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Tuesday, October 21, 2003  

From the news desk

  • Florida governor may deny woman right to die
  • With the help of state legislators, Florida's governor is meddling in what should be a family matter. And, no, it is not his family.

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida House voted late Monday to give Gov. Jeb Bush the power to intervene in the case of a brain-damaged woman whose feeding tube was removed last week by her husband's order.

    The House voted 68-23 in favor of the bill. The state Senate planned to take it up Tuesday.

    The measure would give the state's governor 15 days to order a feeding tube to be reinserted in cases like Terri Schiavo's. The governor's power would be limited to cases where a person has left no living will, is in a persistent vegetative state, has had nutrition and hydration tubes removed and where a family member has challenged the removal.

    Schiavo, 39, meets all the bill's requirements. She has been at the center of a decade-long court battle between her parents, who want her to survive, and her husband, who says he is carrying out his wife's wishes to not be kept alive artificially.

    The courts have upheld Schiavo's right to finally end her ordeal. The extralegal efforts of the House and governor are meant to continue a tragedy that has gone on for too long already. I suspect it is also a sap to the right-to-life movement, which does not distinguish between the ability to live life and artificial prolongation of breathing. Heartless and shameless grandstanding like this serves no useful purpose. There are people desperately in need of continuing medical care. Ms. Schiavo is not one of them.

  • Youth says civil disobedience goal of security breaches
  • When has a person gone too far to make a point about lax security procedures? This is an issue I've discussed with friends in the internet technology field, including one who has been convicted of a computer-related crime. Now, the topic has arisen in regard to airline security post 9/11.

    BALTIMORE (AP) -- A college student who allegedly hid box cutters and other banned items on four airliners to expose weaknesses in U.S. security was charged with a federal crime Monday, and a prosecutor said he committed a "very serious and foolish action."

    The banned items were not discovered on two of the planes until a month after Nathaniel Heatwole, 20, had alerted authorities about his scheme via e-mail. He was charged Monday with taking a dangerous weapon aboard an aircraft, then released without bail for a preliminary hearing Nov. 10.

    . . . According to authorities, Heatwole told federal agents he went through normal security procedures at airports in Baltimore and Raleigh-Durham. Once aboard, he said, he hid the banned items in compartments in the planes' rear lavatories.

    . . . According to an FBI affidavit, Heatwole's signed e-mail "stated that he was aware his actions were against the law and that he was aware of the potential consequences for his actions, and that his actions were an `act of civil disobedience with the aim of improving public safety for the air-traveling public.'"

    The young man charged says he had no intention of harming anyone. His goal was to draw attention to how easy it is to take dangerous items aboard an airliner. His lifestyle supports his opposition to violence.

    Guilford is a Quaker college with a history of pacifism and civil disobedience that dates to the Civil War. Heatwole is not a Quaker but shares many of the tenets of the faith, including a belief in pacifism, according to a February 2002 interview with The Guilfordian, the campus newspaper.

    The student, a double-major in political science and physics, refused to register for the draft when he turned 18 as required by law, according to the interview. Instead, he returned a blank registration form to the Selective Service System with a letter explaining his opposition.

    The FBI affidavit, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, said Heatwole breached security at Raleigh-Durham airport on Sept. 12 -- the day after the two-year anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks. He did it again Sept. 14 at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

    The courts have not been swayed by alibis that say the defendant was testing security in order to prove it ineffective in computer crime cases. Nor do I believe Heatwole's clearly stated subjective intent will override what can be perceived as legal intent to do harm under these circumstances. The disruption caused by planting the contraband items and notifying authorities is in itself enough to constitute an intentional criminal act. However, the core prinicple of civil disobedience is that the person participating in it is willing to bear the burdens the legal system will impose on him for being provocative. I hope Heatwole realizes that two seemingly contradictory things can be true. He can be morally right from the perspective of himself and others and he can be convicted of a crime and punished accordingly.

  • 'Up by your bootstraps' education gets harder
  • Students from working-class families are often told that they can still get a college education despite the high costs of private universities. State colleges and community colleges have served as a kind of educational safety net for the non-affluent. That net has developed some big holes.

    Offsetting state budget cuts, tuition at public universities rose 14 percent to an average of $4,694 this year, the steepest increase in more than a quarter century, according to the latest annual survey by the College Board.

    Largely for the same reason, tuition at community colleges also rose 14 percent, to an average of $1,905. That was the second biggest increase since 1976, the earliest year for which the College Board reports data.

    . . .Tuition at public colleges rose so fast this year, the College Board said, mostly to compensate for the declining government support of state campuses. Although the College Board report did not track state appropriations in the current fiscal year, a survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures this summer found that total state spending on higher education dropped 2.2 percent this year, with some states trimming their expenditures by more than 10 percent.

    Financial aid, usually in the form of loans, does compensate for some of the increase in tuition. However, the difference is not large enough to have much of an impact. Furthermore, loans saddle young people with debts they may have difficulty paying, starting them out at a disadvantage in the work world. The trend in higher costs for public education could lead to further bifurcation of educational attainment by economic class.

    2:14 PM