ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Times on the state's efforts to crack down on motorists who text while driving.
The pileup of grim fatality data about the risks of distracted driving has prompted New York State to assign highway troopers to a special fleet of 32 CITE vehicles, for Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement, designed to catch cellphone texters as they tap away. These are nondescript gray S.U.V.'s that ride higher than normal so officers can peer down into vehicles moving suspiciously in the hands (or nonhands) of drivers eyeing and manipulating their electronic-message devices.
In the first two months of the program over the summer, troopers wrote 5,553 tickets for texting, pulling over surprised drivers with police flashers and a siren's call. The tally was more than five times the comparable period last year, providing fresh documentation of an alarming problem that federal safety officials estimate finds 660,000 drivers blithely texting away in their cars at any moment during daylight hours across the nation.
Distracted driving killed more than 3,000 people last year and injured 421,000 in crashes, according to federal highway studies. New York's anti-texting squad, one of the first to take to the roads, is an encouraging development as threats to life and limb escalate along with the technology industry's glittery invitations to 24/7 conversation. According to studies by engineers at Virginia Tech, the chance of collision while texting is 23 times greater than it is during normal driving.
Yet even as large majorities agree that texting is dangerous, many, nonetheless, concede that they regularly indulge. New York is one of 41 states that bans texting while driving and one of 12 that bans hand-held cellphones at the wheel. The stealth S.U.V.'s further reflect the state's admirable determination to curb the problem.
The Albany Times Union on the state's Common Core Standards and collecting data.
In the latest controversy seeming to arise from the state's implementation of the Common Core Standards, some parents, educators and politicians are questioning the state's affiliation with an Atlanta-based nonprofit that is collecting and organizing a lot of data on public and charter school students across the state.
Legitimate issues are being raised about InBloom, which recently drew the ire of some lawmakers after it declined to send a representative to an Assembly Education Committee hearing about the data-gathering effort. The data the state is providing InBloom includes student test scores, attendance records, discipline history, health and ethnicity.
New York was one of nine states to originally sign on with InBloom, and now is one of only three states participating in an effort to standardize educational data and offer educators ways to evaluate what is working and what isn't in our nation's classrooms.
Many states and school districts, usually wealthier ones, already collect this type information on student background and performance. But broad analysis is impossible because the data is in various formats and cannot be easily and securely shared.
InBloom's solution is to gather the data, standardize the format and add high-level encryption to protect identities and personal information, then store it in a "cloud" so it can be accessed, compared, and analyzed.
InBloom says its tools will allow teachers to track students' progress and see what has worked elsewhere. States and local school districts could know better where to target their limited resources. Eventually, lessons could even be customized to an individual student's needs.
InBloom is supported by some pretty respected and influential backers, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided $100 million in seed money, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. It is seen as a way to leverage modern technology to help solve our challenges in education.
The value of comparing and analyzing this data is enormous, but the fears of the data being compromised are important, too. We have seen too many examples of personal information being accidentally leaked or hacked. In the wrong hands, it could end up hurting our students and our schools.
So both InBloom and the state must demonstrate their commitment to providing security that can protect this data from improper disclosure.
But to not gather this data and tap its potential would recklessly tie educators' hands even as the public demands they do better in educating children.
Nor should we confuse issues: Gathering relevant data and analyzing it is separate from the controversial new Common Core Standards and from high-stakes testing. The better educators understand where students are, they more able schools will be to lead students where they need to go.
The New York Post on continuing problems with the Obama administration's HealthCare.gov website.
The verdict is now in on the White House deadline for fixing HealthCare.gov: Good to go on the front end. The problems are all on the rear — er, back — end.
So on the one hand, Americans can now log in and open pages and move around without having the whole thing crash. On the other hand, when it comes to the substance (getting people insurance), we learn the fixes are only cosmetic.
The insurance companies are not getting what they need to get people policies. In particular, insurers aren't receiving information on the level of subsidies individuals signing up will receive, making it impossible to figure out what to charge a customer.
In other words, when it comes to what HealthCare.gov is supposed to do — "make the right payment for the right people to the right insurance plan," as Jim Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center's put it on Fox News on Monday — the "fixes" are mostly for show.
As Americans are figuring out, the difficulties with HealthCare.gov are but one small part of a much larger problem: a law that is not going to deliver as advertised. That's why the White House continues to selectively delay pieces of ObamaCare.
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise on the NSA's spying on U.S. citizens.
Sit down for this one. You're not going to like it: On Nov. 21, members of Congress questioned Robert Litt, the top lawyer for the director of national intelligence, about the National Security Agency's program of collecting communications records involving millions of Americans.
Litt said this: "Using the word 'abuse' in the context of the operation of the surveillance program is a little bit like saying the Department of Health and Human Services is abusing people because of the fact that the Obamacare websites don't work properly." He then tried to blame NSA abuses on complex technology not working as it should.
We suspect DHHS officials would argue with that. Their website wasn't designed (we assume) to spy on people, after all.
"Blame the computer" just won't do. The NSA has spied in detail on many people, including journalists. Again, it has collected some records on millions of people.
So yes, Mr. Litt, abuse is the right word for it.
The Post-Journal of Jamestown on the nation's nuclear program agreement with Iran.
A substantial number of members of Congress, along with several other countries that have been longstanding allies of the U.S., are worried about the so-called "deal" President Barack Obama's administration has announced with Iran.
Far from providing an opening that could prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons, the agreement merely gives Tehran relief from economic sanctions in exchange for what amounts to a handshake promise to slow down its nuclear program.
But Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry seem so desperate to arrest the slide in the president's popularity numbers that they are willing to fight for a raw deal. And, of course, they are not at all reluctant to be dishonest in defending it.
Obama on Monday slammed critics of the proposal, insisting the U.S. "cannot close the door on diplomacy." One media outlet went along with him cheerfully, describing opponents of the deal as "those who have questioned the wisdom of engaging with Iran."
Americans need to be perfectly clear on this. Many Democrats, as well as Republicans, in the Senate and House of Representatives see the proposal as a sell-out to Iran.
None of them has suggested closing the door on diplomacy. None has argued the U.S. should not be engaged with Iran.
Those with the most to lose if Iran builds a nuclear arsenal, neighbors such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, are extremely cool to the Obama-Kerry proposal.
Among the most troubling aspects of the plan is that it calls for Iran's compliance to be reevaluated in about six months. Presumably, that would be the time when U.S. officials could reimpose economic sanctions if Tehran is not keeping its end of the bargain.
But six months falls just as campaigning for congressional elections in November 2014 will be heating up. As some observers have noted, that climate would not be one in which Obama would be likely to admit he made a mistake this fall.
On both sides of the political aisle on Capitol Hill, thoughtful lawmakers are discussing another means of "engaging" with Iran: ramping up economic sanctions to put pressure on Tehran to agree to a genuine suspension of its drive to build nuclear weapons. Obama is being dishonest - again - with the American people in claiming opponents of his plan are taking risks with peace.