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DON'T BUY BIG OIL'S BUDGET PITCH

Push for drilling is well-oiled - Aug. 30, story

As out-of-state oil interests lobby our governor and Legislature for the right to drill as close as 3 miles from our pristine shores, Floridians need to ask one fundamental question: Why?

Will new oil resources drawn from our coastal waters lower the price of gas at the pump? No. At the Aug. 28 Offshore Oil Drilling Symposium sponsored by the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, even prodrilling lobbyists conceded that expanded offshore oil drilling will not significantly impact the price of gas at the pump. Oil is a global commodity, and emerging economies like China and India will consume new oil resources rapidly.

Having lost the implied incentive of lower gas prices, the out-of-state oil lobby is turning to another tantalizing promise: cold hard cash for state and local governments, a sort of Big Oil stimulus program, if you will. Floridians should be cautious and remember that if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

Balancing Florida's budget on new oil revenues is a shortsighted approach, and a risky one at that. An oil spill off the coast of Pinellas County, for example, could have a devastating impact on our $6 billion tourist economy, and cleanup costs have not been fully evaluated by those pushing for expanded drilling. At the Clearwater Chamber forum, when I asked oil representatives for their estimate of the cost of cleaning up an oil spill like the massive Timor Sea spill currently active off the Australia coast, their answer was a shocking "we don't know."

Rather than risk Florida's clean, tourism-based economy and thousands of tourism-related jobs, in return for a Big Oil budget fix, I suggest that what Floridians really need is a stimulus of leadership in Tallahassee, and in local government.

Floridians need real solutions to our antiquated, patchwork tax system, clean energy initiatives, modern transit, and consolidation of duplicative state and local government services. Now is not the time for more ill-conceived quick fixes.

Ken Welch, Pinellas County commissioner

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Opt out? On president? - Sept. 4, story

Strangled by fear

The only thing we have to fear is not just fear itself, but also the fearmongers, as well as our leaders who play the fiddle while the political fabric of our nation burns.

When the head of Florida's Republican Party accuses the president of spreading a "socialist agenda" for addressing schoolchildren, I know that the thorny vine of fear and hatred has strangled and displaced true American conservatism. I grieve for our loss.

Patrick Plaskett, St. Petersburg

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Obama's message to schoolchildren

It's a parent's job

It's this simple: I will talk to my son about the importance of school, citizenship and responsibility. I do not need Barack Obama taking time out of my child's education to tell him this. That's a parent's responsibility, not a president's.

Let him and his wife have this discussion with their own daughters.

Celeste H. Miller, St. Petersburg

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A ridiculous attack

The fuss over President Barack Obama's speech to students is another example of how ridiculous the political discourse has become in this country. I did not vote for Obama, I disagree with many of President Obama's policies, but he is the president of the United States and I welcome his decision to speak to my children.

I have a high school freshman and a fifth-grader in Pinellas County Schools and I think this is a terrific opportunity to hear from their president.

Parents who object to this need to understand that he is our president and therefore deserves to be heard and respected. And do these parents know what political point of view their children are hearing from their teachers and others on a daily basis? If they are so afraid of one presidential address they better pull their kids out of school right now because they are hearing many different points of view every day.

Finally, take some responsibility as a parent. After the speech, talk to your children about what they heard and share with them why you may or may not agree with the president's point of view. Keeping your children in a vacuum does not teach them how to deal with different points of view.

What this ridiculous attack on the speech does teach our children is that in the political process or any competition it is okay to be a sore loser.

Jeffrey Hausman, Tarpon Springs

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Danger! Obama talks - Sept. 4, editorial

Undercutting authority

Thanks for your editorial. One thing that we are forgetting when we teach our children to disrespect the office of the president is that if there does come a time of national emergency, the president is the commander in chief, regardless of party or color. If our children and grandchildren have been taught that they can opt in or opt out when he calls, we may regret the results.

Walter Melvin, Clearwater

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Drugmaker pays big to get doctor's orders

Aug. 30, story

A disservice to doctors

Your article regarding the doctors on the Eli Lilly & Co. payroll to help the pharmaceutical giant promote its products unfairly depicted highly respected physicians in their fields as money-hungry puppets with ulterior motives at the expense of quality patient care.

Missing from your article was the fact the drugs that are discussed by these physician "educators" at medical conferences, dinner meetings and pharmaceutical symposiums are already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These drugs have all been declared safe and effective for their indicated use through many years of rigorous research and development which costs the pharmaceutical companies tens and sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars before the first pill is sold.

Both Viagra and Cialis are FDA-approved for the exact same indication, erectile dysfunction. Who cares what outside activity (like a dinner meeting) might entice a physician to write a prescription for one versus the other? Who cares that physician educators were reimbursed for their time and effort outside of their practice to present the information to other physicians? Both drugs are equally safe and effective and received the blessings of the FDA.

The dinner meeting is simply a marketing tool used by the pharmaceutical company. They should be allowed to market their products.

Your article made it sound like the physician educators were only using Eli Lilly's drugs because they were getting paid to speak about them. Rest assured that if the drug wasn't working on their own patients, they would not be speaking on behalf of that drug no matter how much the reimbursement.

Charles Slonim, M.D., Tampa

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Drugmaker pays big to get doctor's orders

Aug. 30, story

Doctor is a hero

The payoff to doctors from pharmaceutical companies is an area that needs to be addressed with the health care reform that President Barack Obama is working so diligently on. I also know that Dr. Maria-Carmen Wilson is one the finest doctors I have encountered.

In 1999 while at work I was stricken with extreme pain in my right ankle and foot for no apparent reason. For two years, living with pain that there are no words to describe, I went from doctor to doctor. I was referred to Dr. Wilson in 2001. By this time I had done research myself, all leading to a pain syndrome named "reflex sympathetic dystrophy." Within a half hour, and only hearing my symptoms, Dr. Wilson diagnosed me with RSD. She was very compassionate and knowledgeable, unlike the previous doctors I had been to.

She immediately referred me to pain management because the window of opportunity for stopping the progression of the disease had passed. She could have very easily given me medications or prescriptions for medication, but she did not. This woman is a hero in my eyes.

I believe it is a great service of the media to investigate these kinds of payoffs from large corporations to promote their drugs and medications. But you also need to report the good these doctors have done and keep the story balanced.

Matthew Mahoney, St. Petersburg

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