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Today's Letters: Don't encourage the wanton killing of sharks

Published June 9, 2007


This story was both incredible and sad. I am an avid fisherman and was amazed at the size of yet another large bull shark being caught so close to where I live. I was also very concerned and disappointed by the message the St. Petersburg Times is sending to its readers with yet another front page (of the Metro section) article on the catching and killing of a large and possibly pregnant bull shark. I remain baffled why catching and needlessly killing another big shark is so newsworthy, especially since you reported a similar catch and kill less than a month ago.

Whether or not the Times intended it, this kind of story sensationalizes and foments the kind of fear, hatred and senseless killing of sharks that the movie Jaws created back in 1975.

Worse, this article comes on the heels of scientific reports that indicate that the largest predatory shark species worldwide are in decline. The story clearly did not make the point that this kill, along with the killing of another 30- to 100-million sharks a year worldwide, is pushing certain shark species, especially the largest shark predators, to the brink. Even if bull sharks are common in Tampa Bay, this does not justify killing them until they become uncommon.

Your readers need to have a better understanding of what killing sharks is doing to the ecosystem. I fully acknowledge that bull sharks are extremely dangerous, but there is absolutely no justification for killing a shark based on the threat they pose to humans. The odds of getting attacked in the United States are 1 in 6-million, and there are a number of well-known and legitimate precautions you can take to further lower the odds of getting attacked. None of these well-known precautions, to my knowledge, includes "killing sharks."

Lawrence Weiner, St. Petersburg

An anxious swimmer

I think it is very important for people to be aware that these bull sharks show up in both saltwater and freshwater. I used to assume I'd be safe swimming in freshwater. Not after this.

When the movie Jaws first came out many years ago and I saw it, that was the end of my swimming in saltwater. Now freshwater is a risk too? This is one species of shark I'd like to see the world set a goal to kill completely. It is a terrible threat to humanity, regardless of how "sacred" the food chain is.

Mark Easter, Largo

An unworthy attitude

I love this paper and enjoy supporting it. That said, I was completely sickened by your article Monday about the bull shark caught in Tampa Bay.

I fish, surf, and snorkel these waters 12 months a year and have no problem with people catching sharks. What I do see troubling is the attitude of the "fishermen" in the story and the slant the reporter put on the story.

The fishermen specifically targeted large sharks by slapping a six-pound bait on a hook. They most likely knew that as recreational fishermen, it is illegal to sell their catch. Shark meat spoils rapidly unless it is bled and iced immediately. The fact that the fish was tied in place by the seawall shows that no effort was made to preserve it. To me, that demonstrates that the fishermen intentionally killed the animal for sport, and your paper glorified it.

The reporter mentions how dangerous bull sharks are by reminding the public of a shark attack seven years ago that took the life of a man. A more responsible and balanced approach would have been reporting the number of sharks that have been needlessly killed for sport. I think that you would agree the number of sharks killed by people is far greater than the number of people killed by sharks.

Sharks will never share the love that we reserve for manatees, dolphins and whales, but I hardly see the difference in needlessly killing any of these creatures.

Scott Moskowitz, Tampa

A hard Monday, indeed

I am outraged at the St. Petersburg Times' Monday Metro cover story, It was this big ..., a sad, inexcusable article accompanied by a photo of a bloated, dead bull shark.

Sharks play an invaluable role in our ecosystem. This sensational piece undermines the public's understanding of this role.

Furthermore, this flashy piece is a stark contrast to the article found on Page 10A in the same edition. The article, Limits for shark trade are under review, highlighted some of the international controversies surrounding shark populations.

"We know Mondays can be hard" was the slogan that accompanied this new Monday Metro section. Hard, indeed, when we are exposed to blatant antienvironmental pieces such as this.

Heather Boesch, Tampa

So American, yet so foreign May 3, story

Don't misunderstand the Mormon church

I was very concerned after reading this story. Many points in this article portrayed Mormonism and its history inaccurately. It is very unfortunate that Mormons are not forthright about what they teach the public. Because Mormons use common "Christian" terms and don't tell outsiders they have redefined those words, many people are left with a grave misunderstanding about what Mormonism actually teaches.

For instance, many people do not realize that in Mormonism, God and man are the same type of race, many Gods exist, that man can become a God and that God was once a man:

"God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Page 345).

Although this is just one of the many teachings in Mormonism that is contrary to Christianity, the hidden redefinition of these common words results in unsuspecting people joining their religion without even realizing what Mormonism actually teaches. Many don't realize what they've gotten themselves into and, sadly, many times can't seem to get out. Many families are left torn apart and devastated.

There are so many other points your article touched on: history, polygamy, etc., that the Mormon church has retold to the point that much of today's Mormon generation is not aware of what the actual facts and history are. They have been taught a cleaned up, market-friendly version.

