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Quick views on some of this week's news.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
An ignition lock for distracted drivers
Ever since man plopped down the first bag phone on the console next to the driver's seat, society has searched for an effective means to save him from the distraction. Sadly, laws forbidding phoning or texting while driving are not all that effective when the offense is so ubiquitous.
What if car owners could police themselves, their teenagers or even their employees driving the company's fleet?
A Roanoke County company might have developed a way finally for drivers to keep both hands on the wheel, their eyes on the road and still use their phones. While we still think the smartest option is to lock phones in the trunk, we recognize that, for many drivers, out of sight is not off the mind. The temptation to shuffle for songs, update a status, check a score, send a text or Google some arcane factoid can come on strong at a traffic signal, but once phone is in hand, it's hard to put it down.
The solution could be a new product, Origo, that owners can purchase and install in their cars for less than the cost of a new iPhone. Then, in order for the car to start, the phone needs to be inserted in the device. All of the phone's functions can be accessed via the car's system, if available, and Bluetooth. It could still allow fingers to fiddle and eyes and brains to become momentarily distracted, but it is an improvement.
A plus is that Origo serves also as an anti-theft device, though it could be troublesome when having a car serviced or turning it over to a valet, even with one-time code cards. Nor does Origo prevent the use of a second phone in the car. Still, all in all, if it catches on, it could provide an effective way to allow drivers to have their phones and use them too.
A blue summer in the Blue Ridge
Virginia's Blue Ridge will fade a bit because of automatic federal budget cuts, and that should have residents in and around the Roanoke Valley singing the blues.
Sequestration is not only an ugly word, but it's also going to have ugly consequences for tourism in Virginia. The Blue Ridge Parkway announced this week that the Roanoke Mountain Campground, Smart View picnic area in Franklin County and the Rocky Knob Visitor Center in Floyd County will remain closed this season to meet a required 5 percent cut to the National Park Service.
Businesses that depend on tourism and residents who just like to enjoy the beautiful mountains in their back yard should let their members of Congress know of their displeasure.
Meanwhile, they may still be able to enjoy some bluesy bluegrass at the Roanoke Mountain Campground's Sunday evening mountain music concerts. Park officials hope to keep that tradition alive. Music fans should show up and show some love to the campground before it's lost for good.
Letting the big ones get away
Fallout continues from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's suggestion last week that despite the post-meltdown Dodd-Frank financial reform law, some banks remain "too big to fail" - or rather, "too big to jail" the officers responsible for getting institutions mired in money laundering and other financial crimes.
This week, Virginia's Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat, and Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican - who both sit on the Senate Banking Committee - sent Holder a letter asking him to explain his remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Is it truly the position of the Department of Justice that some financial institutions are large enough that their management is above prosecution in the case of a serious crime?"
The two have more than a passing interest. They teamed up in 2010 to write new rules to avert taxpayer bailouts by charging a Financial Stability Oversight Council with identifying firms that grow so big or complex that their failure would threaten the economy. Those institutions are to draw up a plan for their own dismantlement that would leave management and shareholders - not taxpayers - holding the bag, presumably dampening the thrill of creating mega-monsters.
The senators want Holder to let them know right away if Dodd-Frank isn't working or somehow hinders "the ability of the Justice Department to pursue criminal prosecutions." Because then the administration and Congress should make changes "to ensure that no institution is 'too big to jail.' " No banker, either.
Weather JournalPossible scrape with snow Tues