Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Today's letters: Utility takes advisories on water safety seriously
Letters to the Editor
Published June 20, 2007
As a public utility which provides high-quality drinking water to more than 350, 000 people, Hillsborough County Water Resource Services receives numerous advisories, statements, position papers, opinions and articles from a wide variety of sources. Our staff carefully evaluates each new development in the industry.
Medical issues in particular can be extremely complex and confusing, and difficult to put into context by anyone other than medical professionals. That is why, in such matters, we rely on medical experts - in particular, the Hillsborough County Health Department - to evaluate the validity of the material and determine what message should be relayed to the public. Utilities are not allowed to make such judgment calls themselves. To do so would be irresponsible, unethical, and violate procedures and protocol established to safeguard our customers.
The American Dental Association is among dozens of major health organizations that endorse community fluoridation to prevent tooth decay. Their concern, based on a study done by the National Research Council, is that infants who receive fluoride above optimal amounts may be susceptible to fluorosis, a condition that damages tooth enamel. The optimal fluoride level in drinking water is 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million. Water Resource Services supplies 0.8 parts per million of fluoride in its drinking water. Further, both the ADA and the National Research Council indicate that additional research is needed.
The health and safety of our customers is paramount. This is a responsibility we take very seriously. We trust in the judgment of the qualified experts who advise us on medical issues related to our drinking water. When they deem an advisory or public notification necessary on any health-related issue, our customers can be assured that we will use every means available to share this information with them.
Paul J. Vanderploog, director, Hillsborough County Water Resource Services, Tampa
Plan's survival turns on Save Our Homes June 17, story
Bungled tax reform
Our Legislature has again surrendered its opportunity to fix the tax mess it created some 15 years ago. Its behavior is a reminder of the inherent flaw in any populist democracy when it is faced with complex and unpopular decisions. Instead of statesmanship, we are witness to a lemming-like charge to nowhere. Instead of a willingness to make the hard choices, our legislators are content to throw them back into the laps of the people. Worse yet, under the new proposal, everyone is allowed to choose the plan that is in their own self-interest, thus further narrowing the tax base.
The solution is actually relatively simple. Broaden the tax base and put real restraint on government spending. First, we need a broad-based tax such as a state income tax or even the previously proposed sales tax increase to spread the tax burden as widely as possible. Second, we need a real rollback in budgetary spending. The proposed maximum of 9 percent is too little to make a real difference and should be more like 20 percent to create true fiscal responsibility across the board.
Given the recent "solution" to our property insurance crisis, which the Legislature completely bungled, I guess it's no surprise that its latest magnum opus is so completely devoid of good tax policy and even defies common sense.
All we need now is to have the mortgage market tighten a little, and our so-called leaders will have created the perfect storm for the wholesale destruction of our real estate and construction industries.
Tom Carey, Clearwater
Status quo protected
The proposed property tax "relief plan" provides little relief and is flawed as a plan. If passed by the voters in January, anyone accepting the super exemption will lose any Save Our Homes protection in the future, and in five years we will have a bigger problem than we can even imagine right now. Assessments of house values and the millage rates to apply to those assessments will have no checks and balances to avoid catastrophic increases.
Many have already figured out that keeping the Save Our Homes cap is going to be the safer choice, which means we are left to defend the status quo and we get no tax relief whatsoever, except for some temporary and fleeting savings for those daring enough to do away with the Save Our Homes protections.
Since the Legislature has failed to take clear and decisive steps to solve the problem, I say let the voters decide whether to eliminate property taxes entirely and replace them with increased sales taxes. I think this would be the fairest approach because it would then tax everyone who uses our roads and our schools and our other services, including tourists and nonhomeowners.
Renters would benefit from the elimination of a property tax, because excessive tax increases have fueled the corresponding rent increases in the area. Tax relief would allow landlords to keep rent steady or to raise rent in smaller increments. Tourists who help to tangle up our roads would also pay their fair share in sales taxes.
Give us a vote that counts and not one to reaffirm the status quo.
Nicholas Glover, Odessa
What the tax plan would mean to you June 14, worksheet
Not feeling relief
Wow! The proposed tax plan will reduce the taxes on my home from $12, 733.98 (including an assessment of $190 for fire protection) to $12, 541.24.
If this is tax relief, I don't feel it. I pay $9 per month for reclaimed water that I have been told not to use. My tax "relief" will barely cover this expense.
Why do I have to pay a tax for the privilege of living in my own house anyway?
Stephen Small, Indian Rocks Beach
Tax plan is unfair
I used your worksheet to compare the new taxable value on two hypothetical houses. House A has a value of $500, 000 and House B has a value of $600, 000. According to the worksheet, the new taxable value for house A is $305, 000 and the new taxable value for House B is $490, 000.
In other words, House B is worth $100, 000 more than House A but the taxable value of House B is $185, 000 more. This is supposed to be more fair?
A. T. Barnard, Beverly Hills
Mystery in B flat June 10, story
A pitch-perfect story
As a 47-year reader and subscriber to the St. Petersburg Times, I have enjoyed few articles as much as Jeff Klinkenberg's Mystery in B flat.
The article on alligators responding to a sustained musical note was as fascinating as the ending was hilarious. Tears of laughter sprang from my eyes as I imagined a human's response to an alligator's roar at close range.
I am aware of music's ability to sway a human's emotions, but a response from a primordial beast was enlightening.
A magnificent article from one of the Times' finer writers.
Harry Joseph Boucher Jr., Tampa
Whale carried a souvenir from hunt for more than 100 years June 13, story
With all the advances human beings have made, it is shockingly barbaric that whales - those awesome and majestic creatures - are allowed to be slaughtered with such brutality and senselessness. These noble animals play an integral part in the Earth's oceans, are known to have a very long life span, possess the ability to think, live in family groups and are so specialized and beautifully adapted.
We humans are cannibalizing our very host, this perfect planet filled with unique life, in wanton waste such as whaling. We would have far more promise and hope as a people and for our very existence if we accommodated ourselves as good stewards of the environment, appreciative toward its beauty and bounty, and viewed whales not as below us but rather as fellow brethren sharing courageously and admiringly this same small and fragile planet.
Nanci E. Sherman, Dunnellon
Study says passport logjam is feds' fault June 19, story
Don't blame the feds
I absolutely disagree that the State Department is to blame for the flood of applications for passports. I despise the Bush administration, but in this instance it is the fault of lazy Americans.
Americans had three years' notice that passports would be required by January 2007 for travel outside the United States, and that was plenty of time for all of us to get it done.
Americans complain government is too intrusive, yet expect government assistance with every step. Blame the government when it's deserved, but in this case, the fault lies with the indolence of everyone now caught in the logjam.