What they're saying

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

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

Dec. 19 -- The Lima (Ohio) News, on problems with the Army's accounts of troop deaths:

The Army last week provided a couple more examples of why it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe what one hears -- at least what one hears first -- from the military.

The drowning death of an Elida native in Iraq appears to be the most recent Army information blunder. The circumstances of Staff Sgt. Aaron Todd Reese's death last December will have to wait until an investigation is complete, but there's little reason for optimism about the Army, given the track record.

Reese fell from a patrol boat into the Tigris River south of Baghdad in December 2003. Another soldier, Spc. Todd Bates, a 20-year-old Bellaire native, jumped into the water to rescue Reese, but both men drowned. While there's no indication that account was incorrect, another soldier now says it might have been incomplete.

U.S. Rep. Bob Ney early this month asked the Army to investigate the deaths. The Bates family contacted the St. Clairsville Republican after a soldier said Bates and Reese were forced to use a boat to patrol that lacked safety equipment. ...

Perhaps if we could trust the Army to release accurate information, people like the Reese and the Bates families wouldn't have to go through this. Unfortunately, the Army has had a recent problem with the truth. And, because of this, the Army is making the families of fallen soldiers suffer a second time.

Dec. 21 The Anniston (Ala.) Star, on Republican support for charter schools:

Most "reforms" -- whether liberal or conservative -- come as part of a political agenda. Consider charter schools. A couple of decades ago conservative ideologues, upset with the power of teachers' unions and education lobbyists, began blaming what they felt was the sad state of schools on the bureaucrats that ran things. ...

To deal with the problems that they invented, reformers on the right, supported by anecdotal evidence and talk-show hosts, latched on to the idea of charter schools. Under the charter system, certain schools would continue to get tax money but would be freed from all the rules and regulations that conservatives claimed were holding them back. ...

Now, after a decent period of experimentation, the results are coming in. And guess what? According to a report just released by the federal Department of Education, on tests administered in 2003 to fourth-grade students in public schools (including charter schools), charter school students did not do any better than regular school students and in math they did significantly worse. ... Charter schools are not producing what was promised. So why does the Bush Administration and the GOP continue to push charter schools as a better way to educate our young people? Could it be that the real purpose of the charter school movement is not to improve education but to reduce the political influence of groups like the American Federation of Teachers? Do you think that the supporters of charter schools would sacrifice student learning and taxpayer money to accomplish that? Sure looks that way from here.

Dec. 19 -- Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle, on cell phones on airplanes:

Many stressed-out travelers look forward to the moment when an airline attendant asks them to please turn off their cell phones and wireless Internet devices.

Flights provide one of the few stretches in modern times when a person can't answer a phone, can't reply to an e-mail and can't check stock prices. Floating far above all the work that's waiting, airline passengers find peace, quiet and calm.

Well, no more, says the Federal Communications Commission. It voted, on Wednesday, to allow high-speed Internet connections on airplanes. Cell phones may be next.

Since the announcement, the FCC has been flooded with e-mails from people begging it to maintain the ban on cell phones during flights.

We agree that spending hours trapped in a tight cabin surrounded by people discussing their shopping lists or medical procedures and shouting, "Can you hear me now?" is nothing to look forward to.

Of course, there's always hope that enterprising airlines will capitalize on this development by offering communication-free sections. ...

In the meantime, people should savor quiet flights, knowing that they may one day look back fondly on a time when it was possible to be incommunicado.

-- from the Associated Press