1. Archive

Libraries should have limits on Internet access

Re: The Internet censors lose, editorial, April 27.

I almost feel that I should start by apologizing for not agreeing one iota with your editorial that espouses full, uncensored Internet access at public libraries for public use. I will say I am sorry that communities can't seem to have standards of decency by which to abide. And I will also say I'm sorry that First Amendment rights mean I cannot go to a public library without worrying about the possibility that pornography or depictions of bestiality might be viewed in my presence.

A hostile environment has just been created by some genius who feels any obstruction to access is a violation _ even at a public library! I simply cannot believe our libraries would ever create such a hostile environment for their patrons. And will children be omitted from having the same "privilege" to uncensored Web sites? If no screening of Internet materials is done, I think a lot of parents would think twice about allowing their children to even go to public libraries.

I think that the compelling governmental interest that U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema claimed was missing should be that matters of a private sexual nature should not have their platform at a public institution, else Big Brother will indeed be involved in our sex lives, too! And if Judge Brinkema is so worried about the cost factor, isn't anything besides dollars being considered here? To allow unlimited Internet access would carry far steeper costs than that of filtering systems ever would.

If the First Amendment serves to protect the "rights" of certain individuals who plausibly might come to the public library exclusively for porn, will the healthy environment that we take for granted of our public library systems be compromised? If someone becomes addicted to pornography because of such easy, uncensored access, who will be liable for the possible (probable?) result _ professional help to curb (abnormal?) behaviors?

It is very worrisome to me that the First Amendment has come to mean that I have to relinquish certain morals to accommodate what freedom is really about!

P.S. I also think your title is wrong. The real losers here win, and a very great majority of us lose.

Jeanne Hallet, St. Petersburg

Consent amendment deserved defeat

We write to commend those Pinellas County state representatives who voted against the proposed constitutional amendment that would have required parental consent for young people under the age of 18 for all medical treatment, not just abortion. These elected officials went beyond the rhetoric and looked deeply into the issue. They came to understand that this resolution had the potential to cause great harm, even death, to our young people. These courageous legislators are Rudy Bradley, Mary Brennan, Larry Crow, Margo Fischer, Lars Hafner, Dennis Jones and Sandy Safley.

Because of the broad wording of the resolution ("all medical treatment"), this measure could have eliminated minors' confidential access to contraception, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, mental health counseling, drug and alcohol treatment, and a whole range of health-care services for teens.

If teens are unable to get contraceptives without parental consent, their use of contraceptives will decline and the teen pregnancy rate will rise. If teens are unable to get confidential treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (many of these diseases are at epidemic proportions), many won't seek treatment and their affliction will spread. Untreated diseases can lead to serious complications and even death.

We certainly recognize the importance of parental involvement in teens' medical decisions. In fact, Planned Parenthood encourages it at every opportunity. But some teens can't and won't confide in a parent about their sexuality. How can a young girl who has been abused by a member of her own household then go to that person for permission to seek medical care?

Like those legislators listed above, let's get real. Let's look beyond wishful thinking and face reality. Let's help our teens, not pass laws that put them at greater risk.

Sally A. Ruby, chair, Clearwater; Jeanne Malchon,

St. Petersburg; and Marcia S. Cohen, St. Petersburg;

Pinellas Service Area Council of Planned Parenthood of

Southwest and Central Florida Inc., Sarasota

The mentally ill are ignored again

Re: Mental health bill dies without vote, May 2.

Once again, passage of the long overdue Diane Steele Mental Health Insurance Parity Act by this session of the Florida Legislature was sunk. This legislative "Titanic" to end discrimination in health care for the mentally ill was on a collision course from its inception. It was initially hit by 10 "icebergs" (amendments) insisted upon by business interests and the insurance industry. Each tore a hole in this "flagship" for parity in mental health insurance benefits, sinking many of the true equality aspects of the law by excluding most businesses, limiting in- and out-patient benefits, and capping costs.

However, despite this severe damage, it did at least survive these amendments. Covered "survivors," an unknown number of severely mentally ill people residing in Florida, would at least get some fair insurance coverage for hospital stays, deductibles and coinsurance factors. For just this token law, we would have been most grateful.

Unfortunately, those who need and deserve this coverage as well as those who have worked so hard for passage did not detect the "stealth iceberg." The bill was sunk, for the second year in a row, by one legislator!

