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  1. Opinion

January’s letter of the month: All the rights money can buy

Here’s what readers had to say in Saturday’s letters to the editor
Protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse in Tallahassee in Oct. 2019. [LAWRENCE MOWER | Times (2019)]

All the rights money can buy

January letter of the month | The winning letter looks at poverty and civil rights

I am a conservative Reagan Republican, but the shameful behavior of both parties has me in despair. We, the voters, approved Amendment 4 overwhelmingly, as written. Politicians have decided that the voting public was not qualified to make that decision and added their own caveat. By deciding that the terms of completion of the sentence include payment of all fines and restitution, we are saying that those with money may regain their constitutional rights. Those who are without the means to do so, do not deserve the rights of other Americans.

And it doesn’t stop there. We suspend driving privileges for those who are unable to pay fines, tickets or child support, thereby ensuring that they remain in the hole we have dug for them. If this person does then not have the transportation to get to work, they fall into a deeper hole or in many cases into homelessness. We prevent employment to enforce payment? In what world does that makes sense?

While I grieve for the deaths of those lost on Bayshore Boulevard, that there is a discussion of closing Bayshore to traffic smacks of elitism. How many deaths in a year on some of our other roads? Most often, those pedestrians are not using those roads for pleasure but to get to work or to the grocery. This is not an America that works for all people.

Carole Thompson, Zephyrhills

Don’t fast-track fish farm

EPA considers fish farm in gulf

A Hawaii based company wants to launch the first-ever offshore fish farm in the Gulf of Mexico about 45 miles west of Sarasota. This would be its third after opening similar operations in Hawaii and Mexico. This photo shows the pen used in the Hawaii operation, which is similar to what's planned for the Gulf of Mexico. Photo by Rick Decker courtesy of Kampachi Farms [Courtesy of Kampachi Farms by Rick Decker]

In its efforts to fast-track the first fish farm in federal waters just 40 miles off Florida’s Gulf coast, the EPA is asking Floridians already plagued by annual Red Tides to be the guinea pigs for this troubling test run. Like fish farms that have polluted stretches of coastal waters worldwide, this floating fish feedlot would spew untreated wastewater directly into Gulf waters already stressed by the warming climate and unchecked pollution.

That pollution would include concentrated poop from 20,000 fish, waste from 27,000 pounds of unnatural fish feed every month and heavy metal contamination from copper netting, as well as antibiotics and pesticides.

Yet rather than doing a full environmental impact study of the project, federal regulators are basically using the project itself to explore the possible harms of larger-scale Gulf fish farming. Proponents of these floating factory farms insist one of the great advantages of siting them in off-shore federal waters is that ocean currents there might disperse the waste.

But Floridians living on the Suncoast might rightfully ask where, exactly, do those waste products go? And what are their impacts — both short and long-term — to the water quality, wildlife and human health of Florida’s Gulf coast? This careless leap into factory fish farming is exactly the kind of blatant disregard for the environment that has long contributed to the unchecked harms that already foul Florida’s waterways and the Gulf.

Rather than pretending Floridians who are raising science-based concerns about the project are unreasonable, regulators must conduct a thorough environmental impact analysis that truly assesses the risks and evaluates a full range of alternatives. Because this “pilot project” is likely to quickly open the floodgates to extensive fish-farming in the Gulf.

Floridians interested in more facts or offering an opinion should submit comments before the Feb. 4 deadline. The risks of Gulf fish farming demand a thorough environmental analysis.

Rachael Curran, St. Petersburg

The writer is staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.

Don’t let planes be zoos

More scrutiny allowed for ‘service animals’ | Editorial, Jan. 25

Peacocks are among the animals that may no longer be considered service animals on planes, based on new proposed guidelines. [Tampa Bay Times]

As a lifelong asthmatic who is allergic to some pets, I was grateful to read this editorial. Animals — particularly untrained ones — can be very dangerous from a public health and safety standpoint. As we occurred in the recent Coronavirus outbreak in China, animals can be ready carriers of horrific parasites and diseases to humans.

The fact that air is typically recirculated inside the main cabin of an airplane only makes matters worse for passengers. Animals have also attacked unsuspecting passengers, seriously injuring them and causing ensuing chaos and disruption of flights.

Clearly, the current rules allowing myriad animals to fly in the main cabin of planes have been abused, and it’s time to set more stringent rules for public safety. Animals should be transported in the heated luggage area below the main cabin to be reunited with their owners immediately after the flight. The main cabin should not be a zoo.

Dr. Michael Pravica, Henderson, Nev.

Opinions are not facts

The impeachment trial

Senate chaplain and retired Navy Adm. Barry Black gives the opening prayer as presiding officer and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts listens during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. [AP]

My wife is a civics teacher who spends most of the school year teaching the difference between facts and opinion. The rest of the year she teaches that one opinion is not as good as another. “It is my opinion that I have $100,000 in this bank.” “No, sir, you have only $50,000, and here is your statement.” That is a fact. “I don’t have a drinking problem. I hold a job.” “Sir, you have six DUIs and a suspended license.” Obviously, one opinion is more authoritative than the other. That is how simple the impeachment case against the president is.

If you shut off all TV news, including Fox, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC, and instead watch the presentations in the Senate or read your good, old Tampa Bay Times, it is obvious the president held up funds to Ukraine until the “whistleblower’s complaint” saw the light of day. The facts are embarrassingly simple. Did President Donald Trump abuse power? Yes, that is a fact. Should he be removed from office? This is an opinion.

Robert Clifford, Tarpon Springs

Let the young lead the way

We need real-world sex ed | Column, Jan. 30

In the early 1960s when I was in high school, our sex education was a pitifully inept effort that included a film that seemed more like a stag movie than serious education. To think that 60 years later our young people, who are having sex whether anyone approves or not, are not equipped with the knowledge of the science and social effects of uninformed choices that may affect them for the rest of their lives is shameful. Like Greta Thunberg and the Parkland students, another young person, Renata Happle, is leading the way.

Ron Ryden, Riverview

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