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We should make child protection a top priority

Re: Grand jury: Kayla fell through cracks, Dec. 28.

No, Kayla McKean did not "fall through the cracks." She was neglected by the very department that was established to protect her and the other innocent children who are left to the care of sick and uncaring parents. It took two uncaring parents to bring about this child's death, along with the Department of Children and Families, whose case workers did not have the time or the inclination to recheck every page of her file each time she appeared before them calling for help.

The mother was to blame because she didn't insist that her child be removed from the home due to an abusive husband and father. She neglected her child, just as if she'd done the abuse herself. Children are innocent, and we as parents are supposed to protect them at all cost. The father did the killing, but the others involved assisted him in her death. To neglect is to give permission for more abuse.

But for the grand jury to say that Kayla fell through the cracks is to say the Department of Children and Families had no control over Kayla's life, which is not true. Maybe the department doesn't have enough case workers to guarantee that every child will be completely protected once they are in the system. If this is so, then it's up to the state to hire enough workers to protect the lives of these innocent children, no matter the cost.

There is no possible way that one case can be covered each and every time by one social worker. But the department could include red tabs on the file of each child who had been abused more than once. When a worker sees such a tab or sticker, it would be a warning sign to reread the whole file for past abuse to that child. This way, no matter who the case worker was, he or she would have no excuse for not knowing about previous abuses. In this way, no child could slip through the cracks, as they say. According to the reports, this child had been through the system many times, and her files should have contained many red flags.

I hope this case is circulated nationwide and will be an eye-opener to the whole child welfare system to re-examine every case where abuse is even suspected. The responsibility belongs to all of us, not just the courts. We as observers must speak up when we see where the system is neglecting its duty. The future of these innocent children depends on all of us. Let's do our part to prevent any other child from being killed due to the neglect of others.

Fran Glaros, Clearwater

Policy on Iraq is un-American

In a news conference on C-SPAN the other day, Bishop Tom Gumbleton of Detroit said that the leaders of the United States and the United Kingdom are war criminals. He cites the air attacks and economic sanctions on Iraq, which have led to the deaths of 1.5-million Iraqi civilians since 1991.

I tend to agree. The sanctions and attacks have only reinforced the Iraqi resolve to confront the United States and United Nations due to the atrocities leveled against them.

Iraq has never threatened the United States. It's only mistake was invading a neighbor. We responded with a coalition of Arab states, along with the United Nations, to push Iraq out of Kuwait. We accomplished that mission, and that should have been the end of it.

Now, we have little support from Iraq's neighbors, there is no coalition and the U.N. Security Counsel does not support U.S. and U.K. actions. The U.S. policy has changed to one of overthrowing the Iraqi government. We will never get the Iraqi people on our side by killing them and we will never build a coalition against Saddam Hussein by slaughtering Muslims.

We are punishing Iraq for a perceived threat, not for any crime or act of war. In this country, treating a suspect as guilty prior to a conviction is un-American. The Clinton administration's policy and actions, without benefit of wrongdoing by Iraq, would be illegal in this country. The hypocrisy abounds.

The U.S. concern over weapons of mass destruction is a sham whose only purpose is to give the Clinton administration an enemy to rally the country against and to divert attention. There is virtually no threat of these types of weapons being used against anyone in the near future. Iraq's army is decimated. Its ability to threaten its neighbors is almost zero.

It's time to stop this un-American, anti-Muslim policy of slaughter in Iraq. If the Iraqi government ever strikes out against other nations, the United Nations and United States should respond, but putting the punishment before the crime is in opposition to all that Americans stand for.

Frank A. Bucci, St. Petersburg

Diverse juries may not be fair ones

Re: Juries and justice, editorial, Dec. 29.

Although the practice of drawing jurors from the state registry of licensed drivers may add diversity to the system, it is not likely to add fairness. Minority jurists tend to be much more distrustful of law enforcement personnel and, consequently, more prejudiced against prosecutors. Factual evidence is often considered only in the context of the defendant's skin color.

We've all witnessed two very high-profile cases (the trials of O.J. Simpson and Mike Espy) where the minority suspects were acquitted solely based on the fact that the jury was composed almost entirely of African-Americans. If their juries had been selected based upon a true representative sampling of the population (15 percent African-Americans) with no concomitant racist "agenda," these two defendants would have most definitely been found guilty of their respective crimes.

Bob Lindskog, Clearwater

Animal abuse isn't entertainment

It's always sad to read about the circus coming into this area with the wording "family entertainment" and "fun stuff" used so frequently to describe this sad example of animal cruelty.

