Letter to the Editor

What they're saying

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

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

Dec. 25

Yakima (Wash.) Herald-Republic, on the American Red Cross:

Whether it's helping a family displaced by a home fire or dispatching aid to those devastated by hurricanes in the Gulf Coast -- the American Red Cross is there.

That's why the American public cannot be sidetracked by the negative publicity generated with the resignation earlier this month of the organization's president, Marsha Evans -- the second change at the top in three years.

If anything, that signals an organizational problem, not one of mission, that needs serious attention.

Evans reportedly resigned because of friction with the board of governors. Her predecessor, Dr. Bernadine Healy, said she was forced to resign partly because of disagreements with the board over whether money coming in after Sept. 11 should be placed in a separate fund or a general disaster fund. Some donors were upset that $200 million was set aside for future terrorist incidents.

That the two resignations are only three years apart and both in the wake of major disasters is reason enough for serious soul-searching, both within and without the agency. ...

The prospects of trying to work with a 50-member board of directors is daunting indeed and the search for corrective action within the organization should focus on changes in that situation, not who is the director.

In the meantime, the fuss cannot be allowed to disrupt the efforts of local chapters to help those in need. ...

On the Net:


Dec. 23

Star Tribune of Minneapolis, on Parkinson's disease research:

Research on Parkinson's disease is converging toward a grim conclusion -- that it is almost always an environmental illness, caused by pesticides and other industrial chemicals.

Worse, it seems in some cases to result from long-term, low-dose exposure to multiple products, each of which may have been used within safety guidelines. This is the nightmare scenario of chemically induced disease.

Scientists have long pointed out that the 80,000 or so industrial chemicals released into the environment have been certified as safe based on short-term, one-at-a-time testing in animal labs. But in real life we acquire multiple toxins, even before birth, and many accumulate in our bodies. ... Pesticides have long been linked, at least loosely, to neurological damage in people who use them. ...

Pesticide companies and government regulators defend the current practice of testing each chemical product in isolation, arguing that it's impossible to check out all the possible combinations that arise in the environment. True enough, but the Parkinson's findings suggest that a much more manageable task -- examining the combined impact of pesticides routinely used together -- is long overdue.

On the Net:


Dec. 21

The Herald, Rock Hill, S.C., on federal wiretaps:

Many Americans, no doubt, wonder why members of Congress are making such a big deal about President Bush's approval of wiretaps on suspected terrorists. A better question might be why the administration felt a need to flout the law. ...

President Bush, of course, is not the first president to suspend civil liberties during wartime. Abraham Lincoln did so during the Civil War, and Franklin Roosevelt's decision to imprison Japanese Americans during World War II is regarded as a dark chapter in our history. ...

Many law-abiding citizens presume that police and military wouldn't investigate anyone without reason. The obverse corollary is that if you haven't done anything wrong, you need not worry about whether you are being spied upon. Nevertheless, the record shows that freedom is best served when no arm of government is above review by a disinterested authority, such as a judge.

Even if we believed that no federal agency would intentionally misuse materials obtained through unauthorized snooping, we would still worry about its ability to safeguard sensitive information. ...

The president acts as if his authority cannot be challenged as long as he invokes the "war on terrorism" mantra. Fortunately, more and more Americans are coming to understand how freedom also can threatened by the unbridled arrogance of their leaders.

On the Net:


Dec. 21

The Advertiser-Tribune, Tiffin, Ohio, on troop-withdrawal deadline:

Too many journalists are painting the question of whether a deadline for U.S. troops to be removed from Iraq is solely a political argument. It is not. It may be a matter of life and death for some American troops in Iraq.

Typically, the television pundits frame the issue as a dispute between Democrats and Republicans -- specifically, between President Bush and his critics. In addition, they tend to refer to elections held last week in Iraq as some sort of turning point, beyond which it will be clear whether Iraqis can win the war against terrorism. Neither viewpoint is accurate. Beyond any shadow of a doubt, setting a firm deadline to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq would be a gift to terrorists. It would let them know that all they have to do to win is hold out until the deadline passes -- and, perhaps, to increase the tempo of their attacks to hasten a withdrawal.

As far as the election being a turning point, it may have been an indication of how Iraqis feel about their new regime -- but nothing else.

One way or another, terrorist forces will continue to attempt to overthrow whatever government is in power.

On the Net: