Saturday, July 16, 2005


Legislators ran away
from cellphone ban


A new study has found that drivers talking on cellular phones are four times as likely to get into an accident causing serious injuries..

HAWAII legislators backed away from a bill that would have banned driving while immersed in conversation on a hand-held cellular telephone. Nervous lawmakers chose to allow the traffic danger to continue, suggesting that a study was needed to prove the level of risk. It's more likely they were aware that the surging numbers of people who love to talk on cell phones while driving also vote in state elections.

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published this week in the British Medical Journal found that drivers using cellphones are four times as likely to crash and be injured enough to send them to the hospital, regardless of whether the phone is hand-held or hands-free. If that sounds familiar, it's because a study conducted four years ago by University of Utah researchers reached precisely the same conclusion, and numerous other studies support it.

No state or municipality in the United States prohibits the use of all cell phones while driving, although New York, New Jersey, the District of Columbia and numerous cities ban hand-held devices. Eight states have gone so far as to prohibit local governments from restricting cellphone use in motor vehicles. The laws are based not only on what is safe on the highway but what is safe in voting booths.

The number of cellphone subscribers nationally last year reached 181 million, surpassing the number of land phone lines. A survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 1.2 million motorists - about 8 percent of all drivers - are talking on their cellphones at any given daylight moment.

The Utah researchers pointed out that the quadrupling of peril caused by driving while talking on a cellphone is about the same as driving while intoxicated. Should safe drivers be concerned that any increase in the rate of drunken driving might cause legislators to legalize it? After all, drunk drivers vote too.


Bush should keep
distance from Rove


Presidential aide Karl Rove talked to journalist Robert Novak as he was preparing a 2003 column that identified a CIA officer..

PRESIDENT Bush is standing by Karl Rove, his longtime friend and "architect" of his political campaigns, despite the controversy over Rove's role in the leaking of a CIA agent's identity. The president and his press secretary refuse to comment on the affair until an investigation has been completed, but the public embrace of Rove damages the credibility of the White House.

Recent disclosures indicate Rove was the second of "two senior administration officials" cited by columnist Robert Novak two years ago as telling him that retired ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV had been sent to Africa at the suggestion of Wilson's wife, CIA officer Valerie Plame, to check out reputed uranium sales to Iraq. A special prosecutor has been assigned to determine whether anyone broke a 1982 law that forbids outing of a "covert agent" of U.S. intelligence agencies.

Rove was contacted by both Novak and Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper in the days leading up to Novak's column, after Wilson had publicly debunked Bush's claim about Niger sales of uranium to Iraq, a claim later shown to be false. Novak is reported to have told Rove that he was aware of Plame suggesting that her husband be given the assignment, to which Rove replied, "I heard that too." Novak quoted his second source as having told him, "Oh, you know about it."

Rove has acknowledged talking with Novak and Miller but denied leaking Plame's identity; he says he did not know her name. The law makes it unlawful to disclose "any information" that identifies an agent, but Rove's claimed ignorance of Plame's previous undercover status might get him off the hook.

That is no excuse for press secretary Scott McClellan branding as "ridiculous" in 2003 the suggestion that Rove had any role in the disclosure of Plame's name, or Bush placing Rove at his side in recent public appearances.

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