The teaching of hatred is one of the underlying causes of terrorism and, after the Riyadh bombings, now is the time to confront the Saudi government on the roots of its hostility toward the West.
As President Bush said after the Riyadh terrorist bombings, "These despicable acts were committed by killers whose only faith is hate." The Saudi education system teaches children intolerance and contempt. Hatred and denigration of non-Muslims, especially Westerners, is pervasive in Saudi schoolbooks.
Together with the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, the American Jewish Committee recently published "The West, Christians and Jews in Saudi Arabian Schoolbooks," a comprehensive study of books used in Saudi schools.
Teaching of hatred is reprehensible under any circumstances, but is especially alarming when it forms an integral part of the school curriculum in a country long viewed as a close friend of the United States and regarded as the center of the Islamic world.
With our thick web of relations with the Saudis, the United States must put on the table the urgent need to reform the Saudi education system, to excise the teaching of hatred from textbooks and to monitor closely any Saudi claims of reform.
-- Ruth F. Young, executive director, West Coast Florida Chapter, American Jewish Committee, Sarasota
Sharon not alone in responsibility
Re: Saving the "road map," editorial, May 18.
It is a truism that those who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it. That's why it is surprising that the St. Petersburg Times seems to put the onus for Middle East peace on Ariel Sharon rather than the Palestinians. The Palestinians have never given up the use of terror and violence as a political tool. Even though Israeli leaders dared to offer unimaginable concessions to fulfill its commitment to peace, the Palestinians pressured European and Arab leaders to demand more concessions from Israel, and when they didn't get them, they unleashed a wave of terror and a massive misinformation campaign that continues to this day. To write that Yasser Arafat no longer stands in the way is to fly in the face of all facts in the case. While Mahmoud Abbas may be the new prime minister, who has effective control over the people and the final peace agreement remains to be seen. It is encouraging that the two sides are meeting again. But in light of recent terror attacks, the Times' editorial calling for restraint on the part of a defiant Sharon seems like a joke.
Israel already offered to freeze the settlements; had withdrawn from a large part of the area to be given to the Palestinians; the economy was on the rise (except for Arafat's theft of the money); and even part of Jerusalem was on the table. Israel has already been there, done that. The Times makes it seem like Sharon, and Israel, is at fault for provoking the violence, when the Palestinians have let criminals loose, hidden bombs in ambulances, lied about supposed massacres, imported illegal weapons, used U.N. venues as bomb-building factories and only recently revised its foundational credo calling for Israel's complete extermination. Israel has spent years looking the other way at all that and moving toward peace. Without President Bush's own vision of taking a tough stance against terrorism, the situation would probably be worse. The Times needs to study the facts a little more closely.
-- Susan Segal, Palm Harbor
Where would we be without the ban?
Re: End this useless ban, letter, May 19.
The letter writer says, "since the stated purpose of the assault weapons ban was to reduce violent crime, it has been a failure. Violent crime was already trending downward." He also points out the increasingly smaller percentage of violent crimes committed with assault weapons. So, assault weapons are banned, fewer are used in crimes and crime in general is down, and the writer's conclusion is that the ban didn't work. The writer also says, "The only thing the assault weapons ban does is prevent law-abiding citizens from owning the weapons of their choice."
This leads me to some questions. Just what percentage of crimes with assault weapons could we expect if we make it easier to get them? Do you think the percentage of crimes with assault weapons will increase or decrease if they are more easily available? Would more assault weapons lead to more or less crime? And what about the law-abiding citizens who are being deprived: For what does a law-abiding citizen need an assault weapon? Hunting? Doesn't seem very sporting to me. Protection? Assault weapons were designed for use in war by the military; they are not meant for personal protection. Using an assault weapon for personal protection is grossly out of proportion. They are weapons of war and do not belong in our homes.
-- Ellen Levett, St. Petersburg
Hunting is killing
Re: Neither humane nor "hunting," May 19.
I have held for a long time that the term "hunting" is nothing more than an acceptable word for murdering other species. Why it's acceptable escapes me. On government land or private land is immaterial, but if we can stop it on government land at least that is a step in the "enlightened" direction.
Other living, breathing, feeling, family-oriented creatures, with as much right to their lives as humans have to theirs, are massacredevery day for food, clothes, entertainment, space for housing, shopping malls, and whatever other non-necessity man can dream up. Food without slaughtering other beings is readily available and healthier, and with the abundance of available synthetics, surely no being has to give its life so that humans have something to wear.
The entertainment value in seeing or participating in another creature dying or being maimed speaks to the mental health of the entire culture, to my way of thinking. Things are what they are. Calling them something different doesn't change them; all it does it make them more palatable.
-- Darlynn Czerner, Lake Wales
More important than style
Re: Bush leads us back to the nuclear road, May 15.
What a terrible irony! While arms inspectors have failed to find the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that supposedly threatened the United States, "It turns out the threat is not from Iraq but from us," as Robert Scheer so succinctly wrote.
Reversing a longstanding U.S. policy of reducing the threat of nuclear war, our president speaks not only of resuming testing of nuclear weapons but has raised the specter of using them pre-emptively against a weak enemy.
Is this really the kind of leadership we want? Perhaps all those Americans who support George W. Bush as their leader, even when they disagree with his policies, should think less about his style and pay attention to where he is leading this country.
-- Jessie W. Bush, Sun City Center
U.S. headed for trouble under Bush
The only good thing that could come out of the president's intention to rebuild the nuclear arms program is that people would question his judgment and his ability to govern.
First, he was so sure that Iraq had nuclear weapons but now he can't seem to find them. This is a serious breach of responsibility that has jeopardized the credibility of the United States. Then his administration suggests that if things get tough we should protect ourselves with plastic wrap and duct tape. Now at a time when we are trying to get other countries to stop building arms, the president decides to step up our nuclear program. Does he not think other countries will use this as a way to defend their own nuclear programs? Does he not see how hypocritical and dangerous this decision is?
I sure hope patriotism hasn't come to mean letting the president do whatever he wants without dissent. Because if it does, we and the rest of the people on this planet are in deep trouble.
-- Loren Buckner, Tampa
Slow but tangible progress
Re: Inefficient Technology Board, May 14.
The Times editorial regarding the county's Information Technology board raises several important issues, and is quite timely given the realities that all local governments face in today's fiscal environment. As chairman of the Pinellas County IT board, I'd like to address the issues raised in the editorial. Almost 25 years ago, the Data Processing board was formalized as a cooperative board of county commissioners and constitutional officers who shared the county's mainframe computer capacity. Computer technology - especially client-server, Internet and desktop technologies - has evolved over time, however the focus and mission of the IT board did not change as rapidly as the technology.
The board, now known as the Information Technology board, has concluded that our form of government under the county charter is not conducive to the hiring of a chief information officer, who would have overriding responsibility for countywide technology implementation.
The IT board consists of independent constitutional officers, commissioners and the county administrator working cooperatively under the terms of an interlocal agreement. That means that the board doesn't have the authority to force a member agency to consolidate systems, implement policies, or even to move to a system which simply provides interoperability. That authority lies solely with each respective county agency.
In the absence of a county CIO, it falls upon the IT board to formulate and implement countywide technology policy and to increase the efficiency of the IT department. We are working to do exactly that, but the process has been difficult and slow because of the cooperative nature of IT governance under our county charter. But tangible progress is being made.
In the past year, interim IT department director Dave Sitter has implemented organizational changes to increase efficiency and reduce costs, established service-level agreements with primary customers (comprised of several county agencies), and has implemented a consistent software development methodology throughout the IT department. Those changes should have been implemented years ago - but the clear direction to do so came from the current IT board.
It is my sincere belief that each member of the IT board will work cooperatively to increase IT departmental efficiency, consolidate systems, provide interoperability, and expedite the migration to modern, integrated systems throughout the County enterprise. As the Times editorial correctly stated, the taxpayers of Pinellas deserve, and should expect, nothing less.
-- Ken Welch, IT board chairman, Pinellas Board of County Commissioners
A low-cost technology solution
Re: Inefficient Technology board, editorial, May 14.
Is it really true that county payroll data is being re-entered by hand from one computer system to another? This is today's - not "25 years ago today" - news? It bothers me terribly that these people (in charge) can have "visioning" sessions and squander millions of dollars on software and IT directors and can't solve a silly problem such as this.
I suggest that they contact the unemployment office and put a couple of laid-off programmers to work. The payroll interface could be provided for under $25,000 and be up and running in a month.
-- Chris Clement, Palm Harbor
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