The Telegram & Gazette of Worcester (Mass.), Feb. 19, 2015
The town of Boomer, West Virginia lived up to its name when 26 cars of a 109-tanker car CSX train derailed in the middle of the night, and 19 of them were engulfed in flames, shaking residents out of their sleep and producing hours of toxic fumes.
The derailment and fire were just the latest in a string of such mishaps involving rail transportation of crude oil, which has increased by more than 40 times since 2009, when shale oil and tar sands oil production in the U.S. Midwest and Canadian plains began to ramp up.
But the difference this time around is that the tankers involved in their derailment and fire were a newer type built to more stringent safety specifications, and supposedly less prone to rupture.
Railroad operators and governments in both the U.S. and Canada agree that the new design is the way to go, but the Feb. 16 accident shows that physics can often trump improved design.
It's all the more reason that North America should proceed with the expansion of pipelines for crude oil transport.
Blocking the Keystone XL pipeline and similar projects makes no sense, from either a safety or policy perspective. Oil that has been extracted and sold must be transported. Both pipelines and rail lines have a role to play, but the former are simply safer.
The Journal Inquirer of Manchester (Conn.), Feb. 16, 2015
The murder of three young adults in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is not only deplorable but was probably avoidable if strong background checks had been demanded on those attempting to buy guns.
The fact that the three were of Muslim descent has raised a question as to whether their religion was a motive for the murderer's crime.
It possibly was. But in describing the alleged killer, the U.S. attorney for the region indicated that the shooting appeared to be "an isolated incident" and was "not part of a targeted campaign against Muslims."
The three young people who were murdered were neighbors of Craig Hicks, a former car parts salesman who was studying to be a paralegal at a local technical community college. He had previous problems with his neighbors over parking.
Hicks, while wearing a gun on his belt, apparently had been harassing the three young people because of their appearance. To think that a person is not intimidated when he is accosted by someone carrying a gun is naive.
Hicks describes himself as a supporter of the Second Amendment — that amendment which allows, according to our Supreme Court, the interchangeable use of the word militia to define a single person.
The National Rifle Association, which refuses to see any possible limit in an American's right to carry a gun, has in Hicks a supporter who used his gun to browbeat and finally to allegedly murder three young people.
A strong background check probably would have listed Hicks as a person who should not have been allowed a gun license. This might have saved three lives.
However, you can be sure the NRA answer to this killing is not to endorse background checks but to claim that the three who were murdered should have all carried guns so they could shoot back.
And, of course, gun manufacturers would thereby sell more guns.