Short takes on the news
Plan B gets an A • The Obama Justice Department has wisely thrown in the towel in its fight to keep the morning-after contraceptive Plan B out of reach of some of the people who need it the most young women whose lives would be devastated by a pregnancy. Even though the experts that advise the Food and Drug Administration said the drug was safe and effective for all ages, the administration had been trying to limit its over-the-counter sale to females over the age of 15. But that argument was rejected by a federal appeals court and, rather than drag the matter out to what increasingly looked like a futile effort, the government Monday properly capitulated. Safe, effective and easily available contraception is essential to women's health. Any government effort to make it more difficult to get is both unwise and inhumane.
Turn on to tapping off • The folks who run the Utah Transit Authority are understandably frustrated by the fact that so many riders who dutifully tap on when they board TRAX trains don't bother to tap off again when they reach their destinations. Nearly a quarter of those who tap on don't tap off. That oversight deprives the UTA of valuable information it needs to better plan transit routes and schedules. In the long-run, riders would benefit by cooperating. But what agency managers don't seem to grasp is that modern data mining of this sort is supposed to include a more immediate or tangible reward for the individual. Riders who cooperate should not merely avoid a penalty, the fine that can be issued for failure to tap on, but also gain something, like the prize drawings instituted by the University of Utah for its commuters, or sharply discounted monthly passes.
Spy vs. spy • No wonder we can never seem to resolve the debate over how to balance the apparently conflicting drives for national security for example, massive telephone data sweeps by the super-secret National Security Agency versus privacy such as the Fourth Amendment guarantee against "unreasonable search and seizure." It all depends on who is doing the spying. Polls show that 64 percent of Democrats support NSA activities as recently leaked to the press, up from 37 percent who approved of similar programs during the Bush administration. And 52 percent of Republicans approve of President Obama's policies, as opposed to 75 percent who favored them in the Bush years. Come on, people. Massive surveillance programs are good or bad, no matter who is in office.