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To create a better world, use free speech responsibly

Re: Tolerance or censorship?, Feb. 24.

This article caught my attention. It concerns an attorney who took it upon himself to put up cartoons of the prophet Mohammed in his front yard proclaiming to all he has freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech is not the issue. It is how we use that freedom.

We all have a choice to use it maturely to build bridges and make this world a better place by honoring and respecting each other for our differences - or we can do the opposite.

Isn't it time we all grew up and worked together the way Ahmed Bedier (the local director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations) did when he paid a visit to the attorney in which he stated:

"People in the community have a responsibility to bring tolerance."

Bedier is a model we all can emulate.

David Wagner, St. Petersburg

A good job all around

Re: Tolerance or censorship?

Three big congratulations for the story regarding Thomas Wadley, Ahmed Bedier and the rights and responsibilities of living in a democracy.

First, congratulations to the Times for running this article (and so many more) that puts a human face and a human heart to a story that would otherwise be "just news." You do a great job at this.

Second, congratulations is to Ahmed Bedier. He certainly shows to non-Muslims a humanitarian face of his faith. It was not clear from the article whether he was born in this country or came here from abroad. But he shows how America is a better place because of our immigrants (even if he himself is a native-born American) - a place more interesting to live in and challenging to our ideals. To all Muslims - immigrants and native-born - I say, thank you for living in this country with me. I bet it's hard for you in these times but still you make my country a better one.

Third, congratulations to Thomas Wadley. The right to speak openly about controversial subjects is never safely established. It is always threatened - by domestic political leaders and by fanatics of many stripes. But no right is more fundamental to living in freedom. Good for you, Mr. Wadley!

John McCann, St. Petersburg

It's a matter of respect

Re: Tolerance or censorship?

The obvious answer to the question "tolerance or censorship?" is neither. It is called respect. My mother taught it to me along with other values at an early age.

Just because something is legal doesn't mean it ought to be done, as Thomas Wadley should well know. This attitude is why so many people dislike Americans in general and lawyers in particular. Shame on you, sir.

Janine Harmel, Clearwater

The evolution of Hamas?

Re: Wait and see, editorial, Feb. 24.

It seems on the surface moderate and to some degree reasonable to "wait and see" how Hamas behaves and how its behavior will "evolve."

But the last time history waited for behavior to evolve, we had World War II with millions of dead. And it was all set down in Hitler's Mein Kampf. Hitler told the world exactly what he planned to do and did it.

Ditto the Hamas government. What can be built or believed in when your founding charter commits you to annihilate your neighbor?

Your editorial concludes with the idea to give Hamas an "opportunity" to evolve. Why don't the members of Hamas give themselves an opportunity by making some small gesture toward reconciliation?

Bert Fisher, Oldsmar

Building an agenda on religion

Re: The limits of a religion's power, letter,Feb. 18.

I agree with this letter writer that religions have no authority to dictate what nonbelievers do or say. However, I doubt that is a position our own government will be advocating any time soon.

If our government, both nationally and here in Florida, held that stance, then it would have to stop forcing its neocon agenda on the rest of us. Abortion, the morning-after pill, sex education, gay marriage, gay adoption, gay themed library books, school vouchers, end of life issues, and adult use ordinances would all be non-issues.

Melissa Russell, St. Petersburg

This is no way to treat a river

Re: What flow rate will clean up river? Feb. 19.

Most who were at the Friends of the River meeting on Feb. 18 will remember me and the final question I posed to the "panel of experts": "What effect will the proposed treated wastewater have on the health of the people who recreationally use the river?"

Silence followed. Did these experts not know the dangers? Maybe they just didn't want to go there.

The issue in brief: What? More freshwater flow is needed to keep the lower Hillsborough River healthy. How? Lower the current river standards and use partially treated sewage.

Well, here is the answer to my question: The water in question is sewage that only has to go through the secondary treatment standards. The solids (human excrement) are strained out and the water is then heavily chlorinated to kill any bacteria. This leaves 27 chemicals in the water and doesn't reduce hormones from medicines we take. This type of water is often used for watering lawns and is not allowed to be ingested, used in swimming pools or to irrigate edible crops. Scary, huh?

It is time we demand better for our environment and our health, and it is time for citizens to take a unified stance against these dangerous proposals. This is now in the hands of our elected officials, and if the people will lead, the leaders will follow. A Tampa City Council meeting will be held on March 2 at 11 a.m. to discuss river issues. Be there beside me to demand better.

Chrystal Hutchison, Tampa

A questionable study

Re: Study: Popular arthritis aids do little,Feb. 23.

Regarding the study on the nutritional supplement glucosamine as an aid for arthritis sufferers, I have to wonder about the motives for placing this on the front page.

In this article, the headline is misleading. If one took the time to read the article, he or she will see that the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin helped 67 percent of those who tried it. This compared to 70 percent effectiveness for Celebrex.

So the natural, inexpensive product is 95 percent as effective as the expensive prescription without the risks of gastrointestinal bleeding or of cardiac complications which caused the FDA to pull Vioxx off the market. Celebrex and Vioxx are both cox-2 inhibitors - and very similar chemical compounds.

It has to make one wonder how junk like this winds up on the front page.

Dr. William Lichter, Tampa

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