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Could railroads be this country's salvation?

I cannot let the unjustified attack on Amtrak (Amtrak's safety record, letter to the editor, Oct. 20) go by without a response.

It's bad enough to blame Amtrak for railroad accidents that aren't its fault. But to attempt to blame the railroad for motorists falling asleep on I-95 is downright ludicrous.

Does the letter writer have any proof that any automobile accidents on I-95 have been caused by sleepy drivers reading Amtrak billboards? Did it ever occur to the letter writer that perhaps "overextended" drivers should pull off the road to get some sleep rather than risk their own (and others') lives?

As for Amtrak's safety record, I would remind the letter writer that more people were killed in the recent USAir crash in Pennsylvania than have been killed aboard Amtrak trains in the railroad's entire 23-year history.

And if Amtrak is a "rickety-clackety railroad," as the letter writer snidely says, it is only because it has been woefully underfunded and has had to make do with aging equipment and too little money to keep it operating.

Of course, the letter writer probably believes we, the taxpayers, shouldn't be paying Amtrak's bills. "Airlines and bus lines are private corporations," he would probably say. "If Amtrak can't cut it on its own, it shouldn't exist." But airlines and bus lines depend upon taxpayer-funded airports and highways. Imagine what Amtrak could have done with the millions of tax dollars that have already been wasted on the trouble-plagued Denver Airport, which has recently been in the news.

Railroads built our great nation, and railroads can be this country's salvation. Trains are more fuel-efficient, pollute less and can move more people at a lower cost than any other form of transportation. Amtrak deserves our support, not ignorant jokes and snide put-downs.

Bill Hirschi, Ocala

Re: Amtrak pulls adds on NBC, Oct. 15, and Leno stays on laugh track, Oct. 16.

I can only hope that Jay Leno and his fans realize there is a bottom line to those Amtrak accidents.

I am sure the victims of those mishaps and their families don't find Leno's remarks amusing.

As far as Amtrak is concerned, it could easily say that you only get what you pay for!

Paul W. Knoferle, Clearwater

The situation in Lake County

As a resident of Lake County, I feel it necessary to correct some of the statements made by Jeanne Pugh (president of the Pinellas County chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State) in her Oct. 16 letter.

Ms. Pugh states that "each of three (Lake County) School Board members with ties to the nationwide Christian Coalitionlost a bid for re-election in the primary run-off." Actually, only one of the seats held by an ultraconservative was up for re-election. The holder of that seat, Chairwoman Patricia Hart, decided not to run for re-election. The other two seats currently held by ultraconservatives Claudia Ramsey and Judy Pierson are not up for re-election until 1996.

Two of the seats up for re-election this year were held by Phyllis Patten and Sandra Greene, neither of whom has ties to the Christian Coalition. Ms. Patten has decided not to run for re-election. Ms. Greene will face a Republican opponent in the November election.

All three of the open seats were sought by ultraconservatives and by mainstream Republicans. The ultraconservatives were soundly defeated in the run-offs by a 2 to 1 margin. Their mainstream opponents will face Democratic opposition in the November elections. I hope this clarifies the situation in Lake County for Ms. Pugh.

Christina M. Szuba, Mount Dora

Re: Oct. 16 letter to the editor from Jeanne Pugh,

Those of us who practice religion of any kind in America today are now being maligned and called dangerous by fanatic groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State, of which Ms. Pugh is a chapter president.

We feel there is very little prayer in public schools today. Doesn't this anti-religion group have anything more important to work on (possibly getting drugs and guns out of schools?), preferring to rail against harmless prayers?

Do they intend to take the traditional prayer out of presidential inaugurations as well? And how about the recent political speeches by Bill and Hillary Clinton and Mario Cuomo delivered from church pulpits? Those were neat pieces of hypocrisy regarding separation of church and state.

When Ms. Pugh and her colleagues come to final judgment at the pearly gates, will they be proud to say they helped remove prayer from schools?

What righteous cause will these pioneers take up next? Removal of prayer from churches?

Betty and Stan Yungmann, South Pasadena

Where is respect?

On Wednesday night, Oct. 19, my husband and I attended the movie The Client at the theater at Ulmerton and Starkey roads. At the start of the movie, the National Anthem was played. As we are Canadians, visitors to the United States, we promptly stood at attention. We were shocked to see we were the only ones standing.

Have the rules of respect for one's country changed?

Patricia Johnson, Largo

Fine print

Re: Tylenol and alcohol.

Even in the case of Tylenol PM where a warning is printed on the bottle, try reading the print on a small bottle of 24 _ I challenge you!

