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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: Title insurance doesn't deserve to be made into a scapegoat
By LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published September 2, 2007
Put an end to title insurance rip off in Florida Aug. 26, editorial
As a trained title insurance professional, I take offense at the accusations in this editorial.
First, title insurance is not written on a casualty basis, like auto insurance or homeowners. Title insurance is issued only after a trained professional performs a 30-year search and determines that the property is free from potential claim.
Second, title insurance protects from claims that arise from previous issues such as open unsatisfied mortgages, potential contract liens, state liens, tax liens, judgments, etc. The base rate for title insurance has not risen since the mid '90s. The costs of homes have, and since the amount the industry is insuring has increased, then the premium obviously would have to increase accordingly. In today's environment a decrease in rates would make most independent title insurance agencies less solvent, resulting in fewer options for your closings.
Third, the state sets the rates for title insurance, not the industry. At this time it seems that everyone is looking for a scapegoat in the real estate crisis and it appears that the best one is the title industry, which has been offering protection to our clients for over 120 years.
William Crawford, Brooksville
Doubt Aug. 26, a Times investigation
A retrial is in order
Thank you for publishing the excellent article about Leo Schofield, so ably produced and written by Meg Laughlin and Don Morris. I am grateful to you for making the facts known about the whole matter of Schofield's trial and conviction.
When I was a boy, my mother taught me to trust and respect police officers, and I have done that all my life. My mother also told me that police officers always wanted to do "the right thing."
While police officers are due our respect, your article shows that the trust we invest in those in authority must always be given with a reasonable amount of skepticism. It would seem that those who served on the jury that convicted Schofield of murder failed to employ even that amount of skepticism. Moreover, one might feel some uncertainty about Polk County prosecutor John Aguero's intention to do "the right thing" where Schofield was concerned. Of course, the fingerprint evidence is the most significant piece of the long list of injustices.
It would seem reasonable to think that Aguero would recognize the egregious injustice of Leo Schofield's first trial, and do "the right thing" by asking for a new one, based on the evidence brought to light by Laughlin and Morris. Is that too much to expect?
Ralph N. Madison Jr., St. Petersburg
USF takes easy way on diversity Aug. 26,Bill Maxwell column
Davis is formidable
I loved this column on the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, and frankly I was not disappointed in USF. I felt sorry for them.
While I was branch president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, we received inquiries and requests for assistance from black employees and students. We did what we could with all that we were addressing in other sectors and wished we could have done more. But USF just opened themselves up to Goliath Davis' scrutiny, and they should know that he is no one's flunky, nor does he stand alone. He is smart enough to identify racism and discrimination and call it for what it is.
USF, if they are guilty, may not have done themselves a favor by appointing Dr. Davis. There is a vocal and active segment of the black community that will rise up and support Dr. Davis if there is the hint that his paid opinion is disrespected. In fact, I urge him to call upon the Fred G. Minnis Bar Association if he needs assistance. There may be a few other institutions that need a check up.
Darryl E. Rouson, president, Fred G. Minnis Bar Association, St. Petersburg
USF takes easy way on diversity Aug. 26, Bill Maxwell column
Get beyond race
It gets terribly tiresome to read, week after week, Bill Maxwell's moaning and groaning about the "plight of blacks."
In this week's complaint, he says that USF St. Petersburg, even though it hired Deputy Mayor Goliath Davis as "senior adviser for diversity and community affairs," was not doing enough to attract black professors. And, just as bad, the city of St. Petersburg isn't too "welcoming to black professionals," and the black community "treats black professional newcomers shabbily."
If Maxwell insists on preaching diversity in education, he should examine and include other races at schools. It seems to me, though, that the word "diversity" has been co-opted by the black community. We are left to wonder how many other ethnic groups are underrepresented and what USF is doing to attract them.
The truth is that the racial composition of a school does not matter. It has as much to do with the success of a school's purpose as the architectural design of their building.
Jack Bray, Dunedin
Turns out we may all have a dog in this fightAug. 26, Perspective commentary
Raise our standards
I would like to thank Stephen Nohlgren for his thought-provoking piece on animal abuse in our society. He is entirely correct to compare public opinion of Michael Vick with public support of other "sports" which involve great animal cruelty.
Why do we condemn dogfighting so readily, while supporting hunting, which can cause as much suffering and kills far more animals? And how can we condemn hunting while eating animals who have suffered far more on factory farms just because we like their taste?
I think the solution is not to lower our standards by letting dogfighting into the circle of legitimacy, but to raise our standards by admitting, for the sake of consistency and ethics, that many of our acceptable practices are unnecessarily cruel.
The Vick case shows that people do not like animal abuse when it is dogs being abused. Is it too much to ask that we extend the same consideration to other animals, some of whom, like pigs, have even greater intelligence?
Jeff Haines, Brooksville
Turns out we may all have a dog in this fightAug. 26, Perspective commentary
We should speak out
As I understood the article, Stephen Nohlgren argues that if we discover that we might have any natural base instincts, then we are hypocrites for judging Michael Vick's horrific abuse of dogs. He states that the executive director of the SPCA of Tampa Bay believes that hunting is okay because, "As a consumer of burgers and wings, she could hardly maintain the opposite."
If, as Nohlgren believes, the association with the consumption of animal flesh somehow associates us with torturing and killing dogs bred purely for fighting, I hope I am not the first one who is shocked.
He does, however, make one interesting point: At our most base level, we are all animals at heart. Human beings can, with very little persuasion, be incited to some of the most abominable acts imaginable.
Nevertheless, I seriously doubt whether a great majority of people approve of practices that hurt either other people or animals. Even when we transgress and watch a football game, this hardly makes us hypocrites to decry the torture of dogs.
I believe that we are obligated as members of society to stand up and state when our societal rules have been violated. We should never accept the blurring of truth and justice just because injustices have occurred on our watch.
Ronald Byers, Largo
Use free market approach
Your editorial, Put an end to title insurance rip off in Florida, is squarely on target. The average title policy in Florida costs $2,050, as you pointed out. Yet claims are rare, and insurers spend only about 3 cents of every premium dollar to cover losses. Normally when profits are exorbitant, competitive pressures lead to lower prices. It doesn't happen in this instance because insurers don't compete on price. Their rates are fixed by state regulators.
When the government sets a price floor, consumers get ripped off. That is the problem here. The solution is to eliminate existing price controls on title insurance. Let the free market set the rates. If that is allowed to happen, rates will fall. Don't count on title companies accepting price-deregulation cheerfully, however.
History shows that private businesses love to pay lip service to the free market, while at the same time seeking government regulations to protect them from competition. We have here a classic example of that.