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By Times Staff
Published July 8, 2007


TIA boosts security checks, July 3

Airport delays are well within reason

Face it - big airports are magnets for terrorists, as were the two airports in the United Kingdom. As airports are emblematic of the trajectory of terrorists' objectives, stepped-up security is sensible. Policing tactics can foster air travelers' security and well being. Constancy of behavior as if everything is just fine is no substitute for relevance. Apathy on this issue could put folks in the midst of a nightmare scenario. Such actions must be treated as a temporary inconvenience. It is only when civil liberties are curbed permanently to enforce "order" that they should be deemed corrosive to a free community. We must never evolve into a repressive police state under any guise.

Robert B. Fleming, St. Petersburg

Get ready for the ATM re-evolution, July 2

Let's not make humans obsolete

Your article in technology section on Monday about the new ATMs has me thinking about the way we humans are striving to replace ourselves. Why do we want to replace people like bank tellers and cashiers?

Don't get me wrong - I love technology. For example, I am writing this on my laptop connected to my wireless network that I also have three other computer systems hooked up to. That said, I still wonder about our future.

I went to Wal-Mart the other day, and there are eight self-serve lines with people waiting to use them, while there were two cashiers with no one in their lines. I went to the cashier and asked if this happened often. She replied, "Not often, but it does happen." I could not help thinking about the six replaced cashiers. It takes only one person to run four self-serve stations. I found myself looking at the cashier and wondering if this lady feels obsolete, on the edge of a computer replacing her.

The article on the new type of bank ATM said that it will be fully self-serve. My bank's ATM takes checks, but with a deposit slip, and then it has to be verified by humans. This new ATM will not need human approval. It will be like a fully functional banker. There go those jobs and those people.

I understand the need for progress and the replacement of dangerous jobs like those on a bomb squad, but am really having a hard time with man's drive to replace himself in every job.

Why are we driven to replace ourselves? Why are we driven to create a life-form without feeling or compassion? Let's think about this the next time we turn on those gadgets, the next time we surf the Web on our iPhone while waiting in line. Think about this as we let our cars park themselves, as we check out our own stuff at Wal-Mart or say good morning to an ATM as we make a deposit.

I love technology, but I also love people and think we need to continue progress, but with a purpose. I believe that purpose should be to love and help fellow humans, not replace them. If we replace the basic worker, we could create a technologically advanced world of poverty-ridden people.

Paul Russell , St. Petersburg

Recalls: Children's butterfly necklaces, June 25

Junk jewelry should be avoided

Each Monday, I read all of the recalls in the Business section. With an imperfect world, I feel it's important to be aware of what could pose a threat. And besides, you may end up saving your own life, or perhaps that of a loved one.

Although, as I diligently check through the recall lists, I do notice that children's jewelry has been mentioned more often than not, due to the high levels of lead.

My point, though, is not everyone reads the recalls. Perhaps some don't even know that they are printed in the Business section of the St. Petersburg Times every Monday.

These particular butterfly necklaces for children are apparently sold only in souvenir and gift stores. And as we all know, visitors regularly come and go in the state of Florida. As a result, some parents may never know the danger the jewelry poses to their child. Because of this, my suggestion to parents would simply be to avoid buying children's costume jewelry.

Even though it is cute and little girls may think that they can't live without it, in essence, it's junk.

Sterling silver may be one alternative. And mothers could also let their young daughters dress up in old jewelry they no longer wear.

Gift shop owners probably won't like my suggestions, but the health and safety of children come first.

JoAnn Lee Frank, Clearwater

Shredding profits, July 3

Ethanol making food more costly

The writing is on the wall: Using food for fuel is a bad idea. That is, using corn to make ethanol in order to reduce our dependency on oil that is used to make gasoline is a bad idea, because corn is used for animal feed, which in turn becomes food for people. The price of meat is going up and the price of cheese products have gone up 78 percent in one year.

Nevertheless, just like the price for gas, the people are going to be hit again with higher costs of living and President Bush will do nothing about it. In fact, his new energy bill is promoting an increase in biofuel production. Of course, it should be noted, that even with the use of ethanol, the price of gas will not be reduced.

It is one thing when some commodities go up in price, like some new TVs costing more than $1, 000 and some SUVs costing $48, 000.

Those things are discretionary; we do not need to buy them. But food - we have to eat every day.

V. Paradis, Seminole

Re: Citizens Insurance

Seniors priced out of the market

Property insurance most certainly impacts all Floridians, but recently a serious inequity with the state-run Citizens Property Insurance program surfaced. Citizens does not have an ability to write property insurance for senior living facilities.

