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Pressure cooker = WMD?

Timothy Noah at Foreign Policy thinks one of the charges against alleged Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is ridiculous, the one accusing him of "unlawfully using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction ... " The WMD in question was, the document explains, "an improvised explosive device."

Mr. Noah: "Give me a break. ... it's ridiculous to call the bombs that went off in Boston 'weapons of mass destruction.' If any old bomb can be called a WMD, then Saddam [Hussein] most definitely had WMDs before the United States invaded Iraq 10 years ago. And if an IED is a WMD, then Iraq actually ended up with more WMDs after the U.S. invasion than before ...

"Please don't misunderstand me. I'm as horrified by the Boston Marathon bombings as anyone else. ... If Tsarnaev is guilty, he deserves to (and surely will) be punished to the full extent of the law. ... But the crude Popular Mechanics-style devices used in the bombings -- pressure cookers retrofitted with explosives -- do not fit any logical definition of WMDs."


Thanks, Oprah

The local Spork in a Drawer blog notices this news item in Britain's Guardian: "Measles cases in south Wales have jumped by 56 in two days as experts warn the outbreak shows no sign of ending. The headline total has reached 942 cases in the greater Swansea area with the 10-18 age group worst hit. The latest figures come a week after the death of Gareth Williams, 25, a father of one who had measles. The results of tests to establish the cause of his death are still awaited.

"A [$31 million] program to vaccinate 1 million children and teenagers across England has been announced. It has been prompted by fears that the epidemic in Wales could spread ... Just as in Wales, many people missed out on the vital MMR jab and are unprotected against the spread of the disease. In both cases, unfounded fears that the three-in-one jab was linked to autism in children were responsible for the drop in vaccination uptake."

The Spork's reaction: "Thanks a bundle Andrew Wakefield, Oprah Winfrey and Jenny McCarthy."


Moneyball for bureaucrats

Cass R. Sunstein, a former administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, thinks regulations should be based on facts and writes in Foreign Affairs: "Chances are that you will never hear a crowd at a protest rally chant, 'What do we need? Regulation! When do we need it? Now!' People want safe food, clean air and clean water. But in the abstract, regulation is never a popular idea."

Mr. Sunstein argues that, to be effective and politically palatable, regulations must be data-driven: "Call it 'Regulatory Moneyball': making choices about rules without relying too heavily on intuition, anecdotes, dogmas and impressions."


Control the controllers

Diana Furchtgott-Roth in the Washington Examiner: "With air traffic controllers furloughed and travelers delayed at airports, it's time to ask why Uncle Sam is paying 17 air traffic controllers to work full time as representatives for government unions rather than guiding airplanes. Uncle Sam calls hours that federal workers spend working for their unions and not working for taxpayers 'official time.' Sixteen of the 17 air traffic controllers on official time make six-figure salaries."


Who covers Tsarnaev?

From the local Eight Days to Amish blog: "News reports say by now bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been interrogated about his motives, his influences, his background and his connections. I'm interested to learn if he's been quizzed about his health insurance. Blue Cross? Highmark? Aetna?

"Rules are rules. You know there's bound to be some squad of hospital bean counters eager to push their way past investigators to see if the accused is covered. I figure in six days he's probably racked up about $100,000 in intensive care.

"Who's paying for the extraordinary care Tsarnaev is receiving[?] ... We're fixing Tsarnaev up so he'll be fit enough to execute."


No loyalty in Pakistan

For some Pakistani politicians, there's no shame in switching parties based on who appears to be leading the polls, reports Agence France Presse. Arbab Khizer Hayat has done it 14 times. "Politics is not about ideas, but about power," he says. "When politicians see a party becoming popular, they want to join it."

opinion_commentary

Greg Victor (gvictor@post-gazette.com).


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