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I want to commend the St. Petersburg Times for tackling an issue of such girth. Zoos, and the issues that accompany them, are not an easy social issue to express to the masses. Your articles have done a tremendous job of portraying the ideals both for and against animals kept in captivity.
While some might point out that anthropomorphism is found throughout the articles, I'd say that in order to allow humans to relate to the animals in the exhibits, you have to present it in a way that is most familiar to the world they know. Zoos have progressed far from roadside menageries to places that can enlighten the masses on species and ecosystem conservation.
And while I agree that zoos are not the best answer, they are more often than not the last resort for many individual animals. However, I think all zoos should focus more on their charges through behavioral enrichment and proper exhibit design than on profits and attendance.
Alexis Meyer, St. Petersburg
Insurance crucial in surviving cancer Dec. 20, story
America's system of health care is shameful
A new sweeping national study finds that uninsured cancer patients are nearly twice as likely to die within five years as patients who are insured. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell us what we already know. If one becomes ill and requires testing, hospitalization, corrective surgery or treatment, one will not get this without medical insurance coverage. And this is just not limited to cancer victims. The very first thing asked of patients visiting a doctor's office or emergency room is what kind of insurance do they have.
The medical care in this country is a disgrace - not as much in the quality of care provided as in the money-hungry appetites of the pharmaceutical and medical facilities, which are the real culprits in denying affordable and quality medical care to a growing number of Americans.
We don't need more experts or more surveys to tell us what is wrong in this country as far as what is needed to help all Americans.
Jack Burlakos, Kenneth City
Holiday bottle gesture in peril Dec. 20
What's the harm in a gift?
I can't believe that the St. Petersburg City Council is actually wasting time with issues like this when there are so many more important issues.
Evander Preston gave out those bottles of bourbon, along with a cigar for the holidays, as a gift. These homeless people are often given soap, hot meals and blankets any time of the year. Preston wanted the homeless to have a little something that they don't get every day. During the holidays, isn't it nice that they can have a little something to enjoy that most of us take for granted?
If we gave them money, we have no way of knowing if it is going toward alcohol or food. They are going to find a way to drink if they want a drink. What is the harm, for just a day, to give them a little something most of us enjoy this time a year? Preston spent his time and money to bring a smile to their faces. Shouldn't that be the story? City Council needs to stop being such scrooges!
Vanessa Slade, St. Pete Beach
Holiday bottle gesture in peril Dec. 20
It would be interesting to see what the statistics were for downtown St. Petersburg the night Evander Preston gave out his "gifts." How many public urinations, arguments and fights, etc., were there?
Perhaps next time Preston could bus them all out to his home on the beach and share the love there.
Kip Mitchell, St. Petersburg
We need a do-over because of City Hall Dec. 16, Howard Troxler column
A big, fat welcome back to reality for Howard Troxler. He apparently just found out what, for years, most people have known and the rest suspected. Modern-day politicos have an agenda that, more often than not, has nothing to do with public service. He was just given his postelection dose of, "We know what's best for you," from the St. Petersburg City Council.
And why the big surprise? We've been getting the same thing from Tallahassee and Washington. Why do you imagine voter apathy is so high and voter turnout is so low? I used to think it was basically because there was no real choice between candidates, but lately I've come to believe it's because once in office, they take on a facade of grand omniscience, formerly known as a power trip. Sadly, this rarely results in anything meaningful for the voters.
Everett Melnick, St. Petersburg
Steroid report lists lineup of All-StarsDec. 14, story
So the Mitchell report places blame for baseball's culture of steroid use on everyone. Isn't that about the same as placing the blame on no one?
I won't take MLBs quest to cleanse itself seriously for one second until commissioner Bud Selig, who presided over the whole thing, is forced out. The report leaves no doubt that he knew what was going on. The only reason he commissioned the Mitchell report was that it was the absolute minimum that he could do as the issue had become so public.
Greg Stewart, St. Petersburg
Germany moves against church Dec. 8
Scientology stands firm
The German interior ministers are attempting to turn back the clock on their own court decisions despite the fact that they agreed there is absolutely no evidence to support a ban on the Church of Scientology. Over the past 25 years, there have been more than 40 German court decisions acknowledging the church's religiosity, including a decision of the Federal Administrative Court. These court decisions recognize the rights of the Church of Scientology to operate per Article 4 of the German Constitution.
Additionally, since the opening of our church in Berlin, there have been some major court decisions in other parts of Europe upholding the religiosity of the Church of Scientology and which in effect place the recent propaganda statements by the German interior ministers completely out of step with modern times.
On Sept. 24, the European Court of Human Rights confirmed the court's unanimous decision of April 2007 affirming that the Church of Scientology is entitled to the rights and protections of religious freedom pursuant to Article 9 of the European Human Rights Convention. This decision applies to all 47 member states, including Germany, that have signed and ratified the European Human Rights Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
On Oct. 31, the National Court in Madrid issued a landmark decision recognizing that the National Church of Scientology of Spain should be entered in the Registry of Religious Entities as a religion.
On Nov. 5, the Church of Scientology of Portugal was officially recognized as a religious organization.
The Scientology religion by L. Ron Hubbard has grown from one church in the United States in 1954 to more than 7,500 churches, missions and groups and 10-million members in 163 nations. A few German nationalists cannot stop an idea as powerful and as good as Scientology.
Pat Harney, public affairs director, Church of Scientology, Flag Service Organization, Clearwater
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Coverage is out of bounds
The St. Petersburg Times is going into overkill on its coverage of the Bucs when it puts them on the front page. Who needs that? Why should they occupy the front page? Is not the sports page enough? Are they that important to us that they should occupy the front page?
