceed the speed limit or drive while intoxicated even if that action imperils others? Can one person's right to privacy mean another person does not have the right to live? The word "privacy" cannot be found in the Constitution and yet pro-abortionists cite privacy as the fundamental "constitutional right" to an abortion.

If you want to eliminate laws that restrict women's rights to control their bodies, do you also want to eliminate laws against drug abuse and prostitution? Or is abortion your only concern?

Does free speech require doctors to explain to pregnant women all about her baby or only to discuss the abortion procedure? Why not tell the mother that her unborn baby has a heartbeat, tiny hands and feet, fingernails, and hair; that it sucks its thumb or that it is a girl or boy? Why not show her a picture of her baby at its stage of development? After all, we wouldn't want incomplete medical advice. And if you don't want the government involved in abortion counseling, why do you want the government to pay for it?

In the May 25 edition of your paper, I read of a 14-ounce baby delivered four months prematurely in West Palm Beach. He was "delivered with his eyes open, looking healthy and breathing normally." Why don't your editorials on abortion ever mention babies? After all, they are involved in every abortion, too.

Karen Grof, Safety Harbor

Robert Pittman's The abortion police at work shows how advocates for abortion blindly follow a path of fallacy.

Contrary to Pittman's claim, the recent Supreme Court decision does not modify counselors' right to speak freely. Instead, it modifies the government's obligation to write checks for purposes that conflict with its duty to preserve innocent life. Counselors who wish to tell patients to do something outside the confines of the law need merely to accept the fact that Washington isn't going to pay them to do it.

Justice Blackmun, in the quote Pittman cited, obviously ignores the fact that women indeed have the right to control their reproductive destiny and, in the absence of the despicable crime of rape, the power to do it.

It is ludicrous to think that any woman today lives in ignorance of her ability to procure abortion. Merely look at your own classified ads or read the opening paragraphs of your recent report on life in our high schools.

Congratulations to the Rehnquist court. Perhaps they have saved a life. Just one is enough to make it all worth it.

Ronald J. Ogden, Palm Harbor

Share your opinions

Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, 33731, (FAX 893-8675). They should be brief and must include the handwritten signature and address of the writer. Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length.

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