What they're saying…

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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

Feb. 10

Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, on border fence planning:

When the border fence talks began, members of the U.S. House of Representatives emphasized oversight in the government's homeland security plans. Oversight on contracts greater than $20 million is great, but as the fence becomes a reality, it is foresight the feds are lacking.

After failing at other methods of border surveillance, the U.S. government is using a fast and heavy hand to build the border fence, cutting through Texas towns along the U.S.-Mexico border and leaving Texas university property and landmarks on the other side.

Michael Chertoff, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, visited McAllen ... to survey the land that lies along the proposed path of the fence. ...

Barry Burgdorf, (University of Texas') vice chancellor and general counsel, says the U.S. government hasn't said what will happen to the land outside of the fence, but there will likely be some form of access points, which might or might not have gates.

Either way, this fence is going to have holes. How's that for foresight?

Feb. 9

The Cincinnati Enquirer, on the economic stimulus plan:

The check isn't in the mail yet, but it will be soon.

Rebate checks to millions of Americans could start arriving in May.

The Senate did the right thing ... passing a bill that was close to the original House version -- and resolving a partisan stalemate that threatened to delay the whole plan.

The $168 billion package will mean rebates of $600 to $1,200 to most taxpayers, plus $300 checks to disabled veterans, the elderly and low-income Americans who do not pay taxes. It also includes tax relief that aims to encourage businesses to buy equipment and hire workers.

The economy could use the boost, but the money isn't "free." It will be added to the already huge federal deficit the next two years.

The economy may not be able to flourish until Washington develops the spine to develop long-term solutions for the chronic imbalance between federal revenue and spending that keeps families, businesses and investors on edge with uncertainty.

Feb. 11

Daily Times-Call, Longmont, Colo., on warrants for virtual worlds:

National security officials have plenty of real estate to worry about in this world.

It is with alarm, then, that officials find that the popular online site Second Life is potentially being used by terrorists to launder money, recruit new members and have clandestine strategy sessions. Because the site offers anonymity along with a worldwide reach, it is just the kind of networking tool bad actors might be looking to use.

What's disconcerting, however, is that the creation of virtual worlds may inspire the intelligence community to add on surveillance that is all too real. Already, officials have reportedly asked for access to the computer servers that create Second Life. It's not too hard to imagine Congress mandating access for much higher scrutiny.

While Second Life and sites like it offer opportunities both good and bad, innocent users should not think the government is looking over their shoulders -- both real and virtual -- at every turn.

Feb. 12

The News-Press, Fort Myers, Fla., on how best to battle tobacco companies:

We sympathize with John Maloney and millions of others who have lost loved ones to cancer caused by cigarettes.

But it's harder to sympathize with the idea that they should be awarded damages by juries in part because the smoker was unaware of the risks. ...

That's the case with Maloney and more than 100 other Lee County residents among thousands of plaintiffs, whose $145 billion damage award was thrown out. The 700,000 parties to the class- action suit were directed to file individual suits.

Among the issues will be whether smoking probably caused the victims' diseases and whether they were aware of the dangers.

We believe tobacco is addictive and a deadly danger. And tobacco companies have over the years concealed evidence of its harm.

But U.S. surgeon generals' warnings about the dangers of smoking have been required on tobacco packaging for more than 40 years. Tobacco advertising has long been banned on TV and radio, and the dangers of smoking have been a continuous topic of public debate.

People who smoked through those years cannot credibly claim to have been unaware of the serious risk. They made a bad choice.

It's better for society to concentrate on helping people make better choices.

Feb. 10

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn., on school security:

Hamilton High student Deangelo Key might have sealed the deal on a $4.5 million screening process for Memphis City Schools when he allegedly shot a classmate ... during Algebra I class.

If not, at least the case for a security upgrade for the system's 29 high schools and 28 middle schools is getting stronger. A greater degree of safety might be well worth the $80,000-per-school cost. ...

There are drawbacks, as well, to the security enhancement measure on the table -- herding randomly selected students past X-ray machines and metal detectors on a daily basis at every school.

Students themselves have argued forcefully that daily checks will lengthen the school day and take time away from their studies.

It would create a particular kind of resentment in schools where the vast majority of students have no interest in gangs, fights or high-caliber "protection" from perceived enemies just a few lockers down the hall.

The issue should be approached cautiously, but if the safety of students would be truly enhanced, it's hard to justify making another choice.

Feb. 10

Chicago Sun-Times, on dangerous drugs:

Americans who were bewildered and heartbroken over the untimely death of the talented young actor Heath Ledger got news ... that he unintentionally caused his demise. The "Brokeback Mountain" star had swallowed a drug cocktail that was a recipe for trouble -- six types of pain-killers and sedatives. The overdose was ruled accidental, New York's medical examiner announced. ...

Ledger's death is part of a bigger trend: No, not one of dope-happy superstars medicating their troubles away. We're talking about the trend in unintentional drug poisoning deaths. Legal and illegal drug overdoses jumped 62.5 percent from 1999 to 2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Prescription drugs, especially prescription pain-killers, are driving the prolonged increase," CDC reports said.

The ubiquitous nature of prescription drugs, over-the-counter preparations and supplements has lulled Americans into a false sense of security. Seemingly, everybody is on something. Many of us share our drugs, or hoard them in our medicine cabinets.