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Space projects don't answer our earthly needs

Published January 13, 2004

Re: President's new space vision: Put humans on Mars, moon, Jan. 9.

Our president wishes to put a man on Mars and build a permanent space station on the moon. How are we going to pay for this? America's industrial, professional and technical jobs are being shipped out to slave-wage countries overseas (that is, when they're not being farmed out to minimum-wage H1-B visa holders and "guest workers" who have entered the country illegally). Of course, this is to say nothing of his trillion-dollar tax cut and his expensive (and unnecessary, in my opinion) war in Iraq.

What's more, over 40-million Americans are lacking health insurance. Our public schools are in a shambles; they're being forced to cope with underpaid staff and decaying and ill-equipped facilities. Our roads are decaying. Our nation's aging electrical grid is being held together with kite string and chewing gum. (Witness last year's massive blackout in the Northeast and Midwest.)

Where are your priorities, Mr. President? It's all very well and good that we're going into space again. At the same time, there are pressing needs here on Earth - needs that this administration has yet to address.

-- Elizabeth Hoff, St. Petersburg

This is lunacy

The Bush administration is hitting a new low with its moon and Mars projects. First, let's look at who will suffer from this proposal:

Younger people and future generations will have to foot the bill, since this can only be paid for with more government IOUs. There is nothing on the moon or Mars worth going for.

If this money is to be spent at all it could be used to pay for prescription drugs for seniors. So seniors will suffer.

We could train more doctors and scientists to search for cures and treatments for horrible diseases like Alzheimer's, cancer, multiple sclerosis and many more. So present and future victims of these diseases will suffer from this misallocation of resources.

Now who will benefit?

1. Space scientists and hobbyists who get a thrill from the pictures that are sent back at taxpayer expense. If they had to pay for these out of their pockets, there would be no deep space program.

2. The people in the space equipment industry will profit from this. They have probably already stuffed the Bush campaign chest. They will add more for sure.

Then there will be the argument that it will create jobs. Everyone wants prosperity. But it will be a sick prosperity. For every pointless space job there could have been training of medical scientists, doctors and nurses, already in critically short supply.

The Bush administration's moon project is lunacy.

-- Ronald A. Baltrunas, Dunedin

Interplanetary politics

Re: President's new space vision: Put humans on Mars, moon.

The president's proposed plan to put a permanent space station on the moon could give the average citizens of the world a good view of what planets our elected officials are living on. I would like to address the individual issues, but I don't believe I have enough ink.

-- Frank J. Condurso, St. Petersburg

Another distraction from war

The latest "pipe dream" re-election ploy being advanced by this administration suggests a permanent station on the moon. After he has wiped out the bank account and maxed out the credit cards, just how does this president expect to get this project "off the ground"?

Anything to take our minds off Iraq seems to be the strategy now that our "arms inspector" has admitted that we cannot find weapons of mass destruction and our secretary of state has come forward to admit that there is no link between Iraq and 9/11.

-- James M. Smith, St. Petersburg

To the moon

I am so in tune with President Bush's plan to put a man on the moon again and on Mars. By the time the Bush brothers are through with destroying this planet, which by the way is in the "red," it will look like the moon: a cold, polluted orb unable to sustain life.

I believe the Bush Brothers along with Mom and Dad should be the first settlers in outer space. My friends and I would be there to give them a great send-off. Of course, this would be a one-way trip.

-- Marie F. Hoke-Singer, Largo

Reach for the stars

Re: The fuss about Mars is all too human, by Anne Applebaum, Jan. 8.

Perhaps Mars will never be anything more than the barren desert that we believe it is. Perhaps the world does spend money on space travel that could be spent in other ways. Perhaps space travel will in the end yield nothing but casualties and despair. Perhaps we are alone.

What the writer of the column fails to mention are the technological advances that the space program yields. These technologies are not only applicable in space, but on the terran soil as well. And what of resources? What we may eventually find in our celestial back yard is unclear at this point.

She says that space exploration is a "purely academic pursuit." She goes on to imply that there has been nothing gained by (her examples of) our other "purely academic pursuits," such as the exploration of Earth's oceans and the languages of our human forefathers. Perhaps she has forgotten that if one does not understand the past, one is bound to repeat it. Maybe she is blind to the possibility that space is not the past, but the future. Maybe the universe will never be realized in a fashion such as Star Trek, but a hundred years ago man could not fly and computers were fantasy.

