Chelsea Manning on hunger strike | Sept. 10
Cry for help from American hero
Last week, whistle-blower, human rights advocate and transgender woman Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning announced an indefinite hunger strike. Her powerful statement to the world is a cry for help from a prison and an administration that has done nothing to accommodate her daily needs for mental health care, and has engaged in "constant, deliberate and overzealous administrative scrutiny" (Manning's words).
Pointing to a severe lack of medical care for mental health problems and gender dysphoria, as well as having endured solitary confinement for over seven months (all of which led directly to an attempted suicide, which she was given three new charges for), she will nonviolently refuse food and drink (excepting water and medications) and refuse to voluntarily cut or shorten her hair. She has even signed a "do not resuscitate" letter.
Manning's revelations in 2010 showed the truth of asymmetric warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, but instead of praise she has been routinely condemned and prosecuted by the Obama administration and the U.S. military. Manning sacrificed everything to show the ugly truth of U.S. foreign policy. These conditions are not fit for even a war criminal, let alone a living hero of my own generation. One simple swipe of a pen from Barack Obama's desk would end this injustice.
Manning's statement closes with a chilling ultimatum, a sobering reminder that freedom fighters are only human and can only endure so much:
"Until I am shown dignity and respect as a human again, I shall endure this pain before me. I am prepared for this mentally and emotionally. I expect that this ordeal will last for a long time. Quite possibly until my permanent incapacitation or death. I am ready for this.
"I need help. Please, give me help."
Roger Butterfield, Tampa
Sewage 'black cloud' worsens | Sept. 15
Failure of government
We've all seen the "Salt Life" logo on cars, T-shirts, etc. It is extremely popular because so much of what we do is centered around the water.
How sad to have our water so polluted from the dumping of tens of millions of gallons of sewage because our city, county and state governments did not adequately plan for growth. We are not only talking about kayaking, paddle-boarding, wake-boarding, boating and various other fun activities that have been affected. We are talking about people's livelihoods — like those hardworking people who clean the bottoms of boats, dive shop owners, fishermen, etc.
It is ironic how city leaders can tout progress on the pier when less than a quarter-mile away the majority of sewage was pumped into the bay.
Our city leaders can take credit for drawing huge investors to the area who have built hundreds of apartments and condos, yet they do not want to take responsibility for not having the foresight to plan for the excess sewage requirements. Most people either live here or moved here because of the water, yet our government has not adequately protected our most precious asset. Shame on them.
Cheryl K. Pearson, St. Petersburg
Steps to save water
We can all do our part to ease the stress on the sewage system the next time we get hit with a major rainmaker. In the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas, water is at a premium because freshwater has to be brought in on barges. To use less of it, residents are instructed to only flush their toilets for solid, not liquid, waste. This saves a lot of water and dramatically eases the burden on the sewer system. There is no reason why we shouldn't do the same.
Tony Abbate, Valrico
Who's laughing at Rio now?
The dumping of millions of gallons of sewage by St. Petersburg into Tampa Bay during Hurricane Hermine is appalling. Not to mention smaller dumps by Tampa, Clearwater and Largo reported during Tropical Storm Colin in June.
I wonder where the environmental groups are? There's not a word of protest to be heard, no demonstrations in front of City Hall demanding BP funds be used to fix decaying sewage systems that have failed in both tropical events this year. If this had been caused by a corporation, can we imagine the outcry? Do we really think the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will exert enough pressure to get mayors and city councils to spend money on their aging systems?
We all made fun of polluted waters this summer at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and wondered if they should be entered by athletes. Well, we are doing the same thing to Tampa Bay, and tourists and vacationers are going to be asking the same question.
Jane Sellick, Palmetto
'A disservice to voters' | Sept. 13
It's election tampering
The media generally holds off reporting any election results or predictions at least until after the polls have closed in the Eastern time zone. This is bad enough, as I feel that knowing how the Eastern part of the country is going will influence the turnout at the polls and the voting in the rest of the country.
I have long been an advocate of requiring that there be no reporting of results or of any exit poll results until all polls have closed across the country — including Hawaii and Alaska.
I believe that the plans of Slate and VoteCastr amount to willful election tampering and fall outside the freedom of the press and freedom of speech clauses in the Constitution and must be stopped. When this part of the Constitution was written, they could not have conceived of the communications technology we have today and how it would have the power to influence the outcome of a national election.
Bill Balmer, Seminole
With all of the kerfuffle over "political correctness," I would like to point out that my mom raised me to be politically correct. She didn't call it that; she called it being polite and respectful of others.
Ken DeRoche, Tampa