I would love to see your paper write an article about Mormonism that will not mislead the public. In addition to older Mormon documentation and scriptures (Journal of Discourses, Mormon Doctrine by Bruce McConkie, etc.), there are many great Web sites with factual information. A few of them are:;; and

Please allow your readers the opportunity to understand the truth of the history and teachings of the Mormon church.

C. Jacobsen, Winter Haven

Polygamy remains

The subtitle of the Sunday article about Mormonism says there is misinformation today concerning the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and yet includes just such misinformation.

Just weeks ago we were in Salt Lake City, and it is common knowledge that even though polygamy was banned in 1890, it is still commonly practiced among its adherents. About a month ago WUSF carried an extensive TV series about the Mormon church, and actually interviewed several families who are practicing polygamy.

Ruth Gelina, St. Petersburg

School closings likely June 3, story

Some flee school system

In this article, reporter Thomas Tobin indicated that some Pinellas schools might be closed because "Families are leaving the county or avoiding it, scared off by high home prices and rising insurance rates." The story also noted that "Pinellas' geography leaves precious little space for growth."

While these are certainly factors, I believe there is an important factor not mentioned in the article, and that is the displeasure many families have with the Pinellas County school system in general.

My family left Pinellas County for Manatee County three years ago to ensure our children would not have to attend Pinellas County schools. This move also coincided with Pinellas County's decision to go to 100 percent school choice. Families don't want to play the lottery with their children's education. The Pinellas County school system is too large with far too many schools, leaving it open to political influences that are not always advantageous to every one.

I would like to see an article focus on the families who have moved to Manatee, Pasco and Hernando counties to escape Pinellas County schools. Maybe then, the board could re-evaluate itself and take a new direction to bring families back to the county that I grew up in.

Jason Lipton, Bradenton

School closings likely June 3, story

'Quality of life' issues

This time last year, I relocated away from St. Petersburg. I was raised in the area since age 2 and was resigned to raising my own children, middle and elementary school age, there too. Ultimately though, times have changed. I have read at recently about the decline in student enrollment in Pinellas.

While affordability played a role in my decision, there were other "quality of living" issues that contributed. The most driving force was to get my children out of Pinellas schools.

I will start by saying that in eight years of dealing with Pinellas schools, as a parent, I encountered some simply amazing and special teachers. It was how issues such as poor teachers, school violence and the seriously deficient transportation system were inadequately addressed by the administration and superintendent that made staying in the district undesirable.

Further, the politically crippled St. Petersburg Police Department also played a role in my decision. Fear of a few activist criminal thugs has seemingly paralyzed the department, tying their hands instead of cuffing those who threaten the safety and peace of others. In a community with so many incredibly hard-working, educated, articulate and brilliantly beautiful African-American citizens, giving credence to the Uhurus is the equivalent of having registered sexual predators teach preschool.

So while the cost of housing and insurance make life more difficult for a working family in St. Petersburg, it was ultimately the failing education system and the decline in public safety that drove us away.

Cheryl Hadley, Martinez, Ga.

Fluoride, a longtime blessing, now a curse? June 4, story

A dangerous mistake

Thanks to reporter Will Van Sant for making the effort to do some "digging" and shedding some much needed light on this matter, which directly affects the health and well being of every citizen and visitor to Pinellas County.

While I have been trying my best to keep the Pinellas County Commission informed of the scientific developments on this public health issue, I have, for the most part, met with denials or silence. I have also tried to keep the office of our new governor, Charlie Crist, informed. He, just like all of us, from time to time drinks Pinellas County's fluoridated water.

Pinellas Utilities Department director Pick Talley is wrong on this issue. A prudent public servant would choose to err on the side of safety. He should have sent out the American Dental Association warning to mothers immediately. Instead, he, for reasons that need to be examined closely, repeatedly refused to do the prudent thing.

The county's decision to fluoridate our water supply was a dangerous and expensive mistake. The water supply should never, ever, be used as a delivery vehicle for medicines. And, most especially not for a medicine that has never been approved for human ingestion by the FDA.

This mistake by our elected leaders, who were misled by appointed officials, must be brought to an immediate end.

Tom Nocera, Clearwater

Praise and condemnation

Thanks for the June 4 article about the fluoride warning. Kudos to Will Van Sant for a comprehensive piece that included the American Dental Association warning, historical background on fluoridation, and the Pinellas County Commission 6-1 vote in 2004 when members had the audacity to prescribe a drinking water additive for over half a million county residents.

Special thanks to former Commissioner Barbara Sheen Todd for her vote against adding the poison to our water.

