Letters

Political Consultants and Other Villains
In Robert Andrew Powell's story regarding Miami Beach City Manager Jose Garcia-Pedrosa ("The Autocrat," May 1), you referred to me both in the text of the story and in the caption to my photograph as a "political consultant." Quite frankly, I deem this attribution libelous, given the unsavory reputation generally associated with this profession. More important, your attribution is incorrect. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a political consultant. My activities in Miami Beach have been purely as a resident, homeowner, and taxpayer. I have no idea where Mr. Powell derived the idea that I am a "political consultant."

I request that you print a retraction and apology for your false attribution. As reparation for your mistake, I request that you print a more flattering picture of me as well (enclosed).

Victor M. Diaz, Jr.
Miami Beach

Editor's note: We're happy to oblige.

O'Barry: A Dolphin's Best Friend
Contrary to the negative and untrue comments in Kathy Glasgow's article "Flipper's Revenge" (April 24), Richard O'Barry is greatly respected and supported by the majority of the international dolphin community. As creator of the dolphin movement, O'Barry is undeserving of the attack made by a few people with self-serving agendas. Most of those mentioned in the article are shunned by respectable organizations.

Ms. Glasgow failed to mention that O'Barry is the recipient of many awards, including the prestigious United Nations Global 500 Award. It is true that he has been arrested many times, but only by his own design, in the spirit of bringing attention to the mistreatment of dolphins. O'Barry acted while others did nothing but criticize, condemn, and complain.

Simply put, this brouhaha at Sugarloaf Key was all about territory. O'Barry's detractors were trying to take over for the purposes of members, marketing, and ultimately money.

Mary Mosley
Coalition Against the United States Exporting Dolphins
Tarpon Springs

Gentle Marine Mammal or National Security Risk -- You Make the Call
Congratulations to Kathy Glasgow on the best treatment so far of the bizarre events at the Sugarloaf Dolphin Sanctuary. In my case, these events have been unfolding for more than ten years.

It was 1985 when I hired on as a civilian trainer in the U.S. Navy dolphin program. In addition to finding out food deprivation, corporal punishment, and psychological mistreatment used in the training of these intelligent creatures, I learned that the project did not work and was in fact a security risk.

During a rehearsal prior to six dolphins being deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1987, a "killer dolphin" swam up to me, the "enemy frogman," threw off her nose-cone weapon, and gently laid her chin on my shoulder. The director of the program later told me that "they" (the U.S. Navy) knew it did not work, that it was "just a deterrent." So began my personal campaign to save dolphins from this and other miserable captive programs.

The media exposure to this navy debacle resulted in a major legal victory that stopped deployment of any "swimmer nullification" dolphins to a submarine base in Seattle in 1990. In 1992 Congress mandated that the navy dolphin program be downsized and that as many dolphins as possible be sent "back to the world's oceans."

Until the development of the Sugarloaf Dolphin Sanctuary, every effort was made by the captivity industry to get around the mandate to send dolphins home. Sugarloaf was developed to fulfill that promise for Bogie, Bacall, Luther, Jake, and Buck. (Molly is a special case, having survived to age 35, far longer than most captive dolphins. The promise to her was improved quality of life in retirement.)

When that promise was threatened by Lloyd Good III and Richard O'Barry, people were duty-bound to insist on achieving the original goal. When animal care got abusive, injuries and sickness went unattended, and veterinarians were not informed of dolphins' health status, I and many others were outraged that so-called members of the animal protection community were abusing dolphins we had all worked very hard to rescue from their captors. In the bizarre fashion Kathy Glasgow related in her article, we were left with no alternative but to begin the same kind of rescue from Sugarloaf. To this day the notion of rescuing the dolphins from the sanctuary seems unbelievable, but that is what happened. The concept of returning marine mammals to their home is not a flawed concept. Sugarloaf proved, however, that some of the people involved in the effort certainly are flawed. A public apology is owed to the dolphins and to the many supporters whose tens of thousands of dollars were nearly wasted. Please let this stand as my humble offering toward such an apology.