If we, as human beings, do not attempt to push the limits of our potential we will be stagnant. If we do not continue to open our minds and search for truths, both large and small, all we will have are lies. Humanity can achieve anything. We are more than the sum of our parts and we must believe that we can prevail over any challenge.

-- Annemargaret McKeon, New Port Richey

Don't misrepresent Mars

Re: The fuss about Mars is all too human.

While I respect and understand Anne Applebaum's opinion on the future and feasibility of manned space travel, I do not agree with it. I believe that manned space travel must happen and will happen for a variety of reasons.

That being said, I would like to point out some glaring scientific inaccuracies in her editorial column. Applebaum stated that Mars has ". . . no air, no water, and no warmth," and reiterated this statement several times. I would like make it known that Mars does, in fact, have an atmosphere. Granted, it is 100 times thinner than that of Earth and contains far less oxygen that our own, but it is an atmosphere nonetheless. In fact, the thin atmosphere of Mars is capable of supporting an entire global weather system, including clouds and winds, just like Earth. Contrary to Applebaum's statement, Mars also contains large amounts of water locked in the polar ice caps. In the distant past, this water may have even flowed as a liquid on the surface, creating the channels, valleys, and gullies we have come to associate with the Martian landscape.

I hope that the next time Applebaum deigns to write about the future of another scientific endeavor as controversial and important as this, she will fully research her topic before putting a pen to paper.

-- Haley Pritchard, Redington Beach

A failed attempt to discredit Muslims

Re: Wrong message, wrong audience, Jan. 8.

Bigotry and hate are the only words that come to mind after reading this disturbing letter.

The letter writer, Norman N. Gross, portrays presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich as desperate and condemns his recent visit to the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area. However, Kucinich, from the beginning of his campaign, reached out to all segments of our society while carrying with him the flag of true patriotism and the message of inclusiveness and peace.

Mr. Gross makes a failed attempt to discredit Muslims by questioning the credibility of the Islamic Center which hosted Kucinich. The same Islamic center has received much praise for its humanitarian and social work. The center manages a full-time free health clinic and food pantry, which is accessible to anyone regardless of their faith. In addition, the Islamic center has worked with local, state and federal law enforcement to foster understanding in our community and has hosted a number of open houses to inform the public.

Mr. Gross ended his letter by defaming Muslims and suggesting they are "evil doers." To the contrary, the Muslim community has repeatedly condemned all forms of terrorism, is actively involved in numerous interfaith initiatives, has provided assistance to the needy, and proudly claims hundreds of local affluent professionals and businesses people who add to the economic vitality of the area.

As a Muslim from the Tampa Bay area, I do not consider myself, my family, or my community to be "evil-doers." An "evil-doer" is Dr. Robert Goldstein and his co-conspirators, who were caught, charged and convicted in a plot to destroy Islamic centers in this area.

-- Ahmed Bedier, communications director, Florida Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Tampa

Remember our constitutional rights

Re: Wrong message, wrong audience.

In his letter, Norman Gross, chairperson of the Anti-hate Committee of the Greater Florida B'nai B'rith, refers to the Patriot Act and supports President Bush, saying, "recall that President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in order to preserve our union."

I invite all readers (and all elected and appointed officials) to read our Constitution. While it is true that Article 1, Section 9 does allow for the suspension of habeas corpus "in cases of rebellion or invasion," does anyone honestly believe that 19 dead hijackers constitute an "invasion" in a constitutional sense?

More applicable portions of the Constitution are Amendments IV, V, VI, VII and VIII, which address our rights to not be deprived of "life, liberty or property without due process of law" and the rights to "a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury." I am not making arguments for the innocence or guilt of Sami Al-Arian, Jose Padilla, or others, but if we truly believe in liberty and freedom, they must be charged and tried, or released.

I further draw attention to the constitutionally required Presidential Oath in Article II, Section 1: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." This oath does not exclude rights to a speedy and public trial.

It seems that if anyone would be concerned about claims by the government that they have the right to declare anyone (and potentially everyone) an enemy combatant, and drag them off without any judicial review, it should be B'nai B'rith. "Never again."

-- Thom Flory, Seminole

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[Last modified January 13, 2004, 01:33:02]


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