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A modest proposal
Re: The Pentagon's terrorism futures market, now suspended

My father told me that the reason truth is stranger than fiction is that fiction has to stay in the realm of the plausible. So I should have long ago stopped being astounded by the bizarre machinations of the Bush government. I suppose that a government-sponsored fatality futures market beats having a Voodoo priestess read chicken entrails, but I still found this plan incredible.

It was telling that DARPA wanted to pursue this program, at taxpayer expense, because they think markets are better informed and more agile than the government's security circus. How appropriate that Information Awareness Office Director and convicted perjurer Adm. John Poindexter is at the top of this heap. He certainly knew the value of a little horse-trading when he, Ollie North and other shadowy White House figures cooked up the Iran-Contra scheme to violate the Boland Amendment that prohibited trading with Iran.

My modest proposal: Ask the brilliant, and presumably patriotic, marketers to donate their time and skills to the beleaguered intelligence community — skills that, evidently, the responsible parties lack. We could even rig up some sort of credit-toward-early-release program to gain the services of convicted market swindlers and self-dealing corporate execs. Martha Stewart could cook up a perfect little dinner party for the fellas at Leavenworth. DARPA, an initial player in the World Wide Web, could set it up as a high-powered online action game and call it "You Bet Their Lives." If it's a smash, they could open it to the public as a moneymaker. The profits could finance the expansion of benefits for veterans and there would be enough left over for a funny farm for this government's officials.

—Carl A. Schuh
St. Petersburg

Fish as food
Re: "Sea Hunt: The Breathtaking Adventures of the Freediving Karcher Brothers" by Eric Snider (July 23-29)

Come on now, did you really think you would get away with writing an article like this without one PETA activist quoting a Nemoism: "Fish are friends, not food!"????

Seriously. Fish have the same fully developed nervous systems and capacity to feel pain as all vertebrates. Spear fishing is cruel. To think that now hunters are invading the sea and teaching young kids to buy another violent toy to invade an animal's safe environment is chilling. Man's commercial greed rationalizes just about anything.

Remember, fish carry dioxin and methyl mercury, which is linked to the increased risk of cancer and dementia. So when Noel puts it so succinctly, "I don't like to shoot what I'm not gonna eat," think again my friend — while you can.

—Louise Kahle
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
St. Petersburg

Other bad habits

While at a stoplight on Fowler Avenue today, I noticed a billboard advertisement for "Low Carbohydrate Beer" (it was Miller, I think). Next to a very enlarged picture of the beer bottle was a well-toned woman, wearing a sports bra and biker shorts, doing crunches; underneath these images read the words, "Lose the carbs. Not the taste."

Grammatical errors aside, I am appalled at the lengths beer companies are going to promote their products — in this case, practically associating beer with fitness! I don't know whether this upsets me more than the fact that many an ignorant beer drinker who sees this ad will now feel they have yet another valid reason to get drunk.

Several months ago a man sued McDonald's because he thought their claims of "100 percent real beef" meant that their hamburgers were healthy, yet no matter how many real beef patties he ate, his health continued to deteriorate and he remained terribly overweight. (Then, of course, there were the parents who also blamed Mickey-D's for their own obese children.) That was bad enough. I just hope no one tries to pull the same crap when they are diagnosed with hepatitis or even a more serious liver disorder: "But doctor, I was drinking healthy beer!"

If this situation does arise, who is to blame? The beer companies are only doing their business: promoting their products, albeit using questionable and often somewhat offensive advertising. Of course, so are cigarette makers, and how much did they have to pay out to ex-smoker, lung-cancer patients? Does the problem lie in a lack of education? We should be teaching children, at younger ages, the importance of proper nutrition and healthy habits and setting good examples by practicing healthier lifestyles in the home.

I work at a health food store in Temple Terrace, where low-carb items are virtually impossible to keep in stock. I've actually heard that as many as four out of five American adults are watching their carbohydrate intake. I'm not going to get into my opinion on low-carb diets or drinking. I just hope that when the Bucs win the Superbowl in 2004, the players will dump a cooler full of water, not SportsBeer, on Coach Gruden's head.

—Angela Infante

Too serious?
Re: "There's Something About Harry" by Michael Bronski (July 30-Aug. 6)

I read this article with great interest. Having read the series and seen the movies, I can only say that Mr. Bronski needs to get a grip on reality. I know a number of children who have read the books and, in polling them, found that none took away the message that being normal is somehow wrong. Nor, as the religious right fears, have they taken up witchcraft, started worshiping the devil, or otherwise been cruel to small animals. Rather, if they have taken away any message, it is that friendship, love and loyalty are the keys to life.

There are far too many people who take life too seriously and get wrapped around the axle for any reason. If we are to fear anything, it should be those who burn books, censor libraries and try to strangle harmless creativity.

—Ken Brown

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