An important omission in Ms. Glasgow's account adds to the bizarre nature of the last three years. As if things were not bad enough at the sanctuary site, once our court battle leveraged Bogie and Bacall out of Sugarloaf, the Marine Mammal Conservancy, along with the Welcome Home Project, then had to stand against the Humane Society of the United States. Frustrated with cost and personality clashes, the Society tried to abandon Bogie and Bacall and return them to the Dolphin Research Center after we had worked so hard to get them to their acclimation pen in the Indian River.

The Marine Mammal Conservancy is continuing the expensive legal battle to give Luther, Buck, and Jake a chance to rejoin their families in their home waters off Mississippi. The conservancy is committed to fulfilling the promise of returning as many dolphins as possible to their families. Ego battles have delayed this mission for some dolphins and destroyed it for those who have already succumbed to the misery of captivity. Following our federal and state court battles, we hope to regain public support for our efforts on behalf of these citizens of the sea and our attempt to leave their world and ours a little better than we found it.

Rick Trout, director of husbandry
Marine Mammal Conservancy
Key Largo

With Peacekeepers Like These, Who Needs Outlaws?
The Miami Beach Police Department's motto is "to protect and serve." It is their promise, their responsibility, something to take pride in. But where is the pride when one of their own, Ofcr. Ron Shimko, allegedly works over an innocent citizen, and not only brutalizes him but seems to enjoy it? According to Elise Ackerman's story ("Lawsuit? What Lawsuit?" April 24), it would be an oxymoron to call Shimko a peacekeeper.

Those officers who like to draw blood, who like to bully, who abuse their sacred trust, reflect on the force as a whole and affect the way the public views the police. Would they rather see smiles or fear when they approach someone? Some of them enjoy causing fear.

How many muggings and assaults were occurring in the vicinity that day as Officer Shimko sat in a parking lot on dangerous duty: "gay watching"? Where is the protect-and-serve in that? And what kind of pride can an officer take in beating up the defenseless? If there is a sub-rosa agenda of gay bashing among Miami Beach police, then they have a sickness of the soul.

The Beach isn't Yahoo Junction. It's a big-time, diverse city. We've all come through a lot to be here, and we deserve to live free of intolerance, where we are protected and served. But if small minds prevail, Miami Beach will get an international reputation as redneck territory.

People once looked up to the police force. We trusted them with our lives. To Chief Barreto: Bring your personnel back to task, back to "protect and serve."

James Martin
Miami Beach

Is There a Guru in the House?
Lynda Edwards must have been out of her wits when she suggested ("Wings and Prayers," April 17) that Catholic chaplains and Catholic chapels were once operating at Miami International Airport. How could a Roman Catholic priest comfort the hearts of grieving Muslims or Jews or even Hare Krishnas? Seventh Day Adventists and most Protestants do not believe in Roman Catholic priests. They do not pray in places where there are images and crosses. And what about atheists and agnostics?

A neutral place with all the holy scriptures in it -- the Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon, Bhagavad-Gita, et cetera -- would be an ideal place where everybody could feel comfortable meditating, praying, worshipping, or even mourning, no matter what his or her beliefs. Airlines should exert extra effort to learn the particular beliefs or religions of the loved ones of crash victims before approaching them, and then assign appropriate priests, pastors, ministers, chaplains, rabbis, or gurus. This personal touch could make a big difference in dealing with sensitive issues, not only in Miami but in every airport around the globe.

The airlines may never improve the quality of food they serve, but they can certainly make improvements in satisfying their customers' individual beliefs, especially after a tragic accident.

Brih Mendiola
Coconut Grove

Just Don't Let It Degenerate into Name-Calling
It is laughable to hear the word "morals" coming from a moral midget like Mr. Ira Kurzban (or is it Mr. Montiel-Davis?) in response to my letter to the editor of April 3.

Everyone with a double-digit IQ knows that Kurzban is a hired gun of the government of Cuba. His accusations of terrorism can't be backed by any proof, yet it is a fact that Fidel Castro has murdered, tortured, and jailed tens of thousands of human beings for simply not agreeing with his tyrannical government.

Mr. Kurzban asks what planet I live on. I've lived on this planet long enough to know that he has the scruples of a five-dollar-a-trick hooker.

Emiliano Antunez
Miami Beach

Erratum
Ray Martinez's article "Rabbi with a Cause" (April 17) incorrectly described Loring Frank's astrological sign. Rabbi Frank is an Aquarius, not a Pisces. New Times regrets the error.

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