The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press, Sept. 11, 2013
President Barack Obama made his strongest national security argument to date for a military strike on Syria, but failed to satisfy key concerns about U.S. involvement in the civil war.
Americans were left with only the president's assurances that taking sides in yet another complex Middle East conflict would not give strength to extremists in the region.
Obama's Sept. 10 address on Syria had the marks of what was intended to be a powerful and urgent call to action undermined by the intrusion of last-minute events.
The president was expected to make his case on why Congress — and the American people — must back U.S. action to punish the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the aftermath of a chemical weapons attack.
Instead, President Obama pleaded for patience to give time for a Russian deal to place Syrian chemical weapons under international monitoring to work out.
Complicating the situation is the current antagonism between the U.S. and Russia, especially Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is unlikely to put U.S. interests first.
The United States holds the Assad regime responsible for the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on rebel-held territory, action that Obama says calls for action.
Despite the hundreds of thousands killed and millions forced into exile in the two-year-old conflict, the chemical attacks left "the situation profoundly changed," Obama said.
Without an international response, "the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons," Obama said.
Weakening the ban on chemical weapons will lead to their proliferation and increased use, increasing the possibility that these weapons would fall into the hands of terrorists, the president said.
All good reasons to punish those who would use chemical weapons, but how to do so effectively?
Will a "targeted military strike" do the job? If not, what next? The president promises no U.S. military forced on the ground in Syria, but how far is this country willing to go?
And if the U.S. strike leads to Assad being overthrown, who will be left to rule Syria?
The president closed his speech with a powerful closing argument:
"America is not the world's policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That's what makes America different. That's what makes us exceptional."
So the president's message is, "we should act," but not quite yet.
The News Times of Danbury (Conn.) Sept. 12, 2013
Distracted driving has long been the cause of motor vehicle accidents, too many of them resulting in fatalities.
Many a motorist has taken his or her focus off the roadway to eat, drink, talk, light a cigarette, turn on the radio, change clothes — you name it.
But in recent years, distracted driving has been elevated to a more serious, more deadly level.
In the digital era, the proliferation of cellphone use — and now texting — has turned many a motor vehicle into a deadly weapon.
About 3,000 people a year are killed in distracted driving accidents in the United States, with the lion's share of those fatalities attributed to cellphone use or texting.
That is tragic. It is outrageous. And it is likely that virtually every one of those crashes could have been avoided.
We have seen enough.
We believe it is high time for motorists to stop talking on the cellphone while operating a motor vehicle and to stop texting while driving.
We believe it is time for law enforcement officials to crack down on the motorists who persist in breaking the law — and endangering others on the highway.
We believe it is time for society to place a sharp focus on this serious issue and dramatically decrease the number of deaths caused by the use of cellphones and texting.
So we are pleased with the attention being given to the problem in Connecticut, and particularly in this part of the state.
Connecticut is one of just two states to receive a federal grant and participate in a program aimed at providing high-visibility enforcement of distracted driving laws. And this region was designated the focal area for that project, with seven Greater Danbury police departments participating.
In addition, a new state law designed to reduce the use of cellphones and texting while driving will go into effect Oct. 1.
State Rep. David Scribner, whose 107th District includes Brookfield and parts of Bethel and Danbury, was the primary architect of the new law, which among other things will increase the fines to $150 for the first violation, $300 for a second infraction and $500 for all subsequent abuses of the law.
There is no cure-all for distracted driving, and the scary reality is that the digital present — and future — could lead to even more careless driving.
But nearly every distracted driving crash is avoidable, and the number of accidents and fatalities can indeed be reduced through a societal team effort.
We call on every motorist to put a self-ban on the use of the cellphone and texting while driving.
We urge passengers in the vehicle to use their influence to put a stop to any form of distracted driving.
And we hope the new distracted driving law, increased enforcement, and greater awareness of the dangers of cellphone use and texting while driving will dramatically reduce the number of crashes and deaths.