1. Archive

A jury may have granted more to USF art student

Re: Offensiveness at USF, editorial, July 10.

I can remember a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court stating, "I may not be able to describe pornography, but I know it when I see it." Obviously Nicole Ferry recognized it, and art instructor Diane Elmeer did not.

The people of the University of South Florida who made the $25,000 payment realized that a jury trial composed of ordinary Florida citizens just might recognize the photo as pornography, and not art.

To the USF paymentmakers, thank you. You probably saved us taxpayers some money, for I believe a jury of reasonable people would have granted Ferry a greater monetary award.

Jerry Willow, Port Richey

Eroding ethics and morals

Re: Offensiveness at USF, editorial, July 10.

I do not believe that the subject matter is worthy of an editorial. This gives it a degree of legitimacy and interest far beyond its actual worth.

I am not concerned with the university's aberrant decision to pay a former student $25,000 in settlement of a federal sexual harassment suit. Neither the university nor the former student shows much intelligence or merit in this matter.

What bothers me is your editorial support of morally and socially unacceptable behavior on behalf of a tax-supported university under the guise of "art."

I know that we are living in more "progressive" times, and a "new morality" has been instituted by a generation raised to a great extent without conventional parental supervision and guidance, respect for teachers and others, neighborhood stability, and amid the acceptance of eroding ethics and morals at all levels of government and business. I accept that mores change, but not all changes are for the better.

In my opinion, the art instructor should be encouraged to attend some basic training in judgment and human relations, and also be exposed to acceptable community standards and what is patently offensive, tasteless and inappropriate for public display and classroom instruction. (What people do privately is none of anyone else's business unless there is criminal activity.)

The graduate assistant and alleged "artist" should also undergo the same training. Their training might be augmented by mental evaluations to determine their fitness to continue polluting the minds of impressionable young adults. An upfront disclaimer in the course catalog might be in order to warn parents and students of offensive material being "taught."

Do you want your children or grandchildren exposed to these kinds of degenerate behavior and poor judgment in a teaching environment?

The tolerance of American people is truly amazing. It may eventually help to fragment the country into dysfunctional pockets of ethnic, religious, political, linguistic and who-knows-what-else factions.

I believe that we have had enough of the attacks on our flag, religious beliefs and heritage under the umbrella of "art" and "freedom of expression."

Grow up. Get real.

Charles C. Lowe, Hudson

Creating a dependent society

Re: A call to harvest, July 12.

So many times I've heard the saying, give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will never be hungry.

Although it is admirable that these "gleaners" go out and harvest crops to give the organizations that help the homeless and hungry, why not take the homeless and hungry out there and let them pick their own? After all, if these organizations have the logistics to get their volunteers out there, they can get the homeless and hungry out there, too.

We create nothing but a dependent society when we just give people food and shelter.

Nothing is more valued than that in which we invested our own blood, sweat and tears.

Vilmar Tavares, Spring Hill

Pfizer's records accessible

I read with interest your July 5 editorial, Pfizer's "access," which criticizes the contract between the drugmaker and the state of Florida. For the sake of your readers, I'd like to clear up some inaccuracies.

First, the assertion that the business agreement "skirted" and "circumvented" the competitive bidding process is misleading. Competitive bidding is required for state outlays of $25,000 or more. Under this contract, the state pays nothing. Competitive bidding also assumes the state only wants one entity to provide the desired goods or services. Enrolled Bill 792 authorizes the agency to negotiate for as many supplemental pharmaceutical rebates as possible to save taxpayer dollars in the Medicaid program. The bidding process would limit the agency to contracting with only one manufacturer, which would not generate sufficient savings.

Second, the editorial states the business arrangement "was negotiated in secret," implying there was no public access to records. In truth, all requestors had access to the thousands of pages of documents, prior to the final agreement. Admittedly, there was a reasonable delay in providing the records, due to the necessary and thorough legal review of those documents deemed confidential under federal law. Also, the coordination and the volume of records involved were complex and considerable. The agreement was also released publicly and discussed openly with the press in numerous interviews arranged with media that indicated an interest in the contract.

The editorial's assertion that the records were not released until "the deal was all but finished" is simply not true. The records were released June 11, while intense negotiations continued until the contract was finalized on June 22.

Finally, the writer indicates a general complaint about the public records exemption and confidentiality of supplemental rebate negotiations contained in Enrolled Bill 904. Due to the competitive nature of the pharmaceutical industry, confidentiality is necessary to maximize the number and value of drug rebates offered to the Medicaid program. Most importantly, the ultimate benefit is to Florida's Medicaid recipients and all Florida taxpayers.

