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FOCUS ON HEROISM OF THESE AIRMEN

This article was about the Tuskegee Airmen, also known as the Red Tail Squadron, who flew bomber escorts over Europe in World War II, and whether or not they lost one or more American bombers to the German Luftwaffe fighter pilots.

This question is, in my opinion, not really that important .

What is important is the fact that their overall flying and air combat record was quite impressive by any standards, then or now.

Let's face it, fellow Americans, the bottom line should be what they did accomplish, despite the adversity they faced and overcame. It is the stuff that heros and legends are made of.

Joseph P. Corell, Clearwater

Facts can be elusive

Someone wrote, "The maddest thing of all is to see the world as it is and not as it should be." History is built upon facts, and to presume to know them all 65 years after the event is folly.

Thank God for the heroism of the Tuskegee Airmen who saved the lives of many others fighting for freedom. God Bless America and all of its veterans and their families.

Douglas R. Kinsman, St. Pete Beach

Questionable claims

I have the utmost respect for those who fought in World War II. My oldest living brother had 23 missions over Germany as a radio operator in a B-17.

He was a member of the 511th Squadron, 351st Bombardment Group. He was shot down but survived the war.

He has always said that the Tuskegee Airmen's claims where false.

Another article published last year by Daniel Haulman, a historian at the Air Force Historical Research Agency, also said the claims of no bombers lost was false. In fact he even published the dates the bombers were lost: June 9, July 12, July 18 and March 24, 1945. There were at least 25 total losses.

I will be sending your article to my brother.

Terry E. Hobt, Tarpon Springs

We need a new attitude toward health care

Several of the candidates running today have plans to reform the health care system. But so many of their plans still involve private health insurance. I used to think that there was nothing wrong with that. Then I saw Michael Moore's film Sicko and my attitude changed completely.

I propose something that will cause great changes for the better in our health care system and won't cost cent: a change of attitude.

If the decisionmakers in insurance and pharmaceutical companies and Washington cared about human life a just tiny bit more than money, we would have a vastly different medical system and nation. But they have shown again and again that they do not.

For-profit health care is simply that: profiting off the suffering of human beings. Is it any wonder that it has resulted in injustice, corruption and is falling apart? I don't know the statistics on preventable deaths from insurance companies' denial of treatment. There were two people in Moore's film, and that is two people too many. As long as corporations can make huge profits from illness, nothing will change. The cause of death will still be greed.

Why is the United States the only industrialized Western nation without government health care? I understand that the systems in other countries are not perfect, but the concept behind them is not only morally admirable but also sensible. The attitude is that health care is a human right, not a luxury product.

Think about it. You might change your attitude, just that tiny bit.

Paula Tabor, Zephyrhills

Letters on health care - Jan. 24

A call for compassion

It was great last week to see two Florida letter writers who have constructive criticism regarding our inadequate hodgepodge of health care. We have friends in Canada, England and Australia. Each has a member of their family who would have been financially and emotionally devastated had they been in America.

Instead, their family members have been taken care of with excellent medical care. Please tell me why we, as the wealthiest country in the world, with insurance and drug companies making billions for themselves, their CEOs and stockholders, can't develop a plan to care for our citizens. Our lawmakers need to hear from us continually until they unwrap their consciences to see what compassion is. We can and should have equal medical care for all here. What in God's name is the problem?

Lilyan V. Dayton, New Port Richey

The public pays - Jan. 24, letter

Not in the marketplace

The letter writer nailed it! The taxpayer is funding health care anyway, therefore the country's health care should not be a "marketplace" system such as Republican Mitt Romney suggests.

"Marketplace" means HMOs paying millions per year to stockholders and CEOs and more millions for stock options. What if education, the fire and police departments, the court system, road repair, all city and county services, etc., were "marketplace"? They are all socialism. Let's face that dirty word, meaning paid for by the taxpayers. We've had land barons, oil tycoons, movie moguls, steel and coal magnates. We certainly don't need health care czars.

