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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Tuesday - 12/31/2013, 2:30pm  ET

The Associated Press

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

Dec. 26

The Tennessean, Nashville, Tenn., on airlines should be free to make decisions on cellphone use:

Cellphones are not cigarettes, although it is easy to understand why some of us want to be as free from listening to disembodied conversations as we are from secondhand smoke in confined spaces.

The five largest U.S. airlines have weighed in against the removal of Federal Communications Commission restrictions on the use of cellular phones in flight. Customers are against it, they say, as are most of their employees.

As Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson said, "Delta employees, particularly our in-flight crews, have told us definitively that they are not in favor of voice calls on board." No surprise there. What flight attendant wants to try to separate someone from his or her inalienable right to talk on the phone?

While the FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, personally agrees that problems could arise, earlier this month he said, "I get it. I don't want the person in the seat next to me yapping at 35,000 feet any more than anyone else." But he added, the FCC is charged with regulating the technology, not social convention.

The airlines do not want to be the arbiters, or invest in the technology needed to support cellphone use, but the federal government should not enforce a blanket ban on cellphones.

Cellphone conversations are not the health hazard that secondhand smoke is, and airlines should make their own decisions on how obtrusive technology is used on board their flights, not Congress. The Department of Transportation should give the responsibility to each airline on how they restrict cellphone usage.

It is too infrequent that regulators ease their restrictions, and we should not be too quick to relinquish choices to a political and bureaucratic infrastructure that we may later regret.

Technologies change, and airlines might find solutions that work for all, but not if legal and regulatory hurdles prevent even thinking about innovation.

Online:

http://www.tennessean.com

___

Dec. 29

The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., on warped zeal against Christians:

Members of the Christian faith are increasingly under attack in Syria, Iraq, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries. Though the main victims of the rising tide of sectarian violence in the region are Muslim civilians targeted by militants from the rival Sunni and Shia branches of Islam, violence against Christians is also increasing.

There is not much that can be done about this distressing trend so long as radical Islamists are free to target people of other faiths in the increasingly chaotic Mideast.

As Michael Gerson points out on our Commentary page, the persecution and murder of Christians have drawn the attention of Pope Francis and England's Prince Charles, who recently said, "It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are, increasingly, being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants."

Fresh examples include three Christmas Day attacks in Iraq, including a car bomb outside a church service, which killed 37 Christians. And nine nuns were kidnapped early this month in Syria, where there are frequent reports of abductions, torture, mass killings and beheadings of Christians. Violence in Egypt against Coptic Christians peaked last August - for the time being - with the destruction of scores of churches and drive-by killings.

Fundamentalist Muslim clergy and Islamic terrorists seem determined to rid the Mideast of Christians, just as they once drove out Jews. An imam in Iraq has declared that wearing a red Santa Claus hat is equivalent to being converted to Christianity, a capital offense under Muslim law.

Canon Andrew White, the esteemed vicar of St. George's Anglican Church in Baghdad, reports that Iraqi Christians are "frightened even to walk to church because they might come under attack. All the churches are targets ... We used to have 1.5 million Christians, now we have probably only 200,000 left."

As Gerson notes, religious tolerance is one of the fruits of Western democracy - but it is also the outcome of centuries of religious strife in Europe that gradually led people to seek a separation between church and state.

In contrast, a major objective of fundamentalist Muslim groups is to impose a particular form of religious law, Sharia, on everyone. As Prince Charles has said, the bridges of respect and understanding that he and other world leaders have tried to build with moderate Muslim leaders "are rapidly being deliberately destroyed by those with a vested interest in doing so."

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