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Written by Ozaukee Press Editoral Board   
Wednesday, 30 December 2009 15:12

After failing to keep a would-be bomber they had been warned about from boarding an airliner, U.S. security officials react by making flying harder for innocent passengers

After a Nigerian man who was so likely a terrorist that his own father warned U.S. authorities to beware of him was able to board an airliner with an improvised bomb strapped between his legs and detonate the device over Detroit, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a television interview that “the system has really worked very, very smoothly.”

While viewers were trying to figure where on the list of the all-time most ridiculous self-serving pronouncements this inanity should be placed, Rep. Peter King, the ranking Republican on the congressional Homeland Security Committee, issued an air-clearing statement pointing out that the system “failed in every respect.”

The congressman is right. About the only thing that did work smoothly in this sorry drama was the survival instincts of the passengers who jumped the terrorist after he detonated his bomb and held him while the fire the device started was extinguished.

The Northwest Airlines plane landed safely in Detroit and the would-be bomber was arrested, but the passengers’ ordeal was far from over. They were held incommunicado for four hours or more while being grilled by FBI agents.

The FBI might have spent its time more profitably by grilling officials who couldn’t find an effective way to follow up on the credible warning the U.S. embassy in Nigeria got from the terrorist’s father, a respected banker and former Nigerian government official, who reported that his son had become a dangerous radical who could be a suicide bomber and had disappeared, possibly in Yemen, a notorious al-Qaida hangout.

Meanwhile, air traffic authorities were busy making life more difficult for the potential victims of airline terrorism by issuing a rule forbidding passengers on many flights to leave their seats for any reason or to use blankets or pillows or have access to carry-on bags during the last hour of a flight. It was explained that the mandate is intended to make it more difficult for terrorists to blow up planes over destination cities, where there could be collateral damage on the ground. How comforting for people on the plane.

The rule, yet another knee-jerk reaction to a terrorism attempt (as opposed to actually thinking ahead of those who would blow up airplanes), begs the question of what is planned to thwart terrorist acts before the last hour of the flight.

The answer should be to keep terrorists off the flight in the first place.

No one is saying that’s easy, but after watching Homeland Security work on the problem for almost nine years and putting up with the hassles and indignities inflicted on airline passengers in the name of security, the flying public can’t be blamed for expecting better results than a suspected foreign terrorist being allowed to waltz aboard a plane with a U.S. visa in his pocket and explosives in his pants.

Congress is going to be awfully busy in the coming weeks, but it needs to find time to ask Secretary Napolitano to explain how a preventable terrorism attempt that failed only because a homemade bomb didn’t explode with full force is an example of her department working “very, very smoothly.”

 
Neighbors in need PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press Editoral Board   
Wednesday, 23 December 2009 16:39

It’s hard to to support charity in hard times, but these are the times when it’s needed most, even here in the comfortable communities of Ozaukee County

It makes sense but it is still hard to accept: When services supported by charity are needed most, people are least able to contribute the money charities need to do their work.
The United Way of Northern Ozaukee is facing that hard reality now. For the first time in years, it finds itself, on the eve of Christmas and near the end of its annual charity drive, far short of its contributions goal.

Worthy charitable causes abound, but none is more important here in our communities than the United Way—because the money it raises helps people who live here.

In encouraging support of the United Way we often point out that it does more than help the neediest among us; it supports organizations that help every one of us by nurturing the good life in our communities, the likes of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Interfaith Caregivers, Ozaukee Family Services and the Volunteer Center.

But this year the more compelling reason to give is that agencies that provide essential assistance to families and individuals that are in such difficult straits they can’t afford the necessities of life are counting more than ever on the United Way.

The services of United Way agencies such as the Salvation Army and Family Sharing, which address the physical needs for clothing and food, and COPE Services, which offers help to the emotionally needy, are more in demand than they have been for many years.

We all know the reason for this: The damaged economy, particularly the unemployment it has spawned, has left many people who were once comfortable or at least self-sufficient in precarious places financially and even emotionally.

This brings us back to the variation of Catch 22 with which we began this editorial. With business struggling and many people with incomes from their jobs reduced or gone altogether, charitable contributions are bound to suffer—just when they’re needed most.

United Way pledges from the crucial large company sector of the campaign are down as much as 50%. Contributions from smaller companies and their employees and individual solicitations are lagging too.