Elinor Wencka, Tampa

Social Security

Problem needs addressing

As a soon-to-graduate student at USF and first- time presidential voter, I am extremely concerned that I've heard little from the candidates about a major issue that will affect my generation: Social Security.

There is a huge group of people who are about to start collecting their Social Security benefits: the baby boomers. The problem is that the number of baby boomers' babies, who will pay the money to provide the Social Security benefits, is very small in relation to the number of baby boomers who will be collecting it. And in the not-too-distant future, the number will be even smaller. Remember, any time a government gives a benefit to one group, it does so at the expense of another.

I work just about full time supporting my college studies, and I've gotten beyond the shock of seeing how much of my paycheck is left over after the government takes its share. But I'm really concerned that in the future the portion of my check going to support retired people as they play golf will be enormous.

I urge all people under the age of 40 to start asking the candidates just how they intend to make sure that the transfer of wealth from the younger generation to the older one is not going to break us.

Mike Loschiavo, Tampa

No scholar flight at USF

Florida's $2-billion budget deficit is an incredible challenge for our public colleges and universities. I appeal to the private sector to add desperately needed increased support to our system with investments in partnerships with our academic institutions in order to ensure a better future for all.

As a full-time instructor employed in the USF College of Nursing, I have personally observed the incredible quality of education that is provided. I must also note that we have absolutely amazing senior faculty members who are scholars, researchers and teaching professors. Many of them are invited as expert consultants to universities across the nation to share their wisdom with other scholars in their field.

Although we need all of the support and financial assistance that we can get with the drastic financial cuts, I personally do not anticipate a "scholar flight" from USF. I believe that our faculty members are truly dedicated to serving the public and are a part of the USF community for the long run. They are loyal and persistent advocates for quality, public higher education.

Joan Morris, ARNP, instructor, USF College of Nursing, Lutz

$113M flows out of state - Jan. 19

Institute is good for Florida

It's truly unfortunate that the St. Petersburg Times has created confusion over a tremendous economic development project that will bring great benefits to the citizens of Florida.

In January the Oregon Health & Science University's Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute announced its intention to create VGTI Florida, a nonprofit biotech research institute that will be located in the Florida Center for Innovation at Tradition, a new research park under development in Port St. Lucie. The institute plans to create at least 200 high-value jobs, and to work in collaboration with other biotech organizations and state universities to explore new approaches in vaccine development.

The funding for this project comes partly from the Florida Innovation Incentive Fund, created by the Florida Legislature to provide incentive funding that will help grow Florida's burgeoning life sciences sector. Unfortunately, because VGTI was established by an Oregon university, some would have you believe that this funding is enriching residents of other states at the expense of our own citizens. Nothing could be further from the truth.

None of the dollars for this project will "flow out of state," as the Times' headline breathlessly reports. Instead, the money will be invested in a new Florida nonprofit - a corporation that will create jobs in Florida and drive increasing scientific investment in Florida. The Oregon Health & Science University, in fact, has voluntarily prohibited any sharing of local funding with VGTI Florida.

Perhaps what is most concerning is the suggestion that this project somehow comes at the expense of Florida's universities. The Innovation Fund was created to augment current research efforts and to create greater opportunities within the Florida university system, specifically by recruiting world-class life sciences institutes to work in partnership with our universities.

The goal is collaboration and, in fact, VGTI Florida's business plan relies heavily upon successful integration of its research with the Florida university system. Any new companies spun off into the private sector by VGTI Florida will be domiciled and funded here in Florida. That was a policy created by the Legislature when it created the Innovation Fund, and it assures newly created jobs and prosperity to benefit Floridians.

Gov. Charlie Crist, Senate President Ken Pruitt, House Speaker Marco Rubio and the entire Florida Legislature should be commended for their efforts to welcome VGTI Florida to Port St. Lucie.

