What must capture our attention as a people in the upcoming new year is to devise solutions that will dissolve the deep-seated divisiveness in our nation.
There are a trinity of troublemakers: prejudiced, hardened, partisan politicians; moneyed special interest groups; and our once-sacred institutions of state that have become non-objective servants of structured subjectivity.
If our country is to remain loyal to "We the people" in concert, we must build a more inclusive national culture that will serve the people as a whole over favored factions. The new year of 2001 must not represent alienated Americans, but rather an all-inclusive America.
Robert B. Fleming, St. Petersburg
Kick the meat habit
The new year provides us with an opportunity to consider how we can improve our lives and make the world a better place for all. A simple but powerful approach toward this goal is through our food choices. By shifting to a plant-based diet, we benefit our health, preserve the environment and reduce animal suffering.
According to the American Dietetic Association, studies have shown that vegetarians and vegans have a lower risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes mellitus, gallstones, heart disease, hypertension, kidney stones, obesity, osteoporosis and stroke.
Because livestock animals are injected, fed and sprayed with antibiotics and pesticides, their waste is filled with toxic chemicals. Much of it is washed by rains, untreated, into our water. Ninety percent of the organic water pollution in the United States is attributable to animal agriculture.
More than 90 percent of farmed animals in the United States are raised on factory farms in intensive confinement. The animals spend their entire lives in tiny cages and stalls where they are often unable to even turn around or lie down. They live on concrete, slatted metal or wire-mesh floors. They are forced to live in their own and other animals' wastes.
Indeed, the new millennium provides every one of us a great opportunity to examine the impact of our diet on our health, the planet and the billions of animals tormented and killed for food. On the first day of the new year, let's turn over a new leaf, kick the meat habit and get a new lease on life.
Suzanne House, Tampa
Let's not get left behind
In the global marketplace of the 21st century, it's important that the Tampa/St. Petersburg area not get left behind. One way we ensure that we are able to compete for new business in today's international economy is to support the creation of a global aviation network that allows communities on the East Coast and Southeast better services to other U.S. communities and international destinations.
The combination of United Airlines and USAirways would literally allow Central Florida passengers access to and from an expanded list of destinations around the world.
Additional on-line air service _ especially service to international destinations _ strengthens a community's ability to grow and compete. Air service increases tourism and attracts new commercial opportunities. Access to international destinations increases a community's ability to secure foreign investment.
You don't have to take my word for it: A 1998 Atlanta Chamber of Commerce report found that the availability of international service was the third-most important factor in the location decisions of new-economy firms.
When it comes to doing business, the world is getting a little smaller. People want the ability to reach destinations and markets anywhere safely, quickly and efficiently. In order to compete for new business in the new economy, Florida needs to provide more flights, to more cities, for more people, more efficiently.
Bob Henriquez, representative,
District 58, Tampa
Two blank pages
I enjoy reading the editorial page, the opinion page and the political cartoons in the St. Petersburg Times. Some things I agree with and some I don't, but one opinion in particular (Bar was right to avoid adding fuel to controversy, letter, Dec. 21) caused me to read it twice to see if the individual was actually saying what I thought he said. And, yes, he did. In the opinion, it was stated that Tom Feeney was only "exercising freedom of speech" when he made disparaging remarks about Al Gore.
If the writer was of the opinion that Tom Feeney was simply exercising freedom of speech (although he was forced to make a half-hearted public apology for what he said), how can the writer then end up this same opinion by stating in effect, that the Times should not print opinions, in the form of political cartoons that the individual does not agree with, and that the political cartoonists should not have the right of freedom of speech. I think he better think it out again.
Political cartoons are simply opinions of those who draw them. If, indeed, the Times printed only opinions that all the readers would agree with, we would have two blank pages.
Cora Rice, St. Petersburg
Why the cost difference?
Re: Americans cross border for prescription drug bargains, Dec. 17.
After arriving in Venezuela, I was taken aback the first time I needed a prescription drug. The doctor wrote out a prescription, a clerk at the pharmacy handed me the medicine _ the cost was less than $2.
On a trip back to the States some years later, I became sick and needed antibiotics. The cost was $28 for the same medicine, which in Venezuela was about $4.50. Since that time, I have bought most of my medicines there.
Just a few weeks ago, a friend coming from Venezuela brought the following prescription drugs for me and my family. Here are some price comparisons for a 30-day supply:
Premarin: $2.40 (Venezuela); $15.50 (United States)
Provera: $2.50 (Venezuela); $16 (United States)
Omeprazol/Prilosec: $19 (Venezuela); $105 (United States)
Retin-A (20 gm. tube): $12.00 (Venezuela); $42 (United States)
Why is this so? These drugs are made by the same transnational pharmaceutical corporations that we have in the United States.
One could argue that the "standards" are different in other countries, but then could we also say that these trusted companies produce and sell inferior products to foreign countries. Or perhaps we could say that these foreign governments subsidize medicines, and we, as the richest country in the world, cannot.
Among other solutions, why not consider allowing more medicines to have an over-the-counter availability as in other countries, thereby cutting the costs of highly paid professionals to dispense routine medicines.
Why should more and more Americans find savings by traveling across borders? Why can't we eliminate this burden to the consumer by offering savings here at home?
I would like some answers.
Janet Fernandez, Largo
Am I the only one who is offended by the use of a cancellation stamp with "Happy Who-lidays" on my Christmas mail? Surely the U.S. Postal Service understands "who" the celebration of the season is for.
Carol Thompson, Largo
Ends don't justify means
I take issue with Mary Jo Melone's analysis of the Aisenberg baby case. She seems to view this legal fiasco as merely a situation where law enforcement's zealousness excuses its deliberate deceptions to the court.
The real tragedy here is that we are not outraged at the police for attempting to deceive the court and at the prosecutors who willingly perpetuated the deception. These "public servants" apparently believe that the ends justify the means and that whatever is necessary to achieve their objective is acceptable.
This case rings a much louder bell of warning than Melone would have us believe. It warns us that a true police state exists when the police are able to impose their view of justice on society without intervention by the courts.
The defense attorneys are performing a public service in this case. By carefully examining what the police officers have said in their sworn affidavits and weeding out the deception, they are doing exactly what the prosecutors should have done.
Michael E. Connell, Tampa
Missing the Mummers
What a great article in the Travel section on Sunday, Dec. 24. I grew up in Philadelphia. New Year's Day and the Philadelphia Mummers are things I miss. My uncle and cousins were marchers.
I sent the article to my mother and aunt in New Jersey.
It was great.
Claire E. Smith, Clearwater