How long will it be until true parity and other mental health issues are recognized? No one knows, as no one really knows the long-range costs for any other insurance coverages like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, or even home owners' insurance. But we do know that thousands of seriously ill people are treated differently when they are treated by the current health insurance system. Some day, perhaps early in the next century, these most vulnerable citizens, who often cannot fight for themselves, will be treated like "normal" people who have physical illnesses.

Donald G. Turnbaugh, president, National Alliance

for the Mentally Ill, Palm Harbor

Re: Mental health bill dies before vote.

The Florida Legislature has basically sold out the people of Florida in order to accommodate the big insurance companies and their own personal political goals.

The mental health bill, requiring HMOs and other insurers to provide coverage for the mentally ill, was dead when Rep. John Thrasher wouldn't even let it come to a vote on the House floor. He has let his constituents down and caused a great deal of pain and misery to many people because he chose to be wooed by a lobbyist for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida.

Rep. Thrasher, what you did was cowardly and immoral and you should spend some serious time examing your behavior. You have a duty to us, the people, not your political ambitions. I am appalled that this man will be in such a position of power in our state. I have never been so ashamed of the Republican party.

Since the nice folks up in Tallahassee like to take little field trips, such as viewing state sanctioned murder by electrocution, perhaps Rep. Thrasher could spare the time to go to Arcadia, the home of G. Pierce Wood, the state mental hospital. This is the place where the state sends its mentally ill, the ones without insurance. I have been there, and it is something you will never forget.

Mary Brennen was the only shining star in all of this. I commend her for her efforts. However, money talks (apparently Thrasher listens) and Brennan was up against the sacred profit margin of the big HMO's. Obviously, they care more about making money than about people.

Mary Anne Schmidt, Palm Harbor

Don't be misled on pensions

Re: Cities hope campaign will stymie pension bill, April 28.

As a firefighter working for a local municipality, I am saddened by the efforts of the League of Cities to mislead the public into believing that the police and fire unions are "trying to get around the collective bargaining process."

This legislation is in response to misuse of tax funds that the state collects from fire insurance premiums. This money was intended to improve the pensions of the people who routinely put their lives and bodies on the line for the safety of the public.

Currently, with my municipality, our pension was doing so well the city decided to stop requiring general employees to contribute to their pension fund. Fire and police still contribute, but improvements haven't been made since the plan was written 25-plus years ago.

Dominic M. Calabro, president of Florida TaxWatch, should be angry. The $10,000 spent by the League of Cities on the television ads were hard-earned tax dollars that the cities pool for situations such as this.

Ray Hansen, St. Petersburg

Guns can help prevent crime

In his article of April 23, Bill lets tourists bring guns into state, Adam Smith says the "statistics point to no clear link between concealed weapons permits and crime." Actually, there is statistical evidence that gun ownership deters crime.

Florida State University professors Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz have found that "each year in the United States there are about 2.2- to 2.5-million DGUs (defensive gun uses) of all types by civilians against humans, with about 1.5- to 1.9-million of the incidents involving the use of handguns" (p. 164, "Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun," Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, vol. 86, no. 1, Fall 1995: see also Table 1 in that report). In almost 76 percent of these cases, according to Table 3, the firearm is never even discharged. Attackers are only hit about 8 percent of the time.

University of Chicago School of Law professor John R. Lott Jr. and Department of Economics professor David B. Mustard conclude in their scholarly research study that "allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes and it appears to produce no increase in accidental deaths" (abstract, "Crime, Deterrence and Right-To-Carry Concealed Handguns," Journal of Legal Studies, Fall 1997).

Florida should allow tourists to bring guns into Florida. People feel safer when they are able to defend themselves. And they should. When we had that rash of attacks on tourists, one of the young people accused of the crime was asked why tourists were targeted. She answered, "We knew they wouldn't have guns."

Ann Bunting, Bayonet Point

Funny they're not

Re: News watch, by Tom Zucco, May 1.

I think Tom Zucco's sense of humor is very different from mine. I could not believe it but right along with the dumb crooks, stupid practical jokes and boring trivia were two bizarre and hideous cases of animal cruelty. What does this say about us if the Times and Tom Zucco believe there's a large audience of people who think chicken-hatcheting Boy Scouts, and a poor parrot fried alive in a microwave are in any way humorous?

Anita Daniels, Lutz

Share your opinions

Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. They can be sent by e-mail to or by fax to 893-8675.

They should be brief and must include the writer's name, address and phone number. Please include a handwritten signature when possible.