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  1. Letters to the Editor

Thursday's letters: Vaccines can save lives of millions

Published Nov. 26, 2014

In fight on Ebola, no room to let up | Nov. 19, editorial

Vaccines can save millions of lives

The Ebola virus continues to command headlines and editorial space in the media and strike fear in our hearts. But a greater global threat is killing 17,000 children a day with little notice or attention: vaccine-preventable diseases.

The World Health Organization claims that more than 14,000 people have been diagnosed with Ebola since December, resulting in more than 5,100 deaths. While medical science scrambles to develop vaccines and medications to combat this dreaded disease, almost 6 million children died during this same period even though we have the vaccines or treatments available to prevent pneumonia, measles, diarrhea and a host of other diseases.

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Inoculations, GAVI, provides staff, most of the funding and the organization to develop the medical infrastructure with its partner countries to distribute and administer these lifesaving vaccines. GAVI is cost-effective, saves lives and builds stronger, healthier, more equitable societies.

In the U.S. House and Senate, resolutions have been introduced to continue financial support for GAVI. As citizens we can help save millions of children's lives by contacting our representatives and senators and urging them to pass these resolutions.

Gene Pizzo, Tampa

Real life gets lost in politics of insurance Nov. 23, John Romano column

For many, a safety net

John Romano's column addresses what many of us believe is a compassionate addition to our government, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The ACA has been a godsend for many, while those who lambaste the president don't seem to notice those who have been literally saved by the act.

When one has to fear that families may lose their protection, or their lives, it's a sad state of affairs. Our Supreme Court should act to preserve this safety net.

Many Republicans and others who don't need it haven't tried to understand it. Romano gives us only one example of its benefits.

I've always thought it was a beginning, a blueprint, if you will, for our medical future. I, for one, though I have excellent coverage, hope others will share in the security it affords.

As caring Americans we should always favor such acts, shouldn't we?

Lilyan Dayton, New Port Richey

Tolls by mail

Tollbooth blues

Is Tampa and the surrounding area trying to discourage tourism, or is the grand plan to have out-of-staters pay for all of their road construction? I was in Tampa for a wedding and was thanked for spending my money to help pay Florida taxes by receiving a "Toll-By-Plate Invoice" in the mail. I say thanked, because the cover letter actually thanked me for my "recent travels on Florida's Turnpike toll roads" and oh, by the way, here is a citation for $3.54 for going through one of our electronic tollbooths.

The letter states, "Occasionally, travelers may be unaware they are driving through a toll lane, may find themselves in a SunPass lane by mistake, or their SunPass transponder did not register the toll." None of these were my offense. As a first-time traveler on your roads, I made a right turn that looked like a regular street but turned out to be an on-ramp to an unmanned toll trap with no way to pay the $1 or to exit to a no-toll street without putting my car in reverse and backing into other cars behind me.

Penalizing your visiting guests for being unaware of these brand-new electronic toll booths does not appear the way to go in encouraging us to want to come back for a visit.

Maybe Florida should rethink this system and adopt a more visitor-friendly tollbooth by looking at what other states, like Virginia, do by having unmanned toll booths with the option to pay (with the exact change) or go through the electronic toll lane and pay by mail.

Joan Starks, Marietta, Ga.

Computer grading

Mechanical failure

Elections in Florida have consequences, and one of the worst will be student essays graded by computers. In an effort to save money, probably so the state can funnel more into charters and vouchers, the Department of Education has decided to have this year's standardized essay test graded by computers.

Students can be retained, teachers can be fired and schools can be closed — these are just a few of the possible high-stakes outcomes.

As Frank Cerabino wrote in the Palm Beach Post, the website HumanReaders.org catalogs studies showing that computer algorithms used to evaluate writing often fall short. The National Council of Teachers of English says that machine grading of essays uses crude methods that fail to recognize clarity, irony and logic.

To illustrate that, Les Perlman, the former director of undergraduate writing at MIT, created the "Babel Generator," an online tool that uses key words to create nonsense sentences that receive high marks on machine-scored tests.

Computer algorithms, he pointed out, are easily fooled by gibberish such as this: "Privateness has not been and undoubtedly never will be lauded, precarious, and decent. Humankind will always subjugate privateness."

Big words that mean nothing.

This past election, however, meant something. It meant that public education lost.

Chris Guerrieri, Jacksonville

Thanksgiving

A day for home, family

This is the day that we Americans give thanks for all the blessings we have received. Every year we start the shouting for Black Friday and Christmas shopping a little earlier. Every year more stores are open on Thanksgiving or open in the evening. This leaves many employees unable to get together with their families.

Maybe our president could take an executive action and we could have Thanksgiving in July. In any case, I wish each of you and yours a happy Thanksgiving and hope you will be able to celebrate with your loved ones and not have to work.

Nona Andersen, Wesley Chapel