What they're saying

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Associated Press

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

Feb. 9 -- The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y., on military death benefits:

Amid all the debate over the war in Iraq and President Bush's handling of it, there is one thing on which most Americans would probably agree up to now, the government has been inexcusably stingy in compensating the families of U.S. servicemen and women who died fighting that war.

Current law provides for a $12,420 death benefit to a surviving spouse or family of a service member who dies in a combat area. This is better than the $6,000 death benefit that prevailed until 2003, but even with other benefits available to surviving families, it is hardly appropriate recompense for those whose loved ones make the greatest sacrifice.

In fact, at their time of greatest loss, the current benefit would barely cover a family's burial expenses, something the government does not do ...

The president has proposed rectifying the situation by significantly expanding death benefits to those who die or are killed in a combat zone. Congress is not only in agreement, many members think the president's proposal should be extended to all members of the armed forces, whether they die in a war zone or not.

Indeed, generosity should prevai1 ...

The president is right to recommend this change in death benefits. Congress, in a display of nonpartisan national gratitude, should make it even more generous by granting it to all men and women in uniform.

Feb. 8 -- Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel, on encouraging the Bush administration to engage in Mideast peace:

During his first term, President George W. Bush's administration often took a hands-off approach to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Finally, and fortunately, that is changing.

Mr. Bush has invited Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House for separate meetings. And new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a statement about the administration's foreign-policy priorities for the new term by meeting with Mr. Sharon and Mr. Abbas during her first trip overseas. ...

No matter how dedicated Mr. Sharon and Mr. Abbas might be to peace, they are bound to run into roadblocks. By remaining engaged with both sides, the United States can help them reach their elusive but essential goal.

Feb. 2 -- The Daily News, Longview, Wash., on Hanford nuclear reservation ruling:

Washington's battle to keep the federal government from turning the Hanford nuclear reservation into a toxic waste dump received a legal boost recently. U.S. District Judge Alan McDonald of Yakima barred the shipment of low-level radioactive waste -- contaminated clothing and equipment known as transuranic waste -- to Hanford unless it meets strict storage requirements set by the state.

The ruling is welcome. But it hardly qualifies as a big victory in Washington's long-running effort to force the federal government to keep its promises. And it could be temporary, should the U.S. Department of Energy pursue and win a reversal.

Our hope is that the DOE will let the federal judge's decision stand. Too many tax dollars already have been wasted on this and two other ongoing lawsuits -- dollars that ought to have been applied to the cleanup.

Feb. 5 --The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, S.C., on railroad safety:

For almost half a century, railroads have been the slighted child of the nation's transportation network, back-seated by a coast-to-coast interstate road system and commercial jet service. Very little attention has been paid to railroads, despite the fact that they remain the transportation lifeblood for many industries across the country.

Last month's awful train collision in Graniteville (S.C.) may have opened some eyes. A moving train hit a parked train and released a plume of chloric gas on unsuspecting residents. It was the nation's worst chemical spill since 1978. Nine people died and 550 were injured, while some 5,400 residents were evacuated for several days. Most experts say electronic switching devices, rather than the manual switches still in use, might have prevented the wreck...

Our railway system is outdated, much of it running on a technology that is decades old. The demise of passenger service, save for limited Amtrak runs, has diverted all sense of urgency from making railroads safe. Many tracks and switching stations are worn and vulnerable.

The nation has an obligation to make sure railroads get the same attention as other forms of transportation. Just like roadways and airways, it is incumbent upon Congress to make sure the railways are safe.

Don't make us wait for one more Graniteville.

Feb. 5 -- Chicago Tribune, on Ma Bell moving in with one of her kids:

In the space of a generation, AT&T has tumbled from queen of the realm to just another face in a crowded marketplace clamoring for your business. Now the company once synonymous with telephone service is going away as an independent company.

The company known affectionately -- and sometimes not so affectionately -- as Ma Bell is being bought by one of its thriving offspring, SBC.

In essence, having fallen on hard times, Ma Bell is being forced to move in with the kid. The $16 billion price tag of this transaction is just slightly more than 20 percent of what AT&T's market value was as recently as a decade ago.

This is what happens in a market economy when the irresistible forces of competition strike the once-immovable object of monopoly. Monopoly gives way every time ...

This race is far from over. These companies have a strand of that old Ma Bell monopoly in their DNA. ...

Baby Bells like SBC are all grown up now. They're big and resource-rich.

But so was AT&T once -- before it had to move into the spare bedroom at SBC.