Though the 2009 United Way goal of $185,000 is no more than last year’s, which was achieved, less than 70% of it has been donated or pledged.

High on our list of worthless statistics is the one that ranks Ozaukee County as the richest county in the state and one of the wealthiest in the nation. This is based on averages that obscure the truth that there are people in this county who without assistance would not have enough to eat.

Staff members and volunteers at agencies in Ozaukee County that distribute food and clothing to people who lack those basics of life will testify to that fact.

Family Sharing of Ozaukee County is helping more families than ever before—a number that rose to 1,200 this month. The Food Pantry at St. Peter’s Church in  Port Washington (not a United Way agency but serving the same need as Family Sharing and other
organizations) is all but overwhelmed each Tuesday by the crowds that gather for food distributions.

The United Way’s shortfall is understandable in these trying times, but it should not be considered acceptable, just as it is not acceptable that people living in Ozaukee County do not have enough food to eat or warm clothing to wear or have such scant means that every cent they can scrape together has to go for groceries, leaving nothing for even a few simple gifts to give their children on Christmas.

There are a number good reasons to contribute to the United Way, but the reason that matters most right now is that people in our communities are suffering from the effects of poverty and we can help them by helping the United Way.

Information on making a donation is available at www.unitedwayno.org.

 
Off key PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press Editoral Board   
Wednesday, 16 December 2009 15:33

The use of Port High’s Madigral Ensemble for a TV commercial to benefit private business violated a district policy—and good judgment

How nice that the talented and entertaining singers of Port Washington High School’s Madrigal Ensemble get to be on television. Too bad that to get their few minutes of fame they have to appear in a commercial promoting a Milwaukee television station singing a commercial jingle and holding up commercial signs.

Just about anyone hearing about this would think something isn’t quite right about using public school students in a blatantly commercial activity to benefit a private business, yet High School Principal Duane Woelfel and Choir Director Dennis Gephart approved the ensemble’s participation in the commercial, apparently thinking it was a good way to get some publicity for the group and the high school.

But allowing the use of students to promote business not only sounds bad, it violates a clearly stated school district policy that forbids student participation in activities that “have the primary effect of advancing a special product, group or company.”

Now, it happens that the Madrigal Ensemble is more than good enough to be on TV. The well-coached singers in the group are terrific, wonderful to hear and to see in their Renaissance costumes. Their performances at the annual Madigral Dinners have become Christmas season classics. These students deserve much better than to have to showcase their talent by delivering a pitch urging viewers to watch CBS 58.

The promotions manager of that channel offered the opportunity for the ensemble to appear on TV if it would sing a jingle for a commercial for CBS 58. The 16 students in the group rehearsed the jingle at the high school and were allowed to skip classes to record it at the Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee.

The students, dressed in their madrigal costumes, sang the advertising jingle to the tune of “Jungle Bells” while some of them held up signs promoting CBS 58.

It’s probably safe to say that the teenagers who provided this service for the television station don’t feel they have been exploited. It no doubt was fun to make the commercial in the stately setting of the Pabst Mansion and pretty exciting to be on TV repeatedly through the holiday season. But the adults who decided it was OK for students to lend their talent to a commercial enterprise on school time should have recognized that television exposure in return for a commercial endorsement was an unacceptable quid pro quo.

The medium of television, even in the age of the Internet, still has a certain cachet. (Think of “American Idol.”) But that doesn’t make the televised commercialization of a school activity any more acceptable. What CBS 58 has done is basically the same as if, for example, a car dealership was allowed to assemble the football team, with players skipping classes, wearing uniforms bought by taxpayers, directed by coaches paid by taxpayers, for a photograph, with the team holding banners endorsing the dealership’s brawny-as-a-middle-linebacker SUVs, to be used in newspaper ads.

The acquiescence of high school authorities in the Madrigal commercial is disappointing, but no more so than the actions of the television station that used students taking part in a school activity to advertise its news programs.

If CBS 58 was sincere about serving the communities in its viewing area, it would have given the Madrigal Ensemble the exposure it deserves as part of its news coverage the way news media are supposed to do it—free, as a service to viewers, with no strings attached, nothing demanded in return. And then the ensemble singers would have been seen and heard performing one of the beautiful songs in their repertoire instead of a hokey commercial jingle.

 
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