Alida M. Duchene, St. Petersburg

On the same team

Re: Making the tough decision, letter to the editor, Oct. 21.

I could not bear to look myself in the mirror tomorrow if I did not write this letter today. Any time I encounter ignorance under the guise of intellect and pomposity, I feel compelled to respond.

The letter writer is quick to take his hat off to the Hillsborough school district for removing "autistic Christian Ragusa" from Chamberlain High School because "we cannot ignore the rights of other students to get a fair education as free as possible of distractions such as these."

Let's get a few things straight at the outset. Speaking as the father of a beautiful (in all respects) daughter who happens to be autistic, let me attempt to educate you. "Autistic" is not my daughter's first or even middle name any more than it is Christian Ragusa's _ whom our family has known for more than a decade. If you had a blind or deaf grandson named Charley Brown, I would expect you to take offense if I referred to him as blind Charley Brown, or deaf Charley Brown.

Second, we don't take too kindly to folks who refer to our children and their occasional erratic behavior (which is the basis of their disability, by the way) as "distractions such as these."

Having offered this primer on simple courtesy and etiquette with respect to persons with disabilities, please allow me to set the record straight when it comes to our kids' rights to an appropriate education.

Once again, I must take offense with the letter writer's lumping of children with autism with "malcontents" in the classroom. Webster defines malcontent as "discontentedmarked by a dissatisfaction with the existing state of affairs."

It is the parents of too many autistic youngsters in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties who are the malcontents. Why, you may ask. The answer: Because too many parents like the letter writer, teachers and administrators just don't get it. Given the uncontested opportunity, they would summarily warehouse our kids in an (educational?) environment devoid of properly trained teachers and aides, adequate facilities and appropriate peer role models.

The letter writer applauds the Hillsborough school system as being "right on the money" with its ouster of Christian Ragusa. He should hold his applause until the "educrats" remove their own blinders and start spending our tax dollars more wisely on proper training and programing.

The letter writer urges the Ragusas to "act responsibly" and deny their son an appropriate education in the least restrictive setting. I would beseech him to cease "distractions such as these" and devote his time and energy toward a school system that is both more enlightened and responsive to the needs of all our students.

Sit down in front and stop cheering. Your team is rushing toward the wrong end zone! Hold your applause until we reverse direction and score big gains for all the players. Obviously, the letter writer doesn't realize it yet, but we are all on the same team.

Ron Yogman, St. Petersburg

What's the point now?

I fail to see the sense in protecting prospective jurors from publicity in the O. J. Simpson case at this late stage. It is my belief that one would have had to have spent the last six months in a Tibetan monastery not to have been affected to some degree by all the lurid publicity surrounding the case.

Would it not be far simpler in the future to impose reporting restrictions until after the trial begins? This would ensure the selection of a jury that had not already prejudged the case while still allowing the media to report on the trial.

Kevin Jamieson, Palm Harbor

All those who are watching the coverage of the O.

J. Simpson trial must be saying to themselves that there must be a better system of justice then this comic-book trial scene. Well, there is. The United States should adopt the British sub judice rule under which it is illegal to comment on the guilt or innocence of a person who is under trial.

I am aware that this suggestion inevitably brings howls of protest from the media concerning freedom of expression, etc., but what is more important _ the "lynching" of an accused in the press or other commentary, or the ensuring of a fair trial?

Some years ago, when I lived in New Jersey, there was a series of robbery/murders and eventually a suspect was arrested. When he came up for arraignment and pleaded not guilty, the judge rightly committed him for trial. However, in doing so and before hearing his side of the story, this same judge said, "And I would like to congratulate the police for removing this threatening individual from society." (The man hadn't even had a trial at this point!)

It is neither in Mr. Simpson's interest nor in the prosecution's case that the gutter press be allowed free rein to decide to try him before cool reasoning based on established facts has taken place.

This has nothing to do with free speech. It is simply a question of when liberty becomes license. In many other countries that evidently place a higher value on untainted trials, these greedy opportunists would now be languishing in jail.

J. H. Wilcox, Clearwater

I have two comments _ one on Nicole Brown Simpson and one on Princess Diana. Both are innocent victims.

I don't care what Nicole did with her men or women friends; she's dead and cannot defend herself. It's about time the media let her rest in peace.

However, Princess Di is alive and well, a beautiful young woman, with two very handsome sons, and Prince Charles is now saying he never loved her _ unbelievable!

My third comment is based on the fact that if O.

J. Simpson is found guilty, he just did not know what love is and, by the same token, neither does Prince Charles.

M. Hagan, Largo

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