Laura Branker, acting secretary, Agency for Health Care

Administration, Tallahassee

Turkey should comply with U.N.

Today marks the 27th anniversary of the occupation of northern Cyprus by Turkey. As a signatory of the 1959 Geneva Protocol granting Cyprus its independence, Turkey (along with Great Britain and Greece) agreed to guarantee the sovereignty and independence of Cyprus.

On July 20, 1974, Turkey used its guarantor status allegedly to protect Turkish Cypriots from the backers of a failed coup against President Makarios as justification to invade Cyprus. They proceeded with a military campaign and occupied 38 percent of Cyprus. They uprooted nearly half the Cyprus population (both Greek and Turkish Cypriots), making them refugees. They killed thousands and deliberately colonized the occupied part of Cyprus with Turks from Anatolian Turkey.

Dozens of U.N. Security Council and General Assembly resolutions have called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all occupation troops and colonizers. Along with recent European court legal judgments against Turkey for human rights violations of Cypriots, the U.N. resolutions have been ignored.

The continuing occupation of Cyprus by Turkey ought to be of serious concern to the United States. Billions of dollars in American aid have been used by Turkey to finance the occupation. American military equipment is used, contrary to U.S. law. The continuing occupation creates an instability that threatens U.S. interests in the region. Just a few months ago, the International Monetary Fund once again agreed to contribute $17-billion to bail Turkey out of an economic collapse. Turkey needs Europe and the United States more than they need Turkey.

The United States has taken the leadership role on the significance of the rule of law and human rights in Kuwait, Bosnia/Kosovo and China. Isn't it time we held our "ally" (Turkey) accountable to the same standards we set for other countries in the world? The United States should pressure Turkey to comply with the decisions of the World Court and United Nations.

Dr. James Tarrou, Pancyprian Association of Florida,


Florida panthers deserve better

Re: Panthers fall prey to deadly highways, June 17.

I was saddened to learn about the two endangered Florida panthers killed on roads that border the Big Cypress National Preserve in southwest Florida. According to a representative from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, habitat loss was a factor in the deaths.

The spread of new highways and resulting development is destroying panther habitat on private lands at a rapid rate. Lesser known is the fact that panther habitat on our public lands is being degraded. Decades of use by swamp-buggies and other off-road vehicles have devastated the 729,000-acre Big Cypress National Preserve and threaten more than 90 endangered, threatened or imperiled species, including the Florida panther. These off-road vehicles have denuded vast areas of vegetation, created thousands of deep, ugly ruts, disturbed wildlife and altered natural water flows. Big Cypress is now scarred by more than 23,000 miles of ORV routes _ almost enough to go around the Earth!

In 2000, the National Park Service developed an off-road vehicle management plan that was designed to limit the vehicles to a proposed 400-mile network to reduce impacts to sensitive natural resources. Unfortunately, off-road vehicle organizations filed a lawsuit to block the plan.

If we can't protect vital panther habitat on public lands like Big Cypress, then how can we ever expect to protect panther habitat on highway corridors and private lands in southern Florida?

As the last symbol of wild Florida, the Florida panther deserves better.

Brian Scherf, Florida Biodiversity Project, Hollywood

Please brake for animals

Just yesterday my mom and I were driving along Bearss Avenue in Tampa and we stopped twice to rescue two baby turtles that were trying to cross the street. But when we got to them, we were too late.

It makes me heartbroken to see dead animals on the streets. And sometimes I have to think how cruel people can be, that they can't stop for a poor, helpless creature. And to think they were baby turtles trying to get to a beautiful pond across the street and no one had the heart to stop.

Every week I see a dead animal when we're driving, like squirrels, turtles and cats. Please have compassion for all God's little creatures!

Noelle A. Neemeh, age 11, Tampa

Uninteresting celebrity antics

Re: Crossword puzzle change, July 16.

I do the Jumble, the two crossword puzzles and the Cryptoquote every day. As a "creature of habit," I was comfortable with them in the same place every day.

I will go to the classified section for the uprooted crossword. However, I don't see the need for an extended TV and celebrity page. I've never heard of most of the "celebrities" and couldn't care less about their antics and activities.

If not for the puzzles and the Opinion page of the Times, I could do without!

Dorothy E. Karkheck, Palm Harbor

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