If a Florida senior citizen lives in an assisted-living facility, nursing home or rental retirement facility, their fee to be there varies based on the cost to provide services. These types of centers, like the Oaks of Clearwater, are forced into the shrinking marketplace of commercial carriers that are writing property insurance.

For example, in December 2006, the Oaks of Clearwater went from an expenditure of $180, 000 to $400, 000 for annual property insurance coverage. Citizens Insurance does cover condos and high-rise apartment buildings. If the community was a high-rise apartment complex, Citizens coverage would have been attainable at perhaps 50 percent of the $400, 000 cost. Why? We have tried to find out, but to no avail. This is affecting many centers in Florida, and the huge cost increases have to be passed along to the senior citizen residents who live there.

To make matters worse, we are subject to the tax on the policy we buy to bail out Citizens.

When Florida seniors cannot afford increased fees due to high insurance costs, where will they go? Will some senior housing communities fail, providing even less available housing?

Jim Gillespie, Executive director, The Oaks of Clearwater

An outcry over outsourcing, June 28

Help deliver mail-carrier bill

In the past few years, the Postal Service has decided to contract out the delivery of mail to all new construction areas based strictly on cost savings.

The possible ramifications of this decision are alarming. Although a background check is done on the contractor, often someone other than that person actually delivers the mail. These subcontractors are not scrutinized as thoroughly and yet have access to checks, certified letters, registered mail and valuables. They are also temporary employees with no benefits, resulting in a work force of untrained, nondedicated, low-wage earners.

On the other hand, career letter carriers, both city and rural, are committed to serve the public in many ways. They collect food for the needy through the National Association of Letter Carriers' Food Drive, raise money for charities such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association and watch over patrons through the Carrier Alert program. You can help to keep your mail delivery in the hands of trained, dedicated career carriers by contacting Sen. Mel Martinez's office and asking him to back S1457, a bill that would prohibit the contracting of mail delivery in any area that has more than one family per mile. Sen. Nelson has already signed on to the bill.

Jim Good, President, NALC Branch 599, Tampa

Fashion icon changed style, June 28

A stylish stroll down memory lane

Many times I have almost been lured out of retirement from the St. Petersburg Times by a near-irresistible story or subject. But this time, this time, on reading of the death of Liz Claiborne, through near-teary eyes, I had to come forth.

The year was 1981, and I was working for the Evening Independent, which merged with the Times in 1986. The week was the very week Liz Claiborne stock had gone public on the Nasdaq market (the company years later moved to the New York Stock Exchange).

And Liz Claiborne was in town. And, joy of joys, I was assigned to interview her.

We met at a St. Pete Beach Hotel and talked in chairs by the pool as she sat cross-legged in linen slacks and shirt. Her label, of course. I thought she was so glamorous, every inch the model, but so easy to talk to. She was excited about her company's entry on the stock exchange, talked enthusiastically about her line of clothes, how she stood over each and every design personally, loved bold colors and natural fabrics.

Independent artist Jack Barrett drew a whole page of sketches of me in Liz Claiborne clothes - a wondrous brown-and-cream striped two-piece dress with a sailor collar, linen slacks, shorts, blouses, skirts, all of which I'd brought over from Maas Brothers department store in St. Petersburg to the newspaper's photography studio. We did things far more simply then. I'd put the outfits on and Jack would sketch them. All the while I'm thinking, "and I'm getting paid to do this."

Well, it was a case of love at first snap of the hook. I bought the dress with the sailor collar. It had binding that said "Liz Claiborne, Liz Claiborne, Liz Claiborne" all along the inside of the hem. I bought the shorts. I bought the slacks.

I remember the sport clothes, the paprika reds, the sulfur yellows, the vivid turquoises.

I remember - and to me this was the smartest thing Liz Claiborne ever did - that all her clothes were designed a size larger than they were in other lines. I went immediately from a size 10 to a size 8. Now, is that smart merchandising or what? It's my personal opinion that she started that whole trend of smaller sizes for larger people.

Anyway, in addition to buying Liz clothes, shoes and purses, I also bought her stock in small amounts, whenever I had a little extra money. And it did wonders, doubled and split, doubled and split.

I knew not of newspaper rules regarding conflict of interest, but my editor heard me crowing about my Liz stock.

"If you're going to write about her, you can't own the stock, " I was told. I never mentioned her name again.

Until now. But Liz, here's one satisfied customer.

Betty Jean Miller, St. Petersburg


[Last modified July 6, 2007, 20:30:00]

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