Larry Pelton, president, Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County, Port St. Lucie

Fla. colleges may shrink - Jan. 24, story

Cut scholarship booty

Florida's state government and the entire university system should have seen this hurricane coming. It's been brewing for years. For the last 20 years, Florida's Prepaid College Plan has allowed parents to pay a relatively modest fee to cover their children's future tuition and housing. Too bad the program forgot to factor in the massive inflation rate tied to today's college education. As all of these children have reached college age, the state has made a payout to the universities. Unfortunately, what parents have paid in and what the state is willing to pay are way out of alignment with the real costs of a college education.

Compound this scenario with the Bright Futures Scholarship, which rewards every student who achieves a 970 on the SAT and a 3.0 weighted average in the classroom with 75 percent tuition paid, and you can easily see why Florida's universities are in dire straits.

I've had one parent tell me that between the Bright Futures scholarship and the Florida Prepaid plan, her child actually made money attending college.

There is no question that parents should be able to defray some of the costs of a college education through a plan like Florida Prepaid. But to assure that the full cost of their child's college education will be covered 10 or 15 years after they buy into the program is just plain ludicrous.

It would be a lot easier for Florida to limit the Bright Futures Scholarships to students who have really excelled in the classroom. To limit awards to the current high-end Bright Futures Scholarship would be a step in the right direction. This scholarship awards students 100 percent tuition if they have achieved a 1270 SAT and a 3.5 weighted average. Even then, students should be awarded tuition reimbursements based on need. There are countless parents in this state who could well afford to pay Florida's meager tuition but are let off the hook with the current system.

State Sen. Jim King says the only "responsible thing to do is to cut enrollment." Not true, senator. That option only hurts the students. What our state government should be doing is making it a lot more difficult to take home the scholarship booty. By making it easy for mediocre students to qualify for a paid education and making it even easier for their parents to avoid paying a dime, the state has severely diminished the quality of education at our public universities.

Yes, it's time to raise tuition, but it's also time to take a red pen to the Florida Prepaid and Bright Futures programs. Both could use a major overhaul.

Caryn Russ, Tampa

Brutal dictator aided Indonesia growth Jan. 28, story

Atrocity ignored

Why would you print a lengthy obituary of Suharto and make no mention of his Ford/Kissinger-approved invasion of Christian East Timor in 1975, which resulted in the 25-year Indonesian occupation of that small country, during which 300,000 East Timorese - one third of the population - died either at the hands of the murderous Indonesian army or from malnutrition and disease brought on by their savage rule?

There was no mention, either, of the fact that when the East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia in a U.N.-sponsored referendum in 1999, the Indonesian army went on a rampage and killed another 30,000 civilians, including Catholic priests and nuns trying to protect parishioners who had sought refuge in their churches.

No self-respecting news outlet would ignore such an atrocity.

R.G. Wheeler, St. Petersburg

Chow time (frenzy of hungry pelicans) Jan. 30, photo

Worth framing

What a great picture by Willie J. Allen Jr. Even on the black and white newsprint, it looks worthy of a frame. I hope this picture makes it into the archives.

James Stephenson, Indian Shores

Mud pies and dirt cookies

A contrast in cuisine

While Americans will be indulging ourselves with food and drink during the Super Bowl, people in other parts of the world will be eating dirt. Literally.

Two items appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on Wednesday. One included two recipes for mud pie. The other was a story about dirt cookies.

Ingredients for the two mud pie recipes include butter, flour, sugar, semisweet chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate crumb pie crust, chopped pecans, cold milk, instant chocolate pudding mix, and whipped topping.

Dirt cookies are made of dirt, salt and shortening.

Survival on dirt cookies was the headline over the story on page 7A. The subhead was "Rising costs take food out of mouths in Haiti, where most people live on less than $2 a day."

The two recipes for mud pie were in the Taste section, along with stories about how to customize frozen pizza with your favorite toppings, a color photo and feature on absinthe, and recipes for black bean tortilla bake and creamy wild mushroom bisque.

Paul Cooper, St. Petersburg

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