No thanks to the St. Petersburg Times editorial of 2004 which encouraged the fluoridation of our water. I'm sure it influenced the prescribing commissioners in casting their yes votes. No kudos for that!

Arthur J. Palmer, Largo

Fluoride, a longtime blessing, now a curse? June 4, story

Fluoride won't hurt

I know you will get many angry e-mails on this subject, both pro and con, but really, fluoride, in the limited amounts added to drinking water in this area, will not harm local infants. If it did, a lot of people in areas of the United States that have had significantly more natural fluoride in their water would be in real trouble.

I grew up, during the 1940s and 1950s, in Amarillo, Texas, an area that had large amounts of natural fluoride in the drinking water. Yes, until our permanent teeth came in, we had to drink bottled water to keep our teeth from having brown and/or yellow stains. However, because we all still drank some tap water, our incidence of tooth decay was ridiculously low, in comparison to children in other parts of the country. Further, I believe, if you will check the health stats for that area, you will find no higher incidence of lower IQs, bone cancer, endocrine system problems or skeletal damage.

It is interesting that the researcher you quoted, Kathleen Thiessen, looked at reports from some unidentified foreign countries for her research when there are localities in this country that could have provided statistics more applicable to other people raised in this country. Not only do we have areas of this country with natural fluoride in the drinking water but we also have a large number of areas, not as backward as Pinellas County, that have had fluoride in their drinking water for several decades. We really do not know what other factors exist in those foreign countries, that may have played a part in increasing the incidents of the health conditions she noted in her report, factors that may not exist in this country at all.

But, after reading your article, I am sure there are many parents who will use only bottled water and insist their children drink only bottled water when they are outside of their homes. And that is great because it means that the dentists can continue to be fully employed as they fill cavities and eventually fit dentures for all of those people who are afraid of fluoride.

M. Diane Hodson, Ph.D., JD, St. Petersburg

Fluoride, a longtime blessing, now a curse? June 4, story

Breast-feeding is best

This article talked about the possible danger of mixing infant formula with fluoridated water and mentions that the American Dental Association's e-mail "should be of particular concern to poor parents enrolled in the federal government's women, infants, and children nutrition program."

There is not one mention of the infant feeding method that is strongly preferred by the American Academy of Pediatrics, World Health Organization, WIC, etc., and that is breast-feeding. Babies usually do not need artificial baby milk and the risks associated with it. The benefits of breast-feeding are undisputable and well-documented and it is a shame it is not even mentioned in an article about feeding infants.

Rachel Bryant, New Port Richey

His body weakened by cancer, cabbie fights off armed robbers June 6, story

Ending cab robberies

Some 44 years ago I drove a cab at night for three years in a very rough area of Philadelphia to pay for graduate school. At the end of the first year, metal safes were welded in the cabs which only could be opened at the garage. Within six weeks all holdups of cabs ended. It was a simple, cheap, life-saving solution.

Tony Witlin, St. Petersburg

Fear is always a passenger June 7, story

Install shields

Your headline says it all. And we should be ashamed of ourselves. Deadly violence against taxicab drivers is - and has been for many years - so commonplace that it has become largely ignored in the media.

A bullet-proof shield between passengers and driver has been proved effective in saving cabbie lives. Why isn't it required by law? Give cab owners a business tax credit to install them. Reject the antisocial argument that shields tarnish Florida's "vacation-paradise" image. Believe that human lives are infinitely more important than image.

We can end terrorist violence against cabbies, and it's time we did.

Joseph H. Francis, St. Petersburg

Time for taxi safety

Taxi driver safety and training have been on the back burner in the Tampa Bay Area for more than two decades. Maybe it's about time to get real serious. Safety shields, cameras, hijack lights, etc., are not new inventions for the taxi business. They are crime prevention tools, and they work.

Just how serious should taxi driver safety be taken? Just go to and click on the "Memoriam" page and look at the hundreds of names of murdered taxi drivers. It's high time that the taxi regulators do something.

Picking up hitchhikers and drunks 24/7 for a living ain't no picnic. I know that for sure because I'm a survivor of a knife attack in Tampa back in 1984. I thank God every day that my name is not on the "Memoriam" site.

The powers that be should protect your local cab drivers.

James L. Szekely Sr., International Taxi Drivers' Safety Council, Huntington, W. Va.

The real heroes June 2, letter

Remember submariners

To the list of Cold War heroes I would like to add the U.S. Navy, in particular, the deterrent "41 for Freedom" Polaris, Poseidon and Trident submarines.

They were engineered by dedicated civilian contractors, managed by dedicated Navy and civil servants and manned by the greatest Navy in the world.

Thank you all for your service to our country. You allowed us all to sleep easy during the years of the Cold War.

Severino R. Titi, St. Petersburg

[Last modified June 8, 2007, 21:10:10]

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