Opponents of local control of smoking regulations often note that tribal businesses, particularly casinos, would remain exempt from those regulations, thus providing a competitive advantage. But the Kaw Nation plans to open a smoke-free casino near Ponca City this spring. Pam Shaw, general manager of casinos for the Kaws, notes that some individuals claim nonsmoking casinos won't make money, but believes response to the tribe's plan suggests otherwise. “I think it's going to be good,” she said. It says a lot that a business currently exempt from state and local smoking regulations sees economic benefit to going smoke-free. That undermines the claims of those who cite “business” reasons for opposing greater local control of tobacco regulation, and also shows that some in the private sector see benefit to going smoke-free, even if many of our state legislators do not.
U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, an Oklahoma native whom few Oklahomans want to claim, leaked thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. He's now among 259 nominees for a Nobel Prize, as is Malala Yousufzai, a 15-year old Pakistani girl nearly killed by the Taliban. These nominations show an astounding level of moral equivalence. Yousufzai was shot in the head because she was attending school, which the Taliban consider heinous and worthy of a death sentence. In comparison, Manning put the lives of his fellow soldiers at risk, as well as individuals in nations like Afghanistan who cooperated with U.S. forces. He now faces charges of aiding the enemy and espionage. Yousufzai risked her life to stand up to violent oppressors; Manning's actions put others' lives in danger while aiding the cause of oppressors. Yousufzai is a worthy nominee, but Manning's nomination (the second in two years) further diminishes the Nobel Prize.
It's easy to see why some members of Congress have a problem with the military's Distinguished Warfare Medal, which was approved last month by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The honor is the first new combat-related medal in decades and will be given to service members who assist operations from afar — drone operators and the like. Panetta said in approving the medal that he had long felt these folks deserved recognition for their work. Perhaps they do. What has members of Congress upset is the medal's placement ahead of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, which are awarded for valor while in harm's way. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., said the Bronze Star and Purple Heart shouldn't rank below a medal “for someone who sits far from the battlefield and operates a remote control panel thousands of miles from the battlefield.” Members of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars also have urged the administration to downgrade the award. This hasn't happened and, given President Obama's bullish use of drones, may not be likely.