I think the Times would be better off putting the real meaning of Christmas on the front page or some other human interest story to occupy that space. That certainly would make more sense than showing someone scoring a touchdown.
Where is our sense of values?
Russell Montminy, Spring Hill
Needling a "Compass" Dec. 13, Bill Maxwell column
Films focus worldviews
As a scholar of film and its cultural implications for 20 years, I respectfully disagree with Bill Maxwell's interpretation of The Golden Compass, but not with his defense of the film.
Demanding that students parse mainstream film in an intellectually critical way has taught me an essential truth: There's no such thing as "simple entertainment." We interpret the world through stories, and the kinds of stories we consume inform our interpretations. Thus The Matrix raises important questions about how aware humans truly are about the nature of their existence; Armageddon encourages nationalism by representing a technologized, individualistic America as the planet's only hope against a rogue asteroid; and The Passion of the Christ gives new visceral - and possibly spiritual - weight to a familiar tale. Students respond to this call to critique, and offer strong takes of their own; they know "It's only a movie" is a cop-out.
What Maxwell ought to be asking is, So what? So what if The Golden Compass offers an atheistic interpretation of the world? Countless American films, many of them targeted at children, have offered explicit and implicit endorsements of nationalism, militarism and organized religion, helping to create and maintain immense cultural approval of these ideas.
What Maxwell, William A. Donohue, and all of us should be asking is this: In a country built on free speech, what's the problem with one film, among thousands, encouraging people to reckon the authoritarian aspects of organized religion?
Andrew McAlister, Temple Terrace
Needling a "Compass" Dec. 13, Bill Maxwell column
It's a spiritual battle
Bill Maxwell's rebuke of the Catholic Church, I believe, is unfounded as it is ignorant of biblical doctrine that applies to the situation. The boycott of The Golden Compass is suggested for believers of the God of the Bible so it is necessary to know what they know to understand if they are simply "contemptuous of free thought."
The doctrine: Ephesians 6:12. "For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens." This means that Christians fight a spiritual battle. If the essence, even the spirit, of the movie The Golden Compass is set against the God of the Bible through its origination in book form, the boycott is justified. Just because the movie excludes atheistic material doesn't change certain transcendent qualities of atheistic doctrine that transport from the screen and into interpretation.
Kevin Butterfield, New Port Richey
Captivity is cruel
It is irresponsible of the Lowry Park Zoo and the San Diego Zoo to import 11 more elephants from Africa. Many good people are working so hard to free the elephants already suffering in captivity.
Out of pages and pages of text, there was only one sentence in Part 1 to inform us that PETA had offered to move the 11 elephants to other parks in Africa at their own expense. We were not told why this was not done. It seems that the zoos are salivating to use these poor animals to make money.
And let's face the truth: Would you choose to carry on your life of freedom with all of its stresses - such as earning enough for food and necessities and being exposed to traffic, terrorism, disease - or would you trade it all to be in a safe cage for the rest of your life?
Isabel Stawicki, Beverly Hills
Offering a balanced view
Thank you for the first-rate series on the Lowry Park Zoo. Thomas French's award-worthy report on the zoo was artfully written, very well reported and well balanced.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in one's mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
French achieved this and more. His reporting left me straddled directly over the fence regarding zoo parks versus wild habitat for all wild species. His prose left me wanting more.
Congratulations on a first-class series.
Joe Parnell, Land O'Lakes
A zoo's evolution
An absolutely incredible series. The photos, the writing, the objectivity- it was absolutely the best article I've ever read in the St. Petersburg Times. I've been here since 1958 and have been to Lowry Park as a kid and met Herman and seen the Fairy Park and the "rides." I've also been there as a parent watching my own children enjoy the zoo as it changed from a petting zoo to a real zoo.
Thomas French has done a wonderful job and I hope there's recognition for him and all the people who worked on this article. Thank you so much.
Judy Hatch, Palm Harbor
At a time when we saw political candidates making promises they won't keep and baseball players breaking promises they have made, how refreshing to read about the lives and times of the fascinating denizens (both animal and human) at Lowry Park Zoo.
We have been members forever but seldom go. This series only serves to prove that I really ought to change that. Zoos, like the inhabitants they care for, need to be watched over lovingly.
Don E. Jones Jr., Safety Harbor
A mysterious world
Bravo to the Times and writer Thomas French for the wonderful series on Lowry Park Zoo. French is a talented writer who beautifully expressed the mystery of the animal world, as did the excellent photos by Stefanie Boyar. I hope that the story and photos are published in booklet form so that it could be more widely shared. I will be circulating my copy from the paper among family and friends.
Marcia Spakoski, Gulfport
I seldom take time to do things like this - busy schedule, lethargy and all. But I need to commend you on Zoo story.
Never have I read such a riveting and beautifully done story in a newspaper. I actually clipped it and sent it to friends in the business around the country. What a lovely idea; how forward-thinking of the Times to allow two journalists four years to gather a story. I was proud to read your newspaper - and I fell so in love with those animals!
Robin Sterling, St. Petersburg
Journalism at its best
Although I am sometimes critical of your paper, I must say that the story on the Lowry Park Zoo was excellent, and represents journalism and news photography at its best. It was accurate, compassionate and extremely interesting. I hope that it will be read and appreciated far beyond Florida's borders.
Robert A. Stanton, Seminole
[Last modified December 21, 2007, 20:18:29]