Animals perform unnatural acts only under threat of punishment.

Elephants are "controlled" with bull hooks and whips.

Tigers live and are transported in cages with barely enough room to turn around.

Please, St. Petersburg Times, get your story straight: Animal abuse is not "family entertainment" nor is it "fun stuff."

Arthur Seitter, Port Richey

Clinton needs no more punishment

I watched the Watergate hearings. I remember testimony from a great variety of people: John Dean, Charles Colson, H.R. Haldeman, John Erlichman and others whose names I have forgotten. I watched the panel of congressional representatives listening and questioning those people and treating their work with dignity and responsibility _ day after day.

I watched the "Monica-gate" hearings. I saw very little dignity or sense of responsibility. I saw no serious attempt to persuade anyone that the hearsay evidence was absolutely truthful. I heard no cross-questioning _ only blind acceptance of someone else's word. I saw bigoted minds that could not open up enough to judge fairly or to even pay attention to what someone else said. I saw overkill in decreeing the punishment.

The comparison of the people and procedures of the two hearings is nauseating.

Bill Clinton needs no further punishment. His punishment will last long after his death. He will know that many people will smile to his face and laugh at him behind his back, or be thinking "Yuck!" as they smile. He will know that law schools will use him for centuries as an example of what happens when a too-egotistical lawyer thinks he can outsmart everyone and paints himself into a corner, only to discover too late that it isn't paint but glue, and he's stuck with his stupid evasions.

Censure him. Don't fine him. Don't give the impression that money will get you out of anything!

Stop insisting that he say "I lied" when he knows that will leave him open to future prosecution. Doesn't the Fifth Amendment guarantee that no one is obligated to incriminate himself? All of the Constitution is important, not just the phrases one likes.

I feel as though I have been flipped into an alternate world USA where bigotry, self-righteousness and lack of tolerance are respectable. Please, Capt. Kirk, once around the sun and bring back my world!

Clarice Larson, Seminole

Decide after a full trial

If the impeachment verdict was "partisan," as the media and Democrats insist, why wasn't this partisanship due to the Democrats as well as the Republicans? After all, if more Democrats had voted in favor of impeachment, then it would have been bipartisan.

And when I read that politicians and legal experts say there are not 67 votes in the Senate to convict President Clinton, I am forced to conclude that just about every senator, Republican and Democrats alike, has already decided on a verdict. Excuse me, but isn't the Senate supposed to be acting as a jury? Since when do members of a jury form an opinion before hearing evidence and testimony?

I believe a full trial should be held and only then a verdict rendered. Whatever time is necessary should be taken. Serious matters cannot be resolved "quickly." All senators must have the courage and integrity to uphold the Constitution and the system of justice now existing in this country. Failure to do so will result in a harsh judgment by posterity.

Lucinda Markis, Madeira Beach

A question of stupidity

First, I was going to ask: How many private citizens would still have their jobs after having a sexual encounter at the work place?

Second, how many would still have their jobs after having lied to their employer (i.e., the American public) on such a serious matter?

Third, when does the president's private affairs begin and his responsibility to the United States end? Is he not the president 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

Fourth, how can any informed person call the impeachment a Republican witch hunt? Did he not commit the act? Did he not lie about it? (How can anyone forget his categorical, fist-pounding denial!)

But I think I'll just ask: How could the president of the United States have been so stupid as to have gotten himself in such a predicament in the first place?

Scott Acker, a lifelong Democrat, Clearwater

The liar of their choice

While on vacation last summer I was having dinner with a Canadian acquaintance when he started pumping me for opinions on the still-developing presidential sex scandal. I had not seen a newspaper or newscast for over a week and so I tried to beg off. However, after more insistence, I rattled off a stream of opinions that have, in retrospect turned out to be nearly 100 percent wrong.

On one matter I was right, however. My acquaintance opined that a majority of Americans would turn against the president because he had lied under oath. My response was that I didn't think that a majority of Americans believed their elected leaders were telling them the truth in the first place. This is the concept that congressional Republicans have failed to grasp. A majority of the electorate already knew that they voted for a liar, and now they resent the congressional attempt to hijack the election and remove the liar of their choice.

I am not a particular supporter of Bill Clinton, and neither am I one of his more vehement critics. If this current process leads to more honesty in American politics and our government officials, I am all for it, no matter what the outcome.

Yeah, right.

Mike Thomas, St. Petersburg

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They should be brief and must include the writer's name, address and phone number.

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