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Executions are a poor lesson against killing

Re: Illinois governor stops executions over errors, Feb. 1.

I never have understood how killing someone to teach others not to kill could be a useful construct. I understand the need to protect society from those who have been appropriately convicted of heinous crimes. Life without the possibility of parole would seem to accomplish that.

For those who support the death penalty, I can't help but wonder: Would their views on the death penalty change if their parent, sibling, child or friend were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death or even put to death?

Helen Horton, Seminole

Illinois governor has right idea

Gov. George Ryan's announced moratorium on executions in Illinois was said to be "hailed by opponents of the death penalty." But I'm sure that it was also hailed by many who, like some of your more thoughtful recent letter writers, share the governor's support of the death penalty.

The number of proven wrongful convictions in the United States since 1973 (13 in Illinois, 18 in Florida) is proof that the criminal justice system is flawed and the death penalty is not being administered as its supporters intended. Gov. Ryan's decision was right-minded and ought to set an example for other governors to follow.

Kenneth T. Barnes, Clearwater

Showing political courage

My nomination for governor of the year is not our own Jeb Bush but Gov. George Ryan of Illinois who has shown political courage in halting executions in his state. Whereas in Florida our governor and the Legislature seem to be in a race to see who can claim to be more closed-minded about possible errors made in the entire death penalty process, Gov. Ryan admits what everyone knows. Mistakes are made and defense lawyers for the poor sometimes do not do a proper job in defending their clients.

Quoting Gov. Ryan, "Until I can be sure that everyone sentenced to death in Illinois is truly guilty, until I can be sure with moral certainty that no innocent man or woman is facing a lethal injection, no one will meet that fate."

Don't hold your breath for our governor to say the same.

Mark Jacobs, Wesley Chapel

Agreement is being violated

The handling of this Cuban boy is in clear violation of the 1995 agreement established between the United States and Cuba. That accord established that any Cuban interdicted on the high seas would be immediately returned to Cuba by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The only exceptions would be those who needed intensive medical help to save their lives.

It is my understanding that this boy was not to that point. He simply was dehydrated, hungry and hypothermic from exposure. These conditions could easily have been attended to by guardsmen and/or a doctor sent out to the ship to ride along to Cuba.

The agreement further provided that our State Department or Immigration and Naturalization Service representatives in Havana would be able to meet with the returnee to ensure he was not mistreated upon return. Finally, it provided that Cuba would agree not to send and would attempt to curtail Cubans in mass exodus such as was seen during the Mariel boat lift.

We have clearly violated this agreement and have left ourselves open for further influxes of unfit refugees if Castro so desires to send them.

Morton Zimbler, St. Petersburg

Parties to an abduction

The issue of whether little Elian Gonzalez should be returned to Cuba should never have become a nationwide question. His relatives in Miami, after offering comfort from his harrowing journey, should have returned him to his father.

They should ask themselves the question: How would they feel if it was their son being kept from them? All the rallying round by locals and bringing politicians into this fray have created the worst kind of circus where Elian will be the one to suffer. Don't they see how confusing it is for him?

They ply him with material pleasures,attempting to sway his emotions in their favor. The sight of the new puppy was sickening. He may smile now, but who knows what's really happening inside his head. This chaos may be creating serious emotional problems that might not be seen now but will present themselves as he grows older. All those supporters for keeping Elian here are co-conspirators in a family abduction. His life was almost lost in our waters. Why now are we trying to screw it up even further?

Barbara Hubert, Tarpon Springs

A different adoption story

Re: Adoptees confuse curiosity with rights, by Robyn Blumner, Jan. 9.

I am an adopted child. However, one thing sets me apart from the adoptees Blumner writes of. I was fortunate to be adopted within my family. I know who my birth mother is, what she looks like and that she loved me so much that she unselfishly gave me up so I could have the life I deserve.

I am eternally grateful to her. Her decision has touched many in my family, including my adopted mother, who continued on when my birth mother wasn't able to. My adopted mom was there when I received my Pride award, forgot my patrol belt, when I graduated from Osceola High, and she was even there when I was accepted to Florida State University. No one can take that away from me.

However, I will never know what my birth father looks like. I don't even know who he is, nor does my birth mother. So, unlike the adoptees that Blumner writes about, I will never have the right to search for my birth father. I don't mope around, wasting time thinking about it. When I'm trying to fall asleep, sometimes, I think about my father and I start to cry. Did I get his nose? Did I inherit his creative streak?

