Short Takes on Weird News of the Week

By Daily Editorials

February 6, 2019 6 min read

Maligning the Melting Pot

Veteran newscaster Tom Brokaw's comments about Hispanic Americans weren't the hate speech that some have alleged. But they showed a profound misunderstanding by one of America's most trusted voices about the nature of America.

Brokaw, a former "NBC Nightly News" anchor, said on "Meet the Press" Sunday that Hispanic Americans "should work harder at assimilation" and that Hispanic parents should "make sure that all their kids are learning to speak English, and that they feel comfortable in the communities."

For someone who has covered American life for generations, he showed a surprising lack of understanding of so basic a concept as assimilation. The addition of new voices is what drives America. The idea of America's "melting pot" isn't that other cultures should lose their distinction — but that they incorporate it.

Hotel Rooms for Chicago's Homeless

With temperatures in Chicago plummeting past 20 below zero last week, advocates for the homeless began scrambling to ensure everyone received proper indoor shelter. At one encampment, people living in tents were using 150 to 200 portable propane tanks that had been donated for heat. It wasn't the safest idea.

One of the tanks exploded, prompting authorities to evacuate the entire camp. But that meant an estimated 70 homeless people had nowhere to go. According to CNN, the Salvation Army made preparations to receive the encampment occupants at one of that organization's shelters, but they never arrived.

It turns out that an anonymous good Samaritan arranged for the group to stay for free in a local hotel — safe, warm and no longer exposed to the elements. In the meantime, a Salvation Army official issued an appeal to do-gooders everywhere: Please do not donate propane tanks to the homeless.

Back to the Bad Old Days

Somehow, we thought the debate over child labor was settled in the U.S. about a century ago. Yet it's being debated right now in Indiana.

The Indianapolis Star reports that Republican state Sen. Chip Perfect has introduced a bill to scrap the state's strict rules regarding employment of teenagers. Currently, kids age 14 to 17 are limited to fewer weekly work hours than adults, with additional requirements for breaks and parental consent.

If you think it sounds odd to get rid of those reasonable standards, maybe that's because you don't own an Indiana ski resort that employs hundreds of teens. Sen. Perfect does.

But he insists that's not what this is about. "This is really more about small businesses who cannot afford the resources to adhere to these antiquated laws."

The child labor laws he's trying to gut were the remedy to abuses that kept kids out of school and subjected them to horrific working conditions — often because they were cheaper to hire than adults. Maybe the senator should go back to school himself for a little history lesson.

Court-Ordered Decency

A Republican lawmaker from St. Charles, Missouri, has the right idea about how to treat convicted animal abusers. State Rep. Chrissy Sommer introduced legislation to give judges the option of ordering first-time offenders to undergo a psychiatric or psychological evaluation and other treatment.

Judges would be required to order evaluations if the crime "involved torture or mutilation" of an animal or if the person committing the crime had any prior animal abuse convictions.

There is a demonstrated link between animal cruelty and crimes against humans. So it makes sense to try to rehabilitate young and chronic offenders to lower recidivism and prevent even worse acts. Sommer wants offenders or their families to foot the bill for the care, which could be problematic for those who can't afford it. Some tweaking seems to be in order.

I Spy

It turns out your iPhone may have been spying on you. Apple has acknowledged a glitch that allowed iPhone users to listen in on other iPhone users even if they didn't answer their phones.

As first reported by the website 9to5Mac.com, the bug allowed a caller using the FaceTime app to listen in on the person being called, even if the person didn't answer the call. There was no indication to the receiver of the call that some connection had been made; it just kept ringing while the person at the other end listened in. Another identified bug allowed callers to see through the recipient phone's camera.

Apple announced it has since released a fix. Until then, iPhone users were being advised to disable their FaceTime apps.

There's been no indication that this was the result of some intentional mischief. That might be the scariest part of all: that today's technology can end up invading users' privacy all on its own.

Token of Appreciation

It appears that crime does pay, after all, when it comes to the Trump administration and right-wing extremist militias. According to reports this week, one of outgoing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's final, albeit secret, acts in office was to restore cattle-grazing rights to convicted Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond. They were imprisoned after torching federal property in 2012 in apparent protest over fees and permitting required for private ranchers to have grazing rights on federal land.

After the two were ordered to prison in 2016 to serve out five-year sentences, right-wing extremist militias seized and vandalized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge abutting the Hammond ranch. President Donald Trump pardoned the Hammonds in July, and Zinke gave them a 10-year grazing permit before heading out the door. So much for the Republican law-and-order agenda.

REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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