Roundup of editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

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News,Science and Technology

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Muskogee Phoenix, Feb. 28, 2013

Legislators should drop DNA idea

Forcing individuals to give up DNA samples upon arrest in Oklahoma is such an affront to citizens' rights that state legislators should drop the proposed idea immediately.

A state Senate committee passed a bill that would require anyone arrested for a felony or certain misdemeanors to submit a DNA sample.

The DNA would be used to check if the suspect could be connected to other crimes.

At first glance, it might appear this proposed law would be tough on crime.

At first glance, it might appear that any innocent person should not be afraid of giving up their DNA.

But there is a reason why the Fourth Amendment exists — to prevent unlawful search and seizure.

The framers of the Constitution knew that a free society depends on the fairness of its judicial system.

People are not required to incriminate themselves.

Law enforcement must prove they have probable cause to search you and seize evidence that could be used against you in a court of law.

Those premises are so important to a fair due process that they should not be changed.

A suspect must be convicted before he or she can be compelled to give up a DNA sample.

Either that, or a judge must agree there is probable cause to sign a warrant to force a suspect to give up a sample.

The proposed law would allow law enforcement to get the DNA sample only if you are arrested — not charged, not convicted — just arrested.

That idea obliterates your constitutional rights.

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Tulsa World, March 4, 2013

Rodman's stupid, heartless comment

Dennis Rodman, controversial former NBA star with Oklahoma ties, has never been easy to like but it never really mattered to him anyway. He has now added to his list of outrageous antics.

While overseas shooting a documentary, he made a stop in North Korea where he attended a basketball game in Pyongyang with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. They also had sushi together later.

At the airport afterward, on his way to Beijing, Rodman said that it was "amazing" that the North Koreans were "so honest." He also praised the late Kim Jong-Il, Kim Jong-Un's father, and first leader of the country Kim Il-Sung as "great leaders."

After dining and watching a basketball game with Kim Jong-Un, Rodman said: "He's proud, his country likes him - not like him, love him, love him. Guess what, I love him. The guy's really awesome."

Rodman, also known as "The Worm," is either playing the bad boy again or he really is stupid. Even playing in the insulated atmosphere of the NBA where everyday problems are unfamiliar, it is beyond reasoning that someone could not be aware of the level of misery that the Kim family has heaped upon the North Koreans for decades.

Rodman, who played college basketball at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, went on to have a Hall of Fame career in the NBA with several teams, becoming the league bad boy along the way.

We know "The Worm" doesn't care much about what anyone thinks about him and during his basketball career we could laugh at his outlandish behavior. After all, it was entertainment.

This, however, went far beyond an argument with a referee or fan. Embracing, literally, a family that has caused its own people and the world so much grief over the years? Stupid - and heartless.

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The Oklahoman, March 4, 2013

Measure to ban texting at the wheel deserves a chance in Oklahoma Legislature

Republicans who control the Oklahoma House of Representatives don't want to tell people how to live their lives, unless they do want to tell people how to live their lives.

On the one hand, House leaders are OK with drivers reading and sending text messages; to do otherwise would trample on their personal rights. At the same time, they don't want to give Oklahoma municipalities the right to set their own anti-smoking laws.

The House Calendar Committee last week put the brakes on a bill that would ban text-messaging while driving. The committee can vote again in the next few weeks to send House Bill 1503 to the full House, but those prospects appear dim given Speaker T.W. Shannon's strong opposition.

Shannon, R-Lawton, said distracted driving is already against the law in Oklahoma, and that there's no difference between texting at the wheel and applying makeup or changing music on an iPod or shaving. "There is a slippery slope argument to be made (about) what people are doing inside their cars, especially as technology changes so quickly," Shannon said.

This argument has been used regularly since efforts began several years ago to curb text-messaging. These efforts have mostly been for naught. Lawmakers in 2010 agreed to ban texting for new young drivers, but the restrictions last for only a few months. House Republican leaders seem to believe that's adequate.

We're struck by studies reflecting how dangerous text-messaging at the wheel can be. The U.S. Department of Transportation says drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident than those who aren't texting. This helps explain why a majority of states — 39, at last count — have banned the practice. Former Democratic Gov. Brad Henry grasped the seriousness of this issue when he signed an executive order in 2010 prohibiting state employees from texting while driving. The federal government also bans the practice for its employees.

Chuck Mai, vice president of public affairs for AAA Oklahoma, makes the point that current statutes regarding distracted driving are secondary offenses. Under HB 1503, texting at the wheel would give police cause to make a traffic stop. "It's preventive medicine," Mai said. Using the slippery slope analogy, would today's Republicans have opposed vehicle child restraints because child endangerment was already against the law?

What's particularly puzzling about the anti-texting bill is the apparent lack of organized opposition to the idea. Indeed, the Department of Public Safety, the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office and several police departments are among the groups that comprise Drive Aware Oklahoma, a coalition pushing for the anti-texting legislation. These are groups that would be responsible for enforcing the law, and they're for it.

On the other hand, tobacco companies were strongly opposed to the idea of allowing municipalities in Oklahoma to approve their own anti-smoking laws. This certainly contributed to the demise this session of a Senate bill that sought to do just that. The issue, which has been promoted the past several years, is now apparently dead in the Legislature until 2015.

Our hope is that the anti-texting bill isn't dead and instead has just been put on silent for a time.

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