I wouldn't want to meet him. I would rather just prefer to know of him. I can tell you my feelings aren't fueled by curiosity but rather by a desire for closure.

Jani Lacombe, Seminole

Thoughts of an adopted child

I am 10 years old and I was adopted when I was 2 days old. I think adoption is really cool! I read the column about adoption in the paper on Jan. 9 (Adoptees confuse curiosity with rights). What bothered me was the statement about how the birth parents gave up their children and moved on and how the adoptees should do the same.

I have my own opinion about the rights of adopted children. I think most children are placed for adoption because they are loved by their birth parents. I believe birth parents usually decide that a more responsible adult would better care for their child. They gave me up for love.

I think adopted children deserve to know where they are from and who their blood relatives are. Sometimes in school it hurts for me to say, "I'm really not sure of my family of origin." We can only guess about these answers. My family and I joke about my being Italian because I love Italian food and I talk with my hands. We get a good laugh about this, but I still wonder!

I really don't think getting in touch with my birth parents would hurt my parents. My parents have their opinions, too, and basically they want what's best for me. This may include my knowing more about my birth parents. They will support me if this is what I need. This is not about them being "bad parents." This is about helping me feel better about me. When I do meet my birth parents, the first thing I will do is give them a big hug and thank them for their great decision involving me!

I think that I should make the decision about meeting my birth parents. After all, this is my life! They made the decision to let me be adopted. They don't get to decide for me whether I want to find them. Sometimes people get so wrapped up in my adoption that I feel claustrophobic in my own life! How weird is that?

As you're reading this, I hope you have become more knowledgeable about adoption. If you are not familiar with adoption, I suggest that you find some books and talk to adopted children to understand how we feel. Some of the things I have written about, I have never said before to anyone. They have sentimental value to me. Today at work or before bed tonight, please think about what I have written. My thoughts and feelings are important for you to hear.

Kara Tucker, St. Petersburg

Too much trail trash

Re: The view from the people's bridge, Mary Jo Melone's Jan. 20 column about how lovely she found the Friendship Trail.

Mary Jo Melone must have limited her walk to the upper tier of the new Friendship Trail. It sure didn't sound like the place my husband and I recently visited!

We walked along both sides of the fishing pier and couldn't believe the trash and litter we saw strewn all over the place. All I could think was "Shame on you, fishermen!"

We found beer and soft drink cans stuffed in every nook and cranny along the way. We saw empty cardboard and plastic packages that once contained fishing equipment. We found discarded lunch bags. We picked up miles and miles of discarded fishing line, the stuff that wraps itself around birds' intestines after they swallow it. Sometimes it wraps itself around their beaks and they slowly starve to death. About half-way down we found a discarded trash bag and picked up the cans and trash along the way.

True, we didn't see any trash cans along the way, but these fishermen carried their things from their cars onto the pier. Why couldn't they carry their trash off the pier and deposit it in the two trash barrels they had to pass to get back to their cars?

John and Mary Wilson, Clearwater

Help yourself to some of Harry's magic

Re: "Harry Potter" falls short of rainbow, by William Safire, Jan. 28.

Contrary to the opinion of William Safire, I do not believe that it is a relief that J.K. Rowling was not awarded a top literary prize for her Harry Potter series. Harry Potter is not only for children.

I have found that disappearing into a good fantasy book makes the real world and all of its troubles a little bit brighter when you get out.

Perhaps if Safire would put some of his "grown-up" self away and disappear into a light book for a while, he might come out better than if he'd disappeared into the Wall Street Journal for a few hours. Maybe there is no multilevel symbolism in them; maybe the only thing these books give to adults is the inspiration to live a little, believe in magic again. But then again, maybe Harry symbolizes all of us in our daily lives, imprisoned in a room under the stairs, not by the Dursleys but by our own stress and worry.

Do something that Harry would do. Break free from your captors and find a Gringotts in yourself, your own little cache of childlike things, a belief in the wonderful magic in the world.

Laura Fagen, St. Petersburg

A strange fear of fantasy

Re: School ends Harry Potter adventures, Jan. 30.

The Carrollwood Elementary School will not order any new Harry Potter books for its school library, presumably because the books deal with witchcraft. How ridiculous. Most children have a better appreciation of fantasy than adults. They know what is real and what is imagination.

I suppose the books of Madeleine L'Engle and the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis are also taboo.

Edith N. Warren, Clearwater

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